21 February 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Cibola Burn (Expanse #4) by James S.A. Corey

Cibola Burn (Expanse, #4)Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The gates have opened the way to thousands of habitable planets, and the land rush has begun. Settlers stream out from humanity's home planets in a vast, poorly controlled flood, landing on a new world. Among them, the Rocinante, haunted by the vast, posthuman network of the protomolecule as they investigate what destroyed the great intergalactic society that built the gates and the protomolecule.

But Holden and his crew must also contend with the growing tensions between the settlers and the company which owns the official claim to the planet. Both sides will stop at nothing to defend what's theirs, but soon a terrible disease strikes and only Holden - with help from the ghostly Detective Miller - can find the cure.

I've read The Expanse series from the first book and have been captivated by the story right from day one. This is book number four, and it was a slower read for me, not because it isn't any good, but because I found the story a little underwhelming initially. It's part of a larger series which has now been expanded to something like nine books, and a reasonably complex storyline it is too with quite a bit of political stuff going on behind the main action. In this book, we've finally escaped our own solar system, and the vast majority of the story unfolds either on or around planet Ilus which sits on the other side of one of the mysterious gates created by the alien protomolecule in the previous book. I'd rate this book as my favorite of the series so far, for the most part anyway, and the main reason for this is that now we've got alien artifacts and ruins to add a new sense of wonder and mystery, which is my favorite aspect of sci-fi in general. The book was quite unextraordinary for much of it, it must be said, apart from the previously mentioned alien enigmas. Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy reading it very much, and we meet a number of new and interesting characters, but it seemed a little dull and directionless for a part. Looking at the big picture, it isn't actually lacking direction at all, the first two-thirds are mostly about the political and ideological posturing of the parties involved in settling Ilus, things all quite critical to the story, but the action is a little sparse. The final third, however, takes off nicely and more than makes up for it. This is where there is the typical Expanse combat, explosions and noise. All good stuff, and fun to read. The epilogue gives a nice hint as to where I'm assuming the story will go next (in Nemesis Games due out in June 2015), and did actually round off the book really well, bringing everything into perspective and restoring some of that lack of direction that I felt earlier. Overall it's another good installment of this series and I'm looking forward to book five. I just wish this one hadn't loafed along so much in the early stages, and had it not been for this it would've been five stars. All of that said, Cibola Burn is still a thoroughly entertaining sci-fi space opera story that once again does credit to the authors.

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