Monday, January 31, 2022

Review: Leviathan Falls

Leviathan Falls Leviathan Falls by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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 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 with the first book, and it’s been a franchise that never let me down. New books appeared regularly, and each one pushed what started as a space opera mixed with a conspiracy story 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 agendas and old grudges to take the long view and realize that there were bigger things at stake. At one point in this latest one, there’s a declaration that “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. No, it wouldn’t last, but it felt like 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, they all came alive for me.

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 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.

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