GNBC: Leviathan Wakes


Okay, let me start this third post in the GeekyNerdy Book Club by saying that I’ve really enjoyed all three of the books we’ve read so far. Each one has been very different from the last, which has helped keep things interesting. That said, Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey was a real trip!

First of all, it took me a little while to get into the swing of things and I actually had to restart it after I took a quick break to read Masque, a breezy retelling of Beauty and the Beast (thanks for the recommendation Mei-Mei!). A few chapters in though, I was hooked and got really nervous about spoiling anything, so I consciously avoided any synopses of the other books in the series, just in the off-chance that they might reveal something about Leviathan that I hadn’t read yet! (I’m a little less paranoid about that now.)

I was also a bit distracted by the incorrect pluralizations of words ending in “-s” (admittedly, a tough thing to get right) and Corey’s near-constant use of “he said, she said” to set off his dialogue. (After listening to Carole Barrowman caution against this kind of phrasing during a panel on writing at this year’s AwesomeCon, I don’t think I’ll be able to not notice that!)

Overall though, Leviathan Wakes was a really fun read. It was well-paced, and the author’s (technically, authors’) decision to alternate each chapter between the two main characters often left me wanting to read more, just so I could get back to the other story line! There were also several moments when I was convinced that I knew where the story was headed and then it went in a completely different direction! It was slightly maddening, but I really appreciated the fact that I was kept guessing.

I was also intrigued by the fact that the book asked, or at least posed, some rather provocative and philosophical questions about the nature of humanity and humans’ role/place in the universe, as well as secrecy and the need for greater transparency.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I think books can’t ask some of these more complicated questions. It’s just that I wasn’t expecting them from a space opera!

1/2. For example, the first question that came to mind as I was reading Leviathan Wakes came early on, when I got to Detective Miller’s description of everything passing through Ceres’ ports on page 19. While it’s a little unclear if all of those goods were being delivered to Ceres to keep it going or were just on the “road” to somewhere else, to know that foods, metals, and even power sources had to be transported across the solar system made me wonder: Is it really worth it? And if, in the future, we are able to sustain life on some distant planet, would you be one of the people “to boldly go where no man has gone before?”

Personally, my answers are no and no. That’s mostly because 1) it seems like it would be extremely expensive, especially if most of your common goods are being shipped in from millions of miles away, and 2) I’ve always been more likely to ask, “Just because we can, should we?,” than to say, “Sign me up!” But as Captain James Holden notes on page 513, humans are “curious monkeys,” so I understand the desire to reach for the stars and see what things like the protomolecule can do. And I likely would be interested to see the results too; I just wouldn’t be in the vanguard of figuring it out!

3. I was also struck by Miller’s internal debate on page 284 about when someone stops being human. After shooting several of the thugs posing as security officers on Eros, and subsequently reviewing his actions (at Holden’s prompting), Miller thinks that there must be some sort of moment, some singular decision, that marks the change, but I wonder if it is really all that clear cut. As someone who has never, thank goodness, been in a life-or-death situation, I really can’t answer that except to say, I think it depends. I’m sure there are certain actions/moments that are so horrific that you can never go back, while there are others – for instance, war – that could eat away at someone’s soul slowly and be more like a “death by a thousand cuts.”

4. Corey uses Holden and Miller as great foils for each other throughout the book, but I was most struck by their conversation about transparency on pages 328–9. Miller, as a now former detective, argues that one should wait to say anything on anything until he/she has all of the facts. Holden retorts that he’s not building a case and that “if everyone knows everything, nothing stays secret.”

While it seems pretty straightforward to ask you who you think is right, truthfully, I come down somewhere in the middle on this. I certainly agree with Holden (and Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis) that sunlight is the best disinfectant, when it comes to matters of war, Miller has a point and being more circumspect with your findings is likely the safer, better option.

But what about you? What sorts of questions ran across your mind as you read Leviathan Wakes? Where some of them similar to the ones I had, or did they go in a completely different direction? Please share in the comments below!

Lastly, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about our next read and while I normally give you guys a few options, this time, I’m making an executive decision! For September, we will be reading Jill Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman. This is another book that I’ve started and stopped, but I really do want to finish it! And with the trailer for the Wonder Woman movie dropping at Comic Con last week, it seemed like an appropriate choice. Plus, it’s out in paperback! So come back here on September 8 for that discussion, and as always, feel free to share any additional recommendations that you may have!

7 thoughts on “GNBC: Leviathan Wakes

  1. So glad you liked Masque!
    LW was a re-read for me, but I still enjoyed it the second time. My husband and I have been watching the TV adaptation, and I got him to read it with me. 🙂 I’ll try to get my post up for next week.

    The Wonder Woman book sounds great for our next pick!

    1. Hahaha, nice!! I’m still trying to get the Mysterious Mr. C to read a book with me and participate in the book club, but everything has been an absolute non-starter -.- Oh well, at least I have you guys to keep me company!

  2. When “Leviathan Wakes” was described as a ‘space opera,’ that’s all I needed to jump in. The fact that it was both ‘mystery’ and ‘noir’ was icing on the cake. Politics, action, adventure, intrigue, SciFi (“SF”?), technology – it’s all in this story.

    I truly enjoyed that this space novel took place in the time period little addressed: between expanding off-world and prior to dominance over space. As such, it addressed the politics and logistical challenges and [potential] nightmare of sustaining life in colonies and in space when technology is just rudimentary enough to survive.

    The politics of the period, factions, Rim, Mars, Earth and corporations all have their place. The power of authorities – local and galactic – tend the absolute and draconian ends of the spectrum, due to having no margin for error. Naturally, this breeds the rise of terrorist-styled groups: disparate, under-funded, and working alone or in cells.

    Technology’s lack of sophistication by being futuristic but not overly-fantastical actually allows more accessibility to the reader and allows them to sink into the life of a space-traveler of the age. Who hasn’t been on a long road trip, bus or plane travel, cruise-ships, etc. and have something go wrong? The claustrophobia, stale air, tensions, frustrations all are immediately relatable. The omnipresent fragility of life in this universe adds a state of suspense that is quite enjoyable due to its applicable parallels in real life.

    The author is a G.R.R. Martin protégé is apparent in some senses: the casual investment in character’s lives being most clear one. “Realism” drives the train though – scientifically fantastical, but conceivable; relatable characters and motives; and the American frontier and wild-west ideal of rugged individualism is reborn.

    1. Welcome to the book club N/A! I’m so glad you liked this pick! As you noted, it had a little bit of every genre in it, which made it fun to read – though I wish it wasn’t the first entry in a massive series because there are so many other books already on my TBR list!

      As for the setting, or at least the time period, I agree that it was in a nice middle place between our current reality and futuristic fantasy. According to Q&A section in the paperback copy that I read, the author notes that this was intentional – he (they?) wanted to create a place where things were “plausible enough” without getting in the way of the overarching story. Maybe someone with an actual degree in mechanical engineering would have had a harder time suspending their disbelief, but it totally worked for me!

      As to your second point, I never really thought about the absolute nature of the power being wielded throughout the story in relation to the harsh conditions of space, but you are totally right. There isn’t a margin for error, so the world does need to be more black and white, like the way Miller sees it. Which raises a question about Holden – since he seems see to more of the gray space between right/wrong, kill/be killed, etc., I wonder how he fares in the rest of the series. Will his way win out, or will he start to gravitate to the extremes as well?

      In terms of G.R.R.M.’s influence on the book, I had a totally different reaction to it. While I certainly saw it reflected in the “casual investment in character’s lives,” as you say, I did feel like the balance between bad things happening to bad people and less bad things happening to good people was better than in Martin’s Game of Thrones series. In fact, it’s that very inequity that prompted me and my husband to stop reading the books and watching the show. It all just got to be too depressing. Here, at least, when something didn’t quite go the way I wanted it to, or thought it should, I kept reading and a few chapters later, the story seemed to right itself, which I appreciated.

  3. How do we join the club? :O I want to read September’s book, and I want to add a Google Calendar RSS or something! How fun!!

    1. Hey Alex – to join, simply buy or borrow the selected book and tune in to the blog on the noted post date to join in the discussion! As you’ll find out, we’re pretty informal around here 🙂 As for a Google calendar RSS feed or something, I’ll confess, that’s a little beyond my scope of understanding (I’m still trying to figure out all of the back-end pieces to WordPress), but if you simply follow my blog, you should get an email notification when a new post goes up. Hopefully that helps and I can’t wait to have you join us next month!

What Say You?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: