LitStack Rec: How to Read a Sentence… & The Butcher of Anderson Station

by Lauren Alwan & Sharon Browning

The Butcher of Anderson Stationsharons rec
and the other Expanse novellas

James S. A. Corey

Those of you who enjoy science fiction probably know of James S. A. Corey’s Expanse series of novels (so far, five out of a reported nine books, with the sixth to be released in August of this year).  Or perhaps you have watched The Expanse television series on the SyFy Network, based on the books, which has recently concluded its first season and has been picked up for a second.

If you’re like me, you love the books and the television series.  If so, you’re going to love this: a set of novellas that support the series.  These novellas include:

The Butcher of Anderson Station
Gods of Risk
The Churn
The Vital Abyss

For instance, let’s take The Butcher of Anderson Station, which sheds light into the character of Fred Johnson, former Colonel of the United Nations Marine Corp. turned OPA leader.

First, some background.  During his service with the UNMC, Johnson was in charge of putting down a Belter insurrection on Anderson Station (“Belters” are people who were born in a region of space between Mars and Jupiter, mainly consisting of asteroids, known as the Belt).  According to intelligence, the station had been taken over by the OPA (Outer Planets Alliance), a known terrorist organization; the station administrator had been killed and fortifications erected throughout the station to repel military intervention.

Col. Johnson led the troops that successfully retook the station, but in the conflict, 172 insurgents were killed, along with a thousand civilians who died when Marines destroyed a blockade set up outside one of the life support modules.  Johnson was hailed as a hero on Earth, and received the Medal of Freedom, the UN’s highest honor.  But to the Belters, he was known as the Butcher of Anderson Station.

It was only after the mission that Johnson learned the “OPA insurgents” were actually a group of desperate workers protesting a recently imposed surcharge on supply transfers, and that they had surrendered unconditionally when confronted by military command.  Yet that surrender was ignored, and the truth about Anderson Station was aggressively suppressed.  Unable to live with this knowledge, Johnson resigned his commission, publically apologized for his actions, and eventually renounced his Earth citizenship.  He stayed in the Belt but dropped out of sight, emerging only during bouts of heavy drinking that usually led to fights with OPA members.  But eventually, his remorse – and his specialized skills and knowledge – let to his being recruited to join the OPA – the very organization he had fought against – and eventually he became its spokesperson and de facto leader.

The Butcher of Anderson Station is specifically the story of Fred Johnson’s surprising recruitment into the OPA, with flashbacks to the actions on Anderson Station.  It is told in the gritty, dirty, realistic style of the Expanse series, with deeply personal insight into a character that will come to figure massively in the story to come.  (Interestingly enough, parts of The Butcher of Anderson Station are used in the television series.)

Having these short, in depth, intense novellas are not critical to the main story, but they add a heckuva wallop to the larger novels.  Any fan of the Expanse series – literary or television – will want to add these to their reading list.  Besides, they are well written, taunt, and highly entertaining on their own merit.

Highly, highly recommended.

—Sharon Browning

Related Posts