Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

Summary: Welcome to the future. Humanity has colonized the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond – but the stars are still out of our reach.

Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, The Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for – and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.

Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to The Scopuli and rebel sympathizer, Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.

Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations – and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.

Commentary: Leviathan Wakes is the first in an ongoing series, and I picked it up because I hadn’t read a good space opera in awhile. I was hooked from the first page and couldn’t stop reading. Corey’s novel is very plot-driven with a lot of twists and turns, but I actually got pretty invested in our main characters Holden and Miller, as well as the “mystery girl” from the summary, who, although she wasn’t exactly “present” in the traditional definitions of the word for most of the novel, still captured my thoughts and emotions while reading.

Corey also did a good job of explaining the state of his created universe to the reader without being too heavy-handed. I feel like so many science fiction (and/or fantasy novels) get bogged down describing and explaining the rules and present state of their worlds and it can get really awkward. But with Leviathan Wakes, I learned everything I need to know in a way that made sense with the current plot and character stories.

Leviathan also got me thinking about a couple other issues in science fiction and even current space politics/news. I really enjoy science fiction and I particularly enjoy military space opera, a genre that I think makes sense to a lot of people because so much of our own real-world experience with space and space exploration is very nationalistic–the Space Race between the US and the Soviet Union, NASA, various nations’ space organizations, etc. However, the idea of space being privatized, and the most powerful forces in future space exploration being not countries, or even a united force from earth, but corporations and companies–this an idea that isn’t even accepted presently. However, many of the major players in Corey’s world are just that–companies that have done well in the space industry and in the politics that drive the new frontiers that humans have colonized, especially Mars and the Asteroid Belt.

Leviathan Wakes went beyond your typical spaceship shoot-outs and fancy technology; he introduced a world that had shifting cultural, economic, and even social class issues due to colonization of the solar system, and still made it exciting and full of twists and turns (including a particularly terrifying and interesting enemy).

I’d recommend Corey’s Leviathan Wakes for anyone looking for an exciting science fiction that still has a bit of depth. I think I’ll definitely be picking up the sequel.

Author Websitehttp://www.danielabraham.com/books-2/the-expanse/leviathan-wakes/


The Songs of Distant Earth by Arthur C. Clarke

Summary: Thalassa is an alien planet populated by humans with an embryonic seed pod, sent out from Earth in a last attempt to continue the human race’s existence before the Earth is destroyed. Thalassa has been thriving for many years, and the marine biologist Mirissa, her partner Brant and other friends and family live peacefully on a world that is mainly covered by ocean.

Their peaceful existence comes to an end with the appearance of the Magellan, a spaceship from Earth containing one million colonists who have been put into cryonic suspension. This was made possible through the discovery of a Quantum drive, and the Magellan was put together in the last days before Earth was consumed by the Sun’s supernova.

Now the Thalassans and the humans from old Earth must learn to survive together. At the same time, the humans discover a seemingly sentient species that evolved in Thalassa’s oceans.

[Awkward summary is really the plot summary from Wikipedia, with major edits and de-spoilering by myself]

Commentary: This is the first novel I’ve read by Arthur C. Clarke, one of the most famous Science Fiction writers ever. I really liked Songs of Distant Earth. 

Clarke’s writing is simple (in a good, succinct, enjoyable way) and he gets the point across quickly and effectively. He also explains scientific concepts very clearly and keeps the action moving. I can’t say much about the romance he includes in this novel, or the characters themselves, who aren’t very developed I don’t think.

I will be reading more of Clarke’s work in the future and this was a great introduction.