By Daniel Dern: Although my bedside pile includes Dozois’ The Very Best of the Best: 35 Years of Year’s Best Science Fiction — which I’ve started, and already, and one story in (“The Potter of Bones,” by Eleanor Arnason), feels like I’ve already enjoyed a great read… I put it aside to settle in with Tiamat’s Wrath, the latest (eighth) and, a friend tells me, penultimate book in James S. A. Corey (Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck)’s Expanse series.
It was worth waiting for, it was worth reading. We re-encounter some old friends, we meet some new characters. Explosions large and small! Rockets/space ships large and small!
As with the previous volumes, while the book is continuing the long arc of the series, the plot starts or picks up threads, and brings them to satisfactory conclusions by the end.
I love the Expanse books for several reasons:
• They’re written like the authors live there. The prose is crisp and to the point, with enough info-bits and micro recaps to help newcomers as well as those of us who might have lost track of who’s who and what’s what (and in some cases who’s what and what’s who), without bogging down the flow.
• Each chapter, rather than having a title, is titled with its PoV character, so (I) don’t have to waste a few seconds sussing out who’s talking or otherwise being our lens into the action. (Having wrestled with a few non-Expanse books over the years that don’t do this, I seriously appreciate this; it’s not hard for the author (or editorial team) to do, and, with some possible exceptions where sussing out who’s “talking” is part of the way the book works, it keeps me more easily engaged. And, as a friend points out, it provides easy “stop points” for setting the book aside to go do stuff.
• The pacing of the prose, particularly in this volume, is exquisite. This is especially clear in the end-of-chapter last paragraphs or three.
• Respect for gravity, mass, inertia, fuel limits, and speed of light in terms of orbits, zooming through space, and communication. (With a few acknowledged and contextually legitimate exceptions.) This isn’t unique to The Expanse but it’s always nice to see being respect both by the plot and the characters.
Tiamat’s Wrath will, IMHO, be much more satisfying (and make more sense) if you’ve read the previous books. Since I have read ’em all (although not yet all – currently — five of the shorter Expanse pieces), I can’t tell you whether it makes enough sense without having first read v’s 1-7. But it’s definitely more satisfying, just like watching Game of Thrones, West Wing, The Magicians, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, G.L.O.W., Sports Night or The Newsroom.
If you’ve read and enjoyed the previous books, you’ll be happy. If you haven’t yet dipped an eyeball into The Expanse, perhaps this will convince you to give them a try. If you have already decided these aren’t your cup of appertained beverage, fair ’nuff.
Note, “Tiamat” does not, as best I can tell, appear or even get mentioned anywhere except in the title. Or maybe I missed that paragraph. But the same friend from comments above notes that this is the case for the previous seven books, which my memory won’t let me challenge.
Recommended. And then we wait for the big one..
A closing unrelated question: What would happen if Corey (re)wrote Lord of the Rings? Would we see more women, particularly fighting? Would the Eagles get fitted with weapons, etc.? Would any of the battles go differently?