Caliban’s War is the second book of the Expanse series, and I can’t help but see it (and Leviathan Wakes) in some ways as an answer to Firefly/Serenity. Serenity ends as a triumph, to some degree, with Mal getting the story out there. That’s the big win. And yet… Leviathan Wakes almost starts with that, but Holden can’t sit back and retire. He figures that getting the message out is enough, and of course it isn’t — as we’ve found in our own timeline with Cambridge Analytica and the Vote Leave campaign and impeachment and… everything. Getting the signal out there isn’t enough, and Caliban’s War shows Holden continuing to reckon with that, and keep trying to find a place for himself and the crew of the Rocinante.
There’s another way in which Holden is like Malcolm Reynolds, and that’s really showcased here as well. It struck me during the middle-ish part of the book, when Holden goes to confront Fred Johnson — who spits back at him:
“I’ve been putting up with your bullshit for over a year now,” Fred said. “This idea you have that the universe owes you answers. This righteous indignation you wield like a club at everyone around you.”
And yeah, Malcolm Reynolds has that as well, for all that he wants to think he’s a hardened criminal. I think Caliban’s War does a good job of digging into that and showing what makes a man like that dangerous, as well as someone to follow.
Anyway, that’s what particularly struck me this time — maybe because the part about “we got the signal out and nobody cared” really cuts deep right now!
It really did bother me again that everyone spends the book running around looking for Mei, without questioning basic things like “why did they want an immuno-compromised kid?” And Prax is a biologist! Okay, not a human biologist, but at other times he clearly has a scientific mind and the ability to think through a problem, including those which aren’t restricted to botany. I’m not sure it changes the story to know why Mei’s key, but it bothers me as someone who knew what was going on from the minute her condition was mentioned.
This book introduces Bobbie and Avasarala, and they are both great and balance out the gender balance, and give us the outside-perspective on Holden and his crew that we need. I know we won’t be seeing a lot of them for a couple of books, which sucks, because Avasarala is the kind of character who really challenges the dudes-with-guns sci-fi stereotypes. (Bobbie is less so, since she’s essentially the female version of them.) She’s a grandmother, a diplomat, an Earther — and that’s a needed sort of perspective.
I’m looking forward to continuing to chew through this series; I called it popcorn before, and I still concur. It’s very more-ish, and it goes down easy.