The Expanse Read Along: Babylon’s Ashes, Part 3


In the third part of Babylon’s Ashes, it’s all kicking off at last, as Avasarala’s combined fleet gears up to take on the Free Navy. But no plan survives contact with the enemy, and even before the fight really starts, those plans are changing… Who’ll be left standing? Will anyone be left standing?

Spoilers follow!

If you missed it, here’s the schedule for this read along, with host/participant links. As always, feel free to grab the book and join us!


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


The side of good takes a hit with the sudden death of Fred Johnson, but it doesn’t take long for some to start using it toward their own ends. Dawes, in particular, seems to have kingmaker aspirations that won’t wait, despite his grief. What did you make of his actions in these chapters?

I was genuinely shocked by Fred’s death, because for all that this series doesn’t shy away from the very real dangers of war, it honestly still hadn’t occurred to me that they would let him go out this way. There’s no noble sacrifice, no last stand taking someone out with him before he goes. Just … brutal nature taking its course.

But then, shit like this happens; what can often matter more is what you do about it. Fred’s death puts the political alliance of the OPA factions in serious jeopardy, but someone’s got to pick up those pieces and try to keep it from falling apart altogether. Avasarala tells Holden to get it done, and he surprised me with how he went about it (more on that in a bit), but it’s Dawes who really steps in to pull the strings and get the various OPA faction leaders to at least not jump ship and hightail it for the other side. What surprised me was that, rather than using his influence to shoulder Holden aside and take leadership for himself, he’s bolstering Holden’s position as Fred’s replacement at the OPA meeting. The scenes in which he’s persuading each leader in a very different way that Holden’s the one for the job and they should be helping him were simultaneously very insightful regarding his character, and kind of hilarious. For instance, he uttered this line with a straight face:


“… No one survives the things he’s survived without having a deep capacity for thoughtfulness and foresight.”


I laughed so hard I wheezed. You’ve got to hand it to Dawes, the man can spin bullshit like no one else. Do I know exactly what he expects to get out of this? Not really, unless he’s simply looking for more personal security than he discovered he’d get while siding with Marco. This is probably just another example of Dawes knowing which way the wind’s blowing, but … I don’t know. If it was that simple, I don’t think we’d have been allowed to see his visit to the chapel to pay his respects to Fred. If Dawes really is just a political animal, I doubt that his grief would have mattered at all.


Filip appears to be sliding further toward realising just where, precisely, he really stands with Marco. Do you think he’ll slide the rest of the way there before it’s too late to do anything? For that matter, given our general attitudes toward him so far, do you feel more sympathy for him now?

I’ll be honest here. I asked this question mostly because some signs might be pointing to a last minute about-face for Filip, the way it did with Clarissa in Abaddon’s Gate. I still don’t like him. I still don’t think he’ll ever be able to atone for what he’s done, given the scale of it. But … Do I think he can make a difference here and now? Yes. Do I think he will? … That answer is still unclear.

Filip may or may not fully realise that his father doesn’t give a damn about him beyond what use he can get out of him for his own ends, but that doesn’t necessarily change or even address the fact that he’s a vicious, prideful, strutting little peacock of a young man with his head up his own ass. Maybe he’ll manage to pull an act of decency out of that bag; maybe he won’t. But I don’t see anything more than a surface resemblance between him and Clarissa at this point. She’s ‘Peaches’ now. Something tells me there won’t be a chance for Filip to ever earn that sort of trust and/or affection…


With Avasarala’s massive (and massively ambitious) attack upon the Free Navy underway, plans are already having to be altered – though Captain Pa is altering them because of her conscience, rather than (arguably) out of necessity. Did she do the right thing with the Solano, or do you think it will only come back to bite her?


Everything is at stake here, and if the fleet (and the Rocinante) can’t take back Medina then it’s all over for Marco’s opposition. But even with everything at stake and the plans already having to change, I can’t help but feel a glimmer of hope (and a big old rush of approval) over what Pa chooses to do with the Solano instead of sticking to the first plan of using it as a battering ram. As she herself puts it, the context of the situation has changed; she hasn’t. For all that she’s made bad decisions, we are seeing now just how deep-rooted her decency as a human being goes. So yes, I think she did the right thing.

… It might still come back to bite her on the ass, let’s be real. She changed the plan. That’s going to change other things. But good grief, I hope it works out.



It’s all on the line now, so I have to ask: Do you have any predictions? Desired outcomes? Possibly any POVs remaining you’d like to see before it’s all over?

I … will not be so spoilery as to name it here, but I confess: I took a tiny sneak peek ahead at the first chapter of the final section to scout whose POV was coming next, and … AAAAAAH.

I have feelings about it.

Ahem. Anyway!

My desired outcome is pretty simple, really. I will always want the good guys to succeed. In this instance I want Marco Inaros to have his ass well and truly handed to him once and for all. NO MORE DISARMING THE TORPEDOES, HOLDEN. FFS. However! This certainly doesn’t mean I think everyone will come out the other side unscathed. We’re about to see all hell break loose, and I expect that hell to outdo all the hell that came before it. Nothing less will do, at this point.



Did anything else of note stand out to you this week? Here is your highlighting/flailing space!

Prax. PRAX. Prax, my dude, you really need to work on your confessing skills. I … I don’t think you told those guys what you think you told them…

He’s just. He’s a delight. He is a precious oblivious too-smart-for-regular-people cinnamon roll and I don’t want him to die. PRAX. STOP CONFESSING TO THINGS. JUST … STOP. Have some tea. Hug your kid. Just stop doing this to me.






2 thoughts on “The Expanse Read Along: Babylon’s Ashes, Part 3

  1. I really enjoyed Dawes’s politicking this section, and Holden really needed the help. He’s in a rough spot, though he’s doing his best to fill Fred’s shoes.

    Prax’s confession was hilarious! It was also kind of telling of how the Free Navy sees the scientists. It never even occurred to them that he might have sent the info out from defiance. They were just addressing a minor issue with permissions settings :D.

  2. Pa is a gem. She’s flawed but decent, and I love that she does take time to stop, examine her decisions, find them wanting and then change her actions (just as she did on the Behemoth). Sure, she may then flail around hating people for putting her in a position to make the wrong decision in the first place, but she does take responsibility for those decisions even while she indulges in her grudges.

    And Prax… <3 That scene had me in stitches as much as the Dawes sequence. He is a precious cinnamon roll.

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