Nemesis Games | James S.A. Corey | 2015, Pb 2016 | Orbit | 532p | Bought copy | Buy the book
The crew of the Rocinante are back and how good it is to see them! Nemesis Games is the fifth Expanse novel and proves yet again, as every Expanse book does, why this series continues to be one of my favourite – actually, adored would be more accurate – series of any genre. It could be argued that Nemesis Games is a self-contained story which does an excellent job of introducing the new reader to people and themes, but you would have to be bonkers to read this without having first enjoyed the previous four books. If you’ve read Expanse from the beginning then by now you will feel very deep affection for Captain Holden and his XO Naomi and their pilot Alex and engineer (and all-purpose shooting, fighting security officer) Amos. This feeling makes the intensity of the traumatic and extreme events of Nemesis Games soar until the very last breathtaking page. It also goes without saying that there may be spoilers below. Some knowledge of Expanse is assumed. It’s time to dive in once more.
Although the Expanse novels follow the thread of a storyline in a wonderfully-realised, dangerous universe, each of the books is different and it’s no surprise that Nemesis Games is likewise something new. Each novel has a structure of chapters that swap from one character to the next, moving the action along, developing personal stories, reflecting on the action from more than one perspective. This is also true of Nemesis Games but in this novel, except for the prologue and the epilogue, this is tightened down to just Holden, Naomi, Alex and Amos. The result is much more personal.
After the trauma of Cibola Burn, the Roci is in dock in the Belt for much-needed maintenance and repair. Not surprisingly, its crew of four are also ready for some R&R and so for the first time in a long, long while, the four prepare to go their separate ways, each in need to put something from their past at peace – Amos heads to Earth, Alex to Mars and Naomi just disappears into a world of secrets. It’s up to Holden to stay with the ship and oversee repairs. That occupies some of his time, the rest is spent missing his crew, especially Naomi, the woman he has grown to love. It becomes apparent to all four that together they are a family and apart they are incomplete.
The crew scatters at the worst possible time. Earth, Mars and even the stations in the Belt are under attack by a source unknown. There are rumours of ships vanishing as they pass through the Gates into the Expanse, materials and kit are also disappearing from stations. The inhabitants of the inner planets and those of the Belt have always been hostile to one another – Earth and Mars barely get along as well – but now there is a new force at work that wants to close the Gates, take war to Earth and Mars, create a new order for the solar system. And caught right in the middle of it all, along with millions of other suffering souls, are Naomi, Alex and Amos. Holden has no choice but to go after them.
Nemesis Games is an action thriller of the highest order. We are spared nothing of the horrors unfolding on Earth, the terror of the battles in space between opposing forces. The authors take us into the very heart of it and it is breathlessly exciting. Every single time we move from perspective to perspective it’s difficult to leave that person behind but that feeling lasts for just a second or two as the heat of the new chapter’s action presses down on the reader.
Although the four crew are the heart of the novel there are lots of other familiar faces, including, most pleasingly, the fabulous ex-marine Bobbie and foul-mouthed politician Avasarala (who surely gets the best lines). There are others, too, some of whom arouse all kinds of conflicted feelings in the crew and in us. An enemy one minute can be a friend in the next and vice versa. Best of all, though, are the members of crew. I love all four but in Nemesis Games we learn much more about Naomi in particular and she grows so much closer to us as a result. As for Holden, he’s as wonderful and loveable as ever, always ready to do what’s right, more than ready to get laughed at (he often deserves it) and always there for the people he loves the most. By the end of the novel I also felt that I knew Amos and Alex much better, too. I liked that.
The Expanse novels are about to become a TV series and I can’t think of a series better suited for it. Every novel surprises and thrills me and Nemesis Games is no different. Fantastic action adventure with wonderfully-drawn characters, all facing the great mystery of the Expanse, not yet knowing whether the terms good or evil even apply to it. The protomolecule and Detective Miller get little mention in Nemesis Games but it is one of the great strengths of the series that this doesn’t matter at all. In this novel we have the repercussions of what has passed, how it has affected the Belt and the inner planets, as well as individuals such as Holden and his crew. It’s powerful stuff.
As for the ending, talk about edge of your seat! By the last page I was crying out for book six. Danger comes – we must be ready.