I mentioned last week that I was reading Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey in preparation for its release as a TV series on the SyFy channel. With only a few chapters to go, I went ahead and watched the first two episodes of The Expanse. I can’t tell you how glad I am I read the book first.
Being a great lover of science fiction does not make me an instant fan of all things spacey, futuristic, and illuminated by lasers. I have certain…rules of enjoyment if you will.
First, I need characters I can invest in. Then, I want a secret or mystery to hook its finger to draw me in. Also required is a setting that feels possible but remains unrecognizable. Don’t give me a colony spaceship that looks like a hospital or a Hilton. I want grit and floors that clank when you walk on them. Let me hear the hiss and hum of the systems keeping me alive. Be sure to include a riveted or wheeled-locked pressure door that leads to a steamy pipe chase.
And damn it all to Mercury, I want aliens. If you’ve hit on the other criteria above I can still tuck in and enjoy the show, but if there are extraterrestrial persons or entities I’ll be happier than an Ewok at a tree party. If you can’t scare up any aliens, then I’ll settle for an android or two.
Those are my basic rules, but now that I’m reading Leviathan Wakes, my standards just went up. Can you believe that there are absolutely zero androids in the story? And there is only one alien in all of the first book. Though its claims on alienness are fairly nebulous — kind of like finding Martian bacteria in a rock on Earth. What the writing team did was so well planned and executed I won’t even complain that my favorite things were overlooked. These gods of the pen expertly expanded the living area for humanity so far, that humans from one part became distinctly alien from those of another.
The authors used the force of gravity to alter the human body. They used the core needs of breathable air, drinkable water, and food in the same way the founding fathers used “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Where we have northerners vs. southerners, eastern this vs. the western that, democracy vs. oligarchy…etc. They have Belters vs. those that grew up in a gravity well, Mars vs. Earthers, and those poor farmers out on Ganymede who just want to grow in peace.
Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck – the team that writes under the pseudonym James S. A. Corey – have really sat down and thought this stuff through. They’re like the guys who had to figure out how to rescue Appolo 13 with some duct tape and a shoebox. I am constantly amazed by the detail they included in the story that make me believe that the Ceres Station is a real place -a society carved into an asteroid – and that the Belters have gotten screwed. It also makes me look at my own space odyssey and realize I have yet to wow anyone including myself.
Don’t mistake me, the details I’m so worked up over are not fluff and filler for want of a plot or decent characters. These details are part of the struggle — part of what make the Belters hate and fear those down the Well with all the power.
The first novel in the series of The Expanse has turned my inner writer on her ear while captivating my inner nerd.
Talk to me about a book or series that has had a similarly profound effect on you? Have you been able to see it adapted from page to screen? Was it done well or a letdown? Can you point to the stratigraphic layer in your writing that denotes the change of “before I read this work” and “after I read this work”?
Don’t get so caught up in experiencing the prompt that you forget to write for it. Spread a little holiday cheer this way in the form of writing on Libation or just send me some egg nog.