Abaddon’s Gate by James S.A. Corey
I’m starting to feel like a stuck record when it comes to The Expanse. Having just finished the third instalment, Abaddon’s Gate, I can do little but repeat what I’ve said about the other books in the series: I described both Leviathan Wakes and Caliban’s War as fun, fast-paced and accessible SF adventures, and that’s exactly what Abaddon’s Gate is as well.
The mysterious protomolecule has been busy since we last saw it at the end of Caliban’s War. After spending a year lurking beneath the gas clouds of Venus it has now emerged in full force and established an eerie manifestation near Uranus referred to by scientists only as ‘the Ring’. Anyone stupid enough to enter the Ring either disappears or is killed instantly. In a fragile alliance the three major forces of the solar system – Earth, Mars and the Outer Planets Alliance – embark on a research mission to try and determine what the protomolecule is really up to. But when hostilities break out once more between the allied forces the research mission becomes a race against time: figure out what the protomolecule wants, or be trapped inside the Ring forever.
The physical scale of the story in Abaddon’s Gate is larger than ever before, both in terms of the space travelled and the settings. Much of the book is set on a colossal starship known as the Behemoth – formerly the Nauvoo, a generation ship built to sustain human life for hundreds of years with the aim of colonising the far side of the solar system. However, there’s also plenty of the dizzying vacuum and stifling tunnel-crawling we’ve become accustomed to throughout the first two books, which is once again effectively used to create scenes of both claustrophobic desperation and pulse-pounding excitement.
On the whole I felt that Abaddon’s Gate suffered slightly in comparison to its awesome predecessor, Caliban’s War, though this is largely due to the absence of my two favourite characters from that book. Once again the only recurring POV character here is Jim Holden – who is thankfully just as likeable as ever, as are the trusty crew members of his ship the Rocinante. Although the other three main characters are also very engaging and sympathetic (albeit to vastly different extents) I just didn’t quite connect with any of them as much as I did with the characters from the first two books, although I have to admit that the way the relationship between Anna and Melba played out was fantastic.
That said, Abaddon’s Gate captured my interest totally from beginning to end. It’s a fast, fun, exciting, slightly OTT space adventure and once again I look forward to devouring the next book in the series, Cibola Burn.