Humanity has settled the stars. Earth has almost recovered from the Free Navy’s genocidal assault. The Alliance have nearly rebuilt their depleted navies. The Belters’ Transport Union controls traffic to all the colonies beyond the Gates. Except one. And the Gate to Laconia is about to re-open. Mars’s wayward children are ready to return, and they have their own vision for the future of humanity…

Welcome back to The Expanse Read-along! We will be reading Persepolis Rising across the next 4 weeks, and blogging weekly in response to a host’s prompts. Expect enthusiasm and/or ranting – if you fancy joining in, the schedule is at the bottom of this post – just grab a copy and read along (you don’t have to keep to the time table). I’m this week’s host, so let’s get right to it!

Be warned – There Will Be Spoilers.

 

1. The more things change, the more they stay the same. How do you feel about jumping forward 30 years? …and about where/how we find the Solar system and the Rocinante’s crew? 

My jaw dropped when it was casually mentioned it was 30 years later, then my brain scrambled to figure out how old everyone would be and what to expect (sadly, I assume this means we’ll see no more of Avasarala). I’m delighted that the peace hammered out at the end of Babylon’s Ashes has held, and that humanity is on the edge of flourishing (I’m so curious about the void cities!). And, I’m a little sad that having had enough time to find their feet, it looks like everyone is about to start throwing their weight around to test the boundaries and hunt for influence.

…I’ll also admit to being a bit surprised that 30 years later, there are still only 6 people aboard the Rocinante. What happened to filling out the crew? On the other hand, it is – of course – lovely to see them as tight-knit a family as ever (and hooray, we have a Bobbie POV!) – but I quickly found myself drowning in feelings as the narrative focused on how they were ageing (they were slightly younger than me in the first 5 books; now… I’m confronting mortality. Yay). And then there’s Peaches, slowly dying from her implants. SO. MANY. FEELINGS. This one is going to be a(nother) helluva ride, I suspect.

 

2. …and what are your first impressions of Laconia?

Oh, hell.

Actually, that’s pretty much it. I’ll never get past that historically, Laconia’s capital was Sparta (so that’s not just a Gate, in my head, it’s now a Hot Gate) – and here we have a military dictatorship that appears to be rapidly expanding its definition of justice to ensure a ready supply of people to feed to the protomolecule. Oh, and it wants an immortal leader to ensure it can provide strong and stable leadership to humanity?

Oi.

I find it deeply unnerving that they’ve built a city to support a population – and govern an empire –  that doesn’t exist. It’s visionary; it could be admirable – but then you think of just how hard settling a colony has been on every other world and consider the amount of effort that has been put in and I can’t help but wonder what the toll on the civilian population has been (actually, I want to know where the civilian population came from, too – Duarte led a significant fraction of the Martian Navy, but I wasn’t aware of him bringing civilians along for the ride. Partners and children? I have all the world-building questions).

But they’ve achieved an awful lot in 30 years. I clearly underestimated how many people went to Laconia and how much stuff they took with them (tech resources and raw materials). And I guess the threat of being fed to the protomolecule would be highly motivating…

The whole set up is terrifying, frankly.

 

3. Did you see Holden’s actions coming? Do you think he’ll stick with his decision now the circumstances have changed?

Ah, time may have flown, but Jim Holden will always be Jim Holden. And Jim Holden has never been a man to let 300 people die because their elected leadership made a bad decision; he’s always been the man who would point out they were making terrible choices and give them a chance to make better ones.

Where he has changed (since Leviathan, at least) is that he can see Drummer’s perspective and he doesn’t think she’s an evil tyrant on account of it; he’s just not the man to enforce it. That’s why he only gives Freehold 12 hours. He could have given them 24 hours, and it sounds like it would have sufficed to allow her to respond (…so comms have speeded right up over the past 30 years, right?) – but then he’d have had to do something Jim Holden just can’t do.

And in spite of all that, I didn’t expect him to walk away. I thought he and Naomi were beginning a protracted conversation that would get derailed by the arrival of the Heart of the Tempest (say this for the Laconians, they have EPIC ship names). I’m not surprised the crew were happy with his suggestion that Bobbie step into the captain’s shoes (nor that she will in some ways make a better captain because of course she will), but I guess I will be surprised if he manages to stay away given the new circumstances.

But will Bobbie step aside for him? Will Holden slide back into the XO role? Or are we about to see our crew split up again? I HAVE NO IDEA AND I NEED TO KNOW ALL THE THINGS. AAAAH.

 

4. How do you think Drummer will react to the Laconian ultimatum? What about the Earth/Martian Alliance and the colony planets?

Actually, my main concern is that Drummer’s instinctive response will be ‘brilliant, someone else wants to be the Intergalactic Police’. She’s hard-nosed, with no qualms about harsh decisions – so… she might just go along with them?

…but I can’t imagine Earth or Mars will give up without a fight (and while the colonies can’t really fight, they’re going to strop and resist – at least initially), so it becomes a question of consequences. Can the Tempest alone cow the entire Navy? Are the Laconians – like the Free Navy – willing to embrace even more drastic measures than disintegrating ships? (I’m pretty sure they are) Just how big a target can they disintegrate anyway? I… am thinking this is not going to pretty.

 

Other thoughts for the week…

Bobbie has showed in previous novels that she’s very perceptive, and she’s right back at it in Persepolis Rising. I loved her thumbnail sketches of Holden –

He projected selfless heroism on everyone because that’s what he wanted to see in people. It was the same thing that caused most of the problems in his life

and

He was the guy who drank too much coffee, got enthusiastic about weird things, and always seemed quietly worried that he would compromise his own idiosyncratic and unpredictable morality.

I also loved how naturally she stepped back into command, her concern for the crew and her quiet horror that Holden had never had that conversation with Clarissa. Because of course he hasn’t. And Clarissa’s response pretty much broke me: she talked to Amos instead, and he’ll make it easy for her when the time comes. Because of course he will. Oh, Amos.

I think I might be in little pieces by the end of this arc.

I have one last thought rattling around in my skull: I wonder where Filip is. Because if there was ever a time for big heroic gestures to balance out unforgivable sins, I think it’s coming now.

 

Take a tour of our responses this week:

 

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