Abaddon’s Gate (The Expanse #3)
By James S. A. Corey
[mild spoilers, because third book]
In general, I am much more of a fantasy than sci-fi fan. I enjoy both but gravitate more towards magic systems, dragons and sword fights than quantum theory, spaceships and laser guns. Sometimes, however, I find a gem. The Expanse is one of those gems. I can easily say that since Leviathan Wakes was published four years ago, The Expanse has rated in my top ten series to come out in quite a while.
As this series has gone on, the characters have learned more about the alien entity that has infiltrated the solar system. It has increased both in scope and potential threat, causing the characters to respond in more and more drastic ways. The aliens are very effectively other. With every piece of information gained, at least two more questions crop up. They are so different from humanity that there seems to be no way to understand them. Add to this that they are infinitely more powerful that humans and you have a terrifying adversary. Even with all of that, I got the very strong sense that aliens were not the main threat.
There were a number of themes in the book that could be argued as the true “villain” of the piece. Hatred, human nature, compassion, religion, and violence are all looked at in a very thoughtful way from a number of angles. Let’s examine these in order, shall we?
Prejudice and hatred go hand in hand. In all of the books there is a certain amount of tribalism evident. Casual racism against between Earth, Mars and the asteroid belt citizens is common. However, it’s not shown very often as the different groups don’t come in much contact in the first two. The third book has plenty of contact between all three groups and thus many chances for the negative repercussions of racism to emerge. This could have made the characters two dimensional parodies of people. Corey instead made the characters understandable, showing their motivations behind their attitudes. It doesn’t make the prejudice ok, but it does make the characters themselves sympathetic.
Speaking of sympathetic one of the main characters in this volume, Anna, is a pastor. Several of the minor characters are also religious. Now, I’m a Christian who reads a lot of sci-fi and fantasy and I always cringe when a religious character is introduced. They are nearly always either incredibly naive or two-faced. It honestly drives me nuts. It’s as if many authors can’t imagine a person who is religious who is neither of these things. So imagine my delight when I saw that the religious characters were actual characters first and religious figures second. It was a part of their personality and make up, not the whole of it.
There is a lot more to this book, but I’m trying to keep this as spoiler free as possible. Suffice to say that I highly recommend this series and especially this book. See you, space cowboy…