Leviathan Wakes, the first novel in the Expanse series, is a great space opera with a dash of noir and a pinch of horror thrown in to create a stunning end product. While the futuristic setting and basic premise are pretty standard fare for most space opera fans, the excellent world-building and compelling characters are what set it apart.
The story is set in a future world where humanity has taken its first steps into the cosmic ocean having colonized most of the habitable planets, moons and asteroids in the solar system. There is constant tension between Earth, Mars and the Belters since they are dependent on each other for survival and trade. When an ice hauler, The Canterbury, is destroyed things are taken past the breaking point and the two main characters, Miller and Holden, are unwittingly thrust into the middle of a conspiracy which could lead to humanity’s destruction.
The chapters alternate in viewpoint between Holden, the XO of the Canterbury, and Miller, a jaded and life-weary detective on Ceres, as they try to make sense of a world that has suddenly gone mad. Both characters are excellently portrayed and I was immediately drawn into the world each of them inhabits. Holden is an idealist; he sees the best in people and his primary concern is to ensure the safety of his crew. Miller has seen it all; he knows that the world isn’t black and white and that you sometimes have to make difficult decisions for the greater good. Their differing worldviews and the conflict it creates is what makes the alternating viewpoints so effective and had me reading at a ferocious pace to see how things turned out.
There are many twists and turns to the plot, some expected, others taking you completely by surprise. As more pieces of the puzzle fall into place the action and suspense is ratchet up to a heart-pounding finale that leaves you both satisfied and craving for more.
Leviathan Wakes has everything you would want in a space opera - great action scenes, nail biting space battles, unscrupulous corporations and an alien threat with a macabre twist. If you are looking for a breathtaking space adventure focusing on the characters rather than the technology then look no further. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I definitely can’t wait to see what the writing duo will dish up in the sequel, Caliban’s War.
The Rating: 8/10