Hello Internet. Welcome back for Review #53. And as another Space Opera fills my viewscreen, I affix my crosshairs on it and tighten my fingers around the laser turret controls, waiting for the right moment to pull the trigger and release a barrage of superheated plasma that will annihilate everything in its path. Muah-ha-ha-ha! MUAH-HA-HA-HA! MUAH-HA…*dissolves into a fit of hacking coughs mid-cackle*. *clears throat*. Uhm…
Space Opera as a genre is one normally about grand, massive-scale adventures of the type seen in the Culture novels or Star Trek. Intergalactic space-farers on ships with technology light-years ahead (quite literally) of modern technology dealing with fantastic problems which can often be a way to analyse the human condition or place modern problems in a more objective and entertaining context. But one thing not often seen amongst these grand, galaxy-spanning novels is one set rather close to home. And this is where the first novel in the Expanse series comes in (*ding*. Gods know what count it is now). Set just far enough into the future for mankind to have conquered interplanetary travel, the stars beyond are still out of reach. And the problems faced by the two protagonists are ones which are solely the result of other humans. [Mostly].
Yes that’s right. Two protagonists. Leviathan Wakes uses the point of view of two different characters. Although, said difference between them is negligible at first. Both Holden and Miller are the same gender, roughly the same age and complexion, have similar reactions to being in imminent danger (which is to keep a reasonably cool head then freak out later) and thanks to what I feel is lack of creative foresight have the same style of narration. Both are in third-person and have similar organisation of ideas in their writing and for some reason that gave them the same speaking voice in my head, despite the descriptions in the book. This lead to some confusing times when the two characters eventually and inevitably met and had a conversation with the same voice, like Lindsay Lohan in The Parent Trap (*ding?*).
It’s really easy here to refer back to one of the most impressive uses of differing styles to represent different points of view in literature, which is the book Will Grayson, Will Grayson (yes it has a comma. Yes it bugs me). The two authors even go so far as to use different fonts as well as styles of writing, giving the characters immediately distinct personalities from the beginning. Now I don’t suggest going this far for a mostly serious novel such as this, but the point stands. It isn’t until halfway through the book where the real differences between Holden and Miller emerge (coincidentally when they meet) and the book shows off the dynamic between the optimist and the cynic through some slightly heavy-handed discussions about transparency of information and the tendency of people to be innately good.
Now all this isn’t to say I don’t like Leviathan Wakes. It’s actually pretty amazing. I admire the detailed plot, the otherwise well-characterised and diverse cast, [the alien space vomit zombies] among other things. There are nice, engaging elements sneakily pilfered from other genres like horror or noir, and all in all the pace of the novel is very well set-out. Terrible shame they had to cast Lindsay Lohan, however.
Leviathan Wakes was published in 2011 by Orbit Books. It can be found on Amazon here.
Yours: J.M. Pear