The Belt is well-established, but pretty close to taxation-without-representation, at least in how they perceive their relationship with Earth and Mars. Earth and Mars don't like them very much either, nor do they like each other. Then provocative acts start to happen - a Belt ship is hijacked. A rescue ship is blown up. The survivors of that rescue vessel start to find evidence of who might be behind these acts of aggression - but are they correct? And are they too quick to broadcast what they've found?
Who can they trust? Who is really behind it? Who wants war? Or is war just a smokescreen for something far creepier?
Corey, actually an amalgam of two different writers, does an excellent job of building the tension. As the plots start to swirl, and poor Captain Holden and his crew keep getting shot at, after they just tried to rescue people, I started to get more tense.
But this is only one of two stories. Captain Holden and his crew being sent careening around a pinball machine of planetary and extraplanetary forces is the more action oriented story of the two, but it is juxtaposed with Miller, a cop who used to be good before he crawled inside a bottle, on Ceres station, out in the Belt. The news coming out of Holden's escapades threatens to seriously upset the balance of peace on the station, and the missing riot gear just isn't helping. He's also been given the task of finding a runaway heiress and "convincing" her to go home. (Read: kidnap and stuff her in a ship home.) This half of the story is more straight-up detective work, and complements the other half of the story nicely, and the heiress ties both stories together in an interesting way.
Men are most of the active characters in this book, but what female characters there are are interesting - I just wish there were a few more of them.
Then the two stories get together and all hell breaks loose. I won't tell you what goes down on Eros station, except to say it's disturbing. Suddenly, everyone may need to work together, and there's no basis for trust. If the most trustworthy person in the picture is the Butcher of Anderson Station, you might be in trouble.
It's unfortunate, perhaps, that the Blood Music comparison occurred to me, as that is the most audacious mindfuck of a book I've ever had the pleasure of reading. This is sort of a lite version of that. But it's good solid science fiction, and the tension that the authors create makes it well worth the read.
I read this book as part of an attempt to read all the Hugo Nominees