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From New York Times bestselling author James S.A. Corey...
Before his trip to the stars, before the Rocinante, Amos Burton was confined to a Baltimore where crime paid you or killed you. Unless the authorities got to you first.

Set in the hard-scrabble solar system of the Expanse, The Churn deepens James S. A. Corey's acclaimed series.

The Expanse (a major SyFy Channel television series)
Leviathan Wakes
Caliban's War
Abaddon's Gate
Cibola Burn
Nemesis Games

The Expanse Short Fiction
The Butcher of Anderson Station
Gods of Risk
The Churn

2 pages, Audiobook

First published June 10, 2014

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James S.A. Corey

70 books20.1k followers

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,306 reviews
January 6, 2018
Book one of The Expanse buddy read with the amazing and wonderful Kayla, the Graceling Accountant! In honor of our Accountant Buddy Read, I have modified my usual "speedy trial" review format and present to you my accounting themed...


For those of you who are lucky enough not to don't work with numbers all day, here is a quick visual aid to help depict what accountants like Kayla and I have to deal with in our work lives...no wonder we need to escape into books with words instead of numbers as soon as those spreadsheets are closed!

And now, with no further ado, let's get right to this book's balance sheet!


- Excellent prose
Noir can be a tricky beast. A hard-boiled writing style can add give your story some extra grit, but trying too hard at it can turn your story into...well... something that rhymes with grit! I've actually read books with lines like "He watched the water go down the drain along with all his hopes and dreams"! But here the gritty writing was executed perfectly, giving the story some added atmosphere and weight.

- Morally bankrupt yet still sympathetic characters
This is a world without heroes, where no one is trying to clean up the streets and instead the main players are competing to make them dirtier! (Uh-oh, now I'm guilty of bad hard-boiled writing!) In fact, one of the main characters is someone who proves right in the first couple of pages that he has absolutely no compunction about committing murder even for the flimsiest of reasons. Yet we're given such insight into their external and internal struggles, we can't help but want to see them win even though we know they deserve to lose.

- Exciting climax
In addition to hard-boiled storytelling, action sequences can be very difficult for a writer to pull off. Give too little detail about a fight and it can come off dull, but get too descriptive and it can feel clunky. Yet Corey strikes just the right balance in the climax, describing the action in a very thrilling and fluid manner.

- Brilliant ending
I won't spoil anything here. All I'll say is that I can't wait to dive to see how the events of this prequel tie into the main books now!


- Rated R for Really violent!
Sometimes people expect science fiction to be less mature, thanks to cartoons about transforming robots and even more cartoonish live-action movies about transforming robots! But now imagine a Transformers movie with an R rating...

(Whoever is reading this review right now, YOU'RE the one Optimus Prime just said is cool!)
With rather graphic violence, strong language, and a fairly explicit sex scene, this is NOT something to read if you're looking for something more breezy or family-friendly!

- Occasionally vague world-building
In fairness, this is only a 57 page novella, so I understand that the author didn't have a whole lot of space to flesh the world out. Still, there were sporadic moments where I wasn't entirely sure what the concepts entailed. For example, it's repeatedly mentioned that some people live on "basic", yet I was uncertain as to exactly how the basic system worked. Still, with so much of those 57 pages giving us a gripping story and enthralling characters forefront, I really can't complain too much if some of the background details were a little unclear.


This novella did exactly what a prequel is supposed to, it gave me additional insight into the main story and left me even more excited to read Leviathan Wakes now! With powerful narration and fascinating characters, I enjoyed every part of this novella (even the parts I didn't fully understand)! Highly recommended for anyone who wants a hard-boiled science fiction adventure!
Profile Image for Kemper.
1,390 reviews6,821 followers
September 15, 2015
Amos Burton is the resident bad ass among the crew of the Rocinante who often argues that whatever problem they have at the moment could be solved by a judicious use of gunfire and/or tossing someone out the nearest airlock into space. But Amos isn’t a thug, or rather, he’s not just a thug. He’s repeatedly been shown as a loyal friend and soft-hearted protector of the defenseless who would rather die then fail to keep a promise. It's all of these elements of his personality that make him among my favorite characters in the series.

This novella dives into the personal history of Amos that has been teased in the series. Here, we learn that young Amos (Who wasn’t called Amos back then.) grew up on the mean streets of a future Baltimore that’s even worse than David Simon could have imagined. After a childhood spent in sexual slavery, young Amos is trying to move up as an enforcer for a local gangster, but even a murderous band of criminals is a bit put off by the casual way in which Amos can determine that the best way to deal with a troublesome guy is shooting him in the head. When a crackdown by the security forces gets some gang members locked up, a purge of anyone with the potential to rat out the head of the mob commences and young Amos finds himself in a bad position.

Overall, this was a pretty good story that does provide some insight into Amos’ background that explains a lot about his personality and behavior. I also appreciate that the writers who jointly make up the James S.A. Corey name seem to be able to produce some extras like this without getting derailed from the more important task of regularly cranking out Expanse novels.

However, while it’s an interesting story, I’m not sure that its most important aspects couldn’t have been folded into one of the books rather than selling it as it’s own thing. I’m not complaining that it’s a rip-off. It’s bonus material, and it’s produced and sold as such including a reasonable price for the content you get. It just doesn’t feel like it added so much that it rates a whole extra about Amos. Still, like the other writing in the series it’s fast paced and entertaining, and it does add some depth to a popular character so it’s probably worth a look by dedicated fans.
Profile Image for Petrik.
674 reviews42.8k followers
June 8, 2020

3.5/5 stars

The Churn is a great novella. I enjoyed this one more than The Butcher of Anderson Station, Gods of Risk, and Drive.

I’m quite surprised by the official blurb and the huge number of reviews that immediately stated which character’s background is being shed upon here. Whether the reveal is obvious or not, I think it would be better for first-time readers to know nothing about it. I won’t be mentioning anything regarding about this one hour read; consider The Churn an essential reading—even more than the previous three novella/short stories—for fans of the main series who wants to know more about the background of one of the characters. Let’s leave it at that.

You can find the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions

Special thanks to my Patrons on Patreon for giving me extra support towards my passion for reading and reviewing!

My Patrons: Alfred, Devin, Hamad, Jimmy Nutts, Joie, Mike, Miracle, Nicholas.
Profile Image for Choko.
1,199 reviews2,584 followers
August 16, 2019
*** 4 ***

This novela packs a big punch for its size. Short, violent, gritty and dystopian in a very believable way, this is the story of one of the members of the crew in the Expanse space opera series, only not in space.

Timmy is a young man who is raised in the unregistered slums of Baltimore, where crime is what makes you or breaks you. Born to a prostitute as an unregistered birth, his only reality is the unforgiving underworld. On top of the rough conditions he has to contend with daily, he also happens to be one of those people born with the inability to distinguish between right and wrong, a sociopath who needs those around him to give him cues as to what is appropriate and when. It would be just natural for him to slip into the role of a thug, something his environment is very conducive to, and be just another link in the chain of violence and degradation. Lucky for him, a friend of his mother's, also a prostitute and a part of the raining crime syndicate, cares deeply for him, and wants better for him than what the have head up to now. This relationship was complex, disturbing, devastating in its honesty and so tragic, since he is incapable of true feelings of love, but she is masochistic enough to accept that and still love him, no matter how unhealthy and unhappy it is all the way around... I think this is going to stick with me for a while. It was very uncomfortable, but in that way you know it is real and very memorable!

I understand why we have this story, giving us more background on a secondary character, but I think it could be read on its own as a novela and it would leave just as deep of an impression as if you were more familiar with the series as a whole. I was very impressed!

I wish you all Happy Reading and many more wonderful books to come!
Profile Image for Ginger.
753 reviews373 followers
January 19, 2023
I thought The Churn was a nice addition to The Expanse series!

The Churn is long enough to give some insight on the world building on Earth and the criminal underground elements that’s found on the planet, especially in Baltimore.

It introduces us to a young man named Timmy.
He's raised in the slums and this short story shows the reader the uncomfortable truth of what it’s like to live there. It’s seedy, corrupt, and deadly to live in this type of area.

After reading this, we can see how this violent environment molds the personality of a main character in the series.

I’m glad I decided to read this one after all!
Profile Image for Trish.
1,931 reviews3,403 followers
July 2, 2018
Another short story is the Expanse universe, this time about Amos' past.

Amos is a very quirky character. He seems to lack empathy on a worrying scale while simultaneously showing the capacity for great loyalty, which is why I like him so much. Those who have read the first novel and/or seen the TV show know that he is from Earth, originally, and has had a dark past. Here, we get to know what this past consists of (to some degree) and it was a delightful look at future Baltimore and its crime syndicates. However, it was also an interesting look at Earth itself, the social structures of the future, how humanity lives - and it's disquieting to say the least.

Thus, this is an action-laden novella about a very enigmatic character and a great addition to the series.

Profile Image for James Trevino.
68 reviews34.1k followers
February 20, 2019
The Churn is an additional book to the Expanse series, set before the series' beginnings and chronicling some events in the life of one of my favorite characters, Amos Burton.

Amos, or Jimmy, is a low level thug with a lot of issues and a broken moral compass. And that is what makes him so compelling. The criminal world of Baltimore is masterfully built - so much so that this can be read as a stand alone, with no prior knowledge of the universe.
Profile Image for William.
675 reviews324 followers
January 3, 2020
A superb back-story for Amos from The Expanse series, perhaps my single favourite of the side-books. Must read.

I really love how the authors have used the side-books format to fill in the back-stories, historical events and technology bits instead of bogging down the main series with this info.

The way they are written as semi-standalones is terrific. I love the Rocinante family, and these side-books have doubled that pleasure.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,967 followers
June 29, 2018
Claustrophobic and set on a dirty, poor future Earth, we see a nasty Baltimore run by the mob, a populace living on subsistence-level Basic, and a young Amos from the later series living as a thug with a missing sense of right and wrong.

It's classic and awesome SF. It may be a prequel and there's no space stuff, but the atmosphere and the thug life is pretty fantastic. The characterizations are top-notch and it really adds a LOT of dimension to one of my favorite characters from the books.

Totally recommend.
Profile Image for Terry.
345 reviews74 followers
January 22, 2023
Wow, quite the background for one of my favorite characters in the books. I wish more book series did this with short stories between novels, giving us a glimpse into how the those we root for in the books got their start. Definitely read this if you are working your way through the series.
Profile Image for Ashley.
2,653 reviews1,688 followers
December 9, 2015
"To go from an unregistered birth such as his to having any power and status at all was an achievement as profound as it was invisible."

Before he was the engineer on the Rocinante, Amos Burton lived in Baltimore. A product of prostitution himself, he spent his childhood in sexual slavery, before being rescued by the woman who would essentially become his step-mother. This novella takes place about twenty years before the main events of the series, during a time when the organized crime in Baltimore is once again being ravaged by law enforcement in one of their periodic crack-downs, known by those affected by them as The Churn.

I was a bit conflicted about this as an individual piece. The writing is gorgeous in places, and I love Amos. He's such a fascinating character, a seemingly conflicting mix of brutish, unthinking violence and fierce loyalty. It was interesting seeing where he came from, and the roots of the relationships we see further fleshed out in Nemesis Games. I believe this is meant to be read before that book, however, as a "twist" in this novella is ruined if you've read that book first like I did.

It doesn't matter much, though. The novella is really only interesting if you're already invested in the series, and mostly only as a character piece for Amos, a little slice of his history for context. Especially if you normally dislike stories involving organized crime, which I also very much do.
Profile Image for Carrot :3 (on a hiatus).
254 reviews73 followers
December 22, 2022
3.25 stars.

This novella focuses on Amos’ backstory on Earth before everything started. It was cool that we get to see Amos but the plot in itself was kinda boring. The other characters weren’t that interesting. Fans of the series might not want to miss this.
Profile Image for Mimi.
97 reviews3,797 followers
November 3, 2020
Amos is my favorite character in The Expanse and now I understand his origins, both less and more violent than I expected. How easily life can churn in one direction or the other. I don't know why I like Amos so much. This might change as the series continues but I hope not.

If you too find yourself unusually attached to Amos you will want to read this.
Profile Image for Rob.
848 reviews535 followers
May 31, 2015
Executive Summary: Amos is one of my favorite characters of the Expanse novels, and it's nice to finally get his backstory.

Full Review
For someone who doesn't really like short fiction, I seem to be reading a fair amount of it recently. Of the few Expanse short stories, this is the one that was the top of my list.

I finally decided to pick it up in preparation for the next Expanse novel. I thought it was just "alright" until the last little bit. The ending really made reading this worthwhile for me. It pushed it from a 3 star to a 4 star rating.

You don't get any of the cool setting of the normal Expanse books. There are no ships or space stations. Everything takes place in Baltimore. For the most part this almost could be an organized crime story more than Sci-Fi.

I'm not sure how important reading this story is to the series as a whole, but I'm glad I read it. I'm not sure I'll bother with the other short fiction. This one is really more of a special exception for me.
Profile Image for Cathy.
1,625 reviews239 followers
December 28, 2017
Someone recommended that I read this before Nemesis Games, as it is a good background story for Amos. I almost can't wait to pick that up next week, to find out what happens to Amos. He is one of my favourite characters in The Expanse.

The story gives a look into Amos' early days, before leaving Earth. And there is a twist that I really should have seen coming from miles away. But I am a bit blind that way, so the coin only dropped just before I got hit by that two-by-four...

Entertaining, short, a little odd...
Profile Image for Veronique.
1,231 reviews169 followers
July 8, 2017
My first Expanse novella.

Somehow, I always thought that people on Earth would be a little better off than the Belters, and even Martians, and yet, after reading this, the picture the authors paint is rather grotty. It does make sense however. And of course, we finally get the backstory of one of the Rocinante's crew.

On with Nemesis Games... :0)
Profile Image for Jason.
1,179 reviews255 followers
January 1, 2016
4 Stars

I am a huge fan of the Expanse series and decided now would be a great time to read the tiny novellas. The Churn is a fun story with a great twist. Can't say much more without spoilers but it is worth a read.

The Expanse series is one of my very favorite ongoing series today.

The Expanse is now an awesome show on Syfy and it has already been renewed for a second season.
Profile Image for Emily.
928 reviews4 followers
January 3, 2023
“Burton’s misfortune was to be born where and when he was, in a city of scars and vice, in an age when the division in the popular mind was between living on government-funded basic support or having an actual profession and money of your own.”
Profile Image for Gary K Bibliophile.
209 reviews52 followers
March 20, 2021
A short little origins story (of sorts) for Amos. It provided some much appreciated info on Lydia and Erich as well as young Timmy. Although I rather enjoyed it - I very much wanted more 😀 I’m going through Expanse withdrawals...

I kind of predicted where the story was going, but it in many ways it didn’t cover some things I was hoping for. Maybe they are in another of the novellas I have yet to get to or maybe they will cover that in the future. It did provide some interesting details on the future Baltimore’s seedy underworld. As a side note, my father grew up in Baltimore and although I never lived there I visited often. I had always found it interesting that Amos was from there.
Profile Image for Robyn.
827 reviews132 followers
May 31, 2016
Getting ready for Nemesis Games - this fills in some nice back story.
Profile Image for Justine.
1,133 reviews309 followers
April 3, 2021
This short novella about Amos' backstory is not only intriguing, it is exceptionally well written. It's filled with great imagery and captures a real feel and sense of place and character.

Two of my favourite passages, the first about Lydia, the woman who raised Amos, and the second about Amos himself:

There was gray in her hair now. Lines at the corners of her eyes, the first faint liver spots on the backs of her hands. She told herself they were evidence of her success. Too many of her friends had never had them. Never would. Her life had been a patchwork of love and violence, and the overlap was vast.


Amos Burton was a tall, stocky, pale-skinned man with an amiable smile, an unpleasant past, and a talent for cheerful violence. He left Baltimore to its dynamic balance of crime and law, exotics and mundanity, love and emptiness. The number of people who knew him and loved him could be counted on one hand and leave most of the fingers spare, and when he was gone, the city went on without him as if he had never been.

Profile Image for Sanaa.
411 reviews2,555 followers
March 30, 2016
[3 Stars] I've had this novella finished for a while, but I'm just now getting around to reviewing it. I was really conflicted about my overall thoughts. There were parts of this I loved like the writing, and parts I thought were absolutely predictable and boring. I figured out what the twist was really early on, like as soon as you could even possibly put it together, and after that the book just wasn't really to my taste. It's well written, but I was often bored and organized crime stories just are not for me. I'm sure this book will play an interesting role in the future when more of Amos's backstory gets uncovered in the main series, but this on it's own was only a meh okay read for me. Good to get this kind of backstory, but not good to be bored while doing such.
Profile Image for Daniel.
753 reviews72 followers
April 7, 2015
Interesantan prikaz sveta koji je i tezak i depresivan plus dobijamo malo istorije u vezi jednog od glavnih likova. Samo to je vec cini skoro obaveznim must readom. Steta sto nema malo vise maste u smisljanju sveta posto opisno je vec vidjeno.
Profile Image for Dale Pearl.
362 reviews29 followers
January 13, 2016
A decent piece. I would say that this feels more like a writers back story than anything actually intended for fans of the Expanse universe. I probably should have held off on reading this one until after the second or third book but I am reading them in the authors order an this is supposed to take place before book 2.

The Churn is the back streets and alleyways of the earth city Baltimore. This very short story goes into the daily life of street thugs. Interesting glimpse into the underworld elements at play in the expanse as well as a better understanding on how people move on from earth to Ceres station and beyond.
Profile Image for Scott  Hitchcock.
779 reviews224 followers
October 5, 2017

After reading Drive which is the .1 novella directly before this I wasn't quite expecting this type of story. Taking place in a futuristic Baltimore this is more an episode of the Wire circa some far distant year than Sci Fi. Still it was enjoyable with DA's (Corey) usual character building.

I was hoping some of the thugs would still be wearing Ray Lewis Ratbird jerseys to make it even more authentic. :)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,306 reviews

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