Once upon a time, my son said I had to read The Expanse series. I ignored him for years but took his advice in 2019 and started it. Of course, he was right, and I loved Leviathan’s Wake. I kept meaning to pick up the second book in the series, but it completely slipped my mind as my job imploded and the pandemic took root. Thankfully, he reminded me halfway into the pandemic, and now book two, Caliban’s War, is in the books.
Because I watched the series on Amazon Prime, I knew what to expect in Caliban’s War, but that in no way diminished my enjoyment of the story. If anything, it made me appreciate the differences between the two mediums. TV allows you to see some of the more difficult-to-picture science and alien artifacts, while the novel gives you great characters and more depth to their stories.
Book two introduces readers to two of my favorite characters in the series. One is a foul-mouthed politician grandmother who is not afraid to call bullshit when she sees it, and the other is a Martian marine who literally kicks ass. Both characters are take-charge, “for the greater good” type characters. Because they are so blunt, every scene they are in means there is sparks. With all of the complete crap coming out of Washington these days, I appreciate a truth-telling character more than ever, and both Bobbie Draper and Chrisjen Avasarala are thoroughly enjoyable in that regard.
As far as universe-spanning space operas go, Caliban’s War is an excellent story. It takes place on Ganymede, a moon of Jupiter, Earth, and Mars. Fast-paced with everything from politics to space battles to alien monsters, there is always something to keep your attention. The crew of the Rocinante remains key players in most of the events as well, so you have the familiar faces of the first book to help guide your way through this next adventure with the protomolecule.
I blew through Caliban’s War via audio and would recommend that format to anyone. Normally, science fiction can be a challenge on audio because of unfamiliar names and places. In this case, I found the story accessible. The narrator, Jefferson Mays, does an excellent job. He adds just enough to each voice for listeners to understand that a different character is speaking, but he never goes so far as to be laughable. We have all heard male narrators who affect a falsetto to depict a female character, the result of which is never good. Listening was the perfect way to provide a welcome distraction from household chores.
If you caught the series on Prime, I highly recommend checking out the books. There are enough differences to make both fun entertainment without being tedious. For those who are curious, Caliban’s War is the second book but ties to season two and three of the television series. If you haven’t experienced either format but are looking for a well-written, realistic science fiction novel/space opera, look no farther than The Expanse series.