Hugo Review – Best Novel – Leviathan Wakes

As I previously mentioned, I’m attempting to consume as much of the 2012 Hugo Short Listed works in order to make an informed vote.

I started with the Best Fancast category and am now on to the category of Best Novel.

This is my review of  Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey.

Note, this review is obviously subjective and most definitely biased, based on the topics and style of writing which interest and entertain me.

This review may contain SPOILERS

Synopsis: Holden is an idealist executive officer on an outer planets freighter, Miller a cynical detective on the Ceres Space Station in the outer planets. They fight crime.  Both get caught up when a three front war breaks out between the outer systems (Belters), Mars and Earth, throwing them together in a Space Opera adventure. Together, they seek to untangle the political manoeuvring  behind the war, discovering a huge alien bio-weapons conspiracy in the process. A standalone novel in its own right, this is also the first book in the Expanse trilogy.

Plot: The plot is fairly meaty in a traditional Space Operatic  way. There are ships. There are space fights. There is a steadily expanding view of the political situation, revealed through the characters’ (mostly) logical actions and discoveries. In some areas though, it felt a bit forced, or incredibly coincidental. the plot called for the certain actions to occur and the characters conveniently carried out those actions or persuaded other parties to do so.

Characters: Both of the main characters are written well, with completely different personalities mostly realistically portrayed through both actions and thoughts, and I was able to relate to and identify with aspects of each. Other minor characters were also reasonably written, with enough of a personality to flesh them out into three dimensions – we got a sense of their strengths, weaknesses, fears and hopes, and why they were doing what they did in line with those.

Scope: Set in the known Earth Solar system, the scope of the story spans from mention of Earth, through Mars, space stations, and the outer planets and asteroid belts. Whilst much of it is background for the story being told, it certainly enriches the story and gives meaning to the characters backgrounds, beliefs, behaviours and actions.

Writing: The writing was pretty reasonable, there were a few repetitive bits, but that’s not entirely unexpected with two authors and lots of descriptions of action in space. I don’t recall ever being thrown out of the novel by the writing, but nor do I recall any particular phrases which jumped out at me for their cleverness or excellence.

Pacing: The pacing was fast, an overall continuing progression of deadline to deadline, with occasional plot and character driven pauses to give the reader time to digest before the next action scene. I felt the authors got the balance just right, enough fast paced action to keep the reader engrossed, without overwhelming them.

Other Comments: James S. A. Corey is actually a pseudonym for a pair of collaborating authors, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. I’m guessing each wrote one of the main characters, thus allowing two very strong individual perspectives. They did this well, it’s not obvious they are collaborating authors, and I think this worked very well in their favour.

Overall: I enjoyed this book, although it felt a bit forced in plot progression. The writing was solid, the pacing good, and in a couple of cases, I found myself staying up later than expected due to “just one more chapter” syndrome, which I rate as a good sign of an engrossing novel. I have to comment briefly on the ending as well, as I found it quite well done. It both satisfactorily wrapped up the story told in Leviathan Wakes, and set the stage for the next novel in the chapter, without leaving a significant cliff hanger. I’ll certainly be grabbing the next novel!

Two Novels reviewed, three to go. Next: Embassytown by China Mieville



Best Novel Background Material:

Short listed in the Best Novel category for the 2012 Hugos are:

Among Others, Jo Walton (Tor)
A Dance With Dragons, George R. R. Martin (Bantam Spectra)
Deadline, Mira Grant (Orbit)
Embassytown, China Miéville (Macmillan / Del Rey)
Leviathan Wakes, James S. A. Corey (Orbit)



1 comment to Hugo Review – Best Novel – Leviathan Wakes

  • Actually Consider Phlebas is the hardest of them all, I found. The oehtrs are very engaging, and there’s no real need to read them in order. Try The Player of Games and or Use of Weapons. Note that Iain Banks with no M. is the same author writing non Culture novels with an occasional frisson of science fiction. Which leads to odd situations like people who eagerly read everything by one of the two names and little or nothing by the other.

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