Book Review : Leviathan Wakes

Andrew Stephens, Monday the 20th of June, 2016 in Books, Science Fiction

I really enjoyed Leviathan Wakes - a throwback space opera set in the relatively near future where Earth is in an uneasy piece with its former colonies on Mars and various sundry rocks around the solar system. The book follows various plot lines as a dastardly conspiracy is slowly revealed.

Having read a lot of Larry Niven and his ilk back in the day I could eat this stuff all day with a large spoon. The story flows at a brisk pace and the novel is structured well, flitting to other plot lines just as one is getting tedious.

The main flaw (if it can be considered a flaw in this type of story) is that the players are all straight out of the stock character handbook - no-nonsense miners with ill-concealed soft spots, practical non-nonsense women, wisecracking tough guys, icily amoral scientists. There is even a grizzled detective with a drinking problemIs he divorced and bitter? Why yes. Yes he is.

In fact, the detective is easily the best part of the novel - he seems to have wandered in from a completely different story, and his POV chapters play by rules of gritty nior crime dramas instead of bright sci-fi. The mental whiplash caused by jumping between the two styles turns out to be hugely enjoyable and I looked forward to his sections the most.

They made a TV series out of this book, and it is easy to see why. The characters all have TV names like Miller and Holden, and speak pithy, actor friendly dialog. Sections break exactly where the corresponding scenes would fade out to an ad break, and you can almost picture the characters relaxing and wandering off towards the craft services table as the book's attention turns elsewhere.

I must admit that I couldn't see the what the bad guys were trying to achieve even after the good guys had discovered their masterplan. I am not sure I understood their plan even after one bad guy spends a page and a half monologuing about what seemed like an expensive, ill-conceived, and over-complicated scheme. Luckily the book doesn't dwell on it, so neither will I.

Leviathan Wakes moves at a brisk pace and manages keep its cliches dancing in an entertaining way. I read most of it in one stretch on a airplaneI found I empathized with the characters living in cramped and oxygen-deprived conditions and it filled in 6 otherwise-unpleasant hours quite nicely.

Recommended if you like this sort of thing.