Books of 2017, #3: Caliban’s War, by James S. A. Corey (The Expanse #2)

I’ve read critiques of Leviathan Awakes that felt the Noir backdrop for Miller didn’t work, and that they were happy he was gone by the end of the first book.

Although I certainly found the crew of the Rocinante more fun, I still kind of liked Miller; still if we had to lose him, could we do better than gaining Chrisjen Avasarala and Bobbie Draper? Easy answer: No. Especially Avasarala:

“They’re all fucking men,” she said.

“Excuse me?” Soren said.

“The generals. They’re all fucking men.”

“I thought Souther was the only—”

“I don’t mean that they all fuck men. I mean they’re all men, the fuckers. …

Whatever my feelings about the plot and in some cases character changes they made in the TV show, the only thing that really hurts is that Avasarala simply can’t be so casually foul-mouthed on basic cable.

Or just some of the text that comes along with her:

She’d stopped looking tired a while ago and had moved on to whatever tired turns into when it becomes a lifestyle.

Still, Amos does ultimately win the quotability competition:

“When it comes to scrapes, I’m what you might call a talented amateur. But I’ve gotten a good look at that woman in and out of that fancy mechanical shell she wears. She’s a pro. We’re not playing the same sport.”


He turned toward the galley, but the conversation wasn’t finished.

“If I had. If I had done those things, that would have been okay with you?”

“Oh, fuck no. I’d have broken your neck and thrown you out the airlock,” Amos said, clapping him on the shoulder.

“Ah,” Prax said, a gentle relief loosening in his chest. “Thank you.”


At least as far as my enjoyment goes, it’s important that these two compelling characters get added for this second book, because on re-reading, it feels like the gears of the plot are clanking just a little bit in the background—I feel like there’s some manufactured conflict that doesn’t play out as smoothly as it should have.

Still nothing more than typical sophomore slump, and not anything like, say, the second book in Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey & Maturin series, where things totally go off the rails before he figures out how to manage the whole notion of a sequel.

I also book-ended this with the short story The Butcher of Anderson Station, which gives some background on Fred Johnson and how he got his sobriquet, as well as the novella Gods of Risk, which is what Bobbie Draper does on her summer vacation. I think the interstitial story strategy is a pretty brilliant one—it lets the author address things that add some richness to the main line of stories without having to have an awkward flashback or play stop-the-world for an awkward infodump.

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Michael Alan Dorman

Yogi, brigand, programmer, thief, musician, Republican, cook. I leave it to you figure out which ones are accurate.