This morning, about 1 o’clock, I finished reading Abaddon’s Gate, the third book in The Expanse series. (Until I just checked on Google, I didn’t realise Abaddon was the Angel of Death in the Book of Revelation – I thought he was a character from Warhammer 40,000 most famous for the fact that the arms keep falling off his figurine.) Abaddon’s Gate begins a short while after Caliban’s War – spoilers to follow.
Caliban’s War ends with the protomolecule spitting some strange construct out of Venus’s atmosphere and into space. This travels beyond Neptune and turns out to be a wormhole gate to somewhere else in the universe. Since nobody in The Expanse universe has ever watched a sci-fi horror, soon blethering idiot after blethering idiot is flying through the gate to see what’s what, claim it for the glory of mankind, etc.
This turns out badly because the gate can do bad things with physics. Mostly by preventing anything from travelling at more than 600 m/s. Any faster and you get forcibly decelerated to stationary in five seconds, and although spaceships can survive this (unfeasible, perhaps, because that could mean a deceleration of more than 12g) the people inside each ship get smashed to pieces when this happens. Thanks, protomolecule. (I did wonder what happens if your ship is travelling at 599 m/s and you sprint through it, but the book reveals that the protomolecule doesn’t care about speeds inside vehicles. Something something inertial frame of reference, etc.)
Everyone’s favourite showoff, James Holden (a name more suitable to a second-rate actor advertising instant coffee than a spacefaring hero) ends up going there too, along with a woman sworn to kill him and his crew, a spaceship full of every religious crackpot the solar system contains, a repurposed Mormon exploration ship, a …
There’s a lot going on, ok? At least Chrisjen Avarsarala only appears in the epilogue, which means there’s little politics in the book and much more action in space. People with modified adrenal glands. Constant injuries from arbitrary deactivations/reactivations of gravity. Methodists with military tasers! Power armour! Wormholes to the galaxy! Paralysed men driving assault mecha!
Basically, something for everyone. People die left right and centre (the previous book was far too gentle, making nothing seem that threatening), there’s only a few brutal expository parts explaining how Fanaticism Is Bad, Y’Know and stuff keeps happening. There’s even odd alien consciousnesses. Well, sort of.
Finally, there’s a security chief called Mr Baca, nickname "Bull". This would be great by itself but so much better if you’ve been reading Peppa Pig stories for several years, at which point you can’t distinguish in your mind between a tough, careworn ex-Marine and Mr Bull the stout, Day-glo tabard wearing construction worker in the Peppa Pig universe. I really hope for a crossover. In an infinite universe, infinite joy must be available. (Snort, snort, dine-saw, as George Pig would say.)
In short, the most enjoyable Expanse novel so far. No ruddy zombies, no somnolent accounts of politics, plenty of mental. Your mileage may vary, of course.