18 August 2014

Cotton Candy Days: A Review of Cibola Burns, James S.A. Corey

The wind is whipping through the greenery casting shadows of summer over my computer as I intently stare at one of my flower containers. Over night the flora in my backyard started sprouting bizarre off-shoots morphing the entire species into something completely unrecognizable.  I don't know what is happening but hazard a guess that August is at foot; August, North America's sweetest sorrow.

Here in Toronto where I live, much to the dismay of some of my maritime cousins, there is nothing that hammers home the end of all things flip-flop than the CNE. The CNE this city's local fair runs for three blessed corn dog, fried pickle weeks wrapping up all it's greasy goodness Labour Day long weekend. It has all the bells and whistles:  cotton candy, games of chance, twice fried butter, mid-way, corn dogs, The Polar Express. I just love me a good fair. The only drawback is the lacklustre displays of pies, jams, breads, quilts, best-looking gourds, tomatoes, and dahlias.  Being the largest fair in this country, you would assume that there was a stage dedicated to hourly pie beauty contests. Alas, the home economic feats of excellence has been surpassed by endless shammy, magic blender displays.

But where is the science fiction, you ask, where? Folks, things are going to get nuts very quickly as I commence my very subjective review of Cibola Burn,
fourth instalment of The Expanse series by James S. A. Corey. I thought a nice segue, filled with the spirit of cotton candy would lull you into a semi-conscious state before I slam you with space-operatic enthusiasm bordering close on obsession. James S. A. Corey is the pen name writing team of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck who have my heart forever since the release of their first book, Leviathan Wakes. The two wanted to capture the point at which humanity moved from the confines of our solar system into the great expanse that is the universe, during that rather bumpy, vomit zombie process, opening Pandora's Box. To date, we have met a sentient Venus, the very alien, very scary protomolecule, a full-scale Mars/Earth/Outer Planets war, Medina, a gateway eons old, now humanities access to countless star systems and the crew of the Rocinante, who always happen to be at the wrong place at the right time.


The Expanse books are reliant upon each other. Pick up Cibola Burn without doing your do diligence of reading the other three and you will be one very confused but entertained reader. All four are fast-paced, with Leviathan Wakes the best written with Cibola Burn coming in second. Cibola Burn moves the plot along to humans settling our first planet beyond our little corner of the Milky Way. Using the Gate, the crew of the Rocinante are requested by the United Nations to act as mediators on a newly discovered planet, rich in minerals, contested over by two groups of settlers.


While Calaban's War, and Abaddon's Gate are politically charged plots with great character development, Cibola Burn hones in upon humanities homegrown nightmares; racism, greed. Hence we have a book that is possibly more horrifying than the others simply because we recognize the fear more easily. This does not attenuate the spine- tingling alien anxiety that pulses through all The Expanse books. What is currently thriving on Venus may have it's protomolecular tentacles through-out the universe. Settlement has never been so harried. Cibola Burn delivers a more focused story-line of the same plot driven question pulsing through all the books; are we alone and do we truly want to find out if we are or worse, we aren't? 

The Expanse series is an amazing romp with Cibola Burn a SF grand slam home run. Go now, read it and be forever freaked out.