The Expanse is one of those series I sort of accidentally fell in love with. I only sort of liked it at first, while also being terrified by it (the first two books especially could fit comfortably into the horror genre, in my opinion). And then the third book hit and I was suddenly really, really into it. I know if I went back and re-read the first two I would retroactively love them, because that’s what always happens to me in these situations (Farscape and The Dresden Files are the first two series that come to mind when thinking of this phenomenon).
If you haven’t read the first three books (which constitute the first of three trilogies that will eventually make up this series), this isn’t the best place to start, although you certainly can. It’s intentionally written as more accessible than the last two expressly for that purpose. Why anyone would want to start a series in the middle is beyond me, but I suppose it happens.
Anyway, the first three books were all about this strange alien protomolecule being terrifying and transforming things and killing people, but the original trilogy wraps up as you realize it’s all sort of an accidental terror. The protomolecule wasn’t designed as a way to kill people and turn them into scary vomit zombies. It was designed to locate and transform viable planets for future habitation, and it was sent billions of years before humans were even a possible thing that could happen, only it got waylaid. The first trilogy ends with the realization that literally thousands of new habitable planets have opened up for colonization, and that’s where Cibola Burn comes in.
If I had to guess, I’d say that the second trilogy is going to be chronicling humanity’s journey to colonize those planets and the problems they find along the way, only half of which will be coming from alien threats. The other half they will bring with them, as they do in this book. Almost the entire book takes place on or above New Terra/Ilus. It has two names because two groups of people are fighting over it: the colonists who got there first the year before, essentially squatting there and claiming it as their own, and the first ‘official’ colonists, a science team from the RCE corporation. An act of terrorism on the part of one of the colonists goes awry and kills a bunch of people, and that’s where Holden and the crew of the Rocinante come in. The UN and the OPA want him to do his ‘transparency’ thing and work peace between these two peoples before things escalate beyond their control (which of course they do anyway, helped along by the signature Expanse Horrific Thing that always happens in these books). Cibola Burn wasn’t my favorite of the books, but I enjoyed it. It’s a solid piece of space opera featuring characters I’ve grown to love and new ones that are pretty great as well. I’m definitely excited for the remaining books in the series to be published.
As for the third trilogy? Oh, that’s going to be wack, and it’s going to scare me out of my mind, and I’m going to love it, because if this series stays on pace, that’s totally when the baddest of all big bads is going to hit, and it’s probably going to be a blood bath.