Sci-Fi Review: ‘Abaddon’s Gate’ by James S.A. Corey

Abaddon's Gate (Expanse, #3)This is the third book of the series. Minor spoilers of previous books are probable.

Third book. Book one was a buddy cop drama with space zombies; decent but for some reason didn’t hook me.   Holden, the main character, wasn’t the most captivating protagonist I have ever read and horror in space isn’t really my thing.. Book two hooked me with the addition of Bobby and Avarasala; two women who absolutely dominated the page whenever they were present (with Avarasala winning the round if both were in the room). It also put the ‘protomolecule,’ the requisite weird sciency object that took center stage in Leviathan Wakes, firmly into the background-letting the characters shine instead.

So if you had told me that once again the cast would be jettisoned almost completely, and more importantly Avarasala wasn’t going to be present, I am not sure I would have jumped in to Abaddon’s Gate so enthusiastically. And just as I was wrong to go into Caliban’s War with some reluctance, so I was also wrong to be reluctant here. I didn’t like it quite as much as book two, but we are dealing with a sliding scale that has ‘very good’ on its low end here.

Once again it is all about the people. Now don’t get me wrong, Holden can die off for all I care. Three books in and I just plain don’t like him. He is a bit too much in the center of everything important for my liking and not all that charismatic. So for me to like a book despite its protagonist everything else has to go right. It starts right there next to Holden though; his crew is perfect.  Naomi, Holden’s girlfriend, makes scenes with Holden more bearable with her capable hands and quick thinking. But I confess a love of Alex, nominally the requisite ‘brute’ but a man who shows tolerance and an anything go attitude that seems contagious.

The authoring duo took away Avarasala (though she gets a mention so we know she is still up to her political maneuvering) and instead gave us Ana who was still pretty awesome. She is pastor of a small congregation and she takes the chance to join the expedition to see just what the weird alien thing is up to now (having left Venus and worked its way around to Uranus). I knew I was going to love her from the first meeting; protecting one of her own from an abusive husband. I won’t spill the details but rather just focus on one line –

‘Anna shot him again.’

*Sniff* It really is the simple things in life. Moving on because that is what this series is starting to do. That molecule that has been cooking in Venus and worrying everyone suddenly moves to Uranus, forming a ring with a purpose that only it knows. The three powers in the solar system all send people to observe and of course Holden and his crew get dragged along with it. The story quickly diverges along a couple of paths: a sabotage and set up story against Holden, a redemption arc without a sappy ending for a new character, and a lot of political maneuvering over knowledge that comes from exploring the protomolecule.

I love the political maneuverings as everyone is forced to react to Holden’s moves. I have realized he is less of a characters and more of a moving force; a reaction is coming from somewhere no matter what he does due to his previous exploits. I was less found of the heavy action final third of the book. Though it fits the story just fine I don’t see it as the author’s strength; I was less excited when guns and explosions were going off than I was when Anna worked to save a single passenger.

Abbadon’s Gate is a success because it worked as a single story and as a continuation of the overarching plot. The theme here was faith and redemption. Not necessarily in a purely religious since though the inclusion of Pastor Anna often framed it that way but just faith in humanity, in each other, in something. It ended with a note of hope along with sadness; great things may be happening in the solar system but nothing comes free.

4 Stars

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