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Kalbear

Persepolis Rising (Book 7 of the Expanse) - SPOILERS

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This is for discussion of the 7th book of the Expanse series, Persepolis rising. There will be spoilers in it, though I will do the traditional thing of having spoilers in spoiler text on the first page of the topic in case people make a mistake.

I'm about at chapter 20 so far.

Spoiler

I love Ty and Daniel, but I am getting a bit tired of the happy buildup to everything goes to shit pattern that they use in many of the books. This reads a lot like the start of Abbadon's Gate and somewhat similar to Cibola Burn, and that's not a compliment. 

Singh feels a lot like a lot of their other enemies - guys that act out via fear and do bad things despite not wanting to be that bad. He reminds me of Geder a bit. 

I'm kind of rooting for Duarte, honestly. Or at least I was.

I also wish that they had introduced some younger, new characters. Everyone aging isn't so bad, and it's neat to see Holden wanting retirement - but it'd be nice to have some new blood. 

Also, I searched my copy for Avasarala's mention to ensure that she wasn't killed offscreen, and I'm really happy she wasn't. 

 

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I'm on chapter 7.  I will probably drag it out over the whole week.  Just because.

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About a hundred pages in.  Will probably finish tonight, hopefully have some thoughts sometime tomorrow.

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I ordered the signed edition from Barnes and Noble, but estimated ship date isn’t until the 12th.

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One thing that remains really remarkable is how good they are at being relevant to, like, the headlines of today - despite writing it a year ago. This was the case with Inaros being such a narcissist and how similar he was to Trump.

Spoiler

In PR, it's remarkable how well they've captured the normalcy of existing under fascism and disaster all the time.

 

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Almost done.

Two things.

Spoiler

Clarissa dying was predictable, but done well, and I liked how she went out. I just wish they hadn't made it quite so obvious that she was going to choose that, and I wish we had had more of her PoV earlier. 

And

Spoiler

After Singh's fate, I am totally on board with Duarte and the Laconians. That was really surprising, and really satisfying. I just wish the Laconians were a smidgen more competent. 

 

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Finished. 

Spoiler

It's very reminiscent of Abbadon's Gate in structure and feel, complete with crawling over the Nauvoo/Behemoth, and that's not awesome. 

The older characters barely changing in their personality or value works as far as getting us into the story, but breaks any sense of time moving forward. No one feels any different, save their physicality is apparently sorer and things creak more. It took me right out of the story to think that Naomi/Holden wouldn't change in 30 years, and it really was weird thinking Amos or Clarissa wouldn't.

I really wish Clarissa had been a PoV for the whole thing, but her death was great.

Duarte is a great antagonist, probably their best since Mao. Inaros was a really good character but a shitty villain in that you couldn't really sympathize with him, but Duarte honestly makes a ton of sense, is a strong leader with genuine empathy, and his final line is one of the baddest bad-ass lines we've had in a while. 

It's definitely not as good as the first two or of Nemesis Games, but it bodes well for the future storyline and getting the protomolecule/eaters dealt with in some way.

 

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I'm pausing the new book to read the previous two novellas as they seem pretty useful background for this book

especially regarding duarte and his planet

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Spoiler

I think the thirty-year timeskip was necessary to make it somewhat plausible for Laconia to be able to surpass the rest of the colonies in tech, given that they were only a few thousand people while the Sol systems and the rest of humanity count several dozen billion. That tech spurt could not have taken less than decades.

However, it seems like it barely affected the rest of the setting at all. The Belters/Transport union built a few new cities, which we see them lose most of anyway. Medina station is largely the same Medina station as earlier. The Rocinante and its crew still the same, just with a few more things creaking. Avasarala is still around, being an old lady with a sharp mind and a foul mouth. Essentially the same, with a couple of more mentions of her advanced age thrown in. It feels like thirty years have gone by with no changes at all.

Moreover, I was a little disappointed with the characters that were not featured. Mei Meng, Nami Volovodov, Felcia Merton. These were kids who grew up after the opening of the gates, under rather exciting circumstances too. They would be well-adjusted(?) adults now, with lives of their own, yet memories of the events of the previous books. It would be really interesting to see things from their perspective. Or the perspective of anybody who were born after the legendary events of the tumultous few years portrayed in the earlier books.

Also a little strange not to see Filip Inaros make an appearance. Or even get a mention. At the end of the last book, Naomi was pretty badly ridden with guilt over having killed him, not knowing he got away. With that, his re-appearance seemed so inevitable. But it turns out thirty years have passed (during which Filip would have to build a new life and identity from scratch), and we haven't got to see any of it. Yet, that is.

 

However, I can also totally see the reason why the concerns above were not addressed. I'm pretty sure the writers are not unaware of it, but chose to keep it simple. Given the story that played out in this book, it would be difficult to introduce any new hero characters or work in any main characters from previous books. It takes place over the span of what, fifty days plus some eventless travel time at the start and end, and in a very restricted space too. All the characters mentioned above would be elsewhere doing other things, and they wouldn't have had much to do if inserted into any of the scenes anyway. The way the story went, it wouldn't make sense to cram them in, neither logically nor development-wise.

The book appeared to end on a rather stable situation, though, which means the next book can pick up pretty much anywhere and with anybody. Heck, they could even do another thirty-year timeskip if they wanted, or begin midway through the timeskip we already had.

 

Also wondering how Duarte's body modifications will lead to a change of his personality too. Would be interesting if he suddenly got some self-insight. "Wow, I've been a way too rigorous asshole! That plan of mine secures nothing but resentment for my person! This is a dictatorship whose inhabitants will tear down everything given the opportunity, and I'm giving them plenty of reason to! Heck, I'm a villain!"

Then again, antagonists who change their minds and become good won't make for a very interesting story. So I guess he'll retain those human flaws to the bitter end and then some.

 

All in all and enjoyable book, though! Might not be my favourite of the series, but it was nice nonetheless. Interesting to see through the eyes of guerilla insurgents, showing their ideas and justification for what might rightfully be called terrorism for the greater good, with the people trying to combat the insurgency as peacefully and restrained as possible being the villains.

 

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Mostly waiting for the second page to open because I'm too lazy for spoiler tags...

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I'm going to disagree with some others in that

Spoiler

I liked how little some things had changed. It was really going for a 'the more things change, the more they stay the same'. For the big events the players and the stage change, but humans are fundamentally human. I found the way that the crew of the Roci had spent 30 years just living their lives, doing their job and living in their home was the kind of story we don't see so often. We normally get the perspective that Drummer took at the start of this book - someone who has been climbing their way up, but that's not most people. Most people just do their job day in, day out and that's that.

I don't think the fundamental nature of these characters would have changed in that time, but they did in some ways. Holden was actually ready to retire and doing it, Amos cares to the point of losing his ability to function properly, Naomi is ready to settle and be happy (sounds similar to Holden, but it's not - he's ready to step out of the center of things, she's ready to be happy). Bobbie can see how foolish she was when she was green. Alex has probably changed the least, but he's stopped thinking he can live anywhere else/any other life.

I saw Singh being a scape goat coming from his first or second chapter, but that didn't make it work any less. Duarte is positioned as too smart to make the mistake of putting him there if he wasn't supposed to fuck it up.

I wonder if Duarte/Cortazar are going to resurrect fake Miller - I'm assuming that's the other pattern Duarte can see the shadow of.

 

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The time skip was a bit disconcerting because they haven't done a good job of setting up how aging has changed.  There was some offhanded remark about anti-aging drugs, but I didn't feel like it was a given that a 50-60 year old Holden was just middle aged really, and I didn't see any lasting problems from his anti-radiation-poisoning drug regimen.  Fred Johnson, for example, aged far more obviously than any of the POV characters. 

As for the rest, I'll save it for the spoiler pages.

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7 hours ago, karaddin said:

I'm going to disagree with some others in that

  Hide contents

I liked how little some things had changed. It was really going for a 'the more things change, the more they stay the same'. For the big events the players and the stage change, but humans are fundamentally human. I found the way that the crew of the Roci had spent 30 years just living their lives, doing their job and living in their home was the kind of story we don't see so often. We normally get the perspective that Drummer took at the start of this book - someone who has been climbing their way up, but that's not most people. Most people just do their job day in, day out and that's that.

I don't think the fundamental nature of these characters would have changed in that time, but they did in some ways. Holden was actually ready to retire and doing it, Amos cares to the point of losing his ability to function properly, Naomi is ready to settle and be happy (sounds similar to Holden, but it's not - he's ready to step out of the center of things, she's ready to be happy). Bobbie can see how foolish she was when she was green. Alex has probably changed the least, but he's stopped thinking he can live anywhere else/any other life.

I saw Singh being a scape goat coming from his first or second chapter, but that didn't make it work any less. Duarte is positioned as too smart to make the mistake of putting him there if he wasn't supposed to fuck it up.

I wonder if Duarte/Cortazar are going to resurrect fake Miller - I'm assuming that's the other pattern Duarte can see the shadow of.

 

I thought Duarte questioning Singh about turning in his Mentor for covering for a subordinate who made a mistake clearly showed that Duarte wanted someone inflexible and unable to adapt in the Governorship.  You are exactly right, Singh was set up to fail and be the sacrificial scapegoat.

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Spoiler

Another thing that's been nagging me since I finished the book... I don't quite think the authors have understood the implications of railguns in this series. In the first few books, they were stated to launch projectiles at a couple thousand meters per second, which is not that impressive all things considered. Space is big, and even the relatively close range of 100 kilometers would give opponents more than half a minute to react to a shot. At one million kilometers, the round would take almost a week to reach its target. Railgun muzzle velocities were later retconned to "a significant percentage of c", which is rather more dramatic.

Overall, railgun rounds are treated as hole punchers. They create a nice, clean hole in a ship, pass through them, and go out on the other side without slowing down much. Everything in their path gets obliterated, everything outside it gets a free pass, as long as the round does not hit the reactor core. I think Michio Pa experienced a railgun round through her ship in Babylon's Ashes, lost a couple of crew, but survived just fine herself. Likewise, the Laconian ships in Persepolis Rising were treated as almost immune to railgun rounds, since their hull could fold over and close the holes created by the impacts.

However, this description makes railguns sound like rather poor weapons with great upgrade potential. For one, if the round is barely slowing down as it passes through a ship, it has failed to transfer the kinetic energy that makes it so deadly. Railgun rounds should not be aerodynamic bullets coated in Teflon, they should be blunt hollowpoints, or otherwise designed to fragment upon impact and slow down as much as possible on their way through the enemy ship. Every single Joule of that tremendous energy spit out of the barrel should be transferred to the enemy ship. On terrestrial weaponry, projectiles have to be aerodynamical, otherwise they would be destroyed in the barrel or slowed down drastically on their way to the target. In space, the barrel is in a vacuum, nothing slows down until it hits something, and when it does, you want to maximize the slowing.

That being said, even as-is, I doubt the effects of a railgun hit would be as clean as they are portrayed. Even real-life railgun rounds go fast enough to ionize the air as they sail through it at the relatively sedate pace of 3 km/s. The effects of an impact at a thousand times that velocity should be enough to gut a battleship completely. The shock wave as a round hit the air inside a ship would be a crew-killing event in itself, and the temperature rise from the air resistance would start major fires (that's how armour-piercing tank rounds kill the enemy crew. Not by just making a hole in the enemy tank, but by the sheer friction of a steel rod passing through it at a kilometer per second). Objects or bulkheads hit by such a mass would behave like a liquid, and splash out at velocities comparable to that of the round. This would create a cascade effect that would effectively ruin half the ship. The entrance hole of a railgun round could be nice, small, and clean, but the exit hole would be a mess the size of a tennis court.

Even if the Laconian ships could patch up such hull damage, the insides of the ship would be ruined beyond salvage, its air exhausted through plasmification, and its crew turned to jelly in their crash couches.

 

Or maybe the writers are aware of this, hence the initially low velocity of railgun rounds. But the rounds moved too slowly to be exciting in battle, and too slowly for the plot point in Cibola Burn, so their velocity were upped by three orders of magnitude, not realizing the implications this would have on their effectiveness in battle. I can actually buy that the Laconians were not harmed by a nuclear explosion close to their ship, as that would be all radiant heat, plus a thin cloud of gas from the evaporated bomb itself. But the kinetic energy from a direct railgun impact would be much, much harder to deal with. When that sort of energy hits your ship directly, you lose.

Please excuse my little rant.

 

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Just ordered on kindle last night, though won't be able to get started for a week or two. Hope its better than the last one...

Edited by Michael Seswatha Jordan

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On the big change:

Spoiler

The problem with a 30 year jump showing almost no change in anyone is that, well, Holden et al get into MASSIVE trouble. All the time. They're famous for it. 30 years of running missions for the fledgling trade community and they're still the same basic people? I think about how much my life has changed in 10 years, much less 20, and I've been doing a lot less interesting things than being a privateer for a quasi-governmental organization.

I know they wanted to keep it easy to jump into, but it broke a lot of disbelief for me. I would rather have had Laconia simply been that much better in, say, 5 years.

And it would have been amazing to see what happened to Mei or Filip. Or Anna's kid. Or Avasarala's grandkids. 

 

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47 minutes ago, Kalbear said:

On the big change:

  Hide contents

The problem with a 30 year jump showing almost no change in anyone is that, well, Holden et al get into MASSIVE trouble. All the time. They're famous for it. 30 years of running missions for the fledgling trade community and they're still the same basic people? I think about how much my life has changed in 10 years, much less 20, and I've been doing a lot less interesting things than being a privateer for a quasi-governmental organization.

I know they wanted to keep it easy to jump into, but it broke a lot of disbelief for me. I would rather have had Laconia simply been that much better in, say, 5 years.

And it would have been amazing to see what happened to Mei or Filip. Or Anna's kid. Or Avasarala's grandkids. 

 

Five year gaps seem awfully problematic, don't you know?

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Just now, mcbigski said:

Five year gaps seem awfully problematic, don't you know?

They don't have to be, but this is definitely erring on the side of too little.

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Really glad I put the book on pause to read the last two novellas. Both provide insight into duarte and his planet - especially "strange dogs" which I can't see how it can't come into play.

those dogs sound like rivals or connected to the protomolecule. The planet may be as key to Duarte's plan as the protomolecule or even being used as hybrid tech

Vital abyss was a great look inside the mind of a sociopath/someone lacking emotions and was just a great tightly written novella. Was nice to see things from first person in a case where the authors clearly thought and realised it was the most effective way of telling the story.

Back onto Persepolis rising now.

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