Persepolis Rising (Book 7 of The Expanse), by James S.A. Corey

Persepolis Rising, James S.A. CoreyThis one changes things. I assumed that the pace was going to quicken, since Persepolis Rising is moving us into the final three Expanse novels, but I am in awe at how much this book moved the series forward from where we left off in Babylon’s Ashes. We are now nearing the end of the long Expanse arc that began with Leviathan Wakes in 2011, and it is thrilling to see where we’re heading.

“Your empire’s hands look a lot cleaner when you get to dictate where history begins, and what parts of it count.”

As far as the story goes: The only constant is change, and empires aren’t built overnight. That rise to power is fraught with great and terrible things. There are good and bad people on multiple sides of every argument. History is full of grey, contradictions, and passionate people with good intentions committing atrocities for their causes. Persepolis Rising feels like the story of the necessarily messy history between A and B. The history that usually gets rewritten by the victors.

This narrative also brings with it some unique adaptation challenges for the Amazon television series. Thirty years have passed between the end of Babylon’s Ashes and the beginning of Persepolis Rising, making most of the crew of the Rocinante at least in their seventies. Of course, these are “future humanity” seventies, and it is hinted that there is regenerative medicine available. Seventies may be the new thirties.

“It seemed to her that the real sign you were getting old was when you stopped needing to prove you weren’t getting old.”

As much as I want this series to last forever, I’m a firm believer that good stories end, and great stories end well. Persepolis Rising is setting up the Expanse saga for inclusion in the latter category.

I can’t wait for Tiamat’s Wrath in 2019, with the final Expanse novel to follow in 2020. I believe a tenth book which collects the short stories and novellas together in print for the first time is scheduled to follow in 2021.

Help Save The Expanse

If you’re like me, you recently found out that SyFy has opted not to renew The Expanse for a fourth season, and you’re wondering what you can do to help save the show. Fortunately, The Expanse is not owned or produced by SyFy, and it turns out there is a lot you can do to help it find a new home on a streaming service that is a much better fit for its predominantly cord-cutting audience.

First off, I’m going to assume you don’t have Cable TV, because this is 2018. So…

  1. Watch the show live (Weds, 9/8c) on a service like YouTube Live or Hulu Live TV. Nielsen count views from live TV streaming services like YouTube Live, Hulu Live TV, Playstation Vue, Sling TV, etc. All of these services have free 7 day trials. Use one every week.
  2. TV Streaming services usually have DVR options. Set these DVRs to record the show, and watch it again within 3 days to help with the “Live +3” Nielsen ratings.
  3. Stream the Show on SyFy.com if you know someone with a cable provider login. You’ll need to disable your ad blocker for their streaming site to function. I know, I know.
  4. Live Tweet with the hashtags #SaveTheExpanse and #TheExpanse
  5. Sign the petition:

 

The Expanse: Origins, by James S.A. Corey, Hallie Lambert, Georgia Lee

The Expanse: Origins

First things first, these stories follow The Expanse television series continuity and not necessarily the book series continuity. Granted, there isn’t much difference between the two, but they are growing further apart as the show continues to develop the books to series, and I’m starting to make an effort to keep them separate in my head. Each issue collected here covers a backstory for an individual main character on the show. The first four of these were originally released as individual digital comics. They are combined in this collection with a new fifth issue covering Detective Miller’s backstory before the events of The Expanse, and this is the only physical release of these issues.

James S.A. Corey (Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham), the writers of The Expanse book series and the television adaptation, created these backstories, but the nitty gritty writing is done by Hallie Lambert and Georgia Lee, two more writers from the show.

The stories are a little uneven, quality wise, but the Naomi, Amos, and Miller issues are very good. I’d read 100 more issues of Miller going around catching bad guys and being morally ambiguous on Ceres. All in all, they’re much better than the usual TV tie-in comic book fare, and this collection is definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of The Expanse.

Issue #1: James Holden: 2/5
Holden disobeys an order to fire on a ship, gets into a fight with a superior officer, gets discharged. I was really hoping for more from this. It doesn’t tell us anything that we didn’t already know, and the artwork was fairly generic. The Alex/Amos/Naomi backstories in the novels/novellas have a lot more to them, so hopefully their issues in this series will get into some of that stuff.

Issue #2: Naomi Nagata: 4/5
This is a great little backstory for The Expanse tv series involving Naomi hiring Amos as a mechanic for the Canterbury. The story hints heavily toward additional background yet to be revealed for both Naomi and Amos. It has some terrific moments that really add to the overall development of these characters. I think it’s a massive improvement compared to the first issue which focused on Holden, although the artwork is still just.. Okay.

Issue #3: Alex Kamal: 2/5
Ehh, It was okay. I was hoping for something much more interesting in Alex’s past.

Issue #4: Amos Burton: 4/5
What a clever way to give a little hint of Amos’ backstory. His life from The Churn is so tragic. I cannot wait to see how they handle it on the show. Also, the inclusion of the infamous socio/psychopath trolley problem test in this was a nice touch.

Issue #5: Josephus Miller: 5/5
The best of the five for sure. This story makes the whole collection worth checking out. Heartbreaking and bittersweet. Miller makes some concessions to take down a big hitter on Ceres, and it costs him more than what he bargained for.

Babylon’s Ashes (The Expanse, book 6), by James S.A. Corey

Babylon's Ashes, by James S.A. Corey

Let me start by saying, if you’re 6 books into an ongoing series like this, than I’m going to assume you’re in it for the long haul, and I think you’ll enjoy the hell out of this one too.

James S.A. Corey (Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham) refer to their Expanse series as 3 duologies and a trilogy (forthcoming books 7,8 & 9) to cap it all off. Leviathan Wakes/Caliban’s War tell a fairly contained story about the protomolecule in the style of noir and political thriller respectively. Abaddon’s Gate/Cibola Burn deal with the expansion out into deeper space as a ghost story/western, but Nemesis Games/Babylon’s Ashes really read like two halves of the same larger novel. They are much more deeply intertwined than any of the other sets in the series. If each novel is a different genre married into the science fiction backdrop, then I’d call Nemesis Games a survival tale, and Babylon’s Ashes a great russian tragedy a la Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy.

Gone is the simple narrative structure of the first five books, each — excluding Leviathan Wakes — with four alternating POV characters. Instead we’ve got nineteen unique points of view. But if you’ve made it this far, you’re ready for that kind of complexity, you’re already intimately familiar with most of these characters. Holden, Pa, and Filip are the main ones, but we get lots of tertiary views on the action and plot. I really love this change to the structure, and can’t help but think that The Expanse television series influenced it in some way. It does feel more like the way that a TV show handles narrative. We get a perspective from nearly every main and secondary character still living, and some new ones as well. This opens up the world even more, something that this series has done so well along the way.

James S. A. Corey

The main story involves the aftermath of the events of Nemesis Games, and how those events affect everyone, both inside and outside of the Sol system from here on. The Free Navy is causing havoc all over the place and has essentially taken over several large belter settlements. Holden and crew are caught in the middle, working with Avasarala and Fred, trying to do what they can to clean things up and bring Marcos down. Meanwhile, a splintered remnant of the MCRN is working in the shadows, silently preparing for what’s to come. And don’t forget the even larger threat looming on the periphery: whatever killed the protomolecule makers.

It’s a sad story, ultimately a tragedy, but there are several threads woven throughout that are paving a path to redemption for some, and death and destruction or others. It all makes for a terrific story, and moves at a breakneck pace toward a very tight conclusion. One that comes together so smoothly in fact, that a lot of people have been confused, thinking this was the end of the entire series. Of course, that isn’t the case, but I think you could approach this as the penultimate end to some of the earlier narratives begun all the way back in the first novel. Call it a semicolon; the conclusion of the series to follow.