veryone knows the few facts about Amos Burton of the Rocinante in The Expanse, that he is a mechanic and also a likable yet unstable crew member. When it comes to total zen violence, Amos is your man.
Other facts we know – he grew up in flooded Baltimore, a city of people either involved in criminal acts or on government assistance. We know that his real name was Timmy, that he lived with an old woman, Lydia.That his childhood friend Erich is a cripple with a shriveled arm who now runs the crime in Baltimore. And that Timmy took the name of a man he killed as he became the thug we love.
The Churn refers to what happens when the police (in this case, the UN) move in to “clean up” the city. All of the gangs either fight back and are annihilated or go to ground. And during this period, and after it, things change. Old power structures fall and new ones form. The point is to get through this period and be in a position to improve things for yourself.
As it stands, Timmy is already in trouble with his crime boss Burton because he took a shotgun to a druggie who couldn’t pay (and likely would never pay). In Timmy’s blunt logic, the druggie was tapped dry and his only use was as an example. This extreme action (without sanction) has gotten him noticed (in ways bad and good) by Burton. And this is the line of the story – how will his loyalty be demanded, and what is he willing to do to show it.
The disturbing factoid revealed in this short story is that Lydia (the old ex-prostitute who we all thought raised him as a mother) also casually treated him as a lover. In this, we have a perfect explanation (abet, a grim and creepy one) for why the Amos we know is murderously practical in his approach to life and death. In his relationship, it’s about as close to a way in this grim future that a child can be raised by wolves. When I read this point, I remember being shocked, then accepting. Yes, Amos isn’t just a Hollywood bad-ass cutout – he is a real character with real flaws. It actually mentioned in the story notes that the actor who played him, upon reading this story, consulted a psychiatrist to better understand how a person with this upbringing would react in his expressions, actions, and behaviors.
The Churn is possibly one of the best stories to date in this collection. Until I can get the third book of the Three Body Problem finished, I’ll probably be reviewing more of them.
You can get the collection in Memory’s Legion, by James S.A. Corey.