Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey

Four books in, I'm still hooked on this series. I've enjoyed it from the very first book, and have been eager to pick up each new one. With Cibola Burn, we've moved outside the bottle episode into a suddenly vastly enlarged space, with all the pitfalls that might involve. Humans are expanding into a perilous time, but all most see are opportunities.

With this book, refugees from Ganymede break the cordon (because how could you hold that idea in vast three-dimensional space?) and emerge on the other side of the gate, settling a new world. Then that world is chartered to a company that wants to mine it, and they arrive to find settlers not only entrenched, but desperate to stake out this claim as theirs. Sabotage follows, then retaliation.

And when this looks like it's going to get increasingly sticky, the various powers that be decide to send Holden and his crew on the Rocinante to broker a deal. It feels like a mission designed to fail, and perhaps it is, but as Holden arrives on the planet, it soon becomes apparent that not only does he have to negotiate between settlers and scientists/corporates, with blood on both sides, but also that the planet itself was once wiped clean by whatever destroyed those who build those massive gates - in other words, a civilization vastly more powerful than ours was once wiped out, entirely and completely, by something else. And while the former residents are no longer around, their tools may be. And so may be the source of their destruction.

The planet starts to stir, and Holden guesses right away that this is going to be very bad, but events transpire to end up with he and Amos trapped down on the planet, Naomi on board an enemy vessel, and Alex and an ostensible prisoner on the Roci. When your people are separated, how do you bring them back together? What if you bring in death slugs that kill with a touch?

There's a theme in these books that comes back again and again that I always particularly enjoy. It's not necessarily about doing what you believe is right - the point is made over and over that that can lead to massacres and injustice just as easily as it can lead to the triumph of truth and right. But there's an accompanying belief in taking responsibility, even for unintended consequences. If they did something, these are characters who will take responsibility. Those who deny responsibility are more often on the side of sketchiness. (Although the main sociopathic security chief does take responsibility for his actions, in that he doesn't disavow it. It's just more like he doesn't really know what that responsibility means. He treats his acts as trivial when they shattered lives.)

Yet again, the two authors who make up Corey ramp up the tension to almost unbearable levels, giving us new viewpoint characters and surprising (and deadly) twists and turns. It's not a surprise that I'm in to see what happens next. At some point soon.

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