Review of Leviathan Wakes, by James S.A. Corey

Leviathan Wakes was like an erotic science fiction massage for my brain.


My wife, who knows me better than anyone, bought me a signed copy for my birthday last month. I was excited. Who wouldn't be? I'd heard of the series, knew it was good enough to turn into a SyFy show, and had been meaning to read it. 

The book starts off with horror. Gruesome, grotesque, throat-closing horror. It's a strong hook, filling the reader with questions.

After that, it settles into a good rhythm. You may not know this, but James S.A. Corey is actually a pseudonym for two authors who collaborated on the book. As such, there are two main POVs:

  • Joe Miller, a security officer (a detective, really) working on Ceres.
  • Jim Holden, the Executive Officer on an ice mining ship.

Miller is a fine character, centered around the search for a missing woman (who, by no coincidence, we meet in the horrific prologue). Good motivation, good story, good everything.

But Holden and his crew are the gem of this book. After having their ship destroyed by terrorists, Holden is forced to become the Captain of their escape vessel. Along with two engineers (Naomi and Amos) and a pilot (Alex), much of the book is spent bouncing from one near-death experience to another, always barely managing to survive or weasel their way out of trouble.

As many readers will probably say, it feels a lot like Firefly. Holden is an honorable captain with a sense of humor, and he'll do anything for his crew. And they love him for it. The relationship between all of them is natural, to the point where the reader feels like one of the gang. 

Beyond that, the politics of the book are exciting. There are several competing factions: earth (run by the United Nations), the Martian Congressional Republic, The Belt (a rough collection of the asteroid belt bodies), and the Outer Planets Alliance, which is described as "The Hezbollah of the system." The unraveling relationship between all of these forces is, by itself, a compelling story. 

Yet it's not the main story. Without giving too much away, Phoebe--a moon of Saturn--is discovered to be a weapon sent to the solar system millions of years before humans evolved. An alien organism, known as the "protomolecule", is recovered on the moon and... well, you'll have to read to find out. 

Leviathan Wakes has a solid standalone story, but it's very clearly the beginning of a long series. And it's so good, so fricken good, that you're happy for it. As soon as I finished the book I quickly bought #2 and #3, and spent four unhappy days waiting for them to arrive by mail.

The cover of the book has a blurb from George RR Martin: "It's been too long since we've had a really kickass space opera," and he's right. If you like science fiction, you'll love Leviathan Wakes, and be thirsty for more.