The Expanse Read-along: Babylon’s Ashes – Week 2

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

The fall out just keeps on falling out as rocks continue to shower the Earth, and shaky alliances begin to crumble. This week is all about moments of tension contrasted with moments of pure humanity as we see what makes people tick, what they value and what they’re prepared to do for what they believe in.

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 Sarah of The Illustrated Page.

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


1. So far we’ve gotten POVs from Namono, Pa, Filip, Holden, Salis, Clarissa, Dawes, Avasarala, Prax, Alex, Naomi, Jakulski, Fred, and Bobbie. Do you have any favorites? Least favorites? Of the characters who’s POVs we haven’t gotten yet in Babylon’s Ashes, who do you most want to see?

I always enjoy our old friends aboard the Rocinante, and it’s a treat to get to visit with the political movers and shakers – but I’m really enjoying Pa’s chapters. I’m not getting a lot out of the chapters aboard Medina, but they remind me of Holden’s broadcasts – a glimpse of the Belters who are aren’t really Free Navy, but are along for the ride. All human, all living as best they can, with no influence and limited understanding of the bigger picture.

Prax also fell into this category for me until this week – but sending out that data is likely to have major repercussions both for him and for humanity – it’s a little step towards heroism and, I suspect, one the Free Navy will feel they have to punish. And of course, Medina is positioned to be crucial to the plot we’re not talking about – the power beyond the Gates. An awful lot has been made of those rail guns. Gotta think that’s going to be important at some point.

In terms of who we haven’t seen that I’d like to see – actually, I’m not pining for anyone. Not even Amos – he’s not really in a situation where it’s the most fun to see his POV at the moment.

Tell you what, though. I could stand to not read Filip. I’m still too angry with that one to want to be in his head.
2. Marco’s left Ceres. Is this a smart move? Is he abandoning the people of the Belt? And what do you think has happened to Dawes?

…I actually hadn’t noticed that Dawes had disappeared – we’ve not heard from him for a while, but with all the Free Navy burning out in the dark, it hadn’t occurred to me that this was unusual. I’m assuming he’s en route somewhere – and I also wonder whether he will eventually flip allegiances. He’s a pragmatist much like Fred or Avasarala – he’s backed Marco because Marco has power, but he clearly disapproved of Marco’s choices on Ceres and I could see him coming round to Pa’s point of view.

As for Marco leaving Ceres, sure it’s tactically astute – he doesn’t actually have the firepower to gain advantages from concentrating it on a few places (and if he were going to, then Ceres isn’t actually a great choice – Ganymede or Pallas would make more sense). From a PR perspective, it’s a risk. He’s abandoning Belters to the Inners, but so far he’s spinning it well. It’s amazing what you can get away with if you start out by murdering billions of people.

But yes, he’s abandoning them. This is a game to him. He claims it’s in the Belters’ interests, but they’re not real people to him any more than Earthers are. They’re a story he tells himself, and therefore expendable. Because the individuals who die don’t matter as much as the outcome.

Can you tell I’m angry? I’m really angry.

Abandoning Ceres was one thing. Destroying it and venting the water – whilst leaving millions of people behind? That shows Marco’s true colours.

Fuck you, Marco.
3. Pa’s got a temporary truce of sorts with the OPA. Do you think accepting her supplies is the moral thing to do, or is it condoning piracy? And who do you think fired on Pa when she was with the Rocinante?

Eh, it’s condoning piracy and it’s the right thing to do when you desperately need supplies regardless of the source to feed people who are otherwise going to starve. That’s no comfort to the colonists she’s stealing from, but when I hear about colony ships who are actually financed by RCE and the mega corps? I’m fine with that.

There’s a little voice in the back of my head that will argue the toss, of course. You could spend every colony ship’s supplies shoring up Ceres, Earth and the Belt – but will it be enough to stabilise the situation and get them producing their own food again? And if it won’t, is there any point? Wouldn’t it be better to load every ship and point it through the Gates?

…and then you remember what’s beyond the Gates, and what a lottery it is to let anything sail through them. So yeah, steal from the corporations and feed the starving. Save every life you can.

I’m assuming it was nobody we know that fired on Pa, by the way. Just faceless Free Navy sympathisers. It’s the sort of assumption that’s likely to come back and bite me when they (try to?) reclaim Ceres from Fred though, isn’t it?
4. Filip appears to be having some unusual feelings. Do you think he’s any closer this week to edging towards redemption?

I really don’t give a flying fuck what Filip feels. He appears to be a raging mass of teenage hormones, something he’d never recognise as guilt, and a seething desire to blow more people up. Fuck him. I’d quite cheerfully see him out an airlock.



You know how I’ve disliked POV characters before?

Way fiercer this time.
5. Prax’s home is unofficially being occupied by the Free Navy, and he went and sent potentially lifesaving information to Earth. Do you think this is going to come back to hurt him?

Oh hell yes. And I feel so bad for him. He’s my counterpoint to Basia in so many ways – he keeps his head down, protects his family, doesn’t try to control his beloved daughter, wants to get on with his job – and now he’s had a chance to do something enormous, he’s done something enormously good.

See, Basia?

Not missing his self-pitying POVs, that’s for sure.
Other thoughts for the week…
A round-up of my favourite moments this week: Alex having a Captain Tightpants moment when Bobbie told Sandra there’d been a night on Mars when she would have made out with him if he’d asked


“Touch those fire controls, and you will kill us all. Do you understand, Mr Evans? Everyone you love will die, and it will be your fault”

I can’t begin to express how much I loved Pa in this moment. The complexity of crew and family and marriage all wrapped up into one remorseless order that cut her husband no slack whatsoever.

Fred drinking Jim’s whiskey (which is a perfect reversal from previous books, when Jim used to go see Fred on Tycho).

Marco referencing Moby Dick and having no idea what he was saying. I sort of hope for narrative purposes this is entirely prophetic (sorry Fred, I realise that doesn’t bode well for you either).

Take a tour of our responses this week:


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