There’s been a big push in Science Fiction to make everything more realistic, more sciency, if you will. I’m of the opinion that this is generally a good thing. Real science has been absent from our fiction for so long that it would be more accurate to label much of what we read as fantasy instead.
I seem to be able to compartmentalize these things in my head. Star Wars is a fantasy, it doesn’t matter if the ships scream in space and maneuver like fighter jets. Star Trek science is a bunch of gobbledy gook that only generally resembles reality on a basis with similar odds to that of the email that says you are “entrusted with $7,000,000,000 US dollars please send your bank number” being legit. That doesn’t matter because look at how much of our modern science and technology has been inspired by all of that gobbledy gook.
Much like religion and politics it can be difficult to mix science and drama in a believable way — hence the bad science (or, alternately the bad drama, which usually is either boring or so complicated us normal people can’t understand it).
I heard an author interview once where the author mentioned that he didn’t care to read a book that made him feel stupid. That’s where Leviathan Wakes comes in because that author was Daniel Abraham, one half of the team that makes up it’s author, James S. A. Corey.
Corey has written science fiction — a space opera may even be fair with all of it’s grand scale and larger than life but oh so ordinary characters — with echoes of noir detective stories, horror at its most terrifying and adventure drama and they did it all with credible science. The ships have to decelerate, accelerate and refuel. The people inside the ships have to cope with the fragility of flying around in what amounts to a metal, high pressure balloon and just how fragile that really is when speeds and distances become larger than terrestrially possible.
I think the fairest description I can give is if Firefly and Babylon 5 got together and had a child that grew up to be a rebellious teenager, made some bad decisions then went to college and got a degree in physics. She’s still a little bit rebellious, though, and really likes listening to hard rock.
That is to say that this book is excellently told, and excellently narrated and is one of the most fun books I’ve encountered in recent years.
I feel that it is safe to say that Daniel Abraham is one of the smartest authors I have ever read. His command of language is superb to the point that much of his prose sounds like poetry, building resonances and ebbing and flowing around the story so that it becomes haunting and beautiful. He isn’t perfect, however. His weakness seems to be action scenes and the physical movement of his characters.
In Leviathan Wakes Daniel Abraham’s wonderful prose is blunted somewhat by his co-writer, Ty Franck, — or maybe he is writing differently on purpose — but that’s okay because this is not a book where poetry would have a place. This is a book about action, terror, pain and death. Ty Franck brings something else to the table, besides the world building, and that is his ability to reduce action scenes down to component parts that make them almost cinematic in their vivid imagery. The prose, as expected, is excellent and thematic and atmospheric in a way that instantly transports the reader into space where the cramped quarters and corridors serve as a constant reminder that just on the other side of that wall is a vast emptiness.
The story being told is a mystery, but it’s also a political thriller and a brilliant and chilling horror novel with a concept that every science fiction writer wishes they had thought of.
Leviathan Wakes is the most fun anybody can have while piloting a spaceship across the solar system.