LitStack Recs: Pushcart Prize 38 & Leviathan Wakes

by Tee Tate
Leviathan WakesLeviathan Wakes
James S.A. Corey

I had seen “Leviathan Wakes” on library shelves, bookstore shelves. I was intrigued, but was not so far into outer space science fiction that I felt compelled to check it out. Same with “Caliban’s War”, the second book of The Expanse series from the collaboration of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck that goes by the pen name of James S.A. Corey. Then I got into John Scalzi’s “Old Man’s War” series and my love for outer space science fiction was rekindled. So when “Abaddon’s Gate”, the third book of The Expanse series was released and it started to crop up on many, many awards shortlists and book sites’ recommendation pages, I sat up and took notice.

Then I heard that The Expanse had been picked up for a 10 episode season from the Syfy Channel – without a pilot – with Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby (whose credits include “Children of Men” and “Iron Man”) as writers and producers. Hey, I’ve been a TV sci fi gal since Star Trek, I’m a sucker for a good sci fi TV series; or even a somewhat good one. I figured this announcement was a sign that I should hop on The Expanse bandwagon.

Did I say bandwagon? Heck, “Leviathan Wakes” wouldn’t fit on a bandwagon. A band freight train, maybe. Told in chapters that alternate between James Holden, the captain of an ice mining ship that gets caught up in the opening salvos of a war between Mars, the “Belt” (united colonies located on the asteroid belt and the moons of Jupiter) and Earth, and Detective Joe Miller, whose assignment to a missing persons case leads to secrets that forces would rather start a war for than reveal. The two cross paths and find themselves in the epicenter of a conflict not just between worlds, but between business and ethics, between humanity and power mongering, driven by discovery of an alien biological agent that was meant to hijack life on Earth back when it was swimming in primordial ooze.

Virtually everything referencing “Leviathan Wakes” calls it a kick ass space opera, and I would have to agree that this is a very apt assessment. Full of larger than life characters, sweeping action, strong themes that bob and weave throughout the narrative, and high drama offset by wry humor, “Leviathan Wakes” incorporates shiny space sci-fi, deep human development, and grainy crime noir to build a possible future that is, in equal parts, distressing and thrilling.

I can’t wait to pick up “Caliban’s Wake” this weekend and keep riding on this particular freight train of a story.

—Sharon Browning

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