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Preview — Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
Read between October 19, 2010 - January 18, 2011
Used bookstores are great. It’s not just finding old, obscure books that have out of print forever. It’s also finding books that have been marked up by the last person who read them. Seeing what passages meant something to someone. It makes the conversation bigger and richer and weirder. This is kind of like that too, don’t you think? See what folks wrote in the e-margins… See our notes for more books in THE EXPANSE series here: https://www.goodreads.com/notes/4436008-james-corey
Living on the surface of a planet, mass sucking at every bone and muscle, and nothing but gravity to keep your air close, seemed like a fast path to crazy.
One of the things that was interesting about writing the books was getting into the heads of people who have explicitly never had the same experiences we’ve had. It’s one of the things that fiction generally does really well, and this is just one fairly extreme example. There are a lot of places we’ve been and things we’ve done through reading that we couldn’t get in life. There are studies that show reading fiction increases empathy. Seems plausible that “being” other people is why that happens. Maybe you have some examples from your own reading life?
The circle of life on Ceres was so small you could see the curve. He liked it that way.
“The circle of life” is one of those phrases you keep running into until it turns into a cliché. Orwell had a whole essay about finding new, striking images or else ways to make old ones fresh again. I remember figuring out that “last ditch effort” was a reference to trench warfare. Made the phrase a lot more meaningful for me. We don’t always do a great job making images fresh, but this one landed pretty well. The other one we particularly like is “stood out like blood on a wedding dress.” Ross Macdonald was a master of that kind of thing. Pity he never did scifi.
It was a real book—onionskin pages bound in what might have been actual leather. Miller had seen pictures of them before; the idea of that much weight for a single megabyte of data struck him as decadent.
This is a passage that literally came from the file sizes of the novels we wrote. How big is a book in terms of data? Well, we have a bunch of examples right here on the hard drive. Do love ebooks in their way, but hard copy will always be our first love. Decadent, maybe, but there you go.
It had been the most complex, difficult feat of mass-scale engineering humanity had ever accomplished until the next thing they did.
Every record is an invitation to break it. That’s always been true. The Eiffel Tower and the Empire State building were both imagination-breaking feats of engineering at the time that became period pieces, reeking of history and age. A lot of things are like that. We’re not just talking about engineering, either.
Even in the Belt, youth brought invulnerability, immortality, the unshakable conviction that for you, things would be different.
One of the driving ideas in The Expanse is that, even as technology changes the living situations and abilities of humanity, the organism stays the same. There are conversations about old men losing their libido in Plato’s Republic. At least as long as there has been literature, humans have been acting like humans. That’s either inspiring or depressing.
A man born with a sense for raw opportunity where his soul should have been.
Of all the quotes in The Expanse, this one has been applied to the most real-world people. That’s not a good sign.
“What kind of half-assed apocalypse are they running down there?” Amos said. “Give ’em a break. It’s their first.”
Honestly, this is one of our favorites too. It feels like watching a 24-hour news service. It’s important to have humor in the books, but most – of not all – from the characters, not the narrator. There’s so much horror in the books that having the characters be dour would have sunk them. There’s an interesting conversation about how humor works in the books as opposed to the show, and why the media are different that way.
“There’s a right thing to do,” Holden said. “You don’t have a right thing, friend,” Miller said. “You’ve got a whole plateful of maybe a little less wrong.”
This is another great restatement of The Expanse’s underlying project. Choosing between a good action and a bad action is easy. Choosing among a field of only bad or at best mixed outcomes is more difficult. And probably more realistic. We always talked about Holden being the Holy Fool, and his interactions with Miller in the first book were built to kick his moral certainties out from under him this way.
Working in some corporations was like going to prison. You adopted the views of the people around you.
Humans are social animals. There’s this theory – we don’t think it’s got any data behind it – that we’re all the average of the five people we spend the most time with. One of the things that’s best about this moment is how well it sets up Havelock’s character in Cibola Burn – the guy who is defined by the company he keeps and how profoundly he changes when his company changes. It’s here, writ small, and it’s a huge part of book four.
Liquor doesn’t make you feel better. Just makes you not so worried about feeling bad.”
It’s an interesting scene. Miller’s trying to give this kid some wisdom, but what he has to draw from is pretty grim and dark. It reminds me of the old AA saying “A man has a drink. The drink has a drink. The drink has a man.” Miller is a very classic noir hero, and the thing that differentiates noir from hardboiled is whether the hero is moral. There’s a strong argument to make through Leviathan Wakes that Miller is at a minimum deeply flawed as a human being. His relationship to Julie Mao is riffing on Otto Preminger’s classic noir “Laura” with Dana Andrews and Gene Teirney.
when you got right down to it, humans were still just curious monkeys. They still had to poke everything they found with a stick to see what it did.
Something we come back to over and over in the series is human nature. As in what is human nature? Curiosity? Tribalism? Kindness? Violence? There are a lot of answers that fit, and (we hope) a viewpoint somewhere in the books that champions pretty much any of them.
Thank you, EXPANSE fans and screaming firehawks, for taking the ride with us. If you’re looking to kill some time before the next series drops, Daniel has a bunch of his own work out there you could try, or if you’re in a space opera mood, Walter Jon Williams’ DREAD EMPIRE'S FALL (starting with THE PRAXIS): https://www.goodreads.com/series/49492-dread-empire-s-fall or Alfred Bester’s classic THE STARS MY DESTINATION: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/333867.The_Stars_My_Destination THE EXPANSE season 6 premiers on 12/16 - don't forget to tune in!