Leviathan Wakes is a great introduction to a sci-fi series. It has great characters – smart, complex and a perfect small group dynamic. Holden’s moral compass guides this team and it doesn’t feel like a cliche. That is part of what separates this from Firefly which would be a close comparison. Holden is not a rogue, or at least not aimin’ to misbehave – he is a rogue by being honorable, even somewhat righteous, in an environment where self-preservation is expected.
Set mostly on small ships in the hard vacuum of space James S.A. Corey’s story get another thing right – physics. You are always aware of the relative acceleration of each scene and its effect on the characters and their decision making. This isn’t Star Trek where character casually stand and chat while they jump into “warp” speed. Here the ships have mass and inertia, and people are fragile who must orient themselves to their changing forces. Also, space is huge* and traveling between Saturn and the asteroid belt takes time and involves risk. Acknowledging that changes who your characters are, understanding gravity changes what they look like, understanding the scarcity of resources changes how they act.
The plot involves mystery, daring, and politics, and maintains a quick pace. In a series opener you always run the risk of getting a lot of worldbuilding and little resolution, but Corey manages to make a satisfying conclusion, tying up all of the major plot threads. You could definitely stop after this book and feel that you had a complete experience, but leaves fertile ground for future stories. I absolutely recommend Leviathan Wakes to sci-fi fans, and I will definitely be adding the next book in the Expanse series to my “to read” list.
*Space is really huge. If you have not seen Josh Worth’s If the Moon Were Only 1 Pixel website, then you should definitely check it out. Just for fun, when you get to the Sun click on the “C” in the lower right corner to scroll at the speed of light… you will find it tedious and end up manually scrolling, which if that does not tell you how big the solar system is I don’t know what will.