Book report: Nemesis Games by James S A Corey

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When I told a friend that I’d just borrowed Nemesis Games, book five in James S.A. Corey’s Expanse series, they had two things to say:

  1. Aren’t the Expanse books a great fun ride? They’re like a roller coaster, a thrill ride, a romp.

  2. If I haven’t read the series for a while, or if I’ve been watching the TV series in the meantime, I should check a wiki to make sure I know who everyone is and what’s going on.

I don’t think it’s unique to this series, and it’s increasingly true of stories expanded universes in general, but I think it’s kind of exciting that these books can be thrilling page-turners while also requiring a reader to do their homework to keep track of what’s going on. I didn’t do my homework before heading into Nemesis Games, and I didn’t feel like I needed to while I was reading, but the fact that there was enough going on between these books and their television adaptations to warrant a whole wiki stuck in my mind since then.

Nemesis Games book cover

Like good things often do, The Expanse series came my way as a firm recommendation from someone whose opinion I valued, and like I often do I’ve slept on actually reading all of the books for years now. Usually spurred on by a new season of the TV show, I’ll grab the next volume from the library if only to stay ahead of the show. Knowing that there are eight novels published, with a ninth planned, and what seems to me to be uncountably many short stories and novellas, when I stop to think about it I wonder if maybe the sheer volume of words is too much for me to ever bother with. And yet every time I read another volume I’m glad that I did.

Sitting right in the middle of the series, Nemesis Games is something of gathering in of characters and locations. The chapters focus exclusively on the crew of the Rocinante who make up the core cast of the story. But while the focus of the narrative zooms in, the characters themselves are split apart. Naomi, Alex, and Amos each go off on journeys which take them back to places and people from their past and, after a major terrorist attack, spend the rest of the book trying to get back to Holden on the Rocinante. The book asks what makes people a family, what gathers people into tribes, and how people cope with changes to their families; changes in the form of additions, and of subtractions.

In a lot of ways this trimming down to the four core characters might have been what allowed me to skip doing some my homework before I read Nemesis Games. With the TV series fresh in my mind, an adaptation which does its share of economising characters and plot lines, I had just enough of the story fresh in my mind to power my way through. I’ve cracked the lid on the unofficial Expanse Wiki this morning, and picked up the first short story, The Butcher of Anderson Station, to read this week. Maybe my carefree days of casually riding a rocket through this series are behind me. Look for me on Twitter trainspotting on the finer subtleties of Belter Creole when the next TV season comes out.

Nemesis Games by James S A Corey is available at Auckland Libraries

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