Leviathan Wakes: Lots of Style, Little Substance

I knew absolutely nothing about the Expanse series going into this. I know there’s that show on Amazon, and I know people really like this book, but that’s about it. Going in, I was 100% blind.

Did it live up to the hype? For me, I’d have to say no. It’s still a good book, but there are a lot of things in it that don’t mesh with me. I can see why people might love this book, but personally, I found it pretty challenging to get through.

The Canterbury, an ice-hauling ship, is pulled off-course by a distress signal. While investigating, the ship is suddenly attacked and destroyed, leaving only a small handful of survivors, including one Jim Holden. Meanwhile, on Ceres, detective Miller is assigned to look into a missing girl named Julie. Little to either Jim or Miller know that these events will spiral into a massive conspiracy that may just lead the solar system into a galactic war.

Before we talk about the stuff that didn’t work for me, let’s go over all the stuff I did enjoy. Like I said, this is still a good book and it has a lot of really cool elements that I’m sure sci-fi fans would enjoy. Or people who just like really grim, grotesque, or generally horrific stuff.

For one, I adore the world-building in this book. Unlike other sci-fi universes, we aren’t exploring an entire galaxy or universe with light-speed travel. All of the events are centered entirely around our solar system. It feels smaller than traditional sci-fi, but it still manages to capture the massive scale of… you know, space.

The differently developing cultures that grow in the solar system are equally cool. The burgeoning hatred between the people of Earth, Mars, and the Belt is pitifully realistic. You simultaneously want to live in all of these places while not wanting to live in any of them at all.

Also, the Mormons are building their own ship and flying off into deep space. Which, speaking as someone who grew up in a Mormon state, is totally realistic and hilarious.

The science behind this sci-fi universe is equal parts grotesque and fascinating. The book goes to extensive lengths to explain how space travel works, how artificial gravity functions, the common use and dangerous effects of radiation and how people deal with them, so on and so forth. It even goes into disgusting detail on how G-force presses down on a man’s testicles.

Now, onto the stuff I didn’t like. That being the characters and the story. You know. The actual book part.

While I don’t think any of the characters are bad, I didn’t find any of them to be particularly interesting or memorable. Many of them are killed off right as they start getting development. Others are just sort of there.

Jim is my least favorite character in the book. He doesn’t have all that much personality to latch onto. Plus, he often comes across as sleazy, for lack of a better word. Man’s girlfriend gets evaporated in a nuclear explosion and not two chapters later he starts eying up Naomi. For someone who just underwent something that traumatic, he sure moved on pretty quick.

Miller is a much more interesting character, but he still didn’t work all that well for me. Sure, the rough and gruff cop who knows the horrors of the solar system is cool. But a lot of his character development only happens because he develops a crush on a dead teenage girl. Which is just… what the fuck?

My biggest problem, however, lies in the story’s central mystery. In the first half, it’s incredibly intriguing. But what’s the grand reveal? Space zombies. It doesn’t even pretend otherwise, it literally calls them vomit zombies. After that, my interest in the story really started to tank.

Overall, I can see why Leviathan Wakes had the hype it had behind it. It’s set in a really cool sci-fi universe that’s perfectly absurd and grounded at the same time. Unfortunately, the story itself just didn’t do a whole lot for me personally. The longer it went on, the less interested I was.

But that’s just me. If you’re in the market for a grotesque sci-fi adventure with space zombies, than I can think of few books better than this one. This book ain’t bad; it just ain’t for me.

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