The Expanse Read Along: Babylon’s Ashes, Part 1

In the sixth book of The Expanse, the scope of character perspective is broader than it’s ever been as Marco Inaros sets his sights even higher than before…

It’s time to talk about Babylon’s Ashes (with spoilers)!

 

Banner by Sarah at The Illustrated Page

 

If you’re just joining us, this particular Read Along is on my Sci-Fi Month agenda for November! Here’s what the schedule looks like, complete with host/participant links:

 

Week 1: Prologue to Chapter 13, Sunday 5th November, hosted by Tethyan Books
Week 2: Chapters 14 to 27, Sunday 12th November, hosted by The Illustrated Page
Week 3: Chapters 28 to 41, Sunday 19th November, hosted by Over The Effing Rainbow
Week 4: Chapter 42 to End, Sunday 26th November, hosted by There’s Always Room For One More

 

… So yes, this post is a day overdue. Yesterday turned out to be busier than Sundays have any right to be, in my view, and alas I couldn’t get this written in time to post it on schedule. But I’m here now! Let’s discuss things!

Here’s where it gets spoilery!

 

We have a very different approach for viewpoint characters in this book! Do you like the change to having many different perspectives? Is there any one that stood out to you in particular?

I am eating this up so far! It feels like a perfect response, not only to the events in Nemesis Games but to the ‘Rocinante only’ approach to character viewpoints that we got in that book. We’ve gone from intimate experiences of those events, to a much broader and more varied take on the aftermath. It feels very cleverly done.

And yes, some of these character viewpoints are interesting. I did say during the last Read Along that I wanted to see POV from some characters we’d met before, rather than introducing even more new people to the mix, and I’m so glad I’m getting my wish! In particular, I’m becoming very interested in Anderson Dawes and what he’s bringing to the table; he feels like a bit of a wild card element. Not neutral, exactly, but he’s clearly trying to serve what he sees as being his best interests first, and I suspect he’ll be full of surprises in that sense. As the game changes, so does his position – so where might he end up, and with who, by the end of this book? It’s a question I definitely can’t wait to have answered.

 

We’re also beginning to see a bit more into the “Free Navy” ranks. What do you think of the people who have thrown their loyalty to Marco, and is his charisma is enough to keep the group from collapsing?

Ha! Nope. Sorry, but hell no. There’s no way Marco’s charm alone is going to be enough to keep that group together. Heck, even after their first proper meeting we’re seeing them question his sanity. That’s not exactly the ideal response when you’re in a position like Marco’s. Also, see above regarding my take on Dawes. I think Marco is kidding himself on quite an epic scale about how much he’s capable of here, but there’s still no question that he’s capable of a hell of a lot of destruction, not to mention petty vengeance. And let’s not forget that Pa has already come to seriously regret her decision to team up with him. I just don’t see that united front lasting very much longer.

 

There’s still some discussion of the Rocinante crew. Do you agree with Holden’s perspective on Clarissa and Bobbie?

I can understand the conflict he’s feeling there, and I can appreciate that at least he realises he’s probably not being entirely fair to Clarissa. He can’t deny that he doesn’t yet trust her completely, which is fair, but at the same time he’s taking his responsibility as her captain seriously, as their conversation in the sickbay proved. That’s at least a good place from which to start to build bridges with her, I think – and I definitely like the fact that Holden is thinking in terms of training her to do what she might need to be able to do on that crew, rather than just using her for what she’s already good at and risking throwing her away on it, because it’s easier than bringing her further into the fold. As redemption arcs go, it carries more weight than your average ‘save the damsel’ scenario.

Bobbie feels like a more natural fit for the crew, of course, though it’s made clear here that, again, Holden still doesn’t fully understand how best to relate to her. Bless him for trying, though, and for listening to Alex’s advice about her – and for the record I love how casually that advice was given. Alex has, after all, had more time to get to know Bobbie personally, like Amos has with Clarissa. You’ll get there eventually, Jim!

Also, can I just take a moment here to highlight one of the best exchanges, not just in this book so far but probably in the whole series, because it’s hilarious and it shows this crew’s dynamic off perfectly:

 

“The Rocinante doesn’t go under anyone’s command but ours. I understand that this is a big joint task force and we’re all in everything together. But the Roci isn’t just a ship, it’s our home. If you want to hire us, fine. We’ll take the job, and we’ll get it done. If you want to put a commander in place and expect us to follow their orders, then the answer’s no.”

Bobbie cleared her throat. “It’s me.”
“What now?” Holden said.
“It’s me,” Bobbie repeated. “I’m the mission commander. But if you really don’t-”
“Oh,” Holden said. “No. No, that’s different.”
“Should have said so in the first place, Chrissy,” Amos said.
“Go fuck yourself, Burton. I was getting to it.”

 

I love these guys.

 

Two sections have featured the inner thoughts of two people responsible for many deaths—Filip and Clarissa. What do you think of them now, and do you believe they are redeemable? 

I’ll be honest. When I realised Filip was going to be one of the POV characters this time around, I nearly threw the book away. I apparently have very little patience for that boy, and even after reading his chapters so far, I’m afraid I still feel that way. Not to mention he’s clearly not very mentally stable and he creeps me out a bit, but mostly it’s what I think of as my Anakin Skywalker Reflex. He’s dangerous, but he’s also a whiny baby who blames other people for everything. And let’s not forget that he’s proud of having killed billions of people. “Likeable” is not a word that I think will ever apply to Filip.

Clarissa, on the other hand, feels like a sort of mirror to Filip, however flawed she might be herself. She’s been in the shoes he’s wearing now, wanting revenge for what she sees as an injustice done, and being willing to kill to achieve it. But she’s also come out the other side, and has some perspective on her actions that Filip doesn’t have at this point. I think there won’t be any hope for Filip until he can see past his own rage, so the question for me is whether or not he’ll reach that point, or fall victim to the rage instead. But right now … I just can’t see myself feeling too sorry for him.

 

And on that cheery note, that’s it for this week! Join me again next week for Part 2 (posted on time, I promise!), and let’s see what our misfit gang(s) are about to get up to next…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 thoughts on “The Expanse Read Along: Babylon’s Ashes, Part 1

  1. That’s an interesting point, that the wide viewpoint is an inverse of the tight focus on the Rocinante in the previous book.

    I’m definitely with you on Marco’s lack of capability, and on Filip/Clarissa. I like the “Anakin Skywalker Reflex” as a way to describe your reaction Filip’s particular kind of personality– I think that’s pretty accurate for me too.

    1. I like it when a series doesn’t just stay on one track, and the character POV approach that this series takes really opens up the world/universe that it’s set in. Worldbuilding is great but it doesn’t mean much without a good hard look at the people who live in that world. Good or bad, we really get that here.

  2. I’m also really interested in seeing what happens with Dawes. Hmm, maybe I should make that a question for Week Two…

    I love the exchange you quoted, particularly the end bit. Amos and Avasarala have a great dynamic. I loved them in Nemesis Games too.

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