Series: The Expanse #3
Publisher: Orbit Books
Released: June 4, 2013
Abaddon's Gate is the third book in the New York Times bestselling Expanse series.
For generations, the solar system - Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt - was humanity's great frontier. Until now. The alien artefact working through its program under the clouds of Venus has emerged to build a massive structure outside the orbit of Uranus: a gate that leads into a starless dark.
Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are part of a vast flotilla of scientific and military ships going out to examine the artefact. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with the destruction of Holden at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to find whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them.
After the first two books of The Expanse, I expected a lot of Abaddon’s Gate. How could this series go on making itself better? How could the third book surpass the first two?
That’s not to say this book wasn’t really good, because it was. But so are a lot of other books, and the first two books in the series were so good that I was expecting more of the same. In Abaddon’s Gate the story went from being something that felt fresh and special to something that felt more like an ordinary good book.
Whereas the other books had plots that were complex, and (satisfyingly) felt even more complex than they actually were, this one keeps it relatively simple. It builds upon the underlying politics and tensions from the previous books, but the narrative isn’t driven by them at all. The previous books spent time carefully constructing the culture, the history, and various subtleties of the different fractions that feature in these stories. In this book the fractions might as well have been named Team Red, Team Blue, and Team Green, and it would hardly have made a difference to the story.
The story also felt like it was there to get the plot of the series from a given point to another point. Rather than feeling like the characters controlled what was happening, which I got plenty of from the two previous books, this one made it feel like the characters were doing what they had to do for a given outcome to occur. For the first time I didn’t find myself empathising with them.
Now, while it might sound like I disliked this book, I really didn’t. Abaddon’s Gate was still a page-turner, still has a good story, and is still a book I’d heartily recommend. It also has some scenes and moments that are really brilliant. It’s just a little bit of a let-down to have to say that about a book which I expected to be really brilliant throughout. I’m holding onto the hope that the next one will step the series back up to where it was after Book 2 – and beyond.