The Expanse

Cataline had recently reposted to his blog on the TV series The Expanse.

For the record, despite having read books 1-3, skipping 4 for some reason I don’t remember, and then reading book 5, I have no intent to read further, nor could I make it past Eros station going full “puke zombie”. A good chunk of the reason why lies in the fact that despite doing a very, very pretty job of the space battles,  they managed to get the characters, already flawed enough, all wrong.

Oh, also, I don’t care about spoilers.

The “author” is actually a duo. The series of books was pitched to me as “Game of Thrones in space” which given that I hate that series and couldn’t bring myself to even start the second book, wasn’t a high recommend, but I tried it anyway, and despite a few solidly liberal themes, and the ever-expected big businessman as the bad guy, did the characters and writing with enough depth and hope that I held on.

Most especially, James Holden. More on that later.

 I will grant that the first episode had me interested.  The setup is that Earth is suffering from the long term effects of  AGW (*fine whateves*) and so needs asteroid belt resources.  It has a one world, globalist government run by the United Nations.  Mars appears to have successfully rebelled, gained it’s independence and built a powerful military.  The Martian goal is to terraform Mars.  The Belters are the exploited worker class.  They have changed biologically to the point where they can’t return to Earth (hat-tip owed to Larry Niven).   Tensions are high on all sides.  It’s a Guns of August situation where “some damn fool thing in the Balkins” could set off a holocaust.

The match that sets off the powder keg is provided by an ice miner/freighter named the Canterbury.

The political backdrop is pretty interesting, with Earth in the grip of a UN one world government that actively wants to control the rest of teh system, hates Mars for slipping away, and neither wants the belt to be independent. Mars is at least somewhat a free-market small-government kind of place, but shown just as opportunistic/etc. overall, with some exceptions. The OPA maps pretty well to various “terrorist” factions of which some are “extremists”, some are just plain “freedom fighters”, and so forth. Basically space Hamas/etc.

So why could I sit through four of the first five books but not the TV series, and why did I quit even that?

First – Holden. Yes, in the books, he’s still a pining pushover at times, but far more often he’s a charismatic boy scout, repeatedly taken to task for having a code of honor and principles he will not bend on. I always felt like the character was supposed to be a chump, he’s hated by all the pragmatist types, but the need to have someone shake things  up, and the fact that he kept living up to his ethos, made him escape the bindings of his authorial creators. He was genuinely heroic, holding together far more often than not a crew of competent misfits and sociopaths and affecting politics and events far out of proportion to his resources on sheer grit, honor, and duty alone.

In the TV series he’s a whining little pussy, and stronnngk Naomi gets more spotlight time pushing him around.

Amos is a sociopath with an ethos, but gets played in many ways just wrong. This is a guy you later find out was abused as a kid, and that’s his soft spot – protecting kids. He’s scary, and utterly devoted to Naomi, then later Holden.

Avasarala was wedged in far more than appropriate given her real role didn’t come until book 2.

Eros station wasn’t anywhere near as scary as it should have been.

So why did I stop with the books?

Avasarala, mostly. “Communism that works.” The nihilism we always end up with from SJW’s finally brought to the foreground.

The strongk woman Martian marine who goes to earth and ends up allying herself with Avasarala, who gets to learn on earth that all the martian assumptions of welfare states and socialism not working were wrong, as she gets shown a “socialism that works”

The constant variations on “big business is bad, so bad they’re willing to kill off entire populations and planets”

The reveal that Naomi really was tied to the extremist end of the OPA, even if she had tried to escape it.

The attempt in the fifth book to at least “justify” mass genocide and deliberate asteroid strikes on Earth from the standpoint of “but he’s just a kid, didn’t know what he had gotten himself involved in”.

Ditto, in the fifth book, the “redemption” of the Mao girl, who caused so much trouble in book three, and was responsible for the deaths of thousands, granted with some seeds planted in book three.

 

One thought on “The Expanse

  1. “Hey, pal, welcome to Vito’s Story Analysis and Repair Shop. Yeah, park dat series ova dere, an’ let’s see what’s wrong wit’ it. We’ll jus’ pop da’ hood here ….”

    “Well, we got AGW and Stongk Wimmin build up on da carburetor–not a good sign. Hey–look dere, on the engine block–that little brass plate … well, dere’s your problem, pal!”

    “Says ‘Socialism That Works!’ on da inspection plate!”

    “Dese writers are tryin’ ta run a Hard Science Fiction Vehicle on a Fantasy/Wish-fulfillment Engine! Bound ta break down.”

    “Sorry, Bud! Nuttin’ I can do. This one’s for the bone yard!”

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