The Expanse Read-along: Babylon’s Ashes – Week 1

Banner: Babylon's Ashes Read-along (a close-up of the side of a space ship all massive metalwork)

In the aftermath of Marco Inaros’s devastating assault on Earth, all alliances look unsurprisingly fragile as every player in the solar system jockeys for position. While billions starve and the few control the future of the many, will anyone realise that – against all odds – humanity may not be the greatest threat to its own survival?

Welcome to the SciFi Month edition of The Expanse 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 of Tethyan Books.

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


1. We have a very different approach for viewpoint characters in this book! Do you like the change to having many different perspectives? Is there any one that stood out to you in particular?

Oh my. Finding out who your POVs are going to be is always a bit like opening Christmas presents (and trying to make happy faces at the socks), but this time we’re being spoilt! I was delighted to meet Nono in the prologue (although sad as I assume this means no Anna), and actually squealed when I saw Pa.

I may have done more squeaking for Peaches and Chrissie – but I’m resisting scrolling down the chapter list to see who else might be waiting down the line for us! And while I’m loving visiting with old friends, having so many POVs does mean we’re not spending very much time with each of them, which is sad.

So far, I’m probably enjoying Michio Pa the most. I liked her in Abaddon’s Gate and she’s an intriguing mix of technical competence and terrible judgement. And now she’s going to be a space pirate with her many wives and husbands. HALLO I’M HERE FOR THIS.


2. We’re also beginning to see a bit more into the “Free Navy” ranks. What do you think of the people who have thrown their loyalty to Marco, and is his charisma is enough to keep the group from collapsing?

Oh my word it’s going to implode all over the place. They’re all guarding their backs, jealous of their influence and utterly distrustful. Dawes is sure Marco has it in for him; Sanjrani think he’s an idiot; Rosenfeld feels like he’s biding his time to make a move; and Pa already has. If Marco isn’t keeping them close because he needs to keep an eye on them, he should be. But it’s hard to tell just how total Marco’s god complex really is. But I don’t think any of the inner circle are taken in by his charisma at all – I think they’re just wary of the influence he has on everyone else; and I think they’d cheerfully turn on him given half a chance.


3. There’s still some discussion of the Rocinante crew. Do you agree with Holden’s perspective on Clarissa and Bobbie?

…I understand why Holden struggles to accept Clarissa, and is loathe to make her family. I think it will take something exceptional to turn him around; and I like that he’s honest enough with himself that he can acknowledge he’s uncomfortable treating her differently to Bobbie.

I also don’t think Clarissa would actually mind being treated differently – neither self-knowledge nor self-loathing are buried deep within her – but I think Amos might mind. And that’s not a fight you pick casually. Speaking of which, I don’t think Holden’s honest with himself about Amos. He just didn’t know what Amos was capable of until after he’d got to know and love him.

I’m not convinced Bobbie would accept the invitation though, so the point may be moot.

However, in my heart of hearts I’m hoping Clarissa gets the chance to redeem herself and wins Holden over. Which is remarkable, given how little I liked her in Abaddon’s Gate.


4. Two sections have featured the inner thoughts of two people responsible for many deaths—Filip and Clarissa. What do you think of them now, and do you believe they are redeemable?

I have been won over by Clarissa. I still think she’s got terrible judgement – and I’m sure she has vast capacity for making more decisions that disappoint me – but I think she genuinely regrets her actions and has become a more interesting character the further she’s gone on her journey.

That doesn’t make what she did okay. She killed a friend in cold blood. She kill hundreds (thousands?) to make a point. But I have come to enjoy spending time with her; or at least to enjoy her relationship with Amos (who may not have thousands of lives on his conscience, but probably does have hundreds. Pet psychopaths. Who can tell?)

Filip… well, there was a moment where I almost felt sorry for Filip, then I remembered he casually committed genocide and I got over it. Then he casually shot a station guard and confirmed all my worst misgivings about him (and OMG Marco’s response made me SO ANGRY). I think he’s young and stupid and given to acting out and that he doesn’t respect or value human life. And I don’t have a lot of time for any of that.

I’d like to think he’s angry with his father, but I think he’s still under his spell.

Nobody’s irredeemable, but – no, wait, yes they are. There is nothing Filip can do that will make up for what he has already done. He can do good things. He can give his own life to save others. These are the tiniest gestures. They can’t even the score. He killed 20 billion people.

So far, I’m not seeing any signs that I’m going to start enjoying his company. But you never know.


Other thoughts for the week…

Several of my favourite moments in the whole series happened this week, which is saying something.

Husband and wife seems like a less interesting and committed relationship than Holden and Naomi

…um, it me. Seventeen years since we met (and over sixteen years since we got together), and I love that we choose to be together every day. I may have had a little moment. There’s not a lot of stirring fictional romances that celebrate this.

Then there was Naomi and Holden talking about Amos

“You know he could tear your throat out, but he’s loyal to a fault and you just want to hug him”

…which just sort of sums up how we all feel, right?

And last but not least, possibly my favouritest scene in the whole Expanse to date, for perfectly capturing all our favourite characters in microcosm: the bit where Holden got all up his high horse about not following a commander’s order, much to Avasarala’s amusement, right up until Bobbie – with such understatement – told him whose orders they would be. And then Amos and Avasarala trade snark. It’s just perfection.


Take a tour of our responses this week:


A round-up of the weekly discussions for Book 6: