Coming to Caliban's War
I struggled to remember what happened in Leviathan Wakes
. It was nearly a year ago that I read it, and judging by my 4-star review of it
I must have liked it, but I couldn't really remember any of the key points of the previous book. Something to do with a protomolecule or something. I wondered if I should reread that book first, or just hope there'd be enough exposition in this book to tide me through.
While I decided not to go back and reread Leviathan Wakes
, I was also glad that Caliban's War
didn't in fact feel the need to do a 'previously on...' section. Instead you're dropped straight into a new story, set a couple of years after the events of Leviathan Wakes
and focussing again on Jim Holden and his crew aboard the Rocinante
, this time more of a sci-fi-political-thriller than the sci-fi-murder-mystery of the previous novel. With the death of the other central character at the end of Leviathan Wakes
, Detective Miller, a hole opened up for a PoV character. Instead, Corey fills out this gap with three new characters. Each character takes turns narrating in a chapter-PoV style that George R.R. Martin has made famous recently. And, as one half of James S.A. Corey is, in fact, George R.R. Martin's assistant maybe that makes more sense.
Firstly we are introduced to Bobbie Draper. A Martian space marine, her introduction to the protomolecule situation comes on Ganymede. Somebody has tried to weaponise the substance (again), creating a super soldier who takes out Bobbie's entire team before self-destructing. Unfortunately, before she can report back to her superiors this leads to an escalation of the stand-off between the Martian and UN forces orbiting Ganymede into an all-out shooting match.
Praxidike Meng is a botanist on Ganymede. Responsible for part of the food production from Ganymede - which is the food basket of the Martian and Outer Planets. A single parent, his daughter, Mei, one of a number of imuno-compromised children on Ganymede, is kidnapped just before fighting breaks out on the surface. Surely this can't be a coincidence.
Finally, Chrisjen Avasarala, a political player in the UN. As assistant to the undersecretary of executive administration she has an enormous amount of power. However, she likes to hide behind her appearance as a little old grandmother figure. She needs to find out who is trying to weaponise the protomolecule and stop them before more people die. At the same time she wants to understand what's happening on Venus (where the protomolecule ended up at the end of Leviathan Wakes
) and work out why she's being sidelined and lied to by her own administration.
Between the four of them they need to work out what's going on. Who is trying to weaponise the protomolecule? Who are the good guys and the bad guys - the UN, the Martians, or the OPA? What has happened to Mei and the other kidnapped children? And what is the connection between everything going on and the evolving protomolecule on Venus?
There was enough exposition to remind me of the previous novel, but never so much that it felt forced. There were no info-dumps, no characters telling their life-stories so we can all be reminded of the previous novel. I recommend you read it first as so much more will make sense in this one (especially the final line twist), but it doesn't feel quite so much of a sequel that this story is dependant on the first. I think in a large part, that's why this sequel - unusually for a sequel - read better for me than the first.