I’ve got an itch to scratch

mars-rover-curiosity-sky-crane-landingJust got done reading the first book of James SA Corey’s Expanse series, Leviathan Awakes. In a nutshell, it’s a space opera set in a future where humans have settled the solar system, but are not yet able to reach other solar systems.

I’ve been wanting to find a book series or television series about this for a while, because it’s cool and realistic to hope for, even if it might not happen in my lifetime. It’s maddening reading about all the robot probes the nations of Earth have sent to the planets, moons, comets, and asteroids of our solar system and wonder what it would be like for humans to actually explore those places, rather than just settling for floating about in a tin can in orbit maintenancing satellites.

Then I heard about a book series Syfy Channel has purchased rights to. So I grabbed the first book. Turns out The Expanse series takes place a lot further in the future than I’d hoped: we could be visiting Mars in the next couple decades, but this series takes place about a century and a half in the future. Which means most of the moons and asteroids have been explored, settled, and developed, and most of the action in the series is about politics, commerce, and war, rather than about science and exploration.

The author of the series is actually two authors writing under a pen name, which makes sense to me. There’s a wisdom out there, “Write the book you want to read,” but I couldn’t write a book about exploring the solar system. It would take too many kinds of expertise to write the book I’d want to read, and I couldn’t imagine anything less than an entire writing team tackling every aspect of such a story that I’d be satisfied with.

But the science/tech/social world-building in the Expanse series is convincing enough, and you actually get to visit those places with the characters, so it still scratches that itch.

The books do a fair job on gender and race issues. There’s strong women characters and female POVs, but a(n alas inescapable?) male-gazey lense overall. One thing that’s realistic about the series (IMO) is the race and gender issues which plague us now are less of a problem, and have been replaced by new ones created by the expansion of humankind into new environments. Although I have to say, there’s a fair bit of cynicism in the sociology of the series. Technologically, there are some howlers that throw me out of the story sometimes. Not because they’re unbelievable future-gizmos, but because I’d think in a century and a half, we’d have come up with something less awkward, and well, less here-and-now.

In true fashion of the era of eBooks, these authors have not only written novels in the series, but short stories and novellas. The novels are also available in dead tree/bookshelf trophy form.

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