Cibola Burn by James S. A. Corey

Cibola Burn.jpgI have been a fan of Daniel Abraham’s novels ever since I first opened the pages of his beautifully written A Shadow in Summer, the start of a series that somehow got better with each volume even though it had a starting point that was very close to perfect.

Daniel Abraham’s strongest skill is in his prose and his characters. They are always people that seem real and believable. They make stupid decisions and brilliant choices and give in to stereotypes and have flaws and fears and joys and obsessions and sometimes they do things that make me want to close my eyes and turn away because I know it’s going to be bad.

Ty Franck, as far as I can tell, loves science fiction, explosions and action scenes and has a brilliant mind for world-building.

When those two minds are melded into the amalgam that is James S. A. Corey something magical emerges. This is a series that is filled with some of the most powerful and memorable characters that I have ever read about and has some of the most painful memories.

Reading these books is like watching a train wreck — in a good way — characters are doing things that I know will lead to terrible, terrible consequences but I can’t look away as it all unfolds.

In Cibola Burn the first colony on the other side of the gate that opened up in the last book is a symbol of new hope for mankind as they set out to colonize beyond our overcrowded star system. Then one of the large companies decides to step in and stake their own claim. There are scientists who are there to try and make sure that the alien ecology isn’t damaged while they colonize and there are security forces there to take over the colony by force — when it should come to that. There are colonists who are trying to keep the company out but don’t realize that their own ignorance is killing them and causing everything to fall apart.

There is also Jim Holden, Naomi Nagata and the rest of the crew of the Rocinante who are called in to act as the UN mediators in what promises to be a true fiasco.

Then it turns out the planet is stranger and more unknown than anybody supposed.

This is another book bearing all the signatures of the James S. A. Corey brand. There is action, and tension and fighting and alien technology that is barely understandable and bullets and space battles and people who just want to do the best thing they can do for their family or to make sure that the wildlife is preserved or that people are taken care of or that healthcare is provided or that the universe will just make sense for a little while.

The tone of these books walks a line between cynical and optimistic. The premise of nearly every plot is that people will find a way to screw it up. Give us wormhole technology so that we can explore the galaxy and settle new and uncharted worlds? We’ll start a fight, activate ancient alien defenses and nearly wipe out the human race while we squabble over user rights. However, in the end we always make it right. There are always good people there too, misguided and occasionally stupid people (as we all are) but they want to do the right thing and so, even though everything falls apart and people die and sometimes they do the absolute worst possible thing… people are people and eventually they come together because that’s what people do.

Jim Holden, who has always seemed like the weak link in the series previously (he’s a little too bland) gained some depth here and has succeeded in becoming an interesting character as well so that there are no weak parts of this book.

I don’t know if I can really review this book any more. It’s the fourth book in the series and at this point you’re either in love with the story that is being told or you haven’t read the books yet.

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