‘The Scopuli had been taken 8 days ago and Julie Mao was ready to be shot.’
Humanity has colonised the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond – but the stars are still out of our reach.
Jim Holden is an officer on an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew discover a derelict ship called the Scopuli, they suddenly find themselves in possession of a deadly secret. A secret that someone is willing to kill for, and on an unimaginable scale. War is coming to the system, unless Jim can find out who abandoned 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 Holden, they both realise this girl may hold the key to everything.
Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries and secret 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.
What I thought
I really enjoyed the way that this world is built and organically grows. It starts on one giant ship and this grows to include another, and then a planet, and then more planets and more spaceships. This natural growth meant that we weren’t thrown completely in the deep end trying to make sense of everyone and everywhere. It gives us time to get to know the characters and the places they live and work as well as the different rules for each one, both social and otherwise. On the ships and in the police force there are very clear chains of command that everyone has to follow, whilst outside of that there are other social issues to deal with.
Due to the level of gravity on the different planets there are clear physical differences between the ‘Earthers’, ‘Martians’, and ‘Belters’ (the asteroid belt). The different political climate and the opportunities offered to you based on which planet you happen to grow up on mean that it is not a case of ‘we’re all human’, racism is still a thing that exists only now it is based on if you have the short stocky build of an Earther or a tall lanky build of a Belter from growing up in lower gravity. This is a really nice concept that I’ve never seen before, as a general rule humans don’t tend to change physically due to growing up on others planets. There will be language issue and maybe small things but nothing as big or as obvious as being a completely different shape.
I really enjoy how science fiction in general doesn’t shy away from the ugly part of humanity. Just because we’ve managed to go to the stars doesn’t mean that we aren’t all going to get along or that we are not going to bring our problems with us. At the beginning of the book it’s made very clear that the threads between the Inners and the Outers (either side of the asteroid belt) are very thin and liable to break at any second. You might not know why or when the war is going to happen but you know that it is almost inevitable and there is already a terrorist organisation working for independence, the OPA (Outer Planet Alliance). This just causes the tensions to be even more frayed and the fact that the police partner of one of the MCs (Miller) on Ceres is an Earther causes many problems as they don’t see him as an authority but instead as someone oppressing them. This gives the reader a really good example of not only the emotions underlying the community but also of Miller as a person. He doesn’t care about his partner being an Earther only that he does a good job and doesn’t nag him too much about his drinking habits or emotions.
Miller’s a great character, he loves his job and is quite pragmatic about what it is actually possible for him to do and that war is inevitable. But he still wants to do the best for the people he protects and wants to make sure that they are protected from the war as much as possible. His view of right/wrong is fairly outcome based, most of the ends justify the means but there are still things that he doesn’t want to do. If he needs to kill someone to protect someone else he will do that and doesn’t pity fools or people who won’t do what he considers necessary.
He’s also a functioning alcoholic and believes that when he is put on the mission to find Julie Moa and bring her back to her family it is a case of being paid off and being punished for something. Julie’s an adult with her own mind and to him having to ‘rescue’ her is the same as kidnap her. But in his investigation he grows to know more about the women and to fall in love with what he finds.
Miller is a great counterpart to Holden, our other MC. The two respect each other and could have grown to be friends if their outlooks on ‘doing what is necessary’ didn’t contradict each other. Holden very much believes in making sure that everyone knows everything. And while he does simply tell everyone facts, the way he does so causes everyone to infer something which in turn causes the tensions to rise and the war to start. Holden 100% believes that telling everyone the truth is the correct thing to do and follows through on that. He doesn’t tell them that A happened because of B, he simply talks about A and B. If people believe that B caused A it is not his fault, even if that leads to a war. Why would he be to blame for how people interpret his words? And he has a point. Mostly. The war would still have happened if Holden didn’t say anything but he does speed up the matter. He also presents the two as being linked and doesn’t even try to word it in a way that would stop them from thinking that B caused A.
He’s very idealistic and thinks the ends very rarely justify the means, so won’t be the one to pull the trigger if needed. Holden also believes in the innate good in people and is naïve in the way that he thinks people will react to what they are being told.
The relationship between him and the crew are great. They all have their own jobs and will keep the professional boundaries where needed, but also are all friends and hold onto each other for support as necessary.
One of the things I really enjoyed is the way that the science was told to me. It can be very easy in sci-fi to overdo the science and to make sure that everyone knows the ins and outs of how much g is being pulled at all times and how that is achieved and… and… and… . ‘Leviathan war’ doesn’t do that. There is plenty of science and a lot of thought was clearly put into the technicality of things but it isn’t overdone. Nor is it thrown awkwardly in your face by people having conversations to talk about the science where it doesn’t make sense or isn’t needed. A lot of authors will have the characters discuss something to explain it to the reader but it makes no sense for the characters to be talking about it. This book managed to hit the balance of talking about the science in an in-world way that made sense but also didn’t do it too much.
It is worth noting that because it does turn into an inter planetary war at times there is a George R R Martin like approach to death. Characters are killed off; often and quickly. There was more than one occasion where I had to reread a page at least two or three times to make sure that I had read it correctly and to make sense of the sudden deaths. Also these deaths hurt, for the reader and for the characters. You don’t grow immune to them, and the characters keep going but they still desperately mourn their friends and use them as motivation to try and fix things. For some people fixing it, means making sure they win the war, and for others it means trying to call a halt to the war.
My only real issue with this book was the name ‘vomit zombies’, I mean really? That’s what we’re calling these things? Really? No one could come up with a better name than that?
But really that’s a gripe/niggle more than an actual issue. I can get over the name of things easily enough.
Why I read it
My best mate read all of the books in 2 months and bought me the first one for my birthday. I’m holding back on the Netflix show until I read all of them. (Even though I still haven’t start book 2. I own it)
I want to read book 2. That pretty much sums it up. I have bought book 2 but I’ve had so many other books to read, especially in the lead up to YALC. I think I’ll read book 2 ‘Caliban’s War’ after YALC.
Would I recommend? Yes. It’s a great Space Opera. If sci-fi is your thing definitely give this one a go
Popsugar: Borrowed/given as a gift, set on a different planet, an allegory.
Currently book 2 continues to haunt my TBR and my bookcase, staring at me accusingly. I think I’ll read it after YALC to shock me out of the YA hole I will inevitably fall down.
I’m making a conscious decision to stay away from the TV show until I’ve read them all. it’s something I try to do with films as much as possible as I don’t want my perception of something ruined while reading the book by how it’s portrayed on screen. So at this rate I’ll be watching it in a year or so…
P.S My next book is ‘Out of the Blue’ by Sophie Cameron, which I bought as an emergency book when I finished this one on the train to work and realised I would have nothing to read at lunch.