Monday, 15 October 2012
Caliban's War - James S.A. Corey
After surviving the alien horrors of Leviathan Wakes starship captain Jim Holden and his crew signs up with the Outer Planets Alliance. Their mission is simply one of maintaining the security in the region, chasing down the odd pirate or smuggler. When war between Mars and Earth breaks out on Ganymede Holden is sent on a covert operation to find out what happens.
We actually get a front line seat to what went down on the surface of Ganymede, thanks to Bobbie, a Martian marine. In a rather nail biting chapter we follow Bobbie in a fight against a modified protomolecule soldier. It's not much of a fight though, the alien monster tears apart Bobbie's squad, and a squad of Earth soldiers, before promptly exploding. Armour piercing bullets pass straight through the abomination without doing any obvious damage, and in spite of The marines' Space Marine (Warhammer 40k) like armour, it rips them apart with nothing but its bare hands.
In the confusion that follows the space ships positioned in orbit opens fire and Mars and Earth is at war. Ganymede is where most of the food is grown for the human settlements outside Earth, which is why Mars and Earth forces are already posturing on its surface and orbit.
Caliban's War is off to a great start with its horror inspired action. Intense suspense is one good thing which is present throughout the book, if it's in slime filled corridors, or in deep space during a fight between space ships. The stakes are high, we have Earth and Mars on the brink of unleashing hell on each other. On Venus the protomolecule is up to who knows what, but the most heart wrenching of all is the kidnapping of a young girl, Mei, who was taken from her nursery on Ganymede.
Holden, who I did struggle to connect with in the first book, to his credit drops everything to assist Mei's father to find her. In Leviathan Wakes I wanted Holden to be a Han Solo character, so I was disappointed when he turned out to be not quite as competent and likeable as the old rogue. He has grown on me, and yes he does not always (more like never) make the right decision, and in some things he is very naive, but, at least his flaws makes him real. Besides, dropping everything to save a child I can totally sympathise with, it's what I would do if I was a captain of a space ship.
The supporting characters are once again great. Bobbie, my new favourite marine stands out. She is described as being over two meters tall, and gains muscle by just looking at weights. The men around her are not sure if they are supposed to be frightened or attracted to her. She is her own personal hell dealing with the deaths of her squad mates, and then has to deal with questions of loyalty when she is recruited by a Earth politician to prevent a war between Mars and Earth.
The Martian marine was like one of those cute little beach bunnies that someone had used editing software on and blown up to 150 percent normal size. The proportions, the black hair, the dark eyes, everything was the same. Only, giant. It short circuited his neural wiring. The lizard living at the back of his brain kept jumping back and forth between Mate with it! and Flee from it!
The Earth politician Bobbie is working for is obviously her opposite, an elderly and frail woman, but men tremble in front of her for other reasons. The old lady also swears a lot, and is a lot of fun. Powerful women, every geeky boy's dream!
James S.A. Corey spins a damn good yarn as well with a lot variety. The suspense comes from both physical threats to the characters and also a lot of bigger problems, like political pressure, or emotional ones. The only thing which felt a bit awkward was sending the galaxy's most notorious person for a covert operation, but other than that, the story moves along at a neck breaking pace. Not many chapters were without a mini cliff hanger which made me promise myself, just one more chapter.
Caliban's War is a great addition to the space opera genre, and I can't wait to pick up the next book in the series, Abaddon's Gate.
Caliban's War weighs in at 608 pages, and is published by Orbit Books.