Review: Leviathan Wakes

Leviathan Wakes (Book 1 of The Expanse) by James S Corey

leviathan wakesHumanity has colonised the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond – but the stars are still out of our reach.

Jim Holden is an officer on an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew discover a derelict ship called the Scopuli, they suddenly find themselves in possession of a deadly secret. A secret that someone is willing to kill for, and on an unimaginable scale. War is coming to the system, unless Jim can find out who abandoned the ship and why.

Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money – and money talks. When the trail leads him to the Scopuli and Holden, they both realise this girl may hold the key to everything.

Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries and secret corporations, and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.

It sounds awful to say, but…Leviathan Wakes was better than I thought it was going to be! To be fair, that is because I a) don’t really do sci-fi, and b) had been warned that it wasn’t very character-centric, which is a major problem for me. But it’s actually quite readable.

It is, however, politics-heavy. Not an issue if you like that kind of thing, but it’s not entirely my bag. It was saved by the politics being interesting, complex and unsettling, and the scope wasn’t too wide – it follows the characters, which is a nice way to tell the story.

The characters themselves were good. While they didn’t particularly evolve (apart from Miller, who treads his own weird path), I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing – the plot was complex enough! They are all different, and in some ways are stereotypes that fit what’s needed. Again, not necessarily a problem…I hope that they do change or at least adapt to circumstances over the rest of the series, though, because otherwise it’ll get a bit dull.

I can definitely see why the series was chosen to be adapted into The Expanse, and I suspect the show is very good! (I’m not going to watch it, but my housemates have been, and rave about it). It’s a wonderful political canvas, and while the characters might not have everything I’d want in terms of development, there’s enough else going on that the books are interesting. Try the book if you’re into political sci-fi, and try the series if you like sci-fi in general. However, if – like me – you prefer a focus on characters, definitely go for A Long Way To A Small Angry Planet. More character-filled, as wide-ranging politics, and overall an excellent book!

Author: kate

Kate Coe is an editor, book reviewer and writer of fiction & fantasy. She writes the sparkpunk GreenSky series and blogs at When she's not working, she fills her spare time in between writing with web design, gaming, geeky cross-stitch and DIY (which may or may not involve destroying things). She also reads far fewer books that she would like to, but possibly more than she really has time for.