Friday, August 25, 2017

Microreview [book]: Cibola Burn (book four of the Expanse series)

The weakest entry in the series (so far)…and yet still great fun!

Corey, James S.A. Cibola Burn. Hachette Book Group, 2015.
Buy it here.

So here’s the thing—I’m a big-time fan of the Expanse series. At the point I’m writing this review, I’ve read the first five books, and enjoyed them all to varying degrees. The first one got things off to an explosive start, the second one continued that momentum, and the third one upped the excitement ante. Like the first three books of Robert Jordan’s near-interminable Wheel of Time series, the first three almost felt like a stand-alone trilogy, one which had reached a mostly satisfying (if open-ended) conclusion. The question is, how could the authors of The Expanse sustain this impressive pace into book four?

Well, the answer is they couldn’t (though they came close). Overall, Cibola Burn was certainly entertaining, but (like book four of the Wheel of Time) it felt rather anticlimactic.  It’s plenty interesting, but there’s a slight diminishing-returns sense of “they’re at it again” when we see the crew of the Roci solve every problem with trademark skill (if not ease). We are, of course, unable to doubt the overall trajectory of the Holden + (ghost) Miller duo: like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series theme song, we know “the good guys win and the bad guys lose.” 

Also true of most books, movies, etc.
So it’s no spoiler to say that they manage another miraculous save. My sense is that the authors wrote themselves into a bit of a corner with what film reviewers of every Jason Statham movie would have described as a ‘high-octane’ plot in the first three books, leaving them no room to up the ante.

Perhaps it would be best to see the Expanse as more of a single unit (albeit one whose end is not yet in sight), in which case it would make sense to have something of a lull in the middle, or (like in one of those mix tapes John Cusack raves about in High Fidelity) after a few fast-paced hits in the beginning. By that logic, we might reasonably expect a return to ‘high octane romp’ form in book five. To see if this is the case, check in next Friday for a review of Nemesis Games!

The Math:

Objective assessment: 7/10

Bonus: +1 for somehow turning the entire gate/1000 worlds thing into a manageable story

Penalty: -1 for not quite overcoming sequel fatigue

Nerd coefficient: 7/10 "Enjoyable experience but not without a flaw or two"

To learn more about our unique scoring system, see here.

It is I, Zhaoyun, explorer extraordinaire of space operas of all shapes and sizes, and reviewer for Nerds of a Feather since time immemorial (2013), who brings you this message.