CALIBAN’S WAR by James S.A. Corey — a Review

CALIBAN’S WAR is the second novel in The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey (the pen name of Daniel Abraham (twitter) and Ty Franck).

The first novel in the Expanse series was LEVIATHAN WAKES, which I thought was a knockout book. CALIBAN’S WAR picks up shortly thereafter, and it maintains the space opera feel of LEVIATHAN WAKES, but it expands the scope a bit. The alien protomolecule has set up shop on Venus, and humanity watches, unsure exactly how it is changing the planet. Jim Holden (POV character 1, and a returning character) now works for the OPA when a shooting war between Mars and Earth breaks out on Ganymede, a crucial location for humanity’s future. Gunnery Sergeant Bobbie Draper (POV 2) is a Martian Force Recon Marine and the only survivor of that first battle. Prax Meng (POV 3) is a botanist on Ganymede whose daughter is abducted just prior to the shooting. Chrisjen Avasarala (POV 4) is a senior official of the UN determined to negotiate a peaceful resolution before whatever happening on Venus is complete.

Corey has created well drawn characters. They grow and change over time in compelling ways. The plot moves quickly, just like in LEVIATHAN WAKES. Also like that book, this is not a hard sci-fi book. There’s nothing that should serve as a barrier to those unfamiliar with sci-fi.

CALIBAN’S WAR has plenty of twists, turns, surprises, and conspiracy theories. While this sounds like Corey has written a repeat of LEVIATHAN WAKES, it’s not. Like I said, the scope has been expanded, and once the threads have come together, the stakes rise dramatically.

Unfortunately, CALIBAN’S WAR suffers a bit for expanding the scope of the story. Corey uses four POV characters instead of two, and the threads do not come together until much later in the book. While this allows readers to see more of the solar system, it undercuts the tension slightly by splitting our attention into four parts. Unfortunately, this makes the book feel a little looser and slower than LEVIATHAN WAKES, hence the four star review.

But overall, if you liked the first book, you’ll like this one. I know I’m looking forward to the next book in the Expanse series.

Leave a Reply