Political Games. Monsters. Traitors. Cascades. Children. Fear. Protomolecules.
Caliban’s War is worse than a bag of chocolates or a box of crackers; I really, really tried to put it down. It just has too many elements that are addictive to my science fiction loving brain: plenty of action, quirky characters, camaraderie, bad guys, space stuff, a bit of interesting science, a splash of humor, and a dash of irreverent cuss words. Caliban’s War is a direct sequel to Leviathan Wakes and is the second book in James S.A. Corey’s —aka Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck— The Expanse Series. It is definitely not a standalone novel.
Briefly, Bobbie, a Martian Marine, is the only survivor after her comrades and some UN Soldiers are slaughtered by a monster on the surface of Ganymede. After chasing pirates for the OPA for a year, Holden and company –Naomi, Alex, and Amos–are sent to find out why Mars and Earth have suddenly gone to war over Ganymede. Prax, a botanist specializing in soybeans, has his life’s work wiped out in moments by the war and then finds out his four-year-old daughter has been kidnapped. Avasarala, a foul mouth, sari wearing, power wielding, politician on Earth, tries to keep the solar system safe for her grandchildren. Slowly, they come together to uncover the truth about the monsters and to try to find Prax’s daughter.
I’m not ready to label Caliban’s War “great science fiction”, because it has its flaws. Especially near the beginning, I felt that some of the plot was recycled from Leviathan Wakes. There is a certain flatness to the “bad guys” and a bit too much “giving people what they have coming to them.” While some of the characters were a bit clichéd at times, I enjoyed them. I am grateful for the strong female characters. I had fun watching the collaboration between the forthright Bobbie and the political gaming Avasarala. I recognized and learned from the politics. In several instances, individuals and governments in the story would rather further their own political agendas than deal with the real problem, the possibility that the protomolecule might wipe out humankind. I was touched by the way the novel looks at how individuals deal with traumatic events. Oh, must I wait until next year before the third book in the series comes out?