The Expanse Read-along: Cibola Burn – Week 3

Cibola Burn - The Expanse read-along (background fro cover art, explosions in space)

Just when it seemed things couldn’t get much worse, we get an apocalyptic explosion, blinding rain and poorly-trained gung ho idiots getting their hands on live ammo. What more can possibly go wrong? …I sort of wish I hadn’t asked. I suspect the answer is EVERYTHING.

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 Sarah of The Illustrated Page.

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


1. So we’ve got an apocalyptic scenario. Any predictions on how the characters will make it out alive? Or if they’ll make it out alive?

I am clinging to my naive belief (hello, there are at least 2 books to come) that the crew of Rocinante will make it out of their predicament alive. Everyone else? Not so much. And I’ll be deeply disappointed if Murtry gets off-planet for anything other than a court case.

Best prediction: now she’s free, Naomi will figure out a way to win the ships in orbit more time. Now Naomi’s free, Holden will agree to do what Miller wants and head to the dead zone. What will they find? I HAVE NO IDEA. But I’m assuming Miller will work his magic to switch off the defence grid…


2. How do you feel the plot line of Cibola Burns compares with the other books in the series so far? Does it feel familiar? Different?

I’m feeling a few echoes of Abaddon’s Gate (much as I did between Leviathan and Caliban) – but they feel broader: humans get out of context; humans bring their prejudices out to play; humans get surprised by the protomolecule; all hell breaks loose. We’re still deeply entrenched in corporations bad, individuals worse, and finding hope amid the flaws (Miller, Prax, Melba, Basia/Havelock).

I think Cibola Burn feels more padded than previous instalments. It feels like it set out its stall relatively early, and we’ve got stuck in familiar little iterative sub loops rather than plunge on to find the whys and wherefores. Ahem, I may just be interested in all the wrong things. Enough of the tedious damn people, MOAR ALIENS please.


3. The traditional question, how are you feeling about the POV characters now? Elvi’s “crush” on Holden? Havelock’s choices? Basia?

…I really haven’t warmed to them. Cibola Burn is The Expanse Does Angst – Elvi’s crush, Basia’s regrets (and constant self-loathing about his ‘selfish’ urges to talk to his family), Havelock’s ethical conflict (I’d like this better if it weren’t so horribly telegraphed) – I think I’m meant to be absorbed by the human journeys, but it all feels a bit hollow/unconvincing (sorry Mr Corey, you’re just not selling it to me).

And don’t get me started on ‘all you need is a good shag to sort yourself out doll’, because I nearly threw the book across the room. While I quite liked Fayez admitting how much he likes Elvi, Elvi’s subsequent epiphany about Holden just made me rage. Yes, we’re social animals. Yes, we form unlikely attachments under pressure. But you know what? Sex isn’t the only answer. And sleeping with one person to gain insight into how we feel about someone else? I can’t even. I have no idea how that’s meant to work.

(Yes, I know, my biases are showing. But all I could think through this passage was WTFF)

So mostly the characters are leaving me colder than ever.


4. What are your feelings on the world building so far? We haven’t discussed world building in a while, and Cibola Burn is bringing in a lot of new material.

I remain fascinated by Ilus. It’s feeling less than ever like a natural planet vs a heavily modified or entirely artificial environment (and given what we’ve seen of how the protomolecule works, I’m not sure there’s any way to tell the difference). I have to think from the Investigator that the explosion was – as suspected – a fusion plant going down rather than any kind of geological event; and the rest are natural consequences of that. But why? What was it for? Is this ever for anything or does the protomolecule just do stuff? And what about the dead zone already?


Other thoughts for the week…

It feels like I’m whinging a lot, but those pages are turning fast.

Quote of the week:

“Did I miss anything?” he asked.

“Science,” she said. “You missed science.”

As a random aside, I was desperately glad that Havelock called out how Chief Koenen sounds like a terrible action movie sidekick). It was bugging me until he pointed it out, and then it was just funny.


Take a tour of our responses this week:


A round-up of the weekly discussions for Book 4: