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Khizan
Jul 30, 2013



Sarern posted:

When I read these books, I also wonder why Naomi isn't the Captain. Naomi always has the good ideas, and Holden, at first, has generally bad ones. If Naomi had told Amos to throw Holden out the airlock, this series would have been one novel long. So why isn't Naomi captain?

IIRC, Naomi is (Nemesis Games spoilers) in hiding from her crazy ex that attacks Earth. That's why she took a dead-end job as an engineer on a crappy water hauler when she's absolutely qualified for more. She doesn't want to be noticed.

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Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Sarern posted:

This brings up a question I haven't thought about. A narrative that puts someone in a leadership position might justify that decision in text, like the Harry Potter books do with Quidditch games. When I read these books, I also wonder why Naomi isn't the Captain. Naomi always has the good ideas, and Holden, at first, has generally bad ones. If Naomi had told Amos to throw Holden out the airlock, this series would have been one novel long. So why isn't Naomi captain? There are crew conversations in the book about it, at least twice that I recall. But I'm not sure how convincing they are.

Milkfred E. Moore and Omi (and anyone else) what do you think? Do the books try to justify Holden's role as captain? Do they succeed?

Given that the books do point out that Holden was the Canterbury's XO, I think it justifies it well enough. But at the same time, one has to wonder things like:
  • Just how much value is there in the Canterbury's chain of command given that the ship no longer exists?
  • Why is every single character happy to accept the continuation of it immediately?
  • Is Holden the best guy to have calling the shots when his first desire was to chase down the guys who just iced their ice freighter?
  • It only seemed like the stealth ship didn't blast them into atoms was because they needed Holden as an idiot patsy, too...
  • Is Holden a good leader when he doesn't really discuss and delegate as much as come to decisions at a whim?
  • Why do they let Holden keep making Big Dumb Broadcasts?
Stuff like that.

Similar to Omi, I think Holden is the Captain because in the game LW was based on, he was the character with the sheet and niche to be the leader, and that's about all the thought that was put into it. The characters all feel pretty clearly delineated along RPG party lines - face, muscle, tech, medic, pilot. I really do feel like if you could get access to the forum they ran the game on - which the player of Naomi says is still online, just locked down - you'd find whole swathes of the novel essentially as is.

I can't really provide my feelings on Leviathan Wakes as a first-time reader because I read it second, after Abaddon's Gate. So, I wasn't really paying much attention at the time to how the story evolved, in a sense. I just wanted to get the complete picture of what had happened before the third novel. I suppose it works well enough for what it does, but I absolutely think the TV series did the right thing by complicating the initial relationships of the Rocinante crew, and definitely by not having Holden climb into the Captain's seat so simply.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Chapter Thirty-Seven - Holden

The crew is making what is basically a family dinner. Naomi makes pasta out of fake eggs and fake cheese. Amos makes a sauce. Alex assembles it into a lasgna. Holden makes bread. Miller... awkwardly sets the table and then just sits there and watches them. I really like this opening.

Omi: "I like how the whole crew teams up to make dinner, and Miller sits in the corner awkwardly and doesn’t know how to engage."

Holden pines of Naomi for a bit. Like some of the other stuff in this little bit of the novel, it feels a touch maudlin. "He wondered if Naomi would ever be his friend again" is surely a thought everyone has had in that situation, but it always feels strange to read it.

Holden grabs the lasagna out of the oven. He says 'Soup's on' which is an expression one of his mothers, Tamara, used to say. Naomi ribs him about how one of his three mothers did the cooking. I had to think about Naomi's interactions with Holden in this chapter, because for all of Holden's moping, she's quite friendly and flirtatious with him. I'm operating off the thought that Holden is a big dork who thinks he's ruined everything.

Omi raises a thought about Holden's family.

"I’m genuinely unclear whether Holden’s weird commune thing is normal enough to be unremarkable in this setting, or bizarre and unheard of."

I had to think about this for a little bit. I feel like it's fairly normal. I believe mention is made of it as a "family co-op" back in the interrogation chapter, and that untraditional families were fairly common. His eight parents made Holden a genetic mix of all of their DNA. It's a tax thing, too. So, all of that makes me think it's maybe not common but not rare, either?

Still, it makes me wish we got more about Holden in this book. There's a mention a few chapters back, that I didn't highlight, of Holden thinking like he was fifteen or so again when he's trying to sneak off somewhere and gets noticed. Where was he sneaking to when he was a kid, and why? Has always been a bit of a troublemaker? It's similar to how we learn virtually nothing about Miller's life or his ex-wife. All of the characters are really quite thinly sketched and just about the most we know of them is, like, the planet they're from.

Anyway, highlight of this chapter is the story Miller tells.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Thirty-Seven posted:

As they ate, Holden felt a slow release of tension in the room. Amos belched loudly, then reacted to the chorus of protests by doing it again even more loudly. Alex retold the joke that had made Naomi laugh. Even Miller got into the mood and told a long and increasingly improbable story about hunting down a black market cheese operation that ended in a gunfight with nine naked Australians in an illegal brothel. By the finish of the story, Naomi was laughing so hard she'd drooled on her shirt, and Amos kept repeating "No loving way!" like a mantra.
Miller talks about how there was this underground cheese syndicate on Ceres and it ended up resulting in a cheese shortage throughout the system when he and his buddies shut it down.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Thirty-Seven posted:

"Over loving cheese?" Amos said, tossing his fork onto his plate with a clack. "Are you serious? I mean, drugs or gambling or something. But cheese?"

"Gambling's legal, most places," Miller said. "And a chemistry class dropout can cook up just about any drug you like in his bathroom. No way to control supply."

"Real cheese comes from Earth, or Mars," Naomi added. "And after they tack on shipping costs and the Coalition's fifty percent in taxes, it costs more than fuel pellets."

"We wound up with one hundred and thirty kilos of Vermont Cheddar in the evidence lockup," Miller said. "Street value that would have probably bought someone their own ship. It had disappeared by the end of the day. We wrote it up as lost to spoilage. No one said a word, as long as everyone went home with a brick."
I feel like stuff like this has been missing from the first two thirds or so of Leviathan Wakes. Just nice character moments like this. It was all plot, plot, plot, exposition, worldbuilding, exposition, plot.

There's another interesting bit where Naomi talks about how inners don't understand Belters, which is why they're fine with killing over a million of them to test the Phoebe bug does. Miller mentions how they look different. Personally, I really like how the Belter thing was made more cultural than physiological in the TV series, but I can see why people miss this. But in my opinion, even the novels raise it as more of a cultural or societal divide than anything to really do with the physiology. See also the bit towards the end of this chapter where Holden wonders if the fact that Belter society might leave the inner planets behind entirely is why the inners tax them so heavily.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Thirty-Seven posted:

"Of course they do," Miller said. "We're too tall, too skinny, our heads look too big, and our joints too knobby."

Holden noticed Naomi glancing across the table at him, a speculative look on her face. I like your head, Holden thought at her, but the radiation hadn't given him telepathy either, because her expression didn't change.

Holden musing about superpowers showed up in an earlier chapter. It's fun to read in that, like, haha this is a funny book way, but it's a weird thought for Holden to entertain in any kind of serious way, y'know?

I also feel like Holden having that little thought might feel like it meant more if it was noted a little bit more often. Like, just once or twice before now.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Thirty-Seven posted:

Holden listened to them talk and pushed cold pasta around on his plate with a chunk of bread.

"Okay, we get it," he said. "You're weird. But to kill a million and a half people over some skeletal differences and slang... "

"People have been getting tossed into ovens for less than that ever since they invented ovens," Miller said. "If it makes you feel better, most of us think you're squat and microcephalic."
See what I mean about Holden's naivete?

They talk about Eros. They wonder what the point of the bug is. Naomi supposes it's trying to do something, something complex, but isn't smart enough to achieve it. The more biomass, the smarter it gets. Eros makes the perfect testing spot, and they could nuke it into glass if the threat turned into something terrible.

Omi has a general thought on this scene: "Holden has a bit of character-as-camera going on in this chapter, in the sense that his fixation on tracking and describing the crew’s reactions in minute detail isn’t how an ordinary person would experience dinner, but I think it’s okay: Holden is trying to be Captain Man and make sure his family/crew are decompressing after the (sigh) zombie vomitorium, and it’s important to highlight that this is essentially a close family sitting down to share food and companionship, Miller was there too."

The crew arrive at Tycho. They look at the Nauvoo which Miller calls "big."

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Thirty-Seven posted:

”Generation ship,” Holden said. “Something like that will give us the stars.”

“Or a lonely death on a long trip to nowhere,” Miller replied.
They go see Fred. He's reading notes Holden sent him about Eros and finding Julie and the stealth ship that, in the novels, hasn't been named Anubis yet. Miller and Holden basically recruit Fred to help them storm the Protogen research station. Fred wants what's in the same but Holden refuses to hand it over to anyone else.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Chapter Thirty-Eight - Miller

Miller is on the Tycho observation deck, looking over over the Nauvoo. He's a bit uncomfortable with how large everything is - the deck itself is wider than the Rocinante is - and it's rather opulent. Miller notes that everything about Tycho was "designed so carefully" for Johnson to show off how rich and powerful he was, but it only makes Miller uncomfortable if he thinks about it too much. I like it. I wished we'd gotten stuff like this with Holden.

Naomi shows up. She and Miller talk - she's trying to figure out the location of the station but nothing seems to be working. Miller thinks about things, and starts laughing - only, he doesn't realize he's doing it.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Thirty-Eight posted:

"What?" Naomi said, an uncertain smile on her lips.

Miller blinked.

"You were laughing a little," Naomi said. "I don't think I've ever seen you laugh before. I mean, not when something was funny."
Omi: "I like how in Miller’s head he’s a silent, taciturn blank wall, and then Naomi interrupts his thoughts to go 'Dude you are staring at me and cackling creepily, what the gently caress.'"

So, Miller arranges something with Havelock. While he waits for the information, he sits at a bar, overlooking the Nauvoo. Miller is drinking bourbon. I wonder again what we're supposed to take from this, with the bit where Miller had kicked the alcohol but then found Julie dead in the shower.

I don't think it's particularly clear what we're supposed to take from it, because it's all transpired without much thought on Miller's part - that is to say, returning to the drink. We know the loss of Julie hit him hard. Chapter 22 is the chapter where he didn't think drinking appealing to him anymore, but it was the same chapter where he took an unknown drink from an Eros waitress. He only 'pretends' to sip at it, but...

I don't know why I'm wondering about this, why I have such a focus on it. Maybe it's because it's one of the few notes of character development we've had. Miller was a joke of an alcoholic, he got sober to crack one last case (or even only because he thought it might impress Julie) but then fell back into the bottle when he found Julie dead in the shower. But it doesn't feel right, if that makes sense. It feels opaque.

The Nauvoo gets a lot of mentions this chapter. Obviously to keep it in the reader's mind so the stuff that happens to the end of the book doesn't come out of nowhere. Miller wonders if the things that made the protomolecule - which he assumes is a weapon, a nice touch of his mindset - are out there, and what might happen to the crew of the Nauvoo if they are?

Havelock replies to Miller. He's a bit freaked out about working for Protogen, as they're "hardcore." Officially, Havelock can't help him.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Thirty-Eight posted:

"Officially, I don't know dick about a Belt station, but you know how it is. I'm from Earth. There are a lot of these guys who gave me poo poo about Ceres. Working with the vacuum-heads. That kind of thing. But the way things are here, it's better to be on the good side of the bad guys. It's just that kind of job."
Omi points out the 'better to be on...' line as a good phrase to sum up Leviathan Wakes. "Everyone’s an rear end in a top hat, everything sucks, do the best you can and don’t piss off the wrong people. (And then Holden appears, and makes it his goal in life to piss off powerful people as frequently as he can.)"

Off the record, though, Havelock maybe knows where the station is and it might be called Thoth and it might be a scary research place, packed full of automated defenses and such. Havelock passes him the coordinates and tells Miller not to talk to him again for a long, long time.

As an aside, with my history teacher hat on for a second, Thoth was the Egyptian god of wisdom, writing, writing, science and the dead. All pretty fitting for Protogen's top secret science station.

Anyway, Omi wonders if Havelock just being able to email all of that to Miller is a bit too convenient. I can see the argument but I'm not sure overall. I think it's one of those things where the story creaks some. Like, is this a Holden story or a Miller story? I think LW is much more Miller's story, and so Havelock sending him the data as an old friend's final phone call is fine. It fits that noir vibe. But this isn't the first time LW has leaned into, like, 'someone makes a phone call' as a plot element. But as we're introduced to Holden first and Holden runs into Protogen first and so on it, it feels a little off.

As another aside, LW being more Miller's story than Holden's is why the Anubis is post-Eros. It feels better for Miller's story that way, what with him finding the footage of Julie and all, and falling further into his post-Eros justice vigilante thing. He basically falls in love with Julie's ghost and, in a way, the ship is the place she haunts more than Eros is.

Miller calls up Holden.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Thirty-Eight posted:

He put through a connection request to Holden. The screen filled with the captain's open, charming, vaguely naive face.
Charming does not feel like a word Miller would use to describe Holden's face. Personally, when I read the Expanse novels, I didn't picture Holden as particularly charming. I certainly didn't see him as looking as attractive as Steven Strait. I always saw Holden as this kinda average looking dude.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Thirty-Eight posted:

"Miller," Holden said. "Everything okay?"

"Yeah. Great. But I need to talk to your Fred guy. Can you arrange that?"
Wait, what?

Omi: "Wait, Miller doesn’t know who Fred Johnson is? What the gently caress, is this dude a big dude or not?"

Miller tells Holden he knows where the station is.

They all go see Fred. Miller has this strangely naive moment where he's like, whaaat, Fred the Inner fighting against the inner planets? What a world.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Thirty-Eight posted:

It wasn't what he would have expected. But maybe that was shortsighted. He was seeing the thing the way Shaddid and Protogen did. There were two sides fighting - that was true enough - but they weren't the inner planets versus the Belters. They were the people who thought it was a good idea to kill people who looked or acted differently against the people who didn't.
The thing about The Expanse is that... Look, this is pretty naive of Miller, in a way. He's been a hardbitten space cop for a long while now, and I feel like he should know the world isn't that simple. But this might just be my own biases talking, where I'd argue it's more that the Belters are poor and isolated than the fact that they look different as the reason that Protogen is doing what they're doing.

The thing about these novels is that they're shallow. This isn't a bad thing, and they do nicely with it now and again, but I don't think you can encapsulate an issue like Eros as simply as 'Belters have big heads, massacre them for science points.'

Miller wants to know Fred has the resources to take out the Protogen science station. Unless Fred prove he can, no dice. Miller won't get people killed for nothing.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Thirty-Eight posted:

"Miller?" Naomi said. "You know who Fred is, right?"

"The Tycho mouthpiece for the OPA," Miller said. "That doesn't draw a whole lot of water with me."

"He's Fred Johnson," Holden said.

Fred's eyebrows rose another millimeter. Miller frowned and crossed his arms.

"Colonel Frederick Lucius Johnson," Naomi said, clarifying.

Miller blinked. "The Butcher of Anderson Station?" he said.
Really?

Anyway, Fred says they have a freighter packed with enough troops and a cutting-edge escort - the Rocinante. Miller demands to be part of the ground crew, mainly because he wants to kill Dresden. The meeting ends and Holden is, like, to Miller: I really thought you knew who he was, bro. It feels like this comedy beat but it also feels really artificial.

Eight days later, they're ready to go. Havelock's right, the freighter is there, etc. Miller realizes he's going to miss the Rocinante crew and it's a nice moment. What Miller will do after Thoth Station, he doesn't even know.

He bumps into Holden. Miller says goodbye and for Holden to tell the others. Holden is like, buddy, where should we meet up? Holden thinks Miller is part of the crew. It's another great moment, and Miller even cries. He goes off to get ready for the Thoth assault.

Omi: "Holden assuming that Miller is part of the crew is a really nice touch, and Miller genuinely having an emotional reaction to it is the closest I think LW ever gets to a heartwarming moment. It’d be a shame if anything happened to ruin that…"

Khizan
Jul 30, 2013



Milkfred E. Moore posted:

Miller is drinking bourbon. I wonder again what we're supposed to take from this, with the bit where Miller had kicked the alcohol but then found Julie dead in the shower.

I don't think it's particularly clear what we're supposed to take from it, because it's all transpired without much thought on Miller's part - that is to say, returning to the drink. We know the loss of Julie hit him hard. Chapter 22 is the chapter where he didn't think drinking appealing to him anymore, but it was the same chapter where he took an unknown drink from an Eros waitress. He only 'pretends' to sip at it, but...

I don't know why I'm wondering about this, why I have such a focus on it. Maybe it's because it's one of the few notes of character development we've had. Miller was a joke of an alcoholic, he got sober to crack one last case (or even only because he thought it might impress Julie) but then fell back into the bottle when he found Julie dead in the shower. But it doesn't feel right, if that makes sense. It feels opaque.

Miller sobered up when he was on the hunt. He had poo poo to do and he had to be sharp. Now the poo poo's done. He knows what happened to her, he knows why it happened, he knows who was responsible, and he knows the plan to go after them. Now all he has to do is make sure that he's in killing condition when the plan goes down, and that's never been a problem for him. He can relax again.

Also, I think LW feels more like Miller's story because Miller is just a stronger character with a better writer. Honestly, I really want to read the alternate universe Expanse where Miller is the one that survives.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Khizan posted:

Miller sobered up when he was on the hunt. He had poo poo to do and he had to be sharp. Now the poo poo's done. He knows what happened to her, he knows why it happened, he knows who was responsible, and he knows the plan to go after them. Now all he has to do is make sure that he's in killing condition when the plan goes down, and that's never been a problem for him. He can relax again.

Also, I think LW feels more like Miller's story because Miller is just a stronger character with a better writer. Honestly, I really want to read the alternate universe Expanse where Miller is the one that survives.

Yeah, this is all true. Like I said, it's easy to see what's happening. But personally, I think a story with A-B protagonists like this - especially ones who have such different world views and histories - only does better when it really delves into their mindsets. I'd like to see the moments where Miller decides to stop drinking, and the moment where he crawls back into the bottle. I think people would say that the novels just aren't psychological dramas like that, which might be true, but I don't think they're really the action adventure novels they're sold as either. With Miller especially, we got so much day-to-day stuff on Ceres that just felt rather inconsequential, for example. And the actioning and adventuring has been fairly sparse. It's a lot of talking in and around spaceships.

The opacity of Miller's internal thoughts, however, is part of the reason why I think so many people love Amos' chapters in the later novels. Because the Corey style and voice works really well with the character who isn't really capable of introspection and doesn't have much ability to self-reflect on his own emotional intelligence. I can buy that Amos is as distant to himself as he reads to us, if that makes sense.

It's also why I think the TV series works better than the books, especially LW. Both Steven Strait and Thomas Jane (especially the latter) really give good performances that give us an idea of the characters and their thoughts and feelings. Independent of the changes to the plot, the cast just generally gets the characters.

An alternate universe where Miller is haunted by the idealistic ghost-consciousness of Holden would be wonderful. "Gotta get the coffee" instead of "Gotta crack the case" or whatever.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Chapter Thirty-Nine - Holden

This is a really solid opening. I really like it. Basically, we get an overview of the plan to strike Thoth Station. The Rocinante will go into an uncontrolled tumble towards it while the Guy Molinari, the troop transport freighter, lies that its a cargo container that's been blasted free accidentally. They're going with this plan because of the belief that any ship skulking around Thoth Station would probably get blasted anyway - so, by playing dumb (and loud) it might confuse Thoth.

It's maybe a little bit long, but I'd dare say it's one of the best chapter openings in LW yet. I also like the little bit about Holden having dated a Buddhist and how he doesn't think death without warning is preferable. I like the stuff about them flying dark with only an old mechanical watch of Alex's as their guide.

Omi: "I never get tired of the military sci-fi thing where you hurl your ship at a thing, then turn everything off and play dead."

Holden reflects on the plan. When the Rocinante gets close, they'll boot the ship up and attack. The Molinari (which I keep reading as Mollari) will board the station. Holden knows it isn't much of a plan, because the station might just decide to blow up the hurtling Roci. Or the Molinari might not be able to jam Thoth. Or the assault time might get slaughtered. Holden notes that even the best Earth marines range about 60% casualties during a boarding op, and these guys aren't marines.

Oh, and there might be a stealth ship hanging around just above Thoth Station.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Thirty-Nine posted:

Alex had assured him that if they could get in close enough to the station, they could keep the frigate from firing at them for fear of damaging Thoth, and that the Roci’s greater maneuverability would make it more than a match for the larger and more heavily armed ship. The stealth frigates were a strategic weapon, he’d said, not a tactical one. Holden hadn’t said, Then why do they have one here?
Honestly, I feel like this is the first chapter where I've felt that Holden really was a naval officer.

They power up the Roci, the stealth ship matches them. The Rocinante slams on the space brakes.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Thirty-Nine posted:

Holden thought he could actually feel his lungs scraping the inside of his rib cage as his chest did its best to collapse. But the chair pulled him into a soft gel-filled embrace, and the drugs kept his heart beating and his brain processing. He didn’t black out. If the high-g maneuvering killed him, he’d be wide awake and lucid for the entire thing.

His helmet filled with the sound of gurgling and labored breathing, only some of which was his own. Amos managed part of a curse before his jaw was clamped shut. Holden couldn’t hear the Roci shuddering with the strain of her course change, but he could feel it through the seat. She was tough. Tougher than any of them. They’d be long dead before the ship pulled enough g’s to hurt itself.
But then there's a problem. It's not just one stealth ship - it's two!

The Rocinante opens up on the stealth ships. The Protogen craft are faster but their guns are spinal - they can only fire forwards. A whole bunch of space fighting stuff happens a whole lot of space fighting lingo gets thrown around. I don't have much to say about it - it's good. It's better than the Eros fighting stuff and way better than the Donnager gunfight. Omi has thoughts:

"This has a lot of the same elements I enjoyed during the Donnager battle, where the crew has very limited information and are basically extrapolating what might be happening based on context and what they know about the plan. I really liked this battle sequence, but I also don’t have much to say about it- it’s a decently well-written brawl between two fast ships in close quarters. Guns get fired, torpedoes blast around, dudes yell things and explosions happen."

There's a lot of stuff I like about it, but I think I'll single out the bit where Amos gets his ribs broken due to not being secured when the Rocinante is dodging all over the place. That bit of personal danger really adds a lot of tension to the fight. It's really cool. A lot of writers might think the battle was tension enough, but it's a really cool bit of information that factors into the 'hard' nature of space travel in these novels.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Thirty-Nine posted:

“Amos, get back to your crash couch!” Naomi said.

“Sorry, Boss,” Amos replied with a grunt as he yanked one end of the broken pipe free. “If I don’t fix this and we lose pressure, Alex won’t be able to turn to starboard anymore. Bet that’ll gently caress us up good.”
But then!

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Thirty-Nine posted:

Holden’s console threw him out of the scope view and back to the tactical view automatically. The Roci’s torpedo flew toward the fighter at almost the same instant that the fighter opened up with its cannon. The display showed the incoming rounds as small red dots moving too fast to follow.

“Incom—” he shouted, and the Rocinante came apart around him.

Unfortunately, this isn't where the chapter ends. Both Omi and I think it should've ended here. His thoughts: "Then Miller can do his ground assault, they can hear about how messed-up the space battle is over the radio, and chapter 41 can start with Holden regaining consciousness and asking for a status report."

I think that would've been an interesting tension to have hanging over Chapter Forty. Instead, Holden wakes up and the Rocinante is pretty banged up but okay. Everyone's alive, and the OPA strike force is about to hit Thoth.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Chapter Fo(u)rty - Miller

Apparently, Omi's copy of Leviathan Wakes has Forty as Fourty. Weird.

So, Miller's riding in a crash couch as the Guy Mollinari burns towards Thoth Station, packed with about a hundred Belters. Next to him is a Belter kid named Diogo, who is basically an idiot teenager bristling with machismo. He's a very fun character and the adaptation nailed him perfectly.

Miller doesn't like him much, though.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty posted:

No one on Mars or Earth would have the first clue what you're saying, Miller thought. poo poo, half the people on Ceres would be embarrassed by an accent that thick. No wonder they don't mind killing you.
Ouch, Miller. He has the thought that he's seen thousands of kids like Diogo, arrested hundreds. A few dozen got picked up in hazmat bags.

Diogo and Miller chat for a bit. Miller is in no shape for the assault, but he reckons he has more tactical knowledge from his cop days than anyone the OPA selected for the assault does. He's basically hallucinating Julie constantly now, and believes that Julie would've strapped on the armor, picked up a gun, and been part of the assault force. Miller thinks that he has "become" her.

Yeah.

Omi: "Julie’s hallucinations are quickly escalating from meh to 'Holy poo poo Miller, get thee to a therapist.'"

They breach the station. The first line of OPA soldiers are cut down by a defensive laser, and the OPA guys foul up the atmosphere with smoke to disrupt the beam. It's pretty cool, all in all. The assault team presses on. Thoth Station is a really nice place - spacious corridors, heaps of greenery, bonsai trees, even carpet. It's like a spa or mansion.

I like the dynamic of this chapter. Basically, you've got Miller - sickly and maybe out of his mind - teamed up with a bunch of Diogos who Fred Johnson has to keep on a tight leash against the Protogen guys, who've been established as pretty competent.

For a lot of it, Fred is providing personal tactical oversight to the attackers. Omi wonders if this is the smartest thing for the political face of the OPA to do. It works for the story, of course, what with him being the Butcher of Anderson Station and having experience, but I can see the point that maybe Fred would do it through a proxy or something. For all they know, Protogen could have UN backing, right?

Anyway, the OPA strikeforce presses on. Protogen tries to funnel them into kill boxes but the OPA guys break out. At some point, unarmored and unarmed civilians charge the OPA guys and get mowed down. Miller has a bit of a problem with that, but then Head Julie says no one here is innocent.

Diogo finds Miller again. Miller wonders what's going on - the place looks like a spa but has guard towers and blockades like a prison. Then Diogo gets shot in the face, but he's okay and he's laughing. Turns out the Protogen guys are using stun rounds, which just adds to Miller's confusion about the place.

Omi wonders if the assault really could be so effortless. Like, the OPA basically steamrolls past everything except the defense laser, but I think that's the point. The Protogen guys relied purely on their secrecy. It's a minor quibble, all in all. Maybe it falls into the pattern of Expanse bad guys being foiled by hubris.

The OPA cut their way into the operations deck. Miller barges in and says:

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty posted:

"You're under arrest!" Miller shouted as the OPA soldiers boiled in around him. "Well, no you're not, but... poo poo. Put your hands up and back away from the controls!"
Which is a fun little bit.

Someone who Miller identifies as Mr. Dresden tells the Protogen crew to comply. He's tall, solidly built, and wearing a good suit. His eyebrows are "carefully shaped." I think he's one of the few big differences in the casting of the TV adaptation.

Then Fred arrives. Miller draws the note of interest between the Earther who took a space station and "waded up to his knees" in dead Belters, but now he's taking an Earther station with Belter men and women. Miller calls it absolution and wonders if he'll ever have that feeling.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty posted:

Dresden unfolded from his chair, ignoring the sidearms and assault weapons as if such things didn't apply to him.

"Colonel Johnson," Dresden said. "I should have expected that a man of your caliber would be behind all this. My name is Dresden."

He handed Fred a matte black business card. Fred took it as if by reflex but didn't look at it.
I won't say Dresden is an interesting character because he's not. I think the TV series adaptation virtually turns him inside out, for better or worse. Book Dresden makes me think of one of the guys from Mad Men. Slick, confident, scummy. A company man. Omi sums him up as a "sleazy executive." The kind of guy who thinks he has every i dotted and t crossed and, a lot of the time, he probably does. Book Dresden feels a bit like a caricature at points and TV Dresden is... different.

The thing about Dresden is that he is the first of what I think one of the more intriguing issues The Expanse has across its run as a novel series. That almost any antagonist of note can be summed up as: a corporate guy with sociopathic tendencies who isn't as smart as he thinks he is.

As the series goes on, they just swap out the corporate descriptor for something else - revolutionary, authoritarian, whatever. But I think just about every major antagonist of note can be pretty safely summed up by that descriptor - Dresden, Mao, Murtry, Marco, Singh, Duarte. The only one I'm not sure about is Ashford, because I've only actually read Abaddon's Gate once. I think it's pretty intentional, but it's also part of the reason why I had moments of dissatisfaction with the later books. But more on that later.

Dresden wants to negotiate terms with Fred. Dresden points out something Omi brought up - that Fred has attacked a station aligned with one of the most powerful corporations on Earth. If Fred tries to hold it, there'll be a reprisal. Perhaps in the form of a "few dozen battleships."

Basically, he'll offer Fred anything, assuming Fred just wants things that'll help him in the war against Mars. Fred brings up Eros but Dresden is like no one cares about Eros, buddy. Dresden will give Fred anything, providing he fucks off and lets them get back to their mad science.

I'm paraphrasing here.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty posted:

"Let me get this straight," he said. "You'll give me all the kingdoms of the Earth if I just bow down and do one act of worship for you?"

Dresden cocked his head. "I don't know the reference."
Most people can probably guess the reference here, but, if you can't, it's Biblical. Book of Matthew, when Satan tempted Jesus. See what I mean about that feeling of Dresden as a bit of a caricature? He's Satan but he's so soulless he doesn't note a reference to the Bible!

And that's about where the chapter ends.

Speaking of references, though, there's something intriguing about the mad science sociopath guy sharing a name with an infamous atrocity from World War 2.

TV Adaptation

I won't talk about the whole thing - I'll leave that for the bigger post at the end, but I want to talk about TV Dresden. Did anyone picture Dresden like this?


Daniel Kash as Antony Dresden

I feel safe to say that most people reading Leviathan Wakes for the first time pictured someone like Mad Men's Don Draper. So, it's interesting that the TV series made him this portly, average-looking guy with a bit of a paunch and some baldness. His attitude is different, too. Less of a "sleazy executive" and more of a zealous scientist. Less of a boss and more of a middle manager. I think in the next chapter, from memory, Holden flat out calls him handsome and good-looking.

There's a lot of reasons for a change like this, really. Could be that they wanted to change Dresden conceptually. Could be that they wanted to make him less of a caricature. Could be they didn't want their evil scientist to fall into the Don Draper trap where people think he's someone to emulate because he's cool and handsome. Who knows.

Sarern
Nov 4, 2008


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



Milkfred E. Moore posted:

I won't say Dresden is an interesting character because he's not. I think the TV series adaptation virtually turns him inside out, for better or worse. Book Dresden makes me think of one of the guys from Mad Men. Slick, confident, scummy. A company man. Omi sums him up as a "sleazy executive." The kind of guy who thinks he has every i dotted and t crossed and, a lot of the time, he probably does. Book Dresden feels a bit like a caricature at points and TV Dresden is... different.

The thing about Dresden is that he is the first of what I think one of the more intriguing issues The Expanse has across its run as a novel series. That almost any antagonist of note can be summed up as: a corporate guy with sociopathic tendencies who isn't as smart as he thinks he is.

As the series goes on, they just swap out the corporate descriptor for something else - revolutionary, authoritarian, whatever. But I think just about every major antagonist of note can be pretty safely summed up by that descriptor - Dresden, Mao, Murtry, Marco, Singh, Duarte. The only one I'm not sure about is Ashford, because I've only actually read Abaddon's Gate once. I think it's pretty intentional, but it's also part of the reason why I had moments of dissatisfaction with the later books. But more on that later.

I'm interested to see what you all think when you and Omi get to those later points. I certainly can't argue with the description. I definitely can't argue against the use of broad brushes throughout the series, although I think they get finer as the series continues. I read these villains as sort-of funhouse Marlovian villians: their reach barely exceeds their grasp, their callous villainy can be exciting to watch, but the authors have mostly not made them sympathetic. I wonder if that was on purpose, if the authors wanted to avoid readers saying "This Dresden guy has it figured out," the way some viewers famously did for Rick from Rick and Morty. But like you all have said, Leviathan Wakes is a crude first effort and I think that could have been accidental.

This particular dislike of yours is my favorite thing about the series: throughout the series, there is a continuum of callousness toward other humans (we can call it sociopathy but I don't want to conflate character traits with a real condition). Each plotline has characters stake out different visions of callousness and world order (e.g. we have Amos, who submits to the party paladin most of the time, unlike the antagonists who try to dominate), and each plot line ends in a defeat of the antagonist's vision by the Rocinante crew's vision, which insists on autonomy for people and rejects domination. It feels like a southwestern-US 'you leave me alone, I'll leave you alone' libertarianism versus other ideologies. I'm making it sound flat, and sometimes it is, but I appreciate when this conflict is complicated by characters making other decisions based on who they are, such as (books 5/6 spoilers) Marco gradually abandoning his fig leaf of rebellion to be a stalker ex-boyfriend. At the beginning it seems all about the rebellion, at the end it's all about the stalking. When does that change? Or did it not change, was the truth simply revealed? I'm a sucker for people making decisions based on who they are, and it's no surprise books 5 and 6 are my favorites in the series.

I'm sure there will be plenty of other discussion about series villains, and I see where people are coming from. Sympathetic villains are awesome, and these books don't really have them. But I think there's plenty of room for non-sympathetic villains as well. Not every antagonist needs to be Lucifer from Paradise Lost. Iago was pretty good too.

Milkfred E. Moore posted:

I'm paraphrasing here.

Most people can probably guess the reference here, but, if you can't, it's Biblical. Book of Matthew, when Satan tempted Jesus. See what I mean about that feeling of Dresden as a bit of a caricature? He's Satan but he's so soulless he doesn't note a reference to the Bible!

Bible references are common enough in American media, but since I can only recall a few explicitly Christian characters(Anna and presumably her family, the other preachers in Abaddon's gate, the never-seen Mormons Fred steals a giant ship from), I wonder if this reference would be more obscure to in-universe characters than it is to the readers. On the other hand, even the best of the novels use a fairly broad brush, so I think maybe I'm reading that into the text.

On the other, other hand, this on-the-nose moment indicates what is to come throughout the series. It is essentially the bargain posed by each of the antagonists you mentioned. Whether it's (book 4) Murtry offering to not-kill people in return for abject submission, (books 5/6)Marco offering system domination in return for instant acceptance of his constantly changing goals, and submission to his authority (see his reaction to Pa's rebellion), (book 7) Singh offering the Murtry deal, but this time with a flag instead of a corporation, (book 8)Duarte offering what looks like competent authoritarianism at first, in return for... abject submission. Coming back to personal characteristics complicating this political argument, I really, really like that he thinks he has it figured out, and fails to recognize that the killer aliens are already negotiating with humanity by eating ships when certain conditions are met. This results in the collapse of his empire as he mis-negotiates, and it's mirrored by him being traumatized into not recognizing his daughter, soon after which she decides to abandon him and flees. I like parallel structure as much as the next person, so I'm willing to look past the fact that Dresden is a caricature.

Omi no Kami
Feb 19, 2014




Something really weird about the Expanse books is that they're more towards the popcorn thriller end of the spectrum than deep, thoughtfully commentaries on anything, but they're also way more anchored in talking and thinking than action, and it's in the slow sections that they tend to shine the brightest. So, like, on one hand it makes sense for bad guys to be evil corporate sociopath men- hell, I know if I saw an army of Don Draper clones wearing stormtrooper armor I'd run the heck away. But at the same time, so much of the ambiance and general flow of the novels is built around contemplation and discussion that I keep wishing they were given more interesting antagonists to think and talk about. At least for me, it's enough of a problem that the shallow antagonists are maybe the one explicitly noticeable, bordering on bad speedbump that I hit every book. (Abaddon's Gate was probably the worst for me, I found the crazy evil captain man an utterly uninteresting antagonist.)

This is getting into straight-up fanfiction territory, but I almost wish that they'd gone one step more abstract, and made the inescapable compromises that come with high office the real antagonist. Like, Avasarala was great in Caliban's War, the story very effectively sold her as a well-intentioned politician who wasn't above doing awful poo poo when she felt it was necessary... so how cool would it have been for her to play an antagonistic role in Abaddon's Gate, not because she changed but simply because she and Holden were on opposite sides of that particular problem? Between Earth, Mars, and the Belt, you could pretty much cycle through all of the major political leaders across several books, and it'd be an interesting foil to see the idealistic and inflexible Holden coming to terms with the fact that even though he wanted to live in a black & white world, his definitions were built a lot more strongly around who opposed him in particular than on any overarching ethical or moral framework.

I dunno, I could see that getting tired and exhausting over time, but I think it'd be pretty neat.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


I generally agree with those points, Sarern, and consider one of the strengths of the book series as being its consistency. It's part of the reason why I really like Cibola Burn with how it takes the 'formula' of the novels but strips the crew away from their starship. Gone is the scenario where the bad guy is some mastermind figure and, in return, it's just some thug with a gun. Really, to me, Cibola Burn would've made the perfect epilogue to the first three novels.

Chapter Forty-One - Holden

So, the crippled Rocinante has managed to dock on Thoth Station, and the crew is clambering across to go see what's going on. The ship has been beaten to hell and back, and Holden is pretty bloodied up himself.

Omi: "Seeing the Rocinante get shot up feels bad - it’s a good way to maintain tension and stakes without actually mercing main characters left and right."

Of course, I think it's lessened slightly by the agreement with Fred to patch the ship up and handle costs and such, but this chapter does make you feel for Holden and his ship.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-One posted:

They’d won. They’d flown right up to Protogen, taken everything the evil bastards could throw at them, and bloodied their noses. Even now OPA soldiers were storming their station, shooting the people who’d helped kill Eros.

Holden decided that he was okay with not feeling any remorse for them. The moral complexity of the situation had grown past his ability to process it, so he just relaxed in the warm glow of victory instead.
I appreciate that Holden has moments like this. It's not particularly deep but I do like this part of his character. Turns out, below the surface, he's actually kinda okay with hurting people.

The crew hook themselves to Amos and they go from the Roci to Thoth. There, they head up to Ops at Fred's request. Amos and Holden briefly chat about the wounds they've sustained, and there's the little mention that it's been months since the Donnager attack. I like how the novels do things with the passage of time like this. Space is big.

There's a bit where Naomi very obviously flirts with Holden about his broken nose. It's a nice bit, but it just draws Holden's moping and maudlin 'Naomi will never be my friend again!' thoughts into stark relief. Like, Holden, all Naomi said was 'If you want to bang, I don't want to be one of your conquests,' and she's still been pretty nice to you ever since! You're not a surly teen!

They pass a bunch of corpses. Holden alternates between feeling bad for the Belter casualties and wanting to spit on the Protogen corpses - especially the scientists. Weird that the brainiacs charged the OPA guys with kitchen knives, though. But before Holden can wonder further about that, they've reached Ops.

A small thing I'll note here. The 'ranking' OPA trooper refers to Fred as 'General.' I think it happened a few times in the last Miller chapter, too. But Fred Johnson is a Colonel and he resigned from the UN military. So, why do they call him General? Is it just a bit of a nickname or term of endearment? Aren't General and Colonel from different branches of the (modern-day) military? I'm not a big military buff, but it's something that stood out to me.

Anyway, Holden enters the ops center, right as Dresden says he doesn't get the reference.

Turns out Dresden - Antony Dresden - is Vice President of Bio Research for Protogen, and the guy who came up with the Eros project. Dresden tries to shake Holden's hand and call him Jim, and Holden's not having any of that.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-One posted:

“Antony, you need to shut the gently caress up,” Holden said, surprised by the sudden flush of anger. Dresden looked disappointed.

The bastard had no right to be comfortable. Condescending. Holden wanted the man terrified, begging for his life, not sneering behind his cultured accent.

“Amos, if he talks to me again without being told to, break his jaw.”

“My pleasure, Captain,” Amos said, and took half a step forward.

Dresden smirked at the ham-fisted threat but kept his mouth shut.
That last line is a fun one to ponder. Is that Holden recognizing his own threat is ham-fisted? Is it the author slipping up a little? Is it a little double entendre referring to their habit of referring to Amos as meaty or beefy?

Holden looks at Dresden.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-One posted:

Holden turned to look at Dresden again, taking in the blue blood European good looks, the gym-sculpted physique, the expensive haircut. Even now, surrounded by men with guns, Dresden managed to look like he was in charge. Holden could imagine him glancing down at his watch and wondering how much more of his expensive time this boarding party was going to take.
Dresden's a good looking dude, basically. There's something funny about this hot, rich guy being maybe the most detailed description we get of someone from Holden's perspective.

Anyway, Holden asks Dresden a simple question: why.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-One posted:

‘Why’ is a very big question,” Dresden said. “Because God wanted it that way? Or perhaps you want to narrow it for me.”

“Why Eros?”

“Well, Jim—”

“You can call me Captain Holden. I’m the guy that found your lost ship, so I’ve seen the video from Phoebe. I know what the protomolecule is.”

“Really!” Dresden said, his smile becoming half a degree more genuine. “I have you to thank for turning the viral agent over to us on Eros. Losing the Anubis was going to put our timeline back months. Finding the infected body already there on the station was a godsend.”
Basically, Dresden lays everything out: the protomolecule is the most important thing to happen to the whole human race, it's proof that we're not alone, and that physics isn't such a hard limit. Why did they kill a million and a half people? Well, Genghis Khan killed way more than that and his achievement fell apart when he died. Compared to that, and the benefit the protomolecule could represent, Dresden just calls Eros a rounding error.

Omi wonders: "Dresden feels almost cartoonishly evil. It’s weird how gleeful he is to establish that he doesn’t consider 1.5 million lives lost to be a big deal."

Oh, and I'll just remind everyone that Holden has a busted nose in this whole bit so, like, try to imagine what he sounds like saying all this. The novel lampshades it but, I mean, still...

Dresden admits Protogen wants power, but that's also not their goal. "Building humanity’s greatest empire is like building the world’s largest anthill," Dresden says. Because out there is the civilization that made the protomolecule, and they used it on Earth over two billion years ago. if they were gods back then, who knows what they are now?

The protomolecule, Dresden says, can alter any organism at the molecular level. It's basically a computer program, a machine, and they can learn to control it. They thought it needed significant mass to build up enough processing power to actually achieve anything, which Eros allowed them. With that data, they can control it.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-One posted:

“Then everything. Belters who can work outside a ship without wearing a suit. Humans capable of sleeping for hundreds of years at a time flying colony ships to the stars. No longer being bound to the millions of years of evolution inside one atmosphere of pressure at one g, slaves to oxygen and water. We decide what we want to be, and we reprogram ourselves to be that. That’s what the protomolecule gives us.”

Dresden had stood back up as he’d delivered this speech, his face shining with the zeal of a prophet.

“What we are doing is the best and only hope of humanity’s survival. When we go out there, we will be facing gods.”
Interesting note there - especially coming off that discussion about parallel structures - is that the last line from Dresden there will be echoed by Duerte at the end of Book 7.

Omi wonders why Dresden didn't make a more direct appeal to Fred Johnson: "I don’t feel like any reasonable person who has watched this interaction would be okay dealing with him. I think his negotiation should’ve been much more directed: 'You’re Fred Johnson, the OPA bigshot? Well, how would you like a line of immortal soldiers? One of your militias could take an entire station by themselves after they’ve been enhanced- imagine how much safety and security you could carve out with a whole army.'"

Holden's not sure about one thing - how did you get all these people to do it? What, Holden wonders, did Protogen round up every serial killer in the system and put them through a Masters?

Dresden says they modified the science team to remove any ethical restraints.

It's a funny thing, that. Maybe I'm a cynic, but I feel like you wouldn't need to do that. I mean, throughout human history, there've been all sorts of people who'll do terrible things while explaining it away as just their job or they were ignorant or whatever.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-One posted:

“Sociopaths,” he said. “You turned them into sociopaths.”

“High-functioning sociopaths,” Dresden said with a nod. He seemed pleased to explain it. “And extremely curious ones. As long as we kept them supplied with interesting problems to solve and unlimited resources, they remained quite content.”
Was it that Sherlock series on the BBC that coined the term 'high-functioning sociopath?' Anyway, it's a very Wattsian thing to show up in The Expanse novels.

Interestingly, I recall reading a post on these forums about the obsession the novels have with the idea of sociopathy, and how they posit that 'best' kind of person is essentially Amos - a near-sociopath who can do whatever must be done but is guided by a morally sound person like Holden.

Then Dresden brings up one of the most common political hypothetical since the end of the Second World War - would you throw away valuable scientific data gained from atrocity? If they waste the data, Eros wouldn't have just been an atrocity, but actively pointless. Or... they can negotiate a price, and everyone can leave satisfied.

Except one person.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-One posted:

“Okay. That’s enough,” Miller said, speaking for the first time since Dresden had begun his pitch. Holden glanced over at the detective. His flat expression had gone stony. He wasn’t tapping the barrel of his pistol against his leg.

Oh, poo poo.
One thing I'll talk about here, however briefly, is what I think one of the particular strengths of Leviathan Wakes is - the ideas.

The 'hard' sci-fi setting is cool, we all get that. But the stuff we've learned since leaving Eros is really neat. The stuff about Titan being an extrasolar weapon delivery system was great. The stuff from Dresden here about there maybe being some species out there that, inadvertently or otherwise, tried to wipe out humanity before it ever existed... It's all really interesting. I think this sort of sci-fi mythology does a lot of the heavy lifting for Leviathan Wakes. The characters are a bit threadbare, the plotting starts strong but gets janky, vomit zombies, etc. etc. But even on this, my third readthrough, we get to those explanations and I'm like, man, that's cool.

Whether the later novels deliver adequately on the more cosmic side of these stories is another question, and probably won't be answered until the final novel releases.

tokenbrownguy
Apr 1, 2010





Milkfred E. Moore posted:

Chapter Fo(u)rty - Miller

So, Miller's riding in a crash couch as the Guy Mollinari burns towards Thoth Station, packed with about a hundred Belters. Next to him is a Belter kid named Diogo, who is basically an idiot teenager bristling with machismo. He's a very fun character and the adaptation nailed him perfectly.

One of my favorite Miller moments is this moment in the TV show. He's trying to play haggard-cop and blow off Diogo, then loses his lunch in front of the whole assault team. Really good reminder that he's surrounded by OPA soldier-insurgents who make his cop training look like a joke when it comes to storming stations. A best he's a city-Belter who can use a gun, not the crazy, rock-hopping mad folks that make up the core of the OPA forces.

Crazycryodude
Aug 15, 2015

Lets get our X tons of Duranium back!

....Is that still a valid thing to jingoistically blow out of proportion?











General is usually the rank(s) above colonel, maybe Fred is actually a general in the OPA paramilitary but I don't think they're that organized, it's probably just a (maybe tongue-in-cheek) term of endearment they use for him because he's in charge.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


tokenbrownguy posted:

One of my favorite Miller moments is this moment in the TV show. He's trying to play haggard-cop and blow off Diogo, then loses his lunch in front of the whole assault team. Really good reminder that he's surrounded by OPA soldier-insurgents who make his cop training look like a joke when it comes to storming stations. A best he's a city-Belter who can use a gun, not the crazy, rock-hopping mad folks that make up the core of the OPA forces.

It's interesting, too, because it's kind of like that bit where Miller's story in the first few chapters becomes something he did in the first episode. In the books, Miller is of the opinion that the OPA guys are all flunkies and he's basically the grizzled vet. Is that true, or just in Miller's head? Meanwhile, the TV series makes it clear that the OPA guys might be a bunch of Diogos (who crush rear end to dust) they're more like insurgents than civilians.

Crazycryodude posted:

General is usually the rank(s) above colonel, maybe Fred is actually a general in the OPA paramilitary but I don't think they're that organized, it's probably just a (maybe tongue-in-cheek) term of endearment they use for him because he's in charge.

Interesting, thanks! I suppose I figure that Fred wouldn't want to be associated with a military title when he's, well, The Butcher of Anderson Station but he probably can't do much about what amounts to a pet name. I don't think anyone uses it in his presence, come to think of it.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Chapter Forty-Two - Miller

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Two posted:

Dresden didn't see it coming. Even as Miller raised the pistol, the man's eyes didn't register a threat.
I've been waiting for this line. Why? Because I think this is one of the worst opening lines in Leviathan Wakes. Maybe even the whole of the novel series. Even since I first read LW, it's stuck out to me as an annoying line. To sum it up, the line bothers me because the man who doesn't register the threat could be Dresden or it could be Miller. Like, this could be third-person omniscient and some unknown third party is about to blow Miller's head off.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Two posted:

All he saw was Miller with an object in his hand that happened to be a gun. A dog would have known to be scared, but not Dresden.
There was a post I remembered and went and looked up, so I could attribute a thought I had on this line more properly. Turns out, it comes from Sarern!

Sarern posted:

Dresden is compared unfavorably to a dog just before the weary detective shoots him, which makes me curious how Miller, a Belter, knows what dogs would do. I doubt he's ever seen one. Like, an actual dog, not a picture of one. Dude lives on a space station.
Omi says: "It’s a little weird to me that Dresden doesn’t consider the grumpy guy pointing a gun at him to be threatening - does the surgery make them sociopaths, emotionless, or just really unobservant?"

I can't recall if Dresden got the surgery. Later in this chapter, Miller implies that he did, but I figured it was just the scientists.

Anyway, despite these little nitpicks, I think this bit is one of the best parts of the first novel.

Miller shoots Holden as the latter shouts "Don't!" Miller pops Dresden in the head and then, after a moment, twice in the chest. No one knows what to do. The OPA soldiers are surprised and flatfooted, Naomi and Amos are looking to Holden, and Holden is pissed.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Two posted:

Doing the obvious thing still wasn't natural for Holden. There had been a time when it hadn't come so easily for Miller either.

Only Fred didn't flinch or look nervous. The colonel didn't smile or frown, and he didn't look away.

"What the gently caress was that?" Holden said through his blood-plugged nose. "You shot him in cold blood!"

"Yeah," Miller said.

Holden shook his head. "What about a trial? What about justice? You just decide, and that's the way it goes?"

"I'm a cop," Miller said, surprised by the apology in his voice.

"Are you even human anymore?"
That last line is a tad too melodramatic, even for Holden, and Omi agrees: "Holden’s anger feels a little over-the-top to me. I get where he’s coming from- killing dudes is not okay, especially when it’s not in self-defense. But I would’ve expected “Holy poo poo, Miller!”, not 'Ohhhh myyyy goooood!' I do like how Miller’s defense is 'I’m a cop, that means murdering him was justice.'"

Fred shrugs it off and tells people to get back to work. Holden tells Miller to find his own way home, and I like that it's that moment which causes Miller to feel bad about it. But Fred's happy to take Miller back to Tycho.

Omi would like to point out that despite being shot three times, including once in the head, Dresden doesn't actually die immediately. "I like how Miller feels worse about losing his kinda-almost friends than he does about straight-up mercing some dude in cold blood."

The OPA sets about clearing out Thoth Station. It takes them forty hours to lock the place down, and Miller does prisoner duty for a lot of it. The OPA guys are well-intentioned, according to him, but they're never taken captives before and so didn't know how to cuff someone so they can't just slip out. Miller outlines how you do some of it. It's a nice moment that feels almost relaxing for Miller after his execution of Dresden.

The OPA don't just lock Thoth down, though, they strip it for everything of value. When Earth finds out about it, there'll be nothing left to recover. Protogen might find out sooner but, hey, that's for Fred to worry about.

Miller wonders about that word: posthuman.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Two posted:

It was a word that came up in the media every five or six years, and it meant different things every time. Neural regrowth hormone? Posthuman. Sex robots with inbuilt pseudo intelligence? Posthuman. Self-optimizing network routing? Posthuman. It was a word from advertising copy, breathless and empty, and all he'd ever thought it really meant was that the people using it had a limited imagination about what exactly humans were capable of.

Now, as he escorted a dozen captives in Protogen uniforms to a docked transport heading God-knew-where, the word was taking on new meaning.

Are you even human anymore?

All posthuman meant, literally speaking, was what you were when you weren't human anymore. Protomolecule aside, Protogen aside, Dresden and his Mengele-as-Genghis-Khan self-righteous fantasies aside, Miller thought that maybe he'd been ahead of the curve all along. Maybe he'd been posthuman for years.

It's an interesting look into some of the tech of the Solar system there. For all of its 'hard' sci-fi trappings, the universe does have some pretty neat stuff. The anti-cancer meds, for one. The limb regrowth gel that got mentioned in the first chapter. I think mention is made that the ships have pretty powerful AI, too.

Anyway, at the end of those forty hours, the OPA is bailing out of the skeleton of Thoth Station. Miller's basically out of his mind from fatigue, and he's even weeping.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Two posted:

In Miller's haze, Dresden was talking again, pouring out promises and lies, half-truths and visions. Miller could see the words themselves like a dark smoke, coalescing into the spilling black filament of the protomolecule. The threads of it were reaching toward Holden, Amos, Naomi. He tried to find his gun, to stop it, to do the obvious thing. His despairing shout woke him, and he remembered he'd already won.

Julie sat beside him, her hand cool against his forehead. Her smile was gentle, understanding. Forgiving.

Sleep, she said, and his mind fell into the deep black.

Omi wonders why Miller is replaying that as his nightmare and not, say, Holden dumping him like trash. "Unless I’m reading this wrong he feels bad about losing his friends, not about murdering that guy."

Ten days later, Miller is back on Tycho and he is, strangely enough, living with Diogo in his tiny apartment. But not for long, Miller is pretty sure Diogo is kicking him out. Miller considers himself homeless. But Fred Johnson did pay him for his time on Thoth, and Miller has a brief moment where he enjoys the irony that he and Shaddid are back on the same payroll.

Omi: "I like how after Miller crashes, it fades back in to him and Diogo being goofy sitcom roommates. I’d straight up watch that show- Stoner and Murder Cop, one fights crime and the other has a good time! (By ‘fight crime’, I mean ‘constantly murders dudes.’ Geez, Miller.)"

There's another bit where Miller watches a news report telling us about the deteriorating Sol System. Gotta say, I think I'm going to assemble a count of these in the near future because, boy, the Coreys like this narrative technique. TL;DR: the Belters inconvenienced two Martian battleships, there might be a strike on Saturn's water harvesting operations, Earth miners had been attacked by Mars or the OPA, and the Earther blockade of Mars is getting so bad that people think it's going to set back Mars' terraforming effots back by generations...

No one mentioning Thoth Station.

Miller thinks it's only a matter of time until the Martian navy tries to break the blockade or, worse than that, goes after Earth. He spends a path reflecting at how Protogen and co. had disconnected themselves from their humanity, and Miller wonders if he's the same.

A Belter friend of Diogo's comes in. He starts drinking and Miller tells him it doesn't help. He thinks it has something to go with Thoth - maybe the kid killed someone - but it's actually something else. Something worse.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Two posted:

A huge menu of feeds appeared - video, audio, air pressure and content, radiological. It took Miller half a second to understand what he was seeing. They'd cracked the encryption on the Eros feeds.

He was looking at the protomolecule in action. He was seeing Juliette Andromeda Mao's corpse writ large. For a moment, his imagined Julie flickered beside him.

"If you ever wonder if you did the right thing shooting that guy," the kid said, "look at that."

Miller opened a feed. A long corridor, wide enough for twenty people to walk abreast. The flooring was wet and undulating like the surface of a canal. Something small rolled awkwardly through the mush. When Miller zoomed in, it was a human torso - rib cage, spine, trailing lengths of what used to be intestines and were now the long black threads of the protomolecule - pushing itself along on the stump of an arm. There was no head. The feed output bar showed there was sound, and Miller undid the mute. The high, mindless piping reminded him of mentally ill children singing to themselves.

"It's all like that," the kid said. "Whole station's crawling with... poo poo like that."



The kid had brought it to Miller, thinking he should see it.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Two posted:

"Yeah?" Miller said, his gaze nailed to the screen. "What did I ever do to you?"

The kid laughed.

"Everyone thinks you're a hero for killing that guy," the kid said. "Everyone thinks we should push every last prisoner we took off that station out an airlock."
Miller goes through the feeds a bit more. Eros is really creepy and hosed up. It's like the Zerg in Starcraft, basically. All kinds of nightmare flesh stuff.

The kid calls Miller a hero, but Miller says he's just a guy who used to be a cop.

Later, Miller goes off to a bar. It looks out over the shipyards and he can see the Rocinante, still being repaired. Amos and Naomi are there and Alex and Holden are not. Miller offers to buy them drinks. Naomi says:

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Two posted:

"Sure. Just one. We've got... that thing. For the captain."

"Oh yeah," Amos said, lying even more awkwardly than Naomi had, making his awareness of the fact part of the message. "The thing. That's important."
The trio make awkward conversation. I get the impression Naomi wants to bail without finishing the drinks. Amos sticks around, though, and delivers one of his most memorable lines:

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Two posted:

"Naomi's a good person," Amos said. "I like her, you know? Like my kid sister, only smart and I'd do her if she let me. You know?"
Omi has thoughts on it: "Wait, what the gently caress? I completely forgot about this line, and it really doesn’t work for me - maybe I’m oblivious, but I always saw Naomi and Amos as siblings or a pet and his owner, I don’t think it ever occurred to me that Amos might be interested in the deed that has no name (the name is sex)."

Personally, I think the line works better with how it's placed in the TV series - with Amos kind of telling Holden about it all flippantly - but here's where the line comes from. Having Amos just drop it on Miller doesn't work quite as well. Either way, I think it shows off how Amos' attitude to sex is a bit strange without being harmful of malignant. 'I'd have sex with her if she'd let me' is a great rule to live by, but not one of those things you just tell people.

Omi also pointed out Amos' use of 'rear end-bandits' as a pejorative, especially with how the TV series will have that scene with him and Alex hanging out in a bar with a male prostitute and so on. Bridging the two comments, I just don't see Amos - the guy who we'll later learn may have been born and/or raised in a brothel and/or been a child sex worker - using sex as a pejorative. Stuff like that line with Naomi, where it feels neutral and weird while hinting at how he knows the 'right way to be' is what makes him an interesting character.

Of course, at this time, Amos is really just the fighting, drinking and loving funny guy, so.

Basically, Amos knows Miller is like him - someone capable of killing and generally quite okay with it. Amos lets him know that Holden doesn't want him on the ship. Not because he killed Dresden per se, but because it's part of a habit. Amos says that Holden's okay with killing people, providing it's discussed first.

Miller asks if the others want him around, and Amos flatly tells him no. Miller knew it was coming, but it still hurt him. Amos tells him that Holden tends to have the right idea and drinks his beer, then Naomi's beer, and wanders off.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Two posted:

Beside him, Julie Mao leaned on the table, just where Amos had been.

So, she said. Looks like it's just you and me now.

"Looks like," he said.

Khizan
Jul 30, 2013



I love this part with Miller because he's doing exactly what Holden does, and Holden hates it.

Miller's found something he thinks is wrong, and then he's taking immediate decisive action and to hell with the consequences. He listens to Dresden, decides that he's going to get away with it, further decides that Dresden needs to die, and then he kills Dresden. It's very similar to the "Holden sees thing, decides everybody needs to know it, tells everybody immediately without consulting others" incidents. The big difference here is that Miller's thought about the consequences and decided that they're acceptable, and Holden never even considers them.

Sarern
Nov 4, 2008


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



Khizan posted:

I love this part with Miller because he's doing exactly what Holden does, and Holden hates it.

Miller's found something he thinks is wrong, and then he's taking immediate decisive action and to hell with the consequences. He listens to Dresden, decides that he's going to get away with it, further decides that Dresden needs to die, and then he kills Dresden. It's very similar to the "Holden sees thing, decides everybody needs to know it, tells everybody immediately without consulting others" incidents. The big difference here is that Miller's thought about the consequences and decided that they're acceptable, and Holden never even considers them.

That's an excellent point and fun to think about.

Take immediate action based on what you think is right!
No, not like that.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Pretty much, yeah. And it's especially fun when you remember Holden basically kicked off two wars which have killed way more than one person, but he didn't really see it as a problem. Meanwhile, Miller kills Mengele Khan and, woah, hang on there, buddy.

Omi no Kami
Feb 19, 2014




It's interesting how well Miller and Holden work together in a scene- as far as I know the meat of both of their stories was written independently, since Holden was part of the pbp party and by all accounts Miller never actually met up with the rest of the group- I think all of Abraham's stuff was one-on-one with Franck and never left Ceres Station. I wonder how much of their chemistry was a happy accident, and how much was found in the edit.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Omi no Kami posted:

It's interesting how well Miller and Holden work together in a scene- as far as I know the meat of both of their stories was written independently, since Holden was part of the pbp party and by all accounts Miller never actually met up with the rest of the group- I think all of Abraham's stuff was one-on-one with Franck and never left Ceres Station. I wonder how much of their chemistry was a happy accident, and how much was found in the edit.

I'm not sure whether they never got to Eros, never met up on Eros, or never got off Eros. I think the figure the authors gave was 50% of the story was based on the PbP outline, whereas Naomi's player said it was more like 66%

Chapter Forty-Three - Holden

Holden is watching a Tycho worker fix up the Roci with a welding torch, without using any eye protection. I feel like that's a bad idea, but Holden never really has good ideas, so, whatever. The welder in question is Sam, who is a fairly memorable book character, and shockingly absent from the adaptation. Not entirely, she actually shows up in one episode, but most of her role appears to have been replaced by fan favorite Drummer.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Three posted:

She had blue eyes and a small mouth in a heart-shaped pixie face and a mop of red hair pulled into a bun. Her name was Sam, and she was the team leader on the Rocinante repair project. Amos had been chasing her for two weeks now with no success. Holden was glad, because the pixie had turned out to be one of the best mechanics he'd ever met, and he'd hate for her to focus on anything other than his ship.
Still doesn't feel right for Amos, really. But, I don't know.

I really liked Sam when I first read Abaddon's Gate, so, when she showed up a bunch more times in the first and second books, that was pretty good. Her death was a powerful moment even though I'd only read that book, too, so, credit to the authors.

Omi has some thoughts on Sam: "Oh hey, it’s Sam! Hurray! (Sam’s death in book 3 is maybe my single least-favorite moment in the series to date, because she’s rad and it’s fun to have an interesting side character who isn’t a viewpoint protagonist or the Roci crew.)"

So, Naomi and Sam are friends, and Holden isn't super okay with this.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Three posted:

The two of them had hit it off right away, and now Naomi was spending a lot of her off time with Sam and her Tycho crowd. Holden hated to admit it, but he missed being the only social circle Naomi had. When he did admit it to himself, like now, it made him feel like a creep.
I've said this about a few Naomi-related thoughts Holden has had. Like, everyone has them, but bringing them front and center just makes it weird. Especially when Holden is now going, man, I feel a bit like a creep. But it's also not really a big moment of self-realization. He's just kinda like, oh, this one thought is bad. Maybe.

Sam says it'll be a few more days until the Roci is perfect. She'd be flight-capable as-sis but without anything that's essential.

Holden's got a room on Tycho. It's luxurious enough that Holden thinks only governors would get it on most other stations. Holden has a cup of coffee and a shower. Another moment where Holden reflects on what's happened on the news. The Martian domes are still okay, but Mars ships are burning hard for home. Earth will have to put up or shut up soon. And to make matters worse, Holden has just helped Fred with "what Earth would see as the largest act of piracy in the history of the Belt."

Oh, and bad stuff is still happening on Eros.

And one more thing.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Three posted:

Oh, and aliens. Aliens that had tried to take over the Earth two billion years ago, and failed because Saturn got in the way. Can't forget the aliens. His brain still hadn't figured out a way to process that, so it kept trying to pretend it didn't exist.
Like the other stuff I've liked about the Protomolecule and Phoebe, that mention that it failed due to Saturn's orbital path is one of those things that's fun to think about.

Holden tries to watch some space television but it doesn't make him relax. Someone rings the doorbell.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Three posted:

It was Miller. He was dressed in a rumpled gray suit he'd probably brought from Ceres, and was fumbling around with that stupid hat.

"Holden, hey - " he started, but Holden cut him off.

"What the hell do you want?" Holden said. "And are you really standing outside my door with your hat in your hands?"

Miller smiled, then put the hat back on his head. "You know, I always wondered what that meant."
Holden figures he owes Miller a proper conversation, even if it's just to tell him to get lost again.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Three posted:

"So, let's hear it," Holden replied, sitting in a chair across from him.

Miller took a sip of his coffee and said, "Well - "

"I mean, this is the conversation where you tell me how you were right to shoot an unarmed man in the face, and how I'm just too naive to see it. Right?"

"Actually - "

"I loving told you," Holden said, surprised to feel the heat rise in his cheeks. "No more of that judge, jury, and executioner poo poo or you could find your own ride, and you did it anyway."

"Yes."
I like this conversation. It's one of the bits of Leviathan Wakes that sticks in my memory.

Holden asks Miller why he did it. Miller says it's because Dresden was going to get away with it. He had too much money and power. Holden says that's bullshit. Miller says he's seen it happen so many times on Ceres -- evidence, politics. He goes to bring up Muss, but Holden tells him that he doesn't care and doesn't want any more cop stories.

Holden tells Miller that Dresden and his Protogen buddies are hosed up because they think they can choose who lives and who does. "That sound familiar?" Holden says it's not different at all. Miller says it wasn't revenge. Holden doesn't believe him. Miller specifies that catching him was the revenge, killing him was because Dresden's argument -- about getting the whole galaxy and needing to protect themselves from two-billion year old enemies -- was getting through to him.

When Miller thought 'Hey, maybe this guy is on to something,' that was when he shot him. And I think that's a really interesting thing for Miller to admit, and then act upon.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Three posted:

"Amos calls you righteous," Miller said. "You know that?"

"Amos thinks he's a bad guy because he's done some things he's ashamed of," Holden said. "He doesn't always trust himself, but the fact that he cares tells me he isn't a bad guy."

"Yeah - " Miller started, but Holden cut him off.

"He looks at his soul, sees the stains, and wants to be clean," he said. "But you? You just shrug."

I like this exchange, too. What's interesting about this is that I think Caliban's War will specify that Holden doesn't actually know much about Amos' past, beyond that he grew up in Baltimore, that is. It's an interesting line for Holden to take. Provocatively, I think one could argue that shame or the desire for absolution doesn't do anything to make you not a bad guy.

Then, Holden just tells Miller he can't trust him around the crew. Miller just nods and leaves. Holden feels bad about it - after all, he never would've got off Eros without him - but he's really uncomfortable with him. In fact, Miller makes his scalp crawl. It's a pretty powerful admission, and I wish it was something that we'd felt before this point.

Holden calls Naomi to tell him about Miller, but ends up meeting her at the bar. It's the same bar where he watched Naomi sing karaoke. They talk about Miller - Holden's a bit freaked out, Naomi says Miller wants him to absolve him.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Three posted:

"I've hosed everything up," Holden blurted out before he could stop himself. "Everyone who's tried to help us, or that we've tried to help, has died spectacularly. This whole loving war. And Captain McDowell and Becca and Ade. And Shed - " He had to stop and swallow a sudden lump in his throat.
Nice of you to finally admit it, Holden. It's not bad or wrong, per se, but it feels like Holden has merrily trundled along making things worse without much self-reflection until... Well, right now. I prefer the TV series Holden who is grappling with this from the destruction of the Cant, really. Holden gripes a bit more and Naomi holds his hand and asks him if he wants to go home with her.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Three posted:

"I said don't tell me you love me to get me into bed," she said. "But I also said I'd have gone to your cabin anytime you asked over the last four years. I didn't think I was being subtle, and I'm sort of tired of waiting."

On one hand, it's nice for Naomi to be on this page. On the other, having the resolution to Holden's mopey 'Will Naomi ever be friends with me again?' for however many chapters being 'Let's bang, okay?' is... I don't know. I don't mind the Naomi/Holden relationship in the later novels, but I'm not too keen on how they get there. It doesn't feel artificial per se, it's not badly written, but I also don't get much feel of their chemistry.

Omi says: "I like how Holden is all “Are you sleeping with me because I want to win at something” and Naomi’s all “...no, what the gently caress,” but I actually think it’d be more interesting if he straight-up antagonized her; his constantly being unable to articulate himself when he’s trying to romance someone instead of cook up a casual hookup during a cargo run would be a fun character beat."

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Three posted:

"I thought you were avoiding me," he said once he was capable of speech. "Is this your way of giving me a win?"
drat, Holden. Luckily for him, Naomi figures this is just how Holden is and doesn't take it as the insult it sounds like.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Three posted:

"It's simple, Jim," she said, reaching out for his hand and pulling him back toward her. She leaned across the table between them until their faces were almost touching. "It's a yes or no question."

"Yes."
And that's where it ends. Honestly, it's a pretty quick chapter and I'm surprised it ended there. Not much to say about it. I like whenever Holden and Miller get to have an argument because they feel like they have the same thought (I'm right, the universe is wrong) but come at it from different angles. I kind of wish Holden's distaste of Miller tied back into, like, the stuff he says about loving everything up and some inkling that they're basically the same person, Miller's just more burnt out. Caliban's War does kind of touch on this, but not in the way I'm thinking.

TV Adaptation

As mentioned, at this point it's easier to just do a big summary at the end. But, hey, I said Sam shows up, and she does. For, I think, one scene in one episode. I'm not sure why this is, but my assumption is that they put most of Sam's character -- such as her close friendship with Naomi -- on Drummer.


Alli Chung as Sam Rosenberg

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Chapter Forty-Four - Miller

So, we're back with Miller. He's back on the Tycho observation deck, kind of staring at nothing and moping with a drink next to him. In fact, he hasn't touched his drink since he bought it. It's an interesting note that maybe he bought to drink just so he'd have an excuse to sit and look sad while staring out the window.

Omi has a thought on Miller's drinkyness: "Miller staring at the drink he bought as an excuse to sit there and mope is interesting- we’ve talked before about how he seems to wildly oscillate between alcoholic, drying out, and rear end in a top hat who likes a drink or three, and coming on the heels of the bourbon bit it stuck out to me that he has enough self-control to not drink here: my understanding is that for a lot of long-term alcoholics, just being at a bar or social event with booze is enough to pretty much guarantee they’re taking a trip on down to sloppy town."

He looks at the Rocinante for a bit and thinks about Moses and the promised land he would never enter. Would it have been worse if Moses had entered it, and then been ushered out? Miller seems to think so. He hallucinates Julie, too, and realizes that everything he's done - including killing Dresden - hasn't really saved him.

Omi: "It’s a bit weird that Miller held out any hope that avenging Julie would fix him- I always pictured him as just kinda tired and hopeless, even at the start of the story."

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Four posted:

You knew it couldn't last, Julie said. Holden. His crew. You knew you didn't really belong there. You belong with me.
I'm trying to figure out what Julie represents. What aspect of Miller's personality or pathology she's expressing. His self-reliance, his disdain for others? Closing himself off to avoid being hurt?

Maybe she's just what Miller thinks in the next paragraph: suicidal ideation. Going back to that 'death drive' idea with the poem on Eros. After all, he doesn't have a home or a friend. All he's got his way more blood on his hands. But I just wonder how well that idea would hold up if you went back and looked at all of his Julie appearances. Were they always times where he just wanted to give up and die, or kill himself? My memory says 'maybe not.'

Miller goes to find a job. He does this by asking Diogo and the idea is that he's basically gone 'Look, if you get me a job, I won't live with you anymore' which is pretty funny. I kind of wish we saw that.

Diog tells him about some security guard work. Miller's okay with that and thinks he can reinvent himself. Y'know, providing the war doesn't kill him in the crossfire, or the protomolecule doesn't go wild and eat everything.

Speaking of Eros.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Four posted:

"Oi, Pampaw," Diogo said as the door to the public hall slid open. "You hear that Eros started talking?"

Miller lifted himself to one elbow.

"Si," Diogo said. "Whatever that poo poo is, it started broadcasting. There's even words and poo poo. I've got a feed. You want a listen?"

No, Miller thought. No, I have seen those corridors. What's happened to those people almost happened to me. I don't want anything to do with that abomination.

"Sure," he said.
It's broadcasting the screams of the dying, and Diogo's friend is mixing it into a dance track. It's honestly pitch perfect, I think. I feel like that's something that could happen today, if something horrible happened and it hit just the right people to become a meme at just the right time.

In this case, the right person is Diogo. So, God help us all.

Omi: "I’ve never been a big fan of the alien stuff, but I do really like how Eros was big and lovely, then we didn’t hear anything for a while, and then suddenly they’ve got video feeds and it’s all Dead Space, all the time.

But Belter club music being mixed with the screams of the dying is metal as hell, that’s a heck of a mental image."

Miller ends up listening to it.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Four posted:

At first, the sound was nothing - electric squeals and a wildly fluting static. Then, maybe somewhere deep in the back of it, music. A chorus of violas churning away together in a long, distant crescendo. And then, as clear as if someone were speaking into a microphone, a voice.

"Rabbits and hamsters. Ecologically unstabilizing and round and blue as moonbeams. August."
Whatever's happening on Eros, Miller thinks he's hearing the systems of Eros fail. It's not a real voice, he thinks, because Eros' computer systems could generate any fake voice you wanted.

The next day (presumably), Miller is going for that security job. Unfortunately, the guy is looking for, essentially, someone who is more Diogo's idiot brother than badass Ceres cop guy. Miller won't even get to carry a gun!

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Four posted:

The weedy man sighed and gave the exaggerated shrug of a Belter.
This is one of those small nitpick things, but I feel like Miller shouldn't note 'shrug of a Belter.' I feel like Holden maybe should. Maybe Miller shouldn't note any or note, like, shoulder shrugs. After all, I feel like Miller would've grown up around Belter Shrugs. And, for the most part, Miller hasn't really noted how Belters shrug. Or it could've been something he noted from the start, illustrating how he doesn't see himself as a Belter-Belter.

Miller doesn't get the job. Not just because he's a cop, but because the manager thinks he was an OPA badass.

So, Miller goes to see Fred. Fred has reservations:

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Four posted:

"You killed Dresden," Fred said. "That's a problem."

"It needed to happen."

"I'm not sure it did," Fred replied, but his voice was careful. Testing. Miller smiled, a little sadly.

"That's why it needed to happen," he said.

The small, coughing laugh told Miller that Fred understood him. When the general turned back to consider him again, his gaze was steady.
Fred offers him a job, but under the conditions that he won't do anything to protect him. When Fred aims to negotiate something with Earth, he'll throw Miller to the wolves as a bargaining chip. Miller's okay with that. And Fred is like, gently caress me, why can't this guy be more unreasonable? It's fun.

After reminding Fred that he knows a bunch about Eros and the protomolecule, he hires him on as a security consultant. For his first job, Fred asks him what his biggest problem is and Miller says it's information and the containment thereof.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Four posted:

"You think I can't keep the information about Thoth station and the protomolecule quiet?"

"Of course you can't," Miller said. "For one thing, too many people already know. For another thing, one of them's Holden, and if he hasn't already broadcast the whole thing on every empty frequency, he will soon. And besides that, you can't make a peace deal without explaining what the hell's going on. Sooner or later, it has to come out."
'Holden says dumb poo poo all the time' is a bit of a gimmick, but it's a fun one.

Miller thinks Fred should lockdown Eros and use it as his bargaining chip. Fred, of course, argues that that'll be difficult given the firepower that Mars and Earth have. Miller advises getting rid of Eros by hurling it into the sun. How? By using the Nauvoo as a ram.

Omi: "I like how Miller became an OPA operative without actually realizing it.

I’m not quite sure I buy Fred wanting to have Miller around, much less paying him to be a high-level strategic advice guy, but I like how the instant he’s on the payroll, Miller’s solution to everything is 'Throw the alien space station into the sun.'"

While Miller thinks it'll give Julie one hell of a funeral, Fred just says that the Mormons are going to be pissed.

Khizan
Jul 30, 2013



Milkfred E. Moore posted:

Holden tells Miller that Dresden and his Protogen buddies are hosed up because they think they can choose who lives and who does. "That sound familiar?" Holden says it's not different at all.

I've always liked this part because Holden is so fast to go after Dresden and Miller for 'choosing who lives and who dies", but he never even realizes that in his own way he's worse than either of them because they're at least choosing. Dresden's a monster but at least he's a monster with a plan.

Holden, on the other hand, has started wars and caused death and destruction out of sheer carelessness. He's yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater and his defense is "Hey, I thought I saw a fire, I had a responsibility to tell people, it's not my fault people got trampled to death, I didn't force anybody to start running".



Milkfred E. Moore posted:

I'm not quite sure I buy Fred wanting to have Miller around, much less paying him to be a high-level strategic advice guy

At this point, the only person out there who can match Miller's level of experience with the Eros proto-mutant-thing is Holden, and those two are also the only eyewitnesses to all the guard fuckery and mercenary evacuation poo poo that went down on Eros. And on top of that, Miller killed Dresden and so can be used as a bargaining chip in the future.

And I mean, Tycho Engineering is ridiculously wealthy. Whatever Miller's getting paid from them, it's the equivalent of pennies in the couch cushions of their fifth vacation house. Definitely worth it to keep him close.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Chapter Forty-Five - Holden

Forty-five chapters in, I realize I should be using colons and not dashes between the number and viewpoint character. ANYWAY.

After spending the night together, Holden's lying there listening to Naomi talk in her sleep. He notes she's got a fairly long scar along her back, and he figures it came from some kind of work-related injury. That Naomi is the kind of person who chose to not have it obliterated by a plastic surgeon is something Holden learns about her.

All the new couple0y stuff between the two is okay. I don't mind it, at least initially. However, there's two paragraphs, one after the other, that... Well.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Five posted:

Holden slid out from under her and headed for the kitchen, knowing that this was the obsequiousness that always accompanied a new lover. For the next couple of weeks, he wouldn't be able to stop himself from fulfilling every whim Naomi might have. It was a behavior some men carried at the genetic level, their DNA wanting to make sure that first time wasn't just a fluke.
Self-aware tongue in cheek biotruths? It's not bad, but I'm not sure I buy Holden thinking something like that. I could see Miller thinking it, though. Miller's a weird cynic with a certain sense of inevitability about things. But Holden?

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Five posted:

Her room was laid out differently than his, and the unfamiliarity made him clumsy in the dark. He fumbled around for a few minutes in her small kitchen nook, looking for a glass. By the time he found it, filled it, and headed back into the bedroom, Naomi was sitting up in bed. The sheet lay pooled on her lap. The sight of her half nude in the dimly lit room gave him an embarrassingly sudden erection.
At the end of Leviathan Wakes, I'm going back and taking stock of all the various Holden's genitals or sexual plumbing references.

Holden and Naomi have a talk. Naomi hasn't had a lover for over a year and she wants it to be exclusive until it isn't and it ends. No hard feelings if Holden ends it, providing he lets her know in advance. If it's more than sex, Naomi's open to that. She also has eggs in storage, which I guess paints Holden's sperm in storage as being just something space travelers do? I guess it makes sense, what with the radiation and all.

Holden agrees to it. They have sex again, Holden makes coffee, they flirt. This is about where it's starting to make me want the story to get a move on, and Omi says it's "overdone."

Omi: "For once it’s Holden’s chapter that has the bad opening- while the whole 'Yay sex, yay tons of mentions of human flesh and sweaty bedsheets,' thing is fine, I think it would’ve flowed better if it cold-opened to Holden’s terminal buzzing, prompting he and Naomi to lurch out of bed to see whose thing was going off."

Holden's space phone -- sorry, hand terminal -- buzzes.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Five posted:

"You've been paying attention the last couple months, right?" Holden said. "Unless it's a wrong number, then it's probably some end-of-the-solar-system-type poo poo and we have five minutes to evacuate the station."

Naomi kissed his ribs, which simultaneously tickled him and caused him to question his assumptions about his own refractory period.
Son of a bitch.

Fred's calling Holden. Jim and Naomi go to see him. Jim doesn't like that Miller is there, and then does his best to ignore him. There's a little bit where Fred shoes off a map of the Solar system, with green for Earth, red for Mars, and yellow for Belt and OPA. That stuck out to be because I figured Earth would be blue. I mean, come on, green/red color blindness, anyone?

Omi: "Fred’s whole detailed drill-down on what ships are approaching and how the asteroid is set up is necessary scene-setting, but it’s also not really where I want to be as a reader right now - it feels tedious."

According to the map, Earth is sending a science ship, under military escort, to Eros. Holden wants to know if Fred wants 'em to go scare them off with the Roci, but he outlines the plan - which Miller delivers. Holden thinks of Miller as a jackal.

The plan is that Fred will send a bunch of freighters to clog up Eros' docking ports while the Roci runs escort and picket. The freighters will also be packed with fusion warheads, set to detonate if anyone tries to dock with the station. Mars and the UN might have anti-bomb teams, but that'll take time. And that time isn't going to be enough, because they're going to have the Nauvoo slam into Eros like the system's biggest battering ram.

Naomi wonders if hitting Eros with all that energy will just shatter it into a million pieces. Miller says Fred has people on it and, because they built Eros in the first place, they have the blueprints to make it happen.

This is like some of the other big setting elements in the novels - really cool. 'We're going to use the universe's biggest colony ship to punt the asteroid into the Sun.' Where Leviathan Wakes might not do so great with giving you deep characters, and while the plot stumbles about here and there, and while the prose might be a bit too keen on infodumping, the big setting elements and setpieces are interesting enough to shoulder a lot of the heavy lifting. Everything comes together in a nice way, even if the setup could be neater or slicker.

Anyway, then Fred tries to get the protomolecule sample off Holden, arguing that the Rocinante could get wrecked and lost. Holden says no. Fred tries to lean on him. Holden tells Alex and Amos to lock the ship down and break the gently caress out of Tycho in an hour if anyone tries anything.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Five posted:

"Don't force this issue, Fred," Holden said.

"If you think you can threaten me, you're mistaken," Fred said, his voice flat and frightening.

Miller laughed.

"Something funny?" Fred said.

"That wasn't a threat," Miller replied.

"No? What would you call it?"

"An accurate report of the world," Miller said. He stretched slowly as he talked. "If it was Alex on board, he might think the captain was trying to intimidate someone, maybe back down at the last minute. Amos, though? Amos will absolutely shoot his way free, even if it means he goes down with the ship."

Fred scowled, and Miller shook his head.

"It's not a bluff," Miller said. "Don't call it."
Heh, Fred said.

Omi: Heh, Fred said.

Holden wonders if Fred will have him shot. Holden wonders if he'll have Miller do it, but then Miller has his back and tells him that Holden should keep it. Miller argues that, sure, the Roci is a target - but it'll be less of a target if it's the only surviving sample of the protomolecule and all of Protogen's notes.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Five posted:

"Also, he's an idealist," Miller continued. "Offer Holden his weight in gold and he'll just be offended you tried to bribe him."

Fred's disappointed in Holden and tells him to get off Eros. Holden tells Naomi he thought Miller was goign to shoot them, but Naomi is just like, dude, he's on our side, how don't you get that?

Safety Biscuits
Oct 21, 2010



Milkfred E. Moore posted:

Holden and Naomi have a talk. Naomi hasn't had a lover for over a year and she wants it to be exclusive until it isn't and it ends. No hard feelings if Holden ends it, providing he lets her know in advance. If it's more than sex, Naomi's open to that. She also has eggs in storage, which I guess paints Holden's sperm in storage as being just something space travelers do? I guess it makes sense, what with the radiation and all.

Astronauts freezing their sperm/eggs happens in quite a few sf novels, for obvious reasons, although off the top of my head the only one I can remember is the Night's Dawn books.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Safety Biscuits posted:

Astronauts freezing their sperm/eggs happens in quite a few sf novels, for obvious reasons, although off the top of my head the only one I can remember is the Night's Dawn books.

Come to think of it, though... Naomi tells Holden in Caliban's War that she doesn't want children, from what I remember. I wonder if the sperm/egg thing is, say, a part or perk of working for Pur'n'Kleen, or if it's a 'just in case' from Naomi or just something everyone does or what.

Sarern
Nov 4, 2008


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



Milkfred E. Moore posted:

Come to think of it, though... Naomi tells Holden in Caliban's War that she doesn't want children, from what I remember. I wonder if the sperm/egg thing is, say, a part or perk of working for Pur'n'Kleen, or if it's a 'just in case' from Naomi or just something everyone does or what.

I remember the same thing about Naomi in CW. I suspect this may be another instance where they didn't decide on Naomi's backstory until later. Caliban's War is also where we start getting hints of more backstory, like Alex's kid he doesn't know about or Amos's childhood in Baltimore or Naomi having bathed a child in a sink before, which was a small hint I appreciate in hindsight.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Chapter Forty-Six - Miller

We open on Miller ruminating that there was bound to be payback for siding with Holden against his new boss. Of course, there was. As it turns out, the punishment is for Miller to be playing - as Omi puts it - Mormon cop.

Basically, Miller has been charged to go into the Nauvoo and tell all the Mormons who were getting ready to take an unprecedented journey across the stars with the "greatest temple mankind" had ever built to get the gently caress out.

And he's teamed up with Diogo who is, well, Diogo.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Six posted:

"You want us to gas them, Pampaw?" Diogo asked.
Miller considered the resisters. At a guess, there might have been two hundred of them strung in linked chains across the access paths and engineering ducts. Transport lifts and industrial waldoes stood idle, their displays dark, their batteries shorted.

"Yeah, probably should," Miller sighed.
So, Miller has them gassed with NNLPa and THC. While Miller feels bad about taking away the dreams and effort that went into the huge ship, Diogo laughs. They're a fun combination. If I have a problem with this chapter, its... I'll talk about it at the end.

Omi: "I like that Fred’s punishment for backing Holden was to make Miller play Mormon Cop. Miller as a grumpy guy in a stupid situation is really fun, and I wish we’d gotten more moments like this."

When that's all taken care of, the OPA set about turning the Nauvoo into the piece of the plan. After that, Miller spends some time listening to the Eros feed (Radio Free Eros, as he calls it) and reflecting on some stuff from his past on Ceres. He hallucinates Julie, who talks about the things Dresden promised humanity.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Six posted:

It would have been something, wouldn't it? she said. Flying through vacuum without a suit. Sleeping for a hundred years and waking up in the light of a different sun.

"I didn't shoot that fucker fast enough," Miller said aloud.
Miller gets broken out of his thoughts by someone calling him the Antichrist.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Six posted:

"You're the Antichrist, you vile excuse for a human! God knows you! He'll remember you!"

Miller tipped his hat as the prisoners ambled by.

"Stars are better off without us," he said, but too softly for anyone but Julie to hear.
It will take two weeks for the Nauvoo to reach Eros and Miller will beat it there by eighty hours. Diogo has three red teeth for "sexual prowess" and I can only imagine one possible meaning.

Miller has a thought that the OPA isn't nearly as scary as he once thought it was. That if it came to a war against either of the major powers, they wouldn't stand a chance. They also wouldn't really lose, just devolve into endless insurrections and riots and so on. Omi has a thought on this:

"The book has at this point brought attention to how the OPA constantly has a need for security forces, but doesn’t have well-trained security forces. It’s kinda odd that Fred hired Miller to be a strategy guy, instead of to build a security/belter cop training pipeline."

Miller calls Fred. Status update time. The Nauvoo is ready to go and the Rocinante is already en route to Eros.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Six posted:

"I hope your friends are really up for this," he said.

Miller felt something odd. A little hollowness just below his breastbone.

"They aren't my friends," he said, keeping his tone of voice light.

"No?"

"I don't exactly have friends. It's more I've got a lot of people I used to work with," he said.
That's a great line. Omi and I both want to point it out.

Miller goes back to his boring apartment while Diogo parties. Miller hallucinates Julie and thinks about how everything went. He wonders if, had she stayed on the Anubis, would anything have changed? No, he thinks. Dresden and his associates would've found her eventually, or just found another sample from Phoebe. But Miller is still head over heels for her.

Miller goes to meet with Diogo at the docks. He's going to spend thirteen days with Diogo and the rest of the crew, riding with megatons worth of nuclear weapons in the hold. The ship itself is basically a total junker. Diogo and his crew are happy about something.

Turns out, Mars has picked up the feed from Eros. They've put everything together and taken action.

Action turns out to be - not taking on Protogen or Eros - but utterly annihilating Phoebe. The whole moon is gone, according to Diogo.

As they head off to Eros, Miller has some more hallucinations and thoughts. Omi wonders, again, if Miller is just kind of sad or losing his mind.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Six posted:

You belong with me, she said.

As soon as it's over, he thought. It was true he kept pushing back the end point of the case. First find Julie, then avenge her, and now destroy the project that had claimed her life. But after that was accomplished, he could let go.

He just had this one last thing he needed to do.

Twenty minutes later, the Klaxon sounded. Thirty minutes later, the engines kicked on, pressing him into the acceleration gel at a joint-crushing high-g burn for thirteen days, with one-g breaks for biological function every four hours. And when they were done, the half-trained jack-of-all-trades crew would be handling nuclear mines capable of annihilating them if they screwed it up.

But at least Julie would be there. Not really, but still.

It didn't hurt to dream.
All in all, I thought this was a pretty weak chapter. The stuff I liked about it, which is Miller and Diogo being Mormon Cops, is over way too quickly. And the rest of it is just procedural transitory stuff to get Miller to Eros. It feels almost like a victim of the strict A-B structure. Like, poo poo, we just had a Holden chapter, now we need to invent something for Miller to do.

TV Adaptation

I've committed a grievous sin.


Andrew Rotilio as Diogo

He gets a .gifv because you really need to see him in motion to see how well he captures the character.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Sorry for the delay! I've stopped doing this over the weekend (mainly to reserve some time for my own writing) and then I picked up an ear infection which made trying to concentrate on anything a futile task. But here we go, into the last ten or so chapters of Leviathan Wakes.

Chapter Forty-Seven - Holden

The Rocinante crew are eating breakfast and, boy, it does not sound appetizing.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Seven posted:

Even the wet cellulose taste of reconstituted artificial scrambled eggs was not enough to ruin Holden's warm, self-satisfied glow.
Like, that just sounds gross. It's so evocative that it must be supposed to be. Amos loves it, Alex is pretty down on it, and Naomi seems to be just having tea. Space food sucks and I think that 'wet cellulose line' is a wonderful way of making it sound horrible to eat.

Omi had a funny comment: "So this almost certainly does not apply to anyone else, but I had a really bizarre moment of confusion with the opening. It mentions the taste of the eggs, Holden’s warm glow, Holden shoveling food, and then Amos, to his left, also eating with enthusiasm. I somehow skipped over the words “at his left,” and for a moment I was trying to picture Holden spoon-feeding Amos."

Holden and Naomi figure they need to break the news that they're now romantically-entangled to the crew.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Seven posted:

Holden hated to hide anything. Keeping it secret made it seem dirty or shameful. His parents had raised him to believe that sex was something you did in private not because it was embarrassing, but because it was intimate. With five fathers and three mothers, the sleeping arrangements were always complex at his house, but the discussions about who was bedding with whom were never hidden from him. It left him with a strong aversion to hiding his own activities.
I think this is the most detail we've got into any aspect of Holden's family life until this point. It's nice to get it but, boy, I wish we'd had a bit more detail into his family life that wasn't sex. Okay, Holden has a healthy attitude towards sex, great. I'm not going to go into how this meshes up with his brothel visits or his fantasies or whatever else. The reader can mull that over.

So, Holden wants to announce it, Naomi doesn't. Holden figures Naomi knows better than him, which Omi points out as a nice callback to Holden's inability to read people well, and then...

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Seven posted:

Keeping his voice neutral and professional, he said, "Naomi, can you pass the pepper?"
Amos' head snapped up, and he dropped his fork on the table with a loud clatter.

"Holy poo poo, you guys are doing it!"

"Um," Holden said. "What?"

"Something's been screwy ever since we got back on the Roci, but I couldn't figure. But that's it! You guys are finally playing hide the weasel."
Amos figures it out. It's entertaining, but I don't really buy Amos calling it 'hide the weasel.' Just like I don't really buy his next comment about, had he been in Holden's position, he'd have been, quote, "neck deep in that poo poo."

Omi: "It feels weird to me that he’d talk about being ‘neck deep in that poo poo’- my impression was that he respected and/or feared Naomi quite a lot, and wouldn’t refer to her that crudely."

People might say that, well, he did say he'd gently caress her if she let him, but that comes off as more of a secret 'bro' moment between him and Miller and then, in the TV series, between him and Holden (where it's much funnier and more applicable to the character than mentioning it to Miller of all people.)

Alex, on the other hand, didn't see it coming. Naomi laughs it off. Holden begins into a speech about how he hopes it won't change things, but Amos and Alex say it won't suddenly make them poo poo at their jobs, so, all's good.

Omi wonders: "I think it would’ve worked better if it was Alex: Holden asks for pepper, Alex goes 'Holy poo poo, you two wacky kids are playing hide the weasel,' and Amos casually goes 'Yeah, started three days ago.'"

Along those lines, I feel like 'hide the weasel' is way more of an Alex expression than an Amos one.

Later, they arrive at Eros. They've reached there before the UNN science ship, but it's currently braking and getting closer. The UNN escort is pinging them with radar but not otherwise communicating. Holden wonders if the escort can recognize them or maybe has them confused for a gas tanker. Either way, they're not running with their transponder on, which means...

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Seven posted:

"Naomi, I have a feeling that corvette is going to try and blow us up," Holden said with a sigh.
Holden hails them, they don't respond. The crew gets ready for a fight. Holden hails them again and the UNN captain replies. He's spoiling for a fight, but Holden makes it clear to him that his ship is old and poo poo while the Rocinante might look like a gas freighter but is anything but.

Even so, Holden only really gets the UNN ship to back off by saying that he'll blow up the science ship instead of the escort. Even if the escort kills the Roci, the guy's mission will be failed and will, therefore, get his career ruined. It's... pretty dark for Holden and, really, quite surprising.

Omi: "I find it a little surprising that Holden is willing to threaten the civilian science ship- didn’t he get himself busted out of the navy for refusing to fire upon civilians?"

Different circumstances, I suppose, but this is also a very interesting exchange for Holden to have given the discussion later in the chapter. But for now, the two UNN ships come to a stop, and the blockade holds.

Later that night, Holden and Naomi are chilling on the ops deck. They start talking about Miller, who Naomi says "was not wrong."

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Seven posted:

"I've been thinking about Miller," she said. "I treated him badly on Tycho. Ignored him because you were angry. I owed him better than that."

"Why?"

"He saved your life on Eros."
Basically, Naomi asks Holden...

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Seven posted:

"When you were in the navy," she finally said, "what were you supposed to do when someone went crazy on the ship? Started doing things that endangered everyone?"

Thinking they were talking about Miller, Holden said, "You restrain him and remove him as a danger to the ship and crew. But Fred didn't - "

Naomi cut him off.
"No, Jim, I'm talking about you," Naomi said.

But that isn't what she says, unfortunately. I feel it's a real missed opportunity, especially with that little line of how Holden thinks they're talking about Miller. Because it feels like she could be turning things around on Holden here. Like, 'hey, Jim, remember that time where you started a war and endangered us all?'

Instead, it just... doesn't happen. Eventually, she gets Holden to admit that, yes, if you can't restrain the crazy guy, you have to shoot him.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Seven posted:

"I see where this is going," Holden said with a sigh. "Dresden was a madman on the ship, Miller shot him to protect the rest of us. He gave me that speech back on Tycho. Didn't buy it then either."

"Why?"

"Because," Holden said. "Dresden wasn't an immediate threat. He was just an evil little man in an expensive suit. He didn't have a gun in his hand, or his finger on a bomb trigger. And I will never trust a man who believes he has the right to unilaterally execute people."
It's a really good insight into Holden's mind here. Like he genuinely can't see what Miller meant about needing to kill him because of how seductive his words are. It feels like a very small thought for Holden to have.

And so is this:

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Seven posted:

"If that science ship starts flying toward Eros again, I will throw every torpedo we have at it, and tell myself I was protecting the rest of the solar system from what's on Eros. But I won't just start shooting at it now, on the idea that it might decide to head to Eros again, because that's murder. What Miller did was murder."
And pumping a brace of plasma torpedoes into a science vessel isn't murder? That's what I want Naomi to ask. Instead, she kisses him, and it feels weirdly out of place in this sequence, and she says that Miller and Holden are basically the same person.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Seven posted:

"You might be the best person I know. But you're totally uncompromising on what you think is right, and that's what you hate about Miller."

"I do?"

"Yes," she said. "He's totally uncompromising too, but he has different ideas on how things work. You hate that. To Miller, Dresden was an active threat to the ship. Every second he stayed alive endangered everyone else around him. To Miller, it was self-defense."

Basically, Naomi says Miller was right: Dresden could talk the UN into everything, probably the same way he talked Protogen into doing it. Even if Dresden was held by the OPA, he could probably buy his way out of that, too. Holden stews in his anger and tries to figure out whether he's truly angry about the murder or because Miller did it without his say so.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Seven posted:

And Miller had known. When Holden had told him to find his own ride back to Tycho, he'd seen it in the detective's sad basset hound face. Miller had known it was coming, and had made no attempt to fight or argue. That meant that Miller had made his choice fully cognizant of the cost and ready to pay it. That meant something. Holden wasn't sure exactly what, but something.
The sad basset hound line has stuck with me for whatever reason, although my memory placed it when Miller showed up with his hat in his hands. There's that point of difference there, where Miller pays the price with awareness and Holden never really considers the cost. But that's about all it comes to. Like the other bits in this scene between him and Naomi, Holden acknowledges these thoughts, but then never goes 'Okay, then what?'

I've said before that I wanted to see some of this be addressed by the novel, so, it's nice to see it happening. But I think I would've liked to see it happening sooner, and more from Holden's introspection into his actions and beliefs than Naomi, like, telling him in this weird little break between plot encounters. At least, maybe tell him in a way that's more driven than what feels almost like foreplay. Were Naomi to be upset by, say, Holden's well-meaning hypocrisy or something, maybe this could foreshadow the divide between Holden and Naomi in Caliban's War, where she's very opposed to how he's acting like Miller.

As an aside, I'd just like to reiterate that here is where Holden and Miller stand.

The Crimes of Josephus 'Joe' Miller
  • Shot a bunch of bad dudes on Eros
  • Shot the really bad dude Dresden
The Crimes of James 'Jim' Holden
  • Made a broadcast that kicked off a war between the OPA and Mars, resulting in the destruction of that one Belter ship by the Scipio Africanus that resulted in "dozens" of deaths alone. Presumably, other fatalities.
  • Also shot a bunch of bad dudes on Eros, or tried to
  • Made a broadcast that kicked off a war between Mars and Earth, resulting in the annihilation of Deimos and, presumably, some loss of life, not including economic or social damages incurred to the planet or elsewhere in the system
  • Threatened to blow up a presumably civilian science vessel to force a UNN ship into compliance, admitting that it wasn't a bluff later
Food for thought.

Anyway, with that wrapped up, an alarm goes off and now it's like every Earth ship in the system is burning hard towards Eros! Oh no, Holden!

In general, I didn't like this chapter much. It felt like three scenes that weren't really joined together well. The bit with the disgusting breakfast and the 'revelation' of Holden and Naomi sleeping together was fun but, again, the TV series handles it better. The bit with the UNN corvette is okay, but felt really perfunctory, like... Oh, hey, we have to handle this because we set it up a few chapters ago. And the late night talk between Naomi and Holden felt just as brief and unappealing. Naomi's like 'You and Miller are basically the same person' and Holden's like 'I guess so, huh?' and then any further look into this is cut off by the Plot Alarm going off. Omi likewise notes how "abrupt" some of this feels.

I know these novels aren't psychodramas. I know they're not really interested in the workings of Holden's mind. But I feel like when the novel is, basically, a story where your two protagonists are 'idealistic navy guy' and 'cynical detective guy' and they both have the same flaw of 'is a self-righteous dick, occasionally' then I feel like there's some really fertile ground there for some exploration and introspection. Especially when Miller has this whole plot-driven arc whereas Holden just kind of exists to facilitate it. Especially when a third or so of this chapter was devoted to Holden threatening to blast a science ship out of the sky. Like, there's no sign of his thought process. Was he bluffing? Was he mentally telling himself that he wanted the ship to stop, needed it to stop, don't make him have to fire the missiles? Something like that.

But it's kind of ignored and then, when it shows up, it feels like checking off an entry on a long list. Yep, there we go, brief mention that Holden and Miller are two sides of the same coin, let's get back to the exciting stuff.

Then again, even on my first read through, I'm pretty sure I found all the Holden chapters past this point to be thoroughly uninteresting. Let's see if that holds up!

Milkfred E. Moore fucked around with this message at 08:08 on May 12, 2020

Omi no Kami
Feb 19, 2014




Milkfred E. Moore posted:

Then again, even on my first read through, I'm pretty sure I found all the Holden chapters past this point to be thoroughly uninteresting. Let's see if that holds up!

We'll get to this when we get to it, but one of my comments on an upcoming Holden chapter is basically "This should've been a Holden paragraph between two Miller scenes, not an entire chapter.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Omi no Kami posted:

We'll get to this when we get to it, but one of my comments on an upcoming Holden chapter is basically "This should've been a Holden paragraph between two Miller scenes, not an entire chapter.
I feel like this is a problem with a lot of these last few chapters. They feel like small parts of the overall climactic sequence but there's a need to stretch them out to fill out whole chapters because of the strict A-B sequencing.

Chapter Forty-Eight - Miller

Miller and his crew of Belter demolition 'experts' are just about at Eros. We open on some more babbling from Eros. Honestly, it reminds me of a lot of the Hybrid Cylon stuff from Battlestar Galactica, much like Miller's visions of Julie Mao make me think of Baltar and Six. It's also not something I particularly enjoy reading - the lines aren't exactly loaded with portents or fun nods on a second readthrough or anything. As Omi puts it, the continual mention that, yes, Eros is babbling a string of random words is "a bit tiring to read through."

Of course, given that there's been three days of travel, we get a Corey Exposition News Update. Turns out someone outed Protogen's involvement, and it wasn't Holden. Now everyone's turned their attention to Earth. Mars' forces have slowed down, allowing Earth room to consider their moves.

Miller also listens to the voice of Eros. Sometimes he thinks there's patterns in it or structure, maybe even obsessions.

They land on Eros. The OPA suits suck compared to the Rocinante's ones, Miller notes. He's tired but he's also quite set on staying on Eros to the end. They place the bombs and this has to be done precisely, or a miscalibration could pop Eros like an egg and spread protomolecule all over the system. Eventually, all the bombs are set. Nothing crawls out of Eros to attack them. Diogo and all the others head back, and Miller stays behind. There's a funny bit where Miller kind of expects Diogo to fight him on staying, but Diogo's just like, 'welp, seeya.'

Omi says: "Miller’s decision to stay behind is crazy. It mostly feels earned, in the sense that I have no trouble believing that Miller is a sad, tired death-seeking weirdo, but I wish there was a little more buildup to the moment. I remember finding it a little baffling even when I first read LW - it wasn’t out of character, but it felt like an arbitrary decision that came out of nowhere."

Head Julie asks Miller if he'd do it all over from the beginning, Miller says he wouldn't. Miller goes to sleep.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Eight posted:

Above him, everything that had once been human in Eros Station changed and re-formed, pouring from one shape to another like Hieronymous Bosch made real.
This is not the first Bosch reference made as a comparison to the protomolecule, funnily enough. The other was back in Chapter Thirty, which was also a Miller chapter. Was Miller a fan of the works Bosch? Or was it just something the author just slipped in twice? Miller being an Art Cop could've been a fun thing to come up earlier.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Eight posted:

Miller set his suit to play some old pop tunes he'd enjoyed when he was young and let himself be sung to sleep. When he dreamed, he dreamed he'd found a tunnel at the back of his old hole on Ceres that meant he would at last, at last, be free.
I like this bit, even if it's very Shawshank Redemption. But it's simple and it really makes me feel for Miller.

The next... well, who knows if we can call it morning... Miller heads out onto the surface of Eros. Miller stands there - hallucinating or imagining Julie - and reflects.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Eight posted:

If he'd done the math right, the Nauvoo's impact site would be at the center of Eros' major axis. Miller would be able to see it when it happened, and the giddy excitement in his chest reminded him of being young. It would be a show. Oh, it would be something to see. He considered recording it. His suit would be able to make a simple visual file and stream the data out in real time. But no. This was his moment. His and Julie's. The rest of humanity could guess what it had been like if they cared.
I like this, too.

The Nauvoo approaches, growing closer and closer and bigger and bigger. Eros' murmuring shifts in tone, Miller thinking it sounds like old radar from old films. And then...

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Eight posted:

Eros shouted.

"DON'T YOU loving TOUCH ME!"

Slowly, the bloom of engine fire changed from a circle to an oval to a great feathery plume, the Nauvoo itself showing silver in rough profile. Miller gaped.
The Nauvoo misses! It goes right past Eros. But Miller didn't see any maneuvering rockets fire, and had the Nauvoo even attempted to change course at the speed it was going, it would rip itself apart. But Eros clearly hadn't moved either...

Or did it?

(I feel like 'Eros shouted' before the shout ruins the surprise of the sequence, in a way.)

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Eight posted:

For the Nauvoo to change course at the last minute without falling apart would have been impossible. And so it hadn't happened. Eros was roughly six hundred cubic kilometers. Before Protogen, it had housed the second-largest active port in the Belt.

And without so much as overcoming the grip of Miller's magnetic boots, Eros Station had dodged.
Oh gently caress.

Eros dodging to the side is a great bit, and the Eros feed suddenly gaining what could be self-awareness is likewise cool. But the chapter is very procedural and I always greet that kind of thing with a They go to Eros, they set the bombs, nothing goes wrong, no one kicks up a fuss to Miller staying behind. All of this makes sense and works well enough, but it doesn't really make for gripping reading. Luckily, the ending of the chapter is a really good moment.

Omi: "Seeing the station dodge the Nauvoo from Miller’s perspective on the station instead of from Holden’s is a neat and interesting beat."

Omi no Kami
Feb 19, 2014




Something that's really standing out to me upon re-reading LW is how little setup Eros being a weird quasi-sentient alien AI thing gets. It's not necessarily bad, but it doesn't feel like the moment really builds on anything that's come before it. It makes for a great "Oh poo poo!" beat, but after that it was a bit of a shrug for me- "So the station's alive and can teleport? Okay." I wish we'd gotten more and better integration of the protomolecule stuff, so bits like this could land harder and feel like a finishing blow to the arc instead of just an interesting twist.

I can't remember if I wrote it in the comments but I thought this is especially an issue in Miller's next chapter (I think), where he wanders through Eros making random guesses about how the protomolecule works and what's going on, and ends up being, like, 95% correct.

Kchama
Jul 25, 2007





It kind of feels like they played System Shock 2 or something and thought the whole The Many idea concept was super cool.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Chapter Forty-Nine - Holden

We switch over to Holden immediately. Everyone on the Rocinante is dumbfounded and/or running around like an idiot. Amos wanders up to the ops deck saying 'holy poo poo' over and over, and it's fun. Eros jumped "two hundred klicks" and everyone is freaking out. I like how Holden takes the moment to make sure that it wasn't just a weird hallucination. Omi and I both think this works really well.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Nine posted:

“Eros is really loving big,” Amos said.

“Plan intelligently,” Naomi repeated, speaking to herself now.

“I mean, really loving big,” Amos said. “Do you know how much energy it took to spin that rock up? I mean, it took years to do that poo poo.”
Amos starts trying to figure out the numbers in his head, before realizing he can't. Naomi says it'd take "about ten exajoules" based on her own head math. I don't know how plausible it is to run the numbers like this, but I'm also fiercely dyscalculic and can't find it plausible to do basic long division in my head.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Nine posted:

“Ten exajoules is like, what, a two-gigaton fusion bomb?”

“It’s about a hundred kilos converted directly to energy,” Naomi said. Her voice began to steady. “Which, of course, we couldn’t do. But at least whatever they did wasn’t magic.”

Holden’s mind grabbed on to her words with an almost physical sensation. Naomi was, in fact, about the smartest person he knew. She had just spoken directly to the half-articulated fear he’d been harboring since Eros had jumped sideways: that this was magic, that the protomolecule didn’t have to obey the laws of physics. Because if that was true, humans didn’t stand a chance.
I'll level with you, readers, despite the dyscalculia, I love novels that get into numbers. Maybe it's because I can't really 'get' them. So, all of the technobabble this chapter does on how Eros did the thing it did and how many degrees it heated up and stuff. I love it. But it's not really that much different to re-calibrating the deflector dish, it just has more of a sense of grounded laws and 'reality' about it.

Omi says: "I’m not sure I feel about how the math and technobabble- it’s more effective than having them all stand around going 'That’s super-impossible' for a few pages, but it also takes up a lot of space without accomplishing a whole lot."

Which I think is also true. This is the chapter - unless I'm wrong - which Omi says feels like it should've been a single paragraph. Might talk more about that at the end of it.

The other thing I want to say is that, one, I'm pretty sure the 'Don't worry, the protomolecule isn't magic' comes up every few books, and two, I'm also curious as to what is the difference between Holden's thoughts. Like, what's the difference between sufficiently advanced technology and magic when it comes to the chances humanity has against something that wields it, y'know? I feel like that bit of it the text is more addressing a certain kind of SF/F reader who hates the idea of magic, where magic is a stand-in for deus ex machinas and such, than trying to make any sort of real point.

The crew talks about Eros moving. Then Eros accelerates off towards the inner planets. Then Eros vanishes off radar, just like the stealth ships. The Roci sticks to Eros, keeping it in visual range. The Roci calls the UNN escort ship - the Ravi* - and they forge a quick truce. Then, Holden calls up Fred.

Holden gives Fred the sitrep: poo poo's hosed, y'all. Eros is accelerating towards the sun - and presumably towards Earth - and the Nauvoo missed, so, what do?

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Nine posted:

“They see a threat. They may not see the end of all native life in the solar system,” Holden said. “You wanted a reason to sit at the table? How about this one: Come together or die.”

Fred was quiet for a moment.

Background radiation spoke to Holden in mystic whispers full of dire portents while he waited. Newcomer, it said. Hang around for fourteen billion years or so. See what I’ve seen. Then all this nonsense won’t seem so important.
That dire portents bit felt really out of place. We haven't seen anything like this from Holden before, y'know? Just kinda fantasizing that he's hearing mystic whispers in the 'background radiation.' I'm genuinely not sure what the line is for.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Nine posted:

“I’ll see what I can do,” Fred said, interrupting the universe’s lecture on transience. “In the meantime, what are you going to do?”

Get outrun by a rock and then watch the cradle of humanity die.
That's a fun beat of gallows humor, though.

Fred figures they could detonate the charges on Eros and deflect the course of the rock. But they need to call Miller to do it.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Forty-Nine posted:

“Look,” he said. “I’ve talked to Fred and he wants us to coordinate with your demo guys. You’ve got remote codes. If we set off all of them on one side, we can deflect its course. Get your techs on the line, and we’ll work it out.”

“Huh, yeah, that sounds like a good idea. I’ll send the codes along,” said Miller, his voice no longer distant, but holding back a laugh. Like a man about to tell the punch line of a really good joke. “But I can’t really help you with the techs.”

“poo poo, Miller, you pissed those people off, too?”

Miller did laugh now, a free, soft sound that someone who wasn’t piling on g could afford. If there was a punch line, Holden had missed it.

“Yeah,” Miller said. “Probably. But that’s not why I can’t get them for you. I’m not on the ship with them.”

“What?”

“I’m still on Eros.”
And that's... kinda all of it. The Roci crew see Eros do the thing, then chase down Eros, and then find out Miller is still on the asteroid. It's not much of a chapter. That's not to say it isn't fun - I like the initial 'crew freaking out' stuff a lot and the final exchange between Holden and Miller is fun. But it's just a strange chapter because nothing really happens.

I think this comes back to the issue I've mentioned before, and will probably talk about again, in that all this stuff with Eros is the conclusion to Miller's story. Holden's side of things is... Well, he's just there to follow Eros along and watch events unfold. Literally. That's not to say the story won't invent stuff for Holden to do and reasons to complicate things and so on, but they're not really relevant. They're the plot equivalent of busy work. I really do feel like it'd be a simple task to remove the Holden chapters and make some slight changes to the Miller chapters and everything would still, ultimately, be in the same place. And I feel like that's a sign of weakness in your plot if one of your protagonists, essentially, becomes irrelevant during the climax.

When I think about the other books in the series, I think all of them do a better job with their climax than Leviathan Wakes does. But I'd be interested in hearing, as always, if anyone disagrees with me.

Omi: "Honestly not a lot to say about this chapter - it’s serviceable and everything, but it feels like another casualty of the strict protagonist staggering. I think it’d work better as a few paragraphs from Holden’s POV than an entire chapter."

Oh, yep. Suppose it is.

*I'm still wondering why it's Roci and Ravi...

Khizan
Jul 30, 2013



Milkfred E. Moore posted:

Amos starts trying to figure out the numbers in his head, before realizing he can't. Naomi says it'd take "about ten exajoules" based on her own head math. I don't know how plausible it is to run the numbers like this, but I'm also fiercely dyscalculic and can't find it plausible to do basic long division in my head.

I think it's pretty plausible. Here's how I'd estimate it.

  • A joule is, roughly, the energy required to move 1 kg a distance of 1 meter.
  • The mass of Eros is ~6 x 10^15 kg now, according to wikipedia. In the Expanse, it's been heavily hollowed out, so we'll call it 6 x 10^14.
  • Eros moved 200 km which is 2 x 10^5 meters
  • Accordingly, the ballpark figure for the energy required is about the order of (10^14) * (10^5) joules, which is 10^19, which is 10 exajoules.

If you know the figures off the top of your head(which I did not but Naomi probably would), it's a pretty easy calculation because you're just multiplying powers of 10. This kind of estimation is super-rough napkin math that's pretty much just looking for how many digits are in the number you're looking for and you're okay with being off by a few orders of magnitude in either direction.

As for "100 kilos convertered directly to energy", this comes from E = mc^2. 1 * 299, 792,458^2 is roughly 8.98*10^16, so that's how much energy is in 1kg of mass. We'll round that up to 10^17, because 8.98 is a lot closer to 10 than to 1, so it's a lot closer to being 10*10^16 than it is to 1*10^16.

So if 1kg of mass gives you 10^17 joules, then 100kg converted directly to energy would give you 10^19 joules, or 10 exajoules.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Khizan posted:

I think it's pretty plausible. Here's how I'd estimate it.

  • A joule is, roughly, the energy required to move 1 kg a distance of 1 meter.
  • The mass of Eros is ~6 x 10^15 kg now, according to wikipedia. In the Expanse, it's been heavily hollowed out, so we'll call it 6 x 10^14.
  • Eros moved 200 km which is 2 x 10^5 meters
  • Accordingly, the ballpark figure for the energy required is about the order of (10^14) * (10^5) joules, which is 10^19, which is 10 exajoules.

If you know the figures off the top of your head(which I did not but Naomi probably would), it's a pretty easy calculation because you're just multiplying powers of 10. This kind of estimation is super-rough napkin math that's pretty much just looking for how many digits are in the number you're looking for and you're okay with being off by a few orders of magnitude in either direction.

As for "100 kilos convertered directly to energy", this comes from E = mc^2. 1 * 299, 792,458^2 is roughly 8.98*10^16, so that's how much energy is in 1kg of mass. We'll round that up to 10^17, because 8.98 is a lot closer to 10 than to 1, so it's a lot closer to being 10*10^16 than it is to 1*10^16.

So if 1kg of mass gives you 10^17 joules, then 100kg converted directly to energy would give you 10^19 joules, or 10 exajoules.

I'll just have to take you word for it, hah! I genuinely cannot parse those numbers. One thing I'll mention is that Naomi being able to do it factors into a conversation she has with Amos earlier, when they're on the Anubis. Amos has this moment where he's like 'it's not rocket science' and Holden is like, Amos, buddy, you basically do rocket science as part of your job. I figure people in the Expanse might just be better at numbers and such as a consequence of their work, especially if they're engineers or engineer-adjacent. But, I mean, you'd probably also have really powerful computers to do it, too, but the setting generally keeps any kind of AI in the background.

Chapter Fifty - Miller

We switch right to Miller. Holden asks him what does he mean he's on Eros. Miller goes on about how Eros didn't even feel like it moved.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Fifty posted:

"Okay, hold on. We're coming to get you."

"Holden," Miller said. "Just stop it, all right?"

The silence didn't last more than a dozen seconds, but it carried a wealth of meaning. It's not safe to bring the Rocinante to Eros, and I came here to die, and Don't make this harder than it is.

Holden goes off to coordinate with the technicians. Miller advises him that Eros isn't a rock anymore--but a ship.

Miller figures he's got three hours of oxygen left. He listens to the Eros feed, and he thinks it sounds peaceful. He wonders what music Diogo's friends would make out of it, which is a nice moment. Miller doesn't figure slow dancing is their style. Then, Miller has a little laugh about how there's alien life in the universe and he's riding on it "like a tick on a dog." It brings to mind the thought from earlier - does Miller really know the intricacies of dogs and parasites and such?

Miller goes back to the ship and hooks up his air supply to recharge it. That'll take about an hour.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Fifty posted:

His hand terminal chimed twice, reminding him that it was once again time for the anti-cancer meds. The ones he'd earned the last time he'd been on Eros. The ones he'd be on for the rest of his life. Good joke.
Miller goes to check on the fusion bombs - they're still there. He eats a ration bar and hallucinates Julie resting her head on his shoulder. Miller reflects on how he'd never had faith, and hadn't really understood the desire for it - until the divorce hit him. I'll reiterate my point that I would've liked to get a better picture of Miller's married life earlier.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Fifty posted:

And still, maybe there was something like a plan. Maybe the universe had put him in the right place at the right time to do the thing that no one else would do. Maybe all the pain and suffering he'd been through, all the disappointments and soul-crushing years wallowing through the worst that humanity had to offer up, had been meant to bring him here, to this moment, when he was ready to die if it bought humanity a little time.
It's nice that Miller is gaining something of his humanity back, in a sense. The book, however, provides no indication what Miller's really talking about.

So, Miller grabs one of the bombs and drags it along. Eros is moving even faster now.

Naomi calls him.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Fifty posted:

"You talked to Holden, then?"

"I did," she said. "He's still talking about ways to get you off that thing."

"He's a good guy," Miller said. "Talk him out of it for me, okay?"
Here's where we get out answer to Miller's pontifications on being in the right place - he tells Naomi that, if Eros is a ship, he's going to drag the bomb inside and blow up whatever passes for a control system. Make Eros a rock again, even if just for a little while. Amos and Naomi set up a dead man's switch - if Miller takes his hand of the button for five seconds, the bomb will go off.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Fifty posted:

They didn't speak for a few seconds.

"Thanks for the trigger," Miller said. "Tell Amos I appreciate it."
Miller hauls the bomb along some more. Holden calls him, tries to talk him out of it with an automated cart idea. They say their goodbyes, and I think it's a really fitting moment that feels true to both characters and their journey so far.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Fifty posted:

"Is there... Is there anything you want me to do? After?"

"Nah," Miller said, and then Julie was at his side, her hair floating around her like they were underwater. She glowed in more starlight than was actually there. "Wait. Yes. A couple things. Julie's parents. They run Mao-Kwikowski Mercantile. They knew the war was going start before it did. They've got to have links to Protogen. Make sure they don't get away with it. And if you see them, tell them I'm sorry I didn't find her in time."

"Right," Holden said.

Miller squatted in the darkness. Was there anything else? Shouldn't there be more? A message to Havelock, maybe? Or Muss. Or Diogo and his OPA friends? But then there would have to be something to say.

"Okay," Miller said. "That's it, then. It was good working with you."

"I'm sorry it came down this way," Holden said. It wasn't an apology for what he'd done or said, for what he'd chosen and refused.

"Yeah," Miller said. "But what can you do, right?"
And, with that, Miller heads into Eros "for the last time."

It's an okay chapter. Better than Holden's previous, but there's still something about it that I can't quite put my finger on. I feel like it comes down to feeling a bit slow. Omi calls it "muted" and "decent but strictly serviceable." Honestly, the strongest part of it is the goodbye between Holden and Miller and the rest of the chapter is just kind of... there.

Omi no Kami
Feb 19, 2014




Milkfred E. Moore posted:

I figure people in the Expanse might just be better at numbers and such as a consequence of their work, especially if they're engineers or engineer-adjacent. But, I mean, you'd probably also have really powerful computers to do it, too, but the setting generally keeps any kind of AI in the background.

I read something interesting the other day- apparently if you hold up a whole lot of careers next to each other, having a college degree actually massively reduces the amount of math you do. If you're in certain specialized careers like engineering or scientific research it's different, but the vast majority of the time fancy white collar guys are gonna be monkeying around in giant excel spreadsheets. But skilled tradesmen have to do tons of algebra and trigonometry, and there's generally just a heck of a lot more using mathematics to abstract and solve a rational problem without a pre-existing framework to guide you.

In a lot of ways Amos reminds me of an underwater welder: technically yeah, he's a big, burly hunk of man meat who acts and speaks in a rough fashion, but he's also gotta calculate gas mixtures in his suit on the fly, fix plumbing and electrical systems with hilariously low margins of error, and do a ton of deceptively tough Math Crap.

Omi no Kami fucked around with this message at 14:16 on May 18, 2020

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Amos makes me think of this guy I used to work maintenance with. He wasn't much of an academic but if you gave him a complex engineering problem, he'd just be able to look at it and be like 'hey, here's how we do it' and it'd always work. Just that sort of intuitive, hands-on experience and knowledge.

Chapter Fifty-One - Holden

The Rocinante is chasing down Eros. We open with two pretty good paragraphs on the danger and threat of high-g acceleration on the human body. I think it's a good way for the chapter to both remind us what Holden and co. are up to while illustrating the danger they're in.

Problem is, they're already at the limit of how much the crew can take before they start to suffer nasty things like strokes. Holden's basically out of his mind on acceleration drugs. Unfortunately, the Roci needs to stay in range of Eros while Fred comes up with a plan.

Omi says: "Making the thrilling action scene be a catastrophically unsafe stern chase instead of a firefight is a really nice touch, I like that."

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Fifty-One posted:

Miller was lugging a fusion bomb through Eros right now. When your enemy had the tech advantage, you came at him as low-tech as you could get. Maybe one sad detective pulling a nuclear weapon on a wagon would slip through their defenses.
Fred calls Holden. Honestly, the conversation they have - with Fred talking and Holden typing out paragraphs of responses is a bit awkward. Typing two sentences is "painfully difficult" but then Holden's typing whole paragraphs like it's nothing. It's also a bit too cutesy for the circumstances, I think ("Goody. My spleen is collapsing.")

Anyway, tl;dr of the conversation: the UN likes Fred now because Protogen didn't like Fred, Earth is going to fire thousands of nukes at Eros (using the Rocinante to guide them in) but Holden doesn't think that will work.

Holden cuts Fred off and then cuts the Rocinante's engine.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Fifty-One posted:

"Cap, did you kill the engines?" the pilot said.

"Yeah, that was me. We're done. Eros is getting away no matter what we do. We were just prolonging the inevitable, and risking some crew deaths in the process."
So, Holden decides to value the lives of his crew over wasting them on chasing down Eros. It's an interesting moment. At the end of the day, Holden might talk a big game but his loyalty to his crew comes first.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Fifty-One posted:

"We did our best? What the hell does that matter?" Holden felt a red haze in his mind, and not all of it was from the drugs. "I did my best to help the Canterbury, too. I tried to do the right thing when I let us be taken by the Donnager. Did my good intentions mean jack poo poo?"
Holden thinks about how if Eros kills Earth, the effects will spread out and kill Mars and the Belt. Everyone relies on Earth. He figures that the Solar system had become stagnant and the Protomolecule had offered a shortcut to godhood.

Then the Ravi calls them up and says they're going to stick to Eros. Holden spies the ship's transponder and thinks, hey, there's an idea. Him and Naomi turn on the transponders on the OPA freighters to allow people to track Eros which is a pretty clever/fun way of having a few pieces come together for the climax. Anyway, Earth fires the largest swarm of nuclear missiles in mankind's history at it. Then Miller calls them.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Fifty-One posted:

"Hey. Miller. How you doing?" he said, not quite able to keep the funereal tone out of his voice.

Miller's voice was choppy, and half drowned by static, but not so garbled that Holden couldn't hear the tone in it and know that he was about to take a piss all over their parade.

"Holden," Miller said. "We have a problem."

And that's kind of it.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Chapter Fifty-Two - Miller

At the end of the last chapter, Miller called up Holden and said he had a problem. What is that problem? Well, first we need to go back however long and see how Miller got to call up Holden with the problem. Yeah...

I can see why the authors do this. Holden and Miller are basically on separate tracks at this point and the Miller Express is the more interesting train. Miller returning to the bio-nightmare hellscape that is Eros isn't really something you should skip over. But the progression of...

1. Miller chapter ends with him going into Eros.
2. Holden chapter, Miller calls him up at the end.
3. Miller chapter starts with him going into Eros, calls Holden at the end.

Is just a bit awkward. It's like when someone messes up switching gears in a car, that momentary hitch. It's one of those things where I don't think the A/B chapter progression really works, but I don't know how you could fix it without rewriting the entire story and divorcing it from the RPG outline.

Anyway, Miller is inside Eros. His first problem is that he needs to pry open a door but has to keep pressing the deadman's switch every five seconds. He precariously jams it with his hand terminal and gets the door open.

Inside, Eros is bizarre and gross.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Fifty-Two posted:

The corridor beyond was nearly round; the dark growth had filled in the corners until the passage looked like a huge desiccated blood vessel. The only lights were his suit's headlights and a million tiny luminescent dots that swirled in the air like blue fireflies. When the Eros feed pulsed, growing momentarily louder, the fireflies dimmed and then returned. The environment suit reported breathable air with higher than expected concentrations of argon, ozone, and benzene.
Miller takes the bomb and keeps wandering along. Everywhere Miller goes, Eros is all kinds of messed up. Also...

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Fifty-Two posted:

Something screamed, the sound muffled by Miller's suit. The broadcast feed of the station sounded louder and richer now that he was under its skin. He had the sudden, transporting memory of being a child and watching a video feed of a boy who'd been swallowed by a monstrous whale.
A monstrous whale could be considered a leviathan. In fact, I believe Leviathan was the whale that swallowed Jonah. So, in case you didn't get it already, Leviathan Wakes refers to Eros. Eros is the leviathan that woke up. I don't think it's a perfect analogy but, hey, it works well enough.

We might talk about Jonah and Leviathan and Miller and Eros and Julie in Miller's next (and final) chapter. I spent a bit of time thinking about it today.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Fifty-Two posted:

Something gray and the size of Miller's two fists together flew by almost too fast to see. It hadn't been a bird. Something scuttled behind an overturned vending machine. He realized what was missing. There had been a million and a half people on Eros, and a large percentage of them had been here, on the casino level, when their own personal apocalypse came. But there were no bodies. Or, no. That wasn't true. The black crust, the millions of dark rills above him with their soft, oceanic glow. Those were the corpses of Eros, recreated. Human flesh, remade
As mentioned, I understand why people miss this aspect of the protomolecule. I personally don't, but I do think the TV series and novel present a fairly different sort of process.

But it makes Miller freak out a little. He gets over it by hallucinating Julie and reminding himself he's seen corpses before. It's a nice little callback moment that feels like it's helping bring the story full circle.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Fifty-Two posted:

As if in response, the sound in his suit changed, the Eros feed fluting up through a hundred different frequencies before exploding in a harsh flood of what he thought was Hindi. Human voices. Till human voices wake us, he thought, without quite being able to recall where the phrase came from.
I believe the thought there is a reference to the TS Eliot poem, and not to the 2002 Australian film.

Miller thinks about what he's doing. There has to be controlling something in Eros, but he has no idea what it looks like. Luckily, it hasn't changed Eros too much - much of the layout is still the same. Miller figures that the protomolecule was using a ton of energy, which meant heat, which means head towards the hottest spot. Makes sense!

Miller drags the bomb along, going where Eros is hotter. Eros babbles a bunch of lines, seeming more coherent than before.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Fifty-Two posted:

"Catch me if you can, cocksuckers," Eros said. "I am gone and gone and gone. Gone and gone and gone."
Miller gets closer to the hot spot, which he figures is the nexus of all the supply and energy systems of the station. Eventually, he's down to thirty minutes of oxygen. Eros mentions 'razor back' and Miller has to think it over for a bit.

Miller figures that the protomolecule was a bullet. It wasn't being guided to Earth, it was shot at Earth. But something is guiding it to Earth now. But who, what? It takes him ten minutes.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Fifty-Two posted:

"Oh gently caress," Miller said. "Oh Jesus."

He let go of the cart, turning back toward the ramp and the light and the wide station corridors. Everything was shaking, the station itself trembling like someone on the edge of hypothermia. Only of course it wasn't. The only one shaking was him. It was all in the voice of Eros. It had been there all the time. He should have known.
The voice of Eros - the guiding mind - is Julie. He thinks she's alive.

And that's when he calls up Holden and says they have a problem.

So, while this chapter is more interesting than Holden's immediate previous one, it's about three thousand words long and feels a lot longer than that. Omi and I had a brief chat about the pacing of LW's climax, and my personal opinion is that it somehow both feels a touch too fast (there are three chapters left) and too slow because the chapters are long for what they are. Omi had the thought that the climax feels more "action-oriented and shallow" than the rest of the book. It's not bad but it's all ships shooting at each other, the Nauvoo ram, Miller venturing into the belly of the beast... but the actual content is, like, Miller walks around a bit and does a lot of thinking. Omi thinks maybe the thing to do would've been to stick purely with Miller from the time he stays behind until the end, but then you come back to that strict A/B structure...

Oh, the stuff Miller thinks about the Roman roads still being in use today is pretty much correct. Maybe not totally, but more than close enough to fit what Miller is thinking. We use a lot of the same routes but not the same roads.

Khizan
Jul 30, 2013



I think the problem is that the strict A-B-A-B styling of the chapters forces them to dedicate a disproportionate amount of the ending to Holden, even though the ending would work a lot better with occasional paragraphs about their arduous stern chase interspersed throughout the story of Miller on Eros.

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Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Khizan posted:

I think the problem is that the strict A-B-A-B styling of the chapters forces them to dedicate a disproportionate amount of the ending to Holden, even though the ending would work a lot better with occasional paragraphs about their arduous stern chase interspersed throughout the story of Miller on Eros.

Well, boy, do I have the chapter for you!

Chapter Fifty-Three - Holden

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Fifty-Three posted:

"Actually, we've sort of figured out how to solve the problem," Holden replied.
This line made me grin. Unfortunately, I think it's all downhill from here. I'll be bold there: this is a chapter that does not need to exist.

Miller asks Holden if he's hallucinating or anything. Holden, checking Miller's medical readouts, says he shouldn't be. Miller says he's seeing "just the usual" which is another maddening bit of imprecision re: Head Julie. Then Miller tells Holden that Julie is alive.

Holden, of course, isn't sure how to take it. Miller goes into how she's driving Eros and such. Holden says to Miller that Julie was dead, that they saw her corpse. Miller is all, well, who knows what dead means to the protomolecule? Holden figures Miller is right.

Miller makes the point that, to Julie, it might be like she's flying her old racing shuttle. Holden tells Miller he needs to blow up the control system. Miller won't. Holden says he has twenty-seven hours to do it. Miller doesn't know what he's talking about. Holden mentions the missiles.

I'm going to pause here and ponder something. A chapter ago, Miller said he only had thirty minutes of oxygen left. Okay, sure. A few chapters ago, he figured he only had three hours or so. Okay, sure. So, to me, the twenty-seven hour nuclear timebomb feels very awkward. In twenty-four hours, Miller will be dead.

(And, okay, the last chapter said the air is breathable but it's also packed full of stuff that might carry the protomolecule and the moment Miller has to take off his helmet to breathe or whatever, he's probably dead anyway.)

Basically, what does the nuclear swarm add to this?

Very little. The core issue with this chapter is that Holden is telling Miller things that don't really matter, because Holden is treading water and the authors need to give him some relevance, as meager as it is. With this chapter, there's nothing that couldn't be accomplished by staying with Miller and seeing the conversation from his perspective and having it move much more quickly.

"Miller, heads up - there's missiles coming in. You've got twenty-seven hours."

"poo poo, kid, I've only got thirty minutes of oxygen left. Don't think that's much of an issue for me."

Instead, the two of them kind of inform each other their side of the plot, which is all stuff the audience already knows or has already inferred.

Anyway, Holden says that he's sorry that he didn't tell Miller sooner. But this sticks out to me again, the implication appeared to be that both of them knew that this was a one way trip for Miller. I mean, he's carrying a bomb with a dead man's switch into the heart of a biological hellmonster and flat out told Holden not to come pick him up. So...

Then, Miller tells Holden to stop the missiles. Holden says not a chance. Miller reiterates that he can find Julie and tell her to stop. Miller drops a shitload of theorising on the protomolecule. TL;DR: the protomolecule has adapted to Julie and is using her as a template.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Fifty-Three posted:

"All I'm saying is Eros now isn't what the protomolecule's designers planned on. It's their original plan laid over the top of billions of years of our evolution. And when you improvise, you use what you've got. You use what works. Julie's the template. Her brain, her emotions are all over this thing. She sees this run to Earth as a race, and she's crowing about winning. Laughing at you because you can't keep up."

"Wait," Holden said.

"She's not attacking Earth, she's going home. For all we know, she's not heading for Earth at all. Luna, maybe. She grew up there. The protomolecule piggybacked on her structure, her brain. And so she infected it as much as it infected her. If I can make her understand what's really going on, then maybe I can negotiate with her."

"How do you know that?"

"Call it a hunch," Miller said. "I'm good with hunches."

Omi points out that Miller basically sounds like a crazy person making weird, unsubstantiated claims about something he can't possibly understand. While everyone obviously goes along with Miller's plan, Omi thinks it might've worked better if it was less 'Miller cracked the code because he's a good detective' and more 'indulge his insanity, what else do we have?'

Holden figures it still wants to wipe humans out. Miller points out that humans didn't exist when Phoebe was fired at them. Miller thinks he can convince Julie to go somewhere else. Miller mentions he's been working this case for "almost a year" (huh) and basically knows her so well that he can do it.

Holden says 'no dice.' Miller says he'll bet on Julie because she's figured out how to get around inertia. Miller says he'll blow the bomb if he can't get Julie to stop, but they still need to give him a chance to do it.

Holden figures it'll take Eros a week to reach Earth. He asks Naomi to alter the missiles so they'll take longer to impact Eros. Naomi points out this is a stupid idea.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Fifty-Three posted:

Naomi tipped her head to one side, looking at him suspiciously through narrowed eyes.

"What are you about to do?" she said.

"Maybe give Miller a chance to head off the first interspecies war."

"You trust Miller?" she said with surprising vehemence. "You think he's insane. You threw him off the ship because you thought he was a psychopath and a killer, and now you're going to let him speak for humanity to an alien God-thing that wants to rip us to shreds?"

Holden had to suppress a smile. Telling an angry woman was how attractive her anger made her would make it stop being cute very quickly. And besides that, he needed it to make sense to her. That was how he'd know if he was right.
That last paragraph, oof.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Fifty-Three posted:

"You told me once that Miller was right, even when I thought he was wrong."

"I didn't make it a blanket statement," Naomi said, spacing her words out like she was speaking to an idiot child. "I said he was right to shoot Dresden. That doesn't mean Miller's stable. He's in the process of committing suicide, Jim. He's fixated on this dead girl. I can't even begin to imagine what might be going through his head right now."
Naomi is in the unfortunate position of being the voice of reason, but also being completely wrong.

Anyway, Holden says Miller is impressive because he knew he'd name the ship Rocinante. They call Fred and they basically technobabble a way to have the missiles take a longer course without the Earthers getting super pissed at them for hacking their last-ditch effort before wiping out human civilization.

Fred still won't go for it. Holden offers to throw in the protomolecule sample and lab notes if Fred will go along with this plan, which strikes me as an outrageously stupid call but, hey, it's Holden.

Fred accepts. Holden calls Miller again.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Fifty-Three posted:

"I've been thinking about where to go, if I can talk to her," Miller said. He had the already lost hopefulness of a man with a lottery ticket. "I mean, she's got to park this thing somewhere."

If we live. If I can save her. If the miracle is true.

Holden shrugged, even though no one could see it.

"Give her Venus," he said. "It's an awful place."
And that's that. Part of me wonders out why Holden pegged Venus and not Mercury. That is, beyond some Venus/Eros symbolistic connection.

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