I recently finished Babylon’s Ashes (which was fantastic), by James S. A. Corey, and was moved to take a moment to talk about The Expanse in case there is anyone out there not currently reading it. For those of you unfamiliar with The Expanse, it is a mega space opera set over nine books that are still being published, of which Babylon’s Ashes is the sixth. The series is one of my favorites, and below I am going to simply outline a list of reasons that you should be reading it so that it can be one of your favorites too. For those of you looking for a Babylon’s Ashes review, I do not have one for reasons outlined below, but it is suffice to say that it is excellent.
- It is basically Game of Thrones in Space – This is a gross oversimplification, but an analogy that is actually useful in this instance. The Expanse is a space opera, which essentially means that the sci-fi is window dressing. The story is all about the excellent characters that litter the books. Much like GoT, the books are all about the individual stories of the people who make up a larger world, and their personal struggles bring the plots to life. It is very accessible to all readers as it appeals to both readers who don’t like science fiction and those looking for an introduction to the genre – making it a series for everyone.
- The aforementioned characters are amazing – As mentioned in the previous reason, these books are about people – and boy is there a diverse cast. The Expanse has someone for everyone and one of the most eclectic and interesting casts I have ever encountered. There are multiple POV’s per book, with only one carried over from novel to novel. This allows the story to give you a center-thread to orient yourself from, while also exposing you to a huge cast with tons of different perspectives and identities. In addition, not only is the cast diverse, it is also extremely memorable – creating some of my favorite characters of all time. If you read these books and don’t like Chrisjen Avasarala I am going to assume you are a robot.
- The books are all self contained, but also have a continuous plot – Several people have mentioned to me that the reason they haven’t picked up The Expanse is that it is not complete. Starting unfinished series can blow when you are left with cliffhangers every year, but The Expanse gives you a satisfying and self-contained story every time. Each of the books is about humanity tackling a new and interesting problem thrown at it. These include: war, the unknown, politics, poverty, new frontiers, the military, terrorists, and almost always some sort of extinction level threat. Each book feels distinct from the rest, but also passes the touch of an overarching backbone of the plot. While the series isn’t finished yet, each year I get a book that leaves me satiated, but excited for the sequel.
- They are consistently on time and consistently good in quality – Speaking of release schedules, these books almost always come out annually. There has only ever been one delay, and it was just for a few months while one of the authors finished a different series. The books are published on one of the the most predictable schedules I have seen and it keeps me pumped for their release month every year. More importantly, all the books are excellent. Babylon’s Ashes was probably in my bottom half of the six books released so far, and I still would give it at least a 9/10. It is unbelievable how these authors can continuously deliver quality time after time and I trust that they will be able to finish up the final three in the same pattern.
- James S. A. Corey is a pen name for two authors, and they both bring their A game to the story – Corey is actually two people, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. Abraham is an extremely creative writer who is known for his strange book premises and unpredictable plot lines. However, his writing can also be occasionally a little dull and slow, making it hard to appreciate his creativity. Ty Franck is a sci-fi author known for his action sequences and pulse pounding scenes, but can occasionally let the action get in the way of story. Together, the two of them eliminate their weaknesses and amplify their strengths, creating some of the best prose I have read in the genre.
These books are good, really good, to the point where I can never bring myself to review them after I finish because the post would just be “yea it’s still amazing”. On top of being an amazing, huge, and engrossing book series – there is now a TV show on Syfy that does it justice and expands the world further. On top of that, Corey regularly releases novellas and short stories from the universe – sometimes for free – that expand it further and are great reads. So if you have reservations of reading The Expanse, or were holding off for some reason, or simply haven’t picked up the most recent book – go check it out. The world is getting bigger and better and I want all of you to experience the joy and wonder of exploring the unknown with Corey as your co-pilot.