The Expanse Read-along: Babylon’s Ashes – Week 3

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

Unexpected victories drive uneasy alliances – will Marco Inaros be the unlikely catalyst that finally gets Earth, Mars, and various factions of the OPA to work together? Or are Holden and Avasarala building a house of cards that can only tumble down at the worst possible time?

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 Lisa of Over the Effing Rainbow.

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


1. The side of good takes a hit with the sudden death of Fred Johnson, but it doesn’t take long for some to start using it toward their own ends. Dawes, in particular, seems to have kingmaker aspirations that won’t wait, despite his grief. What did you make of his actions in these chapters?

Oh my word, how to win my heart. Dawes is unscrupulous and self-interested, as much a career politician as Avasarala – but he also appears to genuinely have the good of the Belt at heart. He followed Marco because he didn’t want to become irrelevant, but that hasn’t worked out for him – and he doesn’t believe it’s going to work out for the Belt either. So it’s time to stab Marco in the back.

…why do I like him for this? Well, partly because I enjoy an accomplished manipulator but mostly because he’s a kingmaker with a flexible ego. I like a character who puts their goals first. Sure, he’s playing a long game – if he can come out as a major player in the winning side, he’s all set to re-assume his central role in the OPA – but that means that first and foremost he’s actively trying to help Avasarala and Jim win, without explicitly/visibly inserting himself into the middle of things.

Yes, I expect at some point he’ll be pointing out his contribution, although… he’s wily enough to position someone else to do it for him. There are not many people the Belt will accept in a central role – he’s one of them, and he knows it – and if this alliance is solid, Avasarala and Holden will know it too. Whether from him or from one of his mouthpieces.

…not that I think Jim had any aspirations to be that lynchpin, but Avasarala might have tried to push him into it.

But I’ve always quite liked Dawes, and I’m loving seeing him more directly.

Besides, his ever-shifting presentation of Jim Holden to the OPA bigwigs was downright hilarious.


2. Filip appears to be sliding further toward realising just where, precisely, he really stands with Marco. Do you think he’ll slide the rest of the way there before it’s too late to do anything? For that matter, given our general attitudes toward him so far, do you feel more sympathy for him now?

…no. I get to say this every week, right? No, no, no.

Great, he’s realising his Dad is an asshole. He’s beginning to hear his mother’s voice in his head and realising she’s not talking shit. But he’s still not regretting any of his actions; the twinges of guilt are still self-indulgent rather than acknowledging what he has done or seeing his victims’ humanity. I know he’s only 16 so I can’t expect much in the way of self-awareness, but I can’t feel sorry for him given his choices.

I can just hate Marco a bit more for being everything we’ve been told he is.

(I’m still not convinced Filip will come around to changing his views on Naomi; I can see him sliding all the way into hating Marco and trying to kill him in a fit of rage/revenge for how he has treated Filip. That won’t actually improve my opinion of him very much either)


3. With Avasarala’s massive (and massively ambitious) attack upon the Free Navy underway, plans are already having to be altered – though Captain Pa is altering them because of her conscience, rather than (arguably) out of necessity. Did she do the right thing with the Solano, or do you think it will only come back to bite her?

I adore Pa. I love her complicated marriage (being Captain and wife? Yeesh). I love her complicated allegiances. I love her willingness to step back from her loyalties, examine her conscience and change her mind (although if I were Avasarala I’d be rightly annoyed).

SOMEONE HAS A CONSCIENCE. This is everything to me.

She is absolutely embracing her Robin Hood role with aplomb – refusing to commit civilian casualties, finding other ways to make it work – I adore it.

…and yes, I’m sure it will come back to bite her. Whether indirectly (she’s had to leave an ally behind, and they’ve all got more damage and less ammo than they should for their next engagement) or directly (I don’t trust Rosenfeld).


4. It’s all on the line now, so I have to ask: Do you have any predictions? Desired outcomes? Possibly any POVs remaining you’d like to see before it’s all over?

I actually don’t. I am buckled up and ready for the rollercoaster, and I’m refusing to brace myself because honestly it could go in any which direction next. Big space battle? Aliens in the gate? Random left-field catastrophe (for pretty much anyone)? It’s all possible. And then some.



5. Did anything else of note stand out to you this week? Here is your highlighting/flailing space

Avasarala’s relationship with her gym instructor had me in stitches. Is me. Or would be if I went to the gym / had a trainer. But Avasarala’s conversation with her minion was even better – forcing him to face the consequences of his decisions, refusing to let him drown her in detail, willing in the end to validate his decision but leaving them both clear that really, he’s the expert. It’s his call, and her sign off. They both get to share those consequences. She ended up feeling like a bad person for not making him feel better about things, but she hasn’t been a terrible leader/manager here – not the best, but not the worst. And I think her staff know that. Gorman (and it’s never going to get old that they called someone Gorman) may not appreciated it, but Said is getting nearly as thick-skinned as the old lady herself – good on him for bullying her right back and letting Kiki in to see her.

I wasn’t sure what Amos could add to the drama with a POV this time around until we got it and OH MY WORD I was on the edge of my seat.

“But that was the righteous thing to do,” Amos said. He didn’t want it to sound like anything was riding on it.

Amos potentially questioning how he regards Jim? Whether he can trust Jim’s judgement? That’s HUGE and could have ended… well, very badly. This is Amos, after all.

…and one tiny moment. Clarissa claiming her place as crew. Awwwwww.


Take a tour of our responses this week:


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