Basically my entire review of this book consists of JAMES COREY YOU ARE TOO MEAN FOR WORDS WHY FOR DID YOU DO THAT?!
Spoilers for the first four. Duh.
The preceding books have mostly focussed on Holden and someone else, or a few other someones, doing important things in the solar system. This time there are four points of view: Holden, Amos, Alex, and Naomi. This should have warned me about what was coming, but somehow my brain refused to process the obvious reason for doing this.
Corey splits up the crew of the Roci.
Splits. Them. Up.
I mean, it was bad enough when half the crew went onto the surface of a planet in the last book. Of course sometimes one or more have gone off on their own individual missions. But never before have the four been pursuing largely separate ends, separate from one another. It was devastating.
Where Cibola was focussed on the early attempts at colonising a new planet through the gate, this is focussed squarely on the repercussions of such colonising for the solar system itself. After all, why bother terraforming a planet when there are planets already ready to be colonised, where you can walk on the surface? Why break your back mining asteroids when there’s minerals on the worlds where you can breathe the air? … but then what happens to those places that had people working on them, who then leave?
It’s kind of an epic version of a gold rush.
Overall this is another excellent, page-turning, enthralling novel and I cannot wait for the sixth (and final, I think) volume.
I have one quibble.
I love Naomi. A lot. She’s a supremely competent engineer, she doesn’t put up with crap from Holden, she’s clearly a good crewmate, and she’s a good person who makes friends easily.
This book changes things a bit, and while I like the idea of complicating her past and all, I was saddened by the way Corey did it: via a story involving a past manipulative lover and a forsaken child. Because this is such a female-only story.
I’m torn because while I love seeing Naomi’s vulnerability and her resilience (which, let’s be clear, are both shown in Amos and Alex’s own investigations into their pasts), I was frustrated by just how much Naomi’s is around being female. Amos’ past is nasty and tragic, but there’s not much detail about it – and it could have happened to either a boy or a girl. Alex’s backstory is mostly about his ex-wife and I cannot tell you how happy I was that the ex-wife basically didn’t give Alex so much as the time of day. While this is stereotypically more a dude thing (to be the abandoner), it could have been done by a woman – and it doesn’t have that much of an impact on him. Both Amos and Alex go on and have adventures that result from where they are, which does result from their past but doesn’t really have that much to do with their pasts. (While Amos ends up working with someone from his past, I’d argue that he could have done the same with someone else without much difficulty.) For Naomi, her entire story revolves around her past and dealing with the issues raised by her ex and her son – who, for all the little-boy sadness about being left by his mother, was kidnapped by his father in order to manipulate his mother. Let’s also not forget that Naomi herself is kidnapped by this man basically so that he can show her what a big shot he is now.
I don’t mind Naomi being shown to be a woman, and I was fascinated by this insight into Belter issues and attitudes, and I do like these complications. And at least she wasn’t raped in order to further her or someone else’s narrative, so it could have been worse. But “it could have been worse” is appalling praise. Her being female hasn’t really been an issue for four books now, so why make it such a focus? Yes part of the narrative does bring in her kick-ass engineering skills, so that was a relief; and she is strong and resilient and clever and determined and stubborn. Nonetheless. I was disappointed and hope that, since the son will clearly rock up again in the next book, hope that he doesn’t become an obsession for Naomi. (I would like to add that I adored the way Holden acted with Naomi at the end of the book.)