I think that is what James S.A. Corey (aka Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck)must have been doing with LEVIATHAN WAKES because the world their characters inhabit is so beautifully, fully-realized.
What happens after humanity expands into the solar system, but before we reach the stars? Science doesn’t give much hope for a Star Trek-style ‘warp drive,’ but that’s not going to stop us from going after the mountains of valuable minerals floating around in our own solar system. LEVIATHAN WAKES explores a likely future in which this has been going on for a long time. Humanity has expanded out to the asteroid belt and the outer planets, established permanent settlements, and begun to physically adapt (one of the more amazing ideas in the book) to the new environment.
Space opera, especially of the military variety, is so often hard, sterile, and emotionless–all about hardware, revenge and flying debris. Though there is certainly plenty of that in this book, Corey doesn’t neglect the ‘opera’ side of the equation. That is to say, the characters’ emotions are present for duty. It’s not an overly sentimental book, but it is clear in every scene that these people want something. Some want to make their mark, some to make some money, and some want each other. It works, and it leaves me craving more.
This book is a seamless mashup of space opera, military sci-fi, horror, and detective noir. Now that I’ve read it, the book I’d most like to be reading is the second doorstop-sized book of the Expanse series, CALIBAN’s WAR. LEVIATHAN WAKES is the new standard in my mind for space opera.