The Expanse Read-along: Leviathan Wakes – Week 2

Banner: glimpse of a space ship above Saturn - text reads Leviathan Wakes Read Along

So much has happened in this second week of the Leviathan Wakes read-along I’m struggling to remember where it all started, and it’s been compelling enough that I’ve totally failed to take notes. And I’m pretty sure I can’t be the only person who hears Gina Torres every time Naomi calls Holden sir. On to the questions!

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 Sarah of The Illustrated Page.

Be warned – if you keep reading, There Will Be Spoilers.


1. The plot thickens! Do you think the sickness has anything to do with what we saw in the prologue? And who ordered it to be incubated? What’s their end goal?

I am 100% certain that the sickness is what we saw in the prologue – from Julie’s notes, it sounds like the horror in engineering is what happens when Phoebe is fed radiation; Julie exhibits different symptoms because she did everything she could to stay radiation-free.

And while I can intellectually work my way through what’s going on on Eros, I’m trying not to think about it too hard in case I get the shakes. Herding people into rooms and killing them has history, and while I can read that history without falling apart, apparently the idea that someone might think ‘hey, that was effective, let’s do it again’ screws me up.

I still don’t know for sure who’s orchestrating all this, but my money remains on Earth. With Venus not working out for expansion/investment, I wonder whether Earth is trying to reassert itself as the planet in charge. The apparent neutrality is suspicious to me: ‘can’t be anything to do with us, we’re not even out there’ (but Protogen trained the Cerean gangsters, and who really benefits if Mars and the Belters go to war? The planet at the end who can pick up the pieces militarily and economically). And I’ve not forgotten Julie’s Dad.


2. What’s your current takes on the POV characters? Think they’ll continue to work together? Is Miller crossing a line in this section?

The characters began to delineate a little more this week – there are differences emerging as we see more of who they really are. I enjoyed the sequence on Tycho, where Holden couldn’t settle down – bouncing off the walls until he found himself something to do. He may be a good man at heart, but he’s sat on a lot of anger after recent events, and he needs a distraction and a purpose.

I particularly enjoyed the scene where he confronted Fred: Holden has a reputation for pushing boundaries, but it’s the first time we’ve seen it outside of a crisis, and I like him better for it (just as I like him better for repeatedly doing the human, man-on-the-street thing like knocking on Julie’s door or yammering at a Cerean thug; he’s not the sort of ex-military with a clue about the underworld or combat – he’s a pretty regular guy just trying to do his best, frequently without a clue what that looks like).

Miller, by contrast, has realised that the drunken detective from the noir isn’t usually a hero, however attached he gets to that one case with the pretty girl in it. His response to that – to try and clean up, but not to back off regardless of the number of warnings he gets – is in line with the determination we’ve already seen from him; and I liked that he eventually realised his obsession about Julie wasn’t really about Julie. He’s still a walking stereotype following a really familiar narrative – and the very end of this week’s segment was really the first time we’ve seen him diverge from it.

Is he crossing a line? Well, I think casually shooting people in the throat probably counts as taking one more step away from being a well-balanced person (sorry Miller), but in the circumstances I can’t say it was the wrong thing to do. His instincts have kept the crew alive – and I love that his instinct included the desire to rescue regular citizens (even Holden didn’t go there – he was in survival mode, not hero mode).

Given where we finish, I think they’ll be forced to stick together – either because they don’t make the ship in time, or because Holden has too much conscience to leave Miller behind to die of radiation poisoning. Longer term? Probably. Didn’t Fred mention needing some investigation work done? Oh hey look – a highly-motivated, reasonably-capable professional investigator. How convenient.


3. James S.A. Corey’s set up an entire futuristic solar system. What’s your favorite part about it so far?

Honestly, I’m enjoying the plot and the politics over the setting – although we’re so entrenched in detail I don’t really have a feeling for the big picture yet, which frustrates me a little. But from a world-building perspectively, the Belt is frontier territory and we’re only seeing it through that lens – all flophouses, dive bars, casinos, slums and gangs – and I’ve never particularly enjoyed Wild West settings.

I do like that the setting holds enough water (or vacuum) that it feels sturdy enough to play host to a lot of stories. It works on its own terms, and there’s enough detail for it to feel real, although I had a moment over the sushi (fake seaweed but fresh salmon? On a space station? I’m told in book 2 we see fish farms, so I’ll let it slide). At the same time, it’s not too much detail: I’m not a hard SF person, I genuinely don’t care how an Epstein drive works.

I don’t actually like the setting though, if that makes sense, it’s just backdrop to me – and while I’m enjoying this story in it, I hope to see domed cities on Ganymede, colonies on Mars, and a Luna base in future books. If they’re all in the Belt, the stories will need to be spectacular to keep me on board.

Actually, I’m being unfair: what I really like is the casual diversity of the Belt. It doesn’t matter where on Earth your forefathers came from. A Belter is a Belter – and this is reinforced with the array of names, food and background music (that last detail probably being my favourite thing of all).


4. So Miller found Julie. Do you think this effectively ends her involvement, or is there more to learn about her?

Well, we still don’t know what the Scopuli was really up to so I think we’ll learn more about before the end. And for the record, I’m gutted that she’s dead. I was as attached to her as Miller (although less unhealthily).


Any other thoughts on this section?

I am having a weird twin reaction every time Holden has a fantasy about Naomi. On the one hand, yes, obviously, she’s fabulous and why wouldn’t he? On the other, it’s like 2 weeks since the woman he had feelings for (however little she may have felt for him in return) got vaporised. Now he’s fantasising about the only other woman in his life? Cheap, Holden. Cheap.
And yes, she’s Gina Torres in my head. Blame Firefly.


Take a tour of our responses this week:


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