This month my book club read Leviathan Wakes, I just finished reading The Widow’s House, and I am about to start reading Nemesis Games. All three of these books were written or co-written by the author Daniel Abraham, so I thought it might be a good time to take a moment to appreciate one of the weirder and more creative fantasy/sci-fi authors out there.
As I have already said, Daniel Abraham is a strange writer. He has three main bodies of work so far that are all wildly different from most novels in a wonderful way. Abraham is not the best writer I have read. His characters can tend to fall a little flat, his prose needs a little work, and the plethora of other attributes that make up excellent writing can sometimes be a little absent. However, when you read his work you likely won’t even notice these flaws because each of his books are so interesting, exciting, and strange that they will distract you from any problems the books may have.
Lets start with the weirdest of his work, The Long Price Quartet. These books are about… well it is almost impossible to describe. My best one line summary would be “battle poets” but this falls woefully short. The books take place in a world where abstract ideas can be captured via poetry into deities that give the writer complete dominion over that idea. An example of these deities is Seedless, the first one we meet in book 1. Seedless encoumpasses the idea of “lacking a seed” and while that may sound obvious, he can do a number of incredible things. He brings untold wealth to the city of his home by speeding up crop harvest with his ability to remove seeds. But he also represent a weapon of mass destruction to keep foreign armies away because he could make an entire continent barren (wombs without seeds) with a thought.
However, there is a drawback to having these god-ideas as your slave. The deities are always trying to escape the poem that imprisoned them, constantly trying to kill the men and women who captured them. This coupled with the fact that an idea can only be captured by a poem once makes the lives of the poets awful as they either try to find new ideas no one has thought of to bind, or hold the idea they have bound and not get murdered. The long price in the title refers to the cost of a poet’s failing, the cost being a horrific death somehome relating to the abstract idea in their poem. The books continue to get stranger as they go and are truly one of the most unique reads I have ever had.
Next up we have The Dagger and Coin, an epic fantasy about the power of money and subterfuge. This five book story is about a dangerous cult that starts sweeping a world and the people who fight to stop it. The book is heavily focused on the economy and the inner workings of finance. That may sounds dull to some of you, but I promise that Abraham finds a way to make working at a bank house seem exciting and eventful. In addition to its economic focus, the book is set in a world with not one, not two, but thirteen races with major differences; in addition to there also being a 14th race of dragons. Abraham actually published a small piece on the taxonomy of the races that can be found here.
There is a lot of moral grey space in this series, and I honestly find myself relating to one of the “villains” of the story more than anyone else. I would say that these books contain Abraham’s strongest characters out of his series, as all the different players in the book feel like by products of their environment and behave and think in very different ways. The books also go out of their way to defy typical fantasy tropes, such as being a “child of destiny”. If you are looking for something new and different, but are uncomfortable straying as far from the path as the long price, I recommend this series.
Finally, we have my personal favorite of the lot, The Expanse series. The Expanse is written both by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, and is a going to be a 9 part space opera. By space opera, I mean a sci fi novel that focuses more on human emotion and interaction that hard science fiction. Each of the books is devoted to different major themes that are explored both literally and metaphorically in the books. The themes cover some topics such as Human arrogance and mastery of the universe, unrestrained science, utilitarianism, manifest destiny, and the list goes on. The books are wildly creative and paint a vivid picture of a human race that has colonized the solar system and slowly redefined allegiances based on the planet of origin.
Leviathan Wakes (the first book) was the single highest rated book my club has read so far (with my personal rating of a 10/10). The appeal comes from all the things I said above, but also from the fact that the stories are probably the most intense and exciting books I have ever read. They are the very definition of edge of the seat excitement and I found I was having literal adrenaline rushes as I read them. The first book revolves around a missing girl, an international conspiracy, and an unknown pathogen reeking havoc on the solar system. From this starting platform the story devolves into further and further mess as people fight to survive in the crazy universe that Abraham and Franck have written.
Daniel Abraham is not the best writer I have ever read, but he is certainly one of the most creative. This creativity expanded the scope of my imagination while reading books, which is not a small feat. If you feel like you keep reading the same book, or you are looking for something to go beyond the bounds of your imagination, or you just think any of the concepts I described were cool, I implore you to read something by Daniel Abraham.