Leviathan Wakes – James S. A. Corey

About the book

Humanity has colonized the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond – but the stars are still out of our reach.

Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, “The Scopuli,” they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for – and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.

Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to “The Scopuli” and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.

Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations – and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.

561 pages (paperback)
Published on June 2, 2011
Published by Orbit
Author’s webpage

You can purchase this book by clicking on the following links: Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse), Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse) – Kindle


I’ve been on a science fiction kick recently. Sometimes there’s an itch that only a good space opera can scratch. Leviathan Wakes is an interesting mix of space opera, crime/mystery, and political tension. Usually with so many different plots going on in one book, there are a ton of different perspectives to accompany them. However, Corey made a smart move by only using two perspectives to tell his story. One is a hardboiled detective, who adds a lot of wonderful dimension to the crime/mystery aspect of the book. The other is of a blue-collar worker who runs a ship that ferrets materials around the galaxy.

When compared to Peter F. Hamilton, who seems to flood his book with characters to learn about and follow through his tomes, having two perspectives was a massive change of pace and, surprisingly refreshing. It was easier for me to follow the story when I didn’t have to spend so much time trying to remember who was who, and what they did, when. Secondly, the two main characters, Holden and Miller, are experts in their fields and their expertise help ease the reader into understanding social norms and future technology in a very natural way.

When the reader is first introduced to these two characters, it’s hard to see how two more regular individuals could possibly find themselves in the middle of the mess the book blurb summarizes. That’s part of the majesty of it. Corey keeps the world focused and tight, with hints of a much larger universe and important political powers that are mentioned, but never visited. All the while, these two unassuming, very average men are craftily used to ease readers into a wide world and very complex political situation. They don’t know much about what is going on or why, and neither does the reader. This isn’t annoying, however. It’s rather masterful. Readers are truly taken along for quite a ride, and they learn everything as they go, right along with the two main protagonists.

As I mentioned above, the world is large but most of it is hinted at rather than actually visited or explored. Corey keeps readers focused on a few specific points while introducing readers to important political powers and influences without burdening them with introductions or feasts or many of the other things that seem to flood books with complex and layered plots. While I found that this was an enjoyable tactic, as it helped me focus on the plot and allowed me to really internalize everything I learned as I read, it’s rather obvious that the larger universe is left for Corey to explore in future novels, and that he plans on doing just that.

There is a lot going on in Leviathan Wakes, and Corey leaves nothing out, from psychological issues that the protagonists suffer from, to the impact various actions have on the universe at large. While a lot of questions are answered, there are even more that are asked that only future books can answer. Much of the larger questions, like the larger universe, are left dangling before readers, waiting for them to explore more in further installments of this series.

While that would normally annoy me, it felt perfect for Leviathan Wakes. The book is sprawling, but so tightly woven and painstakingly detailed that these additional questions and much of the unexplored universe is exactly what is going to keep me devouring this series. Leviathan Wakes was absolutely superb, and the details, wonderful writing and incredibly sympathetic characters are the icing on the cake. This book might serve as an excellent “gateway drug” for readers new to space operas. It’s sprawling, majestic and complex, but tight enough to refrain from being mind boggling like so many other space operas. It toes the line perfectly and is absolutely addicting.


5/5 stars

2 Responses

  • Nice review! I really enjoyed Leviathan Wakes as well. I don’t often enjoy SF so much, so it was nice to find something that I really love.

  • I think it was fully deserving of its Hugo award nomination. Agreed!

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