Sunday, October 7, 2018

Review: Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey

Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey
Published: Orbit (2017)
Series: Book 7 of the Expanse
Awards Nominated: Locus SF Award

The Book:

In the thousand-sun network of humanity's expansion, new colony worlds are struggling to find their way. Every new planet lives on a knife edge between collapse and wonder, and the crew of the aging gunship Rocinante have their hands more than full keeping the fragile peace.

In the vast space between Earth and Jupiter, the inner planets and belt have formed a tentative and uncertain alliance still haunted by a history of wars and prejudices. On the lost colony world of Laconia, a hidden enemy has a new vision for all of humanity and the power to enforce it.

New technologies clash with old as the history of human conflict returns to its ancient patterns of war and subjugation. But human nature is not the only enemy, and the forces being unleashed have their own price. A price that will change the shape of humanity -- and of the Rocinante -- unexpectedly and forever…”

This is the latest book of the Expanse series, and I read it in a community read-along, from which you can read our spoiler-filled discussions here, here, here, and here.  The 8th book, Tiamat’s Wrath, will be coming out this December.

In other Expanse news, the TV show was picked up by Amazon Prime (after being cancelled by Syfy).  Three cheers for having at least one more season of this fun space opera series!

My Thoughts:

This is the first book to come after a really significant time jump, and I’m still not sure how I feel about that.  Persepolis Rising takes place 30 years after the events of Babylon’s Ashes. It makes sense that the threats humanity faces now are slow in coming to fruition, but at the same time this means that we’ve missed 30 years of our heroes’ lives.  The Rocinante crew is still together and tight-knit, but they are now an aging family.  By the time the adventure kicks off, there have been discussions of retirement and end-of-life preferences.  They’re still the same people, still great characters to follow, but there is some existential pain in seeing fictional characters approach the end of life.  This novel does make clear, though, that they aren’t quite yet removing themselves from the center of action, and that there are still miles to go before they sleep.  

Instead of traveling around in the Rocinante righting wrongs, the crew is deprived of their ship and trapped in Medina station.  This story is not one of open conflict, but of resistance against a superior occupying force.  Here we see the crew reaching out to the more extreme OPA factions, and working underground to find anyway they can to undermine the enemy. Persepolis Rising is also the first novel of the final arc of the series, as the threat foreshadowed by the hints of alien civilization-killers in previous novels are now starting to come to the foreground.  I’m excited to see how this will be addressed in the rest of the series, and to see what we might learn about the alien civilization who created the protomolecule.

The non-Rocinante viewpoint characters were not as compelling this time around.  On the Sol System side, we follow Drummer, who is now the head of the Transport Union.  The highlight of her storyline, for me, was the revelation that Chrisjen Avasarala is still alive and relatively healthy.  She’s an amazing character, and I was deeply saddened that she might have died off-page when I saw the large time jump. Other than that, Drummer was attempting to conduct war against an enemy with vastly superior technology, so the story was predictably depressing. Our other point-of-view character, the head of the Laconian occupation, is a terrible person.  I initially thought that he might be included to show the human side of the Laconian group, but he’s just an incompetent and morally bankrupt leader, lacking in any redeeming qualities. I supposed he underlines the fact that the Laconians are short-sighted, cruel, and deserving of whatever karmic justice is coming to them in the rest of the series.

My Rating: 3.5 /5

Persepolis Rising makes a massive time jump, and it was somewhat uncomfortable facing the mortality of the characters I have come to love.  Holden, Naomi and the rest still have adventures ahead, though, and it was exciting to see that the story is finally moving into addressing the implications of the alien technology and the ruins it has left behind.  The Rocinante crew’s story is more claustrophobic than usual, following their resistance efforts in an occupied space station. I enjoyed the change of pace, even though I was less interested in the arcs of the two new viewpoint characters.  I am looking forward to seeing how this series will come to a close!

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