The third installment in James S.A. Corey's Expanse series, Abaddon's Gate follows directly after Leviathan Wakes and Caliban's War. I should review those two at some point.
A brief recap: We follow a little motley crew of space mercenaries on a stolen military spacecraft, who uncovered a corporate plot to exploit a strange, ancient alien organism which apparently turns human beings — and most everything else — into grey goo. The solar system is locked in a state of cold war, with the major players being Earth, Mars and the outer planets. Our heroes, who have thrown their lot in with the outer planets, include:
- James Holden, our captain and All-American Square-Jawed Hero. A bit of an insufferable ass, I take great delight in when certain crew members manage to deflate him a little.
- Naomi Nagata, engineer and Omnicompetent Badass Warrior Woman. Has multiple university degrees and a ﬂight officer certificate, and obviously Won't Take No Guff from any man. She also happens to be dating Holden.
- Alex Kamal, pot-bellied balding space pilot who doesn't like weapons and prefers to talk his way out of nasty situations.
- Amos Burton, quiet and gigantic spaceship mechanic with a dark past and a penchant for strong alcohol and violent solutions to complex problems.
In other words, our main characters are essentially the Firefly crew with a few details mashed around. This is ﬁtting, because for better or worse, the tone of the Expanse books are more like that of a TV series or a big-budget explosion orgy than literary science ﬁction. In fact, it has the feel of the kind of eclectic science ﬁction RPG settings I might have run as a 16-year-old: Square-jawed heroes and omnicompetent badass warrior women! Dastardly villains with simple motivations! Evil megacorporations! Heroic self-sacrifice! Explosions! Noir hardboiled detective mystery! Eldritch horrors from beyond time and space!
It is, however, highly entertaining. Much like the science ﬁction RPG settings I'd run as a 16-year-old. Just don't expect a cerebral tale of future speculation.
In this particular installment, our heroes ﬁnd themselves on the other side of a giant alien faster-than-light transfer portal, constructed by the alien protomolecule that formed the basis of the ﬁrst two stories. The story alternates between two main threads: One is about exploration and discovery; the other about intrigue and conflict. Unfortunately, it has no real conclusion. Compared to the two preceding books, it therefore felt rather less satisfying, seeming mostly to be ﬁller intended to introduce the next book (which I think will be about humanity using the ancient alien portals to spread from the solar system to distant star systems).
Decent light reading.