Babylon’s Ashes doesn’t really have much new to say.
One one hand, the interplanetary and interpersonal conflicts we say growing through the last book or two come to a head here, with space battles large and small, culminating in a lot of destruction and a fascinating yet completely mysterious final battle.
You can tell you’ve found a really interesting question when nobody wants you to answer it.
Unfortunately, while the first novels in the Expanse series asked a whole pile of interesting questions about the Protomolecule and the gate builders… both seem almost entirely absent in Nemesis Games.
Holden was starting to feel like they were all monkeys playing with a microwave. Push a button, a light comes on inside, so it’s a light. Push a different button and stick your hand inside, it burns you, so it’s a weapon. Learn to open and close the door, it’s a place to hide things. Never grasping what it actually did, and maybe not even having the framework necessary to figure it out. No monkey ever reheated a frozen burrito.
In the first book, the protomolecule made zombies. In the second, it made a Venuscomputer and super soldiers. This time around? A wormhole gate to transit hub in what looks to be a pocket universe where the laws of physics are… flexible.
Structurally, Leviathan Wakes is an interesting novel. It’s science fiction / space opera but also has fairly strong threads of crime novel / horror / military scifi threading through it as well. It’s an interesting mix and done well.
Characterwise, we follow Holden and Miller. Holden is initially second in command on an ice trawler who cares about people to a fault. He wants people to know the truth, even if doing so might cause even more problems than it solves. Miller on the other hand is an older cop on a space station. He’s had a hard life among the more criminal elements of society which leaves him with a somewhat less rosy opinion on humanity. The contrast between the two of them drives the story, especially as things really start going wrong.