Leviathan Wakes is the first part of an epic 7 part (+ short interlude stories) science fiction space opera that includes aliens (well sort of), politics, mystery and firefly vibes.
This story is, for the most part, more a thriller / mystery in science fiction setting than a true space opera. The cast is quite small and the mystery takes up most of the action for the frst 50% of the story. After that, the thriller part takes over and we get a thrilling ride that continously increases in scale. Very entertaining!
Excellent world-building all around, with a solid rooting in science without drowning in technical details. Everything make sense, and when it’s required, it’s explained, there really isn’t anything in here that seems underdeveloped or tacked on. The picture that is being painted could very well be our own future, apart from the alien thing, and even then, it’s still a possibility. I particularly enjoyed the attention to actual spaceflight (gravity through acceleration and the effect of too much sustained acceleration on the human body) and the use of plastic bullets inside space stations / ships (to prevent you from accidentally blowing a hole in your station bulkhead). The space battles aren’t anything fancy or shiny, with lasers and special effects, but they resemble a more accurate display of what space battles would actually be like, with gauss canons, PDC’s and torpedoes. Nothing fancy, but it gets the job done.
James Holden, our main protagonist, kind of comes of as cardboard cutout half the time, but luckily he’s able to compensate by showing a very human / humane side as well. I’ve found myself shaking my head quite a few times at his idiotic idealism, but since that’s what the writer(s) actually want me to do, I won’t punish them for it. Apart from goody-two-shoes Holden, there’s hard-ass
gorrila tough guy, Amos, the expertly pilot Alex, the super-wiz-kid-that-can-hack-anything-and-who-also-happens-to-be-the-hot-love-interest Naomi and Miller, a hard-ass, worn out detective that has drunk himself into a hole ever since his wife left him. (I secretly really liked Miller’s cynical, no-nonsense attitude).
All of these characters start out as cookie-cutter shapes, but they gradually gain depth as the novel progresses.
The writing is solid, without using too much flourishes. It flows nicely from action to action and manages to inject quite a bit of subtle wit into the narrative to keep it light and breezy for the most time, but with the required gravitas when the situation calls for it. Smooth stuff.
I loved every minute of this. The story continually evolves, and so do the characters. The feeling of epicness slowly creeps up on you and knowing that there’s a whole lot more to this series, when the ending comes, makes it such a treat to read. 5 stars easy, and a strong recommendation for everyone that likes sci-fi with a thriller twist.