Note: Review #2 of the Drunken Monkey Book Club
Review by Daniel Ruth
James Corey is an excellent writer in so many ways. The details he describes in the scenery and the lore and history he includes is breathtaking. He really brings to life the the feeling that you are in a world several hundred years in the future. The science is real enough that you can see it as a solid extension of what we have now. There are no flights of fancy or thoughts of "that could never happen". Everything is well considered and fitted into an extremely realistic world. You can absolutely see the politics and culture coming alive before you.
Now the flipside. It is also extremely dry, slow-paced, and largely dull through most of the story. It begins with the point of view of a woman attacked and kidnapped by pirates. A very strong beginning hinting at action and adventure. Unfortunately, that may be the best chapter of the book. From then on the book splits into two points of view; a washed-up policeman and a captain of ice hauler (captain because he inherited the command). In the beginning, the book can be mistaken as a police investigation in space on one hand and a very slow escape from pirates on the other hand.
You may have heard of the "unreliable narrator"? This is usually used in first-person perspectives where you see and feel the main character explore and interact with the world. Because you only are fed information from that person you may believe the heroes are villains and vice versa. It's whatever the character believes. I have never have seen this applied to a third-person perspective and I frankly do not approve. I won't go into details but the situation is described in one manner and then the character has an epiphany and you realize nothing you read was true. I have never seen this technique and I wasn't appreciative of it. Innovative, yet annoying.
Although the world and politics are described well, the characters are paper-thin, two dimensional, and rather incompetent. Perhaps that is too strong... perhaps ordinary is a better word. Although they are caught up in extraordinary circumstances they don't really overcome, more, they merely survive. It's an ode to mediocrity in a futuristic world. One of my friends said that he liked reading about average or below-average people and their struggle, however its just not my thing.
I mentioned below that the pacing went from exciting to the painful. The last quarter or so speeds up significantly and it was pointed out to me that if the length of the book was reduced by about a fourth then it may be appropriately paced story. Even so, it still wouldn't be something I enjoyed. As the author was describing the surroundings in excruciating details I found myself... really not caring and wishing he'd get to the point.
In conclusion, this story is technically well written and a saga that ticks all the boxes but the overwhelming flow of descriptions and slow pace, combined with uninspiring characters ruined it for me.