Thursday, July 09, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Nemesis Games (The Expanse, #5) by James S.A. Corey

Nemesis Games is the fifth book in the award-winning space opera series written by Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham (under the pseudonym James S.A. Corey) which has become a New York Times bestseller and a major television series on SyFy in December. This new book, like the others before it, follow the adventures of Captain James Holden and the rest of the crew of the Rocinante in a future where humanity has expanded to multiple planets and asteroids in the solar system, but interstellar travel is still not yet possible.

In particular, there are basically three large political entities in the Expanse Universe: The United Nations (governing the Earth and Moon), Mars and the Outer Planets Alliance (OPA). The OPA is split into factions who basically want to control any habitable space that is not in a gravity well. Humans who have been living in artificial gravity for so long are called Belters and there have been various adaptations (longer limbs, larger heads, a polyglot dialect) which make Belters consider themselves separate from the rest of humanity living on Earth, Mars and the Moon as well as a negative cultural stigma directed reciprocally between Belters and everyone else.



After the events of (Book 3) Abaddon's Gate humanity now does have the possibility of expanding to countless numbers of habitable planets by going through the Ring and the alien network of gates which lie beyond it. However, as the events on the planet of Ilus depicted in (Book 4) Cibola Burn indicate, humanity will find several kinds of risk and opportunity in these new worlds.
Due to the circumstances that occurred in Book 4, the OPA basically has effective control of the Ring because of the presence of the generation ship formerly known as the Nauvoo. However, there are many Belters who are not happy by the idea that humanity will leave the planets of the solar system for planets around other stars, ending the way of life that Belter physiognomy and culture has adapted to: artificial air and light, gravity due to rotation, water from comets. It's hard to believe that there are people who would view humanity's expansion out of the Solar System as a bad thing, but with every great change there are always winners and losers, and people who can't (or don't want to) see how the new order will benefit them despite the collapse of the old order.

What the Belter reaction to this paradigm shifts looks like in Nemesis Games is the most horrific terrorist attack imaginable on planet Earth. The death toll of this event is literally multiple orders of magnitude greater than any other disaster in human history. It is that event which will almost certainly dramatically impact any future path that The Expanse series takes now that it is past the half-way point in its planned 9-volume length.

The structure of the story in Nemesis Games is that we are treated to multiple POV chapters from all four of the primary crew members of the Rocinante: Jim Holden (the ship's captain),  Naomi Nagata (the ship's executive officer and Holden's lover), Alex (the ship's pilot) and Amos Burton (the ship's chief engineer). Because the Rocinante needs several weeks to be rehabbed and repaired the four members of the crew go their separate ways, Amos to Earth to grieve his foster mother's death, Alex to Mars to visit his ex-wife, Naomi to Ceres on some secretive mission, leaving Holden on Tycho Station to check up on the Rocinante.

Of course this being The Expanse each of our major characters gets placed in harm's way, and even better, each of them interacts with other very important side characters that have played significant roles in previous chapters of the story such as CrisJen Avasarala, Bobbie Draper, Clarissa Mao, Fred Johnson. In addition we and are introduced to several new characters, such as Marco and Filip Inaros, who will clearly be important in future books.

I don't want to give spoilers for Book 5 so suffice it so say that Nemesis Games is the best book of the series, very close in quality to the very first one (Leviathan Wakes). There are sequences and revelations made in this book, especially in Naomi's chapters that literally had me afraid to turn the page but also hurriedly speed-reading the words on the page because I was so invested in finding out what happens next in the story. One really can not ask for more of a book than that, and once more, James S.A. Corey and The Expanse deliver the goods.

Title: Nemesis Games.
James S. A. Corey.
Paperback: 544 pages.
Date Published: June 2, 2015.
Date Read: June 11, 2015.

OVERALL GRADE: A (4.0/4.0).


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