The Expanse

Based on James S.A. Corey’s hard sci-fi series, The Expanse is perhaps Syfy’s best new show in some time. In it, interplanetary travel is common; Earth is run by the UN, Mars is independent, and the asteroid belt and Jovian moons have been colonized. A major colony, perhaps the largest, is Ceres, whose water was stripped away as the asteroid was turned into a shipping hub linking the inner and outer planets.

Meanwhile, far away near Saturn, an ice hauler, the Canterbury, works to deliver ice to Ceres — ice that will be converted into potable water, fuel, and a host of other necessities. It responds to a distress signal from a freighter, the Scopuli, kicking off the plot.

On Ceres, a detective (kept on because of his useful incompetence) is handed the file of a missing person, the wealthiest bachelorette in the system. As his infatuation and obsession with her grows, the only five people who know what happened when the Canterbury answered the Scopuli‘s distress call make their way inward, first via a Martian battlecruiser and then doing contract work for the OPA, an organization whose goal is independence for the Belt and beyond.

And then there is this mysterious blue gunk — which may or may not have been engineered — and which is swallowing people whole.

It’s hard to talk about The Expanse without massive spoilers, but that’s part of the beauty of the show. It has a singular arc, a novel (Leviathan Wakes) turned into a season, and the show is paced like a ten-hour-long … novel. Characters come alive as we follow their interactions, the spacecraft feel realistic for what we would see 200 years from now, and the tension — as it becomes increasingly clear somebody wants to start a war between Earth and Mars — keeps rising, right up to the end of the season when Eros’s fate’s revealed.

Fortunately, Leviathan Wakes is not the only Expanse novel. The next, Caliban’s War, is almost certainly the next season’s framework. That will air early 2017 — better get your popcorn ready!

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2 thoughts on “The Expanse

  1. One huge difference between the novel and the show (besides bringing Avasarala in early): the show doesn’t adapt the last third of the first book, whose ending wraps neatly with the resolution of Eros. That ending is the weakest part of the book; the show instead makes it obvious that things will continue, making it a bit more like Game of Thrones/ASOIAF.

    The ASOIAF influences on the Expanse are obvious, but one major structural difference is that the first four novels in the Expanse are self-contained arcs, like giant episodes in a Firefly-style show with a consistent crew and episodic plots. ASOIAF’s four books (counting AFFC+ADWD as one), and Nemesis Games, end at points that resolve some subplots but make it clear that there has to be more to come, and the show’s choice of where to end season one is more like those than the source material. Of note, from early in Leviathan Wakes until the end of Nemesis Games, the Rocinante has four crew members; there are temporary splits in Cibola Burn (the weakest of the five books so far) and Nemesis Games, but they go back together at the end. But at the end of season 1, the Rocinante has the core four plus Miller plus a bunch of random civilians.

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    1. When I rewatched, I noticed that Miller was still alive at the end of Season 1 (although Amos commented that the Martian medi-thingy kept wanting to put Miller in hospice). The other civilians that the rest of the crew met, however, went a different direction, and Amos killed Miller’s cop colleague in a standoff.

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