Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Review: Abaddon's Gate by James S.A. Corey

Abaddon’s Gate by James S.A. Corey
Published: Orbit, 2013
Series: Book 3 of The Expanse
Awards Won: Locus SF

This is the third book of a series, so bewares spoilers of the first two books!

The Book:

For generations, the solar system -- Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt -- was humanity's great frontier. Until now. The alien artifact 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 dark.
Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are part of a vast flotilla of scientific and military ships going out to examine the artifact. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with the destruction of Holden at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to find whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them.” ~WWEnd.com
I’ve been really enjoying Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck’s series up until now, and Abaddon’s Gate is even better than what had come before.  I’ve also been thrilled to hear that the series is going to be adapted into a television series. I have always thought this series would translate well to visual media, and I can’t wait to see how Syfy will handle the adaptation!

My Thoughts:

This third novel in the space opera series The Expanse keeps up the excitement and adventure of the previous two novels.  The wonder and horror of the alien protomolecule once again plays a major role, and the story’s heart lies with its strong cast of memorable characters. I enjoyed Caliban’s War, but I felt that it was in kind of a holding pattern with respect to the overarching plot of the series.  The story repeated a lot of the elements of the first novel, and the protomolecule spent most of its time stewing on Venus. In Abaddon’s Gate, things are moving forward rapidly again. Much is revealed about the purpose of the alien protomolecule, though many dangerous questions remain unanswered. Even without running afoul of impersonal alien technology, conflict seems unavoidable between the different political factions that rush to investigate the gateway structure. There are so many future possibilities opened by the events of this book, and I can’t wait to see the direction the story takes in Cibola Burn.

I feel like Abaddon’s Gate also shows an improvement on its predecessors in terms of its antagonists and the complexity of its plot.  While I felt that the first two novels suffered a bit from one-dimensional villains, the antagonists this time around were much more carefully developed.  One of them, Melba Koh, is even a viewpoint character. While her personal motives are relatively simple and I don’t see her actions as forgiveable, I appreciated the internal conflict that haunted her each step of the way.  Other antagonists are genuinely doing what they think is best for humanity, but good intentions don’t guarantee good results. Of course, the gathered spacefarers also have to contend with the danger represented by the alien technology of the gateway, and what may lie beyond it.  There’s a lot going on in this novel, and I appreciated how well all of the pieces fit together.

In terms of the characters, Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are still central to the story, and I appreciate seeing how they change as a result of their difficult experiences.  Holden is no longer the idealist of Leviathan Wakes or the violent, traumatized man of Caliban’s War. There were also hints about the histories of the other crew members, which highlight how little we actually know yet of their lives before they joined the ice hauler in Leviathan Wakes. The new viewpoint characters this time include pastor Anna, who has come to discuss what the gateway means in terms of her faith, and an outer-planets security officer, Bull, who is determined to keep the political situation from falling apart. I thought they both provided interesting new perspectives, though I would have enjoyed a bit more philosophy from Anna.  The touches of humor in character interactions helped to lighten up some otherwise grim situations.  I am looking forward to seeing where the Rocinante will go next!

My Rating: 4.5/5

Abaddon’s Gate is an excellent addition to a highly entertaining space opera series. Familiar old faces, like Holden and his crew, are still a major force, but a handful of new major characters also bring life to the story.  I felt like the antagonists were much more well-rounded characters this time around, as opposed to the one-dimensional villains of the previous two stories, and I think this helped support a more complicated plot. The novel provides some exciting reveals about the purpose of the protomolecule, and raises yet more questions.  The conclusion opens many possibilities for the future of the series, and I am excited to see which the story will follow!

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