Today I’m going to try to get myself back in the saddle after a week of not feeling great by giving a shout out to something that by now virtually everyone who cares will already know about.
The Expanse is a science-fiction television drama series from US cable network Syfy (and screening in Australia on Netflix), based on the series of novels by James S A Corey (a pen name of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck).
I’ve been meaning to read the book series – which begins with Leviathan Wakes and is up to book 6 or so by now – for ages, but I never quite found the time. I’ll definitely find the time now, because The Expanse accomplishes the remarkable task of spinning real human drama from a hard science fiction depiction of tough-living blue collar joes earning a crust (er, water ration) in space.
The space of The Expanse is not the whizz-bang, quickly-traversed variety that allows for hard-turning dogfights or audible explosions. In The Expanse, space is trying to kill everyone, and it usually has the upper hand. The characters are prey to explosive decompression, hypoxia and anoxia, starvation and dehydration, radiation…and that’s long before they get to all the other characters who might try to kill them in the usual ways involving guns, bombs and lead pipes. Oh, the lead pipes…
On top of the pretty convincingly realistic depiction of life in space (and on colonial worlds in the Asteroid Belt as well as Mars and the Moon), The Expanse throws a lot of other succulent dramatic meats into the stew – political intrigue, police corruption, several murder mysteries, terrorism and space piracy.
The protagonists include rugged asteroid miners trying to stay ahead of a conspiracy, a dogged cop hunting a missing person, and – the best character by a mile – a tough, uncompromising politician trying to prevent an interplanetary war.
(No kidding, she’s absolutely terrific)
This is definitely a series where you’ll come for the gritty, realistic, hard-living space action, and stay for the compelling characters and the sense of a vastly wide-open universe that could go in almost any direction. I’ll admit that I was never completely engaged with one of the main plot threads (Thomas Jane’s beaten-down Ceres cop on the hunt for a teenage runaway) but there was always more than enough going on to keep me riveted.