Audiobook Review: Abaddon’s Gate by James S. A. Corey

3 09 2013

Abaddon’s Gate (The Expanse, Book 3) by James S. A. Corey

Read by Jefferson Mays

Recorded Books

Length: 18 Hrs 26 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: In Abaddon’s Gate Corey balances the love of exploration all great space operas have with vivid action and characters that seem so alive you can feel the tingle of their breath on the back of your neck. Abaddon’s Gate left me completely satisfied, and craving for more.

Grade: A-

NOTE: As this is book 3 in a series, there may be SPOILERS for those who haven’t read the first two books.

Most books, particularly the action oriented novels I enjoy, whether they be thrillers or speculative fiction, have clear good guys and bad guys. While the good guys aren’t always completely good, in the moralistic sense of the word, they tend to be better than the bad guys they are fighting and. Yet, life isn’t always cut and dry. Often times, the line between protagonist and antagonist is a matter of perception. My favorite fictional tales often fall into this sort of gray area. For any book, there is needed conflict, yet, too often, since we are allowed to understand the motivations and beliefs of the perspective character and see their enemies through their filters, we strongly understand that in this fight, they are in the right. Yet, that doesn’t always mean that their enemies are “bad guys” nor is their confidence in their righteousness any more deserving than those we believe to be in the wrong.  I think this is something that we often forget in real life. Often times with issues in real life or fiction, whether they be political or otherwise, the opposing side has a just as much righteous motivation for their actions. Your heroes, or those aligned with your ideals may believe that the actions undertaken by their opponents will result in disaster. Yet, the antagonists may have an equally valid belief that if they don’t succeed or prevent you from succeeding, a disaster will strike. Usually, the only true judge of who is a hero and who is its villain is history. Take away the conflict of ideals, and those on both sides of the issue may actually be allies. Yet, due to a differing opinion on an issue, become life long enemies due to one moment in history where they both find themselves fighting the righteous fight for an admirable ideal. Yet, sadly, this concept is rarely explored in fiction. All too often, author’s want their conflict to be black and white, even when their protagonists acts in shades of gray. The ends justify their heroes’ means because their hero is on the side that will eventually prove to be right and their opponent’s heartless villains even though their actions are similar to the proven “good guys.”

Jim Holden, Captain of the Rocinante, has problems. An old enemy wants to smear his name and organize his death, and Mars has taken legal issue with the salvage claim on his ship and wants the Rocinante back. His only chance to save his life and his ship is to head towards The Ring, a strange alien artifact that is using the form of his dead ally to communicate with him.  Yet, when the Rocinante flees and the exploratory fleet follows them into the ring and are sent unknown miles across space, violence erupts between those who want to return home and those who believe returning will bring destruction to those left behind, and of course, caught in the middle is Jim and his crew. Abaddon’s Gate is the latest edition in The Expanse series,  James SA Corey’s epic space adventure set in the intermediate age of space travel where earth has settled throughout the solar system but has yet to gain access to the stars. Again, Corey changes focus in his novel, this time away from the conflicts between Earth, Mars and the outer planets, and focuses on the intentions of the Protegen molecule and the strange alien artifact. The story is a more intimate and claustrophobic one. While it travels the furthest away from the solar system, it deals with issues of moral responsibility and the adaptation of religion and faith in a space faring society creating a mood more limited in physical scope but broad in the conceptual. Again, Holden finds himself at the center of a power struggle, this time between the leader of the exploratory force who gained his position through political means, and his security chief, Bull, whose political liabilities prevented him for getting the command that he was more suited for. This struggle leads to violence and mutinies on top of mutinies as the stranded force must deal with the alien artifact’s strange manipulation of space while trying to get home without damning humanity. I loved how Corey managed to bring religion into the mix as agents of gray, two sides of good people with strongly differing opinions. Instead of taking the easy, black and white religion is bad approach that we often see, Corey manages to balance the tale by creating the true hero of the tale in the form of a Methodist Minister named Anna who may be one of the series strongest characters in unexpected ways. While Abaddon’s Gates may lack the intricate machinations and fascinating worldbuilding that the first two novels had, Corey more than makes up for it with his crisp pacing and splendid action that kept listeners floating on the ends of their low grav seats.  Abaddon’s  Gate is proof that authors can constantly shift focus in their series, and tell multiple kinds of tales within the worlds they create, and still keep it fresh, exciting and consistent. I enjoyed every moments of Abaddon’s Gate. It tickled that spot in my heart that leaps for joy when given the opportunity to explore the unknown, even if it’s dangerous. Corey balances the love of exploration all great space operas have with vivid action and characters that seem so alive you can feel the tingle of their breath on the back of your neck. Abaddon’s Gate left me completely satisfies, and craving for more.

You know you have totally sold into a series narrator when you get mad at an author for not including a certain character because you loved how they performed them. This was the situation I faced with Abaddon’s Gate (the authors know who I’m talking about. MORE!) Jefferson Mays delivers another solid performance, bringing this world fully alive for the listener. Mays is one of the few male narrators where I actually think he does better with his female characters than his male. Not that his male character’s aren’t excellent, he just hits a whole other level when he voices Corey’s complicated and wonderful female characters. It was also great to have Miller back even if it’s an alien replicated version of him, largely due to Mays sardonic delivery of the character that got more than one laugh out of me. Mays really steps up the pacing for Abaddon’s Gate. The focus on action really came alive in this audio version, and there were moments I risked cramping up due to a lack of oxygen because I totally forgot to continue breathing until I knew all my favorite characters were safe. Abaddon’s Gate is truly a great example of how good science fiction can be in audio with just the right narrator and I am excited to see what part of The Expanse Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante head to next.



One response

7 09 2013

Thank you for writing this..Great Job… I would like to request you to post.

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