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A Damned Good Read

Let me get the taste of this week's football out of my mouth and turn to a more pleasant subject -- the latest volume in the Expanse series, BABYLON'S ASHES, which I just finished reading a few days ago.

You know, for a voracious reader like myself, life has few pleasures that compare to finding a really good book, the sort that grabs you from page one and won't let go, so you find yourself late at night, wanting to sleep but thinking, "Just one more chapter, just one more chapter," until dawn breaks and you've read the whole damned thing.

That's BABYLON'S ASHES. The Expanse series has been terrific from the beginning, but it went to a new level with the last volume, NEMESIS GAMES, which should have been a Hugo finalist last year. This new one is just as good. It will definitely be one of the books on my own nominating ballot. Jimmy Corey (who is really Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham in a two-man pantomime horse costume) just keeps getting better.

It also occurs to me that BABYLON'S ASHES would make a very worthy nominee for the new awards that Atlanta's Dragoncon has started, the Dragon Awards. The Dragons, given for the first time last year, aspire to be the People's Choice Awards of SF and fantasy... and could well achieve that if they can get sufficient participation from all sectors of fandom. Unlike the Hugo Awards, the Dragons have no short fiction categories, but they do give a number of awards for novel: best sf, best fantasy, best horror, best military SF, etc. "Military SF" has become popular enough to be regarded as its own category these days, it would seem. (Which was not formerly the case. Heinlein's STARSHIP TROOPERS and Haldeman's FOREVER WAR both won Hugo Awards simply as Best Novel back in the day, and -- together perhaps with Gordy Dickson's Dorsai series -- pretty much defined what is known as 'Milsf' today).

One of the joys of the Expanse series is the way Jimmy Corey dances between subgenres. The series is certainly science fiction, no doubt of that, but assigning it to any particular sub-genre is more more difficult. Some parts read like space opera, some parts strike me as hard SF. The first book, LEVIATHAN WAKES, had some pretty strong horror elements with its vomit zombies, and also a real noir-ish mystery feel in the Miller chapters. With BABYLON'S ASHES, however, the war comes center stage, and we are definitely in the realm of Military SF. Lots of action, lots of tension, lots of battle... with some great world-building and characters you really care about. So I'm thinking, if we are going to have special awards for Mil-SF, I cannot think of a more worthy contender than the new Corey. So... Hugo, Dragon, or whatever, I commend BABYLON'S ASHES to your consideration. I think you'll like it. I sure did.

Oh, and speaking of THE EXPANSE... there's a second season of the TV show coming at us as well. Here's a trailer for it.


Dec. 25th, 2016 12:37 am (UTC)
Reading Babylon's Ashes was most certainly the highlight of my month, and I cannot wait to see Prax and Bobbie on screen in season 2 of the show.

I do not want to delve into the realm of spoilers here, but I was very pleasantly surprised by how many POVs there were in this book - something like over a dozen, and far more than the typical book in the series. It was a fitting choice for this point in the series, and I love it, but man do they keep making it harder for me to pick a favorite character! Michio Pa is definitely a new top contender for the title, though; after seeing her in The Vital Abyss, it was great to see her again here.
Dec. 25th, 2016 12:39 am (UTC)
Great recommendation
For sure, I'm going to check out this series. Have been looking for a good "Sci fi" books.

Any other books you can recommend, in Sci fi, that you enjoyed.

Dec. 25th, 2016 12:53 am (UTC)
Lovvvve the book series. Made my summer last year. Got onto it from your postings here.
The Expanse TV series was just released onto Netflix in australia/NZ a month or so ago, which is great for picking up more audience.
Tom Langford
Dec. 25th, 2016 12:57 am (UTC)
Merry Christmas Mr Martin.
Your novels have brought a lot of joy and clarity into in to my life, so thank you very much. I wish you and your family a very happy Christmas and new year.
Dec. 25th, 2016 01:16 am (UTC)
Just finished as well
I just finished up Babylon's Ashes yesterday and I loved it. It's definitely a page turner; I had to keep myself from trying to rush through it to see how it all turned out. Now I can't wait to see the further adventures of the Rocinante's crew... definitely a lot of setup for the next book.

Who is your favorite character George? Hard for me to pick love Holden, Alex, and Amos always cracks me up. Pa was great here and I always enjoy Prax. I miss Miller. :(

Merry Christmas!
Dec. 25th, 2016 01:34 am (UTC)
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Dec. 25th, 2016 04:20 am (UTC)
Already got it!
The Expanse is my favorite (current) novel series -- and favorite televisions series, too -- after ASoIaF and GoT.

I bought the audiobook via Audible first day of release. Still listening to Book 4. I'll get there! Missing Jefferson Mays as reader during book 4 though. Definite poor choice to change the author. Has a John Lee note of discord to it.

It's the hard SF elements that make The Expanse work for me the most. What is plausible seems more real. I do think that 200 years in the future seems optimistic though; 350 years wiuld have seemed more believable. (Nit picking now...)

Edited at 2016-12-27 01:53 am (UTC)
Dec. 25th, 2016 07:34 am (UTC)
What an awesome series
I'm currently powering through Babylon's Ashes. What an awesome book. The Expanse will be considered a classic a couple decades from now, I'm sure.
I hope the TV show continues to do it justice.
Dec. 25th, 2016 11:32 am (UTC)
Thank you!
Thanks for the recommendation! I just finished reading THE DAGGER AND THE COIN series and loved it. I was going to start my annual read of AMERICAN GODS but now I'll try this series.

Merry Christmas George! Hope you and Parris have a nice holiday.
Dec. 25th, 2016 02:00 pm (UTC)
The Wheel of Time
Hey George,

Firstly, Merry Christmas!

I was just wondering if you have read the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan and would like your feedback on it.. I just recently started reading the Eye of the World..

Anyone else's feedback is welcome too :)

Edited at 2016-12-26 08:02 am (UTC)
Dec. 26th, 2016 01:03 pm (UTC)
Re: The Wheel of Time
Most people who complain about the series had to wait for the next book and that contributed to their criticism. I would say out of the 14 books there are only 3 slow ones and out of those only 1 is actually bad. Otherwise its a fun series to read.
Dec. 25th, 2016 05:55 pm (UTC)
Babylon's Ashes Rocks
This volume of The Expanse did not disappoint. Great action. Spellbinding plot. Cannot wait for next one. Also very excited about Expanse Season 2. Best TV space opera in a very long time.
David Levin
Dec. 25th, 2016 10:13 pm (UTC)
Expanse series.
May check out the Expanse series.

Although nothing wrong with rereading anything Song of Ice and Fire related. From Dunk to the World of Ice and Fire encyclopedia, etc.

I am a Song of Ice and Fire addict and proud of it.

Thank you George for all that you write -- Song of Ice and Fire related.

Happy Holidays one and all !

Dec. 25th, 2016 11:20 pm (UTC)
Love the Expanse
I'm really happy your giving this series recommendation. It's such true science fiction to the core. I loved the first season and I can't wait for the second! Just finished the first book so I'm excited to hear the series is still kicking ass and taking names. Going back to the tv show specifically, I'm so happy we are finally returning to the days of SciFi instead of Syfy. I don't think I've enjoyed science fiction this much sense Battlestar and Stargate Universe, or my first reads of Enders Game and Hyperion, boy is it good to be back. Have a Merry Christmas.

Edited at 2016-12-25 11:21 pm (UTC)
David Levin
Dec. 25th, 2016 11:29 pm (UTC)
Expanse series.
May check out the Expanse series.

Although nothing wrong with rereading anything Song of Ice and Fire related. From Dunk to the World of Ice and Fire encyclopedia, etc.

I am a Song of Ice and Fire addict and proud of it.

Thank you George for all that you write -- Song of Ice and Fire related.

Happy Holidays one and all !

Kenneth Clark
Dec. 26th, 2016 02:02 am (UTC)
Thanks for the suggestion. Currently reading the Liveship Traders by Robin Hobb. Always nice to have a good book series waiting for my attention.
Christopher Frazier
Dec. 26th, 2016 05:49 am (UTC)
Babylon's Ashes
The first great thing about this book is the dialog. As an author myself I am very picky about dialog. It is honestly the first thing I look at. If the dialog isn't believable or organic it ruins my immersion and the book gets deleted from my reader.
The second great thing about this book is the way things are described. Many books I read just choke you to death with description. Leaves nothing to the imagination really. Or it isn't descriptive enough and you feel it is nothing but dialog.
But this book is perfect in both areas and I consider that a rare find.
James S. A. Corey simply handles both like a master and I am beyond impressed since I like so few novels. I would rather play video games or work on my novel than read something that doesn't grab me right away. Man does this book ever do that!

The plot is amazing too. I thought, "alright everything is great but surely the plot will be the weak link here." Because I have read books where the plot is average and generic but is executed well. But alas again it is nothing but great. Thanks for the suggestion George!

Any fan of the genre owes it to themselves to pick this up.
Robert Dargenzio
Dec. 26th, 2016 11:50 am (UTC)
I binge read this the day it came out
The expanse books keep getting better and better. I know there's more to come but in some ways it felt like the finale. Nemesis games is still my favorite because I enjoyed how it focused on the main cast and pulled each crew member of the rocinante to different ends of the solar system. Anyways I love me some expanse and will indeed vote for it where I can. The expanse series definitely deserves love. I keep hoping more and more sci fi and fantasy book series get adapted with love and care. (Especially First law trilogy) anyways enjoy hearing good new book recommendations keep em coming 👍🏾
Dec. 27th, 2016 05:22 am (UTC)
Thanks for the reccomendation. I heartily concur about the singular pleasure of a till-dawn readfest. Binge watching has nothing on that.

And it's always good to hear the name of Gordon Dickson invoked.

By the way, something I've long been curious about ...

(totally off topic, though speaking of the Dorsai and your own milsf)

I recall you saying in your Rretrospective that you wrote "And Seven Times Never Kill Man" as your answer to Dickson's Dorsai ...

Did you intend the Steel Angels as a sort of antidote to the noble mercenary? That your ruthless and fanatic warriors better represented the horror of war?

Just curious.

Frank Probst
Dec. 28th, 2016 01:35 pm (UTC)
The books and the show
I'll definitely be nominating Babylon's Ashes for the Hugo. I'll be nominating The Expanse, too, but I'm not sure if it'll be for the whole series (which was phenomenal) or for a single episode (probably the pilot). I like the idea of the Dragon Awards, but it looks like they're going to tinker with the awards process for this coming year. Also, remember that the season is different for the Dragon Awards--it's a July to June cycle instead of a January to December one. Babylon's Ashes is still eligible, but anything from January to June of 2016 is not. Also, keep in mind that there are the Goodreads Choice Awards, which are done for 2016. (Pierce Brown won for Morning Star for Sci-Fi.) A Dance of Dragons won that one for Best Fantasy, but it sounds like you don't even get a handsome certificate suitable for framing.


George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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