Christmas books: 'The Expanse' series

Reviewed By Father Jim McDermott, SJ
Wednesday, December 15, 2021

On Nov. 30, writing team Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, who go by the single pen name James S.A. Corey, released the ninth and final volume of their gritty space opera “The Expanse,” which, for the past 10 years, has offered one of the most realistic-seeming depictions of what human life amongst the planets might someday be like.

In “The Expanse,” humans live on the moon, Mars, some of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn and also in the asteroid belt. The story grounds itself in our intractable social dilemmas, like the dehumanization of the masses by the wealthy few; the seeds of terrorism in poverty and humiliation; or the challenge to overcome national histories and priorities to help one another.  

At the center of the story sits the four-person crew of the Rocinante, who find themselves in the middle of a situation that disturbs the equilibrium of the entire solar system. In many ways, the series reads like a more streamlined version of “Game of Thrones,” with the narrative sliding into different characters’ points of view each chapter, including villains.

The multiple-perspective structure quietly teaches compassion, helping readers appreciate characters they might want to write off. To read their novels is to be constantly surprised and delighted.

It’s also to be challenged and encouraged. Though “The Expanse” is not a series about climate change, it is very much a tale inspired by the struggles we currently face as a species. It captures the fears and self-interest that keep us from serving the common good, and also imagines that people of goodwill can make a difference, even in the face of overwhelming odds.

In a way, it’s the same belief in the capacity of human goodness that O’Loughlin and Secrest chronicle. They each inspire us to believe in the possibilities beyond all obstacles and self-doubt.