It’s been a while since a full-blown read-along, and we’re blasting back into space to find out what all the fuss about The Expanse was about. With that devastating prologue and two tense storylines split by politics, police work and half the Belt, this space opera potboiler gets off to a super-heated start…

For those new to the Read-along concept – we read a certain number of pages or chapters and blog weekly in response to a host’s prompts. Then we generally share our enthusiasm or ranting – it’s fun, and if you fancy joining in, the schedule is at the bottom of this post – grab a copy and read along (you don’t have to keep to the time table). Our host this week is Lisa of Over the Effing Rainbow.

Be warned – if you keep reading, There Will Be Spoilers (and having now read the first 14 chapters, I think EVERYTHING counts as a spoiler as James S A Corey does such a good job at building tension through escalating events).

 

1. First impressions! We’re given two main POVs here, a lot of important information, and a big fat (intriguingly political) murder mystery in space. What’s your take on the setup so far?

I am ever so slightly in awe at the adept presentation of characters and situations – and at how they unfold. If it hadn’t already been turned into television, I’d say it felt like a television script: ignoring the prologue for a moment (AAAAARRRGHHHHH), Holden making his rounds on the Canterbury to introduce characters and relationships is just so neatly done, and each escalation is beautifully set up. As for that Prologue – it’s the pre-credits sequence in every respect. It starts off dark and ends up traumatic, and I’m still not over it. I didn’t sleep well after that one. And just like the White Walkers in the prologue of A Game of Thrones, the novel then sweeps on and you could almost forget that something really bloody weird is going on as you get distracted by the politics.

I mean, sure, I could point out that it works so well and feels so neat in part because it’s standing on the shoulders of giants – these are well-trodden paths – but I’m enjoying how Corey does enough with his political situation to make it feel fresh. And it’s amazingly exposition light – I’ve learnt a lot without feeling like the plot slowed down for it (having one POV be an investigator is useful like that I guess).

 

2. Regarding the narrative: we get the bulk of the story so far from the POVs of Miller and Holden. What do you think of each character, and how do you think they compare to one another? Do you think their paths might cross or are we looking at more of a Game of Thrones style approach to the story’s arc? For that matter, which might you prefer?

Honestly, I haven’t got particularly attached to our POV characters. I’m enjoying the story rather than the men telling it so far, although they both seem like decent blokes who I could come to care for in their own right. I don’t think they’re that different to one another at heart: for all Miller calls Holden names after the first broadcast, he’s just as guilty of doing the Right Thing rather than the Sensible Thing in the case of Julie Mao, and for all his side eye about Earthers he does give a damn about his partner, just as Holden cares for his crew (and they both have a terrible bedside manner – poor Shed). They’re both men who have settled, after a fashion – they’re not living the high life, they’ve found a niche and got comfortable and got on with it. And I think they’re both the sort who won’t let go easily, even in the face of extreme encouragement to back down. So they’re almost perfect noir protagonists in that regard (hell, one of them’s an investigator, and the other was kicked out of the Navy for trying to punch his commanding officer). Bring on the slatted blinds and the silhouettes.

I don’t see them meeting in the next week, but I wouldn’t rule it out before the end of the book. I’m happy either way. So long as we see a whole lot more of Naomi Nagata.

 

3. Let’s talk about Julie Mao, and THAT prologue. Given what we know about her by the end of chapter 14, do you think Julie might just be a victim of circumstance or is she more deeply involved in whatever is going on?

Victim? I’m still hoping she’s still alive (yes, I’m that big an optimist; I don’t believe it, but I hope it). Let’s not talk about that prologue though. Crikey. Usually I shrug that sort of thing off and roll with it, but apparently I’m a bit fragile at the moment.

For all Julie’s OPA tags and Belter sympathies, I’m not sure the OPA would cheerfully embrace her. I think she may have still been trying to prove herself, and I suspect she’d be as bewildered as Miller by what’s going on on Ceres. Her dad, on the other hand… he Knows Things.

However, I can’t reconcile the end of the Prologue with the politics. Whatever the raid on the Scopuli started as, and whether Earth is trying to start a war between Mars and the Belt or not (my money for now), that engine room was something else. White Walkers, if you will.

And I’d still like to meet Julie Mao properly.

 

4. Chapter 14 ends with Miller contacting Julie’s father; do you think his hunch about dear old Dad knowing some things is right, or should he listen to Shaddid on this one?

Both. Because Knowing Things doesn’t tend to promote health and happiness – and if someone isn’t trying to start a war, they are at least aggressively covering their tracks whilst setting the Martian Navy up for a fall. That’s not a mess to get caught in the middle of.

 

Leaving space here for any extra observations/ruminations etc! What else do you think about the story so far?

I spent the first half of the first week still reeling from the damn Prologue and just going with it. I’ve found the second half increasingly compelling: I don’t necessarily care about the characters (other than Julie Mao, damnit), but I want to know what’s going on!

…and I want to see it on screen. But not until I’ve finished the book.

 

Take a tour of our responses this week:

 

Our reading schedule if you’d like to jump aboard: