The Popculturist reviews Leviathan Wakes, a new science fiction novel, and is reminded of the sense of fun that drew him to the SF genre in the first place.
I’ve got a question for you science fiction fans out there: what was it that first drew you to the genre? It occurred to me to ask that of myself recently when a friend of mine sent me a copy of his new novel, Leviathan Wakes. You see, a lot of science fiction (SF) is highly concerned with exploration and discovery, whether it’s in the literal sense of finding new worlds and new civilizations, or more figuratively by using the genre’s framework to delve into some arcane bit of scientific lore or to highlight some facet of the human condition. It can be a very cerebral genre, providing deep intellectual satisfaction.
The downside of a genre so rich with exploratory possibility is that sometimes in the pursuit of all those ideas, the “fun” gets lost. And when I consider my own history with science fiction, what really caught me in my youth was adventure. Reading Leviathan Wakes, with its return to some good, old-fashioned space opera, reminded me of just how much fun science fiction can be.
Authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, writing as James S. A. Corey, take us into a not-too-distant future in which humanity has reached out into the solar system, colonizing the moon, Mars, the asteroid belt, and some of the gas giants’ moons.
Through this setting we follow two main characters. Holden is the first officer aboard an ice freighter on its way back from Saturn. When his ship is destroyed after stopping to investigate a mysterious distress call, he and a handful of his crew mates are pulled into a series of events that threatens to bring about the first interplanetary war. Meanwhile, Miller is a police detective from the asteroid colony Ceres who is assigned to find a missing girl. During his investigation he discovers a conspiracy, the scope of which encompasses the entire solar system, and which leads him into contact with Holden and his crew.
What’s really impressive about this book is how skillfully it blends its various influences. Miller’s scenes often read like a hard-boiled detective novel, while Holden’s storyline sometimes brought to mind the space adventure in early Heinlein books like Citizen of the Galaxy and Starman Jones, but mixed with the “space truckers” grit of the movie Alien.
You get the same sense that the authors have deeply considered the consequences of a human civilization spanning the solar system that you would from many a hard SF story, but you get all the satisfaction and fun of the starship battles in a space opera.
So many of the books I read these days — even the ones I like — are ones that I end up having to pull myself through, and while the adult in me may sometimes appreciate an ending more for the fact that I had to earn it, there’s also an undeniable joy to coming back to the kind of excitement and adventure that drew me to science fiction in the first place.
Was “fun” what brought you to SF, way back when? If so, you could do worse than checking out Leviathan Wakes when it releases this summer.
Leviathan Wakes will be available in June 2011 from Orbit Books.
Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey, Orbit Books