Series: The Expanse #9
Publisher: Orbit Books
Released: November 30, 2021
The Laconian Empire has fallen, setting the thirteen hundred solar systems free from the rule of Winston Duarte. But the ancient enemy that killed the gate builders is awake, and the war against our universe has begun again.
In the dead system of Adro, Elvi Okoye leads a desperate scientific mission to understand what the gate builders were and what destroyed them, even if it means compromising herself and the half-alien children who bear the weight of her investigation. Through the wide-flung systems of humanity, Colonel Aliana Tanaka hunts for Duarte’s missing daughter. . . and the shattered emperor himself. And on the Rocinante, James Holden and his crew struggle to build a future for humanity out of the shards and ruins of all that has come before.
As nearly unimaginable forces prepare to annihilate all human life, Holden and a group of unlikely allies discover a last, desperate chance to unite all of humanity, with the promise of a vast galactic civilization free from wars, factions, lies, and secrets if they win.
But the price of victory may be worse than the cost of defeat.
Leviathan Falls is a great conclusion to an excellent series of books, and while it did give me an ending that was better than I had any right to expect, it wasn’t quite all that I’d hoped for.
The only thing that has been predictable about The Expanse books has been that they’re rather different from each other, and Leviathan Falls is no exception. We’ve gone from the political, via the critical, through the action, and in this last book the story is, like the series itself, forcefully, mercilessly, rolling toward a conclusion. Not as quickly as one might expect, but with a momentum that feels stressful, relentless, and crushing. It’s a book about our main characters getting more of a sense of what they’re up against, and what stakes they’re playing for. Those stakes eventually feel so high that they’re impossible to properly understand.
And that may be where the book lost me a little. The story is heavily driven by a threat that, while it has very real consequences, exists primarily on a plane that necessarily remains mostly abstract for both the characters and the readers. For large parts of the book I was so interested in, and curious about, the exact nature of the imminent doom that I wasn’t able to feel any actual emotional connection to it. It didn’t make me appreciate the book that much less, but it made me appreciate it in an outside-in “this is clever” kind of way, rather than the visceral “whoa, this book has taken me for a ride” kind of way that I got from Tiamat’s Wrath.
The thing this book does do is bring a series that must have been extremely difficult to conclude to a conclusion that actually feels wholesome and satisfying – which is a relief. The book as a standalone work probably suffers a little from the need for a proper conclusion – there are certainly directions, twists, and turns that this story could have taken that would have made it more spectacular – but the setup in the preceding books is treated with a respect that doubtlessly benefits the series as a whole.
Leviathan Falls is an extremely solid end to an absolutely excellent series. I didn’t enjoy it in quite the way I had hoped, but I’m putting that at least partially down to being a victim of my own unrealistic expectations. The Expanse is a work of art, and this last book puts a nice bow on a series of books (and some great novellas) that should be considered essential, classic, sci-fi works.