The gates have opened the way to a thousand new worlds, and the rush to colonise has begun. Settlers looking for a new life stream out from humanity’s home planets. Illus, the first human colony on this vast new frontier, is being born in blood and fire. Independent settlers stand against the overwhelming power of a corporate colony ship with only their determination, courage, and the skills learned in the long wars of home. Innocent scientists are slaughtered as they try to survey a new and alien world.
James Holden and the crew of his one small ship are sent to make peace in the midst of war and sense in the heart of chaos. But the more he looks at it, the more Holden thinks the mission was meant to fail. And the whispers of a dead man remind him that the great galactic civilisation which once stood on this land is gone. And that something killed them.
Cibola Burn is the exhilarating fourth novel in the New York Times best-selling Expanse series, following the Hugo-nominated Leviathan Wakes, Caliban’s War, and Abaddon’s Gate.
Author: James S. A. Corey
Narrator: Jefferson Mays
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Series: The Expanse (#4)
Run Time: 20 hrs 7 mins
Audio Release Date: 07/05/2015
My Rating of ‘Cibola Burn’: 5 out of 5
To get the TLDR out of the way: this was joint-best in the series so far for me (joint-best with Caliban’s War, Leviathan’s Wake coming in second place and Abaddon’s Gate bringing up the rear) and was just absolutely fantastic.
Cibola Burn was a book I’d heard mixed reviews on and fully expected to go into it and get a bit of an underwhelming experience. I felt incredibly underwhelmed by Abaddon’s Gate previously and just didn’t know if the series could reach the highs of the first two books again.
It did. In a big way.
At heart of it, this is a tale of squatter’s rights vs the big faceless corporation that have legally bought the rights to a world. Obviously, if you had been living on a world for a few years and someone came and waved a bit of paper in your face and said you had to leave, you’d be pretty peeved at the thought. The backbone of the story is the ongoing conflict between the corporation looking to undertake scientific research on the planet and the Belter’s who took their chance to hop through one of the gates and colonise the first world they could find.
Enter Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante. The politicians back on Earth decided that Holden and his crew, who were already prominent faces in the public eye due to all they had done thus far in the series, would be an excellent selection as far as mediators went.
What follows is an incredibly fast-paced and well-fleshed out story of the struggles of a variety of different factions revolving around the ongoing colonisation of the aforementioned planet. And, as the blurb said, throw in the little fact that this could be the home of the beings that were strong enough to kill the proto-aliens, it all makes for an exciting cocktail of sci-fi goodness.
The character work is excellent and, I’ll not say when or with who, but there are times that genuinely had me stopping what I was doing so I could pay absolute attention to what happened to a character. The authors do a great job of getting the reader invested in this one. They do an even better job of making an antagonist that is both incredibly easy to hate, and, due to the fact that nothing he does is illegal or wrong, fairly easy to see his point of view. Really gave me conflicting feelings as far as sense of duty and sense of honour went.
The story is split between two halves of the Rocinante’s crew and how they experience different aspects on what is going on, with a couple of new POVs thrown in (as is expected with an Expanse novel).
All in all, this is one of my favourite series so far and Cibola Burn is one hell of an addition to it. If you stopped reading the Expanse at book three, you really should give this one a go. I promise it’ll hook you again.
The narration from Jefferson Mays is masterful, as ever, and with my being halfway through the series now I am already getting early onset withdrawal symptoms as I know that, one day, I’ll be without a new Expanse novel and Jefferson Mays’ expert narration of it.