Tag Archives: The Expanse series

Friday Faceoff – When all else fails: explosions… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffcoverswithexplosions #SciFiMonth2019

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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 meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is EXPLOSIONS. I’ve selected Cibola Burn – Book 4 of The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey – see my review of Leviathan’s Wake. I’ve also linked this week’s meme with @SciFiMonth2019, given this epic space opera series is such a success.

 

This edition was produced by Orbit June 2014. I love the big, blockbuster feel of this cover, which really suits the feel of this large-scale epic space opera series. This is the default cover from which many of the others are derived – and with good reason, given the drama it engenders. I also like a punchy orange title font and the large blocky design, giving a slightly retro feel to the book design. This is my favourite – it looks good both full-sized and in thumbnail.

 

Published in November 2018 by MAG, this Polish edition has opted for a completely different feel. Gone is the large space station, the flaming debris from a disintegrating ship – we don’t even have a distant nebula or starscape to relieve the ink-black background. There is just a drifting astronaut with a bunch of cables… In thumbnail, you cannot make out what is going on – and given this was only released last year, that is a fundamental error. The feeble font is all but eaten up by that black background and certainly doesn’t prevail once the cover is shrunk. I think this is bleak and boring.

 

This Serbian edition, published by Laguna in June 2016, is more like it! I love the way the central artwork is highlighted with that dramatic red backdrop, so those tentacles waving in the air take centre stage. The lightning streaking through that awesome title font is also a lovely touch, as it the nifty little shuttle perched on the rocky outcrop off to the left. Overall, I really like the eye-catching drama of this offering – a huge improvement on that previous dreary effort. It is so nearly my favourite…

 

This Italian edition has gone back to the original cover for inspiration, enlarging that exploding piece of space debris and making the title a bit funkier. I think this gives the cover extra visual drama, as that blazing explosion really stands out, but it is at the expense of the monumental scale of the original cover, which I think works better. Though it’s SUCH a close-run thing… ask me tomorrow and I’ll probably vote for this one, instead.

 

This Russian edition, published in June 2018 by Эксмо: fanzon is also another cover which offers an epic overview of a dramatic space battle. The colours are more muted, but I love the artwork and I think the scene is beautiful. The detail of the dreadnaught in the centre of the cover is fabulous. However, while I absolutely love it as a piece of artwork, I don’t think it ticks enough boxes as a cover. In thumbnail, once again, it’s too dark. And the title and author fonts fail to sufficiently stand out. Which is your favourite?

 

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.

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

Review of Leviathan Wakes – Book 1 of The Expanse by James A. Cory

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I’ll be honest – although I’d heard a lot of good things about this book, I did approach it with some scepticism. All too often, I’ve picked up a recommended space opera that is supposed to be character-led, with plenty of action and a sharp, well-rounded world, only to find that it isn’t. Because writing a really good space opera takes a lot of skill. Although I did have some hope about this particular offering – James A. Cory is the pen name of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, who wrote this together. And Leviathan Wakes was also shortlisted for both the Hugo and Locus Awards last year.

Humanity has colonised the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond – but the stars are still out of our reach. Jim Holden is an officer on an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, the Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for. War is brewing in the system, unless Jim can find out who left the ship and why.

Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to the Scopulleviathani and rebel sympathiser Holden, he realises that this girl may hold the key to everything.

Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations – and the odds are againstem. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.

This whole tale – that spans the Solar system – is told through Holden and Miller’s viewpoints. Both characters are complex and convincing, with dislikeable traits as well as their evident strengths that get them through the repeated danger they find themselves running towards. There are also solid reasons why they are busy putting themselves in harm’s way, which I liked. I do get a tad fed up when the plucky heroes keep muscling their way to the danger zone, as everyone else is busy fleeing. During the book, the characters go through a variety of adventures which completely yank them out of their previous lives and take them on a journey that changes their viewpoint about most things. Miller, in particular, is extremely poignant near the end.

The world is detailed, layered with awkward corners and believable factions that are busy blaming each other for the unfolding terror unfurling in their midst. And all this comes to us filtered through the protagonists’ viewpoint – this isn’t a book where the author sees fit to jump out of the characters’ heads and serve up chunks of omniscient point of view. The result is that the narrative tension doesn’t ever let up. The storyline powers this long book from beginning to end – all 561 pages of it. So I was locked into the plot for every single page and would have happily gone on reading another 500…

That doesn’t happen very often. Though I’m a sucker for a really tight, well-written space opera, they aren’t all that thick on the ground. Certainly not one with the readability, tight plotting and strong characterisation that Leviathan Wakes offers. I’m going to give myself a late Easter present and buy the next instalment – Caliban’s War – stories of this quality don’t come along every day of the week.
10/10