Leviathan Wakes is one of the 2011 novels that I bought and made my way through in an effort to read some new science fiction. There is a sequel expected to be released in the spring of 2012 called Caliban’s Way. I believe that this is actually a duo of authors writing under one pen-name. I think those authors are: Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. It was published by Orbit in 2011.
The book is organized around the two main characters, Jim Holden and Joe Miller. Each chapter alternates between being told from the perspective of those two characters. I wonder if the two authors of the novel split the writing duties similarly (one author for Miller, one for Holden), however as I read it I felt it was seamless. The fact that it’s written by two authors is unnoticeable.
The cover art was done by Daniel Dociu. Frankly, I really don’t like it. At first I hardly noticed it (not a good thing), and then after I looked at it for awhile, it has this impression of being spacey-science fiction-y, but in reality, I have no idea what I’m looking at. What is this trying to represent? A ship? A rock? Yuck. I dislike this art. It’s almost generic in it’s effort.
The characters in this book are not very developed or interesting. I found both of the main characters annoying as heck, since they were so stereotypical. Miller is a washed-up, alcoholic detective. Holden is a ridiculously hopeful, good-intentioned ship captain with an unfailing morality code. And the author(s) do not let you forget these facts. Almost every chapter, the reader is reminded that these are the personalities and histories of these two characters. And the characters do not really develop beyond these stereotypes, but stay rigidly inside of them. The only “pseudo-development” comes from the dynamic of the two characters dealing with each other – both of them being somewhat disagreeable to the other. And their names…. so boring.
Supporting characters Amos, Alex, and Naomi are all rather flatline and boring as well. There’s a lot of dialogue in the book, but not really pondersome in-depth discussion. Usually, one or two lines that can usually be replaced with: “Blah,” said SoandSo. “Blah blah blah.” Most of the dialogue – particularly from Alex – is completely one-dimensional and almost juvenile.
In my opinion, the first quarter of the book is exceedingly boring and somewhat tough to slog through. About halfway, though, things pick up – we’re going places and some plot threads come together a bit. Then, we meet more characters and there is some “climactic” plot devices. Except, this isn’t the novel’s climax. It was just a little minor event. Then return to home base and have a lot more dialogue. Then have another minor event. Then return to home base. Dialogue. Finally, in the last quarter of the novel, there is the real major event that the whole novel has been leading up to. Finally. But even this major climatic event seems somewhat flatline. I feel like the characters are bored with their stories. And I think this problem is that the novel has too big a lead up and the writing needs a little more excitement and oompf.
I do not want to give away many spoilers, so this may seem random. The storyline all revolves around Julie Mao, a young woman who has been supposedly kidnapped. Jim Miller is put on the case. And he becomes really fixated (obsessed) with her. (In fact, throughout the book Miller often hallucinates/daydreams about Julie – even to the point of having conversations with her.) So, even after Miller loses his job, war breaks out, and everything stinky hits the fan, Miller goes on this solo quest to solve her case. The storyline has him join up with Holden’s crew and of course the crew are the only ones to figure out what’s happening, why the war is happening, and what’s up with Eros. There are vomit zombies. Yes, when I read that in the book, I really was tempted to drop it. Vomit zombies. Anyway, Miller ends up saving the day and earning a measure of respect from Holden who has learned to give Miller begrudging respect and honor. But Venus is still alive.
What is good about this book: a space opera that takes place in the inner areas of our solar system. Asteroid belters, Earth, Mars, Venus. These are the big colonies and locations for the story – so it makes the book science fiction, but not in a distant, unfamiliar galaxy. Also, the last third of the book is a lot more entertaining than the rest of it – and by the time I finished, I do want to know what happens next. Another thing, this book, while over 500 pages, is easy to read. It’s not stressful or heavy to read. Some science fiction is so dense and heavy that it is exhausting to read. Leviathan Wakes is a good summertime read. I think some parts of it could have been shortened, other parts jazzed up a bit, but overall it is okay for a debut science fiction novel. It’s okay to read a novel which doesn’t emotionally wrap the reader in it’s layers of complexity. It’s okay to have a basic science fiction lazy-day read.
Readers looking for a solid science fiction novel that doesn’t force upon them seventy different alien races and mimic Star Wars or Star Trek should enjoy this. It is what it is, and it’s merely okay. I am lazily vaguely curious to see what happens in the next novel.