The Expanse Read-along: Persepolis Rising – Week 3

Book cover: Persepolis Rising - James S A Corey (who would have guessed - it's a close up of a spaceship in flight)Everything comes at a price. As Saba and the resistance put Bobbie’s plans into action, Singh tries to reconcile his authoritarian instincts with his idea of the man he is – and who he would like to be. Meanwhile, Drummer and the coalition must try to contain the Heart of the Tempest – and its terrifying weapon.

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. We Need To Talk About Amos: Well that was explosive. Thoughts

OMG I thought I was worried about Amos at the start of the week – but by the time we had him staring at Peaches and thinking about to kill her (and not in a mercy killing sort of way), I was cowering in a corner. This is the Amos we’ve seen glimpses of in his ruthlessly efficient violence, but we’ve never seen it on such unrestrained display. Murdersnuggles: sometimes it’s just Murder.

First things first: let’s talk about the early confrontation with Bobbie in the shelter just before the bombs went off. This was a masterpiece of preparation for me, because it sizzled with high-stakes tension without very much actually being said. It rested on 6 previous books of character development to layer up our understandings of who these people are. 30 years on, Amos still looks to Naomi (because everybody does, because of course they do) to give him the right answers. But Holden is his Captain and his guiding star; Naomi is just his conscience. And Bobbie is muscling in – literally (and at least initially with everyone’s full buy-in, FFS) – on Holden’s role.

I honestly wasn’t sure who would come out top in his fight with Bobbie at the end – I half expected it to end only because Naomi walked in – and I’m not sure I buy that he fought her because he knew she could win (although: <3). He didn’t seem that in control – or aware – in the lead up to that scene for that, although I usually credit him with pretty good self-awareness. And his comments afterwards – about not knowing how to handle wanting something – cut to the heart. Amos can’t handle feelings, who knew. Well, everyone, obviously. He only has one way of dealing with things. Now he’s let off some steam, can he be trusted not to go off the rails though? I’m not sure.

 

2. Under Pressure: Singh grapples with his authoritarian impulses as his anxieties increase. Which instincts do you think will win out?

Speaking of trust issues, enter Santiago Singh. The more I see of this one, the less I like him or trust him to ever do the right thing. He wants to be a Good Person for his family, but he also wants to be a Good Officer. He’s a bundle of terror – of being seen as weak, of failing, of being hurt or killed – and he’s in command of a terrifying military force.

And he’s so naive. He’s an occupying force, and he can never quite cling on to the idea that maybe – just maybe – these Belters owe him and the Laconian Empire no loyalty. He slips so quickly into considering them ignorant, ungrateful and disloyal for resenting that they’ve been invaded, put under curfew, and given death threats. I get that he believes the Grand Vision will make their lives better in the long run, but right now he’s done literally nothing to improve their lives. Honestly, for all his Doing It By The Book, he’s regularly forgetting half the chapters. And expecting loyalty to an invading power is just bonkers.

Which brings me back to his fear. By the end of the week he is still seeing executing every single Belter on Medina as the easiest if most distasteful solution to his problems. Genocide. It’s a thing he can bring himself to do because he’s a Believer. TERRIFYING MUCH. Yeah, go ahead and bottle up so many of my authority issues in one character, thanks.

…none of which makes me feel better about Duarte’s intentions. As Lisa pointed out last week, Duarte must have had a good sense that Singh would respond like this given his track record; and Trejo will certainly have reported back on how things are heading. But Duarte is letting him run with it. I guess I didn’t really need reminding that Duarte places no value on human life – but what is his game here?

 

3. Inside Man: So we have a traitor in the heart of the underground. What do you think will happen?

I HATE knowing who a traitor is. It jacks up tensions in a way I just don’t handle very well. It’s a totally effective device, but I prefer to know there is one and to second guess who it may be than to have the toe-curling horror of have him try to make friendly with all my favourites. Just a personal preference.

…and I have a bad feeling that this will ultimately lead to a scene in which Peaches activates her implants, which will probably kill her.

 

4. At Last (The Shadow of the Past): The mysterious antagonists are back! …or their (automated?) tech is. Where do you think Trejo picked up his passenger? What do you think is going on?

EPIC FLAILING RIGHT HERE. We’ve had so much foreshadowing about the Protomolecular Masters’ Antagonists and somehow I totally missed that the MacGuffin on Ilus was theirs. Was that just me? I mean, I was so irritated with Cibola Burn I was basically skimming to the end – but I guess I can’t keep my promise to myself to skip it on a future reread!

So I’m right back to where I was about the Monster In The Gates, where I eventually figured it might be an in-built security feature after chasing excitedly after the idea of OOOH ANCIENT ANTAGONIST IS THAT YOU (yes, I’ve been keen to see the Big Scary since we first learned about them). The mysterious Switch-Off Bubble of Gloom could simply be lingering tech that self-generates when triggered (say, by using magnetic superpowers in the slow zone).

We’ve had it spelled out repeatedly that the slow zone operates under totally different laws, so my money is that this is an artefact of using the orbital construction platforms above Laconia (and no, I hadn’t realised until this week that those weren’t human-built. Oops) – so it will infect all the big scary Laconian capital ships. Which is awfully convenient (…if hardly the first time Corey has written his way out of an impossible conflict with a curveball). And well-played Ancient Antagonists for ensuring your enemies wouldn’t be able to continue using their tech against you.

On the other hand, the Laconian tech works just fine in the slow zone, so that doesn’t help Medina once the Eye of the Typhoon gets there …and potentially still leaves a zero-sum option to the Laconians, given Singh’s calculations about what happens when you fire on the hub in the slow zone. We know the “boiling space” vaporised ships in the slow zone – we don’t know what will happen as the phenomenon expands in normal space. Will that summon the Antagonists? Will Avasarala get proven right that ‘they’re all us’ by having something epically (is that a word?) alien show up and teach everyone a lesson? And what should we take from the fact that people get ‘switched off’ – is that just a sign that humanity is frail, or is that a tiny clue that maybe – just maybe – there’s some alien engineering on board in all of us?

All the flails. I have no clue, although my instinct is that Corey typically takes the simplest route in the end – so the tech will be dormant / self-triggering; humanity just don’t physically cope with crazy-ass non-locative effects; but this will provide Drummer and our crew their chance to push back on the Laconian advance in some way; and we won’t see any Ancient Antagonists.

 

Any other thoughts? 

NOOOOOOOOO DON’T SEND HOLDEN TO DUARTE OMFG <- I am still irrationally nervous about Holden finding out about the pens. Because the only outcome there would seem to be Holden dying badly trying to Do Something. Given he’s in no position to do anything right now, this all remains terribly academic.

Last thought: how on earth will all this get resolved in one more week? …but I think I think that every single time.

Actually, not the last thought. Next last thought: hey, they’re getting to rescue Holden for once. He made his white knight play so early, he gets to be the damsel in distress too. Sweet. Although the Expanse has been good about letting damsels rescue themselves, which… he may have to do, given the Plan is already utterly derailed and our crew just don’t know it yet.

Another thought (I should ditch the last at this point): battle armour kill codes seems… horribly convenient. I have to assume this will blow up in their face; but I really hope it doesn’t, because I love the optics.

 

Take a tour of our responses this week:

  • Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow
  • Sarah at The Illustrated Page
  • Allie at Tethyan Books
  • Feel free to join in in the comments on our blogs or on Goodreads – but no spoilers!

 

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