Audiobook Review: Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

9 05 2012

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey (The Expanse, Bk. 1)

Read by Jefferson Mays

Recorded Books

Length: 19 Hrs 9 Min

Genre: Space Opera/Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: . In Leviathan Wakes, James SA Corey has created a realistic vision of the early stages Earth’s space faring future. Full of well developed characters, grand adventure and complex ethical situations, Leviathan Wakes is solid science fiction, delivering thrills while making you think.

Grade: B+

Leviathan Wakes is nominated for a 2012 Audie Award in the Science Fiction category. 

For the longest time I was on the fence about whether or not I wanted to listen to Leviathan Wakes. When I first heard of the novel, I thought it sounded interesting, but not enough to find itself prioritized on my mountainous To Be Listened To pile or to actually spend an Audible Credit on. I love scifi, but unless I am quite familiar with the author I fall victim to the big publicity machine. It takes not just a concept that instantly grabs my attention, but that concept must be presented to me through advertising, peer buzz and reviews. Basically, what I am saying is that I am lazy. The majority of what I listen to is authors I have been reading for years or subgenres that I am always hunting for and if something falls outside of those categories, someone else has to do the work of discovering what the book is about and presenting it to me in a manner designed to peak my interest. Yet, something weird happened with Leviathan Wakes. While there was never a big, "Ah Ha!" moments for me, the novel lingered around the peripherals of my attention. It started to gather award nominations. I began to hear discussions of the novel by fellow bloggers whose opinion I respect. Slowly, I began to discover the novel, and what it was about. Then, it was nominated for an Audie Award. When I became involved in Armchair Audies, I discovered that Leviathan Wakes wasn’t just a title in a category I was planning to listen to, but one which I was actually excited about. As I researched the novel a bit more, knowing I would be listening to it, I discovered there was actually a Zombie subplot. This was the final piece in my listening puzzle. I was looking for a book for Zombie Awareness Month which contained Zombies, but in which the Undead were not the main focus, as sort of a change of pace read for the event. Leviathan Wakes fit this bill perfectly.

I have only recently discovered the science fiction subgenre of The Space Opera. Most of the science fiction I had read before was earthbound scifi thrillers, and Post Apocalyptic novels. Yet, the idea of Earth becoming a space faring Planet, spreading humankind to the stars has always fascinated me. So, I began to read far future space faring novels by authors like David Weber and Jack Campbell. Yet, Leviathan Wakes by James SA Corey offered me something new, and in my reading experience, fresh. Leviathan Wakes takes place in a sort of intermediate stage of Earth’s expansion. While Earth has yet to reach the stars, we have expanded our grasp of our own solar system. Mars, initially a colony of Earth, has risen to be a power that rivals its mother planet. Along with Mars, the near Earth Asteroid belt has also been colonized. With this fascinating setting in place, Corey (the pseudonym of authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) has created a science fiction story that is more about the people than the science. Corey combines the swashbuckling adventures of Firefly, with the noir stylings of Chandler, and fills it with realistic, complicated characters. The story is presented through two main point of views, James Holden, the earth born XO of a Water Hauler whose ship is mysteriously destroyed while he’s on a rescue mission, and Detective Miller, a washed out Detective whose conflicting loyalties leads to an actual metal break. Forced together due to a series of circumstances, Holden and Miller discover a strange scientific experiment on a space station that begins transforming people into strange undead vomit zombies. While the plot is full of wild theories, far reaching conspiracies, and complicated interplanetary politics, filtered through the perspectives of Holden and Miller it comes of seamlessly. Often times such complex plots become hard to follow, and sludge up the narrative, yet, Leviathan Wakes manages to buck this trend presenting s smooth, exciting tale which will keep you mesmerized as each new level is revealed. In Leviathan Wakes, James SA Corey has created a realistic vision of Earth’s space faring future. Full of well developed characters, grand adventure and complex ethical situations, Leviathan Wakes is solid science fiction, delivering thrills while making you think.

Leviathan Wakes was narrated by Jefferson Mays. This is my first opportunity experiencing Mays narration, and I feel his did a solid job. Each character was well defined, and he moved the plot along crisply, adding the right touch of emotion at the proper moments. He has a solid grasp on accents and vocal cadence, capturing the unique sounds and almost musical tilt to the Belter’s vocal evolution when needed. May’s reading is almost workmanlike, never overdoing any aspect of the reading. His reading emphasized story over style, never inserting himself into the narrative, just allowing the authors words to do the heavy lifting. While I wasn’t blown away by his reading, I understood why the production garnered an Audie nomination. Leviathan Wakes is presented as it should be, with no bells or whistles, just a straight up reading of an excellent science fiction tale.

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29 05 2012

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