Why you should read The Expanse

Feb 07, 2020


Or why you should read (and watch) The Expanse.

The Expanse is a series that spans the solar system, 8 books, 5 novellas and four seasons of TV. While this may sound overwhelming, the books are all easy reads of manageable size, and if you give the series the chance it deserves, you’ll find a gripping, character-driven story that rivals any science-fiction series of recent memory.

Written by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck under the pen name James S. A. Corey, the series is told through POV chapters – similar to George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire – which follow different characters in each book. Interestingly, Franck used to work as Martin’s personal assistant, while Abraham has collaborated with the famous author as well, and it appears that Martin could learn a thing or two from his former prodigies. Since the first book Leviathan Wakes was released in 2011 – the same year as A Dance of Dragons – they have released a book every year and the series is due to conclude with the release of the 9th and final book in 2020.

The Expanse on Prime

The books are currently being adapted into TV, and unlike the last time I raved about a book series here, the adaptation is actually good. The first three seasons were developed by Syfy, who cancelled the show in May 2018. A huge fan outcry and campaign followed, which led to Amazon Prime – whose CEO Jeff Bezos is apparently a big fan – reviving the show later that month. The fourth season dropped in December to critical acclaim and proved that moving to Amazon has helped the series reach new heights. The fifth season is currently filming with the release date yet to be announced.

The Universe of The Expanse

The setting of The Expanse is a fascinating glimpse into a believable future. Set around 300 years in a future where Mars and the rest of the Solar System has been colonised, thanks to the invention of the Epstein Drive. Tension has been building for decades between Earth, its militarily superior neighbour, and the OPA (Outer Planets Alliance). The Martians have drive and purpose, working towards the common goal of terraforming the planet. The Earthers struggle to get by on world basic income; an idea that’s been floated recently by contemporary politicians.  While the Belters, who live on the outer planets or the Asteroid belt, resent the power and oppression of the Inners and attempt to push back. This state of play is far from static however, and the status quo is rocked in almost every book, usually in shocking, unexpected and strange ways.

The Characters of The Expanse

As fascinating as the setting is, the true strength of The Expanse lies in the characters who are tossed around the fragile ecosystem of Sol.  The series follows the survivors of the Canterbury; an ice hauler whose destruction sets the events of the series in motion, along with many other memorable characters that bob in and out of the story. The Expanse was originally developed as a pen-and-paper role-playing game, which I think is reflected in its fully realised characters. There’s Amos Burton (played perfectly in the show by Wes Chatham), the sociopathic mechanic and most people’s favourite character, who at one point is described as a “good-hearted unrepentant killer”. The crew also includes the Martian pilot Alex Kamal (Cas Anvar), the brilliant Belter engineer Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper), and James Holden (Steven Strait), the naively humanistic captain who believes that people will make the right decisions if you give them all the information. Readers of the novels will instinctively know how they will react to most scenarios and their comradery and family dynamics make it a joy to spend time with them. And although the crew have more teething problems in the show, it overall does a great job of casting, adapting, and in some cases improving the characters.

Why you should read and watch The Expanse…

With a brilliant story, compelling characters, and a fascinating political backdrop, what’s not to love? The Expanse has been a tour de force so far and if they can stick the landing later this year, it will surely be regarded as one of the best science fiction series of all time. So it’s time to jump on-board, read the books, watch the show, and join the rest of us. Beltalowda!  

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