Review: Caliban’s War by James S.A. Corey

Title: Caliban’s War

Author: James S.A. Corey


Publisher: Orbit

Format: Kindle eBook


Caliban’s War was everything I could have hoped for as a sequel to Leviathan Wakes. There’s a tendency for second novels in a trilogy to be fillers, serving merely as a bridge between the first and third books. But this is not the case with Caliban’s War — we are given greater plot complexity, more and better-developed characters, and a war between cultures that becomes real conflict instead of a mere backdrop.

One of the two viewpoint characters from Leviathan Wakes returns: Jim Holden, the good-natured, but internally conflicted captain who has been contracted by the OPA to defend the Belters. We are also introduced to three new viewpoint characters: Prax, a divorced father and prestigious botanist living on the Jovian moon, Ganymede; Avasarala, an elderly, peace-seeking, foul-mouthed UN diplomat; and Bobbie, a spunky Martian marine who is on Ganymede when disaster strikes.

When a protomolecular creature strikes Ganymede, the UN and Martian marines are annihilated and Bobbi finds herself as the lone military survivor. When the creature is destroyed without evidence, the UN begins to suspect that the attack was orchestrated by the Martians, escalating the cold war between them. Avasarla is desperate to keep peace and hires Bobbi to help discover the truth behind the attack.

Meanwhile, Prax discovers that his daughter, Mei, has been kidnapped by her doctor. Her strange autoimmune disorder seems connected to the latest conspiracy with the protomolecule, but Prax doesn’t understand how. With the help of Holden’s crew, they embark on a mission to find Mei and once again find the source of the latest biological attack.

Caliban’s War is everything I desire in a novel. The characters are flawed and have to overcome their own fears and shortcomings to resolve their external conflicts. The dialog is sharp and the action scenes are riveting. There are two major plot threads that interweave nicely. Yes, it is entirely contrived that all four of our viewpoint characters encounter one another and some of the science seems to fall a little short, but none of this detracts from the novel. It is a fantastic blend once again of space opera, mystery, and horror that has a very similar flavor to the previous novel.

I am very excited to read the next book in the series, but I am really hoping that it takes a large step in terms of being different and more complex. We don’t need another daughter to be kidnapped and I would like to see some resolution in the conflict between the Belters, the Earthers, and the Martians.

If you enjoyed Leviathan Wakes, you should be delighted in this follow-up novel. It doesn’t stand alone very well, so I would recommend new readers start off with the first book in the series. There really isn’t enough space opera in genre fiction today and Caliban’s War broadens the series into an epic scale that I can wrap my teeth around. I recommend you do the same.

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