Frivolous Waste of Time

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Archive for the tag “sci-fi”

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

It’s been a while since a book got under my skin quite like this one. Annihilation is a book that plays with familiar ideas and themes in a unique way, bounding together familiar science fiction tropes with a palpable sense of Lovecraftian cosmic dread. In Annihilation, knowledge is deadly but irresistible, with those who are curious bringing about their own downfall.

Many of the details of the backstory are kept intentionally vague, but we do know that around 30 years before the book begins a bizarre ‘Event’ led to the creation of Area X, a fairly small section of coastal land separated from the rest of the world by a strange border. The exact natures of this land and border are unclear, so the Southern Reach organisation has sent forth 11 expeditions, of which none returned entirely intact. Annihilation is the story of the 12th expedition, as four women, known only by their job titles, set forth into Area X to attempt to unravel its mysteries. Our protagonist is the biologist and she is joined by the surveyor, the anthropologist and the psychologist. It is not long into their journey that they discover something not on their maps; a strange tunnel heading underground, which the biologist can only perceive as a ‘tower.’

Annihilation is told in the first person and is playful with the idea of an unreliable narrator. The biologist can’t quite trust her own senses and is quite upfront about the fact that she is distorting and twisting some of the information for the reader, and that some of what she sees is so indescribably alien it simply cannot be put into words. The atmosphere is pure Lovecraft; a recurring motif is our protagonist, a scientist, at the edge of something dangerous, knowing she should turn back, but utterly ruled by her curiosity and need to know, even if the consequences are hideous. Annihilation is not about eldritch and ancient beings viewing humanity with horrifying indifference, but it channels the same sense of unease.

It is the building of atmosphere which is Annihilation’s greatest triumph, particularly in scenes taking place within the tower. There is a sharpness and precision to VanderMeer’s prose; Annihilation is not a long book and could be called a longish novella rather than a full novel, but no moment is wasted. It is utterly lean and without an ounce of the flab which pervades the genre. I think Area X is meant to sound cliché; it sounds like the title of a cheesy 1950s sci-fi B-movie, but I think this intentionally bland name is to wrong-foot the reader about the kind of book they are reading and the reality of what Area X actually is. Alongside the solid world-building is very strong characterisation. The biologist is insular and driven and I loved spending time in her head.

Annihilation is the kind of book I’m going to be recommending to anyone who will listen, so I will scream into the void (this blog) to tell you to read it. I cannot wait to get to the sequels.

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Caine’s Law by Matthew Stover

The Acts of Caine series seems to follow a cycle of something contained and disciplined followed by something more grand and ambitious. The first cycle of this technique, Heroes Die followed by Blade of Tyshalle, didn’t really work for me. This second cycle, with the focused Caine Black Knife followed by the unhinged and bizarre Caine’s Law, works much better. The sense of having bit off a bit more than he can chew persists from Blade of Tyshalle, but by keeping the focus firmly on the titular protagonist it avoids its worst missteps. Caine’s Law is ambitious, dazzling and genuinely unique and a memorable ending to one of the strangest fantasy series around.

Caine Black Knife ended on a series of cliffhangers; Orbek’s upcoming trial-by-combat with Angvasse Khaylock, the nature of the Smoke Hunt and, most significantly, Caine’s final arrest and removal, crippled once again, to Earth. To give any significant plot summary for this book without spoiling it feels like an impossible challenge. Caine’s Law takes place in a variety of times and places, some before the events of Heroes Die, as well as between Blade of Tyshalle and Caine Black Knife. The core theme of the novel is deity and religion; considering that at least three figures throughout the series can be said to have ascended to becoming demi-Gods, it’s a theme worth exploring and closes out the series in suitably epic fashion.

Whilst I appreciate the ambition, as with Blade of Tyshalle things fall apart a bit in the execution. I really love what Stover is going for here, but it’s a bit too opaque, a bit too dense. It’s well aware of its own confusing nature, but being aware of your own flaws don’t necessarily stop them from being flaws. The book feels like a dense weave of subplots, rather than having a core strong plot in itself. Some of these subplots work better than others, with a little bit of overindulgence in some areas. A very interesting new character known as the Horse-Witch plays a vital role, but I think perhaps a bit too much time is spent with this storyline, as well as a lot of mediation about horses in general. Still, I ultimately had a better time with Caine’s Law than Blade of Tyshalle because it continues the wise trend from Caine Black Knife in focusing entirely on its titular protagonist.

There have been a lot of unstoppable, ridiculous fantasy badasses, but Caine may be the best I’ve ever seen. More than anything else, this book breaks down exactly who, and what, Caine is, to the very core. Supposedly Stover is writing another book in the setting focusing on Raithe, and despite what I’ve said earlier, I think keeping Caine out of future books, or as a supporting character, is for the best. We know him now, intimately, inside and out. A lot of the time badass characters achieve that through mystery, but we now know pretty much all we could ever want to know about this character, which makes his unique perspective and strength somehow even more compelling. Caine is to fantasy what Batman is to comics, or John Wick to cinema.

Caine’s Law is an ambitious and bizarre way to end the series. Stover doesn’t quite stick the landing, but there’s a lot to be said for shooting for the stars, even if you ever so slightly miss. I look forward to delving into some of his other works, although I think I might skip the novelisation of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.

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Caine Black Knife by Matthew Stover

The previous book in the Acts of Caine series was the ambitious, but frankly incoherent, Blade of Tyshalle. It drastically expanded in scope from the first book, but at the cost of what made Heroes Die so engaging to begin with. Caine Black Knife is a simpler, more straightforward return to form for the series. Where Blade of Tyshalle got bogged down in numerous sub plots and supporting characters, Caine Black Knife is all Caine, all the time. It is a shorter, leaner and more focused book and all the better for it.
Caine Black Knife follows two timelines; one takes place a couple of years after Blade of Tyshalle, with Caine heading to the Boedecken Wastes to save his Orgrillo friend Orbek, who has fallen into trouble. The other timeline tells the story of Caine’s most notable Adventure, and the one which propelled him to massive stardom; Retreat from the Boedecken. We’ve heard this story alluded to many times in the previous books, about how Caine destroyed the infamous Black Knife Orgrillo clan and earned his reputation for stunning competence and cruelty. Caine’s actions 25 years in the past are still influencing the present, as figures from his past come back to haunt him and the consequences of his actions finally catching up to him.

Where Blade of Tyshalle covered a significant geographic range and focused heavily on metaphysics and mysticism, Caine Black Knife takes place mostly in one location and drops (to an extent) many of the elements which bogged down the previous book. It’s an exciting and tense book, with the stunning violence the series is known for still in full effect. Just when you think this series couldn’t shock you any more, Stover manages to conjure up something truly horrible. The crucial difference is that it feels less gratuitous, but also more honest. This series has long had a history of slyly satirising the fantasy industry’s propensity for grimdark violence whilst also acknowledging the undeniable visceral thrill this violence provides. The first book got the balance right and the second got it wrong, but the fine balancing act is pulled off here. Caine wasn’t so brutal against the Black Knife clan in the Boedecken because it was the clever or tactical thing to do, he did it because the audience back on Earth loved it.

There’s a sense of fun to Caine Black Knife, even in its grimmest moments. Caine is a relentlessly enjoyable protagonist, utterly loathsome but impossible not to like. There are odd cracks of sentimentality, which are usually punctuated by something unforgiveable. Removing Caine from the core of Blade of Tyshalle was a mistake, because he truly is a brilliant protagonist and this book benefits massively from keeping him as the key PoV at all times. Most of the previous supporting cast is absent, a handful of cameos aside, but the new cast is filled with interesting figures for Caine to murder or generally infuriate, both in the present day and flashback storyline.

Caine Black Knife is a fun, horrifying and deeply satisfying book. We know that Caine murdering his way through swaths of Orgrillos shouldn’t be as fun as it is and Stover never stops winking at the reader. He keeps escalating things further and further, seeing how far our sympathies will stick with Caine, with the answer being worryingly far. The sense of satire, as well as being just a damn good fantasy novel, makes Caine Black Knife a return to what made Heroes Die great.

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Snapshot by Brandon Sanderson

A new Brandon Sanderson novella is never a bad thing and Snapshot is a lot of fun, if a bit lightweight compared to some of his other efforts. Its high concept is a bit over reliant on exposition, compared to the relative elegance with which he creates entire worlds in stories like Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell or Sixth of Dusk, but it’s a fun bit of popcorn reading nonetheless.

Snapshot follows two detectives, Davis and Chaz, as they investigate inside a titular ‘Snapshot’, an entire recreation of a day in a city, used to investigate crimes in real time. This is set in the Reckoners universe, or multiverse, or whatever’s going on with that setting. During a routine investigation, Davis and Chaz stumble upon a crime they weren’t meant to know about and take it upon themselves to investigate.

The actual story itself, in terms of character and motivation, is fairly thin. What saves the experience is a playfulness with reality and perception, as well as Sanderson’s signature world building. The people within the Snapshot are, disturbingly, implied to be sentient and that every time the Snapshot is shut down they are essentially murdering thousands of conscious minds. Sanderson doesn’t shy away from this inherent darkness, with the most interesting element of the plot being a badge which, when shown to someone in the Snapshot, makes them aware that they are, essentially, not real. The differing reactions are very interesting; some laugh, some cry, some kill themselves and some kill others. Still, the actual story wrapping up the interesting ideas isn’t particularly memorable. It’s got a couple of twists, but without much of a reason to care about the characters they’re robbed of impact.

Snapshot is a decent enough read, but definitely doesn’t pack the punch of some of his other short fiction. If you fancy a sci-fi tinged detective story you could do worse, but there’s better out there too.

 

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Babylon’s Ashes by James S A Corey

I spent about a year working through The Expanse books and to be honest I don’t really mind the break before the next one. Babylon’s Ashes is very much Nemesis Games 2. All the other Expanse books have been fairly self-contained in setting and story, whilst building towards the larger whole. For example, Abaddon’s Gate concerned itself with Medina Station and the Slow Zone and Cibola Burn with the colony of Ilus, but, for better or for worse, Babylon’s Ashes follows on pretty much directly from Nemesis Games.

Earth is still reeling from the devastating attack from Marco Inaros and his Free Navy, who now seek to consolidate their hold on the Belt and Medina Station, to ensure that the colony gates cannot be used. There are a lot of PoV characters in this one, but the core story lines converge around about three. One is Filip Inaros, son of Marco and Naomi Nagata and orchestrator of the attack on Earth, who now finds himself questioning the competence of his father and his place in the Free Navy, whilst burdened with the unimaginable loss of life he has caused. Next is Michio Pa, returning form Abaddon’s Gate, now a Free Navy captain who goes rogue after Marco’s decisions become more and more erratic. Finally, obviously, we have Holden, desperately trying to hold the system together and re-unite the Inners and the Belters.

Where previous books were strict about numbers of PoV characters, Babylon’s Ashes relaxes this significantly. There are still a few who dominate, but there are also a handful of chapters from characters like Bobbie Draper, Clarissa Mao, Avasarala and Prax Meng, as well as all of the Rocinante crew. There’s a looseness to the structure which feels intentional but not quite successful. For example, the events on Medina Station are shown through four different one-off PoVs, which only has the effect of not allowing us to get particularly attached to any of them. Don’t get me wrong, it was nice to return to so many fan favourite characters, but a lot of the time (with the notable exception of Prax who gets a decent subplot of his own) it feels superfluous. This is a book where it felt like a lot was happening, but when it came to actually running through the complete events of the book I realised it was a bit lacking. It also, as with Nemesis Games, pretty much entirely ignores to protomolecule/ancient alien civilisation plot. I have full confidence that following books will return to it, but that’s two books now which lack the most interesting part of the series.

The role of these two books, Nemesis Games and Babylon’s Ashes are clear, to overturn the status quo and install a new one as the series enters its final stretch. I see the narrative necessity, but it doesn’t make it any more interesting to read. They remind me a fair bit of Martin’s A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons, books which have also been criticised for pacing and existing largely for place setting. The thing is though, I’m a defender of those books as Martin’s characterisation is so good that following a wonderful character like Brienne of Tarth wandering around for 8 chapters doesn’t bore me. Abraham and Franck aren’t quite in the same league, but who is?

The characterisation is still solid enough, although some character moves are unconvincing. I like Clarissa Mao but her redemption arc feels a bit rushed. Marco didn’t really work for me as a villain; I see what they were going for, he’s like Che Guevara crossed with Osama Bin Laden, but he ends up feeling more like Donald Trump, a blow-hard appealing to populist idiots and fuelling anger to power his own rise. He’s going to Make the Belt Great Again, but the details for exactly how that will work are sketchy at best. Holden is pretty much static as a character by this point, but that’s fine, I quite like him existing as a paragon of ridiculous goodness. I miss proto-Miller though; a bitchy ghost commenting on everything he does certainly livened up his chapters.

Babylon’s Ashes isn’t awful by any stretch, but I’m certainly glad that this subplot is over now. My hope is that the final trilogy of books double down on the protomolecule stuff after its two book absence. As underwhelmed as I was, this wasn’t enough to put me off the series. If I can power through the middle Wheel of Time books I can power through anything. Hopefully, as with Wheel of Time, the conclusion is worth it.

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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One is only five years old but already feels like something of a relic. It’s an optimistic and uplifting book with an unshakable belief in the power of nerds to do good. Events since 2011 have shaken my belief that being a nerd or a geek makes you more likely to be a good person, with events like Gamergate or the Sad Puppies unfortunately suggesting that ‘nerd culture’ isn’t what I thought it was. In this sense, Ready Player One feels like a sort of nerd utopia, where everyone is egalitarian and inclusive in their shared love of pop culture, as opposed to the polarised and exclusionary narratives which so often surround issues of diversity in ‘nerdy’ pop culture.

Ready Player One takes place in a not too distant future which has become dominated by the ‘Oasis’, a virtual reality experience where much of the Earth’s population spend all their time. Where the real world is riven with poverty, over-population, environmental collapse and massive inequality, the Oasis is a genuinely egalitarian place where anyone can live an exciting or creative life. The creator of the Oasis, James Halliday, had died five years before the start of the book, but in his will had set forth the hunt for the Egg. Somewhere in the Oasis, hidden behind three walls requiring three keys, in the greatest Easter Egg known to man and the discoverer of this Egg will bestow the finder with Halliday’s fortune and control of his company. This announcement changes the world, with many foregoing all else and hunting for the Egg full time, known as gunters. Halliday was obsessed with 1980s pop culture and so all the gunters become experts in 80s movies, TV shows, videogames and music in the hope that they will provide a clue. Our protagonist, Wade, is one of these gunters, although a fairly insignificant one, who stumbles upon the first clue for the Egg five years after the competition was first announced.

Your enjoyment of Ready Player One is largely going to be tied to your tolerance for reference based writing. Almost every major moment is a call back to some piece of 80s arcana or the other. Now, I’m not a child of the 80s. I’m a 90s kid baby. Re-write this with Pokémon, Tarantino and Nirvana and it’d be more my era, but I ended up spending a fair bit of this book feeling quite lost.  I have mixed feelings about all the references. I usually don’t like them; I found them really annoying in Charlie Jane Anders’ All The Birds in the Sky, but Ready Player One is a bit different because it’s entire plot is about references. It’s about nostalgia, so it doesn’t feel as calculated and cringeworthy here as it does elsewhere. I was expecting this to end up as a comment on the toxicity of nostalgia, of living in the past and refusing to embrace the new, but that never comes.

The main cast are a likeable, if straightforward bunch. There aren’t any standout characters, but they’re all enjoyable enough that you’re rooting for the good buys and booing the bad guys. The ‘adorable nerd’ thing doesn’t feel quite as relevant these days in a post Gamergate world. No one in the Oasis is whining about SJWs or posting Pepe memes, officially making it a vastly superior place than the real internet we have to inhabit. This isn’t a criticism of Ready Player One, far from it, but it definitely made me quite sad to see that genuine optimism and enthusiasm for ‘nerd culture’, which recent events have revealed to be, at best, non-existent, or at worst toxic and hateful.

Ready Player One is a likeable enough book, certainly the genre fiction version of a beach read. I read the vast majority of it across two lengthy train journeys, which seems like the right way to absorb something like this. I’m not sure that there’s much substance here, but it’s a fun enough ride regardless.

 

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Nemesis Games by James S A Corey

There was a lot to like about the fifth book in The Expanse, but ultimately it repeated the structural flaws of the previous book pretty much exactly. It is saved by strong characterisation and a breezy writing style, as many of these later books in the series have been. As I have felt previously with this series, I liked it enough to keep going but not enough that I’m massively enthused about it.

Nemesis Games picks up not long after the Ilus incident, with Holden and the crew of the Rocinante unwinding on Tycho Station. Personal issues pull the crew of the Rocinante apart, with this book rather excitingly following all four crew members of the Rocinante, allowing us to get in their minds (apart from James Holden), for the first time. Alex Kamal returns to Mars to try to patch things up with his ex-wife, but finds himself dragged into a conspiracy involving missing Martian warships. Amos Burton heads back down to Earth following the death of a woman close to him in his previous life as a Baltimore gangster (see short story The Churn for details) to either pay his respects or set out a bloody swath of revenge if her death is unnatural. Naomi Nagata is summoned by an old OPA connection back to Ceres Station, pulled by a deeply personal connection as her mysterious past is finally unveiled. Finally, a bored and lonely Holden on Tycho is asked to investigate colony ships which appear to be vanishing at the gates to the other worlds.

It is a proper treat to finally follow these core figures of Alex, Amos and Naomi as full point of view characters, which means that this book is not too worried about throwing lots of new characters our way; we already know them pretty well from the previous four books. Digging inside their heads is interesting, particularly in the case of Naomi who has held the most back so far. Cibola Burn has a major issue where the first half was very slow but the book was saved by a major event at the half way point; unfortunately, Nemesis Games has pretty much the exact same problem. There are pages upon pages in the first half which are almost immediately rendered pointless by a game changing moment in the second half. I don’t mind slow build characterisation stuff, but we don’t really gain anything from these scenes. For example, Amos’ storyline in the first half is essentially a mini-sequel to The Churn with very little to do with the rest of the book, which feels a little self-indulgent. When things get going they really get going and there are lots of moments towards the end which are breathlessly exciting.

The book suffers slightly for the lack of development of the protomolecule/ancient alien civilisation storyline, focusing almost entirely in the politics of the Sol system and the delicate power balance between Earth, Mars and the OPA. It’s not that this stuff is bad necessarily, but the balance between the two seems to be fairly key to this series. The first two books, Leviathan Wakes and Caliban’s War struck this balance best and they are the two strongest books in the series. There are some hugely exciting action scenes and some which are a bit incoherent as has long been both the boon and curse of this series.

Naomi probably had the strongest storyline as we see a very different side to the Rocinante’s XO than anything we’ve seen before. Bobbie Draper and Chrisjen Avasarala play slightly bigger roles in this book, which is nice as they really were two of the best protagonists that this series has had. With the exception of Holden, we’ve yet to have a single repeat PoV between books, but I can’t help but hope that these two come back in a big way. Holden is a bit static in this book, largely reacting to everything else going on, which is a bit of a change of pace from his usually position at the centre of every major event in the system.

Nemesis Games is definitely enjoyable, Abraham and Franck are too talented as writers for it to be anything but, however it has not quite succeeded in pulling this series out of the slight rut it has found itself in. The next book, Babylon’s Ashes, is actually coming out pretty soon. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it and I hope I love it.

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The Churn by James S A Corey

I’m about to catch up with The Expanse novels so warmed myself up with another one of the novellas.  This one is easily the most grounded and least ‘sci-fi’ so far. I didn’t like it quite as much as the Martian set Gods of Risk, but The Churn is nonetheless a pretty interesting insight into one of the most interesting but dangerous characters in the series; Amos Burton.

The Churn is a prequel, taking place in Baltimore prior to Burton’s first trip into space and, eventually, to the Canterbury. At this point, Burton is a gang leader with a ruthless reputation. The story primarily follows Timmy, an enforcer for Burton who at the beginning of the story is pulled up for misinterpreting an order and killing someone he was meant to be extorting. Baltimore frequently goes through what the locals call the churn, a police crackdown on crime in the city, so the private contractors Star Helix are bought in to overturn the tables on the gang, throwing Timmy into danger.

Although this is a story set in the future, The Churn’s Baltimore doesn’t feel a million miles away from where we are now. It captures rather nicely a divide between the rich and poor; the science fiction excitement available for some doesn’t amount to much for the penniless down in Baltimore. There’s a greater sense of authorial intrusion in The Churn, with a tone which feels markedly different to anything else I’ve read so far in The Expanse. It’s a neat little experiment. Obviously the main draw of this is to get a feel for the origin of Amos, always my favourite of the Rocinante crew. It’s interesting and well-handled and is easily our closest examination yet of a character who’s often been something of a cipher.

The Churn doesn’t necessarily feel ‘essential’ in any way, but it’s a good read and one which fans of Amos should definitely give a go.

 

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Abaddon’s Gate by James S A Corey

Abaddon’s Gate is the third book in The Expanse and clearly represents a pivot in what the series is all about, shifting in an interesting new direction. Abaddon’s Gate is concerned with the pivot itself and in some ways feels awkwardly caught between what the series was and what it is going to become. That said, the quality of writing is strong enough that the flaws never stop this book being good fun.

After the events of Caliban’s War the protomolecule superstructure around Venus has transported itself to the orbit of Uranus, constructing itself into a vast gate with a mysterious starless void behind it. The arrival of ‘The Ring’ presents a crisis both practical and existential to the governments of Earth and Mars, as well as the OPA. All three major powers in the system send a group of ships to investigate. There are four point of view characters. The OPA have sent the Behemoth, a massive ship built from the salvaged Nauvoo, the Mormon ship which pushed Eros onto Venus in Leviathan Wakes. Bull is the head of security on the Behemoth and must keep the ship together under the leadership of an increasingly unstable captain. Anna Volovodov is a priest who has been chosen to join a delegation of cultural figures who have been sent to examine The Ring and what it might mean for humanity’s place in the universe. Melba Koh is an unstable and violent young woman who has hidden her true identity to get to The Ring and extract a personal vengeance at any cost. Finally, James Holden is back, being haunted by the protomolecule construction of Miller and avoiding The Ring at all costs. Events conspire him to bring the crew of the Rocinante there anyway and all four storylines collide and intertwine at The Ring.

Where Leviathan Wakes and Caliban’s War encompassed a variety of settings, Abaddon’s Gate is much more focused, taking place almost entirely at The Ring. Where previous books had multiple storylines which gradually converged, here all storylines are in the same rough place very early on. This means that Abaddon’s Gate feels a bit slower paced than the previous books. It hints at being the most epic of the series so far, but in the end it feels a bit smaller. There’s nothing wrong with turning towards being more focused, but considering the scales at play in the previous books Abaddon’s Gate doesn’t get quite as tense. It rattles along fairly well, but a fair bit of this book feels like stalling before we get to the interesting place the next book seems to be headed.

The two authors remain very good at straightforward, compelling and readable prose. The world building is less interesting by the simple fact that it primarily takes place on space ships, without the interesting sojourns onto planets or space stations. The setting doesn’t quite come alive and this make the closing action beats feel a little hollow. The good prose helps carry the, at times, slow pace of the storytelling.

All three of the new characters are interesting and good to follow, but I think it’s fair to say that none of them appealed to me as much as Bobbie and Avasarala from Caliban’s War, two characters who do not appear in this book and that I missed greatly. Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are as charming as ever, although I would have liked to see more of them spending time together. The easy relationship between the crew is a joy. I liked the priest Anna a lot, but Bull is a bit straightforward and I never really bought Melba’s motivation. They’re decent characters, but I can’t say that I’m left clamouring to see more of them.
This review likely reads quite negative, but that’s largely because the positives are simply those elements which build on the strengths of the first two books. There isn’t much to say about them that I haven’t previously. Abaddon’s Gate is a good book and an enjoyable read, but I hope that Abrahams and Franck do justice to the compelling place at which this book is left off. This may not be the strongest book in the series, but it sure as hell isn’t weak enough to make me want to stop.

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The Butcher of Anderson Station by James S A Corey

Due to a (mostly Brandon Sanderson provided) barrage of new books recently, it’s taken me longer than I would have liked to get back to  The Expanse after Leviathan Wakes. My next novel to read is Caliban’s War, but before getting into it I decided to warm myself back up to this setting with The Butcher of Anderson Station, a short story which tells us a little bit more about one of the most interesting characters in the series.

We meet Fred Johnson in Leviathan Wakes years after his defection from the Earth military to the OPA. Through flashbacks we see Johnson’s actions at the Belter massacre at Anderson Station and how this event led him to join the very group he had been fighting. It doesn’t really give us much new that we didn’t already know, but it does give us an insight into how it is that the most hated enemy of the OPA became one of their leaders. It’s a good story, told well.

There’s very little to say about this one. If you have about 30p to spend and fancy spending 15 minutes learning a bit more about Fred Johnson, go for it!

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