May’s Close Encounters Books Without Pictures Book Club book was Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey which is the first volume in the The Expanse series that is also an Amazon Prime Video show. I’ve not watched anything of the show prior to starting the book and only watched half the first episode since (my other half had to take a phone call during it so we shelved it and haven’t gone back yet as we’ve gone on a true crime binge since). It’s the first proper sci-fi we’ve read since I joined the group, Day of the Triffids is sort of sci-fi but not SPACE SCI-FI! So I was genuinely looking forward to starting it and ended up blasting through it. I’m not a particularly fast reader but I finished Leviathan Wakes within a couple of weeks rather than having to cram read before we met again.
The Authors (as its a team of two writers (Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) writing under a pseudonym) have jumped head on into bringing us a space opera story that not only fits well within the sci-fi genre but also borrows horror elements too. It was hard not to think of both Ridley Scott’s Alien, Visceral Games’ Dead Space, Paul W S. Anderson’s Event Horizon and a whole host of other space set movies and games, there was also a sprinkling of Red Dwarf in the back of my mind as I read it. Mostly because I kept picturing James Holden as Captain Hollister even though Abraham/Franck’s descriptions do not tally with the image in my mind, nor do the characters actions and, with all due respect to Mac McDonald, the rather attractive Steven Strait (who is a more believable depiction of Holden) was the furthest thing from my mind.
Unlike a lot of tales, I don’t think Abraham/Franck were trying to apply any sort of moralistic story to Leviathan Wakes, unlike the aforementioned Day of the Triffids which looked at survival, communities and how people would behave in the situation depicted in that book, Leviathan Wakes is most definetly a TV Space set action based drama in the vein of something like the earlier seasons of the Battlestar Galactica remake. Initially it all starts with a very horror-movie like feel, with a girl being trapped in a locker after her ship was boarded and not knowing whats happened to her crew mates and then it brings in some body horror moments with the crew being amalgamated into a bionic mass that has taken over (if I remember correctly) the ships drive room. After that we’re thrown into space battles and a pretty cool, almost Blade Runner-esque (more Ridley Scott then) detective drama as the action switches between Captain Holden and Detective Miller before bringing back the horror elements and finally switching to political drama and Star Wars style space combat (minus any Jedi shtick, which if it went down that route would have made the book swing heavily towards Ready Player One territory which wouldn’t have been a good thing).
Abraham/Franck have stated they wanted to go for a setting that sits somewhere between the normal sci-fi stories. Man isn’t on the verge of exploring the stars, nor has it colonized the galaxy, but it has managed to set up homes on Mars and amongst the asteroid belts in between, using water harvested from said asteroids for the inhabitants of Mars and the Belter colonoies to survive on. They try, and mostly succeed, to explore territorial, political and evolutional differences between the three distinct colonies and how relations between the three can easily break down due to one incident. The series has been likened to A Game of Thrones (which we’re reading for June and discussing at the start of July) for this reason (and also because Franck is George R R Martin’s assistant) but (and thus far I can only compare it to the TV adaption of GoT) it’s not quite as political as Martin’s works as the two characters it focuses on are very different and wield very little political power (although Holden has a few bargaining chips up his sleeve as the plot develops).
I had a feeling I would enjoy Leviathan Wakes, so I’m not surprised by how much I enjoyed it, and I fully intend on trying to read other books in the series (Caliban’s War is already on my To Read pile after I found it for 50p in a charity shop) and watching the show, the biggest thing I enjoyed about it was its attention to detail, I loved all the talk about gravity thrust and the quieter moments upon the Rocinante, which its revealed late on is named after Don Quixote’s horse, but I also discovered that Prog Rock band Rush wrote two song’s telling the story of a space pilot who had a ship with the same name who is dragged into a black hole thats worth a listen to (even if the two songs combined weigh in at 25 minutes), if you really want to hear them, I’ve posted them below.