Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Review: Caliban's War by James S. A. Corey

Caliban's War
Book 2 of The Expanse

We are not alone.

On Ganymede, breadbasket of the outer planets, a Martian marine watches as her platoon is slaughtered by a monstrous supersoldier. On Earth, a high-level politician struggles to prevent interplanetary war from reigniting. And on Venus, an alien protomolecule has overrun the planet, wreaking massive, mysterious changes and threatening to spread out into the solar system.

In the vast wilderness of space, James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante have been keeping the peace for the Outer Planets Alliance. When they agree to help a scientist search war-torn Ganymede for a missing child, the future of humanity rests on whether a single ship can prevent an alien invasion that may have already begun . . .

Alright, I gave the first book the benefit of the doubt, mostly because the intriguing-yet-not-thrilling plot picked up to a frenetically awesome pace toward the end of the book, setting the stage for Caliban's War to have a thrill-a-minute adventures.  (SPOILERS from book one) After all, when an alien-created protomolecule is absorbing humans and their characteristics, and then making inanimate object sentient, surely the next book is going to be amazing, right?  No?  You human will realize we're not alone....and there will be adventures...No?  We're not going to have a "first contact" story?  We're going to have backroom politics instead?  And lovers' spats?  Really?  Okaaay.  If you insist...

Once again, the authors (yes, "authors" - the pen name is for two people) alternate perspectives by chapter.  Only one narrator has returned from the first book:  Holden, the naive yet good-hearted captain. Our now-cranky-instead-of-hopeful captain is joined by three others:  a scientist looking for his kidnapped daughter, a marine who saw her entire platoon get killed, and a feisty and foulmouthed grandmotherly politician.  While I give props to Corey for having female protagonists this time , I can't say that any particular POV was engaging.  None of the characters truly had their own voice - except for maybe Avasarala, who swears almost every sentence she utters.  Prax, Bobbie, and Holden all have the same voice which is about as interesting as plain oatmeal.

Once again, there is the same problem with the prose being dull.  Normally I am not one to notice writing unless it's really bad.  However, this isn't bad writing, it's just bland writing.  There is no life in it, and unfortunately the characters add nothing, so once again absurd action sequences are shoe-horned into the story to, ahem, "keep the tension up."  I don't need to dredge up the "If Michael Bay directed Titanic" gif again, do I?

Just as with the first book, the narrative slowly reveals the actual drama and who is behind it, but by that point of the final reveal I was so uninterested that I just want to speed read clear to the end.  I mean, for the love of corn, the very first sentence on the blurb is "We are not alone" - so why does it take until the FINAL page - yes! the last page of a 624 page book - for any indication that the alien protomolecule is genuinely doing something?  There are a few passing mentions of its activity, but mostly the alien thingamajig is shunted aside for Avasarala to swear at someone or for Holden to moon over his girlfriend.  Blergh.

As I've said before, there are very few books over 350 pages that couldn't benefit from some severe editing.  Knowing I could have read almost two other paperbacks for the same amount of pages hurts my soul a little.  The fact that this book flares into Super Awesome Space Adventure in the last 20-30 pages doesn't really make up for having to read over 500 pages first.  The story ends on a massive cliffhanger and while I want to know what's going to happen next, I'm leaning toward "I'm not falling for that again."

3 stars!

Will I continue reading the series?   
Eh.  *avoids eye contact*

No comments:

Post a Comment