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The Expanse #9

Leviathan Falls

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The Laconian Empire has fallen, setting the thirteen hundred solar systems free from the rule of Winston Duarte. But the ancient enemy that killed the gate builders is awake, and the war against our universe has begun again.

In the dead system of Adro, Elvi Okoye leads a desperate scientific mission to understand what the gate builders were and what destroyed them, even if it means compromising herself and the half-alien children who bear the weight of her investigation. Through the wide-flung systems of humanity, Colonel Aliana Tanaka hunts for Duarte’s missing daughter. . . and the shattered emperor himself. And on the Rocinante, James Holden and his crew struggle to build a future for humanity out of the shards and ruins of all that has come before.

As nearly unimaginable forces prepare to annihilate all human life, Holden and a group of unlikely allies discover a last, desperate chance to unite all of humanity, with the promise of a vast galactic civilization free from wars, factions, lies, and secrets if they win.

But the price of victory may be worse than the cost of defeat.

528 pages, Hardcover

First published November 30, 2021

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James S.A. Corey

69 books20.1k followers

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28,154 (63%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,735 reviews
Profile Image for Petrik.
669 reviews43.1k followers
December 30, 2021
4.5/5 stars

My last review of 2021 is for the conclusion to the first big space opera series of novels I’ve ever finished to its completion, and I’m glad it’s The Expanse.

And so here we are, at the end of another long series. If you’ve been following my reading journey for a while, then you might realize that usually, the long series I finished are all epic fantasy series. This is why this review is a new milestone for me. Comprising of nine novels and multiple short stories and novellas, The Expanse by James S.A. Corey duo is the first big space opera series ever finished to its completion. Yes, this is the end, and it’s an emotional and satisfying conclusion. Endings are hard to nail, and the authors should be proud of this achievement.

“The love of a parent for their kid is the last thing to go.”

Leviathan Falls continue from where Tiamat’s Wrath left off. But in a way, it also felt like a beginning of a new self-contained installment. It’s the final volume in the series, and although I didn’t feel like I was bored with any of the pages written here, I also wondered whether the first half of the novel—mainly Tanaka’s hunting session—needed to be that long. Honestly speaking, the only reason why Leviathan Falls didn’t receive a full 5 stars rating from me is due to Tanaka’s POV in the first half of the novel. Tanaka, as far as I know, is a new POV character in the series. I don’t have any issue with her POV per se, but I also didn’t feel like her character felt necessary to explore. Or even exist. Tanaka is actually an interesting character, and it’s great to have her on the opposing side of the crew of the Rocinante. But with or without her, the progression and the final result of the series will still be the same. This is the only minor issue I had on the book, and thankfully, Corey more than made up for it in the second half of the novel.

“We also both know that when it comes to getting people to deny their own immediate needs in favor of a greater good, asking nicely almost never works.”

As you can guess, although I had a good time reading the book, a part of me was also worried. Can Corey actually deliver a satisfying conclusion to the series or not? And they succeeded marvelously by making sure, one last time, that the core of the narrative began and ended with the crew of the Rocinante. The crew of the Rocinante has always been the heart and soul of the series since Leviathan Wakes, and I’m gratified we receive a relatively large focus on them in this final volume. I’ll be lying if I say I didn’t feel emotional with the character’s development and ending. The crew has come so far from where they started. The level of understanding and trust they have with each other goes beyond words; they no longer need words to understand each other. And when words spoken from the bottom of their hearts do get exchanged, they felt sincere and poignant. There were several scenes in Leviathan Falls where I’m reminded of the journeys they faced in the previous eight books, and it really felt like I lived through those with them. Corey has done an excellent job in making sure that the characters—not just the crew of the Rocinante—remain at the center of the narrative throughout the entire series.

“Alex had heard the idea that a tool, used long enough and cared for well enough, developed a soul. He’d never been a religious man, but even without going to the supernatural, he felt like there was some truth in that.”

Unfortunately, this is where I must part ways with the review. Everything else belongs in the spoiler-realm. I will, however, say this. The title Leviathan Falls is not only a badass title that works as a contrast to the first book of the series: Leviathan Wakes; there’s a deeper meaning behind this title, and I hope you’ll get to find out for yourself. Leviathan Falls is an outstanding and bittersweet conclusion to The Expanse series, and the future of science fiction—novels or television shows—is brighter with this duo’s contribution in the genre. Bravo, James S.A. Corey.

‘“I absolutely believe that people are more good on balance than bad,” he said. “All the wars and all of the cruelty and all of the violence. I’m not looking away from any of that, and I still think there’s something beautiful about being what we are. History is soaked in blood. The future probably will be too. But for every atrocity, there’s a thousand small kindnesses that no one noticed. A hundred people who spent their lives loving and caring for each other. A few moments of real grace.”’

Series review:

Leviathan Wakes: 4/5 stars
Caliban's War: 4.5/5 stars
Abaddon's Gate: 2.5/5 stars
Cibola Burn: 4/5 stars
Nemesis Games: 4.5/5 stars
Babylon's Ashes: 3.5/5 stars
Persepolis Rising: 3.5/5 stars
Tiamat's Wrath: 4.5/5 stars
Leviathan Falls: 4.5/5 stars

The Expanse: 35.5/45 stars

You can order this book from: Blackwells (Free International shipping)

You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions | I also have a Booktube channel

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

My Patrons: Alfred, Andrew, Annabeth, Ben, Blaise, Diana, Dylan, Edward, Element, Ellen, Ellis, Gary, Hamad, Helen, Jimmy Nutts, Jennifer, Joie, Luis, Lufi, Melinda, Meryl, Mike, Miracle, Neeraja, Nicholas, Oliver, ReignBro, Reno, Samuel, Sarah, Sarah, Scott, Xero, Wendy, Wick, Wouter, Zoe.
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
797 reviews3,640 followers
January 29, 2023
We´re not just nothing in the endlessness of space

We also don´t know anything about the sheer potential that could have already been unleashed
In other worlds, including self destruction options. That´s the extremely satisfying and thereby hard sci fi part that explains both the protomolecule and the gates by combining astrophysics, theoretical physics, xenobiology/psychology, and somewhat the

Dark Forest theory too
Because humankind simply doesn´t understand what we could be dealing with, we believe in endless exponential economic growth, but don´t get what this could mean on the large, cosmic scale of seeming eternity. Look what humankind has first accomplished in 10.000 years until the industrial revolution. From then, we lifted off like crazy and invented and researched tons of sheer magical stuff (just look at your freaking smartphone) within centuries. Look where we could be in just hundreds or even tens of thousands of years. Sounds great, except that there could be

Civilizations that aren´t millions, but billions of years ahead
No matter if it´s the Kardashev scale
Clarketech, or different theories about reality, dimensions, time travel, quantum nano multiverse stuff, we don´t just know and understand nothing, we are nothing too. Not even insects, more like microbes or, my favorite Matrix analogy, parasitic viruses. Get another agnostic kick created by kurzgesagt:
The largest star in the universe - size comparison
The Largest Black Hole in the Universe - Size Comparison

Billion years ahead aliens could use these things like we use nuclear power plants
However, enough existential crises instead of a real review, back to the show featuring

An incredible crew of characters
Directly linked to the understandable and well explained hard sci fi elements and evolving and aging throughout the series. That´s what many other sci fi authors just don´t get, they have their protagonists separated from worldbuilding, Chekhovs and MacGuffins, and thereby main plot. Just a few exceptional and very successful writers understood that and created some of the most mindblowing, soul penetrating brainf***s you´ll ever experience. While becoming friends with protagonists struggling with normal human issues in a future we could be awaiting.

Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:
Profile Image for J Rhodes.
48 reviews66 followers
April 1, 2023
Leviathan Falls is... difficult to sum up. The ninth book in The Expanse series has been a long time coming and stands as a remarkable achievement regardless of quality. With that said, and as someone who's followed this series from the third novel, Falls is also the most boring 'epic conclusion' to a long-running series that I've ever read. There will be unmarked spoilers throughout this review.

The Expanse series has always had a few recurring issues. Uneven pacing, prosaic insights, and shallow characterization. Plots that are too thin for their word count. A feeling that the series is repeating itself, repeating itself, repeating itself. All of these are present in the final book in the series. It is somewhat disheartening but not surprising. The Corey team has a formula that's worked so well for them so far, so, one shouldn't expect them to change it--and yet...

Perhaps the part of the novel that was surprising was the overall thrust of the novel and series, especially as Falls gets into some of the topics that the previous eight books have refused to really engage with--such as the Protomolecule, the mysterious builders, and the even more mysterious beings that killed them. For some of this, the Corey team has said that The Expanse is not interested in sci-fi extrapolation as much as it is human characters and relationships. But I feel that Leviathan Falls reveals that, perhaps, the Corey team simply wasn't capable of actually writing about the more esoteric sci-fi ideas in the series.

The thing that struck me most about Leviathan Falls was how long it took to get moving. At 25% of the way into the novel, I jotted down a note that I was surprised how little had happened, and I am someone who has a fair amount of patience for slow-burning stories. To be completely honest, I was skimming more than a few chapters. The story is primarily split into four perspectives--Tanaka, Naomi, Elvi and, of course, Jim Holden. Colonel Tanaka of Laconia is tasked to find the returned-to-awareness High Consul Duarte and decides to focus on capturing his daughter, Teresa Duarte, to get to him. As Teresa is with Holden, known enemy of Laconia, this is a bit of a conflict. This little plot constitutes the first half or so of the book and is fairly irrelevant to what comes later. Meanwhile, Elvi's chapters consist of fairly meaningless exposition about the mysterious builders and what killed them, like it was written to give the fans something to pore over. Jim and Naomi just kind of wait for the plot to happen while evading Tanaka more through luck and circumstance than skill or planning. There are other perspective characters scattered throughout and they're all kind of odd--especially Kit.

The plot kicks off about halfway into the novel, and it's actually somewhat interesting. And yet it also feels like a letdown. Unsurprisingly, High Consul Duarte functions as the primary antagonist with the mysterious consciousness-devouring 'goths' relegated to a storm in the distance. Like most Expanse protagonists, Duarte's trying to do something abhorrent in the name of what he thinks is the greater good. Unlike most Expanse protagonists, his plan is merely abhorrent instead of abhorrent and stupid, so, he's somewhat more intriguing than those who have come before.

And yet he barely features in the novel. And, to be blunt, the idea of the final novel consisting of stopping Duarte feels rather weak after what the previous novels had set up. To return to the previous idea I raised--it isn't that the writers wanted to do it, it isn't that their plan ended with Tanaka snapping Duarte's neck, but that they couldn't deliver on the idea of a weird sci-fi odyssey to stop the beings from outside time and space. This can also be seen in The Dreamer interludes in Falls, which are remarkably obtuse and a pale imitation of the wonderful Investigator interludes from Cibola Burn.

Leviathan Falls is held back by another recurring issue of the series--that is, an inability to take chances or risks. A clear example of this is the character of Amos. While he is one of my favorite characters, and a general fan favorite, he is a character who should've stayed dead after he was shot in the eighth book. He's practically a walking plot device in Falls, and his reveal in the epilogue is more eye-roll inducing than touching or interesting. This is part of the reason why I found Falls so disappointing. For a final novel in an epic series, it all feels remarkably safe.

Another issue that harms the novel is an inability to treat the reader like they're smart, like they've read eight books of this epic and have some familiarity with the setting and events that have transpired. For a novel that should be an epic conclusion, the novel spends far too much time reiterating things we've seen before. Frankly, every major set piece within Falls feels like we've seen it before. Given that we are nine books into a series, one could argue that's to be expected, and yet...

There are some big moments in Falls, however. The thing is, they feel like they've been coming for a long time and therefore some of the effects are lost. I laid down a set of predictions before cracking the book open and, checking them again now, I had a hit rate of seven out of eight. Is this bad? Not necessarily. But it comes back to that core complaint that the novel is just kind of boring. It's the last book in an epic series and it resolves, well, pretty much exactly as you think it might. There's something good in that, but there's something disappointing, too.

One thing that did surprise me was how the writing had slipped. This is not usually an issue I had with these novels--the Corey team has always been consistent and competent. Perhaps it's the usual issue of experienced talent longer getting good editorial feedback now that they're successful, I'm not sure, but there were more than a few times where it felt like a chapter or scene had a perfect line or moment to end on... and then continued on for three or four more lines, really deflating the energy of the section or effect of a particular line. It was also more than a little annoying at how many chapters would retell sections of chapters immediately previous.

So, what's the final take on Leviathan Falls? It's tough. Is it terrible? No. It's not a bad ending but it's also not a particularly great one. While the conclusion may make people think of Mass Effect 3, it isn't close to that kind of failure. It just needed some better planning and pacing and less aversion to risks. As it is, it's a very safe entry that will please fans without risking anything controversial or memorable.

When I ended Tiamat's Wrath, the eighth book in the series, I had the distinct impression that Leviathan Falls would be rough, if only because of the sheer amount of ground it would have to cover. In the end, the conclusion to The Expanse feels like a condensed version of a story that should've been spread across multiple novels. There isn't so much the sensation of jigsaw pieces falling into place as new pieces being hastily cut to fit and slammed into the puzzle.

There's a comment on Reddit that sums up the whole book and ending perfectly, I think. "Can't go wrong with an ending that isn't an utter dumpster fire, right?" Leviathan Falls is not a bad ending but it's remarkably only in the sense that it isn't a dumpster fire. I don't think I'll ever think about it again, and it won't be a part of the overall series that I remember fondly.
Profile Image for Jamie.
1,162 reviews105 followers
December 23, 2021
It's hard to imagine this final installment being any more satisfying. The whole epic story arc comes full circle in the most gratifying of ways, with a return to the Roci and the original crew confronting overwhelming odds in a bid to unite humanity and save it from the unknown. And, of course, from ourselves. Along with extra servings of the usual nostalgia and sentimentality (the series has always bordered on the mawkish) and the slow burn buildup of tension, there's also some mind melting astrophysics and xenobiology based hard sci-fi as many of the mysteries surrounding both the protomolecule civilization and the enigmatic gate entities are revealed. One of the surprise highlights for me was the Colonel Tanaka POV, which shares the stage on equal terms with the rest. She's a ruthless, remorseless and relentless hunter. Just the type of vindictive, cold blooded character you absolutely love to hate. The ending is monumentally epic, with an ironic little twist that is just perfect, and which for some reason reminded me of . The Expanse has been an amazing journey, and Leviathan Falls is really the icing on the cake that this incredible series deserves.
Profile Image for Durham Jones.
7 reviews2 followers
December 4, 2021
Giving it one star because it hasn’t been released yet. You gotta earn 5 stars ‘round these parts.

EDIT: I’ll bump it up to three stars while I finish it just to appease all the salty trolls who are dragging me.

EDIT 2: Wow. Possibly the most satisfying conclusion to a long running series I have ever read.
It has it all. Action, humanity, satisfying resolutions, and all your favourite characters get time on page.
I’m not going to leave any spoilers here, no doubt if you’ve read the previous 8 installments you don’t want to see them, but know that this book os very satisfying to finish and doesn’t leave you hanging.
Get into it!!

Now I’m off to rate Winds of Winter as one star, because it doesn’t exist…….
Profile Image for Kemper.
1,390 reviews6,831 followers
February 1, 2022
How do you write a review of the last one of a nine book series without spoiling the entire thing in the process?

Very carefully.

So here we are at the end of all things, and I’m not just talking about the finale of this story. While various factions of people continue to battle among the stars, a far more dangerous enemy has been awakened and seemingly won’t rest until humanity has been wiped out. There might be a way to fight back, but it would essentially mean destroying the human race to save it. At the heart of it all are the surviving characters that fans of this series have come to know and love, but what’s left of the crew members of the Rocinante are not what they used to be. Age, violence, regrets, and grief have all taken a toll, and even the ship itself is long past it’s prime. Despite it all, nobody is ready to give up and die just yet.

This series hooked me from the start, and it’s been a franchise that never let me down. New books appeared regularly, and what started as a space opera mixed with a conspiracy story grew into a sprawling epic that got deeper and richer as it progressed. It always had the beep-boops and cool pew-pew space war stuff mixed with politics and espionage that any nerd could appreciate, and the plots were also clever, tense, and intriguing.

While that stuff always worked, what really made this shine was that it was about people. Not perfect people, that’s for sure. Our heroes had their fair share of flaws, and there’s a cynical streak to this story that feels more true every day. Almost nobody can set aside their own grudges and immediate self-interest to take the long view. At one point in this a character states, “Optimism is for assholes.” And considering the last couple of years, I don’t think I’ve ever nodded more at a line in a book.

Still, while The Expanse never felt like a shiny Star Trek style future, it also didn’t feel entirely hopeless. There were times when good people came through in big ways, and even a few points when total jerks had moments of clarity. It never lasts long, but it always gives a reader enough hope that humanity might just stumble through whatever catastrophes it creates for itself. Through it all, we had a core group of characters, and as happens in the best of fiction, I came to care deeply about all of them.

I also appreciate that the authors who make up the James SA Corey name have been very clear about this being it. There will not be any spin-offs, prequels, or anything else done by them with this franchise other than the books and handful of short stories they already wrote. It’s rare to read a story these days that feels completed, and that’s what this is.

They didn’t just finish the story, they finished it well.
Profile Image for Kyle.
143 reviews5 followers
January 6, 2020
Felt like peturbing people; but we both know it will be 1'373 stars.
Profile Image for Kevin Kelsey.
405 reviews2,203 followers
December 8, 2021
Those crazy bastards stuck the landing. They actually did it. What an incredible series this was.
Profile Image for Rachel (TheShadesofOrange).
2,093 reviews2,965 followers
December 27, 2021
4.5 Stars
Video Discussion: https://youtu.be/meuAxaz6U4Y

Thus was an exciting conclusion to one of my all time favourite space opera series. The character arcs in this final installment were on point with some highly emotional moments. 

I am sad to see an end to this beloved series and hope the authors write more stories in this universe. I did expect a bit more from the ending, which I discuss more in my video review, but overall I really enjoyed this last book. 

I would highly recommend this entire series to sci fi newbies and avid fans, but you will have to start back at the beginning with Leviathan Wakes.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books3,979 followers
December 28, 2021
This is so good.

I can repeat these words until my jaw drops off or until the elder gods pry open our universe and come slithering through, but I have to assume that saying them once, here, in this review, is sufficient.

Because this book is so damn good.

It's been a long time coming. I've been in awe ever since the first book came out, through the time when I met these two authors and enjoyed them reading excerpts from Cibola Burn, through the tv series, each fantastic book since, and the last trilogy that jumped ahead far enough to see a changed galaxy. Twice. And every single time, I've fallen all the way into the text and lived in it with utter joy, horror, pathos, and laughter.

This is what I consider top-notch SF.

And this particular book is the crown and joy of the series. Some series can't pull off good ends, but this one does it with flying colors. All those great hints and beginnings in Leviathan Wakes, all the nasty surprises, the supreme twists, the deep foundations, it all comes back around and GETS RESOLVED.

Jim, Naomi, Amos, Alex. The originals. Even Miller. All the others that had come and gone throughout the series. They all got a fantastic sendoff.

Notable sendoffs? No spoilers. But, my lordy, Jim and Amos got the chef's kiss.

Profile Image for Jim C.
1,511 reviews27 followers
December 18, 2021
This is it. The final book of the series that has quickly become one of my favorites. It has also spawned a television show which has also become one of my favorites. In this one, we have the looming threat that could destroy the whole universe while dealing with the threat of Laconia. Not helping the cause is that on the Roci is Teresa who is the daughter of the person in charge of Laconia. Can mankind put aside differences so they can come together to save itself?

I was so apprehensive going into this book. Will it live up to all of its predecessors? There have been eight novels and a number of short stories and not one bad offering. Please meet expectations and I am here to tell you it does. Right away I was back in this universe. Immediately I felt like I was on the Roci with Jim, Naomi, Alex, and Amos. What this series does and what good science fiction should do is tell a story while showcasing messages within the story. This book does that. Once again it shows how family can be the one you are born into or one that develops with strangers over time. It has several other themes like is what do we sacrifice to save a the greater total. This book wasn't perfect as I wasn't completely into the antagonist who carried most of the action. I didn't think she measured up to other antagonists in this universe. I also thought it was a little slow at first. The ending was spectacular and brought out "the feels". It felt like we went full circle from the beginning and it wasn't forced. I applaud the authors for this and I could read the ending over and over and never get tired of it.

This wasn't the best book of the series. Let's face it. That was going to be hard to achieve as the standards for this series is so much higher than other series. I am here to say that it delivered for a finale and I am more than satisfied. This book and series has been fantastic and I am sad to see that it has ended. I know that I will be revisiting this book and series sometime in the future.
Profile Image for Niki Hawkes - The Obsessive Bookseller.
726 reviews1,204 followers
March 17, 2022
Check out my Booktube channel at: The Obsessive Bookseller

[2.5/5 stars] It has been almost three months since I read Leviathan Falls, the final novel in the Expanse series, and I’m finally ready to review it.

It was a good book, but it wasn’t the wow moment I had been hoping for.

I had a lot of expectations for this finale. Many ideas of what I wanted to see happen and a mental list of questions I wanted answered. I was more or less let down on all accounts. There were a few hints at answers, but they were presented in a dense, convoluted manner that in no way satiated my curiosity. While the book contained some decent character arc payoffs, it only just touched on the main series ones. The epilogue saved it from total disaster, but yet I am still left with more questions. If for a minute I let go of expectations, I can admit that there was an unconventional subtlety to the ending that had way more of an impact than if it had been sent off with guns blazing (figuratively speaking… mostly), and I admire the beautiful writing and element of craft in its composition… but yet, here I sit, still feeling a bit unsatisfied.

And I think it all comes down to series pacing and structure.

After the earth-shattering amazingness that was Nemesis Games, the series took a new direction. Focusing more on the “expanding” part of the series, it was definitely the beginning of a second arc. One I still felt connected to through many familiar faces. I didn’t necessarily love the new direction, but I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt, putting my overall evaluation on hold until reading the last book. You see, if we weren’t working towards something momentous, did we really didn’t needs these endless pages of build-up? Probably not.

Taimant’s Wrath (book 8) was a slam dunk, completely momentous and profound installment that left me feeling all of those culminating emotions suitable for the end of a series. The trouble is, the series didn’t end there – it took all that great momentum and petered out into the last book.

A lot of the conflicts in book 9 felt contrived. Written in not because it had meaning to the series as a whole, but to give the characters more problems to navigate to perpetuate the story. The antagonist was a character we hadn’t seen before, and while I love the deep integration we get into the world of every human in this series and enjoyed her story, I didn’t think she served any purpose other than as a vehicle for plot advancement. Cut her story out entirely, and all the baggage that came with it, and there would’ve been a lot more room to actually explain what the heck has been going on this entire series. In more than just vague impressions.

If I can be so bold to suggest, the last half of the series would’ve been stronger with a different structure. Ideally books 6, 7, and part of 8 would be combined into one book – giving us enough time to acclimate to the new state of the story but still progressing it forward. Then the best bits of the remainder of 8 (all the momentous stuff that knocked me on my behind) combined with a very trimmed book 9. With perhaps a novella in between detailing the protomolecule’s origins. Or, even better, detailing it somewhere in the main text.

I know, easy enough for me to sit here and analyze and criticize. But that’s part of the reason it took me so long to write this review. I’d been trying to figure out exactly WHY the story felt disappointing. I’d been championing it as my favorite scifi ever since the fifth book came out, and I kept holding onto hope that it would continue to hold that spot after the final novel. The way it stands now, books 5&8 are among the strongest I’ve ever read in any genre, but I now feel compelled to add a few disclaimers when suggesting the series to others.

I’m not all bitter-sauce about it though. There are so many great moments and amazing characters (Avasarala will forever remain my chosen spirit-animal) within this series that make it so much fun to read and recommend. I will always have a special place in my soul for it, even if it didn’t ultimately end where I’d hoped.

Recommendations: if you’re looking for an action-packed space opera with some of the best character work in the business, you can’t go wrong with the Expanse. Even though this finale left me somewhat wanting, I don’t regret a single moment reading it, and in fact still cherish a lot of it.

Via The Obsessive Bookseller at www.NikiHawkes.com

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Planetside (Planetside #1) by Michael Mammay Old Man's War (Old Man's War, #1) by John Scalzi The Cruel Stars (The Cruel Stars, #1) by John Birmingham Velocity Weapon (The Protectorate, #1) by Megan E. O'Keefe Fortune's Pawn (Paradox #1) by Rachel Bach
Profile Image for Ashley.
2,661 reviews1,693 followers
December 15, 2021
I cried, because I am nothing if not predictable. This was a good ending, but I'm not sure five stars worth? Also, I'm not sure what exactly happened there at the end. Mostly, I'm even more excited to do my full-series re-read in 2022. I did all of these except #4 on audio the first time through (because Jefferson Mays didn't originally record that one) so I spent 2021 slowly collecting the paperbacks in preparation for my re-read (I also will be purchasing the 10th anniversary special edition of Leviathan Wakes very soon because it is *gorgeous*). I fully anticipate having a different reaction, or maybe a more nuanced understanding of, these last three books when I revisit them.

For now, I am pleased.

It's not just the title of this book that's circular. Events are mirrored and reflected from Leviathan Wakes throughout the book, and the Corey duo seem like they had something definite to say about humanity, and I think they said it well. I thought all of these characters got good resolutions, and as mentioned previously, I did cry, and I cried because I hate endings, but also because it was a good ending. They were bittersweet tears, because bittersweet endings always get me like that.

I'm wondering now if my approach to reading this one was wrong. I savored the audio, and listened to it over more than a week. I think this might actually be the kind of book you need to read as fast as possible, to get its full affect. That's harder to do by audio, but also harder to do when you don't want to let go.

If you somehow still haven't read this series, I highly recommend that you do. It's finished now, so you won't even have any waiting at all.

[4.5 stars]
1 review2 followers
March 9, 2023
There is always a fear with a final volume in a long and complex series. Will the author(s) land the ending? In this case, yes they absolutely did. I’m not going to say anything about the plot - given I’m writing on publication day having torn through it in less than five hours - except that it grows organically, with all its twists and turns, out of the characters of the people involved, their judgements, their choices, their human desires, to an astonishing climactic sequence. This is high quality space opera, yes, but it’s more than that, it’s deeply emotional and beautifully written. A brilliant series gets the ending it deserves.
Profile Image for Silvana.
1,152 reviews1,120 followers
December 5, 2021
Been an honor shipping with you, crew of Rocinante.

The first time I read the series was back in 2016 so four books were already published. I finished all four in the span of twelve days - I got addicted. Five years later - and a TV show in between - the final book, this one, was finally published.

I am satisfied with the journey. It's been an exhilarating, multiple-g crushing ride. The Expanse has always been my go-to recommendation to any friend or acquaintances who want to try an SF series with more elements of hard SF but good depiction of human relationship and inner psyches. I hope they would continue till the end like me.

Is it a smooth ride till the end, you ask? I guess that depends. I was losing sleep in the last couple of days - which might affect my brain process - so I found it quite difficult to grasp some of the alien threat discourse. Half of Elvi's chapters just went over my head. What I enjoyed the most from the series has been the characters, their relationships, and the conflict between human kind, war and peace and everything in between. It's the human vs human one. Not some vague alien threat beyond, all the abstracts and speculation of why X did Y, if you know what I mean. I think the last book - for me - fell short in that front.

But. Despite all of that, and while I would love to see more action and less inner monologue, I was still very much glued to my Kindle screen. Even the new POV, the battle-hardened marine colonel Tanaka, got me invested. Corey is really good in making seemingly unlikable characters to be exciting for the readers, just like what they did to Clarissa Mao. How about the crew of The Expanse? I think the portrayal of their battle-weary selves were spot on. You can just feel their tiredness, you know, the sense of wanting to keep fighting and idealism, but there's also some resignation and realism in it. They knew what they signed in for, and like The Roci itself, their old, broken selves did the best they could.

All in all, it is a fantastic series that I am thrilled to have the opportunity to experience. Thank you, Ty and Dan.
Profile Image for Eridiana.
366 reviews152 followers
December 20, 2021
I think my nostalgia of loving the first few books of this series skewed my perception of the whole thing and made me think I enjoyed it much more than I actually did. Don't get me wrong, I'm still very happy to have read The Expanse in its entirety and would recommend it to lovers of space opera. It just didn't excite or move me the same way the first 3-5 novels did. Maybe I just got tired of reading so many books with the same characters and sometimes similar plotlines. It got to a point where I finished listening to this audiobook and realized that I didn't remember much that happened in it, even though it's only been a few days.

It's a decent series but I'm not sure I'm going to be calling it one of my favorites anymore.
Profile Image for La Crosse County Library.
558 reviews142 followers
April 20, 2022
Well, this is it folks. The last book of the Expanse series. It definitely felt like it, with the stakes bigger than humanity’s small corner of the Milky Way, threatening to sweep away homo sapiens like dust motes in a hurricane.

The enemies that killed the protomolecule builders have been awake and are angry. (The last book proved this fact in spades.) Except the usual ways they incapacitated and killed their former enemies haven’t worked the best against humanity. There have been various experiments, resulting in some people losing consciousness for minutes at a time, finding random body parts missing afterwards. Now, something has clicked, and a whole inhabited solar system of people die after the latest interdimensional incursion.

All at once, humanity finds itself in danger of going the way of the dodo. It won’t be too long before the alien enemy cracks the code and exterminates everyone.

No pressure.

The crew of the Rocinante find themselves at the center of the whole mess, because, of course, Holden being Holden and having set major events in motion earlier in the series that have had major consequences for humanity’s trajectory. But also, because Naomi has become the General Leia of their scattered resistance, whose ragtag fleet has been through quite a bit and is used to being the underdogs.

While all of the crew have developed over the course of the series, I’m the most impressed by Naomi’s growth. She came from a place where her engineering talents were used to harm people, and she’s fought to use those same skills for good since she escaped her formerly abusive circumstances. Violence she abhorred, but circumstances have forced her to use force when her preferred methods of diplomacy failed. Ultimately, she’s found the middle-ground where before she thought in black-and-white about talking it out versus using guns.

Now, Naomi faces a dilemma of allying with the Laconian Empire to face the looming threat of war with forces beyond the pale or continuing the fight. Her instincts of alliance win out, albeit reluctantly, because whether she likes it or not, humanity needs the advanced scientific prowess of the empire, even if it’s headed by a military dictator standing in for a god-emperor on the lamb.

This is where Dr. Elvi Okoye comes in. She’s now the head of the scientific arm of the empire, and is wickedly smart, but she needs help. After all, she’s human too, and shouldering the burden of figuring out how to stop the enemy on her own is very much unsustainable. She’s like Naomi in that way of stubbornly trying to hold the whole of humanity on the back of her shoulders even when that’s not possible.

When things couldn’t get any worse, now people are now experiencing random connections to the minds of people they’ve never known, seeing into their experiences. (Yikes. I felt it as viscerally as the characters the horror at the intrusion of the one last sacred space available to a person when everything externally is pretty much out of their control. There’s got to be a better way to engender empathy for each other than that, and it’s not hijacking peoples’ minds against their will.)

Remember our missing god-emperor? Well, turns out Duarte has been doing some experimentation of his own at the alien station that Medina Station used to orbit. Apparently uniting humanity under one banner is not enough. He’s going to force humanity to be the same mind-united collective as the protomolecule builders. He sees it as the only way to extinguish the threat of the invaders once and for all.

Well, Holden be Holden. If you guessed he would sacrifice himself to save everyone, you’d be right. That instinct is practically encoded in his DNA. Along with a psychopathic Laconian Marine and Duarte’s daughter, Teresa, they are able to fight their way to the throne room. After a fight in which all of them almost die at Duarte’s hands, Holden gets in the driver’s seat.

With Naomi frantically coordinating a defense of the alien station against an onslaught by Duarte’s hive-fleet, while Holden and team does their work, it’s backs-against-the-wall time. Looks pretty bleak. *Cue “Final Countdown” music.*

If you’ve stuck around with the series this long, it’s a foregone conclusion: you have to read Leviathan Falls! (I can’t just spoil everything in this review! That would ruin the fun.) While it more or less ties up things nicely, while the ending may be a bit frustrating or somewhat predictable, it’s still worth the read.

Thanks for coming along on the journey with me. It’s been a good ride.

On to the TV series!


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Profile Image for Trish.
1,948 reviews3,406 followers
December 27, 2021
Oh, my heart. I really didn't know how they'd wrap everything up in just one book but damn! They did it - and brilliantly!

The Empire has fallen, the emperor Duarte is ... gone ... kinda. His second in command is trying to keep that under wraps but it's a losing battle. So when Duarte re-awakens (again: kinda) and suddenly has awesome powers, we know that shit is happening.
Elvi Okoye, the scientist, has been expecting the other shoe to drop for a while, whichi s why she stayed in a dead system to try and find out what the Builders were and what killed them - with very unorthodox methods. But we ARE talking about a race to save humanity as a whole. So whatever needs doing.
Holden, Naomi, Alex and Amos are on the Roci - together with Duarte's daughter who ran away with them (and her dog) in the previous book. Yes, you read that correctly, Amos is indeed back (not really a spoiler). But Duarte's daughter Teresa is painting a target on their back.

In short: the entire book is a race. A race against Laconian forces, a race against the new Duarte, a rage against the aliens that killed the Builders and now want to do the same to humanity. And all of it done by an aging crew in an aging ship.

The Laconian forces, the Resistance, the aliens (both kinds), the roci and her crew ... we've come full circle.
Nothing was redundant, nothing was out of place. The writing was as compelling as ever, the characters either as infuriating (Naomi) or as wonderful (Amos) as I remmebered them.

It was all very smart and very rewarding (yes, I cheered once or twice) and very emotional and very aggravating and very thrilling and very heart-attack-inducing. Unputdownable is a word often used for books and I'll be damned if it doesn't apply to this one.

P.S.: No, I don't think this review does the book or the series justice but my emotions are still over the place so this will have to do. I need to hug a pillow now.
Profile Image for James Tullos.
302 reviews1,394 followers
December 16, 2021
I have many thoughts. It's easy to screw up the ending to such a long, big series. Well that doesn't happen here, there's a lot of good reveals and a solid conclusion. It's depressing, not what many fans are going to want, but it makes perfect sense. And it's still hopeful.

We'll find our own way back to the stars.
Profile Image for Juliano Dutra.
119 reviews19 followers
December 3, 2021
2.5. First, the "end" was fine - no stars taken for any decisions.
Second, it's not a bad book, but felt as an unnecessary book. It felt like an extended prologue, in which moving 5 chapters to book 8 would make it unnecessary for the series.
All the "insights" that are peculiar do the series end up repeating themselves. All the dynamics of the couples are the same - you can pick a line from Holden, Fayez or Kit (Alex son) and exchange one for another - you have the same characterization...
To me, worst part is - after 8 books with little extrapolation of the "Hard Sci-fi" part of the series (protomolecule, mysterious beings..) and focusing on the social relationships, they now have a book where the plot is trying to engage hard on the sci-fi, but they only bring more events, effects, etc without any Causality explanations. It feels like the authors were not prepared to explore Sci-fi elements - the arc of the series would be a lot better explored in the fantasy genre.
Another thing that gave the "sensation": Sometimes, sci-fi authors have to deal with ideas/elements/beings that are beyond human understanding. When you read Alastair Reynolds, Peter Hamilton, etc., they usually know how to convey this feeling to the reader. In Leviathan Falls, the authors use some repetition of words and an attempt at some lyrical prose that is prosaic and boring.
The good thing is, the series have great books and highlights, and she doesn't need that final part to be savored, appreciated.
The thing is, the "SCI-FI" part ir frustrating to the people that got through 8 previous books...

Profile Image for George Kaslov.
99 reviews133 followers
December 3, 2021
The Expanse as a series was as I believe always about change and change in scale humanity has to face. After all this time it was impossible to keep escalating and it ended in the only way it could, really... A fitting end.

Hard to believe that this series followed me through my uni years.
Profile Image for Ron Sami.
Author 3 books81 followers
October 12, 2022
This is the end of an epic series of pretty hard science fiction.

Plot. Rating 3
I think there are four storylines left in the last book in the series, not counting the interludes.
They develop unevenly, as it seems to me. I enjoyed the exploration of the two mysterious civilizations in Elvi's storyline, as well as the last part of the book. Nevertheless, the explanation of the mysteries of this huge series, in my opinion, turned out to be self-repeating and insufficient, although it corresponded to the logic of the development of one of the civilizations.
The confrontation between the heroes of the two storylines and the storyline of the officers of Laconia, as well as the actions of the main antagonist of the book, turned out to be tense. A great variety in the plot was made by a realistic display of unexpected psychological problems that the characters faced.
I was rather bored reading Kit's chapters, but there weren't many of them.

Characters. Rating 3
I think Teresa and Duarte's characters have lost their vibrancy and personality compared to the previous book. Also, due to the fact that many characters are united in one place at the end of the series and interact closely with each other, their ability to show themselves and contribute their own efforts to the fight is reduced. However, I liked Tanaka's new PoV and her relationship with both allies and opponents. Admiral Trejo is presented as a competent leader.
To be honest, the numerous interpersonal relationships between the protagonists didn't grab my attention as they were ordinary and didn't compare to the efforts to save humanity.

Dialogues. Rating 4
The dialogues in the book are kept at a high level of the rest of the books in the series. In some places, after dramatic and dangerous events, they are a little drawn out, but basically they convey the development of the plot, the explanation of worldbuilding and the daily behavior of the characters well.

Writing style. Rating 5
I like the style of writing throughout the series, as complex scientific and engineering problems are explained in an engaging and understandable way.

Worldbuilding. Rating 4
It is well made, as always. Excellent technical details of battles in space and the operation of various structures. The latest book in the series has a detailed and coherent explanation of the protomolecule civilization, and it is perfectly woven into the plot. Although, in general, this explanation is a common cliché of many science fiction books, it has individual features. It is a pity that the explanation of the second unknown civilization is given in passing.

Conclusion. Overall rating 4
Unfortunately, I believe that this is a good ending to the cycle, but not a great one.
Profile Image for Gerhard.
1,053 reviews531 followers
March 28, 2022
As far as I recall, there was a much longer gap between #8 and #9, with the sixth and final show of the Amazon Prime adaptation focused on the events of ‘Babylon’s Ashes’. It is strange to return to the books with that memory of the final episode still so fresh in my mind, especially with the characters long overshadowed by the spot-on cast who portrayed them.

It is perhaps inevitable that we return, at the end, to where it all began: with the protomolecule. But that has always been the weakest part of the series for me. The protomolecule worked fine as a McGuffin, teasing the wonderful and enigmatic character of Miller, and such jaw-dropping moments as the formation of the ring gates and leading to the alien artefacts that lay beyond them.

It was apparent right from the outset with ‘Leviathan Wakes’ that James S.A. Corey were writing a kind of nuts-and-bolts space opera in the vein of Asimov and Clarke, with the alienness hiding just around the corner to add a welcome frisson of weirdness. As Miller and the ring gates themselves changed and transformed, so did the focus of the story itself shift to inter-planetary intrigue, politics, and lots of blowing up shit, as Amos would put it.

It was all focused on the ragtag crew of the beloved Rocinante, whom we follow here on their last mission: to discover, once and for all, who (or what) the ring-gate builders were, and what resulted in their apparently abrupt disappearance from the interstellar map. If it’s hard and fast answers you are looking for, then beware that the authors play hard and fast with the facts.

Giving substance and backstory to the Builders only started to concretise as a tangible goal in the last three books, I think. And I wish James S.A. Corey had left well enough alone, because not only is their final answer unconvincing and half-baked, it really pushes the sequence over into the genre of space fantasy rather than hard space opera. Interestingly, the television adaptation always avoided putting the protomolecule front and centre, and was all the more better for it.

A large part of ‘Leviathan Falls’ is also devoted to peripheral characters who become major players simply by dint of the large number of pages devoted to them. This is to the detriment of the core Roci crew, who here seem to be only going through the motions. I disliked the character of Tanaka to the point where I almost felt like skimming her chapters, if only to get back to the Roci.

Despite being such a long book, the ending still feels weirdly rushed and incomplete. This is maybe because all of the ‘explanations’ that the authors come up with are so … lacklustre, I dare say. My view seems to be in the minority though. I did enjoy the shoutouts to past events and fallen comrades, but in the end the fate of the Roci and her crew felt like what it was never ever meant to be: just a blip in the overwhelming void of the universe.
Profile Image for Erin.
221 reviews2 followers
November 28, 2021
Well. Nine big novels and several novellas and I want more? Especially with that ending.

This somehow felt like a very circular series, like the ending of this book was in some ways a mirror to where we started. Which, I suppose, is very fitting. To me, this series has always exceeded in its characters and its human moments. Despite being such a vast setting and vast, galaxies-spanning plot, it always felt smaller and more contained, in a way that I really, really like.

Look, at the end of the day, I’m in this for team Roci. I’m a simple woman that way.
Profile Image for Becky.
1,342 reviews1,635 followers
November 1, 2022
I will be the first to admit that this book was not what I thought it would be. It didn't go where I thought it would go, or end the way I thought (hoped) it would end... but as with every other book in this series before it, it was what it should be, and did what it needed to do, and did that shit excellently.

I finished this book on Friday, it is now Saturday night (okay, Sunday morning, technically) as I write this. I finished this with an hour or so left of a long drive, and about 5 other books lined up to start after this one was done.

But I couldn't do it. I tried.

No, listen: I TRIED. I put on THREE different audiobooks that I had borrowed from the library, and barely made it 5 minutes into any of them because I couldn't focus on, or care about, anything else yet. I couldn't get this one to shut up. It had things to say - implications to ponder, character story arcs to appreciate, strangeness to contemplate, and all of the emotions to feel.

I am still processing this book more than 24 hours later, and honestly, just being done with this series feels a little bit like a loss. I have been engrossed nearly nonstop in this world now for 6 books in 3 months, but have been reading this series for a decade, and it was wonderful and terrifying at the same time, but now that it's over, I miss it like hell. It is rare for me to feel this invested in a book or series, and it's hard not to just start right back at the beginning again RIGHT NOW. I want to so bad.

This book was everything I didn't know I needed it to be, and it was perfect and heartbreaking and heartwarming and stupid and brilliant and amazing and traumatizing and I fucking loved it.
Profile Image for Benjamin.
115 reviews9 followers
December 2, 2021
For the 9th and final book this was kinda aimless and unimaginative.

If I did not know better I would say it is like all the other book series that got taken over by a lesser author or their sons(looking intensely at a dozen scifi series right now).

It is not like the single ideas were bad, everything just feels like ticking a box. And just not connected overall into a good story.

The last 20% of the book work better than the first 80%. But that was not enough for me.
Profile Image for Peter Tillman.
3,638 reviews330 followers
April 25, 2022
A first-rate wrap-up for this 9-part series. Lots of techie-talk and backstory, blended in with all kinds of wonderfully tingly bits of sfnal goodness. Such as a planet-size diamond mass used by the Elder Races for data storage. It's green, hence a BFE. A misnomer for BFD, and there actually are half-reasonable speculations in planetology about hypothetical planet-size diamonds (None for emeralds, sfaik). The whole tale is based on enigmatic Forerunner remnant tech, reused here by humans. As the series progressed, humanity gained access to thousands of new worlds by use of the Ring, created by a long-dead(?) alien race. The ring in our solar system is two AU out from the orbit of Uranus. Passing through it leads to a hub of starless space approximately one million kilometers across, with more than 1,300 other rings, each with a star system on the other side. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Exp...
The Wikipedia article is a good catch-up and review for the whole series, but does have some SPOILERS. Worth risking that for the interesting details on creating and writing the series, now complete. The authors clearly respect their readers intelligence, and are very well read in the genre.

Much of this episode is concerned with the Forerunners, the Dark Gods, rattling the windows and shaking the doors of their creation, apparently to snuff out all human life. Most recently they killed all the inhabitants of San Esteban system, about 10 million casualties, no known survivors. Can they be stopped? Maybe?

Highly recommended -- but for heaven's sake don't start here! I'll likely reread this one down the line, after rereading some of my other favorites in what was (for me) a series with its ups and downs. Indeed, even this volume had (for me) its ups and downs, and parts best skimmed over: hence not quite 5-star quality. But pretty darned good.
Profile Image for Gary K Bibliophile.
210 reviews52 followers
December 8, 2021
BEWARE - books 7 & 8 minor spoilers ahead 🚧

The Expanse is easily my favorite SciFi book series. It’s one of the primary factors that reinvigorated my love of reading and pushed my books per year from 3-4 to 50+. With nine major books, several novellas, and 5000 some pages later…. It comes to an end. I didn’t want it to, but here we are. And what an ending it was! After books 5-6 and 7-8 were paired stories that went together- I fully expected that this would be paired with another. After finishing it I think the pacing was about right and if anything books 7-8-9 are meant to be read as a set.

Here’s an exchange early in the book…
Jim unstrapped from the crash couch and swung around. The bearings hissed as it shifted under his weight. “I’m heading down to the galley for a minute” he said.

“Grab a coffee for me too” Alex said.

“No - no - not coffee - I may be up to some camomile or warm milk. Something soothing and unagressive”. [Jim]

“Sounds good” Alex said “When you change your mind and get some coffee grab one for me too”

Now that dialogue could have been lifted from any of the nine books and I’m pretty sure most of you wouldn’t have been able to guess which one without googling it or something. I’m probably falling victim of the familiarity principle… but I don’t mind the repeat themes one damn bit 😀. I really love the characters in these stories as well as the dialogue. Jim, Naomi, Amos, and Alex feel like part of my extended literary family…. the same way Frodo, Sam, and Gandalf are OR Geralt, Yennifer, and Ciri OR Vin, Elend, Kelsier, and Sazed OR Roland, Eddie, and Susannah… these characters are special to me and while I’m sad that their stories are over… I feel my life has been enriched by my time with them.

It had been about a year and a half since I finished book 8. I admit I had gone back and did a quick Wikipedia refresher to remind myself of the finer details I had forgotten. Essentially Leviathan Falls picks up right after Tiamat’s Wrath. Our reunited crew (plus one) is on the run from the down (but not out) Laconian empire.

The ‘ancient enemy’ that destroyed ‘the gate builders’ is becoming increasingly disruptive in our - and gate connected galaxies. (Now I could have spoiler tagged that, but hey - that’s from way back in book 3 😜). The stakes are as high as they can get in this one. All of humanity is at risk of being wiped out as the same destroyer of the builders is getting increasingly angry. Ships are going Dutchman at an increasing rate - and other weird phenomenon. These are powerful beings… it kind of reminds me of Q on Star Trek TNG on an episode where he has been stripped of his powers. When faced with an interplanetary disaster he offers a suggestion to help Picard… “it’s so obvious… we just change the gravitational constant of the universe thereby altering the mass of the mass of the asteroid“ - which he couldn’t do since he lost his powers. Yeah - they are that powerful - a lot meaner though 😀

As with the other books there is a fair amount of action. I am a bit disappointed that some sequences seemed like they were dropped on the cutting room floor… like authors were getting a bit lazy. A chapter would end with something exciting about to happen and a new chapter would begin with a new POV… and a brief summary of the action would be glossed over. “There were bodies everywhere!” … wait.. WTF just happened? 😀. Maybe they got tired of fan criticism about the physics of things?? I miss that though - maybe it’s not perfect, but I like the entertainment value 😀

Speaking of POVs … the first book cycled between two - Holden and Miller. By the second book they branched out a bit and went to 3-4 POVS. Then book 5 came along and our crew split up… so we had to have more just to follow what was going on. I remember the pleasant surprise I had reading that hitting a chapter ‘Alex’ - and I thought “That’s pretty cool”. Leviathan Falls by far has the most POVS of any story - maybe a dozen. It’s a complicated story so it makes sense. There’s even a few new characters tossed in .

The “Interludes” reminded me a lot of book 4. “It reaches out - It reaches out”. That was cool how that concluded too.

Another literary device the authors use a LOT - is the repeated use of literary juxtaposition when describing things. Saying what appears to be a clear statement of fact followed by one or more alternatives that are often completely different. Although it tends to be more wordy I always liked this writing style as it shows there are shades of gray when arriving at most decisions.

I thought the ending was really well done. I especially liked the Epilogue 😀. I have to spoiler tag this one … . Now that it’s over I guess now I will just have to decide how long I should wait before I reread it 😀
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