Book Review: Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey

Publishing Date: 2014

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 3.8/5

Review: In case your were wondering, Cibola was one of the Seven Cities of Gold, rumored about in 16th century Spain.

Well, Holden has morphed. He is no longer an inept, sometimes bumbling freighter captain with loads of believability. Nah. Since graduating to ‘fearless combat marine troop leader’, he is now a galactic mediator, juggling rival factions and political nemeses (yawn).  Oh, he and his crew get into scraps as is the norm in these novels, but they no longer hold your attention when victory is always certain. Amos is there shambling about with his heart on his right sleeve and blood/gore on his left. Naomi is aloft, adroitly managing their ship but really takes a back seat, along with Alex, in this installment.

So let us talk about the new characters that were allowed a POV narrative. Elvi was one of the worst characters ever built in the Expanse next to Praxidike. She is constantly whining about being scared of this or that, or riding her moral high horse across the wastes in search of shit to pick at. She is completely love-struck by Holden which is weird as their interactions are slim. But she still wants to hold his hand. Yeah…… Havelock makes an about face in his alliances as well as perspective that is almost too sudden to be convincing. Basia makes no sense at all. His actions are based on antiquated notions about self-recrimination taken to the heights of external blame. To wit, he is utilized as a two dimensional character seeking to carry the novel forward, much like Melba in Abaddon’s Gate.

So what is this novel about or more importantly is it headed anywhere interesting. There is the constant political interactions between rival entities that creates tension and inevitable skirmishes. There are extinct alien artifacts and proto-molecule remnants. Biotic threats (killer slugs), Terra-forming and orbital decay that round out the list of story line directions.  We all like a novel with a lot of elements to create a synergistic masterpiece yet Cibola Burn seemed fractured in presentation. Or was it?

This series has always been about the characters and their development. Love em’ or hate em’ they are central to the theme and have made the Expanse series popular among bibliophiles. You may not like the direction in which the characters grow, but they do Grow, which is fairly rare these days for any series. In order to implement that growth there must be movement and this novel delivers that in spades. A journey (quest) can make or break a novel and without it can soon become stagnant. The Expanse series is one big quest. Whether you ride a shuttle from Luna to Earth, or ply the open spaces to edge of our galaxy, there is always movement into the unknown with characters there to embellish.

To be honest, this novel has evolved despite my resistance. At the end of this novel, I found myself transported which reflects upon the writers ability to imbue a story with critical visuals while developing the characters. So I continue on……..

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