The second installment of James S.A. Corey’s Expanse series brings with it some new faces as well as familiar ones. We meet UN dignitary Chrisjen Avasarala, a driven politician with about as much social tact as a sledgehammer; Sergeant Bobbie Draper, a Martian Marine who witnesses her entire team annihilated by a monsterous protomolecule giant; and Dr. Prax Meng, a father desperately searching for his kidnapped daughter. They are joined by Captain James Holden and the crew of the Roci, who following the EROS incident, have taken up contract work with Fred running missions for the Outer Planets Alliance.
During another outbreak of the mysterious alien substance on Ganymede – a moon orbiting Jupiter – Bobbie watches her entire team fall to the rage of a mutated beast. While the battle plays out, Prax’s daughter Mei, is taken. When Holden and his team arrive under the guise of a relief ship to investigate the destruction, they meet up with Prax and agree to help him find his daughter.
Meanwhile on Earth, Chrisjen Avasarala is meeting with high ranking UN dignitaries on whether or not to accept a meeting with Mars in an effort to clear up the hazy details surrounding the Ganymede incident and further prevent interplanetary war. As she investigates potential involvement of several UN representatives, she forges a friendship with the recently displaced Bobbie Draper as she becomes Avasarala’s liaison to the Martian Navy.
To further complicate things, strange crystallized structures form on the surface of Venus following the crash landing of the protomolecule infected Eros station. Indeterminate electronic pulses begin to coincide with protomolecule activity off the mysterious planet, raising further questions of the alien organism’s intent with our solar system.
Caliban’s War is a worthy follow-up to Leviathan Wakes. While it does tend to get bogged down in a fair amount of political maneuvering, those chunks of the story help to expand the world and give a greater scope to the threat facing humanity. By infusing a dynamic character like Avasarala into those scenes, it helps to move things along quickly while also adding some humor.
Despite the massive shadow the protomolecule is casting over Earth, Mars and the Belt, the political powers cannot seem to get their heads out of their own asses. Rather than banding together to try and vanquish their common enemy, they spend too much time squabbling and posturing. This allows Holden and his crew ample time to fly under the radar so to speak and conduct their own investigation. It also allows the author to continually shift around viewpoints and freshen things up.
Speaking of the crew of the Roci, my complaints last time about them having a total lack of depth seem to be less important. Although I still hunger for more of their backstory, I’m fine with them as surface characters for now as I’ve kind of grown fond of their chemistry. Hopefully Corey intends to dive into their histories sooner or later. After all, I still have seven books ahead of me as well as a few novellas and short stories, so there’s lots of time.
As soon as I put this one down, I picked up the third novel, Abaddon’s Gate. I’m going to fly through this series. Hopefully Corey keeps a strict schedule for releases and doesn’t go all George RR Martin on me – I’m not sure I can handle that.