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Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Chapter Fifty-Four - Miller

While Julie Mao mutters to herself, Miller is pillaging a medical bay for supplies - namely oxygen. He ends up with four more hours of air. It's his third time of doing this since talking to Holden, so, he's been here for about twelve hours. One thing I find notable about these early sections is how Miller is thinking of her as 'Juliette Mao.' Usually it's just Julie or Julie Mao. Sure, he's sometimes called her or thought of her as Juliette Mao before, but usually in an official capacity or, when finding her dead, for effect. I'm not sure what it reflects, unfortunately. I'd like to say it reflects Miller getting his poo poo together and being the professional cop he thought he was, but it doesn't really.

So Miller hasn't found Julie yet. He's hit up some hot spots but has found no trace of her. What's more, even his phantom Julie has vanished, which Miller attributes to being so close to the real one. There's a whole bunch of Miller walking around and finding things and reflecting on what he's done. It's okay but, like a lot of the more wordy parts of this novel, I wonder how necessary it is.

For example, what's the difference between 'Miller finds Julie in three hours, on his last bit of oxygen' versus 'Miller finds her in thirteen or however long?' Do we need what's a fairly exhaustive list of where Miller went and what he checked and where he maybe thought he could've gone?

Omi says: "Millerís systematic search of the station as he drags a bomb around with him and tries not to go crazy is extremely exhausting to read, and I think decently well-executed for it. But even reading this the second time and knowing that Miller is right, Iím having a lot of trouble getting invested in his idea and mission - I wish this had been set up a bit more, a bit earlier."

Then, something interesting, that I'd forgotten entirely.

Miller hallucinates Holden.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Fifty-Four posted:

You can't stop here, Holden said. You have to stop running and get on the right road.

Miller looked over his shoulder. The captain stood, real and not, where his inner Julie would have been.

Well, that's interesting, Miller thought.

"I know," he said. "It's just... I don't know where she went. And... well, look around. Big place, you know?"

You can stop her or I will, his imaginary Holden said.

"If I just knew where she went," Miller said.

She didn't, Holden said. She never went.
Then Havelock, then Muss. Interesting thought that Miller reflects that her eyes are as dead as his own. Anyway, I'll just reiterate what I've said about Miller's Head Julie - I wish the story did a bit more with this. Whether it's Miller's habit of imagining people he knows and using them as a conscience or a sounding board, or whether he truly doesn't imagine so much as hallucinate when under stress. I know I missed Head Julie when I first watched the TV series, but seeing the novel again it makes it pretty clear why she was cut. She just doesn't really add anything to the story or Miller's character, and she doesn't really seem to represent anything textually.

Anyway, after a bunch of cop-thinking, Miller finally gets that Protogen would've recovered Julie's body and contained it somewhere. Miller does a bunch more thinking on it, figuring they put her near the ironic rad shelters. He deduces that they kept Julie's body in the backup environmental controls.

So, he heads that way, and the closer he gets the weirder Eros becomes.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Fifty-Four posted:

All the interior rooms had been remade. Transformed. He walked through the wastewater treatment control areas like a scuba diver in a grotto. The blue lights swirled around him as he passed, a few dozen adhering to his suit and glittering there. He almost didn't brush them off the helmet's faceplate, thinking they would smear like dead fireflies, but they only swirled back up into the air. The air recycling monitors still danced and glowed, the thousand alarms and incident reports silhouetting the latticework of protomolecule that covered the screens. Water was flowing somewhere close by.
And then he finds her.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Fifty-Four posted:

She was in a hazmat analysis node, lying on a bed of the dark thread that spilled out from her spine until it was indistinguishable from a massive fairy-tale cushion of her own flowing hair. Tiny points of blue light glittered on her face, her arms, her breasts. The bone spurs that had been pressing out of her skin had grown into sweeping, almost architectural connections with the lushness around her. Her legs were gone, lost in the tangle of dark alien webs; she reminded Miller of a mermaid who had traded her fins for a space station. Her eyes were closed, but he could see them shifting and dancing under the lids. And she was breathing.

Miller stood beside her. She didn't have quite the same face as his imagined Julie. The real woman was wider through the jaw, and her nose wasn't as straight as he remembered it. He didn't notice that he was weeping until he tried to wipe the tears away, batting his helmet with a gloved hand. He had to make do with blinking hard until his sight cleared.

All this time. All this way. And here was what he'd come for.

"Julie," he said, putting his free hand on her shoulder. "Hey. Julie. Wake up. I need you to wake up now."
Miller rocks her like Candace, his ex-wife. Omi and I both really like it as a weird, hosed-up character beat of Miller's. He introduces himself to her, explains the kidnap job. I won't post the whole sequence but it's good. It's telling that it's basically line-for-line as-is in the TV series. There are some differences, intriguing ones, but we'll talk about that when I do a big post talking about the TV series after these last few chapters.

Julie imagines that she's racing home. Miller gets her to hold the switch on the bomb, then pulls his helmet off. Miller knows the protomolecule is set on devouring him, too, but he doesn't care. He just keeps talking to Julie, who changes course for Venus. Miller kisses her hand, and the two of them go towards their, as Omi puts it, "viking funeral" on Venus.

Neither of us have much to say about this chapter. Once you get over Miller's scavenger hunt and shaky cop deduction stuff, his meeting with Julie hits well enough to feel like a climax. Honestly, it could probably be better and more detailed, borrowing some of the words from the first chunk of the chapter, and maybe hit some of those notes more cleanly and strongly, but it works. Miller has ventured into Hell and reunited with the woman he loves and comforts her as they both burn up and save the day.

While the TV series basically preserves this climactic moment as is, and gives it an incredible music track, I feel they put one particularly intriguing twist on it. But we'll discuss that later.

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Some of the Sheep
May 25, 2005
POSSIBLY IT WOULD BE SIMPLER IF I ASKED FOR A LIST OF THE HARMLESS CREATURES OF THE AFORESAID CONTINENT?

Milkfred E. Moore posted:

I know I missed Head Julie when I first watched the TV series, but seeing the novel again it makes it pretty clear why she was cut. She just doesn't really add anything to the story or Miller's character, and she doesn't really seem to represent anything textually.

Rather than truly cut her though, I thought they did a very wise thing by having Head Julie be a confessional story Miller tells to Naomi, fully self aware it's his cracked mind hallucinating. What she says to him in this hallucination is very interesting to me too, but I don't want to steal your thunder on that one so I'll wait for you to cover it.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Some of the Sheep posted:

Rather than truly cut her though, I thought they did a very wise thing by having Head Julie be a confessional story Miller tells to Naomi, fully self aware it's his cracked mind hallucinating. What she says to him in this hallucination is very interesting to me too, but I don't want to steal your thunder on that one so I'll wait for you to cover it.

I'm racking my brain to try and recall that scene and don't appear to be able to. If you want to leap into it, go ahead! I plan on running through the Leviathan Wakes episodes of Season 2 over the next few days, if not the weekend, so I'll get to it otherwise.

Chapter Fifty-Five - Holden

So, after Miller's big conclusion, Holden is dreaming.

I won't say there are no good dream sequences, but I'll gladly say I'm not predisposed to enjoying them. I feel they're a bit like flashbacks, where it's often a sign of a weak story - or, if not weak, one that could be told better. Dream sequences can be entertaining when they tell us something new about the character, or really lean into some weird and exciting imagery that's fun to read about. Unfortunately for Leviathan Wakes, Holden's dream does neither of these things. There's something strange about going into this chapter with a dream sequence, too. A problem dream sequences have is that there's no stakes. The character can just wake up!

Which is precisely what happens now. Holden dreams that him and Naomi are eating cookies in his family home in Montana, then everything turns red (ominous!) and Eros hits the planet and the protomolecule consumes Naomi and then him, and Holden wakes up in a panic.

So, not only does this not tell us anything new (Holden is scared of the protomolecule, wow, Holden is scared his family might die, wow^2) it's also not very dream-like beyond that it's telling us it's dream-like because it's a weird dream.

Holden wakes up and everyone is still sleeping. The red pulsating light that had heralded Eros' arrival in the dream is an alert message on his console. The Ravi is targeting them.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Fifty-Five posted:

He reached out to activate the comm and call the Ravi as his incoming-message light flickered on. He opened the connection, and a second later, McBride's voice said, "Rocinante, cease maneuvering, open your outer airlock door, and prepare to be boarded."

Holden frowned at his console. Was that a weird joke?
Hard not to wonder the same thing, really.

Omi says: "The fight between the Ravi and the Rocinante feels a little abrupt and forced. Weíve had plenty of fun spaceship fights so far, but right now Iím still interested in the alien space station thing - it feels like their disagreement couldíve been cut entirely."

And this is pretty much true. Think of it this way. The last chapter ended with Miller convincing Julie to drive Eros into Venus. So, you could pick up the next chapter with it having happened or about to happen. Like, it's all been pretty well established, right? The story is basically done. You could probably cut this chapter and leap right to the epilogue and not feel you lose much.

Instead, the novel needs to give Holden a bit of an exciting ending, too. So, it's time for the Ravi's superiors to order them to seize the Rocinante.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Fifty-Five posted:

"No," he said, not quite able to keep the annoyance out of his voice. "It's not understood. And I'm not going to let you board me. What the hell is going on?"

"I've been ordered by UNN Command to take control of your vessel. You're charged with interfering with UNN military operations, unlawfully commandeering UNN military assets, and a list of other crimes I'm not going to bother reading right now. If you do not surrender immediately, we will be forced to fire on you."

"Oh," said Holden. The UNN had discovered that their missiles were changing course, had attempted to reprogram them, and had discovered that the missiles weren't listening.
Earth is pissed that Holden handed - let me look at my notes - three-thousand five-hundred and seventy-three interplanetary ballistic missiles over to Fred Johnson. They call Fred a traitor, and Holden tries to quibble over it. Anyway, the Ravi tells Holden to get the missiles back on course, or they'll fire on his ship.

In ten minutes.

Well, okay. It doesn't do much for the excitement because, at best, it means the CO of the Ravi is trying to stall. At worse, it's a bizarre decision made by that same CO to give Holden ten minutes to get ready for battle. In most situations like this, the bad guy gives them something closer to ten seconds.

So, I suppose this is taking place before the Miller chapter previous?

Holden kicks off the red alert with a "shrug" and I think a bit of the issue this chapter has is that of tone. Holden trying to argue Fred's status, him shrugging as he goes to red alert, and so on. Even on my first read through, I thought this whole bit of drama was really forced and really boring and not even Holden himself seemed to be taking it seriously.

Anyway, Holden gets the crew ready to go defensive if the Ravi opens up. Holden and McBride, Captain of the Ravi, talks a whole bunch. There's a bunch of posturing and the Ravi starts shooting but Holden holds fire and thinks how he doesn't want to be forced to kill them, stuff like that. It's just not a very interesting fight.

Then Eros pops back onto radar, and goes right for Venus.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Fifty-Five posted:

Eros crashing into Venus was the most widely broadcast and recorded event in history. By the time the asteroid reached the sun's second planet, several hundred ships had taken up orbits there. Military vessels tried to keep the civilian ships away, but it was no use. They were just outnumbered. The video of Eros' descent was captured by military gun cameras, civilian ship telescopes, and the observatories on two planets and five moons.
The crew takes a slow journey back to Tycho and watch the footage, of which I think would be a truly incredible occurrence in human history. Amos drinks faux tequila. Holden and Naomi hold hands. Holden doesn't know what happened on Eros but Miller won't answer his hand terminal.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Fifty-Five posted:

When the end came, it was beautiful.

In orbit around Venus, Eros came apart like a puzzle box. The giant asteroid split into a dozen chunks, stringing out around the equator of the planet in a long necklace. Then those dozen pieces split into a dozen more, and then a dozen after that, a glittering fractal seed cloud spreading out across the entire surface of the planet, disappearing into the thick cloud layer that usually hid Venus from view.
Holden speculates on ominous sequeltastic possibilities.

Leviathan Wakes, Chapter Fifty-Five posted:

"They won't stay there forever," Holden said.

Alex tossed off the last of the tequila in his glass, then refilled it from the bottle.

"What d'ya mean, Cap?" he asked.

"Well, I'm just guessing. But I doubt the things that built the protomolecule just wanted to store it here. This was part of a bigger plan. We saved the Earth, Mars, the Belt. Question is, what happens now?"

Naomi and Alex exchanged glances. Amos pursed his lips. On-screen, Venus glittered as arcs of lightning danced all across the planet.

"Cap," Amos said. "You are seriously harshing my buzz."
And with that TV/IV-esque 'guess' from Holden, we close out on the final chapter of Leviathan Wakes. There's technically one more, the epilogue, but this is it for the main thrust of the story. After the epilogue, I'll do a bit of a summary of my thoughts of the first novel as a whole, then sum up how the TV series closed out the same story and talk about the differences. Then I'll take some time to gather some notes on Caliban's War, probably over the weekend, and we'll get stuck into that.

Khizan
Jul 30, 2013



Milkfred E. Moore posted:

Well, okay. It doesn't do much for the excitement because, at best, it means the CO of the Ravi is trying to stall. At worse, it's a bizarre decision made by that same CO to give Holden ten minutes to get ready for battle. In most situations like this, the bad guy gives them something closer to ten seconds.

I think this is more that he's not giving them a ten second task and he has to give them an appropriate window to do the things that he's asking them to do. If the job's gonna take 10 minutes, you have to give him at least 10 minutes to do it.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Khizan posted:

I think this is more that he's not giving them a ten second task and he has to give them an appropriate window to do the things that he's asking them to do. If the job's gonna take 10 minutes, you have to give him at least 10 minutes to do it.

Oh, of course. I'm an idiot.

Some of the Sheep
May 25, 2005
POSSIBLY IT WOULD BE SIMPLER IF I ASKED FOR A LIST OF THE HARMLESS CREATURES OF THE AFORESAID CONTINENT?

Milkfred E. Moore posted:

I'm racking my brain to try and recall that scene and don't appear to be able to. If you want to leap into it, go ahead!

In "Safe" S02E01, just after miller squares up with Amos, he and Naomi have a conversation in his berth. It starts of with her trying to explain Amos to him but quickly veers to Julie and Millers connection to her.

He recounts how jaded he was: "Holden was shocked by Eros I was shocked it hadn't happened a long time ago."

But Julie (or his impression of her) had gotten to him so completely: "I wake up some nights and I see her standing right there. Now I know it's bullshit but, [sigh] she's right there. She takes my hand, she tells me, 'you belong with me'."

Spoiled what she actually says to him, because once you cover off the tv series part of this there's some tv-only shenanigans about the connection between Julie and Miller that can be explored in a bit more detail.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Some of the Sheep posted:

In "Safe" S02E01, just after miller squares up with Amos, he and Naomi have a conversation in his berth. It starts of with her trying to explain Amos to him but quickly veers to Julie and Millers connection to her.

He recounts how jaded he was: "Holden was shocked by Eros I was shocked it hadn't happened a long time ago."

But Julie (or his impression of her) had gotten to him so completely: "I wake up some nights and I see her standing right there. Now I know it's bullshit but, [sigh] she's right there. She takes my hand, she tells me, 'you belong with me'."

Spoiled what she actually says to him, because once you cover off the tv series part of this there's some tv-only shenanigans about the connection between Julie and Miller that can be explored in a bit more detail.

Wow, yeah, that'd completely skipped my mind. I still can't remember it even with that info.

Epilogue - Fred

Epilogues are a strange thing. They're sort of like prologues and dream sequences and flashbacks and other storytelling conventions in the sense that they're things I tend to be more critical of than feel they have a genuine place in a text. To me, an epilogue isn't strictly necessary reading. The main thrust of the story and the various questions therein should be solved in the main chapters. A good epilogue, in my opinion, is one that maybe answers one last question or solves one last riddle while also throwing up an interesting hook or final thought to think about. Thinking about cinema, for a moment, I see an epilogue as being like a good end-of-credits or mid-credits scene.

In the epilogue of Leviathan Wakes, the epilogue switches away from Holden and Miller and puts us in the shoes of Fred Johnson. "Because of course it's Fred," Omi notes.

Leviathan Wakes, Epilogue posted:

Frederick Lucius Johnson. Former colonel in Earth's armed forces, Butcher of Anderson Station. Thoth Station now too. Unelected prime minister of the OPA. He had faced his own mortality a dozen times, lost friends to violence and politics and betrayal. He'd lived through four assassination attempts, only two of which were on any record. He'd killed a pistol-wielding attacker using only a table knife. He'd given the orders that had ended hundreds of lives, and stood by his decisions.

And yet public speaking still made him nervous as hell. It didn't make sense, but there it was.
Wow, Fred, how come your mom lets you butcher TWO stations? Omi points out that 'unelected prime minister' is a funny way of saying bigshot terrorist guy. He also finds Fred's note that he finds public speaking nervous as hell a bit odd, but it reads to me like an interesting look at the man behind the mask. I know people who've been teaching for years and still have a burst of nerves before every class. It happens.

Leviathan Wakes, Epilogue posted:

"General Sebastian will be at the reception," his personal secretary said. "Remember not to ask after her husband."

"Why? I didn't kill him, did I?"

"No, sir. He's having a very public affair, and the general's a bit touchy about it."

"So she might want me to kill him."

"You can make the offer, sir."
That's a fun bit.

Basically, Fred's getting ready for the big peace talks he's been hoping for over the course of the whole novel. The war is over but people aren't happy, and Fred thinks that - unless there's a genuine achievement here - things will collapse back towards war. People fear Fred because he has the protomolecule, and I think that's an interesting thought to have hanging over the guy as he's like, hey, we need to build a real peace.

What, peace under the threat of a blue-glowy flesh gun? The story doesn't really address this, however, and Fred's thoughts seem to treat the protomolecule as an interesting science tidbit more than anything else.

Oh, Captain Shaddid is still head of Ceres security and is handling the security and been his personal bodyguard. She's done well for herself, hasn't she? Honestly, the brief mention that Shaddid is still kicking might be my favorite part of this chapter.

Mention is made that something is happening on Venus but no one knows what, just that the protomolecule isn't dead. Mention will be made of huge crystal towers growing on the surface. Ominous!

Then Fred has a visitor:

Leviathan Wakes, Epilogue posted:

His secretary's terminal chirped, and she consulted it briefly.

"It's Captain Holden, sir."

"Do I have to?"

"It would be best if he felt he was part of the effort, sir. He has a track record of amateur press releases."
Holden wonders if he's going to get sued over all of it. Mention is made of him giving away "all mineral and development rights to an entire planet" but I'm honestly having trouble recalling when that was. Fred says he'll do what he can. Holden says he won't give the Roci back to Mars either, due to rules of salvage. Fred will do what he can for that, as well.

There's a nice little bit about Miller then, too.

Leviathan Wakes, Epilogue posted:

"And you'll tell them about him, right?" Holden said. "Miller. He deserves the credit."

"The Belter who went back into Eros of his own free will in order to save Earth? You're drat right I'm going to tell them about him."

"Not 'the Belter.' Him. Josephus Aloisus Miller."

Holden had stopped eating the free strawberries. Fred crossed his arms.

"You've been reading up," Fred said.

"Yeah. Well. I didn't know him all that well."

"Neither did anybody else," Fred said, and then softened a little. "I know it's hard, but we don't need a real man with a complex life. We need a symbol of the Belt. An icon."

"Sir," the secretary said. "We really do need to go now."

"That's what got us here," Holden said. "Icons. Symbols. People without names. All of those Protogen scientists were thinking about biomass and populations. Not Mary who worked in supply and raised flowers in her spare time. None of them killed her."

"You think they wouldn't have?"

"I think if they were going to, they owed it to her to know her name. All their names. And you owe it to Miller not to make him into something he wasn't."
Fred says they can't just be like, hey, Miller was a suicidal ex-cop who happened to save us all. He says that Miller's sacrifice is a tool, and he's going to use it.

Leviathan Wakes, Epilogue posted:

"Even if it makes him faceless," Holden said. "Even if it makes him something he never was?"

"Especially if it makes him something he never was," Fred said. "Do you remember what he was like?"

Holden frowned and then something flickered in his eyes. Amusement. Memory.

"He was kind of a pain in the rear end, wasn't he?" Holden said.

"That man could take a visitation from God with thirty underdressed angels announcing that sex was okay after all and make it seem vaguely depressing."

"He was a good man," Holden said.

"He wasn't," Fred said. "But he did his job. And now I've got to go do mine."
It's entertaining and fun, but it doesn't do much to dispel the feeling that Leviathan Wakes was Miller's story through and through. Like I've said a few times, even you cut all the Holden chapters and did it all with Miller, this epilogue would still fit perfectly.

Fred goes off to give his speech. As he reaches the pulpit, he hesitates and wonders if he should "shed the patterns of history" and tell the truth about Joe Miller. He decides it'd be a noble way to fail, and begins his speech, and closes off Leviathan Wakes.

Leviathan Wakes, Epilogue posted:

"Ladies and gentlemen," he said, "We stand at a crossroads. On one hand, there is the very real threat of mutual annihilation. On the other.." He paused for effect. "On the other, the stars."
It's not the worst ending. It was more interesting to read than either of Holden's last chapters. But there's still something a little strange about it to me. I can't say I'm that interested to be in Fred's head, and I can't say this chapter leaves me wanting to spend more time in it. Fred feels very similar to the guy we've been seeing throughout the novel, which is probably why Omi brought up that initial comment about him being nervous about speaking. Omi also feels like the epilogue sets up a lot more narrative stuff than the past half a dozen chapters or so did combined, which gives it a rushed feeling.

Additionally, the epilogue doesn't really do much. There's no real sequel hook, no real fun twist, and it overall feels more like a denouement than an epilogue. As far as twists go, maybe if Fred had said he'd tell the 'true story' of Miller then, with a fit of imminent speech anxiety and desire for system-wide peace, decided not to, that'd do it. I feel like that'd be a fun twist of how history is made by people with really human frailties or something. I guess when I think of the phrase 'generic sci-fi space opera politics book ending' I think of something like this epilogue. It's not bad, but it doesn't really make me want to read the next one. Which I think is interesting because, in my opinion, a lot of the Expanse novels have really interesting epilogues!

Omi no Kami
Feb 19, 2014




Since we're between books, this is as good a time as any to solicit other people's opinions on something I've thought about a lot: how do you guys feel about Holden and the Rocinante crew as recurring protagonists? Because I'm really split- I like them as characters, and I have fun every time they show up in the books, but I honestly feel like they could be removed from every single book without much trouble. Leviathan Wakes is very explicitly Miller's story, and I think the upcoming Caliban's War has it even worse: it's pretty much all Bobbie and Prax's story, with Avasarala providing a critical supporting role to fill in the gaps.

So yeah- this is a weird take when you consider that I actually like Holden and company but it kinda feels like they're in this universe because they're the PCs, and I wonder what the series would've been like if instead of formal main characters, it was just one long line of "Major space politics, as seen by random blue collar space workers."

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


I feel like having Holden as a throughline helps the books some, and the crew are generally fun enough that spending time with them in each novel is enjoyable. However, I think it is fun to imagine a series of novels where we never see their perspective, they just happen to keep showing up and helping out and getting wrapped up in things. A Miller-only novel where Holden kicks off a war and then bumps into Miller in the hotel. A novel about Prax and Bobbie, etc. A story where Holden is this figure who we never see inside the head of, who keeps showing up at all this historical moments, could be fun.

Leviathan Wakes: Final

I feel like my final opinion on Leviathan Wakes is tainted by the fact that it was the second book in the series I read. I started with Abaddon's Gate and then jumped back, so, it's hard for me to eventuate it as my first contact with the universe and characters. However, even saying that, there are still certain things I felt about it during my first read that I recall clearly. And, for all my criticisms, there are good things I can say about it.

All in all, it's an okay book. It's not great but it's not bad - I've read way worse novels. Leviathan Wakes is the story of a noir detective going for one last case and an idealistic ship's captain who gets caught up in a huge conspiracy and it delivers on it pretty well. It's not deep but it's also not as shallow as a lot of airport fiction. However, while it's not one of the worst Expanse novels but it's also not one of the best. It's merely okay.

The world is interesting enough, and the 'hard-ish' science with all the rigors of space travel felt novel. The Earth/Mars/OPA situation is easy to understand. The worldbuilding does what it's supposed to do, but the story feels more weighted towards worldbuilding than plot or characterization.

Much like the world, the characters are simple enough and fun to be around. I criticize Amos for not feeling like the guy from later novels, but LW!Amos is still a fun presence. While none of the characters are particularly strong at this point, the two weakest are definitely Alex and Naomi. If I have a criticism for the cast as a whole, and the wider novel itself, really, is that Leviathan Wakes doesn't feel like it rewards a reread.

The plot is fine enough. Most of the big setpiece moments are fun or interesting. Miller's climax is fine but Holden's side of it is boring and uninteresting enough that I was skimming it in my very first read. I do wonder how much of it is tied to the play-by-post transcript, because I feel like it's a lot of it. Which is I think the big problem Leviathan Wakes has, being tied to a very different method of storytelling. What would the novel have been like had the authors broken more completely from the roleplaying outline?

Along those lines, I feel like there are little elements that we wouldn't see if the Coreys had more foresight or if they were writing the novel now. For example, I don't think Holden's brothel stuff or his weird ogling of Naomi and so on would be something we'd see. I don't think Amos would be so quick to call things queer or whatever. And had the story not been so tied to the RPG, maybe we'd have seen characters like Naomi - who really is the one who should be in command - take more of a role than 'Captain's love interest' or Alex be more than 'the pilot' and so on.

It's part of what makes Caliban's War such an interesting sequel, because it really is quite similar to Leviathan Wakes (a missing girl story, Earth and Mars at war, etc.) but the authors are more able to tell a story.

All in all, I think Leviathan Wakes is okay. My brain is saying it's about a 7/10 and I think that's a fair assessment. It does what it set out to do and does it competently enough, but there's nothing about it that'll make you say 'wow.' This is part of the reason why I don't think the first novel has much to offer over the TV adaptation. Ultimately, I consider the TV series as a revised, stronger second draft that tells the same story but does it much more effectively. This isn't necessarily the case with the later seasons, but the first one? Absolutely.

We'll get more into the particulars of the first season adaptation and how it differs over the weekend.

Khizan
Jul 30, 2013



Milkfred E. Moore posted:

Additionally, the epilogue doesn't really do much. There's no real sequel hook, no real fun twist, and it overall feels more like a denouement than an epilogue. As far as twists go, maybe if Fred had said he'd tell the 'true story' of Miller then, with a fit of imminent speech anxiety and desire for system-wide peace, decided not to, that'd do it. I feel like that'd be a fun twist of how history is made by people with really human frailties or something. I guess when I think of the phrase 'generic sci-fi space opera politics book ending' I think of something like this epilogue. It's not bad, but it doesn't really make me want to read the next one. Which I think is interesting because, in my opinion, a lot of the Expanse novels have really interesting epilogues!

My guess is that it's because they weren't expecting to land a multi-book contract with Leviathan Wakes. It has a kind of "open enough to lead off a series, but functional as a stand-alone" quality to the ending. There's definitely room for sequels, but if it flops and stops here it's at a sort of stopping point and it's not obviously a failed series. It's got a very 'safe' feel. I'd guess that future books don't have this sort of ending because they sold books 2-6 off of the strength of Leviathan Wakes and didn't need to worry about that kind of thing.

Omi no Kami posted:

Since we're between books, this is as good a time as any to solicit other people's opinions on something I've thought about a lot: how do you guys feel about Holden and the Rocinante crew as recurring protagonists? Because I'm really split- I like them as characters, and I have fun every time they show up in the books, but I honestly feel like they could be removed from every single book without much trouble. Leviathan Wakes is very explicitly Miller's story, and I think the upcoming Caliban's War has it even worse: it's pretty much all Bobbie and Prax's story, with Avasarala providing a critical supporting role to fill in the gaps.

So yeah- this is a weird take when you consider that I actually like Holden and company but it kinda feels like they're in this universe because they're the PCs, and I wonder what the series would've been like if instead of formal main characters, it was just one long line of "Major space politics, as seen by random blue collar space workers."

I like all of them except Holden. I think he's easily the most boring character on his ship. Every other character is more interesting and more involved in the story and the world, to the point where it feels like Holden's real job in the plot is to be a loving idiot when the plot happens to be in need of one.

FPyat
Jan 17, 2020


Leviathan Wakes was regrettably alienating enough that I lost interest in the series as a whole after finishing it. Still, there's the possibility that this thread's read of Caliban's War might change my mind.

Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


FPyat posted:

Leviathan Wakes was regrettably alienating enough that I lost interest in the series as a whole after finishing it. Still, there's the possibility that this thread's read of Caliban's War might change my mind.

Would you be interested in expanding on this? I always find it interesting to read why or how people don't get into something. Was there any particular reasons or was it more of a general thing?

FPyat
Jan 17, 2020


Mainly it was the protagonists. They struck me as cliche archetypes - the idealistic space captain, the troubled detective - that I love when done with skill, but not as they were executed here. Their internal psychology seemed juvenile and confused.

The 'vomit zombies' line was so jarring that I became frustrated with the book after reading that page.

But I think mostly it was just comparison that soured my opinion. I had just come off from reading a lot of more epic, thrilling-scope space opera, stuff by Alastair Reynolds and Iain M Banks and Vernor Vinge and Dan Simmons, and after all that what the Coreys were doing just wasn't what would excite me. It's more down-to-earth, but not enough that it appeals to the part of me that wants realism and slow-burn literary storytelling. I was really interested in the Earth-Mars-Belt politics, but as revealed it wasn't as in-depth and complex as I'd hoped, not to mention that it was all put on the backburner for an alien plot I didn't want.

FPyat fucked around with this message at 12:20 on May 30, 2020

Omi no Kami
Feb 19, 2014




In a lot of ways the Expanse series feels to me like the authors thought they were writing schlock action, but wrote really interesting slow-burn conversations instead. Like we already saw in Leviathan Wakes the story is at its best when people are talking or thinking, and (usually) at its worst during the action scenes, but it's still plotted and paced like a popcorn action thingie. So you end up with this really weird hybrid where (at least for me) you tolerate the action and stay for the conversations and background stuff.

If you're at all on the fence I'd recommend giving Caliban's War a try- it's probably my favorite of the first four, and (if I remember correctly) it's much less Holden-centric, and a lot more "Three really interesting characters do things, Holden was there too." That having been said it's very definitely a book by the same guys who wrote LW, and in my writeups for the prologue and first chapter I'm already finding correlates to patterns we already discussed in LW. So I dunno! I think CW is the best-executed of the bunch, but there's definitely less space opera, and more like what you'd get if Michael Bay wrote All The President's Men.

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Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


FPyat posted:

Mainly it was the protagonists. They struck me as cliche archetypes - the idealistic space captain, the troubled detective - that I love when done with skill, but not as they were executed here. Their internal psychology seemed juvenile and confused.

The 'vomit zombies' line was so jarring that I became frustrated with the book after reading that page.

But I think mostly it was just comparison that soured my opinion. I had just come off from reading a lot of more epic, thrilling-scope space opera, stuff by Alastair Reynolds and Iain M Banks and Vernor Vinge and Dan Simmons, and after all that what the Coreys were doing just wasn't what would excite me. It's more down-to-earth, but not enough that it appeals to the part of me that wants realism and slow-burn literary storytelling. I was really interested in the Earth-Mars-Belt politics, but as revealed it wasn't as in-depth and complex as I'd hoped, not to mention that it was all put on the backburner for an alien plot I didn't want.

Interesting. I think the Coreys have mentioned that their next collaborative work is a space opera along those lines, funnily enough. It'll be interesting to see what they can do with it.

The TV Adaptation (2x01)

So, I underestimated how many differences there were. I'll be splitting this up. Before we get into the particulars of the differences, the first thing is the most obvious change. Much like how the first season introduced Avasarala and the Earth political intrigue plot line early, the second season introduces Bobbie before we get into Caliban's War proper. Bobbie's stuff generally follows Mars' investigation into Phoebe Station as well as providing a peek into the Martian war machine. Honestly, I like it a lot. We even get to see Phoebe get blown up just as she's preparing to deploy to it.

Otherwise, the second season of The Expanse opens with the crew having just escaped Eros. It picks up pretty much where you imagine, with Holden in the medical bay. Something I like is how Holden's repeated internal wonderings whether he'll get superpowers, is turned into a line from Naomi to him. "Maybe you'll develop superpowers, that'd be perfect for you." Funnily enough, the dream sequence from the climax - where Holden is scared of the protomolecule devouring him and Naomi - is also brought forwards. It works much better as an 'opening shock' on screen than it does in text.

Without the big expository diary entries from the Anubis, Amos and Naomi have to bust open the safe to figure out what's in it. However, some of it does come in the form of Dresden's science logs. The ramblings of a scientist feel a bit more natural than Big Evil Guy's implicatory monologue. When the crew figures out they're holding onto a sample of the protomolecule, they hide it in a debris field. They don't know what to do with it, and they don't want to give it to someone, but Naomi argues that they can maybe use it to create a vaccine.

A significant change is that Sematimba got onboard the Rocinante, but was killed by Amos. This leads to a pretty great scene where the two of them get into a brawl - well, more of a stomp, really. Amos effortlessly takes down Miller. Amos is set to kill him, in fact, but Naomi intervenes and manages to basically drag Amos off him. "I told him to stay down," Amos says, almost like a child (Miller calls him a 200-pound homicidal kid even), as if it's okay for him to kill Miller because he didn't stay down. And, of course, Miller's upset at Amos because he shot someone is echoed by Holden's upset at Miller for doing the same.

The scene between Naomi and Miller (mentioned by Some of the Sheep) is good, too. It was briefly covered already and I don't have much to add.

Speaking of Naomi, her relationship with Holden builds a bit quicker and more naturally. However, we do lose the 'Miller listens to Holden pour his heart out' scene which is one of my favorites from the novel. In exchange, we get a nice moment where they're outside the ship and have this whole intimate moment and then get it on in the airlock as they're stripping out of their spacesuits. Also, Holden says 'Sorry' after he spontaneously kisses Naomi and that feels exactly like something he'd do.

The 'cheese mafia' talk happens when the Rocinante crew sit down for a meal, at Alex's behest. Remember, the Roci crew isn't as buddy-buddy as they were in the novel, so, it's a nice moment. Miller comes in and is like, hey, I busted that cartel. It's also a nice moment because Amos lets Miller sit down and the whole group bonds.

A small new subplot concerns the people the Rocinante crew rescued from Eros. Alex has to test them for protomolecule. It's okay, all in all.

Something else I noted is that Eros is much less populated in the TV adaptation. It has a population of 100,000 whereas the novel specifies that Eros has a population of about a million and a half.

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