Book: Babylon’s Ashes
Author: James S.A. Corey
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
Recommended for: Anyone who enjoys space opera, science fiction, space mystery, military sci-fi, or a long well written series set in the expanse of our solar system (and beyond).
As I flew through Babylon’s Ashes I once again found myself at home among the crew of the Rocinante. The plot picks up where Nemesis Games left off; Earth is struggling to stay alive after the rocks fell, the Free Navy has declared itself the new power in Sol under the leadership of Marco Inaros, Earth and Mars have combined forces to oppose the Free Navy and the crew of the Rocinante is back, ready to do what is necessary to help bring things back into equilibrium.
I thoroughly enjoyed this addition to The Expanse series, and it is nice to see the writing improve with each new novel. For those devout followers of the series – and I can’t see anyone making it this far without some level of devotion – you will find a lot here that feels familiar. We get to see the crew of the Roci back together again, along with a couple of new faces in the crew that readers will recognize and enjoy. We return to a multiple POV style of storytelling, but while the previous novels focused on a handful of them, this book had a dozen or so different characters through whose eyes we get to see this story unfold. Also, the universe the author has created with these novels has been explored in greater depth with each new release – the same is true here and I, for one, love that detailed world building.
Much of this story focuses on the human experience and how no matter how hard Holden may try, we always find a way to end up fighting over territory, segregating based on our origins and inevitably shooting at each other in order to prove that our way is the right way. This is where I really liked the change in the number of viewpoints. It was interesting to see how the war between factions looked from different points in the solar system. On one hand, we have Holden and the crew of the Roci, a familiar group whose ideals are tested in humanity’s most trying time. On the other hand, are Belters from across the system, some in favor of the actions of the Free Navy and some who are sympathetic to the plight of their fellow human beings. We also get to see things from the POV of those trapped on a dying Earth, passages that really evoked a feeling of helplessness, but that also showed small moments of human mercy and compassion. As much as I tried to enjoy the science fiction setting and not compare it to the real world, the “us vs. them” mentality that many people on both sides of this conflict displayed is a stark reminder of our current socio-political climate.
The plot was interesting and engaging, though this certainly felt like a stepping stone novel for the next book in the series. Nemesis Games was action packed, with the Free Navy rising to power and the rocks falling on Earth – it really changed the game in terms of how the story would progress. Before that we saw the protomolecule epic unfold in the first few books, followed by the exploration of the new worlds through the alien gates. Babylon’s Ashes did not do a whole lot to progress the overall plot, but what it did do was allow everyone to come back together and it definitely set the stage for what is to come next. This is in no way a negative reflection on the work; the plot moved at a good pace, the characters were well developed and we get to see an interesting take on a galactic civil war in our own solar system. My only real gripe with the book was the writing of Marco Inaros, who I found to be a boring villain and a skin deep character. Overall, this is a small complaint when compared to the good thing to be found here.
I am a little behind the eight-ball with my reading right now, so Persepolis Rising is already out – it has been for some time. Luckily, after reading 6 books in a series I can pretty much assume I am going to see it through, so I have already ordered the book and it is en-route to my house. Keep your eyes open over the coming weeks for a review!