Leviathan Wakes – James S. A. Corey

This is touted (by George R. R. Martin no less) as “kick-ass space opera,” and that’s a decent enough starting point for this, the first novel in a best selling series, that I finally decided to try.

The setting is several centuries ahead, when human civilization has established itself on Mars and the asteroid belt of the solar system. There is no faster than light speed travel. The Earth, Mars and Belter factions have a less than rock solid relationship, and the political, commercial, and other conflicts that this situation drives is a major part of the book’s backdrop.

The story is told from the perspective of Holden and Miller. Holden is the captain of a rust bucket that schleps water to Ceres and colonies in the belt. His ship answers a distress signal from a derelict ship, and is drawn into an encounter from which he and his crew barely escape. He, rather naively, broadcasts what he knows about the encounter, and it sets off a series of anti-Mars incidents, ever escalating in violence. Miller is what passes for a police detective on Ceres, somewhat over the hill, and now tasked with finding – and kidnapping! – a poor little rich girl, whose parents want her brought back from the frontier environment.

Eventually the paths of these two men will cross, as the story unfolds and blossoms into that promised kick-ass space opera. You get a mix of interesting characters – though Holden and Miller are the clear standouts – politics, subterfuge, world building, space combat, alien technology, and more. It’s worth stressing that the characters contribute much of the joy in reading this, with believable perspectives and motivations. The dialogue, often a weak link in these tales, passed without comment, and that’s a good thing: it neither jarred, nor bored. The pacing of the story was good, with only a couple of slow passages, and the action scenes were well done.

Overall, a good read, and a series I will probably want to spend more time with.