Monday, October 2, 2017

Read-Along: Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey, END

This week we’re wrapping up the read-along of James S.A. Corey’s Cibola Burn. Through this read-along, I have learned that my commute is really not long enough to listen to a full Expanse audiobook in a month.  Forewarned is forearmed, so it should be easier to find the right amount of time for Nemesis Games in October.  If you’d like to join in for the read-along of Nemesis Games, feel free to check out our SFF Read-Along’s Goodreads page! Our first post is going to be this coming Sunday.

Please beware of spoilers through the end of the book below!

1) First, the traditional question, what do you think of the point-of-view characters, now that you’ve seen how each of their stories end up? Also, how does this book compare with the first three of the series for you?

I’m still not too crazy about the viewpoint characters this time around.  Holden is fine, and I am happy to have him as a perspective for each book.  He’s a great choice, because he seems to be completely unable to keep from getting tangled up in momentous events.  As for the rest… they all ultimately felt a little unnecessary to me.  At the end, I felt like one could have tweaked the story just a little and told it with only two viewpoints.  I would say Havelock and Holden were the most needed-- Havelock to have a perspective in orbit, and Holden on the planet.

Considering the characters individually, I don’t dislike them but I also don’t feel strongly about them.  Elvi, Havelock and Basia all seem like fairly decent people, but they don’t have some of the spark that propelled along some of the earlier books.  It was important that they existed in the story, but it felt like showing their point of view required a lot of padding.  Elvi’s crush and abrupt seduction felt like filler, as did all the time Basia and Havelock just spent hanging out in orbit and thinking.  Nothing that happened in the end really changed that feeling for me.

I guess that also sums up my feelings on the book.  A lot of neat stuff happened, but there were stretches that felt like treading water.  Also, it seems like a step back in terms of the human conflict.  One criticism that I had about the first two books was that the human villain was completely one-dimensional, and I liked that there was a bit more complexity in the third. In Murtry, Cibola Burn returns us to having one-note cardboard villains.

On a side note, I also really don’t understand the zeal of the engineer militia.  They’re not soldiers, just some guys who play paintball together regularly. Why are they so eager to rush to their deaths at the word of Murtry, against the guy who trained them?  I get that the point was to make Havelock have an ethical dilemma, but it didn’t make any sense.

2) Do you feel that things came out fairly for everyone, colonist and RCE? Are you happy with how things ended for Marwick, Havelock, Murtry, Basia, and others?

I admit I am disappointed that Murtry survived, given all the suffering and death he has caused.  I further feel that the engineer militia should be held responsible for their actions, and be charged with attempted murder of the people aboard the Picola and Rocinante.  I also think Basia should face some legal repercussions for blowing up the landing pad.  That did actually kill people, even if it wasn’t intentional.

I’m okay, in the end, with Havelock coming out of this with no prison sentence. He did follow some questionable orders (like arming the shuttle), but I think he defected before he was ordered to do anything violent or illegal.  I don’t really remember Marwick doing any horrible stuff, unless he ordered the shuttle to attack the Rocinante. I am thrilled that Amos survived!  It seems like things are calmer now, between the RCE and the colonists, and hopefully that will move forward with less violence now that Murtry’s gone.

3) We finally get to see Avasarala and Bobbie again, in the epilogue! What do you think about her plan for James Holden, now that we know what she was going for in choosing him? Do you think she’s right to believe that what happened on Ilus will destroy Mars?

Wow, it makes a difference when it’s a viewpoint character you really enjoy.  Maybe it’s not a great endorsement for the book, but I loved the prologue and the epilogue.  I admit I did not guess correctly why she sent Holden, and I think she should have considered that this might not go her way.  Holden is known for screwing things up for people, and by succeeding here, he did just that!  I think she might be a little alarmist about this destroying Mars, though.  If the story is reported accurately, I would think many people would not want to go to new killer alien planets.  A lot of people died on Ilus, after all.  On the long term, though, I guess it is inevitable that humans will spread through the gate planets and abandon the cramped asteroids and enclosed Martian environments of the solar system.

4) Time for predictions! Do you have any thoughts on what might happen in the next book? Is there anything you’d especially like to see?

I’m hoping Bobbie and Avasarala will be viewpoint characters again!  I’m guessing we’ll get to explore more gate planets, and maybe learn more about the ancient civilization and the killers.  I’m not really sure what else might happen, so I’m going to stop my predictions there.


  1. I think some of the militia felt very betrayed by Havelock so it was that which drove them to make stupid choices.

    I was fine with Havelock not facing any legal actions as well. I feel he 'mutinied' before things got too serious. Marwick tried to be impartial until near the end and then he helped save the colonists, so I think he's a minor hero in this story.

    1. I guess that could be true, but their behavior still seems pretty inconsistent with that of engineers I know, paintball practice notwithstanding.

      Yeah, I'm happy he got credit for helping to save the colonists. I was trying to remember if he did anything major throughout the book, but I it seems like he mostly just stayed out of the mess.