Tiamat's Wrath

It's not exactly breaking news, I know, but James S. A. Corey's Hugo-nominated and New York Times-bestselling Expanse sequence is the very best ongoing science fiction series out there. No doubt about it, this continues to be space opera on a grand scale and as good as anything written by celebrated genre powerhouses like Peter F. Hamilton, Iain M. Banks, Ian McDonald, and Alastair Reynolds.

Given that Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, the two authors behind this pseudonym, have often stated that the Expanse would likely be comprised of nine installments, it felt as though Babylon's Ashes marked the end of the series' first story arc and that everything which would come after would take us toward a promising endgame. Considering the amount of disparate storylines involved, I was curious to see how the authors would bridge the gap between the two arcs in Persepolis Rising. And like most readers, I was shocked to realize that the seventh volume occurred three decades into the future. There was a brief moment of panic at the beginning, but each new chapter demonstrated that this jump ahead in the timeline had been necessary. And when all was said and done, Persepolis Rising turned out even better than Nemesis Games, which up until that point had been my favorite book thus far!

Tiamat's Wrath is another action-packed and dramatic novel, the culmination of a panoply of multilayered storylines that come together at last to set the stage for what should be a memorable grand finale. And believe you me: It doesn't get much better than this!

Here's the blurb:

The eighth book in the NYT bestselling Expanse series, Tiamat’s Wrath finds the crew of the Rocinante fighting an underground war against a nearly invulnerable authoritarian empire, with James Holden a prisoner of the enemy. Now a Prime Original series.

Thirteen hundred gates have opened to solar systems around the galaxy. But as humanity builds its interstellar empire in the alien ruins, the mysteries and threats grow deeper.

In the dead systems where gates lead to stranger things than alien planets, Elvi Okoye begins a desperate search to discover the nature of a genocide that happened before the first human beings existed, and to find weapons to fight a war against forces at the edge of the imaginable. But the price of that knowledge may be higher than she can pay.

At the heart of the empire, Teresa Duarte prepares to take on the burden of her father’s godlike ambition. The sociopathic scientist Paolo Cortázar and the Mephistophelian prisoner James Holden are only two of the dangers in a palace thick with intrigue, but Teresa has a mind of her own and secrets even her father the emperor doesn’t guess.

And throughout the wide human empire, the scattered crew of the Rocinante fights a brave rear-guard action against Duarte’s authoritarian regime. Memory of the old order falls away, and a future under Laconia’s eternal rule — and with it, a battle that humanity can only lose — seems more and more certain. Because against the terrors that lie between worlds, courage and ambition will not be enough…

As I mentioned in my review of Persepolis Rising, we certainly have come a very long way since Leviathan Wakes. Of course, we've always known that everything was connected. That goes without saying. The seventh installment was the first one to weave elements from all previous books into a convoluted tapestry of plotlines. And things that made little or no sense before now played an important role in the overall plot. The same can be said of Tiamat's Wrath, which takes everything a step further. But although this new novel connects more of the dots, it nevertheless raises even more questions as the story progresses. There is a definite sense throughout that Tiamat's Wrath marks the beginning of the end for the Expanse. And à la George R. R. Martin and Robin Hobb, it's obvious that Abraham and Franck don't intend to make it easy for us to say goodbye to these characters. The proverbial shit may have hit the fan in many of these books, yet the authors appear to have quite a lot of fireworks planned for what's coming.

The Laconian Empire now controls the access to the thirteen hundred systems lying beyond the gates. The years of research High Consul Duarte commissioned regarding the protomolecule provided his military forces with the most advanced spacecrafts ever developed, and the man is using that same technology in an attempt to achieve immortality. Having subdued the might of both Earth and Mars seemingly effortlessly, it appears that nothing can stand against Laconia's rule. But mankind is nothing if not resilient and several freedom fighters are bidding their time, waiting for their chance to strike. And when the ancient alien civilization that wiped out the one which created the gates and the strange technological remains they left behind reacts to Laconian acts of aggression against them, this tips the balance and may provide the opportunity the rebels have been waiting for.

As always, the characterization remains the aspect which makes the Expanse such a remarkable read. True, the series is about grand and far-reaching ideas and concepts. But it's the interaction between the protagonists as they deal with what's taking place that elevates these books to another level. In the past, each volume featured a more or less tight focus spread across a limited number of points of view and the same can be said of Tiamat's Wrath. Once again, this allow readers to live vicariously through these perspectives. Old favorites such as James Holden, Bobbie Draper, Alex, and Naomi return as POV protagonists. Another familiar face, Elvi Okoye, makes a comeback and plays a major role in this new volume. Teresa Duarte, the High Consul's young daughter, offers the only new point of view and it's an interesting one. Little do we know that this lonely girl's storyline would become so important down the line. As a matter of course, given the nature of this series it's evident that there will be casualties before we reach its end. So prepare youself for some heartbreaking moments that pack a powerful emotional punch. I had not realized just how attached I had grown to certain characters and losing them hurt more than I expected. And I reckon it will hurt even more before reaching the last page of the final volume.

In terms of rhythm, like its predecessor Tiamat's Wrath is paced to perfection. It's not a fast-paced affair, but the novel remains a true page-turner. It starts slowly and build steadily toward another spectacular endgame and finale. And as much as I loved every minute of it, I couldn't help but feel a bit saddened by the fact that the end is now in sight. As I eagerly gear up for the last installment, a part of me wishes the Expanse wouldn't end. Such compelling SFF series are so few and far between, one would hope that they could last longer. Alas. . .

In the end, Tiamat's Wrath is another sprawling novel that is vast in scope and vision. The Expanse sequence, with its passionate and captivating characters, with its textured, detailed, and thoroughly imagined worlds, continues to be the most satisfying science fiction saga on the market and is shaping up to be one of the very best space opera series of all time. Perhaps the best.

And unless George R. R. Martin and/or Patrick Rothfuss surprise us by publishing the highly anticipated next installment in their respective series, Tiamat's Wrath will be the SFF book to read in 2019. As things stand, this novel sits comfortably in pole position and it will take something really special to dethrone it.

The final verdict: 9.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

1 commentaires:

Fred said...

Good to know it's still good. I'm in the middle of the fifth one (in French) and I really like it. I must suggest Cowboy Bepop to anyone that like this SciFi setting.