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Persepolis Rising by James S. A. Corey

For most of The Expanse series, I find it to be smart, well-researched, and well-executed, containing strong characters who have enough development to prevent them from being caricatures. Then, I listened to the end of book six and all of book seven. Unfortunately, Persepolis Rising by James S. A. Corey has neither excellent execution nor strong characters.

Because reading the series became a joint project, I reached out to my son to debate at length the plot and one character at the heart of my issues with Persepolis Rising. While we both conclude that the character is nothing but an archetype and that the plot suffers, for the first time, from predictability, I take it one step further. Much like my opinion about the anticlimactic ending of the previous book, I believe the authors became lazy. In doing so, they created a character that is the archetypal moral villain, so firmly convinced of his own righteousness that he is incapable of growth. The character contains no complexity, no moral flexibility that allows him to learn from his mistakes. Given the depth and development of the majority of the other characters in the series, this lack of development within this one person screams of laziness.

Because this character is essentially a blueprint, the storyline in which he plays a significant role suffers from predictability. A lot. For the first time, I saw exactly how this story was going to unfold. Because this character is as complex as a piece of blank paper, I knew there would not be any plot twists. This character is completely incapable of the duplicity and moral ambiguity plot twists require. Thus, the story did occur exactly as I expected, something that has not been the case with the other books. In fact, part of what I love about the series is that it constantly keeps me guessing, and I usually have no idea what is going to happen. Not so here.

What makes this such an egregious error is simply because it occurs in book seven. Had the first book or two had such an overly simplified character and predictable plot lines, that would make more sense to me. One expects authors’ writing to improve with each book, so one expects weaker writing and a lack of development in an author’s first few books. By the seventh book, I do not expect nor want poor writing. Sadly, Persepolis Rising gave me just that.

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