Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Cibola Burn (Expanse #4) review

    CIBOLA BURN is the fourth novel of the Expanse series which I've very much enjoyed even if I've stated my preference for the TV adaptation. The Expanse's premise is it's about two hundred years in the future and humanity has not changed a bit. The rich abuse the poor, there's racial caste systems, and governments are either greedy or oppressive (or both). The first few novels were very hard science fiction but have shifted a bit with the introduction of ancient alien technology.

    Cibola Burn picks up after the apocalyptic events of the last book which have opened a massive alien portal network to 1500 inhabitable new worlds. Immediately, illegal colonists from all across the system have flooded these worlds followed by more legitimate upscale scientists to research it. One of these planets is Ilus (called "New Terra" by the UN). OPA terrorists kill fifty colonists and chaos reigns with James Holden sent with his crew to make peace. Except, there's more on the planet than either side could imagine.

   This is probably my second favorite novel of the series after the original because it returns to the human politics of the setting over the more cosmic elements. There's a strong mixture of Wild West with sci-fi elements that reminds me a bit of Mass Effect: Andromeda's better parts. The colonists are protected by a corrupt but effective small town Sheriff named Murtry while the Belter colonists are much more wild as well as savage.

    Holden has matured a good deal from his previous escapades and become a more cautious leader. Even so, he remains idealistic to the point of stupidity at times. Virtually all of his problems would have been solved by shooting Murtry but he refuses to do so. In the end, he's willing to compromise himself much more while keeping his eye on the prize.

    My favorite character in the book is Murtry because I love the tireless loyalty he has for Royal Chater Energy Company. A lot of people in the Expanse are flexible about their loyalties while Murtry is willing to die for the purposes of fulfilling his contract. It makes him an admirable character even when he's willing to see the colony destroyed.

    The kind of crap the colonists go through is tremendous and reminds me of the horrors faced by colonists in the early New World days only exaggerated. There's blindness plagues, toxic slugs, earthquakes, alien technology malfunctions, and conflicts between them. That's in addition to more mundane issues like famine, lack of medicine, and lack of contact with their patrons.

    In conclusion, Cibola Burn is a great novel that I enjoyed from beginning to end. I liked the actions, politics, and the characters. The precursor technology isn't really great and takes over too much of the plot but that's just how it goes.


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