The Expanse Read-along: Abaddon’s Gate – Week 4

Banner: Abaddon's Gate Read-along (text over inset from cover art - a spaceship against a yellow sky)

While Bull and his new allies go toe to toe with Ashton’s well-armed forces, Anna tries to persuade the fleet to switch off all their power to persuade the station they’re no longer a threat. With Ashford intent on destroying the gate itself – which might cause the station to wipe out the entire solar system – there’s a lot worth fighting for. Or dying for. Will there be a home to try to get back to?

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).

It’s explosive climax time in the last week of Abaddon’s Gate – our host this week is Lisa of Over the Effing Rainbow. Be warned – if you keep reading, There Will Be Spoilers. That said, given the spoilers in the intro if you’ve made it this far you might as well keep going, right?


1. It’s the question of the month, so I’ll ask it one more time! How do you feel about our newbie characters now, given the various states of fallout/conclusion for their stories?

Three books in, and I’m appreciating the self-contained character arcs in this series rather more than I was at the beginning when I was mildly irritated to have to get to know three new points of view. I am – to my surprise, as I get grumpy about this when it’s done badly – enjoying the multiple POV narrative (although I still half-think there’s a version of this book without Melba’s POV that works just as well).

I still find Melba the least convincing character of the lot. She is as self-indulgent in her self-loathing and regret as she was in her vengeance, and just as irrational. Her logic continues to baffle me. Her father is one of the most evilly self-interested men in the solar system; it’s Jim’s fault he’s in jail for his crime. Melba recognises she’s done terrible things; blowing up the Gate will make it all better. I was expecting her to be the weakness that pulled Ashford down, but surprised that she genuinely seemed to believe in his goals until the very end. I think I’m supposed to see her as a series of epic shifts in perspective as her conscience gets the better of her and then to be amazed by how Anna can get through to her; instead, she just feels terribly convenient for the narrative.

That said – if there’s one thing I’m here for, it would be watching Amos decide she shouldn’t go to jail after all and taking her as an apprentice.

I liked Bull. He won me over and I’m sad if not surprised by how his story ended, and a bit annoyed with Fred Johnson for putting Ashton in charge in the first place. I have a soft spot for competence and self-sacrifice.

And I loved Anna. I can’t embrace her limitless forgiveness, but I like that this finale wasn’t just a gun battle – it was a bigger question of how we resolve conflict and what sort of future we might choose to embrace. The Expanse can be terribly bleak – in the sense that the future is dirty and venal and an awful lot like our present (I’ll come back to this thought) – and there are a lot of ways to die in space; Anna stands against that as a voice that says ‘we can do better’. I am always here for that, and Amos defending her the radio station so she can keep talking and trying to be the last light against the darkness – well, that just tears me up.


2. “…I remember caring without really caring, if you know what I mean.”
Miller pays Holden one more visit, though it seems he isn’t finished with Jim yet. What are your thoughts on what happens here?

I’ll be honest, I’d gone completely blank and had to reread the section for a reminder. And then HELL THIS BIT. This is so sad and exciting and game-changing all in one go. How did I forget this bit? 🙂

Because in one ridiculous scene (hey, time out from the firefight Jim, what can go wrong?) Miller makes the protomolecule both an awful lot less and more terrifying. I’m not comfortable with autonomic systems of this much power (think what it can do. And this is on autopilot with nobody who can ever reprogram it?) and at the same time at least it won’t be deliberately coming after humanity. It’s all bio-organic code and sub-routines built out of the component humanity that it ate on the way – which isn’t entirely comforting (think what/who else it absorbed on Eros). There’s a little bit of me left flailing on the side yelling ‘that’s all well and good but what the hell was going on with the apparent communication between Venus and the protomolecular hybrids, eh? EH?’ but I guess we’ll never get closure on that.

And when Miller says he needs a ride – how exactly is that going to work? Physically? In Jim’s subconscious? I am made of questions.


3. “We can go through those gates, though. We can go there.”
Prediction time. Do you have any thoughts on what might come next? Or are you happy to just go along for the ride and see what’s what

So there’s a gate to a spot of space with a lot more gates that might open up the whole galaxy(? universe?) to human exploration and expansion – I think it’s a foregone conclusion that humanity is about to head to the stars, regardless of what ancient threat might still be out there. At least the Mormons might feel better about the Behemoth if they can hop something smaller to a new planet…

Of course, it could turn into a massive political / military stand-off over control of the Gate in our solar system – it would be in line with the way the powers that be have been presented so far in the Expanse – but I hope not (and that would obviously piss Miller off). I’d rather the next book was more Star Trek. Exploration please!

I think the law suit against Jim Holden will fall apart now Melba is no longer bankrolling it, so the Roci is safe (or as safe as it can be when it’s likely to take off into deep space if Miller gets his way). And I am absolutely along for the ride.


Other thoughts for the week…

I’m eating these books up now. But I’m weary of just how petty the villains are. The villains of the first two books were motivated by profit; Melba had her ridiculous crusade; Ashford is really just driven by his own ego. I get it – it’s awfully human – this is how the world works, this is what destroys me about how the world works – our inability to recognise our shortcomings and actively try to do better for people other than ourselves / our tribe.

But I’d like a break from the familiar flaws of humanity. Give us an insane vision that is staggering in scope. Or give us a nuanced antagonist to sympathise with even as we recognise they’re wrong (and yes, I think Melba was an attempt at this, but she fell at the first hurdle – she was impossible to sympathise with, for me at least) or an antagonist who clearly isn’t wrong at all – where we have opposing agendas, neither of which are necessarily evil, just incompatible.

But don’t get me wrong – I’m very excited. I feel like the next chapter will be something quite different and I can’t wait to get stuck in to it.


Take a tour of our responses this week:

  • Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow
  • Sarah at The Illustrated Page
  • Susan at Dab of Darkness
  • Feel free to join in in the comments on our blogs or on Goodreads – but no spoilers!


A round-up of the weekly discussions for Book 3: