Leviathan Wakes broke my reading slump! Listlessly slogging my way through various reads–a couple of which came highly recommended–I was starting to wonder if it I had lost my book love. Then I picked this up for a Book o’ the Month read. Expecting a detail dense sci-fi, within the first few pages I found myself hooked, and by page 100, thoroughly reeled in by this hefty genre mash-up. Space opera? Perhaps. Horror? Maybe. Military? Sort of. Mystery in space? Yes, definitely. And if by the end it reminded me a little of The Rook and The Gone-Away World, that’s not a negative comparison. All of them have some interesting philosophical underpinnings combined with genre mash-up, a light mystery-driven plot and a nice side of humor.
“Mariner Valley had been settled by East Indians, Chinese and a small contingent of Texans. Apparently the drawl was viral. They all had it now.”
Oddly, I seem to be on an unintentional run of books created by collaborators, and in some cases it works well (Ilona Andrews), and in some, not so much. Although there’s a few rough spots here–and I’d have to agree with a number of reviewers that pinpoint the ending as displeasing–it generally works very well. I went looking for some background on the collaboration, and the duo offered up a few thoughts on Scalzi’s blog and in an appealing three-part Youtube video interview with author Carrie Vaughn: http://youtu.be/Yu0xJpCy95o
Initially, a fragmented viewpoint had trouble luring me in, but once the authors settled down for an exchange of viewpoints between Holden, an “executive officer” on an ice hauling deep-space freighter of outcasts, and Detective Miller, a world-weary member of an asteroid peace-keeping force, it was suddenly became completely absorbing. The culture felt at once familiar with generational differences between deep spacers who grow up on various asteroids and moons, and those that grow up on the more developed Earth and Martian colonies. The writers add a twist by including some physical differences that occur between Earth-gravity and deep-space gravity peoples, and further enlarge upon it by including economic and political angles that make the culture-building feel real. If the lead characters seem a bit stereotypical, it is because the authors intended them to be more archetypical. The genius is in their interactions, with the world-weary detective and his ‘realistic’ problem-solving contrasting with the outsider hero and his optimistic one. Suddenly ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ aren’t so clear.
“The circle of life on Ceres was so small you could see the curve. He liked it that way.”
I admire the writers’ goal of a composition that addresses the emotion of the story, and for wanting to write an engaging style that doesn’t depend on artificial cliffhangers (Psst! Modern UF and YA–we’re talking about you). One reason I don’t spend much time in deep-space sci-fi it the tendency to focuses on world and tech-building at the expense of character and plot. Either that, or it all becomes a set-up for a giant philosophical thought experiment. Had I known from the beginning about the authors’ intentions, I might have went into it with higher expectations of enjoyment.
“We’re sentimentalists. We care whether the soul-crushed cop finds redemption. We care whether the quixotic holy fool of a captain overcomes his own failings in time to get the girl. And we expect you to care too. The risk we take is that you might not, and if you don’t, there’s no defense against the failure on our part. But you know what? We think it’s worth it anyway.”
It was worth it.
Four deep-space stars.