Tiamat’s Wrath – A Non-Spoiler Recommendation for Newest Expanse Novel

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?

14 thoughts on “Tiamat’s Wrath – A Non-Spoiler Recommendation for Newest Expanse Novel

  1. According to the Expanse Wiki

    The title refers to Tiamat, a primordial goddess associated with creating the cosmos from chaos in ancient Babylonian mythology. The entity has been described as a serpent or dragon. According to the myth recorded on ancient cuneiform tablets, the deity Enki captured and killed Tiamat’s partner, Abzû. As a display of her wrath, Tiamat created eleven monsters of her own offspring to wage war against the deities and avenge her mate’s death.

    My library’s copies just arrived, and I’ll be one of the first to get one, yay! I was really impressed with Persepolis Rising, and am looking forward to this one.

  2. I rage-quit this series at Nemesis Games as it exceeded my Maximum Acceptable Deaths number. I’ve considered going back since there is a lot I loved about the series. The things noted here, also the characters are wonderful. We will see.

  3. @bookworm1398, if it helps, nothing on that scale happens again. In fact, one of my few issues with the last three books is that the aftermath of book 5 fades into the background awfully fast as the story moves on to other places.

    @JJ, if you liked the last one, this is very much a sequel to that and builds on it in ways I really dug. The basic premise from page one is “evil empire vs. rebels” which is not exactly unheard of, but their approach to that is really interesting.

    @Daniel, I don’t know which of the stories/novellas you’ve read, but IMO “The Churn” is the best in terms of what it tells us about the world and one of the main characters, and “The Vital Abyss” contains possibly the best writing (not just of the short pieces, but of the whole series). The latest one, “Strange Dogs”, is fairly slight, but it does set up something that turns out to be a major plot point in Tiamat’s Wrath (although I still didn’t see it coming, because I’m a sucker).

  4. @JJ — I, too, did a look-up for Tiamat, but unlike various fantasies, this was, like the previous volumes’ titles, a literary or allegorical or whatever reference, no entity (or organization) named, nor nick-named, Tiamat, appeared in the text.
    @Bookworm – I hear you about threshholds. Too many of the detective/mystery shows we see on PBS seem to have, after the first murder, often one or two as part of the perp’s attempts to get away with it.
    @Eli – I’ve read The Churn, and agree, it was a very good, and fleshing-out, story. (Since I’ve signed up for a two-months-at-a-buck-each Kindle Unlimited trial, I’ll try to remember to go looking for them there, as well as through my library’s e-avenues.) (As if I didn’t already have enough to e-read, between Nebula noms (belatedly) and Hugo noms (per Mike’s post a few days ago, until the Hugo packet info arrives).

  5. I’m pretty sure “Tiamat” is going to be the nickname for the entity that caused the extinction of the protomolecule creators, much as “Caliban” was the nickname for the zombie humans created by contact with the protomolecule.

    I think I enjoyed this book better than any other volume in the series.

  6. @Greg: The name Caliban is never mentioned in Caliban’s War(*), even though I think the reference is meant to be as you say (and the TV show made it more explicit by saying that the researchers used it as a codename for their project). All of the book titles in the series have fairly clear allegorical meanings, but they’re never actually referenced in the text.

    (* In the past I would’ve said “I’m pretty sure it’s never mentioned”, but e-books now make it possible to prove that my memory is correct for once.)

  7. I’ve just started it, but I’m disgruntled by gur gvzr whzc, vafgrnq bs fgnegvat ng gur pyvss-unatre raqvat sebz gur ynfg obbx.

  8. @Darren: I didn’t see the ending of Persepolis Rising as a cliffhanger. There’s been a defeat, and most of the main characters have found a place to regroup and figure out what to do next; nothing’s imminently happening. And then in the last chapter, one character meets the antagonist and they talk about what to do next, but those are long-range plans. I guess it’s a cliffhanger if you think maybe some new allies might swoop in and save the day at the very last minute, but I think what Corey are suggesting by their choice of where to start the next book is that sometimes that doesn’t happen and you have to just go on with life for quite a while.

  9. I was talking about the cliffhanger with a superadvanced alien race (or their technology) revealing themselves to be still active and pissed by humanity’s actions, intervening in a major battle. Pretty gigantic cliffhanger, IMHO.

  10. “Cliffhanger” normally means that a big suspenseful thing comes up at the very end. What you’re talking about happens two-thirds of the way through book 7 in response to a specific action, and then doesn’t happen again during the last third of the book when that action isn’t repeated. So, yes, it’s a suspenseful open question, or a cliffhanger, or whatever you want to call it – but we’ve already seen time go by without the thing recurring, as long as those people don’t repeat that action. And it’s established in book 8 that they haven’t done so during the period of time we skipped over, because things have been basically peaceful during that time (and that apparent stability, with people going on with their lives the way they usually don’t do in “evil empire” stories, is pretty important to the novel IMO). But the mysterious threat has definitely been on their minds that whole time.

    I think the time jump works fine; otherwise there’d just be a lot of “and then another year went by, and they were still worried about the thing, but it still hadn’t happened again.” And I enjoyed the process of figuring out how the characters had gotten into the new roles they’re in. YMMV but I’d say just give it a little time.

  11. The audio books are excellent with great writing (as noted here) and very impressive narration.
    Can anyone recommend any novels or series available as an audio book(s) of similar superior story and narration?

  12. @Ken – I would suggest The Quantum Evolution series. It’s a little more fantastic than The Expanse series, but I find the universe of it incredibly unique and fun. It’s a nice break from the serious, political nature of The Expanse.

  13. @Joe – Thanks for the recommendation.
    The first book just went on sale at Audible so I picked it up.

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