The Belt Rises and Falls: A Review of Babylon’s Ashes

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Introduction

Babylon’s Ashes by James SA Corey is the latest novel in their Science Fiction epic, The Expanse. Picking up where Nemesis games left off Babylon’s Ashes delves into the aftermath of Marcos Inaros’ assault on Earth. Marcos, leader of the Free Navy, A terrorist group from the Belt, trying to play at legitimate government is flying high so to speak after dropping several large asteroids down Earth’s gravity well. The remainder of Earth’s government, along with that of a reduced Mars, and a small collection of dissident Belters work to defeat Inaros’ Free Navy, and bring him to justice.

Once again we see James Holden, and rest of the crew of the Rocicante  leading the charge. Babylon’s Ashes is very much a sequel, and perhaps to it’s detriment, very much not the end of the series (not that I want to see the series end any time soon). What I mean is that perhaps, this book, more than any other in the series, does not really stand on it’s own. That’s not to say it wasn’t an very enjoyable edition to the series, but just that it may have been less accessible to new readers than the others have been, but hey, can we really fault them? This is the sixth book after all. Read the first one, stop being lazy!

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What Works

The writing team of James SA Corey continues to tell a compelling epic embroiled in political intrigue, and well developed characters. Reading about the core crew of the Rocicante is like coming home to family. After six books I find that I care about these characters more than most, and that speaks to a depth of writing. Babylon’s Ashes is no different, and I continuously find myself on the edge of my seat reading about high stress situations from a set of authors that have proven they aren’t afraid to take some our beloved crew mates off the table. That added danger, without the senseless killing of characters at seeming random strikes the perfect balance that can get your adrenaline pumping, but not make you dread turning the next page.

To be fair, what I’ve said here could be said about any book in this series, and not Babylon’s Ashes specifically. But, as previously stated this book was very much a sequel, and while the familiarity with which these authors write their characters might grab people reading this book as the first time, it certainly benefits more from a full investment in the series.

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What Doesn’t

As I have previously mentioned, Babylon’s Ashes, while an excellent addition to the Expanse universe, does not stand particularly well on it’s own. I loathe to say this about a book I truly did enjoy, but it times feels like filler. While that might not be entirely fair, this book needed to be written, we needed a conclusion to the events of Nemesis Games, it almost feels like the last two books should have been one. This is a symptom of being part of a larger series, some of the middle additions may feel this way.

The last problem I have falls on the villain of the novel. Marcos Inaros, is a wholly frustrating character. The level of charisma he’d have to have to convince people to do what they do for him is a hard thing to write, and I think they have failed to really adequately get it across. Inaros reads like a petulant, petty man, that I just don’t see as a someone who could motivate people the way that he does.

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The Final Word

Despite some disparities, I really enjoyed this book, as I’ve enjoyed every book in the Expanse series, and I cannot wait for the next one. If you love space opera, or adventure stories, or MilSif, pretty much any genre in Science Fiction, I recommend you pick up this series. The First book is Leviathan Wakes, go on. Pick it up. I’m waiting…why the hell are you still here? Oh the rating…right. I give this book 3.8 out of 5, but only because you need to have read the others to really enjoy this one.

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