I really do seem to be going through a lot of books at the moment. This is what happens when you aren’t training for a marathon and the kids are fairly docile: there’s lots of extra time. I’m halfway through The Dirtiest Race In History, an account of the 1988 100 metres at the Seoul Olympics, and for a quick break i paused to read The Churn.
The Churn is a novella set in the Expanse universe. It’s labelled as The Expanse 3.5, sitting between Abaddon’s Gate and Cibola Burn. (Although I’m glad there’s a finite number of Expanse novels, rather than some ever-expanding series, that is tinged with the regret of not seeing how desperate they’d get for titles if they spun it out to a series of Tom Clancy-ish proportions. The Welshman’s Gazette, volume 119 in The Expanse series. Quotidien Passive Voices, volume 289 in The Expanse series. Etc.)
It’s short (111 ‘pages’ on the device I’m reading on, which I estimate makes it between 25 and 50 pages in a paperback book) and there’s not much more than one perspective to it, unlike the multi-person narrative of the novels. The genre this time is nobody-gets-out-of-here-alive cyberpunk, that old fashioned pulpish noir feel where people get pulled. So no grand political gestures. No protomolecule or explosive decompression or zero gravity medical problems either.
It’s also awfully predictable. Because it’s in The Expanse setting, but set a long time ago, the main character can only be one particular person we already know about, and we know they’ll survive, so the stakes are low. There’s an attempt to set that person up as a soulless killer, and when that doesn’t happen, it’s not like you can feel any surprise at any twist.
Well, not even a twist. Think of it as shading in some colour around fhe border of a colouring book. Given The Expanse originated from a roleplaying game, this feels closest to back story for a character, and furthest from an actual story. But still, it killed an hour without great complaint, ànd did add a tiny bit more detail on how Earth isn’t a paradise any more than the asteroids or the outer planets.