Abaddon’s Gate

Abaddon’s Gate
Book 3 in The Expanse series

(very light spoilers)

Abaddon’s Gate takes the characters of The Expanse series and sets them up for an adventure that feels both incredibly complete and a tiny stepping stone toward something unfathomably huge in scale. Trouble on the Rocinante leads Holden and his crew to the mysterious Ring. The dreaded protomolecule has pulled up stakes on Venus and placed itself in orbit around Uranus as a ring shaped structure that could be a portal to another realm. But Holden and his crew are not alone. Mars and Earth have sent military, scientific and even religious representatives to study the Ring. The Outer Planetary Alliance has sent the Nauvoo, rechristened the Behemoth, to take part in the expedition. On the edge of the solar system, they are all set to explore the mysteries of the protomolecule and more importantly, the people who made it.

I have to be honest, Abaddon’s Gate was a bit of a slow starter. The previous two books in the series both had me instantly hooked when I started reading them. This one, however, took me awhile to get re-engaged with the characters and events. Part of that is because the book starts out with a new character who isn’t very likable. Thankfully he isn’t around long. Still, even with that guy out of the way, there are more new characters, and it took some time for them to be developed. As their personalities began to form, their parts in the book became clearer and things began to smooth out. Once the plot starts kicking in with hiccups, tension and disaster, I was fully hooked. By the end, I was completely onboard, blown away, and loving the series again. The new characters might take awhile to warm up to, but it’s totally worth it.

As far as the new cast goes, there are three major players. First off is Bull, an Earther working for the Outer Planetary Alliance on the newly christened Behemoth. Fred Johnson, the leader of the OPA, gives Bull the special mission of making sure things don’t get screwed up. Bull’s role highlights a couple things. On one hand he’s an Earther working with Belters which highlights some of the racial tension in this universe. Earthers, Martians and Belters all have an underlying, racial tension between each other. Their characteristics are different enough that they can tell each other apart, and that’s all it takes. Fred himself is an Earther, but he knows he can’t put an Earther in charge of the Behemoth which will be manned by a crew full of Belters. That said, he doesn’t trust the person he’s put in charge to get things done. So he calls Bull aside and places the responsibility of the mission on his shoulders. Bull won’t be in command, but he has to do everything he can to manipulate the captain and executive officer of the Behemoth into doing what’s right. It’s a delicate role and leads to a lot of suspenseful events.

Aside from Bull is Anna. She’s a preacher. She’s also selected to join the Earth forces in their study of the Ring. By going out on this expedition, she’s leaving her family behind. She doesn’t have any friends coming with her, so she has to make new ones. For her, the mission is one of faith. It’s an exploration of what the Ring and the existence of this advance technology means to her belief system. Yet Anna is also a central figure in that her faith allows helps lead others to the correct path. Like Bull, it’s a delicate role that has subtle effects on the story and the main characters.

Then there is Melba. Of all the characters in the series, she’s probably the most complex. She wants revenge against James Holden. Her lust for revenge is so powerful that she’s willing to kill as many people as it takes to complete it. The Ring is part of the bait to lure Holden in where she can strike at him. On the surface, she appears to be a homicidal maniac. But rather than simply leaving her as a pure evil character, the book explores the after effects of someone who goes nuts and comes down from the experience. How does someone actually live with themselves when they’ve committed such heinous acts? What must that be like? They explore those ideas and it makes her one of the deepest characters in the book. She wars with your emotions. Do you hate her? Do you feel sympathetic for her? Do you forgive her? Should she die or should she live? With the twists and turns, I constantly found myself re-evaluating my opinion of her. In the end, she was one of my favorite characters.

Storywise, there are a lot of surprises in Abaddon’s Gate. Characters do things you don’t expect. The mystery behind the protomolecule is finally dived into, but the result is both bizarre and immensely fascinating. The plot starts off fairly plain and straightforward only to fall apart and rearrange itself into entirely new directions. It’s fun, exciting and unexpected.

With this being the third book in the series, The Expanse is turning out to be a great adventure. If it ended with this book, the payoff would be completely satisfactory. I think that says a lot about how good this book is on its own. While there are things that lead up to another book in the series, the story within is so complete that it’s not really necessary. Still, I’m really looking forward to where things go next. The stuff that happened in this book blew my mind as a reader and sent my excitement skyrocketing. This sci-fi at its best, and because of that, I give Abaddon’s Gate a five out of five metal bikinis.

Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

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