Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Once you get seven books deep into a series it gets really tricky to review because you can’t talk about even the basic story set-up without spoiling stuff for anyone who hasn’t read it. Since I’m really trying to encourage any sci-fi fan to check out The Expanse I don’t want to just spoiler tag the whole thing either. So how to discuss in a way that won’t ruin it for the newbs yet still be an informative review?
Weep for me, people of Goodreads!
Here’s what I can safely say to everyone: The plan is for this to be a nine book series, and it’s obvious that it’ll end up being a three act structure with three books per act. So we’re starting the end run with this one, and that’s clear from the jump. A lot of time has passed since the last book, and our main characters can now claim senior discounts. In fact, some of them are even thinking about retirement. However, one of the lingering plots from an earlier book comes back in a big way and all of humanity might find itself under the boot of a dictator if something isn’t done. And all of this struggling among people scattered among the stars continue to take place as a potential alien threat simmers in the background.
Since this is essentially set-up for the final phase of the overall story there’s a lot left up in the air, but like the previous books it’s also an entertaining self-contained sci-fi tale by itself. At this point we’ve been living in this universe for a good long while so that we know all the ins-and-outs of it as well as what to expect from the story. What continues to be fresh and engaging is that the co-authors who make up the James SA Corey name come up with new spins on moving forward so that it hasn’t become stale and formulaic.
For example, this is a book in which a whole lot of people find themselves under the authority of an autocratic ruler with an army of true believers who believe anything he says. (Sounds familiar.) As you’d expect the story becomes about a resistance rising up among the conquered people, but what’s interesting is that there’s no immediate way to win. No Death Star to blow up, no magic computer virus, no chosen one to lead them to victory. Beating these guys will mean a long term strategy of resistance and a whole lot of blood will be shed in the process.
On the heels of that is that these bad guys don’t exactly act like villains. Yes, they’re smug jerkfaces whose utter self-confidence make them insufferable, but they’re also pretty sincere about going about it a way that isn’t a brutal occupation. These are smart folks who have studied history and know that the best way to stop an insurgency is to keep it from starting by keeping people from being disgruntled in the first place. Plus, they’re stated goal is to unite the squabbling factions of humanity into a single united force so they hope to get everyone on their side through the politics of persuasion.
That’s the really insidious thing about this one. A big theme in The Expanse as stated by one character in an earlier book is that a fair percentage of humans are always going to be assholes. What’s been shown over and over again is that people are always willing to fight among themselves about the old grudges rather than put them aside to band together even when it would be in their own best long-term interest. It’s been the biggest stumbling block that the heroes have struggled against over the course of the series. And here’s finally someone who has the power to actually make that happen, and he isn’t acting like an insane dictator. Hmmmm…maybe he isn’t that bad....
Another new aspect in this is that since we know the end is coming that no one is safe. It adds some tension and drama to the action because it really does seem like all our favorites are going to make it this time. (view spoiler)[Not all of them do. (hide spoiler)]
It’s another great entry in the series, and my only real complaint is that I kind of got bummed while reading because I know how few there are left. I’ll also plug the excellent TV series based on the books that the SyFy Channel airs and is getting ready to start its third season which is well worth checking out.
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