James S.A. Corey, “Leviathan Falls” (2021) (read by Jefferson Mays) – Well, at long last, here we are! At the end of The Expanse! What a long, strange trip it’s been… well, a long trip, anyway. As you know, I’m behind on reviews and trying to catch up. That is a problem, because this book is deeply unremarkable and I remember little about it. And it’s sad, because I do think the Coreys (it’s a house name for two guys) tried to do something ambitious here. Humanity, in its hour of need, “groks a rock” (a giant alien data storage device) and learns the history of the universe! In honestly pretty bad pseudo-dreamlike prose. Jellyfish-neuron-people figured out space, also figured out how to use alternate-universe-energy, built gates between stars, and then got iced by the alternate-universe beings. Now those alternate universe beings are mad that humans are using the juice again. Also, the (former, sort of) dictator of humanity decides to try to hive mind us up, like the jellyfish folk, on the idea we’d be both more able to cope with the universe, and happier.
It’s not terrible but not great, not so much bad in and of itself and more dispiriting that this is the best we can do. Among other things, I’m not saying that the Coreys need to hop on “team hive mind” but pretty much everyone right away rejects it, even after former-dictator guy tries the soft sell (he soon goes hard, natch). Certainly the characters do, because, after all, they are Characters, with Feelings and Development and Subplots, so no go. But wouldn’t the extras maybe kinda like being part of a larger whole and forgetting their egos? I’m pretty egotistical and even I can see the appeal. Arguably the most dispiriting part was when characters, in their internal monologues, would list off the things humanity would “lose” if we became an all-powerful, strife-free hive mind. If I remember right, these things we stood to lose include “prayers,” “jokes,” “first dates,” etc. There they go, tempting us with a good time!
Eventually, perspective dullard Jim Holden apotheosizes and saves the galaxy, but at a cost. Heart o’ gold zombified thug Amos gets to live on and on, various other characters that I guess I’m supposed to have feelings about, after spending thousands of pages with them, go their various ways. Fine, fine. I guess this is what people want. I’m just kind of baffled. It all seems… mismatched. The ambitions of space, the familiarity of every dynamic they threw up there, the sheer size of the work and how little gets done with it. I guess people want… same-same, repeated at nauseum, and in settings you’d think would reward creativity? That last part… is it spite? Probably not. People just like variety, is probably the simpler answer. I don’t know. The end. ***