SF/F Read Alongs: Caliban’s War, Part 1

Our read along for The Expanse continues into book two! Already, I’m falling quite madly in love…

This week we’re covering chapters 1 to 12, and the hosting duties fall to yours truly. Spoiler alert!

 

Banner by Sarah at The Illustrated Page

 

Holden and crew are back! What do you make of their situation, what they’re up to and how they behave/interact now, compared to how it began?

Right away, I’m impressed by how much more cohesive a unit this crew appears to be. They’ve had a while to get used to the new arrangement, with Holden as captain as well as their work for the OPA (they catch pirate bad guys!), and there’s an immediate sense of more confident camaraderie than I think there was in the first book. That’s understandable given all the horrors they were confronted with. Now, they’re dealing with the aftermath of what happened, and while it’s still far from peaceful, they have a better handle on it all, and a clearer mission on their hands. (For now, anyway.)

What both pleases and worries me is the closer scrutiny being given to Amos. It pleases me because he’s a character I like, and I like learning more about him; it worries me because Amos appears to have real anger issues, and unless they’re dealt with it seems like a reasonable assumption that those issues will cause real problems somewhere down the line. I suspect that Holden may soon be learning that there’s more to being a good captain than just giving orders…

 

We meet some new characters in this book, and 2 out of 3 are women with important roles. What are your first impressions, given the general concern over the roles/lack of women in the first book?

Love them. Love, love, LOVE them!

Bobbie Draper is one of the characters I was looking forward to meeting, having heard a thing or two about her before, and she doesn’t disappoint me. I love that so much unvarnished attention is given to the ways she deals with the trauma she suffers on Ganymede, bringing issues of PTSD to light but also using all of this as a way to fully realise Bobbie as a character, particularly a female character in a world that’s (even in space in the future) still dominated by men. She has a weakness that’s a direct result of experiencing something horrific, but it’s never used as an excuse to paint her as weak, even in her interactions with men who could potentially influence or manipulate her career path. “You poor dear, you clearly can’t handle it, off to a nice safe desk job with you…” There’s none of that. She’s offered help to deal with her trauma because she’s a damned capable soldier, and to fail to do so would be inexcusably ignorant and wilfully endanger others. Bobbie is treated like any other valuable officer (is a Gunnery Sergeant an officer?) and I am eating it up.

To sum this one up, I find it really encouraging that we’re seeing such a clear improvement from the writers when it comes to portraying women in their story. Julie Mao had her purpose but she never felt this real or complex. I am so excited for the rest of the book now!

 

“No one starts a war unless I say they can.”

In particular, we learn that Chrisjen Avasarala is using the power she has to pull strings and dig for information behind the scenes in UN government, and she appears to want an end to the war. What do you think of her methods – and her motive?

Chrisjen Avasarala is the other character I was looking forward to meeting, and she absolutely does not disappoint me. Oh my god. She’s a sweary granny who has actual political power and is utterly unafraid to use it. Seriously, what’s not to love about her?!

Her methods of getting the job done delight me, to be honest. She’s written in such a way that she could be, and in some opinions probably is, rather dangerous, but she seems to be on the side of good regardless of how she goes about her work. And her motive – it seems clear to me that her family and their safety are, at least in part, motivating Chrisjen to do what she does, and to do it as well as she can. Which sort of brings us back to the point about her being dangerous – what might she NOT do, if her goals (such as we’ve learned they are, so far) are threatened? She’s a character who dances along that line between being a good ally to have, and being a pants-wettingly terrifying enemy. It delights me, but it also intrigues me to no end. I’m not sure I’d ever want to see her truly take someone apart … Then again, part of me would, if the poor sap happens to deserve it…

 

We also meet Prax, scientist and starving father desperate to find his daughter. In terms of the bigger political picture (remember Miller and Dresden), how much of an emotional wild card do you think he might be?

In short: 100%.

I think there’s an interesting parallel to be played up between Prax and Chrisjen, in this sense. Chrisjen could conceivably be deadly to her enemies if they chose to harm her family; Prax is in a position where someone may already have done so, and we’re getting to know him in the grip of an obsession so strong it’s keeping him going even as he’s starving and should probably not even still be on his feet. (Seriously – thank goodness for Holden!)

He’s desperate enough to bring himself to Holden’s attention despite not actually knowing him at all, because he knows that Holden is A Hero and he’s known for doing the right thing in extreme circumstances. He’s found someone who could help him find his daughter, and may be inclined to do so. I wonder, though, if he would have taken such a chance so readily if the source of help was someone not as good-natured as Holden…? Would it matter to him if someone was a hero or a villain, so long as they could help him find Mei?

And whether this means Prax will repay the debt of good faith if he’s ever forced to choose between Holden and his daughter, is anyone’s guess at this point. It’s still early to make a call like that, but I don’t think I’d be surprised if Prax does end up in that position at any point.

 

And on that note, I am going to get on with reading the next round of chapters, because I already know that this book is going to be damned difficult to keep putting down! See you next time…

 

 

5 thoughts on “SF/F Read Alongs: Caliban’s War, Part 1

  1. Amos and his anger could be our wildcard, couldn’t he? We’ll just have to keep an eye on him.

    Bobbie is awesome, isn’t she? I also like how the PTSD is treated with respect even as it is used to show us more about Bobbie.

    Great analysis of Prax and how he might influence the plot. I think he would choose Mei over Holden even if that put Holden in danger. I don’t think Holden would blame Prax, even if he’d be unhappy with the outcome.

  2. That’s a really good point about Bobby and PTSD! I liked it a lot when I was reading, but it somehow slipped my mind when I was making my post.

  3. I was looking forward to seeing everyone meet the new characters in book 2! I also thought it was nice that the stereotypically-male roles (soldier, powerful politician) are women and the stereotypically-female role (small child’s loving parent) is a man.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *