Impatience burned me the last time I chose to start a book series during season one of its adaptation to TV, but the trailer for Syfy’s The Expanse just looked too good not to crack open Leviathan Wakes. Boy am I glad I did.
…At least for now. We’ll see how I feel during those long cable breaks between seasons.
It wasn’t til I started getting into Leviathan Wakes that I realized just how long it has been since I’ve experienced a really expansive space epic. I’ve had plenty of Young Adult science fiction, but that hardly fills the hole in my heart left by the memory of something like Battlestar Galactica. Man do I miss those backwards tank tops.
Had this universe included a villain like Cylons things hay have been a lot easier, but instead of a big bad hunting humanity down, there’s a lot more of a who done it when the space debris starts hitting the fan, pitting people of The Belt, Earth, and Mars against each other as the brink of war grows closer and closer. At the center of it all is James Holden, a man who I so desperately wanted to be a new Malcolm Reynolds. He doesn’t quite have the humor without Joss Whedon and his trusted team of collaborators backing him up, but Holden does have the same morality that often leads to more trouble than doing the right thing may be worth.
At the same time Holden is flying around space changing the course of human history, Detective Miller is attempting to solve a missing persons case back on his home asteroid. It may not seem as important when things start out as what our other protagonist is initiating and influencing, but don’t let the common last name fool you, as a character Miller is definitely the more interesting of the two seeing as he is more conflicted. Eventually the two stories intertwine, and the pure enjoyment in both the plot and characters really gets going as their combative personalities and views of what is right compete in apocalyptic conditions. For a couple of chapters in the middle they became my new Mal and Jayne Cobb (but with a huge overtone of when Mal threatened to space Jayne in “Ariel”), and I wish the whole book could have been this way seeing as it is always the characters that I find myself interested in; far more so than the politics of the world building, anyway.
As fun as the story gets in its craziness (think the talking plants in Scott Smith’s The Ruins), the story does take things just a step too far for me (more about that below, though those of you that have read the book can probably figure it out on your own). Luckily the heart of Miller’s story holds it all together as we keep coming back to his internal haunting by the girl who started this all for him, his version of Six (seriously, watch Battlestar Galactica if you haven’t).
Man, the show better measure up…
Let’s talk about that ending (SPOILERS!!!): Julie is alive!? Obviously Leviathan Wakes leaves the realm of “realistic” science fiction in the first chapter when Julie comes across a bunch of black gunk made from her fellow crew members, but that still didn’t prepare me for what was to come when Miller realized that Julie was still alive and flying a giant rock of a colony around space. Had it just been her memories, then sure, but when she wakes up and Miller talks to her… Nope! Glad he got to die with her, but I may convince myself this was the story Miller’s mind decided on in his final moments because that sits with me far more comfortably. He was prone to hallucinations, after all.