The Exapnse series is back once again and, as has been the case so far, is once again an excellent and exciting dose of science fiction adventure. Where the previous novel, Cibola Burn, dealt with unauthorized colonies beyond the edge of know space Nemesis Games sees a return to more familiar locales and deals primarily with the political repercussions of events that have occurred in the series so far. The primary focus of Nemesis Games is zeroed in on the crew of the Rocinante in roughly equal measure. Where the previous novels focused more on Holden’s journey Nemesis Games expand perspective quite a bit by splitting up the crew and giving readers chapters from each of Roci’s core family members.
With the Rocinante is down and out for some major repairs Captain James Holden and his crew, XO and girlfriend Naomi, engineer and “security officer” Amos, and pilot Alex, finally find themselves with some much overdue shore leave. Having spent considerable amounts of time in one another’s personal space most of the crew head in different directions to take care of personal issues. Alex returns to Mars in an attempt to make amends for past mistakes, Amos returns to Earth to look into the death of a close friend, Naomi heads off on a mysterious mission in the belt to deal with personal issues, and Holden remains with the Roci to oversee repairs. With the previous novels the main character perspective has always been with Holden and Nemesis Games is the first time we’ve really gotten into the head space of the rest of her crew. The novel leans heavily on the notion of family with each of the characters (besides Holden) returning to their family outside the Roci. Holden, who grew up on Earth with a large family has a greater grasp on what that means and his personal journey is about finding a way to open up to change. Naomi, Alex, and Amos deal with similar issues to another each finding a way to come to terms with the relationships they have formed while about the Rocinante.
Nemesis Games isn’t a novel about each of our main characters gazing contemplatively at their navels. While there is a fair amount of introspection there are also massive events afoot as the more radical elements of the Belters make their move for primacy. It makes for some particularly tense reading as each of our beloved crewmembers are apart from one another when the shit hits the fan. There is a real sense of danger there as, despite its place at the forefront of numerous dangers, the Rocinante has been a source of stability and relative safety for her crew. While Naomi, Alex, and Amos are all focused on surviving the events surrounding them there is a fantastic sense of desperation as Holden finds himself alone and without his adopted family. Through some miracle of word magic Nemesis Games manages to be a novel that is simultaneously about intimate personal relationships as well as epic danger and massive changes in the balance of power in our solar system.
For my money The Expanse series has become a consistent must-read and each novel has felt better than the last. Ty Frank and Daniel Abraham (together, James S. A. Corey) are unafraid to borrow from multiple genres to tell their stories. While Nemesis Games and the rest of the Expanse novels aren’t hard science fiction by any means the series manages to feel real by crafting believable characters and an intricate world with distinct cultural details. If you haven’t given the Expanse novels a fair shake yet I really don’t know what the hell you’re waiting for. Nemesis Games ups the ante yet again and I once more cannot wait to see what happens next in the amazing universe.