Babylon’s Ashes by James S. A. Corey is book six in a nine-book series, but it feels a lot like Empire Strikes Back to me. In this, I mean that things are bad for our hapless Rocinante crew and don’t look like they are going to get better any time soon. The unthinkable already happened in the previous book, but the crew and their allies find their options limited and shrinking ever smaller as this new force takes the stage. This means that the action is hot and heavy, and the stakes are as desperate as ever.
All this action and desperation is a good thing. Much like in book five, Babylon’s Ashes is intense. In fact, one might say it is the most intense book to date, as the brewing conflict between the Outer Belt, Mars, and Earth comes to fruition. Let’s face it, it is a conflict we have been waiting to see since the first book. The thing is that the fight isn’t as satisfying as I expected. With the cast of characters different than expected, it seems a completely different fight. Mr. Corey helps this feeling along by making sure there is no such thing as a safe character.
Babylon’s Ashes is an excellent novel. That is, it is until the ending, which is so anticlimactic as to be a major disappointment. In truth, the ending is the very definition of a copout. It is also the result of lazy writing. In my opinion, it appears as if the duo behind Mr. Corey chose to take the easy way with an ending that works but is anything but satisfying rather than to take the time to finish what they started. Think the ending to Breaking Dawn but even less satisfying.
If it weren’t for that ending, Babylon’s Ashes would be another stellar story in a series of stellar stories. Until that ending, it ranked up there among my top favorites within the series itself. Still, until that point, it was pretty amazing, with battles and political maneuverings and the reintroduction of characters we first saw three books prior. The sheer number of narrators, which is pretty much every character ever introduced, adds even more because we get a wide view of the entire spectacle as it unfolds. If only the ending were not so spectacularly anti-climactic and lazy.