Cibola Burn

Cibola Burn

Book 4 of The Expanse

Whatever had built the protomolecule and fired it toward Earth back in the depths of time wasn’t answering calls anymore. The bridge builder had opened the way, and no great gods had come streaming through.

Cibola Burn

If you’re a fan of The Expanse series, then you may breathe a sigh of relief in knowing that Cibola Burn is another great book. It has intriguing characters, fanciful landscapes, mysterious alien technology and gripping drama, all of the ingredients you need for some excellent escapism. In this chapter of the adventure, humanity finds itself quarrelling over a newly discovered planet rich in ore and ripe for exploration. As usual, James Holden and his crew find themselves in the middle of things as all hell breaks loose. A journey to colonize a new world turns into a struggle between civilization and the rough reality of the wild frontier. When governments are a year away, the line between justice and tyranny can become a very thin line.

The storyline for the book is pretty simple. Refuges sneak through the ring and find a habitable planet which they decide to call home. Meanwhile, the UN gives the mineral and exploration rights of the planet to a corporation called Royal Charter Energy. When RCE finally arrives after their long journey through space, they’re met by violence. Radicals among the colonists are met by hardline RCE security forces willing to match violence with violence. As the issue escalates, James Holden is brought in to mediate the situation and try to avert a crisis. Making things even more interesting is the strange, alien technology on the planet that has a mind of its own.

Returning to this book are the core characters: James Holden, Naomi Nagata, Amos Burton and Alex Kamal. As tension brews between the colonists and the RCE scientists, engineers and security forces, Holden must try to de-escalate things before they get out of hand. He and his crew get involved in skirmishes and standoffs which raises the stakes. However the real game changer is the alien technology on the planet. While Holden is fighting fires between the humans, the protomolecule resurrection of detective Miller is still hard at work trying to find the killers of an ancient galactic civilization. As Miller describes it, the planet they’re on is a crime scene, and somewhere is a clue to finding the killer.

“You mean like that?”

Miller shifted, alien eyes moving their lenses in the complexity of the mechanism. “Like what?”

“That. In the middle of the room. That.”

“I don’t see anything,” Miller said. “What’s it look like?”

“The eye of an angry God.”

Like the previous books in the series, there’s a nice influx of new characters to spice things up. Basia Merton is a family man, a refugee, and one of the colonists on the planet Illus. He’s also a terrorist. Elvi Okoye is a naive yet brilliant scientist who struggles to separate the wonders of her own little world from the reality she is surrounded by. The head of the RCE taskforce security is a man named Murty who is willing to go to the utmost extremes to accomplish the mission entrusted to him. Then there’s a familiar character we haven’t seen much of, Miller’s old partner Dimitri Havelock. Havelock is part of the RCE security force, which also places him in between duty and insanity. Like everyone else, he must determine the difference between doing his duty and doing the right thing.

What makes this book great is a combination of several key factors. First off, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck (aka James S.A. Corey) have great prose. The descriptive language of their storytelling is just a joy to read. Secondly, there’s deeply intriguing characters who are fleshed out with motivations, faults and twisting journeys that lead them along paths of character growth. The final ingredient is the emotional teeter tottering of escalating plot. The way the story ebbs and flows with conflict and resolution keeps the story engaging and tense. Just when the characters get the problem fixed, a new one arises that’s even more frightening than the last. The entire adventure becomes a skillful dance between despair and relief.

If you haven’t read any of the other books yet in this series, this certainly isn’t the place to jump in. However, if you’ve been reading the series so far, Cibola Burn is another fun chapter to dive into. Holden and his crew get into another mess and drag all the readers along for the ride. The new characters fill out the story with unexpected possibilities and viable threats. Plus the story ends with a great hook for the next book. While the SyFy channel may be turning this series into a television show, I’m not holding my breath for it to come anywhere near the greatness of the books. For readers, this is the stuff we live for, vivid escapism, and James S.A. Corey do a terrific job at it. I give Cibola Burn a five out of five metal bikinis for continuing to fill that joy of escapism.

Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

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