Review: Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1) by James S.A. Corey


4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

Leviathan Wakes was the science fiction Book of the Month for my Goodreads book group, Dragons & Jetpacks. It had been on my radar for a while: I previously recommended it for fans of the TV show Firefly and plenty of my friends had read and enjoyed it. As a result, I set out with some rather high expectations.

Some science fiction novels take quite a bit of getting used to, with their unusual and unique terminology and technology, but not this one. It is both immediately accessible and understandable whilst retaining a futuristic feel. We’re made aware of terraforming, ‘faux food’ (this is one of the things that scares me about the future. No delicious real food!), and hand-held communications terminals – but as of yet, no faster than light travel. From the very beginning it is packed full of political backstabbing and corruption, with elements of crime noir and horror. Whilst it’s not big on the action, there are plenty of tense moments to grip the reader. It feels like a science fiction novel that covers many boundaries and could appeal to many different types of people, not just fans of science fiction.

The crime noir element is thanks to Miller, a cop assigned to tracking down a young girl and one of the point-of-view characters. He feels like a bit of a cliche: slightly more than occasional heavy drinker (brought on by the stresses of the job), rocky relationship with his ex-wife, practically married his career and putting it before everything else. Throughout the story he shows signs of perhaps not being particularly emotionally stable, and the case takes a real toll on him. The reader watches him fall, and it’s both heart-breaking and a bit of a relief for a combination of reasons. His obsession with the case, and the young girl he is meant to be searching for, becomes all-consuming, and his descent into madness puts more than one person at risk. A talented and dedicated policeman becomes a creepy, obsessive character with little or no morals in about five hundred pages, and it was the sudden reversal of my feelings about Miller that really got me.

As for the rest of the characters, it would have been nice to have some more background information. Holden and Naomi were great, along with the rest of a good cast of more minor characters, but where were their detailed back stories? There may be more in the next books, but it would be nice to have something from the beginning.

At times, Leviathan Wakes reminded me more of Alien than Firefly. The latter part of the book was very tense, dark and gave me a real claustrophobic feeling – as if I were the one trapped aboard a spaceship with some mysterious extra-terrestrial life. I would definitely recommend it to fans of writers such as Alastair Reynolds and Arthur C. Clarke, as well as those who like a horror aspect with their science fiction!


11 thoughts on “Review: Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1) by James S.A. Corey”

  1. I never got the early Firefly comparisons myself, some people were just desperate for Firefly to come back (and hadn’t found Retribution Falls yet).

    I may give this series another try. I was really digging it but not a big fan of the customary sci-fi ‘weird shit’ that it turned into.

    1. I guess it was the idea that the crew are sort of a bunch of misfits, thrown together (in a way) and avoiding government… I heard that Retribution Falls is similar too, that’s definitely on my list.

      Apparently it’s going to be a TV series. How many of the books did you read? The fourth one is out soon.

  2. I really liked your review! I was putting off reading this one eversince a good friend of mine read it and was very unimpressed. But the the crimer noir and horror elements you mention really picked my curiosity so even though I missed reading it along with the group in GR, I will definitely read it as soon as possible!

    1. Thanks Antonis =) I think it got mixed responses from the book group, but they were generally quite good. It feels like a classic sci-fi in a way, and then suddenly takes quite a turn!

      You can still chat on the GR group thread once you’ve read it =D

  3. It doesn’t sound very Firefly, but still seems like an interesting read. I’m actually cool with just one Firefly, it would be so hard to reproduce the charm of that show and the amazing characters, so when people set up comparisions, it is pretty likely that they will fail. Nice review!

    1. It isn’t particularly, at least not how I originally thought. That’s true – I don’t think anything could ever quite be the same, nor would I really want it to be =)

    1. Well I heard somewhere that it was like Firefly… but had I read it before hearing the comparison, I would never agree! The politics had me a bit lost at some moments, but I loved all the backstabbing and corruption, haha!

      Aw, thanks Lianne =) I am awards-free really, I guess I don’t state it anywhere… I don’t really want to post the memes that come with those awards. But thank you anyway!

  4. I bought this book right when it first came out, still haven’t gotten to it regardless of the countless of amazing reviews I heard. I will eventually get to it. It makes me even more excited to read it as you say it’s similar to Firefly! ❤

    1. Well it’s not really, in my opinion. That’s what a lot of people have said – it’s about the crew of a spaceship and there’s some weird biologically altered enemies but that’s just about it for the similarities. If you’re looking for the awesomeness of all the characters from Firefly then unfortunately you won’t find it 😦

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