Just when you think the stakes can’t get any higher, Marco spells out his vision for the solar system and every member of the Rocinante finds themselves fighting for their survival – body and soul.

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). The questions this week are from Allie at Tethyan Books.

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

 

1. Marco has finally made his declaration. What do you think of it, and how Earth, Mars, and the Belt might respond?

OMG.

I… I have no words.

Besides, I think Alex got there first:

“When your prelude is you kill a couple billion people, anything you say is going to sound a little megalomaniacal and creepy, right?”

So, yeah. Fuck you, Marco.

I fully anticipate Chrisjen Avasarala will say this far more colourfully, and I will applaud her at every step. I’m less certain of Mars and the Belt.

 

2. It looks like most of the Rocinante are making their way to Luna! Which of the four stories is most intriguing you at this point? What are your favorite highlights?

Such a tough one – we’ve got three urgent personal stories, and then Jim as a side view into the broader context, which is fascinating in its own right (what’s going on on Medina? I need to know!)

However uncomfortable I am with the now-regular story of Naomi gets captured, oh noes, whatever will Jim do, I’m entirely here for her steadfast refusal to be a victim. Her handling of Marco and her careful plotting and execution of her message are wonderful. I am all tension and feelings every time we’re with her on the page.

Alex, on the other hand, was giving me flashbacks to Leviathan Wakes with the whole ‘trapped on a Martian naval ship as the shrapnel whizzes by’ vibe, which was super stressful. Hell, this whole week has had me nail biting and yelling as I read.

…although Amos may get my vote for favourite storyline. I do love a good post-apocalypse, and he and Peaches are handling the tropes with a tremendously amoral pragmatism that I adore.

“I should really get back to the ship soon.”

Yes, Amos. Yes, you should. Your current moral touchstone is someone who once tried to murder your whole crew in a misguided attempt to get even for the entirely reasonable prosecution of her father for crimes against humanity – and who then tried to help someone do something that could itself have wiped out humanity. Peaches has grown up a lot, but she still has moments that are far from ideal as your ethical compass (…the moment where she reflects that none of this would have happened if her father had been successful. DAMMIT Clarissa, HE WAS GROWING PROTOMOLECULE HYBRIDS, WHERE DO YOU THINK IT WOULD’VE ENDED).

 

3. All the Rocinante crew are being put through a wringer. What do you think of the choices they’ve made? e.g., do you agree with Naomi’s priorities? Are Amos’s post-apocalyptic morals justified? Is it a good thing that Holden is keeping to the mission?

I think they’re all doing fairly well in the circumstances – and maybe more to the point, they’re operating entirely within their own moral frameworks. We now understand why Naomi shies away from violent solutions; and here she goes all out to risk herself to save lives. Alex doesn’t cope well when he’s a bystander, but can’t resist the adrenalin rush of being the guy in the hot seat. Amos… well, nobody should be surprised when Amos’s response to the apocalypse is to be the toughest guy on the block, right? (I’m always keenly intrigued when Amos shows protective impulses / emotional responses to those who are troubled / in need / vulnerable – and equally now when he’s not. It never even occurs to him that Erich may be falling apart, because hey Erich’s just like him, right? No, Amos. Nobody is quite like you)

…and I’m proud of Jim for resisting the urge to white knight in to rescue Naomi. Is he right? Well, from a big picture perspective, yes, definitely. From a personal perspective? Well that’s a call I wouldn’t ever want to have to make.

 

4) The protomolecule has yet to rear its ugly head. Do you have any speculation on what Marco might be intending for it?

I am actually trying so hard not to think about this. I’ve never really got over what happened on Eros, and I don’t like to think about Marco having that to hold over someone’s head. Because I reckon he would – ‘toe the line, or we’ll mulch you’ seems right up his street.

It’s not something he can control. I don’t think he’s interested in forced human evolution. I think it’s just a threat, and I’m scared for Earth and Mars. Because he’s a complete fucking psychopath.

 

5. Seeing how the story is shaping up, which (if any) of the supporting characters do you think would make good additions to the Rocinante crew?

BOBBIE PLEASE YES BOBBIE.

Although I’m finally come around to Peaches. She made me so irritated when she was an antagonist, but I always had a little moment about the way Amos adopted her, and I’ve surprised myself by how much I’m enjoying having her back on the page.

It’s hard not to look at every POV as auditioning for a new crewmate, but I have to assume Chrisjen and Fred will both continue to have Bigger Things To Do, and I’m really not interested in Naomi recruiting Filipe or anyone else on Marco’s crew, so I’ll stick with Bobbie and Peaches.

 

Other thoughts for the week…

I found a great deal of amusement in all dealings with the Martian prime minister. He’s just such a third wheel. I can’t even remember his name (Smith? I mean, if it is, that’s so… aptly innocuous). And I was delighted that that’s just how seriously Avasarala takes him too:

“And she has offered to… I believe the phrase was massage my balls with a paint scraper if anything happened to you”

How to let a man know his place in the solar system, eh?

Last thought for the week: Jim’s hacker has found the smoking gun in the code. But how will he respond if he ever finds out that Naomi made it?

 

Take a tour of our responses this week:

 

A round-up of the weekly discussions for Book 5: