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Babylon's Ashes: The Expanse Book 6 (Spoilers)

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Spoiler

The Belters backing a space age Hitler is a little surprising to me. Just doesn't feel realistic, since everyone knows what he did. There's no pretending or ignoring when everyone has access to handhelds and the news 24/7.

 

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I'm sure he's been asked this, but I'm curious if @DanielAbraham can comment on whether the production of the show has had any impact on the writing of the series, especially since they have re-arranged things a bit to make the storytelling experience better fit the medium of television.  I haven't noticed anything, but I have found myself picturing certain characters as the actors, while others are still how I imagined them before the show premiered. (For example, Holden I always pictured as Will Patton for some reason). I also realize how perfect Jared Harris was for the role of Anderson Dawes.

I also wanted to point out, that there are a lot of book series I've read that start off using a patios or pidgin speak and then as the series progresses, they get used less and less because it's just so much work.  It's very cool that as far as I can tell there hasn't been any diminishing use of the language as we hit the sixth book.  It's also fun that I get most of it now.

Just and update as I've gotten deeper into the book. It is moving along nicely.  I still can't stand Filip, but other characters have become more nuanced and I look forward to their POVs more and more.

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Okay, I have finished now and I will partially retract my complaint in regards to the POV because

Spoiler

 

unlike the previous books there are a large number of POVs so it isn't solely reading about crazed mass murderers. I think this is a good choice with the POVs because this is a long series with a large cast of characters so please do use them.

However, I will double down on my issue of how crazed mass murderers are portrayed. 

The Free Navy carried out the worst attack in the history of mankind. An extinction level event. 15 billion people murdered without warning or cause. And the tone of this book makes it into a misguided but justifiable lashing out of a threatened people. People are proud to have done it, proud to have it done in their name, and scornful of the resulting crises and refugees. I understand the point here to a certain extent with the dehumanizing and othering of your enemies and tribalism and blah blah but I think it didn't work at all. Making the event so big as to have such an impact but then try to pedal it back so it's sort of okay didn't work for me. Plus it made the Belters seem stupid. They're so upset about their niche going away that they'll cheer for the death of Earth but they need fucking Holden to explain they can create a new niche? And as long as someone feels vaguely guilty they can just walk away into a new life? Even Clarissa had to spend time in jail and  her murders were nothing compared to this.  

Plus with everything going on in the world right now it smacked way too much of the "people want to blow everything up and be misogynistic and racist assholes because of their economic anxiety!" narrative.

I really liked NG but this one fell flat for me. I think this story should have been condensed into one book. Almost nothing about the protomolecule for 2 books is a lot and led to fatigue with this "humanity is shitty" storyline. 

Oh and maybe I just forgot but when did Pa turn so virulently against Fred Johnson? That was a really jarring plot line for me that he was some terrible traitor to her.

Okay all that said I did still like the book. There were a lot of good lines and Alex got laid and Roci got some new crew and Avasarala is awesome and etc.

 

Overall 3 stars for me. I have read this series in trilogies so this is the last of the Expanse for me until the 9th book comes out! 

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Finished it. A decent reading but I think that books 1, 2 and especially 5 were definitely better books.

I am hoping that this is the last book concentrated on Sol system. Time to explore the other planets and the protomolecule makers/their destroyers.

 

No retaliation from Earth and Mars on the Belt, is something that would never have happened in real life. More likely they would have nuked the shit out of any station that was under Belter's control.



I don't like at all the story of redemption. Like Holden said, 'plenty of forgiveness, but also red lines'. I couldn't accept the story of redemption for Mao (thousands of lives lost), and cannot accept it at all for Pa and Filip, who contributed on the biggest genocide in human's history.

Edited by TheRevanchist

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 I'm only about 10% done with the book, so take this with a grain of salt...

Spoiler

I think the thing you guys who are criticizing the motivation of the Belters are missing is that the discovery and use of the Gates is an extinction level event for the Belters. I agree that any sort of significant forgiveness for the act of essentially destroying Earth is probably not realistic, but I think it is realistic that the Belters themselves consider it to be justified. To think that one subset of humanity would just stand by and allow themselves to be wiped from the history books is naive at best. Add to that fact that they've already been economically raped by Earth prior to this. Terrorists are labeled by History ultimately. They are the other sides war heroes. 

 

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10 hours ago, Manhole Eunuchsbane said:

 I'm only about 10% done with the book, so take this with a grain of salt...

  Reveal hidden contents

I think the thing you guys who are criticizing the motivation of the Belters are missing is that the discovery and use of the Gates is an extinction level event for the Belters. I agree that any sort of significant forgiveness for the act of essentially destroying Earth is probably not realistic, but I think it is realistic that the Belters themselves consider it to be justified. To think that one subset of humanity would just stand by and allow themselves to be wiped from the history books is naive at best. Add to that fact that they've already been economically raped by Earth prior to this. Terrorists are labeled by History ultimately. They are the other sides war heroes. 

 

But that doesn't make any sense.

Spoiler

The reason the new planets are a threat to the Belters is that the Belt is not self-sufficient and decreased investment from Earth and Mars will cause problems. The solution of Marco et al to this problem is to... inflict catastrophic damage on Earth thus causing it to flip from a net donor of resources to a net recipient? Even leaving aside the fact that based on human history, the result of such an action would almost certainly be complete and utter genocide of the Belters, how does causing exactly the problem you are threatened with in the long term right now help the situation? The action is completely insane.

 

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10 hours ago, Manhole Eunuchsbane said:

 I'm only about 10% done with the book, so take this with a grain of salt...

  Hide contents

I think the thing you guys who are criticizing the motivation of the Belters are missing is that the discovery and use of the Gates is an extinction level event for the Belters. I agree that any sort of significant forgiveness for the act of essentially destroying Earth is probably not realistic, but I think it is realistic that the Belters themselves consider it to be justified. To think that one subset of humanity would just stand by and allow themselves to be wiped from the history books is naive at best. Add to that fact that they've already been economically raped by Earth prior to this. Terrorists are labeled by History ultimately. They are the other sides war heroes. 

 

I think you've got a big component of it right there.

Spoiler

I took it a several overlapping things, and this was absolutely one of the big ones. The Belters are a people who have been used and abused for their entire existent and were confronted with not just their upcoming existence, but presumably continued lack of any compassion or genuine assistance from Earth and Mars. They'd be left to die out, and for a lot of them it would end in oxygen deprivation and dehydration. So yeah, they're absolutely wrong but I can buy them getting on board with finally being on top (as they saw it).

The other big one is that, at least to my read of the book (and perhaps @DanielAbraham could confirm?) most of these characters did not know about the attack on Earth until after it happened. Pa had been recruited to his side yes, but its not confirmed that she's in on the actual "Earth attack" part of the plan or simply told that something huge is coming that's going to completely shake things up and put them in the position to go all piracy on the colonist ships. Maybe I'm being naive for her, but I'm even more certain Dawes didn't know what was going on in advance. Rosen...? and Sanjrani its less clear, but the latter at least was clearly shitting the bed over what they'd done. Perhaps he was on board given if they stuck to the plan, but I think he had practical reservations at the very least. The rest of the belt found themselves in a situation where everything had changed radically, and Marco already appeared to have won. So they're getting on board with the winner and using their anger to rationalise away the atrocity.

Remember one of the biggest recurring themes of the book was the way that Marco used his charisma (and he seemed to be a very classic model of abusive personalities) to continually shift the goal posts on what they were actually doing, constantly changing the plan and declaring that it had been the plan all along, it was his idea and everyone had always been on board. This is an entire culture getting wrapped up in a cult of personality, and yes I'm sure that one isn't accidental.

On the whole 'Earth would have retaliated and fuck the consequences' I'd say yes its a stretch, but by the same token that's one of the big reasons Avasarala wants to treat it as a criminal action rather than a war crime. By making it a criminal action the culpability is restricted to the people that actually did it, and retaliating against random Belters that had done nothing is less appealing. Also the devastation was too initially all consuming, and all Earth resources were trapped for an extended period of time defending Earth afterwards rather than having the capacity to immediately retaliate. It let both the enormity of the tragedy sink in and have time for more long term responses to be planned, and the realisation that survival was more important than retaliation. Finally Avasarala herself being a bureaucrat rather than an elected figure OR a military figure plays in here too. For Mars the far bigger issue was the mass mutiny of 1/5 of its fleet and the internal collapse of its government, so they're not going to be retaliating against the Belters on behalf of Earth either - their focus will be more long term on Duarte's faction.

I'm not saying that everything should have been satisfactorily address for all of you, but I think the authors *were* aware of it all and tried to address it to one extent or another. And it was sufficient for me.

Filip is the pov (other than Marco) that definitively knew of the attack in advance and was on board with it all, but he's also still a child by our standards and has been abused and twisted by his father his entire life to see things through a very warped point of view.  This doesn't absolve him of guilt, but I don't think the book treated him as redeemed either and I found his character arc and the picture it painted of Marco very worthwhile.

Obviously when I've written so much its pretty clear I enjoyed the book immensely. It managed to end on a note that was simultaneously more optimistic and less optimistic than I expected.

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Spoiler

 Right to the first bit. The Belters have always been treated like 3rd class citizens that are essentially slave labor. The Gates are discovered, opening up a limitless field of resources that make the Belt obsolete. The Belters can't even turn to the Gates as a source of resources or colonization for themselves due to their physiology. They can't count on Earth or Mars to provide them with the medicines that would make this possible. The only role left to them is piracy and terrorism. The destruction of Earth probably wasn't a necessity I suppose, but it does tie up the Earth Navy up to a degree that it is less able to interfere with their piracy. 

 It seems pretty clear to me that the Earth was no longer going to be a net donor of resources. It was never that to the Belt in the first place. It was an opportunistic leech that provided a hard scrabble existence at best.

 

/Edited to add: Controlling the Gate is also key, obviously. That was the main thing that gave Johnson's arm of the OPA legitimacy. Destroying Earth probably allows The Free Navy to hold it for longer and consolidate their position by snatching up ships that pass through the gate during that time.  

//Post script edit: All that said, you're right that it is pretty damn insane. I think that describes Marco fairly well. 

 

Edited by Manhole Eunuchsbane

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19 minutes ago, karaddin said:

 

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On the whole 'Earth would have retaliated and fuck the consequences' I'd say yes its a stretch, but by the same token that's one of the big reasons Avasarala wants to treat it as a criminal action rather than a war crime. By making it a criminal action the culpability is restricted to the people that actually did it, and retaliating against random Belters that had done nothing is less appealing. Also the devastation was too initially all consuming, and all Earth resources were trapped for an extended period of time defending Earth afterwards rather than having the capacity to immediately retaliate. It let both the enormity of the tragedy sink in and have time for more long term responses to be planned, and the realisation that survival was more important than retaliation. Finally Avasarala herself being a bureaucrat rather than an elected figure OR a military figure plays in here too. For Mars the far bigger issue was the mass mutiny of 1/5 of its fleet and the internal collapse of its government, so they're not going to be retaliating against the Belters on behalf of Earth either - their focus will be more long term on Duarte's faction.

 

 

Spoiler

 Yeah, I agree with these points as well. Another thing to consider regarding Earth not retaliating to the Nth degree is that you have this infinite frontier that has just opened up. 

 

Edited by Manhole Eunuchsbane

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On 12/10/2016 at 3:48 PM, Spaßvogel said:

I'm sure he's been asked this, but I'm curious if @DanielAbraham can comment on whether the production of the show has had any impact on the writing of the series, especially since they have re-arranged things a bit to make the storytelling experience better fit the medium of television.  I haven't noticed anything, but I have found myself picturing certain characters as the actors, while others are still how I imagined them before the show premiered. (For example, Holden I always pictured as Will Patton for some reason). I also realize how perfect Jared Harris was for the role of Anderson Dawes.

 

Someone asked him/them this last night at the book signing.  They said no.  They have a plan (now 9 books) and are sticking to that.  The show has no bearing on when the books are produced or the story.  They stated that if you filmed a book page for page it'd be a boring ass show.  They had to change somethings up for story, but it's still pretty true to the books.  

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I'm about 70% of the way through the book. I'm not going to put any real spoilers, but since everybody else is talking about how justified the Belters' actions are in spoilers:

Spoiler

I can't help but have everything going on in the books colored by recent events, even though this book was written, edited, and polished before November 8th.

I see the Belters as an analogue to the White Working Class of America ( or at least the dominant media narrative of the White Working Class). They're a people who see that they're way of life is disappearing and their unique culture will be assimilated into something else and relegated to a footnote of history. So they lash out.

Sure electing Trump isn't quite as extreme as killing 15 billion people and dooming themselves to starvation within 3 years, and Marco Inaros isn't quite Donald Trump, but I see a lot of similarities.

The White Working Class sees manufucturing jobs disappearing due to a combination of trade with poorer countries and automation. Coal mines close because of natural gas, cheaper, more automated coal mines in other parts of the country, and environmental regulations. White people are due to become only a plurality in decades while white working class people are seemingly the only people it's still ok to make fun of in the media.

The Belters see that the colony world's will soon make their way of life obselete. There won't be a need to tall skinny people adapted to 0g. Their culture and way of life will disappear. Many of them will be able to go live on colony worlds themselves, but many of them won't.

So they latch onto a charismatic conman (Donald Trump, Marco Inaros) and make a big counterproductive "Fuck you" to the powers that be. Except this doesn't help them and really only hurts everyone in the long run. Some of them realize this, but many of them don't.

 

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59 minutes ago, White Walker Texas Ranger said:

I'm about 70% of the way through the book. I'm not going to put any real spoilers, but since everybody else is talking about how justified the Belters' actions are in spoilers:

  Hide contents

I can't help but have everything going on in the books colored by recent events, even though this book was written, edited, and polished before November 8th.

I see the Belters as an analogue to the White Working Class of America ( or at least the dominant media narrative of the White Working Class). They're a people who see that they're way of life is disappearing and their unique culture will be assimilated into something else and relegated to a footnote of history. So they lash out.

Sure electing Trump isn't quite as extreme as killing 15 billion people and dooming themselves to starvation within 3 years, and Marco Inaros isn't quite Donald Trump, but I see a lot of similarities.

The White Working Class sees manufucturing jobs disappearing due to a combination of trade with poorer countries and automation. Coal mines close because of natural gas, cheaper, more automated coal mines in other parts of the country, and environmental regulations. White people are due to become only a plurality in decades while white working class people are seemingly the only people it's still ok to make fun of in the media.

The Belters see that the colony world's will soon make their way of life obselete. There won't be a need to tall skinny people adapted to 0g. Their culture and way of life will disappear. Many of them will be able to go live on colony worlds themselves, but many of them won't.

So they latch onto a charismatic conman (Donald Trump, Marco Inaros) and make a big counterproductive "Fuck you" to the powers that be. Except this doesn't help them and really only hurts everyone in the long run. Some of them realize this, but many of them don't.

 

I like your analogy only...

Spoiler

I'm not sure I can quite buy it wholesale as the Belters have been long oppressed, unlike the White Working Class. They kind of have different starting points, ya know? The White Working Class is just starting to be marginalized, and they don't like it. The Belters are being devalued to the point of obsolescence, from a point of indentured servitude.

 That said, I really like the Coal Miner analogy. The Belters are locked into one big company store. So yeah, with a slight tweak, I think it's solid.

 

Edited by Manhole Eunuchsbane

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Spoiler

I'd say Marco is *more* charismatic and convincing than Trump though, not less so. Which fits with him selling a huge atrocity (after its already happened). I definitely think similarity there is intentional though.

 

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For the Inaros - Trump analogies, keep in mind that Inaros was written about first before Trump even announced his campaign, and was likely conceived of long before then (as I suspect Naomi and his relationship existed as soon as Naomi existed). I think that makes NG and BA more poignant and relatable, but I don't think Inaros was supposed to be a clever analogy on the dangers of charismatic fuckheads as leaders meaning Trump. 

That said, NG and BA read like a 'we shouldn't have done that' for the election, yes. 

My thoughts:

Spoiler

I really liked this book - the stakes felt high, the interpersonal relationships felt good, the twists and turns were fairly solid. I liked how Bobbie is now part of the crew, which likely means she'll become part of the crew earlier on the show. Avasarala was the best she's ever been. Johnson's death was awesomely low-key. I felt that the space battle sequences were the best they've been in a long time, and I openly cheered at Bobbie's rail gun to PDC hit of the Pella. 

I particularly liked Dawes-as-Tyrion and that sequence of him lying in various ways to everyone to get them to get on board with the plan.

I agree with @Starkess that the tragedy should have had more...immediate repercussions that badly escalated things, and should have just felt more powerful than it did. It got close in the prologue, and I had hoped that would have added more, but we basically never got that again. 15 billion people dying means a whole lot of anger. I remember how angry I was at 9-11, and that wasn't anyone I knew personally; whereas basically everyone on Luna should know someone, every Earther ship should know someone, and they should all want to go fuck something up. Instead, it was like a disaster movie coverage - everyone working hard to deal with things, pushing themselves to the limit, but so little anger.

I never had a problem with the Belters cheering killing Earth. They've never been there, never been close to there. They've possibly never even met an Earther, or they only have when being repressed. Earth is everything they hate at a fundamental cultural level. I absolutely buy them cheering Earth's death. I just don't buy belters getting a fair deal anywhere, any time, any more. Maybe that'll happen in future books but for now, it seems like Holden's idea of the Belters being a shipping magnate is beyond stupid, as why would Earthers want to ever trust them? Why would most run of the mill people let bygones be bygones after they are forced to flee the earth in a great diaspora? One of the best things about this series is that even though humans have progressed 200 years they're still full of humanity - and that includes the bad parts. The belters get that. The earthers don't.

Another way to put it is that the Canterbury's destruction almost put the earth and mars and the belt at war with everyone else, and that was one small covert action. That? Felt totally real. And yet earth being blown up doesn't cause the earthers to absolutely crush everything? Come on.

I loved Inaros as a character too. He was a perfectly done charismatic NPD and abusive relationship, obsessed with Naomi. He could easily be my wife's ex husband. 

 

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@Kalbear : I agree with you about

Spoiler

Fred Johnson's death. That was well done -- most of the time, science fiction assumes that everyone can tolerate high-g combat whereas in real life there are stringent requirements as well as training for anyone who is allowed into a situation where this is an issue. Even with the drugs and specialized seating, it's not something that older people with blood pressure problems should do and it's nice to see the consequences. More generally, that space battle is probably my favorite part of the book.

 

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4 hours ago, Kalbear said:

For the Inaros - Trump analogies, keep in mind that Inaros was written about first before Trump even announced his campaign, and was likely conceived of long before then (as I suspect Naomi and his relationship existed as soon as Naomi existed). I think that makes NG and BA more poignant and relatable, but I don't think Inaros was supposed to be a clever analogy on the dangers of charismatic fuckheads as leaders meaning Trump. 

That said, NG and BA read like a 'we shouldn't have done that' for the election, yes.

They made me think more of Stalinists, the kind that would starve their own people rather than look bad to the press.  Inaros also had the fatal flaw that was hinted at with the Moby Dick references, of being obsessed with Holden to the point of ruin. 

Spoiler

Despising Filip aside, I eventually appreciated his slow realization that his father would take any failure and make it sound like it had been his plan all along.  It was a very astute observation of that sort of political leader.  Of course, I almost went flying out of the story when he said the line about falling down and saying "I meant to do that" because I immediately pictured Pee Wee Herman. 

 

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21 hours ago, Manhole Eunuchsbane said:

 I'm only about 10% done with the book, so take this with a grain of salt...

  Reveal hidden contents

I think the thing you guys who are criticizing the motivation of the Belters are missing is that the discovery and use of the Gates is an extinction level event for the Belters. I agree that any sort of significant forgiveness for the act of essentially destroying Earth is probably not realistic, but I think it is realistic that the Belters themselves consider it to be justified. To think that one subset of humanity would just stand by and allow themselves to be wiped from the history books is naive at best. Add to that fact that they've already been economically raped by Earth prior to this. Terrorists are labeled by History ultimately. They are the other sides war heroes. 

 

 

Spoiler

I'm not done with it either, about 40% through. Every genocide is "justified" by some kind of existential threat, usually an argument not based in reality, just like this one. The idea that the belters were just going to die out is ridiculous. They are significantly closer to the earth than the gates. The earth wasn't just going to be abandoned (well until the belters destroyed it with the intention of genocide of 30 billion people). The idea that earth would just let the belters die out was also ridiculous. Like 95% of the population of earth is complete deadweight, literally doing nothing but live off of government handouts, yet Earth wouldn't have provided the necessities of life to the people in the belt?

 

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On 12/6/2016 at 4:47 PM, larrytheimp said:

 

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the Filip chapter where he's in the docked ship at Ceres by himself was really poignant.  Really fucking good.  Making the complex simple in a subtle way. Like Tom Petty subtle.  Super digging it.  

 

Spoiler

Really dug the first chapter with his POV, where he's the last to learn that his mother is still alive. The kid basically destroys Earth to earn his father's respect, but he still doesn't get it. Pretty brutal.

 

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So there were a couple scenes I really liked:

Spoiler

The one where Avarasala learns about Fred Johnson's death and has a breakdown. The one where Dawes plays Kingmaker for Holden, and nobody ever finds out. I assume they all just thought that Holden was a naturally gifted diplomancer or something. And the ones with Prax.

 

Oh and obviously the spinning railgun shots

I've got a couple beefs though:

Spoiler

There should have been more anger on the Earth side. There should have been at least some guys who wanted vengeance at all costs-like a UN Naby admiral who wanted to nuke every station that didn't automatically surrender. I realizew that would have made things a bit too complicated, but they should have at least had to address some attitudes like that.

And it was really hard for me to have sympathy for any of the Belters and OPA. They turned against Inaros because they were trying to get off of a sinking ship, not because they realized that he just murdered billions of people.

 

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