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Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Welcome to the thread! I’m Milkfred E. Moore - you may remember me from the Bayformers thread in CD, my repeated probations in the Mass Effect 3 thread in Games, my retrospective watch-through of The Sarah Connor Chronicles in TV/IV, and the few times where I’ve been called one of the late Bravest of the Lamp’s sockpuppet accounts. I’m here to direct my talent for writing long diatribes on poo poo nobody cares about towards a little-known book series called The Expanse.

The Expanse is a series of eight novels (to be nine) written by James S. A. Corey, the pen name of authors Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham. Since the first novel was published in 2011, the series has been a pretty big hit, releasing a novel every year since (plus novellas, graphic novels, etc.) and is set to close out when the final novel releases this year. In 2015, the series landed an acclaimed TV adaptation produced by Syfy, only to be cancelled and then resurrected by Amazon. #savetheexpanse, everybody.

The world of The Expanse is that of a future where humanity has colonized the Sol system and organized around three major factions: the tradiational United Nations of Earth, the authoritarian Martian Congressional Republic, and the loose-knit Outer Planets Alliance. In these stories, space travel is so commonplace as to be boring, but still hazardous if something goes wrong. Perhaps the most interesting part of the series is how the sci-fi elements are hard-ish, with things like travel time, acceleration, and so on, all factoring into the storytelling. All the issues that humanity faced ‘down the gravity well’ have followed them to the edge of the Solar system and back.

The storytelling of the Expanse novels is third-person past tense with multiple points of view, novels often rotating in an A-B-A or A-B-C fashion. Including prologues and epilogues, there have been thirty-three point-of-view characters across the eight current books. The only one of these to feature in every novel is James Holden, the central protagonist. The captain of the spaceship Rocinante, Jim Holden is an idealistic everyman who finds himself swept up in events far bigger than him and his motley crew--things like wars, conspiracies, and mind-bending discoveries.

So, that’s the basics. But Milky, I hear you ask, why these books? Why are you devoting all this time and energy to a set of generally-okay sci-fi novels? Why not something great, or something terrible?

A good question, and with an easy answer: these novels make up what’s, perhaps, my favorite series of books. I’ve enjoyed reading them and, while I feel the quality of the latest few hasn’t been so great, if the ninth book is as consistent as the others, then it’ll be a pretty good series, all in all. For those who are wondering: the fifth is my favorite and I feel the weakest is the sixth. The strength of the series is in its consistency. While I don't think any of the books would make my Top Ten lists, the series as a whole is generally solid.

My personal history with The Expanse novels is that I picked up Abaddon’s Gate on a whim in 2013, not seeing that it was the third in a series (I missed the big 3 on the spine, I guess.) I consider it a credit to the writers that it was easy enough for me to follow, only beginning to get the suspicion that I’d missed a book or two when I hit the halfway point.

Interestingly, I think this helped me with the series. See, I don’t think the first novel in the series - Leviathan Wakes - is that well-written. It’s very good for what it is - it has a plot that keeps moving forward, simple but entertaining characters, and an intriguing world… But the prose? Eeehhh, it’s pretty bad in that first entry. Even the second novel - Caliban’s War - feels like a significant step up from the first.

The other part is that, while I enjoy the novels and am eagerly awaiting the ninth book, I feel like the series has never reached the full potential the authors could have realized had they been a bit more daring, a bit less prosaic. Especially in the later books, where the scope of the series has broadened out to something beyond the more limited, personal scale of the first few novels, it feels like the books have never been able to, for better or worse, properly break away from being a series where - in the words of SA Goon General Battuta - ‘people just talk in and around spaceships.’

That’s why I was motivated in doing a Let’s Read. Not because these are bad books and will be fun to riff on or otherwise expose the baffling flaws and decisions made by the authors, but because they’re decent books that also feel like they never excel, never quite commit to the potential of their world and characters (and sometimes do make stylistic or creative decisions that are somewhat baffling.) I’ve found them fun to talk about like one might rearrange puzzle pieces, or take some elements and maybe take them further than the original authors thought of doing. When I think of these books, I feel like you could cut the word counts of each novel by half and still tell the same story. This might be why the TV adaptation feels stronger--it tells the same story but without some of the issues the books have.

Ultimately, I think the Corey combo is a pretty good team. I’ve also attempted to read Abraham’s The Dagger and The Coin series and, despite some favorable recommendations, I found the first novel to be a really poor book that shocked me as an overall fan of The Expanse. Without going into details, I think the Corey persona synthesizes two very different styles of author and creates something better than either of them could do individually - but more on that later.

With that in mind, I’ve tagged my posting pal Omi No Kami to offer an additional perspective on these novels. Omi and I have put our heads together before, contributing to a Let’s Read of the imaginative-yet-bizarre web serial Worm on another forum. Omi has come to these novels more recently than I, and is reading through them for the first time. I’ve read each novel approximately twice, and so it’ll be interesting to see what we agree on, disagree on, and so on. Discussions we’ve had previously about these novels is what led us to deciding to widen it out for others to enjoy and get involved with.

The goal here is to get through the first three books, and maybe the whole series (if it feels like there’s still stuff to talk about.) As an aside, If you’re reading these for the first time, it’s possible that there will be unmarked spoilers. I’ll endeavor to spoiler tag anything we talk about that refers to the events of a later novel, but it can’t be guaranteed.

So, nine books. That’s a Herculean task. What’s making it more achievable is that these books are, overall, pretty okay. This won’t be a line-by-line type of Let’s Read, if only because there’s not much value in that. There’s not much of the baffling, bizarre, creepy or otherwise weird stuff that you might find in, say, Twilight. The plan is to discuss each chapter as a whole, perhaps segueing into particular topics that might seem particularly notable or evident, as well as picking out particular bits we like and particular bits we dislike.

Will we draw out the various ‘Coreyisms’ that suffuse these books? Oh, absolutely. Expect a running tally of explanations on why Belter body language is so expressive, on how many half-eaten meals people throw into the recycler, on just what Belters eat, how many times Amos is described as ‘beefy’, and so on.

In this thread, I don’t think we’ll talk about the TV series that much, beyond maybe basic stuff - how the adaptation differs from the source material, why it works better, etc. Casting of the characters as compared to how they are in the books. Little things like that. Overall, I just think the TV series is an excellent adaptation that just tells the story better than the books themselves. We might discuss the novellas, we might not.

I encourage others to join the discussion and provide their thoughts and opinions as we go. I’d also like to hear from some of the more critically-minded posters, such as the posters in The Genres Ablaze thread, because some of the posts they’ve made on The Expanse in the past were interesting reads to me, even as a fan of the books. Like these books, love ‘em, or hate ‘em, I want to get as many perspectives as possible.

Let's begin.

Milkfred E. Moore fucked around with this message at 06:12 on Mar 18, 2020

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Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Reserved for contents, post highlights, etc.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Book 1: Leviathan Wakes

Prologue (Julie)

Leviathan Wakes - Prologue: Julie posted:

The Scopuli had been taken eight days ago, and Julie Mao was finally ready to be shot.
This is how our story - and series - begins.

There’s a rule in writing that you should cut prologues. That they rarely, if anything, add anything to a story. The prologue of Leviathan Wakes is one I think has a place in the novel. After all, at its core, this is a ‘missing girl’ detective novel. Here’s the missing girl.

All in all, I think it’s okay. Julie’s trapped in a closet aboard a spaceship called the Scopuli, a freighter which Julie appears to be serving on as a space trucker. She’s trapped because the Scopuli has been assaulted and boarded by unknown forces. Whoever the attackers are, they’ve killed everyone else, seemingly by some combination of beatings, torturings, and spacings.

She’s been in the closet for eight days. We get to hear about her peeing, drinking water, peeing, and so on, and running out of water. All the while, she’s been hearing her shipmates getting beaten and killed. A part of me wonders why Julie was able to hide within a storage locker. If I was the mysterious attackers, I’d probably open up everything just to be sure. But it’s a minor thing.

We get our first hints of the Expanse’s setting here. Mention of ‘inner planet navies’ implies multiple powers, and an outer planets division of sorts. The OPA is mentioned, too, but it’s not clear if the Scopuli is affiliated with the OPA, whatever it is, or just carrying their data. One thing that stuck out to me is while the story lets you think that Julie is trapped on the Scopuli, there’s brief mention of the fact that she was taken to a different ship. Later, we’ll find out that it is the Anubis, associated with Protogen.

But it’s a bit strange. It feels like it’s tried to obscure by not making that clear until now. It also means Julie is aboard that other ship which should overlap certain events we’ll cover later. She’s also not hiding in the locker per se, but she was thrown in there by the attackers. Like, it’s all okay, but it all feels a little strange to bury these elements of the past eight days in the middle of the exposition that kind of defines this chapter.

Having been out of water for two days, Julie kicks her way out of the locker and finds the ship… abandoned. Everything empty, everything quiet. Was she left behind when the attackers fled to another ship? Julie thinks not, but goes to investigate.

Julie finds evidence of a fight just outside the Engineering section and figures that whatever happened to the ship transpired in there. Outside, she finds the signs of a fight - blood, tools left in disarray - and then, inside, she finds something else.

A strange fleshy thing covering the reactor core. A strange fleshy thing with the head of her friend Captain Darren, begging for help. Dun dun dun!

The bit where Julie discovers the thing around the reactor core feels like it exemplifies what I mean about the roughness of Leviathan Wakes’ prose.

Leviathan Wakes - Prologue: Julie posted:

The strange smell became overpowering.

The mud caked around the reactor had structure to it like nothing she’d seen before. Tubes ran through it like veins or airways. Parts of it pulsed. Not mud, then.

Flesh.

An outcropping of the thing shifted toward her. Compared to the whole, it seemed no larger than a toe, a little finger. It was Captain Darren’s head.

“Help me,” it said.
It’s just kind of… bland. It doesn’t read like the perspective of someone who has been without water for two days and is scared that everyone on her ship might’ve died due to poison or radiation or violence. It’s flat, and doesn’t really pop as I feel the discovery of that talking head should.

However, what Omi and I both think the prologue is solid because it establishes three important things:
  • Who is this?
  • What is going on?
  • Why should I care?
In Omi’s words: “a girl is imprisoned on a ship, the ship is in space, it’s a fairly grounded setting where spacesuits are primitive and clunky and there aren’t a lot of creature comforts. If she leaves the space closet or makes a noise, they’ll shoot her.”

(We also think the repeated mentions of peeing is a little bit too much, but can maybe point to how desperate she is and how disgusting the conditions she’s kept in are. But reading this again, it stuck out to me, too.)

Our quibbles are relatively minor. The first is the part where Julie is about to be - or thinks she is about to be - sexually assaulted by the attackers. It’s unclear whether she’s about to be assaulted or if it’s something she’s misreading. Despite reading this book twice, I’ll admit this is a part of the book my memory is hazy on. It’s something we’ll get more of an idea of later, if I remember correctly.

The second is that the shutdown of the ship doesn’t feel right, and doesn’t quite add up with certain events we hear about later. It works to generate interest - neither the reader or Julie know what happened - but it feels a little cheap. And, on a re-read, it feels especially obvious that it’s deliberately withholding certain information from the reader as opposed to cleverly setting up a twist.

This is something the TV series does better.

The TV Adaptation

Not much to mention here. Here is how the TV series covered it. It’s clear indication of how the series does it better - it places us with Julie and doesn’t need us to go through all of the exposition and Julie’s thoughts and the peeing and so on. It’s an effective, interesting two and a half minutes, and Julie screaming feels way better than the flatness of the prologue’s ending. The big difference is the depiction of the reactor core. It means little to me either way, but Omi preferred the way the book described it. I think I might have preferred it had it just been a weird talking head, and not a man being consumed into the stuff but, eh, it’s minor.

One big difference is that the TV series corrects that second quibble. Rewatching this, it’s very clear to the audience what was happening to the ship Julie was on. The Anubis was involved in the nuking of the Canterbury, where you can hear battle chatter (“All hands, battle stations.”) and the thump of torpedo tubes. But you have no idea of the significance until your second watch. It’s entirely absent from the book, even though the book later establishes that the Anubis was present at the attack on the Canterbury.

Coreyisms

None... yet.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Chapter One: Holden

“Meet Jim Holden, space trucker extraordinaire! Well, he’s not really extraordinary, more like… kinda okay, I guess?”

It’s the perfect summary for this chapter. The first chapter proper of The Expanse is, essentially, a day in the life of its protagonist. All in all, I like it a lot. It puts us in the shoes of the guy we’ll be following for this book - and for the rest of them - and kind of sums up who he is: a well-meaning dork with an affinity for lost causes and tilting at windmills.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter 1 posted:

A hundred and fifty years before, when the parochial disagreements between Earth and Mars had been on the verge of war, the Belt had been a far horizon of tremendous mineral wealth beyond viable economic reach, and the outer planets had been beyond even the most unrealistic corporate dream…
The chapter opens with three big chunks of exposition. It covers, in rough order of appearance:
  • Recent history, the political situation between Earth and Mars
  • The fancy Epstein drive that allows for efficient space travel
  • The Canterbury’s history, past and present
  • Population statistics of some planets
  • Information on the OPA
Exposition’s a funny thing. It’s necessary to set the stage, and I think these paragraphs are quite good at it. I don’t even mind so much that it’s given an awkward cover-up of Jim Holden thinking about all this as he daydreams. It’s hard to make the argument that it should be cut, but not so hard to imagine it could be presented better. But, at the same time, then you have to wonder if the words spent on ‘showing’ the stuff is any better than just telling it. Still, if I had to point out one flaw at the Expanse novels, it’s the love of exposition about worldbuilding details which you could almost certainly cut. But I’ve seen a lot of novels that do it worse.

So, after the exposition, we meet Jim Holden. Like Julie Mao, he seems to be a space trucker on a freighter. We meet some other characters, too. Chief Engineer Naomi Nagata and her assistant, Amos Burton. Naomi is a Belter, Amos (and Holden) are from Earth. We get a nice little indication that these people are friends and have been working with each other for a while. There’s a problem, Holden knows Naomi can fix it, etc.

The Belters are a big part of the series. As Omi points out: “While interacting with Naomi, Holden observes the unusually thin, spidery skeleton and body that growing in space gave her. This is a key racial feature of Belters, and it’s an interesting piece of background: of course growing up in low gravity with radiation and crap would mess with your biology. (We’ll also quickly grow sick of constant references to Belter physiology and body language, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.)”

The constant references bit is true, and gives us our first ‘Coreyism’. If you think you know any others, point ‘em out!

From there, Holden wanders his way down to the infirmary where he investigates the situation with an injured ice miner, Paj. We also meet the Canterbury’s medical officer, Shed Garvey. We get a nice little indication of the world of the Expanse, the working conditions of the Canterbury, and the hazards of ice mining. Shed is still using medical maggots (no fancy tricorders here!) because Paj’s arm was crushed and amputated. He’s going to get a cybernetic arm, but were his company’s medical plan better he could get some fancy inner planet medical gel to regrow the limb.

Already, we’re seeing one of the recurring elements of the novels - the class divide and corporate abuses thereof. We also get introduced to the divide between the ‘Inners’ and the Belters - Paj would rather have the Belter-made prosthesis. “gently caress the Inners,” he says, before telling Holden he meant no offence.

Holden, of course, being the ‘cool teacher’ kind of XO, says none was taken.

Basically, Chapter One is a day in the life of Jim Holden. We even get to see his not-quite-on-the-regs relationship with the Canterbury’s navigator, Ade Tukunbo. He wants love and relationship but she just wants casual sex. Like I said, here’s our hint that Holden’s kind of an overly-sentimental dork. Ade points out that Holden’s more than comfortable on the Canterbury, even if he insists he isn’t. Mention is made that everyone on the Cant is something of a screw-up or wildly under-qualified - so, which one is Holden?

Suddenly, the routine is interrupted - the Canterbury has picked up a distress call. Holden and the Captain of the Canterbury, McDowell, do a bit of a song and dance about it. Again, it feels comfortable. McDowell pretends he doesn’t want to answer the distress call that they must attend to under maritime (uh, space-maritime?) law, and lets Holden - his XO - be the bad guy who insists they have to stop.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter 1 posted:

As the shipwide comm system clicked to life and McDowell began explaining the situation to the crew, Holden imagined he could hear a chorus of groans coming up through the decks. He went over to Rebecca.

“Okay,” he said, “what have we got on the broken ship?”

“Light freighter. Martian registry. Shows Eros as home port. Calls itself Scopuli …”
Dun dun dun! Bad things happened on the Scopuli! But I wonder how much of this effect depends on the audience maybe not catching the brief mention that Julie - and the flesh monster thing - wasn’t actually on the Scopuli?

Anyway, I really like the ending. I like that, despite the meandering ‘setup’ of this chapter, it immediately links into the prologue and the mysteries therein. It’s definitely introducing us more to the world than the characters, though. But because of this, it really helps build and establish the twist that will take place in just a few chapters: that the Canterbury will soon be attacked and all of these characters - Paj, Ade, McDowell, Rebecca - will be dead.

Omi’s final summary was similar: “By and large I like this chapter. The fast-paced Sports Night-style walkthrough of what Holden’s day-to-day looks like is interesting, and with the exception of the opening sprawl it’s generally devoid of the dense chunks of worldbuilding that we’ll see in later chapters. The Canterbury seems like a fun place to work, all the folks working seem okay, and Holden has a beautiful girlfriend (or at least wishes he did) and generally seems like a stand-up guy as far as dirtbag space truckers in dead-end jobs go. The ending callback to the Scopuli is a nice touch, and it’s a very effective fakeout for what the plot is going, as at this point I expected to spend the lion’s share of the book hanging out with the crew of the Canterbury.”

The TV Adaptation

It’s honestly fairly different. A key element is that depicting Belters as they’re described in the books would be prohibitive, so they made it more of a cultural than physiological thing. Another key change is that Holden’s relationships are different - he’s not nearly as chummy with Naomi and Amos as he is in this book. He also isn’t the XO. Honestly, it’s a good change. I’ll let Omi summarize it:

“The TV crew come are much more convincing blue collar workers: they’re tough and grumpy, everyone looks and talks like they’re in a dead-end job on a crappy ship (which they totally are), and there are tensions and resentment that emerge as a natural result of living and working together. Holden’s less of a cool guy and more of a lazy shithead that constantly gets called out for being a lazy shithead- he tries multiple times to duck out of the promotion that would make him XO (and put him in line for captaincy), and when his final trump card is that it’d make it impossible to continue his relationship with Ade, she tells him point-blank “This is never going to be more than sex, I’ll miss it but you should take the loving promotion.”

Having Holden be more of a lazy jerk who tries to shirk responsibility, of course, sets up his overall arc of becoming a leader. In the books, he just kind of is the leader from the get go. We’ll talk about why this might be later on.

But Ade is interesting.

Typically, the Expanse adaptation has done a wonderful job of matching actors to the roles. Perhaps the one exception to this is Ade. For the TV series, the Nigerian character was renamed to Ade Nygaard, and made blonde and white. This was a pretty big change, and a lot of people were concerned that it heralded that the Expanse series would make a habit of whitewashing or erasing characters of color.

When the Expanse series didn’t, and in fact stayed quite true to the books, the problem just became more confusing. Why did they whitewash only this extremely minor character? Shortly after the series was picked up by Amazon, the Corey guys mentioned (I think via Twitter or Reddit) that the reason was because the powers-that-be were concerned that if Ade was black and Holden’s later relationship with Naomi was also black, then they didn’t want people to think he had a fetish for black women.

Which is, uh… It’s a thing.

Another change is the decision to stop and assist the Scopuli. Much like the change in Holden’s relationships with his coworkers, this adds a dimension of conflict that the first few chapters lack. McDowell wants to say ‘gently caress it’ and keep going and the crew agrees with him as being late to Ceres will mean they lose their shipment bonuses. Holden is basically the only guy who is down to do the right thing and when he fails to persuade anyone, he just hacks the ship’s computer and covertly logs the message, thereby forcing everyone to do something about it.

I don’t want to get too much into a discussion of Holden yet, but that feels more true to his character: Caliban’s War will have a character sum Holden up as someone who uses his ideals to beat people with like a cudgel. Basically, he thinks he’s the main protagonist in his own story, and I think the TV series makes that a bit more apparent at how grating that can be than the novels do. It also establishes some early potential conflict between Holden and the other members of the crew. Given that the authors have mentioned that the adaptation is an opportunity to tell the story more effectively, it’s hard to not see it as a straight improvement.

As a brief aside, I’ve mentioned to Omi in the past that while Show Holden as played by Steven Strait is wonderful, but I can’t help but think that he is the kind of person who Book Holden thinks he is - good-looking with a cool voice where, really, he’s just kind of average looking.

There’s also a subplot about the current XO getting a case of space madness. Eh.


Steven Strait as James 'Stupid, Sexy' 'Jim' Holden


Dominique Tipper as Naomi Nagata


Wes Chatham as Amos Burton


Paulo Costanzo as Shed Garvey


Kristen Hager as Ade Nygaard

Coreyisms:

The Belter Shrug And The Origin Thereof: “McDowell patted at the air with his wide, spidery hands. One of the many Belter gestures that had evolved to be visible when wearing an environment suit.”
LW: 1

Big Meaty Amos: “He waved one meaty arm in their general direction.”
LW: 1

Milkfred E. Moore fucked around with this message at 06:23 on Mar 18, 2020

FPyat
Jan 17, 2020


If I could suggest anything, it'd be using Reynolds' Pushing Ice as a benchmark, being the story I've found with the most overlap in starting on an ice-mining ship that encounters solar system-changing events.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


FPyat posted:

If I could suggest anything, it'd be using Reynolds' Pushing Ice as a benchmark, being the story I've found with the most overlap in starting on an ice-mining ship that encounters solar system-changing events.

Interesting! I'll see if I can give it a read in the near future. Is that also where the term 'rockhopper' comes from? It shows up in The Expanse a bit.

FPyat
Jan 17, 2020


Milkfred E. Moore posted:

Interesting! I'll see if I can give it a read in the near future. Is that also where the term 'rockhopper' comes from? It shows up in The Expanse a bit.

I believe it all starts with the Rockhopper penguin, which I assume was named hundreds of years ago. I'm betting on a coincidence.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Chapter Two: Miller

A thing to note about the Expanse, and to keep in mind as we go through the books, is how they were written. Abraham is writing based on Franck’s worldbuilding notes, but they split the viewpoint characters. In Leviathan Wakes, Abraham wrote Miller and Franck wrote Holden. While they pass the chapter back and forth to edit them, and claim they end up without any fingerprints, there’s still little tells, I think. For example, Franck’s chapters tend to get more heavily into the worldbuilding exposition, whereas Abraham’s chapters are a little more likely to feel like stuff is happening.

It’s pretty apparent even in the first pair of chapters.

In Chapter 2, we meet Josephus ‘Joe’ Miller. While Holden is the first protagonist we meet, I think it’s fair to say that Leviathan Wakes is more Miller’s story than Holden’s. Miller is a space cop, and breaks the trend of the viewpoint characters being space truckers. He’s interviewing a witness at a murder scene, and it’s immediately apparent that the story is moving along.

Miller interviews the witness, a Belter woman. Miller is also a Belter, as it turns out. A big difference in this chapter is the immediate difference between how Jim views the differences between people and the rest of the system does. With Holden, it feels like an idle curiosity. Again, he’s the cool XO - Jim's too cool for it. But the rest of the system? Those divisions are keen ones. One such indication is the language which the woman is speaking: Belter creole. While Miller follows it just fine, Havelock and the reader might be mystified.

But it leads to a really good piece of character interaction that introduces us to Miller and his Earther partner, Havelock:

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter 2 posted:

“So,” Havelock said as he punched in their destination code, “did you have fun?”

“Don’t know what you mean,” Miller said.

The electrical motors hummed to life, and the cart lurched forward in the tunnel, squishy foam tires faintly squeaking.

“Having your outworld conversation in front of the Earth guy?” Havelock said. “I couldn’t follow even half of that.”

“That wasn’t Belters keeping the Earth guy out,” Miller said, “That was poor folks keeping the educated guy out. And it was kind of fun, now you mention it.”

Havelock laughed. He could take being teased and keep on moving. It was what made him good at team sports: soccer, basketball, politics.

Miller wasn’t much good at those.
Omi sums up what the exchange immediately conveys: “Miller’s a poor, street-smart Belter lone wolf, Havelock is a book-smart and educated Earther who craves connections but is alone and out of his depth, together they fight space crime!” Comparing it to the first chapter, it's night and day. We get more on Miller and Havelock in the interview and this exchange alone than I think we got on Holden or any of the other characters in the first chapter.

Then we get the exposition. Miller works on Ceres, a space station mined out of the asteroid of the same name. Ceres spins to generate gravity, takes in thousands of ships a day, and has a population in the millions. Omi puts it as “the Tortuga to the Belt’s Caribbean.” There’s a bunch about the Belt economy, which is fairly typical sci-fi - the asteroid belt does minerals and mining and so on, Ganymede and some other locations do food, Earth and Mars do specialty organic products. All in all, heaps of valuable stuff passes through Ceres, which brings with it crime, which means Miller and Havelock have no shortage of work.

Basically, Miller explains space crime stuff to Havelock. Havelock, for his part, seems to exist mainly to facilitate this dialogue for the benefit of the reader. Something’s bothering Miller - the victim was a known member of the Golden Bough, a crime gang, but the Bough hasn’t done anything in reprisal. It bothers Miller who, in the words of Omi, “likes his gangs like his environmental systems, self-contained in a stable loop.”

Miller and Havelock head back to their precinct house. Now, a key aspect of Ceres is that it is run by Star Helix Security. Miller and Havelock are private security, but private security that’re basically overseeing an extremely important trade port. Captain Shaddid, Miller’s boss, asks him to come up to her office. They talk. There’s brief mention made of the OPA, who are basically the Belt’s version of the IRA (and directly addressed as such in the text.) They resent the influence of Earth and Mars and are looking to establish themselves as a major player in the Solar system. Like Miller, Shaddid is a Belter. Miller reflects that while Shaddid didn’t like Havelock due to his Earther origins, the OPA would throw him out an airlock.

And the OPA would come after Miller, too. Star Helix is an Earther-owned outfit and everyone who works for them could be considered traitors to the Belt.

Shaddid and Miller briefly - very briefly - discuss the murder. She then tells him to drop it and gives him a new job under strange circumstances. A shareholder is asking for a favor. A daughter of the Mao family has gone missing.

Omi: “In short, a mega-ultra super-rich family’s beloved daughter is a bit of a black sheep, and decided to slum it in the Belt. She fell in with an OPA front and her family is suddenly very interested in seeing to her safety. To that end they’re bribing the space cops to kidnap her, stuff her into an envelope, and mail her back to them on Luna. The daughter’s name, of course, is Julie Mao.”

(Technically, it's not a bribe, but more that Papa Mao is throwing some weight around. Either way, it's clearly not 'on the level.')

Both Omi and I think the chapter should have ended on this little note. From my perspective, it’s a nice little note of ‘oh, drat’ to quickly tie this back to the prologue and matches the ending ‘energy’ of Holden’s first chapter. Instead, it just kind of peters on for another six-hundred words to give us some more details about Miller’s life. He eats food, he drinks booze. He has memories of someone named Candace - a wife, a daughter? He people watches and reflects that whatever is going on with Ceres is more important than the ‘sideshow’ with Julie.

All in all, it’s a better chapter than the first. It’s sharp, snappy, and gives us a good idea of what it’s like to live on Ceres. We meet Miller and Havelock and get a fairly good idea of who they are. The worldbuilding comes along in short bursts now and again. Omi pointed out that he wished the book had begun on Chapter 2, and I can see the reasoning.

But I wonder how much work the first chapter really pays dividends for this chapter. Does the additional weight of the worldbuilding in Chapter 1 free up Miller’s stuff to be a bit more easygoing on that front? It also feels like there’s a bit more of a story here with potential for conflict. Miller’s Drunk Asteroid Adventure with the racism and crime and gangs and the Mao side job… It all feels more like a story than the Holden chapter, which is just… ‘Here’s Holden, here’s his friends, they’re going to the Scopuli.’

But it’s good. The prose also feels like it captures Miller’s tired mixture of resignation, cynicism and resentment more than it really captures any aspect of Holden’s perspective. Because of that, there are some lines I do quite like:

Havelock and Miller sum up the Expanse:

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter 2 posted:

“Okay,” Havelock said. “What the hell is the ‘forgotten arm’?”

“Boxing term,” Miller said. “It’s the hit you didn’t see coming.”

Miller’s perspective shines through:

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter 2 posted:

Miller left him alone with the playback, trying to parse the fine points of class and station, origin and race. Lifetime’s work, that.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter 2 posted:

People like Miller would only rate getting a bullet in the skull, and a nice plastic one at that. Nothing that might get shrapnel in the ductwork.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter 2 posted:

The circle of life on Ceres was so small you could see the curve. He liked it that way.

The TV Adaptation
There isn’t much to mention. Miller’s stuff is quite different. The little exchange between him and Havelock is preserved as-is, though, so that’s nice. However, because the series is, well, visual, we get a better sense of how the OPA pervades Belter culture on Ceres - I don’t think the distinctive OPA ‘helmet seal’ neck tattoos are mentioned at all in the novels, for example.

There’s also a bit where Miller beats up and threatens to space a local slumlord whose busted air filters killed some people. Of course, as Omi points out, the TV adaptation of Miller also took bribes to look the other way in the first place. Miller’s just not a very nice guy. We are also introduced to Octavia Muss, a Star Helix associate of Miller’s, who otherwise had a much expanded role than she ever did in the novel. We'll meet her in a few chapters time in the novel itself.


Thomas Jane as Josephus Miller


Jay Hernandez as Havelock


Lola Glaudini as Shaddid

Coreyisms
The Belter Shrug And The Origin Thereof
LW: 1

Big Meaty Amos
LW: 1

Omi no Kami
Feb 19, 2014




As this Let's Read goes on I'm going to gripe and complain about a how lot of Miller's chapters open, but heck if that initial back-and-forth with Havelock isn't one of my favorite bits in the entire book.

I also have to give the TV show's wardrobe department serious credit for nailing the look of his stupid hat: it's tough to find an article of clothing that silly-looking but still something you're willing to believe a human being would wear on purpose.

FPyat
Jan 17, 2020


I was expecting Ceres to become the Big Central City that fantasy series love to explore and stick around so much. Miller spends a lot of time living in it, and visits various strata, but I didn't get a familiar sense of it as a detailed community. Maybe it gets time and attention in book 3 or 5, but I'm somewhat doubting it.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Omi had the thought that everything that goes down on Eros should've happened on Ceres. I feel like that'd be pretty neat but I'll let 'em talk about it. I wonder how much of Leviathan Wakes results from the story arising from, basically, a synopsis of a play-by-post online roleplaying game. I believe the Corey boys have said the story of LW basically diverts from the game about halfway through but that still basically shackles the novel to a lot of game-y aspects of it. Might get into this around Eros or when the crew meets Fred Johnson.

I feel like the next we hear of Ceres in any real fashion is, like, Book 6.

BigHead
Jul 25, 2003
Huh?

Nap Ghost

Nevermind, this is a let's read, not a mega thread! Carry on.

Omi no Kami
Feb 19, 2014




Yeah, so this is jumping ahead a bit but my biggest structural complaint with Leviathan Wakes is that Miller and Holden's stories aren't obviously connected for the first third, and the story visibly creaks and warps as both authors struggle to get the two characters involved with each other. On top of that, Miller's early chapters do an absolute crapton of Ceres-specific worldbuilding to the extent that we probably know more about it than any other location in the first book. When the plot really gets moving, all of that kinda gets left by the wayside.

If you place the Eros stuff on Ceres you get rid of a lot of those problems: Miller's early bit now feeds directly into the story, and the things that happen on Eros feel a lot more like personal failures on Miller's part if they happened right under his nose on his own station.

Safety Biscuits
Oct 21, 2010



I read this for my IRL book group and the best comment I've read on it is "it's a great 70s sf novel". Mind you, if it were written back then it'd be tighter and probably more imaginative.

General Battuta
Feb 7, 2011

This is how you communicate with a fellow intelligence: you hurt it, you keep on hurting it, until you can distinguish the posts from the screams.

One thing that interests me about Daniel Abraham as a writer is that he's both smart and consciously commercial - his first fantasy series was more high-falutin' and literary but when it did badly he made a choice to try to write to market. So whenever I'm irritated by a decision in these books I always wonder if Abraham's irritated too but just playing it the way he thinks will sell.

A big difference between the books and show is that the core crew, Holden's group, have almost no backstory or personality that I can recall until book 5. I'm curious if that's actually true on reread or I'm just not paying attention.

Sarern
Nov 4, 2008


Won't you take me to
Bomertown?
Won't you take me to
BONERTOWN?



General Battuta posted:

One thing that interests me about Daniel Abraham as a writer is that he's both smart and consciously commercial - his first fantasy series was more high-falutin' and literary but when it did badly he made a choice to try to write to market. So whenever I'm irritated by a decision in these books I always wonder if Abraham's irritated too but just playing it the way he thinks will sell.

A big difference between the books and show is that the core crew, Holden's group, have almost no backstory or personality that I can recall until book 5. I'm curious if that's actually true on reread or I'm just not paying attention.

I also don't remember much backstory, but I think there were a few small hints in early books. Not sure how everyone feels about spoilers, but at one point someone asks if anyone has bathed an infant and Naomi says she has. Amos told Naomi a bit about his childhood in book 2, I think. When reviewing information about the Roci crew, Avasarala observes that Alex has a kid he doesn't know about, which seems to remain true for the rest of the series so far, since Kit comes from his later marriage to Giselle. But for the most part, the characterization I remember from early books are smaller things like those. I'll have to look up Abraham's first series based on your description, it sounds interesting.

Omi no Kami
Feb 19, 2014




I read the first 4 all in a row recently, and my theory is that they didn't really start planning out the characters until book 4. One of the early running themes you're going to see in our writeups is that book 1 Amos, in particular, sounds like a completely different character. (Later book spoilers) What's particularly weird is how he constantly makes crude sex/dick/prostitute jokes. We later learn that he grew up in a crime brothel and is a mostly-asexual/chemically castrated crime genius who acts like a big, dumb guy because it disarms people. A lot of his lines in LW are either cruder or more emotional and aggressive than the guy who hangs out with Holden in books 3 & 4 and casually goes "Yeah I'd be okay with murdering everything I see, except that wouldn't get me anything I want."

That's another thing I really like with the show- they had I think 4 or 5 books to work with, so the crew of the Canterbury starts out with traits they didn't acquire in the books for ages.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


General Battuta posted:

One thing that interests me about Daniel Abraham as a writer is that he's both smart and consciously commercial - his first fantasy series was more high-falutin' and literary but when it did badly he made a choice to try to write to market. So whenever I'm irritated by a decision in these books I always wonder if Abraham's irritated too but just playing it the way he thinks will sell.

A big difference between the books and show is that the core crew, Holden's group, have almost no backstory or personality that I can recall until book 5. I'm curious if that's actually true on reread or I'm just not paying attention.

No, it's pretty true. Nemesis Games is the novel that does a lot to make them feel like people. Amos gets a bit of development in Caliban's War, but most of it comes from The Churn novella. The characters in Leviathan Wakes are really quite thin. Holden is maybe the most developed and he's just, like, 'is a dumb idealist, loves coffee' whereas Naomi and Alex don't even get that. And Amos... Well, Amos is a completely different person. I believe the Corey boys have said the Expanse characters are based off people's characters from their roleplaying game and it certainly feels that way - they've even got niche protection! There's the leader, the pilot, the mechanic, and the funny muscle man.

Which was his first series? The Long Price books?

Chapter Three: Holden

A recurring idea in the Expanse is that space kind of sucks. To us, space seems exciting and interesting. To the people who live in the time period the books are set in, space is alternatively boring, dangerous, and tedious. It’s something you endure.

So, here’s Holden, enduring it. It took the Canterbury two days to decelerate so they could poke around the Scopuli, and the intense gravity has left him with all sorts of aches. Presently, Holden’s getting a team together on the Canterbury’s shuttle, the Knight, to investigate it. The team consists of three characters we met in Chapter 1: Naomi, Amos, and Shed.

We are introduced to another character, Alex. Alex is a Martian who has a reputation for being loud and, as Naomi puts it, "ebullient." That stuck out to me. One thing I’ll point out as we go through Leviathan Wakes is that some of the characters, especially Amos, don’t feel like they line up well with their characterization later. Basically, I think the Corey guys were playing a bit more broadly with them in the first book, drawing from archetypes or pop culture. Especially Firefly.

Anyway, ebullient. That’s a fancy word. As we’ll find out in a later book, maybe even Book 5 from my memory, Naomi is very well-educated. But I can't decide if it's an extremely subtle hint of her education or if it's just a word someone used because they liked it.

Anyway, here's Alex:

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter 3 posted:

A few minutes later, Holden glanced over to see Alex Kamal’s thinning black hair appear, followed by his round cheerful face, a deep brown that years of shipboard life couldn’t pale. Martian-raised, Alex had a frame that was thicker than a Belter’s. He was slender compared to Holden, and even so, his flight suit stretched tight against his spreading waistline. Alex had flown in the Martian navy, but he’d clearly given up on the military-style fitness routine.
It’s interesting how much more description Alex gets compared to anyone else in Chapter 1. With Naomi, we just get that she’s very tall and has bushy black hair (and the Belter habit of shrugging with her hands - I feel that’s worth half a Coreyism.) With Amos, all we get is that he has a “meaty arm.” When Holden sees Alex, however, we get a full picture. My feeling on this is that it’s supposed to illustrate that Holden is much more familiar with Naomi and Amos than he is with Alex.

So, there’s four people on the Knight. Based on Chapter 1, we basically know that Holden is the dorky but sentimental XO, Naomi is the hypercompetent, spunky engineer, Shed is the medic with a heart of gold, and Amos is… just kind of there. He’s Naomi’s big tough helper guy. Alex has ended up with this little group seemingly because he was the one rostered on for it today. Unlucky - or is he?

The Scopuli is out in the middle of nowhere. Strangely, it’s resting against the side of an asteroid. The asteroid - CA-2216862 - isn’t in the Belt. It isn’t really anywhere. Even desolate feels too lived-in for the location it’s in. Holden deduces that the Scopuli couldn’t and wouldn’t have ended up there by accident.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter 3 posted:

Holden looked at the pictures they were getting from the Knight’s scopes, as well as the image the Knight created by bouncing a laser off the Scopuli’s hull. “What about that thing that looks like a hole in the side?”

“Uh,” Naomi said. “Ladar says it’s a hole in the side.”
But there’s nothing nearby. Holden remembers that his orders were to go take a look and, if anything seems off, come straight home. But Holden, looking at the hole in the side of the Scopuli, decides to go poke around.

While I know Holden’s character from reading the series, and can understand why he makes the decision retroactively, I feel like the novel doesn’t really tell me why he makes the decision now. Is he concerned about possible survivors? Is it the fact that it’s a bit of a mystery? Are they going to loot it for salvage? Is he just curious?

We don’t really get much idea. I assume it’s more the latter aspects because Holden later says he doesn’t expect there to be survivors.

Holden takes Naomi, Amos, and Shed with him to the Scopuli. Alex remains behind, keeping the Knight warmed up in case it’s a trap. A nice little touch is the Expanse noting that Alex could turn the Knight about and use its engine as a weapon to melt any bad guys that might be hiding on the other side of the asteroid. In just about any sci-fi universe, any given propulsion system is just a weapon that you've pointed away from the bad guys.

Turns out, someone blew their way into Scopuli. Despite, again, remembering the words of his Captain, Holden elects to continue his way inside. Inside the ship, nothing seems to add up. It’s like the crew of the Scopuli stopped and let someone blow a hole in their side with a breaching charge. Inside, the ship is quiet and empty. All the atmosphere has been vented. There’s no creepy stuff in Engineering.

They make their way to Ops. Holden gets Amos extracting the ship’s data core, then begins poking around himself. He finds the distress beacon, but it had never been activated. Something else had called them, and Holden finds out what it is - a third-party transmitter.

Omi sums up how the chapter ends: “Holden posits that the transmitter is a trap, and is rigged to send a second signal when someone tampered with it. Before anyone can say “Oh poo poo!”, the captain radios them from the Canterbury and informs them that they have a problem. Oh poo poo!””

Chapter 3 is okay, all in all. Not much to talk about. As Omi points out, it’s just a bridge between the interesting stuff in Chapter 1 (space truckers find a mystery ship) and the interesting stuff that will transpire in Chapter 5. Really, there’s only so much you can do with a chapter that can be summed up as ‘the heroes, who all get along with each other, investigate a location where they are alone and there are no threats.’

Omi says: “If you cut out all the fat this chapter is ‘Holden and some crewmates visit a freighter, just as they realize that none of this situation makes sense they get alarming news from the Canterbury.’”

TV Adaptation
Again, not much to say. It works a lot better in the show because the visual nature makes the tension of investigating a ghost ship more apparent. There’s tense moments where they clear corridors and get spooked by empty spacesuits and so on. Similarly, we see the Canterbury pull the turn-and-burn maneuver that leaves Holden feeling so sore. Otherwise, it’s basically as-is.

A few little changes stress the tension between the members of the crew as they head to the Scopuli. Alex flat out says he doesn’t want to be there. Holden confesses to Naomi that he logged the distress call, feeling guilty over it because everyone on the Canterbury thinks it was Ada. Naomi points out, tersely, that he might want to keep that to himself.

Another element of the adaptation that I think works better is that we have no idea that Julie isn’t on the Scopuli. All we’ve seen the TV’s version of the prologue is her, on a ship where weird stuff has happened, wearing a Scopuli jumpsuit. It just works better.


Cas Anvar as Alex Kamal

The Belter Shrug And The Origin Thereof
LW: 1.5 (+.5 retroactively due to it being the first thing we learn about Naomi)

Big Meaty Amos
LW: 1

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Chapter 4: Miller

Back to Miller. He’s eating dinner when he gets a call from a barman named Hasini. Turns out, Havelock is in a bit of trouble - he’s getting drunk and is looking for a fight. Miller sighs, gets dressed, and arms up. He also gives us one of the more prominent Coreyisms - the phrase that twigged me to them, in fact - when...

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter 4 posted:

Miller looked at his half-eaten meal, sighed, and shoved the remains into the recycling bin.
Characters in the Expanse do a fair amount of taking their half-eaten meals, often noodles but sometimes drinks, and tossing them into any given recycler.

Anyway, it’s a nice start to the chapter. We know who Miller is and what he’s like, just as we know what Havelock is like and the pressures he is under. But we then get a little sequence where Miller decides whether he should take a cart or a tram, walks to the station, checks the status, talks with a man about his daughter, and reflects on the day-night cycle of Ceres Station. It’s not horrible, but it doesn’t feel like it’s super necessary.

But I do like this exchange between Miller and the man:

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter 4 posted:

“How old?” he asked.

“Two and a half,” the father said.

“Good age.”

The father shrugged, but he smiled.

“Kids?” he asked.

“No,” Miller said. “But I’ve got a divorce about that old.”

They chuckled together as if it was funny.

Before long, Miller reaches the Blue Frog, the bar where Havelock is. Hasini nods Miller over in the direction of his partner. There’s an interesting bit of descriptive text that Omi picked up on.

“There’s a bit of descriptive text that I missed the first time around, when we first get a look at The Blue Frog- ‘The Blue Frog was crowded, the barn-heat of bodies adding to the fake-Mumbai temperature and artificial air pollution.’

So, two thoughts here: one is that it’s kind of weird for Miller to use ‘fake-Mumbai’ as a description, since he’s a Belter. Is the implication that Earth culture is well-known enough that even hardcore career Belters are casually familiar with it? If so, that’s interesting.

But alongside the line about ‘artificial air pollution’, is the implication supposed to be that the Blue Frog’s is explicitly made out to resemble the Mumbai slums for aesthetic purposes? Because that’s genuinely fascinating, it’s a piece of world-building and Belter culture that I’d genuinely like to hear more about. But as-is the story doesn’t really give me the tools to take it apart, so it just comes off as kinda weird.”

Miller makes his way over to Havelock. Both Omi and I picked out Miller’s pre-planned hierarchy of people to risk confrontations with as a nice little indication of his character.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter 4 posted:

Miller was careful not to bump into anyone if he could help it. When he had to choose, he’d run into Belters before inner planet types, women before men. His face was a constant mild apology.
Miller and Havelock talk. We get out first mention of the EMCN - the Earth-Mars Coalition Navy - and Protogen. Protogen is rotating their corporate security out of Eros. Omi and I both really like this scene, even if it feels like the cliche of two cops talking about their problems in a bar. Just because it’s a cliche doesn’t mean it’s bad - as Omi points out, it’s fun and economical and we learn a lot quickly.

As mentioned, the pair talk. Miller tells Havelock that, no matter how many Earthers he decided to beat up, it’s not suddenly going to make Captain Shaddid like him. Havelock’s upset because he’s a good cop, he’s worked homicide - hell, he broke up a ring that was smuggling kids. He’s worked eight years in orbital stations and on Mars. So, why is everyone such a dick to him?

Miller points out that it’s because whenever people see him, they just see Earth. And having worked on Mars doesn’t help much either - to the hardcore Belters, Mars and Earth are the same thing. Havelock points out, bitterly, that a Martian will kick your rear end if you said that. Maybe it’s happened to him.

As Havelock and Miller wander and talk about these issues, there’s a tense moment where they pass by four Belters - one of them openly wearing OPA iconography. But nothing happens. Phew.

The pair end up at a different nightspot, the Distinguished Hyacinth Lounge. It’s a cop bar, which means it is packed full of Star Helix people but also other corporate forces. Protogen among them. They talk, briefly, about the Mao case. Havelock thinks it’s bullshit to kidnap an adult for their parents. Miller says it is just his job - a bullshit one, at that.

The night goes on. Havelock’s attitude improves. Then, Miller’s terminal chimes and - ominously - every other terminal in the bar chimes. All the space cops pull out their space phones, all of them find themselves looking at Captain Shaddid. Shaddid looks pissed - someone woke her up.

Emergency orders, says Shaddid. An unencrypted message has come in from Saturn, and it’s going to hit the civilian net in about five minutes.
The message plays:

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter 4 posted:

A moment later a man’s face and shoulders appeared. He was in an orange vacuum suit with the helmet off. An Earther, maybe in his early thirties. Pale skin, blue eyes, dark short-cropped hair. Even before the man opened his mouth, Miller saw the signs of shock and rage in his eyes and the way he held his head forward.

“My name,” the man said, “is James Holden.”
And that’s that. I’ll leave this with a little note Omi had about Holden’s appearance at the end there: “I do like how Miller observes that Holden is not holding together too well- he describes seeing ‘shock and rage in his eyes.’ That’s perfectly reasonable given the circumstances, but it’s interesting that Holden’s self-image seems to be much more sedate and controlled when we see this broadcast from his perspective.”

But what are those circumstances? Well, we’ll see that next chapter…

TV Adaptation

Well, this whole chapter is basically expunged from the TV series. Instead, around about this time, Miller and Havelock are investigating an issue with the water supply on Ceres. It’s an introduction, really, for the character of Diogo. There’s also a bit where Havelock takes lessons from the Belter lady they were interviewing in the first episode who, in the series, is named Gia.

Which leads into a brief discussion.

So, Belters. As mentioned, it was pretty prohibitive to do all the Belters are they’re supposed to be in the books - very tall, lanky, big heads. While the TV series does try to use tall actors and actresses and use CGI or camera angles to make them look taller and so on, they also came up with the idea that rich Belters can afford a cocktail of drugs that alleviate the symptoms of, well, Belterness.

I remember fans didn’t like this much, thought it was a cop out and not something mentioned in the books. But then, in this chapter…

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter 4 posted:

Her skin had the pink flush of Belter babies, which came with the pharmaceutical cocktail that assured that their muscles and bones would grow strong.
So, the idea was there. In the TV adaptation, this extends to that certain Belters resent other Belters that have the distinctive injection marks. Miller, in the series, has the distinctive marks.

Coreyisms
The Belter Shrug And The Origin Thereof
LW: 1.5

Big Meaty Amos
LW: 1

Into the Recycler
LW: 1

Omi no Kami
Feb 19, 2014




I watched the first few episodes of the TV show before I ever touched the books, and I actually completely missed the fact that (some) belters have noticeably different physiology. There's a bit where TV Havelock lampshades this, by pressing his palm against the palm of a belter corpse (whose hand is way bigger and more spidery than his, presumably all those shrugs helped with conditioning). Having read the book it's obviously Havelock going "Man, Belters are weird," but when I first watched it I thought he was just being an oblivious rookie and playing with dead bodies for fun.

FPyat
Jan 17, 2020


Milkfred E. Moore posted:

Characters in the Expanse do a fair amount of taking their half-eaten meals, often noodles but sometimes drinks, and tossing them into any given recycler.

A bit of a missed opportunity to emphasize the living conditions inside small, enclosed ecosystems, where food wastage would be one thing that people would surely want to minimize.

General Battuta
Feb 7, 2011

This is how you communicate with a fellow intelligence: you hurt it, you keep on hurting it, until you can distinguish the posts from the screams.

FPyat posted:

A bit of a missed opportunity to emphasize the living conditions inside small, enclosed ecosystems, where food wastage would be one thing that people would surely want to minimize.

I think that's why it's a recycler.

Omi no Kami
Feb 19, 2014




FPyat posted:

A bit of a missed opportunity to emphasize the living conditions inside small, enclosed ecosystems, where food wastage would be one thing that people would surely want to minimize.

This is something I've gone back and forth on a few times. It stands out to me too, even with the recyclers, largely because the story goes so far out of its way to emphasize how hard and crappy life in the belt is, and how essential water and closed loop environmental systems are. On the flip side, I get why it wouldn't be fun to read about completely realistic space travel, where everyone lives like a mole person, washes with a damp 2cm cloth and is atrophied from sitting in a cramped cockpit and not moving for months at a time.

Ultimately, I think that in a lot of ways the Expanse is a fantasy setting wearing a sci-fi setting like a skin suit: it's more grounded than a lot of similiar stories, but ultimately both authors are happy to handwave reality away when it becomes inconveniently technical or crappy, and I think it's generally something that improves the books.

Omi no Kami fucked around with this message at 00:53 on Mar 22, 2020

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Chapter Five: Holden

Okay, so, straight off the bat - I have a problem with this chapter and it’s the use of disjointed time sequencing.

quote:

Ten minutes at two g, and Holden’s head was already starting to ache. But McDowell had called them home at all haste. The Canterbury was warming up its massive drive. Holden didn’t want to miss his ride.

---

“Jim? We may have a problem out here.”

“Talk to me.”

“Becca found something, and it is sufficiently weird to make my balls creep up. We’re getting the hell out of here.”


---

“Alex, how long?” Holden asked for the third time in ten minutes.

For the first little bit of the chapter, this is how it’s done. We flash between Holden’s crew racing back toward the Canterbury and the conversation Holden had with the Captain of the Cant immediately prior. I don’t really think it adds anything to the chapter. It reminds me of a similar part in Tiamat’s Wrath where it jumps between Naomi and events that were happening at a different time.

It might be a personal thing but, to me, flashbacks like this aren’t a very effective writing tool and they take me out of the story more than they immerse me into it. I figure that most stories would be improved if you scrapped any usage of DTS and just arranged the story in a more conventional order. For example, going from ‘Holden, we have a problem’ to the conversation where there’s this weird, tense discussion as Holden tries to figure out what’s going on and McDowell and the crew don’t have much an idea, just that something is very wrong, which leads to the events that take place here. I don’t know, I just feel like it’d be stronger than jumping us around the timeline.

In particular, an example of how the approach they’ve taken weakens the chapter, I think, is this paragraph:

quote:

Holden tongued a painkiller tab from his suit’s helmet and reran Becca’s sensor feed for the fifth time. The spot in space lay about two hundred thousand kilometers from the Canterbury. As the Cant had scanned it, the readout showed a fluctuation, the gray-black false color gradually developing a warm border. It was a small temperature climb, less than two degrees. Holden was amazed Becca had even spotted it. He reminded himself to give her a glowing review the next time she was up for promotion.
A chapter where Holden was seeing this for the first time could be exciting and tense. Holden having looked at it four times previously, while mentally going ‘Wow, it sure is good we spotted this’ just feels… well, fairly amateur hour.

Especially when we then get another italicised flashback about Becca spotting it and reporting it anyway. Why not just arrange the events in order and accelerate the timeframe? Funnily enough, that’s exactly how the TV episode portrays this event - but more on that later.

Omi has similar thoughts on it: “The back-and-forth between Holden’s away team and the Canterbury feels a bit weird- it feels genuinely rushed and urgent, which I think is the right tone for this scene, but seeing Holden find something out and then reading him communicate those same findings to the Canterbury is weirdly redundant.”

So, the Knight is racing back to the Canterbury while the crew talks about what they found - the ship is a small frigate and it was coated in some kind of stealth tech. And if it was hiding until just now, Holden says, then it doesn’t have good intentions.

Which is confirmed by the mystery ship firing a spread of torpedoes at the Canterbury.

Despite what I’ve said, what I do like about this chapter is how it demonstrates how time and travel speed and all of that matters in the ‘hard’ sci-fi of The Expanse’s world. The Knight is one hour out from the Canterbury. The torpedoes fired by the mystery ship will strike the ice hauler in eight minutes. There’s nothing that Holden can do to change things. The only thing he can do is sit there and watch and pray.

The crew of the Knight explode into talking about various things. There’s this nice bit where Holden tells them all to shut up and starts giving orders. To Amos, he says: “Amos, keep cussing, but turn your mic off.” It’s a nice light bit to break up the tension.

From here, the chapter plays almost like a fight scene. Push and pull, play and counterplay. Holden and co. want to jam the torpedoes, but the mystery ship has them painted with a targeting laser. They try to scramble the beam, but the laser is very powerful. They talk about using the Knight to draw the missiles away from the Cant, but Holden dismisses it - the torpedoes can’t be so easily fooled.

Another little note about this chapter is it’s our first mention of Holden’s previous life in the navy.

Holden and his crew finally have to admit that they won’t and can’t reach the Canterbury in time, nor do they have the tools to really alter what’s about to happen. All in all, they might be able to provide disaster relief or evacuate crew members. Those that survive or remain, anyway. Ade indicates that the crew might be abducted by pirates.

As the Knight accelerates towards the Canterbury, all Holden can do, through a private comm link to Ade, is listen to the crew try to buy themselves more time. The Canterbury executes a hard turn-and-burn, which breaks the ship and disables the drive. McDowell orders Holden and his crew to hide behind the asteroid in the Knight and act as witnesses. That way, he reckons, whoever is about to board them will be less likely to throw the crew out the airlock. Holden orders Alex to hide the shuttle.

quote:

“Roger that, Boss,” Alex said. He added in a lower voice, “I’d kill for a couple of tubes or a nice keel-mounted rail gun right now.”
Funnily enough, Alex’ll get both. Eventually.

Then, one minute to impact.

Thirty seconds.

Holden wishes to say something comforting to Ade, but can’t - the heavy pressure of gravity from the Knight’s burn won’t let him.

Five, four, three, two, one. Ade gasps, and then there’s nothing but static. Holden shouts for a report and Alex gives him one: the Canterbury is nothing but a cloud of vapor. The attackers didn’t just torpedo the ice freighter, they wiped her out of the Solar system entirely. Holden can’t comprehend it - pirates don’t nuke ice haulers.

The radiation from the nuclear detonates forces them to reboot the Knight’s systems. When they’re back up, we get our first real indication of one of Holden’s more aggravating traits: self-righteousness and low impulse control. Holden promptly gets on the comms to the stealth ship that just annihilated a freighter’s worth of people, seemingly for the thrill of it, and makes threats:

quote:

“This message is to whoever ordered the destruction of the Canterbury, the civilian ice freighter that you just blew into gas. You don’t get to just fly away, you murderous son of a bitch. I don’t care what your reasons are, but you just killed fifty friends of mine. You need to know who they were. I am sending to you the name and photograph of everyone who just died in that ship. Take a good look at what you did. Think about that while I work on finding out who you are.”
Naomi asks him what he’s doing. Holden says he’s basically trying to haunt the people who gave the order right up until the day they put them in the recycler for murder.

In response, the stealth ship paints them with its targeting laser, but then saunters away.

Holden orders the crew to follow the stealth ship. Naomi, once the others are gone, points out that it’s an insanely stupid idea. If Holden’s the Captain now, then she’s the XO and it’s her job to tell him when he’s being an idiot. Which he is, and all he should do now is get his four crew members to safety. Then, later, he can go on his idiot crusade.

Okay, Holden says, and then lies about McDowell giving him one last order.

Alex shows up and has a bit of a chat with Holden. Pirates don’t have tech like that, and they don’t have military-grade torpedoes. But Alex claims he’s seen similar stealth technologies in the navy…

“Are you saying the Martians did this?” Holden asks.

Alex points out that if Mars had the tech, then so does Earth. But they have another piece of evidence, and Holden fishes it out, passes it to Alex. Inside the transmitter, on the bottom of the battery, is a serial number that matches to the Martian Congressional Republic Navy.

So, Holden does what he does best - starts talking about things before he thinks them through.

quote:

“My name is James Holden,” he said, “and my ship, the Canterbury, was just destroyed by a warship with stealth technology and what appear to be parts stamped with Martian navy serial numbers. Data stream to follow.”
All in all, it’s a good chapter. I’ll let Omi sum up some general thoughts:

“I really like that Chapter One worked really hard to set the scene and establish the Canterbury and her crew as a major element of the story- it makes it much more effective when they all eat poo poo and die horribly here, even though we honestly didn’t know that many crew members beyond Ade and the captain.

“All in all this is a decent chapter- it gets off to a bit of a weirdly-paced start with all the radio chatter, but after that we get a neat spaceship fight and Holden being a dumbass, which is where he does some of his best work in this series.”

It also gives us some real insight into Holden. He’s not just the cool guy, he’s prone to being a bit of a self-righteous idiot. He’s also got some experience in ‘the navy’ which we can assume is Earth, given that he’s not from Mars or the Belt. But what’s a naval officer doing on the Canterbury?

TV Adaptation
Unsurprisingly, the destruction of the Canterbury plays out pretty differently to the book. There’s no disjointed time sequencing, for one. In the episode, the mystery ship fires nukes at the Knight, which Holden and crew attempt to - similar to the novel - lead on a ride into the asteroid. It doesn’t work and, horribly, they realise the nukes were never aimed at them, but the Canterbury.

There’s an interesting little bit where the Captain prepares to eject the ice as a shield against the nukes, but then doesn’t. I assume it’s because he still thinks they’re pirates and destroying the cargo would just have them destroy the ship. So, while I think the episode handles it better, there’s one thing that really hangs over it as what I can only assume is a producer-mandated thing to include.

Immediately prior to the nukes hitting the Canterbury, Ada says “Jim, there’s something you should know-” Boom.

It’s just cliche. And it never really ever comes up again. I think, in the series, Holden has a nightmare about it and that’s about it.

Omi says: “In the book she doesn’t give a poo poo, and he spends her last moments alternately wanting to say something romantic and hoping she does, while she fails to give a crap and spends that time focused on her job and trying to dodge an incoming torpedo she knows they won’t get away from. I think the book’s version tells us more interesting things about the characters: Holden’s a weird sappy romantic who’s slow on the uptake when it comes to interpersonal stuff, and Ade kinda doesn’t give a crap.”

Despite that, it handles Holden’s broadcast better, with the crew hauling him away from the camera instead of just, like, letting him sit there and say something that could set the world on fire. Omi says: “I like how the chain of command immediately breaks down on the show, and Naomi essentially strips him of command before he can get them all killed. I’ve always thought of Holden as the cute puppy who won’t stop making GBS threads on your floor. He’s part of your family so you love and take care of him, but you also kinda hate him and get really paranoid when he looks at expensive upholstery. The crew probably should’ve been way, way angrier at him, and their reaction to his attempts to trail the apparent space pirates in a tiny shuttle feels weirdly muted and amiable.”

We’ve also talked in the past, however briefly, at how interesting it could be if Naomi was the one who became CO with Holden as her moralistic, pain-in-the-rear end XO.

FPyat
Jan 17, 2020


There's one thing that bothered me at various points, the number of testicle mentions.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


FPyat posted:

There's one thing that bothered me at various points, the number of testicle mentions.

Omi and I are a few chapters ahead and we just hit the mother of all testicle (and prostate!) mentions.

Nail Rat
Dec 29, 2000

Haters gonna hate


Enjoying this so far. One point regarding why Julie was able to hide in a locker - one of the attackers shoved her there and told her to shut up after she'd fought back against them. Then they just kind of forgot about her apparently.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Nail Rat posted:

Enjoying this so far. One point regarding why Julie was able to hide in a locker - one of the attackers shoved her there and told her to shut up after she'd fought back against them. Then they just kind of forgot about her apparently.

That's true. I was wondering whether I should've specified that it was explained later, but my initial thought - even reading it again - was just 'Wait, the dudes taking the ship didn't check the lockers?' Sort of specifying earlier that it's 'Julie is a prisoner in the locker/closet' and not so much 'Julie is hiding in the locker/closet.'

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Chapter Six – Miller

Chapter Six opens with Miller and Havelock riding one of the carts through a Ceres tunnel. Havelock is having a bit of an issue comprehending why Star Helix is going to battle stations over the destruction of ‘a water hauler millions of klicks from here.’ After all, they’ve got enough water to last for months as it is.

We get a nice little reminder of the difference between Earthers and Belters. Remember, Miller is a Belter. Miller points out that, okay, the water might be dirty on Earth - but it falls out of the sky. The air might be filthy, but it’s not an airlock failure away from suffocating you. Ceres depends on ships like the Canterbury.

Then, he tells a story:

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter 6 posted:

“When I was homicide,” Miller said, “there was this guy. Property management specialist working a contract out of Luna. Someone burned half his skin off and dropped him out an airlock. Turned out he was responsible for maintenance on sixty holes up on level thirty. Lousy neighborhood. He’d been cutting corners. Hadn’t replaced the air filters in three months. There was mold growing in three of the units. And you know what we found after that?”
"Not a goddamn thing," Miller says because, after that, the next guy made sure to replace the filters on time.

Show watchers might twig to something here, but we’ll touch on that at the end of the update.

Basically, Miller points out that the environmental systems are the most important thing to Belters. Havelock argues that Miller is saying that Belters have ‘selective effected’ their way into not being human, claiming it’s racist propaganda bullshit. It’s a little weird because Havelock’s an Earther. But there’s a funny little line:

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter 6 posted:

“I’m not saying that,” Miller said, suspecting that it was exactly what he was saying.
Anyway, Havelock points out that “this Holden guy” only found a Martian battery. “You think people are going to… declare war? Just on the basis of this one guy’s pictures of a battery?”

Miller says it’s not the ones who wait for the whole story that’re going to be the problem.

The pair reach the Star Helix station house. Shaddid gives a briefing. Basically, everything is hosed - or about to be hosed. Holden’s transmission is all over Ceres. All they can do is maintain station integrity and put down any riots. All inner system ships have been given clearance to leave. The Ceres government offices have sealed themselves behind blast doors and turned onto their own environmental systems.

So, it’s looking pretty bad. Probably because, as Shaddid points out, there’s eighty known OPA agents on the station. The station house, Miller figures, has about a hundred and fifty cops. Miller gets given an order to take a team of officers down to the port and cover a bunch of sectors. But Havelock’s not coming with him.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter 6 posted:

Miller was torn between sympathy for the man and impatience. It was hard being on the team but not on the team. On the other hand, what the hell had he expected, taking a contract in the Belt?
Miller gathers his team and goes to gather up their gear. High-impact plastic shields, electric batons, armor, helmets. Riot gear. So, Miller opens the lockers and-

The lockers are empty.

Miller continues down the line, but every locker he opens is the same: empty.

What’s plan B, Miller asks Shaddid.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter 6 posted:

“Check the SWAT lockers. There should be enough in there to outfit two people in each squad.”

“Snipers?” Miller said.

“You have a better idea, Detective?” Shaddid said, leaning on the last word.

Miller raised his hands in surrender. Riot gear was meant to intimidate and control. SWAT gear was made to kill with the greatest efficiency possible. Seemed their mandate had just changed.

Like a lot of Miller chapters, I feel like you could end it here and it'd be an effective moment to end on. But the chapter keeps going. It's not bad per se, but it's weird to hit a beat that feels like it's ending a chapter and then the chapter keeps going.

Miller takes his squad down to the docks. They find a mob of civilians blocking one of the tunnels, preventing anyone from getting through, while a “huge shirtless man” beats someone to death. Miller’s team approaching, scoping the crowd out. The huge murderer has an OPA tattoo on his shoulder.
All in all, it’s a pretty okay little sequence, but I think Omi’s thoughts match mine mostly:

“The riot feels like it escalated really quickly. Like, when Miller and company suited up I was picturing that they were gonna disperse crowds before they could get amped up, so seeing the squad walk up to a dude casually beating someone to death while the mob cheers felt like a significant increase in stakes out of nowhere.

“The big head-stompin’ OPA murder guy feels like a cartoon, and I can’t tell if it’s intentional. Like, is he supposed to be a drug- and anger-fueled rage machine, or an ordinary guy pushed too far? Because he comes off like the former, but I think seeing Miller talk with an ordinary working joe having a bad day would’ve been a better vehicle to showcase the OPA and Belter stuff.”

After a bit of back and forth, Miller has his unit blow out OPA Murder Guy’s kneecaps. Omi points out that the violence is pretty clinical, and I’d say that reflects Miller’s cynicism and general ‘who gives a poo poo?’ attitude. With the mob, Miller points out that Mars and the inners want the Belters to be having riots and killing people because it turns everyone against each other.

Miller says:

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter 6 posted:

Every one of you I have to arrest or cripple or kill, that’s one less we have when the day comes. And it’s coming. But it’s not now. You understand?”
The crowd disperses. Miller arrests OPA Murder Guy. Only one dead, Miller reflects. Makes it a good night.

TV Adaptation
So, as mentioned, there’s an interesting change. The story Miller talks about with Havelock? As mentioned earlier in the thread, we see Miller be the one to do it. Having watched the series, it makes the exchange a little bit more interesting. Is Miller editing himself out of the story he’s telling Havelock in the novel, or was it really someone else?

Another change to the Ceres riots is that Havelock is attacked by who I figure is the TV version of ‘Shirtless’ (OPA Murder Guy) and impaled with a big spike. Beyond this, there’s a whole lot of little changes to the adaptation (and a lot of big ones) and we'll sum them up closer to the end of Miller's time on Ceres.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Chapter Seven – Holden

On the Knight, we get introduced to probably the one character trait of Holden’s we get in these books (beyond being an idealistic idiot) - he likes coffee. He’s focusing on thinking about how you drink coffee in gravity versus under zero-gee to keep his mind off thinking about Ade being turned into vapor. It's pretty understandable, given the circumstances.

Omi says: “I like how the chapter opens by showcasing how everyone de-stresses after the broadcast- Alex gets quiet, Holden makes himself some coffee, Shed naps, Naomi gets herself some tea and immerses herself in data, and Amos stares at his gun.”

But then...

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter 7 posted:

Alex ruined it by speaking.

That’s pretty funny.

Alex points out that they should be doing something. Naomi says they can’t just keep flying a big circle at half-gee forever. Holden says that he’s just waiting for their head office to call back and tell them what to do with the Knight, since it’s still their ship and all. Amos thinks they should fly back to Saturn then. Alex says it’s not a good idea, they’d be stuck in the Knight for three months. Naomi suggests Ceres, which is kinda funny because we, the audience, know that place is about to go up in riots and such.

Holden says no, and says that “we” will sit here and drink coffee and wait for the bosses to help him make a decision. Omi points out something fun:
“I like how Holden describes the collective crew’s actions as “We are sitting here and drinking coffee,” given that he’s the only one actually doing that. It reinforces that he’s kind of a self-centered oblivious dick without actually having him act like a dick.”

Right after that, though, there’s a big block of exposition as Holden takes drugs and goes for a nap. It’s very much the author telling us that, like, Holden is sad and grief-stricken and is barely holding it together and wants to know why someone who nuke an ice hauler.

But I feel like we get that just from how the chapter opens.

So, Naomi wakes Holden up three hours later - the bosses have called back. Holden heads up to ops to listen to it. But it’s not the operations manager - it’s Wallace Fitz, a lawyer.

To sum it up, Pur’n’Kleen isn’t happy. They’re not happy that Holden basically accused Mars of piracy and murder - so, they’re sending the MCRN Donnager to investigate matters. Fitz orders Holden to head to the Jupiter system and to cooperate fully with any officer from the Martian navy. Oh, and you won’t make any more broadcasts, Holden.

If the crew of the Knight fail to follow these instructions, they’ll have their contracts terminated and be considered in illegal possession of a P’n’K shuttle, leading to criminal prosecution.

There’s a nice little bit between Holden and Naomi then:

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter 7 posted:

Holden frowned at the monitor, then shook his head.

“I never said Mars did it.”

“You sort of did,” Naomi replied.

“I didn’t say anything that wasn’t entirely factual and backed up by the data I transmitted, and I engaged in no speculation about those facts.”
Oh, Holden. You idiot.

So, the crew crams into the Knight’s galley. It’s just large enough for Amos’ bout of pacing to be two paces. The crew discuss things. Shed thinks Holden did the right thing. Amos thinks:

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter 7 posted:

“We’re getting hosed here, and not the nice way.”

Omi and I think it’s a funny little bit, but we also think that Amos is essentially an entirely different character in the first few books - especially Leviathan Wakes - and I’d argue that this is why so many people have initial problems with The Churn. Perhaps we’ll have a detailed talk about this but, essentially, Amos feels like a Jayne from Firefly ‘expy.’ Amos’ attitude here and how he puts things just doesn’t feel like it aligns with what we learn about him later.

It’s not that strange, though. For a lot of the early Expanse novels, the characters are pretty thin. Holden is the idealistic leader, Naomi is the more pragmatic second, Alex is the pilot, Amos is the funny murder guy who swears a lot. It takes about Book 5 until they start getting a bit of detail and nuance. Something the TV series has a marked improvement on is that a lot of the stuff they came up with later is brought forwards, especially for Naomi, Alex and Amos.

Anyway. Holden says that they have two options: go along with this and hope the Martians are merciful, or run to the Belt and hide. Naomi, Shed and Amos vote for Belt. Alex says that the Donnager is the flagship of Mars’ Jovian fleet, that they can’t run away from it, they can’t hide from it, and it could reach out and torpedo them from half the Solar system away.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter 7 posted:

“Oh, gently caress that, sir,” Amos said, standing up. “These Martian needle dicks blew up the Cant! I say run. At least make it hard for them.”
It just doesn’t feel like Amos as we come to know him.

So, Holden third-ways himself a solution - disobey the spirit of the order.

Omi says: “Holden trying to solve the problems caused by his making a stupid broadcast by making another stupid broadcast is pretty great.”

Holden broadcasts:

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter 7 posted:

“This is James Holden, formerly of the Canterbury, now on the shuttle Knight. We are cooperating with an investigation into who destroyed the Canterbury and, as part of that cooperation, are agreeing to be taken aboard your ship, the MCRN Donnager. We hope that this cooperation means that we will not be held prisoner or harmed. Any such action would only serve to reinforce the idea that the Canterbury was destroyed by a Martian vessel. James Holden out.”
He smarms a bit about how he believes in the ideal of a transparent society. Then tells Naomi that if this goes badly, she should pin everything on him and throw him to the wolves. Can do, she says.

Later, Captain Theresa Yao of the Donnager contacts them. She tells them to stop making general broadcasts, and that her navigator will provide them with their next course. The Donnager will reach them in thirteen days.

And six other objects, originating from the belt, will reach them in eleven.

Six small ships, flying dark. Flying under heavy burn.

“Well,” Holden wonders. “Who the hell are you?”

I’ll let Omi sum it up: “Both six and seven feel like transitional chapters to me. Like, critical things happen in both, and they both give us a lot of key information that’s integral to later stuff, but they’re also oddly sedate and slow-paced relative to the chaos which happened before and is about to happen again.”

TV Adaptation
There’re a bunch of differences between this chapter and the show. For one, the Knight only holds about four hours of oxygen, and has been battered by debris from the destruction of the Cant. There’s a bit when Holden and Amos go outside to fix the antenna and Amos basically says he’d happily murder Holden for everything that’s happened, but Naomi wouldn’t like it much if he did. Shed and Alex almost die from lack of oxygen. Holden only makes the one transmission, basically combining both of them, because the Donnager is already en route. A significant change is that the crew doesn't just let Holden blab about whatever to the whole Solar system, and actually drag him away from the console and tell him he's being an idiot.

Like a lot of things, it just streamlines it a bit better than the novel. But both the Miller and Holden stories are really beginning to diverge to the extent that it becomes difficult to sum up differences.

Milkfred E. Moore fucked around with this message at 06:14 on Mar 24, 2020

GreyjoyBastard
Mar 28, 2010


Moralists don't really have beliefs. Sometimes they stumble on one, like a child's toy left on the carpet. The toy must be put away immediately. And the child reprimanded.





also the show's a bit bad about hard science space travel, they complain that they can only get x distance to y destination and then will be stuck in place transmitting which is... not how that works

i literally just started watching the show and watched the episode in question so this is a very well timed thread indeed (i read the first two books once upon a time though)

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


GreyjoyBastard posted:

also the show's a bit bad about hard science space travel, they complain that they can only get x distance to y destination and then will be stuck in place transmitting which is... not how that works

i literally just started watching the show and watched the episode in question so this is a very well timed thread indeed (i read the first two books once upon a time though)

Cool! Feel free to post your thoughts as we go. A lot of science/tech/space stuff tends to go right over my head.

Chapter Eight – Miller

Something about Leviathan Wakes to note when compared to later novels, is that it has a strict A-B structure. Holden, Miller, Holden, Miller. Later books introduce more viewpoint characters but also break up the consistent pattern. Both Omi and I assume this was to make the initial collaboration between Abraham and Franck - remember, Franck is writing Holden’s chapters and Abraham is writing Miller’s - a little bit easier. Later books tend to get a bit more, shall we say, adventurous. Babylon's Ashes, for example, has a fairly ludicrous number of viewpoints and some of them only show up for a single chapter.

As far as the form goes, it tends to be okay. The constant cliffhangers can be a bit obnoxious but they keep you wanting to read on while giving each chapter a sense of dramatic energy. It also helps that, while the stories don’t really link up until the halfway point, we can see how they’re affecting each other - Miller sees Holden’s transmission, we see Holden make it, we go back to Miller’s reaction, etc.

However, I think a problem Leviathan Wakes has is actually that A-B structure, and the overall plan they had for the then-trilogy. Holden was to be the consistent point of view for the first three books, so, they have to include him in the first. But we’ve seen already in these first half a dozen or so chapters that Leviathan Wakes ultimately feels like Miller’s story - Holden’s just kind of there to shoulder a lot of the exposition and, eventually, shuttle him around to finish his story. I feel like you could edit Leviathan Wakes down to just being Miller’s side of things and that maybe the story would actually feel and flow better.

Omi had an issue with the structure that’s as follows:

"Chapter Eight might be the first time that this structure noticeably irritated me. Chapter Seven’s ending is basically the lead-in to a new (potential) action setpiece: mysterious ships are hauling rear end for the shuttle, oh no! Ending on a cliffhanger is kind of cheap, doubly so when the actual cliffhanger isn’t picked up and it transitions into another character’s story instead of following up on things. At the start of Chapter Eight I don’t want to be watching Miller and Havelock chat, I wanna be in the shuttle with Holden learning who the heck is chasing them!"

So, yeah, we open on Miller and Havelock watching an OPA propaganda video and kind of snarking about it.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Eight posted:

“Don’t be afraid of them. Their only power is your fear.”

“Well, that and a hundred or so gunships,” Havelock said.

“From what I hear,” Miller said, “if you clap your hands and say you believe, they can’t shoot you.”

“Have to try that sometime.”
It’s funny, but a little weird. We’ve just come off Miller’s previous chapter where an agitator got his knees blown off and, oh, all the Star Helix gear is missing. Then, it turns out it’s been a week since Holden sent his message and the riots lasted three days and they’re over and done with. It feels a little strange. A bit like, oh hey, that’s all over and done with, hey, Havelock?

Omi and I both think the chapter should’ve started instead with this paragraph:

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Eight posted:

A week had passed since James Holden, self-appointed martyr, had proudly announced that he and his crew were going to talk to someone from the Martian navy instead of just slinging poo poo and implications.
As Omi says: that immediately onboards us and orients us to time and place, and acts as a better bridge between the Holden bits and the Miller bits.

There’s a nice little bit where Miller talks about post-riot Ceres like family getting bad news from the police. It sets the scene, it’s nice. Havelock’s having a rough time since the riots and he’s thinking of transferring over to the Protogen facilities on Ganymede. Miller says it’s a good move.

Omi has some thoughts on Miller:

"Miller wanting to show off that he’s a Belter first, earth security guy second, is an interesting beat. I think that book Miller is much more openly… not really racist, but nationalistic. He openly wonders if he’d side with the OPA or Star Helix in the case of an insurrection, and Belter pride feels like more than an empty slogan. The Miller we see in the TV show is a much more openly company man, jaded and often angry at young OPA members for acting like common criminals instead of being a cool, upstanding Belter guy like him. Then again, most of Miller’s quasi-nationalistic Belter stuff is informed through his internal narration, which we don’t have access to in the show."

Speaking of Miller, now that the riots have calmed down, he’s going to head over to investigate Julie Mao’s place. She lives in what seems like a standard issue Ceres domicile - so small that calling it cramped would be implying a luxury it doesn’t have.

Miller pokes around. We find out that Julie’s a pretty good fighter, that she has an OPA armband, and that she’s a fairly efficient lady in general.

There’s a nice bit that Omi points out:

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Eight posted:

The refrigerator had two takeaway boxes filled with spoiled food and a bottle of local beer.

Miller hesitated, then took the beer.
"This is a nice touch- as we’ll later learn Miller is a functional alcoholic, and it’s implied that he’s a lot less good at his job than his early viewpoint chapters seem to think he is."

Along those lines, the bit where Miller reflects to himself that it’s legal for him to basically go through her life as a voyeur. It’s interesting because, on one hand, it reflects that sense of bias we get from Miller about his capabilities and moral centre - look, he understands what he’s doing is weird and creepy, that kind of thing. But it’s also a little sign of how Miller is already growing obsessed with Julie.

A final email from Julie’s mother to her claims that she has “solid information” that the Belt is going to become very unsafe imminently and that Julie should “FOR YOUR OWN SAFETY COME HOME NOW.”

And that it had been sent two weeks before the Canterbury was destroyed. Did Julie's parents know this was coming?

All in all, it’s an okay chapter with a simple purpose. Omi sums it up well: "it’s essentially character-building and exposition-via-voyeurism, as Miller goes through her apartment and correspondence to learn about Julie. Later on Miller’s interest in Julie will grow weirdly obsessive and deluded - there’s not much of that in this chapter, a lot of his search seems clinical and fairly professional, but his reaction to her curt response to her mother threatening to sell her beloved racing ship seems like it might be an early seed of his other-than-professional interest in her."

TV Adaptation:

Nothing to note, really. I’ll just mention a scene I like, which is new to the series. As mentioned earlier, Havelock gets impaled with a big spike and Miller goes to see him in hospital, where the prostitute from the first chapter (named Gia in the series) who is there making sure he’s okay. Miller basically gets horrible about it and says something to the effect of ‘Is this a get well present to yourself? Put it on my tab’ and him and Havelock have an argument where Miller angrily snaps that learning all the Belter language in the world isn’t going to help Havelock any when the OPA guys put the next spike in his skull. It’s good and, continuing the theme of the TV adaptation, adds a bit of interesting conflict to the early part of the story. In the series, Miller leans a bit more towards 'tired cynical rear end in a top hat' than 'tired sad old man.'

Khizan
Jul 30, 2013



Milkfred E. Moore posted:

There’s a nice bit that Omi points out:

"This is a nice touch- as we’ll later learn Miller is a functional alcoholic, and it’s implied that he’s a lot less good at his job than his early viewpoint chapters seem to think he is."

The impression I remember getting from Miller was that he's a burned out alcoholic, but he used to be really good at the job and he doesn't realize how far his abilities have declined.

PriorMarcus
Oct 16, 2008

ASK ME ABOUT BEING ALLERGIC TO POSITIVITY


Khizan posted:

The impression I remember getting from Miller was that he's a burned out alcoholic, but he used to be really good at the job and he doesn't realize how far his abilities have declined.

This is the reading I always got from Miller too.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


That's pretty much Miller's character, yeah, and what leads into the three bits of information we'll learn in a few chapters later. That Dawes and Shaddid think Miller is a joke of a cop, that Muss tells him he's one of the worst guys in the place if not the station joke, and Shaddid firing him for poor performance/lack of trust. Reading purely from the novel, we don't really get much information at all on Miller's thirty years with Star Helix. We don't really know whether he was a good cop who turned into a sorry drunk after his divorce, or if he was just always kind of bad and persisted there because he was a Ceres native, took orders well, didn't make waves, and Ceres was kind of a dump. It sticks out to me that I don't think we learn anything about Candace, his ex-wife, or their life together beyond the fact that she existed and they divorced a few years before the start of LW. There's a bit where Shaddid says he 'was a good cop, once' but it's very much an attempt to soothe what's left of his ego.

However, the TV series changes Miller a bit (and it especially changes the stuff in that spoilered text) which I think makes Miller way more of a 'was good, lost his edge, rediscovers it on this last case' kind of character. Series Miller is a much more active investigator, too. I think the best deductive leap we see from Novel Miller is 'Wait, why would a gas tanker be travelling between two places that consume gas?'

Be interesting to see what people think as we go through, though.

edit: A thought. If Miller has been a (private space) cop for thirty years, and if we assume he was really good at his job until two years ago or so, shouldn't he be ranked higher than Detective?

Milkfred E. Moore fucked around with this message at 13:09 on Mar 25, 2020

Omi no Kami
Feb 19, 2014




Milkfred E. Moore posted:

That's pretty much Miller's character, yeah, and what leads into the three bits of information we'll learn in a few chapters later. That Dawes and Shaddid think Miller is a joke of a cop, that Muss tells him he's one of the worst guys in the place if not the station joke, and Shaddid firing him for poor performance/lack of trust. Reading purely from the novel, we don't really get much information at all on Miller's thirty years with Star Helix. We don't really know whether he was a good cop who turned into a sorry drunk after his divorce, or if he was just always kind of bad and persisted there because he was a Ceres native, took orders well, didn't make waves, and Ceres was kind of a dump. It sticks out to me that I don't think we learn anything about Candace, his ex-wife, or their life together beyond the fact that she existed and they divorced a few years before the start of LW. There's a bit where Shaddid says he 'was a good cop, once' but it's very much an attempt to soothe what's left of his ego.

However, the TV series changes Miller a bit (and it especially changes the stuff in that spoilered text) which I think makes Miller way more of a 'was good, lost his edge, rediscovers it on this last case' kind of character. Series Miller is a much more active investigator, too. I think the best deductive leap we see from Novel Miller is 'Wait, why would a gas tanker be travelling between two places that consume gas?'

Be interesting to see what people think as we go through, though.

edit: A thought. If Miller has been a (private space) cop for thirty years, and if we assume he was really good at his job until two years ago or so, shouldn't he be ranked higher than Detective?

I've always been really unsure on how much of Miller's thing was "Used to be a good cop," and how much was "Used to be okay, now is trash, always thought he was great." The latter feels like it would fit in better with the setting, but it might be a little too depressing and crummy even for Miller.

On the promotion angle I'm not a space detective (IANASD), but I think that can happen in the real world too- as far as I know the police isn't like the military, where you're pressured to promote or perish. A lot of talented guys stay beat cops for years or even their entire career because they like the job. In most departments, detectives are kind of like a specialized role you can apply for and train into, just like K-9, recovery divers, SWAT, and so forth. So if you're career-minded you're going to want to climb the ladder from patrol, to junior detective, to full detective, then up to a supervisor or squad/division lead, but I'm pretty sure tons of guys stay in the flying squad for years or decades and are still trudging through casework when they retire.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Omi no Kami posted:

I've always been really unsure on how much of Miller's thing was "Used to be a good cop," and how much was "Used to be okay, now is trash, always thought he was great." The latter feels like it would fit in better with the setting, but it might be a little too depressing and crummy even for Miller.

On the promotion angle I'm not a space detective (IANASD), but I think that can happen in the real world too- as far as I know the police isn't like the military, where you're pressured to promote or perish. A lot of talented guys stay beat cops for years or even their entire career because they like the job. In most departments, detectives are kind of like a specialized role you can apply for and train into, just like K-9, recovery divers, SWAT, and so forth. So if you're career-minded you're going to want to climb the ladder from patrol, to junior detective, to full detective, then up to a supervisor or squad/division lead, but I'm pretty sure tons of guys stay in the flying squad for years or decades and are still trudging through casework when they retire.

Maybe, yeah. I figured Miller could just really enjoy being a Detective, but it doesn't seem like he does, really. Of course, he's well in the trench of his lowest point when we meet him, but I don't think we ever get a moment where we see any trace of Miller's accomplishments. No medals, no commendations, no one recognizing him in Ceres, etc. So, it kinda feels like he's just coasted for thirty years or so.

Chapter Nine – Holden

Similar to Chapter Eight, the A-B format hurts this chapter slightly. Chapter Seven had us ready for some action or tension, but the next chapter was a fairly low-key expository chapter. Chapter Nine continues that low-energy vibe.

It also features a little bugbear of mine - the timelines are now out of sync. In Chapter Eight, we are told that it’s been a week since the riots. However, in this chapter, it’s mentioned that Holden and co. have only been on the Knight for three days. I feel like when you write stories with this type of structure, you really need to keep the timelines in sync.

So, it’s been three days. The Knight wasn’t made for that (it has no showers, for example), and the crew is running low on amenities. Holden’s hair is greasy, Amos has shaved his off. The crew is eating protein bars and may run out of water before they reach the Donnager - it’ll be down to the wire, as Naomi puts it.

Throughout this whole bit, Amos is saying things that feel like they’re in that aforementioned category of Amos Not Being Quite Established here. It’s hard to put into accurate words, but Amos feels a bit too irreverent and goofy for the person he becomes, even as of the very next book.

Omi mentions it too, and reinforces something I mentioned in Chapter Seven: "Amos honestly feels like a different person in these early chapters. If I recall correctly (spoilers!) we’ll eventually learn that he’s a chemically castrated master crime guy with a soft spot for low-rent brothels and space hookers because they remind him of home. Beats like this make me feel like that backstory was written after the fact, and at this point in time Amos is supposed to be Jayne from Firefly: a Big, Beefy Crime Guy who likes food and sex."

Anyway, it’s rough on the Knight. Shed is having a particularly rough time. Holden goes to see how he’s doing.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Nine posted:

“Hey, buddy, mind if I come in?” Holden asked. Did I actually say “Hey, buddy”?
I like this line. When I was a teacher, I found myself saying similar things and then having that exact thought.

Holden and Shed chat - or Holden tries to. Shed becomes increasingly disturbed by the fact that the Knight’s medical supplies are, to be blunt, poo poo. The Knight has a tube of a acidic solution to treat genital warts with, but nothing for pain relief. Shed points out that the Canterbury had run out of that solution and it would’ve helped three patients back on the ship. The Knight doesn’t even have any coagulant boosters - Shed wonders what they would’ve done had they found anyone on the Scopuli wreck that might’ve actually needed help.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Nine posted:

“Everyone on the Cant is dead,” Holden said, making each word clear and strong and brutal. “Everyone is dead. No one needs the antibiotics. No one needs wart cream.”
Ouch, Holden. Omi says: “Holden being bad at comforting his crewmate and struggling to be an empathetic friend to someone who needs one is a good character beat.” I kind of agree, but I think it will lead into something about Holden that we might get to explore in more detail later - essentially, how are we, the audience, supposed to view him?

In essence, is this a ‘Wow, Holden’s a bit of a dick’ moment or a ‘Yeah, you tell that dumb medic what’s up, Holden’ moment?

After a brief pep talk, Shed pulls himself together. It’s an okay character beat. Shed hasn’t really featured much and it helps give him some depth, establishing that he’s way out of his depth and so on. Omi points out though that the scene feels weird when you know that Shed is about to die and basically vanish from the series from that point on. I feel like it might be similar to the bait-and-switch with the Canterbury, Omi posits that it might be an editing thing where it felt too obvious that Shed was going to die or that maybe Shed’s death just didn’t land without it. Either way, it does feel a little strange.

Naomi calls Holden back up to ops. Turns out someone is sending a tightbeam message to the Knight. It’s from somewhere in the Belt, but it’s not any of the big stations. In fact, it seems to be coming from a construction site near Tycho Station (which has, as an aside, been mentioned maybe three times before this point.)

Here is where things get a bit strange.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Nine posted:

“Hello, James Holden. My name is Fred Johnson.”

Holden hit the pause button.

“This guy looks familiar. Search the ship’s database for that name,” he said.
I find it strange that Holden doesn’t know who that is immediately. He’s just like, oh, that guy looks familiar. Then Naomi stares at him and says “That’s Colonel Frederick Lucius Johnson” like he’s an idiot and it all comes rushing back to Holden.

In the form of over seven hundred words of exposition.

I like a bit of statistics in things like this. It’s fun to think about. The chapter is about 3000 words long. So, about a quarter of this chapter is devoted to spelling out who this new guy Fred Johnson is. I’ll also point out that Holden’s little scene with Shed is less words than that. This means you could argue that this bit with Fred is more important than the scene between Holden and Shed which feels a little off.

So, basically, we get what amounts to Fred Johnson’s entire history, which makes it all the more apparent how strange it is that Jim Holden - who we were reminded this very chapter was a member of the Earth navy - had to be reminded who this guy was.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Nine posted:

The man on the screen had once been among the most decorated officers in the UN military, and ended up one of its most embarrassing failures. To Belters, he was the Earther Sheriff of Nottingham who’d turned into Robin Hood. To Earth, he was the hero who’d fallen from grace.
Notice the usage of ‘the Earther Sheriff’ or ‘the hero who’d…’ this implies that there is no one else quite like Johnson. And Holden’s just like “Who is this guy? Huh? Fred Johnson? Who? Oh, THAT Fred Johnson.”

“So,” Omi asks, “what do we know about Fred Johnson? As it turns out, we know a lot about Fred Johnson, because the entire plot screeches to a halt to go into his background and history. Long story short: his history is war crimes. He’s a legendary earth military guy who quit the military after committing some atrocities, and is now a high-level OPA leader.”

There’s more to it than that - it’s seven hundred words, after all. To sum it up, Fred Johnson is known as The Butcher of Anderson Station because of an issue that took place on that station with an Earther politician increasing a cargo surcharge and this affecting the price of air and this affecting the health and lives of the Belters and then how this led to the marines being sent in and then this led to the Belters broadcasting Anderson’s marines slaughtering the people of Anderson station and this led to Anderson retiring and...

Who cares?

No, I mean it - who cares?

I tend to believe that when a story hits a speed bump like this, when it needs to drop a significant amount of words to explain a development, then there hasn’t been proper work done to establish it in the text. This is the first time Fred Johnson has been mentioned in the text, and because of that, this whole section is all really clunky. Don't get me wrong, I like the story of what went down with the price of air and how it meshes with what we've known about Belter life from Miller and such, but overall...

As Omi puts it: “we need to know about Fred Johnson because the characters know about Fred Johnson, and the characters need to know so they don’t just stare blankly at the transmission and go ‘I have no idea who this is.’”

In other words we, the audience, should’ve been told something about Fred Johnson prior to this point where we need to know who he is to have everything make sense without needing to bring the story to a screeching halt.

It’s just a part of the tension in writing - how do you get the audience knowing what the characters know? Especially in a fantastical setting like The Expanse where there's been hundreds of years of history. Good worldbuilding makes it subtle with context clues and extrapolation and things like that. A big seven-hundred word infodump spelling out the entire history of any given character is not good worldbuilding.

Anyway, Fred has a message for Holden. He thinks they’re being played and that he’s a member of the OPA - but not the violent OPA we’ve heard about, a more legitimate, peaceful branch. And he wants to avoid a war and has a particular interest in Holden.

Omi says: “This is information that Holden needs to hear now, because it’s going to inform his decision in a few chapters. But why does Fred Johnson care about Holden, and why is he giving him a giant infodump? It’s one of the few legitimately clunky pieces of plotting in early LW.”

Ultimately, I agree. I think the first six or so chapters of Leviathan Wakes are solidly plotted. Not ideal, but pretty much perfect for what the story is. But we hit this chapter, and it’s like the Corey team is like ‘Oh, gently caress, that’s right - we need to introduce Fred! Have him call Holden up out of the blue.’

(I think there’s a reason for this clunkiness of Fred Johnson, but we’ll talk about that when we actually meet him.)

Fred basically says he thinks someone wants to start a war and that he hopes it isn’t Mars but if it is then he knows that Holden and co. will never get off the Donnager alive. He gives them advice to use the word 'ubiquitous' within the first sentence of their next broadcast - if they do so, he’ll know they’re not being coerced. He says he does this because he wants them to know they have allies in the Belt.

I also feel like there’s a thought to touch on here that by saying this Fred has opened himself up to a tactical error. Let’s say Holden and co. end up on the Donnager and Mars, like, turns them into double agents. Then Holden and co. come off the ship and say ‘ubiquitous’ and Johnson gets played.

But whatever. After all that, the crew meets in the Knight’s cramped galley and the chapter basically ends up where the previous one ended: they’re on their way to meet the Donnager but they’re being chased by six other ships. Mysterious ships, at that, because pretty much everyone says something to the effect of ‘Those ships can’t catch us before we reach the Donnager and they can’t take a battleship in a fight, so, what are they up to?’

What indeed...

But if this chapter ends on the exact same cliffhanger, it just stresses how little anything actually happened.

TV Adaptation:

Fred doesn’t contact Holden before they reach the Donnager. In the series, Johnson has been watching the Donnager and only contacts Holden after they reach the ship which smooths everything out some (bit of a recurring theme, no?) More on that later.

Fred Johnson’s ‘ubiquitous’ gambit features in an episode of the series where Holden and his crew need to use the word in a similar fashion to sneak past a Martian patrol.

A fairly hefty change, however, is that of Fred Johnson himself and how he acquired the title of ‘The Butcher of Anderson Station.’ In the novels, his marines assaulted and retook the station but at a severe cost of civilian lives. In the TV series, delivered via flashback, it appears that one of Johnson’s ships blasted the station into free-floating components with a torpedo, presumably at his order. It’s a pretty dramatic change.

I figure I'll make a note of how the show depicts Fred Johnson reaching out to Holden and co. given how it doesn't have the issues the novel's version of it does.

The Expanse, 0105 - Back to the Butcher posted:

JOHNSON: My name is Fred Johnson, Director of Operations at Tycho Station. I don't know who you are, or what your intent may be, but unless you're trying to start a war, you need to contact me. I can help you.

ALEX: He shouldn't have been able to track us.

HOLDEN: But he did.

ALEX: Hey, isn't he some kinda big-shot for the OPA?

HOLDEN: Yeah, but what does it matter? He offered us help. We have to go somewhere.

[Snip an argument about Mars.]

HOLDEN: Fred Johnson just offered us a lifeline. I say we take it.

NAOMI: We're not going to Tycho.

HOLDEN: You got any other ideas?

NAOMI: You can't trust Fred Johnson. We all know what he's capable of.

HOLDEN: That was, like, ten years ago - people change!
So, we can see the pretty basic changes. Alex is the one who doesn’t really know who Fred is, which fits a bit better because he's a Martian. Holden knows but he’s a bit of an idealistic idiot about it. Naomi also knows and, given that knowledge, is logically concerned that the Butcher of Anderson Station has just reached out to them. Johnson himself keeps his cards much closer to his chest. It’s just more interesting than what the novel presents.

Milkfred E. Moore fucked around with this message at 00:01 on Mar 26, 2020

Omi no Kami
Feb 19, 2014




Something else I really like about that exchange from 105 is how it tells us a lot about the characters in a fairly minimal way: Naomi knows about Belter Stuff and doesn't trust Fred, Holden's naive and groping in the dark for a lifeline, Alex is kinda-sorta in the loop, and Amos doesn't care. In a show as deeply rooted in fantasy politics as The Expanse is that's the sort of character building you need to get on the record and start reinforcing early, and a lot of shows would've resorted to one or two much clunkier scenes in which, like, I dunno- Naomi and Holden talk about politics, Holden says something dumb, and Naomi corrects him while setting up future plot threads in big neon letters.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Holden might not be naive, either. It allows you to see Holden as a bit more of a dubious character. Like, he talks a big talk, but he'll happily do his best to avoid dealing with the concept of just who Fred is if it gets him what he wants. Like, he avoids bringing up Johnson's history until Naomi forces it, and then Holden just says 'well, people change!'

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Omi no Kami
Feb 19, 2014




That's a good point. I think it also ties into our earlier discussion of just who, exactly, Holden is supposed to be. Because I think in both the book and show he's intended to be (if you'll pardon the tabletop terminology) the chaotic good warrior: dumb, loyal to a fault, generally good and kind, but largely driven by his own personal ethos. But the Holden I find much more interesting is the guy we get hints of here and there, the guy who just isn't a very great person: he's lazy, undisciplined, content to hover in place for years, deals with having his assumptions or views challenged in a very juvenile way, and just isn't a whole lot of anything.

Maybe this is just because it's the kind of thing I like, but I think that "Greasy rear end in a top hat space trucker" would've been a way more interesting lens through which to view this world.

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