Thursday, June 14, 2012
Leviathan Wakes by James S.A Corey
As I'm sure I've stated before I'm not really a science fiction reader, and when I do read it, it tends to be things like Feed or Ready Player One, which aren't what you'd call traditional science fiction. Leviathan Wakes is old school space opera, so for me that's a different thing to read. It came onto may radar largely because of the author. James S.A Corey is a pseudonym for Daniel Abraham (the author of, amongst other things, The Dagger and the Coin series, which I'm loving the heck out of) and Ty Franck (who tends to be better known as the assistant of George R.R Martin, Leviathan Wakes may change that). Being a fan of Abraham and Martin, the collaborative effort held some interest for me. Then it got nominated for a Hugo. The Hugo's have become a subject near and dear to me over the last couple of years and I like to be involved in some small way in the nomination and award process by voting. To make an informed vote I read at least all of the nominated novels. I'd already read A Dance with Dragons and Deadline, the other three are Leviathan Wakes, Embassytown and Among Others. I'd wanted to read Leviathan Wakes, so having it as a Hugo nomination and included in the voter package was ideal for me.
Leviathan Wakes is set in the future, Earth has colonised Mars and even set up communities amongst hollowed out asteroids. The people that live and work in the space stations on those moons are known as 'belters', and lifetimes spent under low gravity tend to make them physically different to the Earthers and the Martians.
The story in Leviathan Wakes is filtered through the PoV's of two people: the idealistic, womanising ice miner Jim Holden, mostly based out in space, and the world weary, cynical 'belter' detective Miller. Holden is trying to find out who blasted his ship and why and if possible bring them to justice, while Miller is searching for missing heiress Julie Mao and has fallen in love with the memory of a girl he never knew. Eventually the two men's lives will intersect, and when they do that's when Leviathan Wakes really takes off.
While Miller and Holden are multi dimensional wonderfully written and explored characters and dominate the book (that's got Abraham and his fantastic characters written all over it), the other characters are also well drawn. Holden's XO Naomi, the foul mouthed and often very funny mechanic Amos, Miller's boss Shaddid, and even Julie Mao. The story is also highly involving. The discoveries that Miller and Holden make in a quest for justice will bring Earth, Mars and the Belt to the brink of an all out self destructive war and could change the course of humanity.
While Leviathan Wakes is very much a space opera, there's also some very noirish elements to it, especially when Miller's the focus of the story, he could have been written by Dashiell Hammet or Raymond Chandler if they'd set their stories in outer space. I've been getting into Babylon 5 recently, and I kept flashing on the show, especially during the sequences on the stations. It's becoming rather redundant to compare science fiction crews to Joss Whedon's short lived, but much loved science fiction western series Firefly, but it's true of Leviathan Wakes; Holden, Naomi and Amos all recalled crew members of Serenity, Jim Holden and Mal Reynolds would have been great mates, although Holden's better with the ladies.
Leviathan Wakes is a ripping read, it's a worthy Hugo nomination, and I wouldn't be surprised it's sequel Caliban's War is up there for the rocket ship again next year.