Review: “Caliban’s War,” James S.A. Corey

Rating: 5 out of 5

James S.A. Corey’s Caliban’s War (The Expanse, 2) follows shortly on the heels of Leviathan Wakes. When we last left off, the mysterious alien mass on Eros had been diverted to Venus by appealing to the remaining bits of humanity in the woman whose infection started the whole chain reaction. Now, on Ganymede, a Doctor Strickland abducts four-year-old Mei as well as other children who all have major immune system problems–and he does it several hours before everything goes to hell. Gunnery Sergeant Roberta (Bobbie) Draper, a Martian Marine, is the only person to survive the attack on Ganymede’s surface by a vicious, deadly monster that can’t be stopped–and that seems to have something to do with the “protomolecule” that caused the alien infection that’s on Venus now. Somehow, at the same time a shooting war has started between Earth and Mars in Ganymede’s orbit–it’s the major source of agriculture in the solar system and no one’s willing to give it up even as it’s being evacuated. As the situation deteriorates, Captain Jim Holden, who’s been working for the OPA with his crew, is sent to check out what’s going on. When he meets scientist Prax Meng, Mei’s father, he and his crew decide to rescue the girl. Meanwhile, UN politician Chrisjen Avasarala is doing her damndest to tamp down on hostilities between Earth and Mars–but the further things go, the more she realizes that some of her own people are trying to out-maneuver her and trigger outright war.

We get plenty more on Holden and his crew. They’ve been working for the OPA by rounding up pirates, and Naomi is not so happy about how this is changing them. Holden seems to be taking after Detective Miller these days by being quick to shoot rather than talking things out as he used to. When they inevitably come into conflict with Fred–as usual, Holden jumps to conclusions with no real proof of anything–they get fired, and they’re going to need to come up with a means to pay their way. I have to say, having a sci-fi book that includes the futuristic equivalent of a GoFundMe to help find Mei is just delightfully hysterical!

“Holden’s an idiot, but he’s not stupid…. Do not underestimate his capacity to fuck things up.”

Avasarala makes me so happy. She’s a little ol’ grandma with a foul mouth who enjoys playing political “games” while still trying to do good. She has so much depth to her–a husband she adores, grandkids she spoils, and a tendency not to realize when maybe the politics has progressed beyond games. She ends up hiring Bobbie after Bobbie is brought to Earth to testify about the monster she saw, and the two of them, although there’s some friction at first, become a fascinating team. She also has access to much surveillance information on Venus, so she discovers that at the exact same time that the monster on Mars attacked, the alien mass on Venus responded in some way. The politicking is intriguing and definitely not boring!

We finally meet Julie’s father, and he’s even more of a terrible human than we gathered from her actions. In fact, there are a number of terrible people involved in the goings-on. We already know that one company had deliberately altered its scientists to be sociopathic so they could be convinced to engage in horrific experiments. Now we find out how much further they’ve progressed in their work.

I’m totally enjoying this series and am absolutely going to read the next installment!

Content note: child death and bloody monster attacks.

“Please, can we not refer to the secretary-general as ‘the bobble-head’?”
“Why not? He knows I do. I say it to his face, and he doesn’t mind.”
“He thinks you’re joking.”
“That’s because he’s a fucking bobble-head.”

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