he Expanse. A series about near-space, the space of something like 200 years in the future (the date never seems to come up). This sixth book of the sprawling series picks up the action – Earth just got slagged by three “military grade” asteroid strikes, leaving the planet dust-shrouded and home of billions of new corpses. Mars has its own problems – a large chunk of its fleet just took off on its own. Some of it popped through one of the new stargates, helling out for the unknown. The rest of it was tossed to the Free Navy, the rebellion hosted by a charismatic and slightly-mad belter. So the entire system is aflame, the shit really and truly hitting the fan.
But break-away’s go both ways. Michio Pa, the ever-practical side-switching woman captain, suffers a crisis of consciousness and starts passing her piratical spoils on to desperate belters (partially spoiling the Free Navy’s trick of stripping asteroid bases and leaving their populations for the inner planets to save). Space is big, the Free Navy can operate at will, and the Earth fleet is trying to deflect any follow-up rock strikes. Yeah, grim time for the good guys.
We have a lot of chapters told by established side-characters so there is always a new POV to enjoy. And ship-combat, there is lots of that. We even lose a prominent character or two (no spoilers here). So it’s a hot read across 536 pages.
I had a couple of milk-carton moments after putting the book aside for the last time. Frankly, it seemed that things worked almost too well for the Free Navy. That the Mar’s breakaway faction could suddenly supply them with virtually a brand-new navy seemed a bit like the moment in the board game Risk with someone drops three cards and gets 40+ armies out of nowhere. And the end skirmish around Medina Station – I had my own way that hero Holden could have avoided a last stand. But, yeah, that’s just me playing along with the story – overall it was a great read and a good addition to a sprawling space opera.
And now that I’ve put this one down, I’m on to the next.