Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey
Published: Orbit (2015)
Series: Book 5 of The Expanse
“A thousand worlds have opened, and the greatest land rush in human history has begun. As wave after wave of colonists leave, the power structures of the old solar system begin to buckle.
Ships are disappearing without a trace. Private armies are being secretly formed. The sole remaining protomolecule sample is stolen. Terrorist attacks previously considered impossible bring the inner planets to their knees. The sins of the past are returning to exact a terrible price.
And as a new human order is struggling to be born in blood and fire, James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante must struggle to survive and get back to the only home they have left.” ~WWEnd.com
I read this book as an audiobook for a community read-along, and you can see our spoiler-filled discussions here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. This is my favorite of the series so far. I’m planning to post my review of Babylon’s Ashes later in December, and I’ll be joining a read-along for Persepolis Rising in January!
Nemesis Games takes a different approach than previous novels in terms of the viewpoint characters. Instead of introducing new characters, it gives the reader the perspective of characters they already know and (at least in my case) like a great deal. Holden remains our continuing hero through the series, but the other chapters are through the eyes of Alex, Naomi and Amos, the crew of the Rocinante. I was so excited to see the universe through their eyes, and also to learn more about their pasts and how their experiences have shaped them. Each of them has a distinct personality and voice. By the end, I felt like I understood each of them so much more than I had before. I was especially impressed with Naomi’s tenacity and intelligence, and she has quickly become one of my favorite characters in the series.
While I loved these characters in general, their differing backgrounds also made them ideal for this particular story. The four of them scattered--to Mars, the Earth, and the Belt--to address their own personal matters. Meanwhile, solar-system-wide mysteries and civilization-changing events were afoot, and these large-scale events ran through and wove together the viewpoint characters’ individual stories. Unlike my complaints with Cibola Burn, this time every chapter felt necessary to the whole, and the characters always seemed integral to the events happening around them. There were some really spectacularly fun bits, too, like Amos’s blunt conversations with Chrisjen Avasarala and Alex’s collaboration with Bobbie. I enjoyed how well the novel balanced funny or emotional character moments with the consequences of major system-wide events.
On the larger scale, this novel deals with the consequences of the opening of the gates on the existing status quo of the solar system. While having loads of new planets may seem like a good thing, it does have negative effects. The great project to terraform Mars is beginning to look a little pointless, and Belters worry that an increased focus on planetary living will push them out of existence. These conflicting human motivations drive the story, and alien-related problems move to the back-burner. When the crisis point comes, it is a game changer for humanity and for this series. I’m still curious to learn more about the ancient alien civilization, but I have enjoyed the focus on human actions in this stage of the story. I’m excited to see what will happen in the final four books of the series!
My Rating: 5/5
Nemesis Games, 5th book of The Expanse, is my favorite of the series to date. Instead of introducing new major characters, the viewpoint characters were the members of the close-knit Rocinante crew. The story was full of suspense and action, and each character’s personal arc tied into the momentous events that affect humanity across the solar system. There’s very little to do with aliens this time around, and instead the focus is on how the current events have affected the various slices of human civilization. I think Nemesis Games will be hard to top, but I’ll be happy if the rest of the series proves me wrong!