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Book Review: Cibola Burn by James S. A. Corey

Cibola Burn by James S. A. Corey

Title: Cibola Burn

Author: James S. A. Corey

Series: The Expanse #4

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: The gates have opened the way to thousands of habitable planets, and the land rush has begun. Settlers stream out from humanity’s home planets in a vast, poorly controlled flood, landing on a new world. Among them, the Rocinante, haunted by the vast, posthuman network of the protomolecule as they investigate what destroyed the great intergalactic society that built the gates and the protomolecule. But Holden and his crew must also contend with the growing tensions between the settlers and the company which owns the official claim to the planet. Both sides will stop at nothing to defend what’s theirs, but soon a terrible disease strikes and only Holden – with help from the ghostly Detective Miller – can find the cure.

The Review:

I love this series – the plot, the characters, the humor, the world building… all of it. I was excited for this one in particular because when I first started The Expanse a couple of years ago I thought it was only going to be a trilogy. Cibola Burn (and Nemesis Games) felt like bonus books. I’m super thrilled the story is not over!!!

As always, this Expanse book had an excellent mix of familiar and new POV characters – an element that has always kept these novels fresh and exciting for me. Of all the non-Rocinante crewmember POVs we’ve met, I unfortunately enjoyed the ones in this book the least. They just couldn’t compete with Avasarala, Bobbie, or even Bull… but they were still good because I don’t think these authors could write crappy characters if they tried. I’ve mentioned before that strong characterization is my favorite part about this series, in part because they always feel like real people, flaws and all. It’s fantastic.

Admittedly, I expected the story to go much broader from this point (it is, after all, The Expanse series), especially after the vast potential and new revelations discovered in Abaddon’s Gate. But the scope of Cibola Burn maintained a fairly narrow scope (not that it wasn’t just as enjoyable, mind you). Having it different than my expectations didn’t disappoint me like many other novels have, but instead made me appreciate how consistent these authors are. They don’t jump the story ahead of what is feasibly possible just to advance the plot. As a result, all of the progression the solar system makes feels natural and unforced. Human ambition never goes beyond what is technologically possible, and I love that consistency. Not to mention that it was still wildly interesting even without fast expansion.

As narrow as the story might have felt, the things that happened in this novel will definitely have galaxy-wide ramifications… I can’t wait to see how they’re going to cope next! The broadness of the concept (particularly involving the protomolecule and its origins) always makes me feel so immersed these books.

Overall, Cibola Burn was a great continuation of the story (the next book, Nemesis Games, was even better! Review to come…). If you are a Firefly fan, or if you’re even looking to dip your toes in the space opera genre, give this series a try!

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by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: Nemesis Games by James S. A. Corey

 June 2, 2015

Title: Nemesis Games

Author: James S. A. Corey

Series: The Expanse #5

Genre: Science Fiction

Release Date: June 2, 2015

The Overview: A thousand worlds have opened, and the greatest land rush in human history has begun. As wave after wave of colonists leave, the power structures of the old solar system begin to buckle. Ships are disappearing without a trace. Private armies are being secretly formed. The sole remaining protomolecule sample is stolen. Terrorist attacks previously considered impossible bring the inner planets to their knees. The sins of the past are returning to exact a terrible price. And as a new human order is struggling to be born in blood and fire, James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante must struggle to survive and get back to the only home they have left.

Waiting on Wednesday
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Breaking the Spine

I haven’t even read the fourth book in this series yet, but I already know I’m going to be absolutely thrilled when Nemesis Games comes out in June. These are the kind of books that keep you up all night – partly because they’re so good, but mostly because they are fricking intense! I also think The Expanse series contains some of the most well-written characters of any series I’ve ever read – to the point where I feel like I’m reading about real people, not just figments of someone’s mind. Overall, I consider these books a must-read for anyone who loves a good space opera (Firefly, anyone?). You better believe I’ll be picking this one up in hardcover the day comes out.

What book are you waiting on?

by Niki Hawkes

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Mini Book Review: Abaddon’s Gate by James S. A. Corey

Abaddon's Gate by James S. A. Corey

Title: Abaddon’s Gate

Author: James S. A. Corey

Series: The Expanse #3

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Overview: For generations, the solar system — Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt — was humanity’s great frontier. Until now. The alien artifact working through its program under the clouds of Venus has appeared in Uranus’s orbit, where it has built a massive gate that leads to a starless dark. Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are part of a vast flotilla of scientific and military ships going out to examine the artifact. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with the destruction of Holden at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to find whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them.  

The Mini Review:

Whenever I pick up an Expanse novel, I know I’m in for a guaranteed good read. The authors just know how to create a high-stakes, fast-paced, thrill ride that usually has me devouring pages long after I should’ve gone to sleep (seriously – don’t read this book before you go to bed, you’ll never get any rest!). And aside from excellent pacing, part of what makes these novels so great are the characters. Each novel follows the story progression of the crew of the Rocinante, but also includes a few other POVs who add extra flair to story. As much as I love Holden and his crew, it’s these extra characters that I’ve come to look forward to most. They’re all written so well it’s like reading about real people – I’m definitely using this series as Exhibit A for characterization in my own writing. Combine that with compelling conflicts that get more complex and interesting with each novel, and you have yourself a killer series. Overall, if you love science fiction (especially space operas) this is currently my top recommend of the genre. I’ve heard it’s even in the final stages of becoming a television series, which will hopefully be just as epic!

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by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Caliban’s War by James S. A. Corey

caliban's warTitle: Caliban’s War

Author: James S. A. Corey

Series: Leviathan #2

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The OverviewThe alien protomolecule is clear evidence of an intelligence beyond human reckoning. No one knows what exactly is being built on Venus, but whatever it is, it is vast, powerful, and terrifying. When a creature of unknown origin and seemingly impossible physiology attacks soldiers on Ganymede, the fragile balance of power in the Solar System shatters. Now, the race is on to discover if the protomolecule has escaped Venus, or if someone is building an army of super-soldiers. Jim Holden is the center of it all. In spite of everything, he’s still the best man for the job to find out what happened on Ganymede. Either way, the protomolecule is loose and Holden must find a way to stop it before war engulfs the entire system.

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The Review:

I was a little hesitant to pick up Caliban’s War because the first book (Leviathan Wakes) was so amazing, how could the second book possibly compare? I was even worried I’d get bored because I thought I’d figured out which characters we’d be following and what direction the story was headed… Boy was I wrong! And happy to be so. It was definitely different from the first novel, and didn’t lack any of the adventure and excitement!

As I mentioned, I thought I knew which characters we’d hear from in Caliban’s War and was pleasantly surprised with the introduction of a handful of brand-new POVs who added fresh perspectives to the story without losing any momentum. Of course, it wouldn’t have been the same without Holden and his crew and I’m thrilled he seems to be the through-line for the series. Some of the new characters are among my favorite so far (specifically Avasarala, the feisty old politician – if I had half of her gusto, I’d be unstoppable!). As always, each character was interesting and well-rounded and I am eager to see who’s featured in the third novel.

The conflicts in this novel are a lot narrower, but by no means less exciting. It’s all working to build this brilliant momentum, and great momentum is what sets apart good books from great books in my opinion. Most of my favorite series have that in common. To that end, Caliban’s War gets an A+ for pacing. It’s that “holyshit-hold-your-breath-until-it-over” type of stuff that I love. I actually had to stop reading it before bed because it would get me too wound up to sleep.

Overall, if you like fast-paced adventure and excitement in your books, you’ll love these! I am certain I will be reading them again.

Recommended Reading: I would hand this series to sci-fi lovers, but it’s definitely a space opera (my new favorite genre). This is also an excellent series to hand someone wanting to try either genre. All I can say is, hold onto your seats – it’s going to be a wild ride!

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

8855321Title: Leviathan Wakes

Author: James S. A. Corey

Series: Expanse #1

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The Overview: 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.

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 The Review:

I want to thank these authors for rekindling my love for science fiction (yes, I said authors, see below)! Everything about this story had me frantically turning the pages to see what happened next. I haven’t been this excited about a sci-fi series since I picked up Aguirre’s Grimspace a couple of years ago. And you know what? I really missed it! There’s nothing like diving into the universe to give you that ultimate feel of adventure!

And adventurous it was – on a galactic scale (okay, maybe only on a solar system scale… It just doesn’t sound as cool). And it was a smart book – plenty of complexity, with interwoven plots that were just enough to keep me guessing but not so much that it was confusing. A book that is dynamic and well planned out gets my vote every time – and I probably appreciated the most because it’s something I don’t feel I could ever do in my own writing.

Another thing I loved about this book was characterization. I’ve been really lucky lately because I’ve picked up tons of books with exceptional characters (which means I’ve had some of the best reading in my life recently). Characters make or break books for me – I can put up with a lot of faults, but if I don’t like the people, I most likely won’t like the book. Leviathan Wakes had so many fantastic characters that I’d be hard-pressed to tell you which one I liked the most. Even the minor ones who only got a few pages were memorable… it blows my mind.

So far, I’ve mentioned great plot structure and characters, but I don’t think I’d be raving about the book as much if they hadn’t been combined with such killer pacing. Every moments was exciting and stressful… in a good way. It’s the type of exhilarating read that gets the adrenaline flowing and the heart pumping – I had to stop reading it before bed because it took me from drowsy to wide awake after only a few pages. It never slowed down, either. The whole book was just one big snowball ride all the way to the end!

Very few books max out my awesomeness scale in every category, but this one managed! It’s the perfect mix of science fiction, mystery, and romance (on a minor scale), and has turned me into an adoring fan of “space opera.” What’s more, after reading Leviathan Wakes, I discovered the author’s name is actually a pen for two collaborative writers: Daniel Abraham (who has quickly become one of my favorite new-generation fantasy authors with his Long Price Quartet series) and Ty Franck (who I’m told did some ghostwriting work for George R.R. Martin). I don’t know if it’s possible, but this discovery makes me love the book even more!

Recommended Reading: for any science-fiction lover (or for that matter, for anybody looking to give sic-fi a try). This book is also perfect for anyone looking for an exhilarating read – one that’s impossible to put down!

by Niki Hawkes

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