llp’s #CBR IV Review 20: The Game of Thrones, Vol. 1 by George R. R. Martin, Daniel Abraham and Tommy Patterson
I think the graphic novel version of this series is… unnecessary, really.
This book shows why it’s a good idea to stick with something, even if it seems lackluster at first. Although it started out as a fantasy trope-fest, it quickly gained its own identity and became quite good.
Abraham is apparently a friend of George RR Martin’s, and Abraham clearly learned a lot from Martin. This book, the first in an ongoing series, is structured pretty much exactly like A Song of Ice and Fire in that there is a core of scattered characters who swap the point of view from chapter to chapter. Each of them start out as being self-contained but are slowly drawn together, and so on. The characters are, at first blush, pretty standard fantasy fare: the clever orphan; the now obscure but once infamous general who is haunted by A Dark Past; the clueless young lord thrown into the deep end of imperial politics; the once mighty but now failing king. I’ll admit that I was bored, and kept reading the first half of this book out of sheer momentum. I hate leaving books unfinished.
Then, halfway through, the damnedest thing happened. The characters took off, the plot unfolded in interesting and unexpected ways and, all of a sudden, I found myself paying attention. Flew through the rest of it, in fact.
Abraham definitely has some shortcomings. His reach slightly exceeds his grasp when it comes to character. I got the feeling that several characters were supposed to come across as more nuanced than they did in actuality, and some of the bits of the setting came across less like actual places and more as cool names on a map that hadn’t quite been fleshed out. That being said, you could do a lot worse than The Dragon’s Path if you like epic fantasy. The series seems like it’s heading for some interesting places, and I expect the slight glitches will be ironed out as Abraham gets more of the series under his belt. (In fact I’m nearly done with the second book in the series, and I like it a lot. I’ll review it soon.)
Wow. That’s about the best word I can come up with to describe my reaction to this book. As I stated way back here in this review, Consider Phlebas, I didn’t used to be a big reader of science fiction. Along with Consider Phlebas, Leviathan Wakes is making me rethink that choice.
Set a few hundred years in the future, mankind has spread out from Earth into the far reaches of the solar system. Earth is still the cradle of humanity, but Mars has been entirely terraformed and populated, as have outer colonies been set up in the Asteroid Belt, known simply as The Belt. There is growing tension between the inner planets and The Belt due to heavy taxation of the colonies by Earth, and Mars and Earth are uneasy neighbors at best.
I’ve been sitting here for an hour trying to figure out how to describe this book without giving key plot points away. It is a hell of a great sci-fi adventure novel with equal parts action, horror, mystery, and some genuinely funny moments that combine to make a great ride.
There are 2 main characters; James Holden, XO of the doomed ice hauler Canterbury, and Detective Joe Miller, a burned out cop on the Belt station Ceres tasked with finding a missing person. The novel alternates chapters between these two men and the other characters that surround them. Soon enough Holden and Miller are forced together to unravel a mystery that threatens all of humanity from Earth to the Belt.
What sets this story apart from similar space operas is that the action is kept in the solar system. The space ships in the book are capable of no more than .3 the speed of light, and the physical impact on the humans of these excessive speeds is a focal point of the book. I have no idea if the science is right, but it certainly feels right. While making combat maneuvers in space the occupants are forced to lay in gel filled capsules, pumped full of drugs to keep them conscious and alert but able to withstand the sustained g forces. It is one thing to read about a ship wildly dodging incoming fire. It’s quite another to know that with each twist and turn the agony on the occupants increases.
Rather than spend time with techno babble Leviathan Wakes sets up a universe very much like that in Alien. The technology is more advanced than ours, and mankind has explored to the far reaches of the solar system, but greed and power are still the dominant force in the universe. Holden’s never-say-die idealism and Miller’s gruff cynicism play against each other well through the course of the book. At 600+ pages this book very much is the definition of “epic” but by the time it is done you will just want more. I loved it and am planning to pick up the sequel, Caliban’s War, when it releases next month.
Leviathan Wakes was nominated for both a Hugo and Locus Award for best science fiction novel of the year. This is an honor very well deserved.
NOTE: James S.A. Corey is the pen name for 2 authors, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. Ty is the assistant to George R. R. Martin. After reading Leviathan Wakes I am no longer worried about Martin finishing the Song of Ice and Fire because Franck and Abrahams seem to be more than capable of continuing it if circumstances were to come to that.
Leviathan Wakes is book one in what is being called The Expanse series. You can find more information at The Expanse.