Tag Archives: James S.A. Corey

Friday Faceoff – Slipped the surly bonds of earth…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is spacecraft – yay! I’ve chosen the third book,  Abaddon’s Gate, in the space opera series The Expanse by James S.A. Corey

 

abaddonsgateThis is the cover produced by Orbit in June 2013. I love the colour, the action and the vibrancy of this cover. It clearly has eye appeal as do all The Expanse covers and plenty of drama. However I’m not a fan of all the chatter, which I think makes it look rather untidy and takes away from the effectiveness of the strong design.

 

abaddonsgate1This German cover produced by Heyne in February 2014 has a completely different colour palatte and is far simpler in design. I do like the relatively uncluttered look which gives me the opportunity to fall in love with the spacescape.

 

abaddonsgate2This Serbian edition, produced in June 2015, has really grown on me. Once again, it is relatively free of all the chit-chat silting up the UK offering and the image is arresting and effect – but I also particularly like the title font which sings out of the darker background. I also think said gate is beautifully depicted here.

 

abaddonsgate3The cover design on this Russian edition, produced in August 2014, is nicely complex and an intriguing angle, so that I stop every time to see if I can figure out exactly where all those worrying pieces floating about have come from. Unfortunately it is ruined by those clunky thick bands enclosing the fonts, giving the cover an old fashioned look and obscuring far too much of the lovely artwork.

 

abaddonsgate4This Italian edition, published in August 2016, has used the same colours as the original but changed the angle of the ship. Sadly, the other detail copied across from the UK editions are all the words cluttering up the cover.

Which is your favourite? Mine is the Serbian edition, but I’d love to know if this one will divide everyone as thoroughly as last week’s offering.

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Review of Abaddon’s Gate by James S.A. Corey – Book 3 of The Expanse

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I read Leviathan’s Wake, which I reviewed here and Caliban’s War last year – and loved them both. Strong military science fiction abaddon's gatewhere the action crackles off the page and peopled with characters I care about doesn’t come along all that often. Far too often, a sprawling plot stutters over huge distances and the characters are somehow flattened by the enormity of all the technological gismos flexing their shiny muscles. Not so with this series. But having read the first two books, would I also equally enjoy this next instalment?

For generations, the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt – was humanity’s great frontier. Until now. The alien artefact working through its program under the clouds of Venus has appeared in Uranus’s orbit, where it has built a massive gate that leads to a starless space beyond. Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are part of a vast flotilla of scientific and military ships going out to examine the artefact. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with Holden’s destruction at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to decide whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them.

That’s the blurb. So… something alien has appeared and now Mankind needs to work out what they are going to do with it. A science fiction theme that is as cosily familiar as late-night cocoa – although this time around it has a particular backstory which I will not be going into right now. In fact, if this is the first Expanse novel you’ve encountered, my strong advice is to put it down and get hold of the first in the series, Leviathan’s Wake. While Corey (writers Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) are far too experienced to either produce a slew of spoilers, or leave readers flailing around amid a forest of allusions to previous plotlines – this story rackets along at a fair clip with a lot going on and events in the previous two books have a direct bearing on what happens and why.

One of the main protagonists that keeps me coming back to this series, is James Holden. His apparently heroic stance in the first book created a fair amount of havoc – to the extent that parts of Humanity loathe him. So when he directs Rocinante towards the Ring, it is going to create tensions in an already unstable situation – but what actually happens could not be foreseen by anyone. Or how certain factions of Humanity decide to react…

As ever, along with the non-stop action and excitement, Corey also provides us with plenty of food for thought – what is the nature of Faith in a world where planet-killing forces are at work? How does that line up with the notion of a loving God? While I would have liked to see a tad more of Rocinante’s crew, there were a cast of characters in this book that more than made up for their relatively minor role in this slice of adventure. It didn’t hurt that both my favourite people in this novel were powerful women who represented very different viewpoints. I loved Anna, her strength and core of kindness. Reading and appreciating her, I realised that people with a strong religious belief all too often come off badly in genre fiction – either portrayed as some narrow-minded fanatic or misguided fool. The other character I really enjoyed was Clarissa. Her journey through the novel could have been all too predictable – in fact I was reasonably positive that I knew exactly what would happen to her by the end. And it didn’t… I am hoping to see her again in Cibola Burn, the next instalment which cannot come fast enough.

If space opera does it for you at any level and you haven’t yet encountered The Expanse series, do yourself a favour and start hunting it down.
9/10

How Do You Like Your Heroes?

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Well done – all crusty and seared on the outside, but with a core of soft idealism that every so often reveals itself to animals and small children?

Medium – a bit of a mixture? Not exactly the lantern-jawed version, because there are some major flaws such as a weakness for the alteredcarbonopposite sex, rather too fond of drink and a good time when our hero should be righting wrongs – and at times a reluctance to step in and do the right thing because it takes effort and often hurts. More like the rest of us, in other words. But when it all hits the fan this person will step up and put herself on the line for the rest of us.

thebladeOr rare… a mass of simmering resentment against a brutal, unfair world, who will kick against anyone standing in their way. But, who nonetheless, doesn’t steal from cripples or take advantage of defenceless young girls. Mostly…

In speculative fiction, many authors explore the idea of heroes in interesting ways. We have Richard Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs in Altered Carbon, who is a classic anti-hero right on the edge of acceptability. Violent and out for what he can get – yet ensures that he targets the corporate fat cats. Joe Abercrombie’s torturer, Glokta in the First Law series is even less attractive. After being crippled, he gets even with the rest of the world by inflicting pain on other people for a living. It is his desert-dry wit that he is liable to turn against himself as well as everyone else that lets readers empathise with him, even if we’d rather never encounter him. As I read him, I find myself wondering how I’d feel in leviathansimilar circumstances, which is, I feel, always the mark of successful fiction.

But the most absorbing examination of heroes I’ve recently encountered is in James S.A. Corey’s space opera noir thriller, Leviathan Wakes. Miller is the burned out station cop who has become a professional liability – but when confronted with the unthinkable, steps up and does what is necessary. What makes this interesting is that he is juxtaposed with Captain Jim Holden, whose classic heroic stance causes almost as many problems as it poses in a politically fragile situation, where he crashes around with all the finesse of a super-nova… So which one of these men is the more effective hero?

madnessofangelsThen we have the urban fantasy versions – Kate Griffin’s half-mad and scarily powerful Matthew Swift in A Madness of Angels is one of the most memorable, set in the grubbier corners of London. He is classically powerful, driven by an over-developed sense of responsibility as he tackles all sorts of supernatural nasties. But, he’s not all that fond of humanity, either… He is riveting enough – but takes on another dimension when compared with Griffin’s later heroic straysoulsoffering in Stray Souls. Sharon is also something of an outcast and fundamentally nice in a way that many modern heroes aren’t – and has collected around her a little group of misfits, who have as much team spirit as a herd of cats. She spends a lot of time trying to get them to understand each other, while fighting Evil in a way that Matthew Swift just wouldn’t.

So… as readers, which sort of hero do you like? Who are your top three favourites? I’m principally interested in science fiction and fantasy – but if you have a classical hero you bonded with years ago, I’d like to hear about that one, too.