Tag Archives: james s a corey

Galactic Suburbia 165

In which we feed our feedback back to you, with a side order of cheesecake! You can get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

WHAT’S NEW ON THE INTERNET

Aurealis Award winners announced.

Ditmar prelim ballot

FEEDBACK:

Flea’s YouTube channel

Books mentioned in feedback:
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls
Roller Girl
The Better Homes and Garden New Cookbook
Joy of Cooking
Amanda Downum’s Necromancer Chronicles
The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu

CULTURE CONSUMED

Alisa: S-Town; Sharp Edge, Marianne Delacourt
Alex: Babylon’s Ashes, James SA Corey; Harry Potter; Samovar
Tansy: Harry Potter + fanfic, Drop Dead Fred

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Babylon’s Ashes

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In theory it took me months to read this, because I read the prologue… and then I put it down. Then I read the first two chapters… and then I put it down. And I read like 30 other books and then I finally picked it up and read it. This is no reflection on the book or the series; I’ve been waiting for this book since I finished book 5. I think partly this was a concern that the book would be too much; that after the events of book 5, how could things POSSIBLY go well for my beloved characters? And there’s an intensity to Corey’s writing, too, that I just didn’t feel ready for at the start of this year.

But I finally got over all of that and I read it and of course it’s fantastic and by golly I want book 7 yesterday. I had wondered how on earth the series could be continued… but now it’s clear. Well, as clear as the combined minds that make James Corey can ever be to someone out here.

(Spoilers for the first five books, I guess)

Things I continue to love about this series:

  • the focus on little, domestic things in the midst of solar-system wide disaster. The image of Avasarala applying a ‘homeopathic’ level of rouge is priceless. Also the details of life on the Roci and the various stations and asteroids. Plus…
  • the focus on characters and relationships. Holden’s vague concerns about having Clarissa on board: make so much sense, and he tries so hard to deal with it and it’s so sweet amidst all the political wrangling. Bobbie, and where she might ever fit in. Every single thing damned about Avasarala. Also Amos.
  • the widening perspective. There are more character perspectives in this book than previous ones, as has been the trend. So we get a much wider view of what’s going on; motivations and consequences, reactions and individual concerns. They matter, even when the solar system is threatened.
  • just… the writing. It is so very easy to read. This is the sort of thing I would like to read all the time please.

This book is, of course, not an entirely easy or pleasant book. Terrible, terrible things happen. I was constantly worried, at the back of my mind, that THIS would be the book where Corey decided to screw up the crew of the Roci. Of course that nearly happened in the last book, and I had a lot of trouble dealing with my darlings all being in different places; maybe that was a softening up to deal with one of them… leaving? Dying? And then of course there’s the worries about the solar system, and Earth as a whole being devastated, and the Belt being in huge difficulties too… so while it’s not quite apocalypse level (well, aside from Earth, but there’s not so much focus on that in this volume), this is still not a book to read if you’re feeling particularly fragile. That said, it is still a great story, and of course the point of the whole series is human endurance and dealing with enormous difficulties.

I love this series.

Galactic Suburbia 158

Happy New Year edition! One last episode before we squeak into 2017. In which we sum up a year of culture consumed and other interests, and mourn the recently departed. You can find us on iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

WHAT’S NEW ON THE INTERNET?

Carrie Fisher
George Michael
Richard Adams
Vera Rubin
(note: we recorded this ep before the death of Debbie Reynolds was reported)

CULTURE CONSUMED IN 2016:

Tansy: Rogue One
Alisa: Operation Apocalypse Plan (books mentioned: Will McIntosh’s Soft Apocalypse as a guide to the probable future, Defying Doomsday)
Alex: The Arrival
Tansy: Hurricane Heels by Isabel Yap (& Buffy rewatch with daughter, because this is what 11 yr olds are for)
Alisa: PhD & Jamberry
Alex: The Expanse
Tansy: Check Please fandom & Yuri on Ice
Alisa: Paleo Cinema Podcast
Alex: Octavia Butler

Link to call for Letters to Butler

Tansy — 2016 culture round ups in Smugglivus & Ambling Down the Aqueduct

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Caliban’s War: a review

This review will contain spoilers for Leviathan’s Wake, the first in this series.

Leviathan Wakes centred primarily around two characters: James Holden, somewhat reluctant captain of a fairly small spaceship who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and then things got worse; and a detective straight out of the pulps, whose obsession with finding a missing girl took him all sorts of interesting places and got him involved in some very, very messy stuff.

When Caliban’s War opens, Miller (the detective) is gone, and Holden is trying to figure out what to do with his now-smaller crew on his very shiny, somewhat illegal and quite fast Rocinante. But events begin with two completely new characters. In the Prologue, a young girl is taken from her creche and shown a man who is not a man; in chapter one, a Martian marine watches her platoon get slaughtered by something monstrous, which doesn’t react like it ought to. Both of these events indicate fairly obviously that the molecule that caused all the fuss in Leviathan, and which crashed on Venus at the end of that novel – but clearly didn’t get destroyed – is Up To Something. And we go from there.

Mars and Earth are on the verge of war, while a little girl is missing. The political position of the outer planets and asteroids is of serious concern, as is the relationship between two crew members. What I really liked about this novel is that it manages to focus on the big and the small at the same time, without trivialising and without making one look pointless in comparison. Prax’s world is (quite literally) falling apart and he can’t find his daughter and this is a real, vital, and urgent problem that has to be dealt with. Meanwhile, how to keep incompetent politicians from muddling into a war – or, worse, deliberately starting one – consumes Avasarala’s night and day, as the assistant to the undersecretary of executive administration of the UN – a title that sounds empty but that really makes her one of the most powerful wheelers and dealers on the planet. These two plots get about equal time, and equal sympathy, which is a marvellous achievement – especially since they’re not the only parts in the whole. There’s also Bobbie, the Martian marine, and how she copes with being a survivor, as well as being turned into a political pawn; and Holden sticking his nose in where he knows it doesn’t belong, meanwhile maybe messing things up with Naomi. Plus, all of this is tied into That Alien Molecule.

The storyline might sound like it gets a bit complicated, but Corey (actually Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) keeps it well under control by cycling through the different points of view in distinct chapters, each of which is named after their character. I get that sometimes authors want the reader to be in the dark about who is speaking, but sometimes that’s just a pain in the butt, so I applaud this measure. The collision of the different plots, which you just know is going to happen, happens in occasionally surprising but consistently pleasing ways – it never feels forced, and the plots entwine and carry on organically, with individual threads not getting subsumed by what might be considered (by some) as more important matters.

Characters are one of the strengths of this writing team. Holden is the main carryover character, but despite the reader already knowing him fairly well he still manages to occasionally surprise, as he develops in response to new stimuli such as his position with Rocinante and Naomi and oh, his experience with nasty mutant alien things. Much of that development is for the worse, at least at first, but it’s real and sympathetically described – not just put in for shock value. Of the others, probably my least favourite is Prax, a biologist, and the one whose daughter is missing; he’s the least interesting exactly because he is so single-minded in what he needs to achieve. His personal degradation matching Ganymede’s is cleverly written, but I don’t find monomania that intriguing. Meanwhile, Avasarala and Bobbie tie for my favourites. Avasarala balances foul-mouthed, cynical, driven and obsessive politician with loving grandmother is totally believable ways, and makes me despair for world politics. Bobbie’s development is probably the most nuanced of all: she deals with the aftermath of her platoon’s destruction, with the tension between Mars and Earth, with politics she knows little about and cares for less, all outside of the marine corps which is the only place she’s ever wanted to be. There are some novels with shifting points of view where as a reader, I am tempted to skip some chapters to get to the interesting bit. That’s not a problem I faced here.

Finally, a note on world building. The tensions between Mars and Earth, and the Outer Planet Alliance, can be read to some extent as an extension of terrestrial politics over the last couple of centuries; Mars and Earth are superpowers, while the OPA are colonies beginning to buck the reins of their colonial masters. It’s not a straight transposition, of course, but the idea that some – especially Earth-based – politicians would attempt to treat the solar system as an extension of their own world definitely makes a sad sort of sense. Zooming in somewhat, Corey’s development of the way asteroids and moons could be made not just habitable for humanity but vital to humanity’s livelihood in space is beautifully detailed without being overdone. As is the fragility of those systems. And their vision of Earth? Brilliant – and one of the interesting points of optimism for the system as a whole, which I won’t describe because it would just take too long.

Overall? I enjoyed Leviathan, but this is even better.

The Leviathan may be awake…

… but it’s not that impressive, as these things go.

The inner solar system is quite well colonised, and humanity is beginning to move out into the outer reaches as well. Unsurprisingly, there is friction between the planets – and the asteroid colonies – in some of the same ways, I feel, as there was in Africa when European countries decided they wanted to establish colonies on that continent (without, happily, the mitigating issue of prior occupation). Who should have control – the people in the area or the people back home? How do you make decisions when communications suffer a significant lag – and when the conditions there are significantly different from the conditions here? And then you add in travel time, and rogue elements care of capitalism and free enterprise, and you have a rather chaotic system. On the scale of the solar system, even if you restrict yourself to the asteroid belt and in, that’s a very messy situation indeed. I really, really enjoyed the world-building here. The description of the living situation on the asteroids in particular was very compelling, and the way in which – for example – relying on external sources for all of your air and water would change people’s attitudes towards those fundamentals, and the corresponding cascading effects, was beautifully drawn. I also enjoyed that the focus was largely off-planet; it would have been a very different story had it been slightly more, well, grounded.

The notion of Earth/Mars rivalry is not a new one, of course; many authors who have suggested planetary colonisation have imagined at least political disputes, if not war, over issues such as governance and resources. Here, though, it is not the focus of the plot; more the background, and the catalyst, and eventually the binding factor in two quite different narratives. One of those narratives is a detective yarn that owes a lot to the noir: grizzled cop looking for missing girl, ends up getting involved in something much bigger than he expects. The other narrative is of a space-lovin’ ship’s captain who stumbles across the wrong derelict, and ends up getting himself chased from one end of the system to the other because of some rather delicate intel that he accidentally gets his hands on. Miller, the cop, and Holden, the captain, trade chapters throughout most of the book – although it’s all in third-person, so there’s still a barrier between reader and character. Their stories start in quite different places (literally and metaphorically), and spend the novel (550-odd pages) merging and twining and departing in clever and intriguing ways. James S.A Corey is actually Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck writing together (quite why you would go with a nomme de plume and then tell absolutely everyone about it confuses me; were they told that collaborations didn’t sell, or was it whimsy?), and I wonder whether each of them was largely responsible for one narrative – not that I could pick a difference in writing styles.

I had one big problem with this novel, which colours my view of it, and that was Miller’s developing preoccupation with Julie, the girl he is tasked with finding. Some of the reasons for why he might become obsessed with her are developed along the way, but it made me feel quite uncomfortable, and additionally I did not feel as though that discomfort was part of the intended effect. While other characters acknowledge that Miller has taken it a bit far, quite how creepy and weird that is is not made explicit. This was problematic for me, although not enough to make me stop reading.

My view, then, of Miller is tainted by his (non-)relationship with Julie. Overall he is one of those not-necessarily-likeable characters whom a reader nonetheless can (perhaps grudgingly) admire and appreciate (caveat above in mind), making hard choices and occasionally getting them wrong but standing by them, and his own morals, through various tribulations. And I did end up overall admiring him. Holden is a very different character, as is appropriate for a multi-point of view novel. He tends more towards action, although to say that one is brain and the other brawn is doing both a disservice. I think Holden is easier to like, as a person, although he certainly has his own faults. This may partly be because we see Holden interacting more positively with more people, particularly the crew of his ship, whom we also get to know somewhat; Holden’s story is largely theirs as well, and they are a disparate and motley group indeed. Their banter, and their cooperation, helped make Holden’s sections of the story more enjoyable for me than Miller’s.

The cover of my paperback has George RR Martin proclaiming this book as “Kickass space opera” and, much though I hesitate to quibble with GRRM, I feel I must. An enjoyable piece of SF, absolutely. I’ll probably read the sequels (this is the first of a trilogy, and it ends with a really awesome twist). While I am not especially one to quibble over sub-categorisation, for me this was not space opera. It was not… operatic enough. Not grandiose enough. The distances involved were too small, the plots too petty (in the sense of petite, rather than mean), the scope and implications not wide enough for it to count as such. Still, it was an enjoyable ride and it will be interesting to see where Corey/Abraham/Franck go with the story in the rest of the trilogy.