The first book in the SF series Expanse.

Publication year: 2011
Format: print
Publisher: Orbit
Page count: 582 (including an excerpt from the next book and Corey’s interview)

I’ve watched the two seasons of Expanse on Netflix, so I was quite familiar with the world and the story when I started to read the book. However, I was somewhat surprised to find out that the book had only Holden and Miller’s point-of-views and reaches about the middle of the second season. Also, I couldn’t help but to think of the actors and whole visual image of the show. The book didn’t have much descriptions of items, which was also a surprise. My two favorite gadgets from the show are the hand terminals which can be pulled to a smaller or larger size and the zero-g boots which turn off or on when you click them together. I don’t think they were described at all in the book.

James Holden is the second-in-command of the ice miner ship Canterbury. He’s from Earth and used to be in the military but was drummed out and is now on an old space ship. When the Canterbury receives a distress signal from a small ship, the captain orders Holden and four others to investigate. They take a small ship and go out. While they’re investigating, a strange ship destroys Canterbury and everyone on it. Shocked and horrified, Holden sends out the video of the destruction and indicates that Mars is responsible. Holden is an idealist and thinks that people will do the right thing, when they see the video. Unfortunately, the relations between Earth and Mars, between Mars and the rest of the inhabited solar system called the Belt, and between Earth and the Belt are very strained and some people use the video as a reason, or excuse, to stir up war. But Holden and his small crew are stranded and don’t know anything about it. When they call of the company for advice, they’re told to surrender to the Martians. Reluctantly, they do so, but the huge warship is soon under attack.

Josephus Miller is a cop at Ceres station, or rather he works for the security firm which is contracted to keep order on the station. The station has several criminal organizations and it’s his job to know they don’t step over the line. Sometimes he’s given a side mission, like now. The Mao family want their adult daughter Julie back. Essentially, Miller must kidnap her to do that. Reluctantly, Miller starts to look for her but before he can find out much, the station is rocked by the news of Canterbury’s destruction and that Mars could be behind it. When the dust clears a little, Miller returns to Juliet’s case and comes quickly to admire the willful and independent girl. She’s apparently mixed up in very dangerous company and Miller is also drawn in.

Miller and Holden are quite different POV characters. Holden is an idealist who wants the people to know everything possible so that they can make the right choices. Miller has been in the security business for almost 20 years and has seen the worst of humanity. He’s a cynic, always expecting the worst and rarely disappointed.

The world, or solar system, seems dystopic to me: most people (at least the ones we see here) are poor and struggling to survive on Ceres and on Eros station. Then we have the very rich and powerful who have their own agendas and toys. The tensions between people for the Belt, Earth, and Mars seem pretty clear racism to me; no rational cause, just fearing and hating people who are different or coming from a different place. Belters are described as taller and slenderer than humans from the gravity well (Earth and Mars), but in this case I think watching the show did a bit of a disservice to me because of course the actors couldn’t be like that.

Compared to the show, the book has very few female characters and suffers a bit from the “only one girl in a team” syndrome.

Otherwise, I quite enjoyed the book. The tv-show is very faithful to it so many of the scenes were familiar. Of course, there are some differences, as well. The book combines noir mystery, thriller, and horror to the main science fiction genre. It moved along at a nice pace and when it needed to jump ahead some weeks, it was done well. It’s different from many other SF series because it doesn’t have aliens and humanity is confined to our solar system. It’s also handles space travel more realistically, with radiation and the stresses in the body when the ship must accelerate.

The book can be read as a stand-alone but I’m definitely continuing with the series and impatiently waiting for the third season to arrive here.