Tiamat’s Wrath: Choose your poison — heartbreaking or heart-stopping

Tiamat's Wrath (The Expanse Book 8) Kindle Edition by James S. A. Corey Tiamat’s Wrath by James S. CoreyTiamat’s Wrath by James S. Corey

8 Reasons You Should Read Book Eight of THE EXPANSE Tiamat’s Wrath

1. It comes after the seven others you’ve already read. Let’s not overthink it.

2. Space battles! Magnestar battleships, plasma torpedoes, rail guns, body armor, antimatter weapons, overwhelming odds, strategery, space sieges, tricky orbital mechanics, ambushes and armadas, Bobbie doing crazy marine stuff, Alex doing crazy pilot stuff, things going boom (though silently ‘cause you know, space)!

3. Moving reunions of people who have been separated far too long, from each other and us readers. Yep, I choked up.

4. All those quiet spaces in between the battles that have always elevated this series above its competitors. Moments of intimacy between characters or of introspection by a single character, either type often reflecting on the passage of time and the attendant change it brings. The way Holden can’t walk as far or fast as he once could, how Alex muses on how “there had been a time he could go for hours fine-tuning a flight plan. And he still could, but the price was higher,” the way Amos admits his eyes “ain’t what they used to be.” Even their ship, the faithful Roci, “was an old ship now. She’d never be state of the art again. But like old tools, well used and well cared for, she’d become something more than plating and wires…”

5. And as anyone who has lived any amount of time knows, as time ages us it also steals from us, and so along with those above reflections there’s also a litany of loss woven throughout, beginning with the very first killer line. Ghosts are referenced more than once, beginning early on with Naomi sadly pondering how:

THE EXPANSE

THE EXPANSE

Memories were like ghosts, and as long as Jim and Amos were gone, the Roci would always be a little haunted. And it wasn’t only Jim … Naomi had also lost Clarissa … Amos had … gone silent … Even Bobbie, healthy and well, but in the captain’s seat of her own ship now. They were all lost to her.

Sometimes the loss is the result of distance or time, leaving hope the hollowness can be filled and sometimes the loss is irrevocable (these are not authors who shy away from killing off main characters), though we don’t always know which is which, and sometimes we think we do but it turns out we didn’t. Yep, I choked up.

6. Doooggggs innnnn Spaaaaaaace!

7. That same deft shifting amongst multiple points of view we’ve gotten so used to in this series. Some of those voices are old friends by now, such as Alex, Naomi, Bobbie, and Holden (less of Holden than the others). One we’ve seen before — that would be Elvi from Cibola Burn, the scientist now working for the Laconians and their dictator Duarte on exploring the “dead” systems the gates lead to in hopes of learning more about what killed off the gate builders. And we get a fresh new voice (literally as she’s a teen) in Duarte’s daughter Theresa, who along with being the daughter of the god-emperor of humanity (as he likes to style himself, and it’s not wholly inaccurate), has regular teen problems — boy issues and daddy issues — and a regular teen attitude. She’s a welcome point of view for her difference — her youth, her being raised by the “enemy,” her lack of knowing just who she is yet.

8. Substantive (and often timely) explorations of politics and governance, human nature, the meaning of life. As when Naomi, high up in the resistance against Laconia’s empire, thinks, “That’s the thing about autocracy. It looks pretty decent while it still looks pretty decent. Survivable anyway. And it keeps looking like that right up until it doesn’t. That’s how you find out it’s too late.” The way monsters can “look like someone’s chemistry teacher.” How Bobbie explains to Alex that a “win” is: “dying with the knowledge that humanity’s a little bit better off than it would have been if I’d never been born. A little freer. A little kinder. A little smarter. That the bullies and the bastards and sadists got their teeth into a few less people because of me.” Or Naomi’s epiphany that “wars never ended because one side was defeated. They ended because the enemies reconciled. Anything else was just a postponement of the next round of violence.” This series has never been hesitant to slow things down with big ideas or those aforementioned lovely little character moments (and I could quote a gazillion of them — so small yet so telling, so weight-bearing, so at times heartbreaking), and that holds true here in Tiamat’s Wrath as well.

9. I know, I know. I said eight, but really, there are so many other reasons which I’m going to just toss in together here and not bother naming save for this: a killer set of closing lines. OK, and this, it’s THE EXPANSE (did you really need more than that?).

Published in March 2019. The eighth book in the NYT bestselling Expanse series, Tiamat’s Wrath finds the crew of the Rocinante fighting an underground war against a nearly invulnerable authoritarian empire, with James Holden a prisoner of the enemy. Now a Prime Original series. Thirteen hundred gates have opened to solar systems around the galaxy. But as humanity builds its interstellar empire in the alien ruins, the mysteries and threats grow deeper. In the dead systems where gates lead to stranger things than alien planets, Elvi Okoye begins a desperate search to discover the nature of a genocide that happened before the first human beings existed, and to find weapons to fight a war against forces at the edge of the imaginable. But the price of that knowledge may be higher than she can pay. At the heart of the empire, Teresa Duarte prepares to take on the burden of her father’s godlike ambition. The sociopathic scientist Paolo Cortázar and the Mephistophelian prisoner James Holden are only two of the dangers in a palace thick with intrigue, but Teresa has a mind of her own and secrets even her father the emperor doesn’t guess. And throughout the wide human empire, the scattered crew of the Rocinante fights a brave rear-guard action against Duarte’s authoritarian regime. Memory of the old order falls away, and a future under Laconia’s eternal rule — and with it, a battle that humanity can only lose — seems more and more certain. Because against the terrors that lie between worlds, courage and ambition will not be enough…

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BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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4 comments

  1. Well, you’re convinced me.

  2. Paul A. /

    Stopped reading this series during the one about the son of the guy who was a terrorist or something and not much was happening for 400 pages. Don’t bore me and expect me to continue reading.

    • Yes, as noted, they don’t worry about slowing things down and focusing on character and introspection/conversation. Reading is always a to each their own response. If one is looking for non-stop action, probably not the series for them. My preference (clearly, as this is one of my favorite ongoing and even all-time series) tends toward the other way–I can kinda see what people mean when they complain (about these books or similar ones) “nothing happens”–but I never feel that way myself. Probably good to know about a reviewer . . .

  3. Susan W /

    This is one of the best books in the series and that’s saying a lot because the whole series has been great. Couldn’t put it down. Especially enjoyed the moments of introspection and commentary on what it takes to win – or even just survive. Great stuff.

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