Epic Science Fiction
I’m not normally a sci-fi reader. I like magic, epic imagined worlds, and stories that have more to do with character than the particulars of technology. Leviathan Wakes is all of these, and more—which is maybe no surprise, given that one half of the team that wrote it, Daniel Abraham, has written primarily epic fantasy under his own name. But Leviathan Wakes is more than just space opera (already often fantasy in science fictive clothes—see Star Wars)—it’s horror, it’s noir mystery, with some strong hints of military sf and the harder side of science fiction, though the authors claim it’s on the soft (read: non-science-facty) side of the equation. But forget all that—what’s important is whether it’s a good read. And Leviathan Wakes is a damn good read.
Why? Because the characters pop. The plot surprises. The scope is epic. But most of all, as may be indicated from the amount of genres it’s blending, the book manages to include the things we love about all those stories, while offering a new take on each. Take alien invasion stories—and then make the aliens billion-year-old unthinking protomolecules totally taken aback by sentient life. Take military fiction—and make the core group involved a mash-up of three separate factions with a hack leader and just enough respect for authority to make a crew (who have enough disrespect/attraction to keep it fun). Take space opera, and zoom it in to just 100 years out, when we’re far from getting to the stars: we’re struggling to get past our own politics into the edges of the solar system. Take even the meta-plot that so many space opera and fantasy series are guilty of—the politics-distracts-us-from-looming-supernatural-threat plot (see Game of Thrones, Revelation Space, Mistborn and The Stormlight Archive, etc.)—and give it the fun twist that the distracting politics themselves are part of the supernatural threat… and you get a damn good book.
I mean, Leviathan Wakes isn’t perfect. We wouldn’t be critics if we couldn’t find faults with everything—but really they’re few and far between in this one. While the characters are gritty and real, offer poignant observations on human nature, and go through hell, they don’t necessarily change or learn much in the course of their time. If character journeys are often described as arcs, the characters in LW are on more of an incline, continuing further on whatever course we first meet them on. The plot, too, can feel episodic, with exciting moments and plots twists sandwiched with a return to a home base and a regrouping or waiting for something to happen.
Genre aside, quibbles aside, this is a long book that reads like a short story; I destroyed most of a beach vacation unable to put it down. Space opera is the epic fantasy of science fiction, and with the strength of plot, character and imagination in Leviathan Wakes, it should be a winner for fans of most any genre.