I refer to Cibola Burn, the latest from “James S.A. Corey”.

Cibola Burn

I’m going to quote myself on Space Opera from a 2013 piece that highlighted Corey’s Expanse series, of which this is #4: “Gleaming silver ingots of engineering poetry reaching up out of gravity’s mud carrying humanity’s sparks into space’s blackness... and blowing each other up!” Well, yeah; this is like that; and if you like that sort of thing, you’ll like this.

Our Story: A plucky band of hardscrabble homesteaders stake out a piece of the rugged (interstellar) frontier, but a big resource-extraction operation is arriving to brush them aside and begin extracting. Sort of like Shane, only different.

And boy does the plot pile on: Let’s see, mysterious alien machinery has shut down power sources so the orbiting ships are running on batteries and soon to plunge to fiery death, plus the alien microbes have figured out that vitreous humor is a growth medium so everyone on the planet is going blind, plus the corporate security goon (named “Murtry”, maybe a little unsubtle?) is setting up to massacre the settlers, oh and one of the about-to-burn orbiting spaceships has landed a raiding party on another… well, it’s complicated. And fun!

Given all that stuff it’d be laughable to call these stories character-driven, but you can still get pretty attached to Holden and Bobbie and Miller (even though he’s an alien projection of a deceased fedora-wearing hardboiled detective) and Alex&Amos and Naomi and (especially) Avasarala. They may not be Aubrey/Maturin, but it’s not insane to mention them in the same paragraph.

This is another pleasing piece of the Expanse franchise; I sort of feel the authors cheated a bit in expanding outside of the Solar System, but maybe just one star is too limiting for big-screen Space Opera.

On the other hand · These stories may pass the Bechdel Test, but I think they may still be a boy thing. And they kind of tossed Julie Mao and Rev. Anna overboard. And Bobbie’s just got a bit part. The universe still has a place for girl things and boy things and hey, I like both. Whatever kind of thing this is, I like it.


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August 05, 2014
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