23 February 2013

Quest for The Empire Strikes Back: A Review of Caliban's War, James S. A. Corey

The future looks bleak, little point in investing in new bathroom tiles as Venus is about to kill us all.  And that is how I am going to start my new post with the apocalyptic prediction that the end is at hand, thanks in full to the second book in The Expanse Series, Caliban's War.

Like the first book  in the series (you know the post where I went ape shit crazy over Leviathan Wakes), Caliban's War is a spectacular space opera.  Not too surprising, as this is a continuation of events that  spiralled out of control for humanity in book one.   If you loved Leviathan Wakes then you were committed to the end, having to read 2, and soon 3 quickly as humanly possible.  A trilogy is good when it has an addictive quality.  Like stupid-ass potato chips that we are only now learning were laboratory created so you can't just eat one ,  a good series is like crack potato chips.  In the midst of this type of reading addiction, can objectivity come into play to decide if all the books deserve the same acclaim?  I would say, yes.  We know when something works, for example Die Hard and what doesn't, Die Hard II, Die Hard with a Vengeance, Live Free or Die Hard and  the new gem, A Good Day to Die Hard.  I think I wasted some brain space having to look up and then type out those titles.  

The burning question is of course, is Caliban's War worth it's weight?  Is this The Empire's Strikes Back of The Expanse Series?  It pains me to say, no. Frankly, I am struggling to come up with a middle book that rises to such glory.  Having said that, the book is still awesome. I found myself tearing through the chapters trying not to freak myself out too much and not succeeding.  

So, what is going on with the solar system.  To be brief, because I really hate spoilers, we are screwed. Venus is most likely sentient and not in a friendly, "Hey humanity guys, wanna play some B- ball this weekend?", but in a "I will turn you all into vomit zombies!" Sigh, yes vomit zombies; I realize I didn't mention that in the Leviathan Wakes post but since you have all diligently read the book I can bring up the vomit. There is a lot of vomit.

What makes Caliban's War interestingly different enough, is the appearance of one tiny fouled-mouth Indian grandma. Chrisjen Avasarala, the assistant to the UN's undersecretary of executive administration is a unique character in SF.  I have never met someone like her in the theatre of the genre. She is tough, she is not white, and she is not young.  She is everything that I have been missing of late, a good character to grab onto. I love how she encompasses so much power, almost loses said power and then returns with vengeance to become even more powerful. Thanks to her story the overall angle of the plot takes a unique turn, it gets even more scary. Through Chisjen's perspective the alien threat takes on a more real threat. The story arc needed a character with more depth to pull off the weight of  the plot. As Chisjen freaks out, we freak out with her. Being privy to her private fears is a powerful means to convey the levity of the situation. Which I will refrain from mentioning, but there is vomit and zombies, and oh yeah, most likely a sentient Venus that wants to kick your ass.