It’s been 18 months since the Phoebe incident, and the system has settled into an uneasy stand-off as Earth and Mars marshal their forces and try to avoid a shooting war. Holden and his crew are officially working for Fred and the OPA – and when something terrible happens on Ganymede, they’re the obvious choice to investigate…

For those new to the Read-along – we are working our way through The Expanse from beginning to end, reading about a quarter of each book per week and blogging weekly in response to a host’s prompts. Expect enthusiasm and/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.

 

1. Holden and crew are back! What do you make of their situation, what they’re up to and how they behave/interact now, compared to how it began?

Gosh, haven’t they got comfortable? If Leviathan was reasonably formal and professional as Holden got used to being in command, Naomi got used to being XO and they all recalibrated their working relationships, Caliban kicks off like they’re trash-talking on Tumblr.

…and I love it, obviously. It’s the sort of well-established relationships that make my day, where everybody knows what their colleagues are capable of and trusts them to get on with it, so you can save speech for giving each other shit. And I can relate to anyone who has a panic attack at the thought of starting the day without coffee.

I’m not surprised they’re still working for Fred – after all, Holden is pretty much the most wanted man on both Earth and Mars – or that they’ve got entirely comfortable whizzing with their refitted high-speed gun boat. They’re basically Fred’s black ops team, right? Trusted (or expendable? Although I think Fred values the Roci at least, however much I suspect Holden still annoys him periodically) with the difficult missions.

Maybe the only thing that surprised me here is that Jim appears to have got comfortable actually shooting people.

 

2. We meet some new characters in this book, and 2 out of 3 are women with important roles. What are your first impressions, given the general concern over the roles/lack of women in the first book?

Y A Y !

Frankly I started dancing as soon as Bobbie was introduced as a super tall, super strong lady of Polynesian descent. Hello, soldier! She seems like your standard issue military action hero for now, with a good strong personality and an Ellen Ripley-like disdain for the idiocy of authority (yes, I couldn’t help but think of the beginning of Aliens when they were interrogating her). I think she and the crew of the Roci and/or she and Chrisjen Avasarala would get on just fine.

Speaking of Avasarala, I am still giggling at just how much attitude can be packed into one old lady. She almost makes Edie Banister look tame (almost), although I’ll be honest – I may get weary of the swearing (as I get older, this begins to bother me sometimes; and yes, pot to kettle acknowledged, as when I’m in the zone I swear like nobody’s business).

I also like that she’s got one of those absurdly meaningless job titles that just screams Head of Intelligence – and that she can flip from scary to doting grandma to cold-as-ice professional in a heartbeat.

 

3. “No one starts a war unless I say they can.” In particular, we learn that Chrisjen Avasarala is using the power she has to pull strings and dig for information behind the scenes in UN government, and she appears to want an end to the war. What do you think of her methods – and her motive?

It feels credible – in the sense that she’s a woman who gets a lot done indirectly, which is the way I think international politics mostly works. I love her sense of mischief – getting the various ships diverted from the Admiral’s mission was inspired.

 

4. We also meet Prax, scientist and starving father desperate to find his daughter. In terms of the bigger political picture (remember Miller and Dresden), how much of an emotional wild card do you think he might be?

I don’t quite know what to make of Prax yet. We’ve only really seen him as a basketcase – in professional and then personal shock – and his response has been (understandably) extreme and intense. He may calm down and pull himself together (I love that even in the depths of his mania, he was noticing things like the plants being watered incorrectly and trying to do something to address it – and Holden will get on just fine on some levels), but he’s obsessive, which bodes ill for how sensibly he’s likely to react under pressure – I think he’s going to be a liability.

 

Other thoughts for the week…

CAN WE STOP WITH THE TRAUMATIC PROLOGUES NOW KTHANX.

Jeez. I don’t even have it in me to say “I hope Mei has survived” because I’ve been trained by Leviathan to assume she hasn’t (we know what was in that tank), but she might have done just because I think Corey likes messing with us!

But the big question for me is: who were the Ganymede team working for? Who unleashed this new strain, and what are they hoping to achieve?

 

Take a tour of our responses this week:

 

A round-up of the weekly discussions for Book 1: