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The Expanse #4

Cibola Burn

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The fourth novel in James S.A. Corey’s New York Times bestselling Expanse series

The gates have opened the way to thousands of habitable planets, and the land rush has begun. Settlers stream out from humanity's home planets in a vast, poorly controlled flood, landing on a new world. Among them, the Rocinante, haunted by the vast, posthuman network of the protomolecule as they investigate what destroyed the great intergalactic society that built the gates and the protomolecule.

But Holden and his crew must also contend with the growing tensions between the settlers and the company which owns the official claim to the planet. Both sides will stop at nothing to defend what's theirs, but soon a terrible disease strikes and only Holden - with help from the ghostly Detective Miller - can find the cure.

581 pages, Hardcover

First published June 17, 2014

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,224 reviews
Profile Image for Neil Hepworth.
229 reviews47 followers
January 25, 2015
This book was the clunker to end all clunkers. The dud to end all duds. The turd in your soup, if you will. In other words, it was a bad book.

First of all, the book can’t figure out it’s own plot. Twenty pages in and the book thinks it’s going to be about immigration, evil corporations and land rights. Oh, but then it’s not. Halfway in and the book thinks it’s going to be about natural disasters. But then it’s about killer slugs and orbital decay?...neither of which was interesting. At the end, the book thinks it’s going to be about the big, mysterious alien race and object. But just kidding, because nothing is revealed about the mysterious alien race in their completely forgettable and awkward scenes. So, after having finished the book, I’m hard pressed to tell you what it was actually about because none of the plots mattered. The immigration section had no bearing on the later portion of the book. The natural disaster had no bearing on the book. And the final encounter with the aliens was shoehorned in and didn’t matter one whit. Lots of stuff happened but nothing actually happened.

Nor did the plot create any tension or fear. I was never nervous that the bad guy would win or that a main character would get hurt. Nothing. No emotion. No connection. Just irritation that I was five hundred pages in and nothing of consequence had happened. Strike one.

The novel’s characters were equally crap. Holden, our hero, should have been the most interesting, what with Miller floating around in his head, but he spends the majority of his time mediating (without actually mediating) and killing killer slugs. And never has killing space slugs been so boring. Holden’s crew was just as dull: Amos was turned into a two-dimensional good-guy who follows the captain’s orders, but who would be killing you if he wasn't following the captain’s orders. Blah. Alex and Naomi are just sorta there. Did they do anything? I can't remember. All three of Holden’s crew could have been removed from the book and no one would have noticed. Strike two.

What about the other point-of-view characters? you ask. Well, Basia could have been an interesting character as a would-be terrorist seeking redemption for killing people in terrorist-y ways, but instead he mopes and whines.

The antagonist, Murtry (now there’s a name that strikes fear in your heart) was also stupidly two-dimensional, nothing more than a “I love the Comp’ny! and have been charged with protecting the Comp’ny! Therefore, I will smile smugly while I shoot you in the face (or back) with my Comp’ny gun! just to make a point for all these rubes here who need to know that I love the Comp’ny! And an intelligent thought will ne'er enter my brain-box!” type character.

And finally, in the category of Worst Character of the Year, the most egregious of all, scientist Elvi, who single handedly set back the feminist movement by decades. Elvi is a young-ish biologist, who, after experiencing tragedy in the opening chapters, cries crocodile tears at the drop of an estrogen-fueled hat, until our hero, the sexy James Holden shows up. At which point she turns into a 1930’s girl, coming up with every excuse to see sexy James Holden so she can get that mushy feeling inside while she babbles (because, you know, a girl in love can’t help but talk at the speed of light when her secret crush is around), and falls asleep at night dreaming of sexy James Holden running his manly hands all over her body, to the point that she can’t function as a scientist. Until, that is, her fellow scientist (who is not sexy James Holden) suggests that she could do her job better if she just got laid, and oh, he’s available for sex right now. And she accepts his offer. And after she’s gotten some piece of action, she turns back into a cold, calculating scientist. Ah, the magic of sex. Robert Heinlein, eat your heart out. Strike three. Yer out!

This book missed everything that makes science fiction fun to read. Action scenes? Poorly written. Interesting plot? Tissue-paper thin. Compelling characters? Nadda. Brain-twisting science? Nope. Sense of wonder and awe? Never. Strike four...?

Man, I haven’t even touched on the completely pointless algae that makes you go blind subplot, either. Strike five...?

This series had great potential after its riveting start - I really enjoyed the characters and set up from Leviathan Wakes. Books two and three, Caliban's War and Abaddon's Gate, had some great ideas and moments, but the cracks were starting to show. In this book, the house came down...or the batter struck out...after five strikes... (hm...metaphors are not my strong suit...). This book was nothing but fluff and nonsense, and I doubt that I’ll be reading the next one.

It’s just too bad - I really wanted to like this series...
Profile Image for Petrik.
674 reviews42.8k followers
July 3, 2020
Cibola Burn brings The Expanse back to its good form.

Cibola Burn, the fourth volume in The Expanse series, has often been said as the weakest book of the series. And after the previous books—Abaddon’s Gate and the novellas/short stories of the series which I’ve read so far— which left me disappointed, I was seriously scared this one would be even worse. As it turns out, I ended up enjoying it.

“Right,” Holden said. “No coffee. This is a terrible, terrible planet.”

Not only there’s no coffee, but the tension between the people on the planet of Ilus is rising. To mediate, Avasarala sends Holden and the crew of Rocinante to Ilus to resolve the matter. Little did they know that in addition to being mediator, the planet of Ilus also has their own danger such as blindness plague, deadly slugs, and deadly storms. There aren’t many noteworthy things to elaborate in terms of plot; the series has followed a formulaic storytelling structure for the past three books, and it’s still the same here. However, Holden and the crew of Rocinante continue to entertain with their great relationship developments, and the new POV characters were, in my opinion, far more engaging than the one we had in Abaddon’s Gate.

“Later, when you're wishing we had this stuff, I am going to be merciless in my mockery. And then we'll die.”

The superb parts about this book, and pretty much the series, have always been the characters. In Cibola Burn, it was engrossing to see how much the friendship and trust between Holden and Amos grew. For the remaining crew of the Rocinante, Naomi and Alex also have to cooperate while they’re separated from Holden and Amos. In a way that’s a bit similar to Prax, one of the new POV character here—Basia—deals with his struggle in doing everything he can to protect his family. The main villain of this novel—Murtry—was cold-blooded and intimidating as a villain. In other words, I can sum up Cibola Burn as being a step-up to the things that Abaddon’s Gate didn’t get right for me.

“Last man standing," Amos replied with another grin. "It's in my job description.”

As much as I enjoyed Cibola Burn, I must also admit that the series is starting to get a bit stale and too repetitive. That’s also why my review for the series continuously gets shorter, because there aren’t many new elements to talk about with each new installment. I’m almost halfway through the series now, and at the moment, I do think that the series is slightly overrated. It’s still great, of course, but so many modern sci-fi readers consider it the best sci-fi series to exist in decades; I personally think it’s a good series that averaged steadily at 4-stars rating. This is only my assessment of the series so far, though, I’ve heard the second half, starting from Nemesis Games, is where the series starts improving dramatically. Let’s hope I agree with that.

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Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
795 reviews3,612 followers
February 15, 2020
So what to do with all those other worlds?

A popular theme in Sci-Fi and something that has been described in two ways over the years in this forever evolving genre. Just as a plot vehicle, not in detail and just for the fun of it or in too much detail for the average reader (not you, of course, you are wonderful), the prime examples are Ben Bova's Grand Tour series and Kim Stanley Robinsons Mars trilogy, both so extreme that they are just something for the true hardcore fan. The Expanse has a perfect balance of both elements, subtle interconnections of plot, persons, and worldbuilding and something for everybody's taste.

What the mentioned Hard-Sci-Fi authors have written will become reality, possibly coincidental really happen in the one or other form and be a possible instruction manual for space flight, colonizing, terraforming,… and not, I repeat not, for letting all fall in pieces because the humans are too dumb to avoid starting killing another. Again.

Once on the planet, there are so many plot options for the future. Real fantasy in the form of interdimensional, quanta, multidimensional, psi-,… stuff, tons of description possibilities for all kind of specialists of humanities and natural sciences, such as:
physicists and astrophysicists playing with alternative models of matter, forces, energy,…
biologists, physicians, and chemists combining real with alternative lifeforms, reproduction, health issues,…
Psychiatrists (always go mad in space themselves, a funny and ironic occupational disease), sociologists, psychologists,… and yes, sadly, politicians and economists too, dealing with how to balance and mediate between so many new, fresh fractions, subgroups,…
Historians and statisticians doing Big History and Asimov's psychohistory.
Please feel free to initialize own mind game or add idea here, thank you.

Any field of science finds new playgrounds, an endless source of new sci-fi and science-fantasy plots and ideas. By the way plot, I would be really interested in how the balance between detailed planning and storyboarding and creative, freewriting is in the work of the two authors because they perfectly handle it all, the believable character development, the logical plot on all areas, and the vaunted realism and accuracy. Many Sci-Fi writers have a problem with plot or characters, so that they produce great Hard-Sci-Fi with less and stereotypical dialogues and wonderful worldbuilding and physics or they avoid any science and just focus on the characters in Social Sci-Fi, but such a great mix is rare.

The exponential growth of mentalities in the case of wormholes to other galaxies would be immense, in this case, we have 3 different fractions that could splinter in more or less extreme subdivisions, mentalities, faiths, political ideologies, and act them out on a planet far away from any philistine moralizer. No problem breeding your own pig monkey human octopus hybrid in a Marxist Gaia praising surveillance welfare terror state. Again, as said before, feel free to initialize own mind game or add idea here, that´s what Sci-Fi is for.

Dealing with colonialization, imperialism, exploitation of humans and resources in space with lots of innuendos, connotations, side blows,.. showing how history might repeat itself and how old power structures dictate the right to expand is a sweet, old idea and the different motivations of the main fractions are plot dynamite. But where the case is clear on earth, because the word indigenous doesn´t come from anywhere, the claims of ownership in space might be a bit trickier. What should be done, the winner, the first one, takes it all? Check how many resources are on each planet and make a distribution key to help those with 3 loser planets without any commodities by forcing the lucky ones with 3 bling bling planets to share a part of their wealth to create forced justice/communism. Or go directly turbo capitalistic instead? Again, mind game time. My guess is the military-industrial complex that will get stronger in each country as state and corporations have to cooperate against other nations to be competitive in space so that the dawn of interplanetary public-private partnership megacorporations can begin. Much work for the lawyers with the new intergalactic legislation.

The Lovecraftian factor should never be underestimated, the fear of the unknown, mighty, old entities is increasing through the books and getting more and more concrete…Look, alien ruins must play around there and press buttons and Mcguffin and Chekhov the hell out of that rusty machinery!

Meanwhile, while writing the review, a certain, well known dark desire, a reprehensible need I thought was defeated, burnt out of my membranes, starts rising in my mind again. I want to continue watching the show, but can´t read while doing it, it´s such an unwinnable pest or cholera, choose between the devil and the deep blue sea case. But I must stay strong, TV is evil, must avoid asking Alexa to start… Damn it! Miller, stop telekineticing with the remote control and voice command and spoilering the differences between the show and the book, don´t you dare…

It ended as foreseeable, I binge-watched, wasted perfect reading time, feeling dirty, ashamed, worthless. Excuse me a moment, „What Miller, is a Mister Robot, The Boyz,..“ I should consider stopping overusing this trope.

Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:
This series has some of the most amazing and massive tropeinity I´ve ever seen.
Profile Image for Kemper.
1,390 reviews6,820 followers
February 12, 2018
In The Expanse humanity has spread out among our solar system, and there have been decades of political tension and hostility among the people of Earth, Mars, and the Belters of the Outer Planetary Alliance. The events of the previous books have resulted in the unlocking of a system of wormhole gates that puts literally a thousand habitable new worlds and all their natural resources within reach.

All the people put their differences aside to begin a new golden age of peace and prosperity as they work together to explore and colonize……BWAH HA HA HA! I’m sorry. I couldn’t even finish that with a straight face. I was just messing with you. Actually, most of the people in the future are still short-sighted selfish idiots who suck, just like today, and they promptly begin fighting over the very first planet that has boots on the ground.

A group of squatters from the OPA got to the planet first and set up a half-assed colony as they began mining lithium with the idea of selling it to become independent. The Royal Energy Corporation was given a charter by Earth’s government to survey the planet and exploit its mineral rights. The squatters and the RCE competing claims are complicated by the long history of bigotry and mistrust between the people of Earth and the Belt. Things quickly escalate to violence, and when the governments need a guy with a reputation for honesty and fairness to act as moderator they call on Captain Jim Holden.

So it’s a planet filled with angry people using terrorism tactics against a fanatical security chief for the corporation who will stop at nothing to protect RCE interests. Oh, and there’s lots of alien ruins and artifacts left by a long dead civilization. What could possibly go wrong?


As usual Holden and his intrepid crew are trying to do the right thing and save people in the midst of a political tangle and general assholery. However, the first half of this book has both sides so entrenched in their hatred and grudges that I was half hoping that Holden would just throw up his hands and have the Rocinante bomb them from orbit. Things change a bit in the second half when events put everyone in a dire situation, but even then there’s no shortage of talking sphincters making a bad situation worse.

As I’ve said in my earlier reviews, that’s one of the things that I love about this series. There’s an on-going mystery and potential looming threat with all the alien stuff and the way that Holden is connected to it is very clever. The action and sense of tension are well done, and the good guy characters are all likeable and well-drawn so that you actively root for them while feeling the frustration of every set back and problem. The books also have a healthy sense of humor with a variety of one liners or funny beats drawing a laugh out of a reader at the most unexpected moments. The authors also do a superior job of figuring out bad situations to stick the characters in and equally clever ways to get them out of them.

But it’s still the commitment to making the biggest obstacle usually be rotten people of one kind or another that continues to help ground the series and make it really relatable. These people may be squabbling on another planet, but when they argue about who did what to who and use it for justifications for continuing to escalate the violence it’s all too easy to see ourselves in this collection of asshats.

Bonus Material: Check out the trailers for the TV show based on the series here and here.
Profile Image for Baba.
3,560 reviews856 followers
October 3, 2021
The Expanse - 4: The series 'writer' James S.A. Corey is the pen name of a combination of two writers, fantasy writer Daniel Abraham and George R.R. Martin's assistant Ty Franck; they left themselves a perfect starting off point for this book from he previous one, because mankind is no longer alone; but not because they have finally encountered aliens, but that ancient alien technology + the interventions of James Holden and his crew has resulted in mankind having access to thousands, yes thousands of suns with Earth-like planets!

It's no surprise that Belter refugees are the first group to settle on the planet Illus, a planet also called 'New Terra' by the Earth corporation who have staked a claim for the planet (and its raw materials) in the Earth legislature. Two tribes go to war? It is agreed by the powers that be. the UN Earth, Mars and the Belter's OPA that a mediator is needed on Illus, and can you guess who they choose? Naomi, Alex, Amos and James are back in the thick of things with not only two warring communities to keep apart, but a planet that seems to want them all dead!

As ever, each chapter is from a different point of view of one of the crew or one of this volume's additional protagonists. With a new planet to deal with and two new communities, there does feel like there's a tad too much exposition which made this a more difficult book to get engaged with than the previous ones in this series; what can never be taken away from this series is the ongoing long-form story of the ancient alien tech and how the more of it that is uncovered, the more it impacts on everyday life of mankind. 7 out of 12. I seriously though, I don't ever want this series to end!
Profile Image for Em Lost In Books.
872 reviews1,758 followers
April 6, 2021
Much better than its predecessor. Although storyline was similar to previous books, Holden & Co. finding themselves in a mess, a self-centered villain who puts glory above all, and ordinary people coming forward to do some awesome work.

But for me characters here made it different from the previous book. I found them very likable, especially Elvi and Basia. They both fought the unfavorable conditions and became the heroes that I want in these books. Hope I will see more of them sooner than later.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
November 10, 2020
Cibola Burn (Expanse, #4), James S.A. Corey

Cibola Burn is a 2014 science fiction novel by James S. A. Corey (pen name of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) and the fourth book in The Expanse series.

After the events of Abaddon's Gate, humanity has gained access to thousands of new worlds and solar systems through the gate networks. At the start of Cibola Burn the United Nations, Martian, and Outer Planets Alliance governments have thus far restricted exploration and colonization efforts to one corporate scientific survey mission to one of these planets.

Complicating matters is the existence of a colonial settlement already existing on the planet from before the military blockade of the rings came into effect. Both sides claim ownership in a confrontation reflecting many colonial interactions throughout history.

Jim Holden is sent to mediate the interactions between the colonists and scientists when political and racial tensions culminate in violence. Still dogged by the disembodied presence of Miller, who wishes to investigate the disappearance of the planet's former inhabitants, Holden arrives on a world on the verge of war.

Yet the biggest danger to the colonists, scientists, and Holden himself is not the human disagreements that they have brought with them, but the frontier itself. As with the settling of the American West and many colonial projects of Earth's past, the frontier into which humanity has ventured is vast, uncontrolled, and full of dangers.

When a mysterious disease and horrific disaster strike at the same time and threaten the lives not only of the colonists, but all those in orbit as well, Holden and Miller must brave the ruins of an alien civilization in search of the one thing that might save them all.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز چهاردهم ماه فوریه سال 2018میلادی

عنوان: گستره: کتاب سوم: سوختن سیبولا؛ نویسنده: جیمز اس.ای کوری؛

بشریت پس از رویدادهای «گیت آبادون»، از طریق شبکه های دروازه به هزاران جهان تازه و منظومه شمسی دسترسی پیدا کرده است؛ در آغاز کتاب «سوختن سیبولا»، دولتهای «سازمان ملل متحد»، «مریخ» و ...؛ تاکنون تلاشهای اکتشاف و استعمار را برای یک مأموریت بررسی علمی شرکتها به یکی از این سیارات محدود کرده اند؛ و ...؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 19/08/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Justin.
604 reviews9 followers
September 5, 2014
This series as a whole is so poorly-named, that it borders on false advertising. For an ongoing story collectively called The Expanse, each successive book has become smaller, and smaller in scope. Leviathan Wakes had a solar system-wide war, with entire planetary bodies being irrevocably altered in the conflict. Caliban's War had virtually the same plot, but with some different characters, and felt lesser by its very derivative nature. Abaddon's Gate centered on an enclosed area of space, with just a few fleets of ships. Cibola Burn? Just a single planet. If the proceedings were at least interesting, or even tried to live up to the promise of the underlying concepts at work, this wouldn't be so much of a problem; unfortunately, that's where this series truly falls flat on its face.

Much like every other book in The Expanse, Cibola Burn pays the briefest of lip service to the all-powerful, ancient alien technology that's ostensibly what underpins the entire series, and then summarily ignores it for 90% of the book, in favor of petty squabbling among arbitrary groups of people. With each installment, it's gotten increasingly tiresome, to the point where Cibola Burn essentially reads like a story about the Troubles in Ireland, but set on an alien world. Except, instead of Catholics/Protestants, the conflict is between a small group of squatters, who've shot ahead of everyone else, and laid claim to one of the thousand-plus planets beyond the Rings, and the big, (naturally) evil corporation that has the legal rights to it.

Want to read about the alien artifacts that are so thickly-strewn across Ilus/New Terra, that people are practically tripping over them? Too bad! Here's an interminable side plot about a squatter family that isn't sure if they should let their eldest daughter head back through the Rings, to attend college. Want to know why this planet is eerily abandoned by the beings that had previously settled here? Too bad! Here's a couple hundred pages of squatters and corporation reps trying to negotiate the transportation and tariffs on lithium ore, and occasionally shooting at each other. And every ten chapters or so, as an added bonus, enjoy an interlude that reads like half-assed, "deep" poetry written by a particularly pretentious middle-schooler. Argh!

To make matters worse, every major player in Cibola Burn is an idiot--if they weren't, the story couldn't progress along its glacial, nonsensical path. First off, it's an unexplored, unknown alien world, and nobody thought it might be a good idea to wear hazmat suits? Respirators? Goggles? I can understand the squatters not having that sort of equipment on-hand, given how fast they jetted out there--it's still moronic, but somewhat believable. But the corporation? Yeah, their shuttle got blown up as it was landing, but they seemed to have a fair variety of other supplies that survived the catastrophe. And yet, everyone's surprised when people start falling prey to rain-borne parasites.

Also, it's an entire freaking planet! Why is everybody fighting over this one tiny, crappy area of land? Everyone admits it's a barren, arid stretch of land, which does happen to have good mineral deposits. But are we expected to believe that literally nowhere else has anything of value?

And yet again, we've got a bunch of people so morally ambiguous, that they're willing to blindly follow a man who's quite clearly unhinged, because...well, just because the plot calls for it, really. "Sure, there are ancient alien weapons waking up and killing a bunch of people, but we can't shut them down! Because...because, we're the big, evil corporation, and this planet is ours, and...money...or something!"

I can see why George R.R. Martin calls this series "interplanetary adventure the way it ought to be written," because it really is playing out like A Song of Ice & Fire in space. There's all this amazing, dangerous stuff going on, that people really should be paying attention to, but instead it all gets shoved to the background because of politics. But the politics here aren't really even all that interesting.

After the first book, the entire rest of The Expanse has felt like one big bait & switch. The end of each novel was full of so much promise of looming alien intelligences, and threats that stretch the limits of human comprehension, yet every time, those expectations are squashed, in favor of dull, tiresome, tribal squabbling. Imagine if, after the gripping, psychological horror of the move Alien, the sequel was all about the Weyland-Yutani Corporation hashing out the legal red tape with the government of Earth, to be allowed to send out another ship to the planet with the xenomorphs. And then the sequel after that was them getting there, only to run into trouble with a rival corporation, who claims they have the right to explore that planet, and you never see any [insert expletive here] aliens! THAT is what The Expanse is like. And the end of Cibola Burn doesn't even cast aspersions at there being any interesting alien stuff in the next book, so I guess I have to at least give them credit for finally being honest. It's about the only damn thing this book does right.
3 reviews1 follower
June 26, 2014
I finished it, due in large part because of my love for the Expanse series overall, as I devoured Leviathan Wakes thru Abaddon's Gate in short order. Cibola Burn, however, fell short of my expectations for many reasons, most of which have already been detailed in previous reviews.

First, the new characters. Basia's story arc was probably the most interesting of the newcomers yet, even still, I found myself becoming bored with his predictability. Havelock, for the most part, I found myself wanting to skip more and more out of boredom as well. It's sad that, almost 300 pages in, the most interesting thing Havelock has done is play paintball with engineers and mull over Belter/Inner 'racism.' But Elvi, good God. I cringe even typing the name. Undoubtedly the absolute worst, most annoying, uninteresting character of the entire series. I don't know how you go from powerhouses like Bobbie, Chrisjen, Bull, and even Praxidike, to the subpar lineup that we have in Cibola Burn. After the first few persepctive changes, I would speedread through Elvi's parts just to get them out of the way. She'd have been more believable as a teenage stowaway aboard the Edward Israel than as an accomplished, respected scientist.

The villain was just as bad. Predictable, utterly two dimensional, and so mind blowingly stupid that it killed any shred of believability he might have had. Then again, the Expanse isn't exactly known for the strength of its villains (the guy Holden and his crew found at the Protogen base, for example).

I waited a long time for this novel's release. I anticipated June 17th like it was something sacred, and now I'm still in a state of disbelief as to how disappointing I found this book to be. Caliban's War and Abaddon's Gate were both so damn good that I read them again before the release of Cibola Burn. I'll keep reading Expanse, as I have faith in the ability of Ty and David to create something extraordinary, but I sincerely hope Cibola Burn isn't a glimpse of things to come.
Profile Image for Gary.
442 reviews185 followers
August 18, 2018
The fourth Expanse novel is a bit of a sea change – though a perfectly logical progression from the game-changing events of Abaddon’s Gate. This time the crew of the Rocinante is tasked with mediating a potentially disastrous dispute between corporate interests and belter squatters on the first habitable world discovered on the other side of the ring.
Thrilling action, nail-biting suspense and complex characters are, by now, par for the course in what has become the most consistently and spectacularly entertaining space opera series out there. As close to perfect as old-school space adventure can get.
Profile Image for Choko.
1,199 reviews2,585 followers
March 8, 2018
*** 4.25 ***

"... “It was astounding, Bobbie thought, how quickly humanity could go from What unimaginable intelligence fashioned these soul-wrenching wonders? to Well, since they’re not here, can I have their stuff?” ..."

The authors of "The Expanse" series came through again! With a flair for storytelling and a well build set-up to a series starting from book one, "Cibola Burn" comes to us with a set of givens and expectations. The givens are the great world-building, characters we already know and know what to expect of in the crew of Holden, Naomi, Alex, and Amos, and a whole new Universe, open to us by the Protomolecule and the discoveries of "Abaddon’s Gate". The expectations are to have another adventure full of action, heroics and peril. I think we were delivered plenty of both.

"... “The usual state of nature is recovering from the last disaster,” she said. It was a truism of ecological biologists, and she said it the way a religious person might pray. To make sense of what she saw. To comfort herself. To give the world some sense of purpose or meaning. Species rose in an environment, and that environment changed. It was the nature of the universe, as true here as it had been on Earth.” ..."

Captain Holden and the crew of the Rocinante have been escorting for safety other ships back and forth through the Gate, opening the road for Humanity to unknown part of the Universe. However, just when the crew is starved for landing and some personal TLC, the United Nations and the OPA ask them to do a mission of inter-mediation on the first Earth-like new planet ever discovered, between the small group of Belters who have established a small community there and the Earth mega-corporation for extracting energy, RCE, to which the charter for drilling and exploration has been given by the UN. Neither side feels the other belongs there, but there animosity morphs into hatred when attempts of sabotage lead to human lives lost. Then the game turns and they try to destroy the other, putting innocent people and scientists in the middle.

"... “Figure two-, three-hundred-kilometer-an-hour winds, lightning, torrential rains. You’re far enough inland to avoid the three-kilometer-high tsunami.” “Basic wrath of God package, minus drowning,” ..."

Only the two sides didn't count on the Planet to get involved too and start protecting itself. The Planet is nothing it seems to appear and the humans discover that slowly and to their detriment. The sad and tragic part is that even though the Humans on both sides have a new and much more powerful adversary, they still prefer to go at each-other and make sure the other side suffers more than them. This is what always makes me so sad about our nature - we hate we are in a tough spot, but if we are going down, we always try to take the next person down with us... For an intelligent species, we sure seem to be making the same dumb decisions over and over through history and fiction...

"... “You’re cranky because you’re tired,” Amos said. “You got that I-have-to-save-everyone hangup, so I make it that you haven’t slept in about two days. But listening to people bitch? Yeah, that’s sorta your job. It’s why you make the big money.” “We make the same money.” “Then I guess you’re doing it for the fame and glory.” “I hate you,” Holden said.” ..."

I loved many of the characters here, but there were some, who seemed to be evil just for evil's sake, and I didn't really like that. I did like the actual biological side of the story and it is what made me enjoy it most! Holden was the reliable reluctant Hero we have all learned to love/hate and the rest of the world kind of revolves around him. This is OK, since we do need someone to always make reliable choices - in his case, we can always rely on him to go with his first noble emotion without thinking about the consequences and having the world to have to straighten those after. We can always say after, well, at least he meant well... But my mom always used to say the old adage, "the road to Hell is paved with good intentions..." So true...

Now I wish you all Happy Reading and may you always find what you need in the pages of a good Book!!!
Profile Image for Rachel (TheShadesofOrange).
2,086 reviews2,953 followers
March 3, 2021
4.5 Stars
Spoiler discussion Video: https://youtu.be/hxhPwGoY0gQ

While not quite as strong as the first three books, I still really enjoyed this fourth novel. At this point, I just love spending time with recurring characters.

I was particularly intrigued by the political uncertainty outlined in the beginning of the novel. I really enjoy reading about the tension between the various interplanetary groups.

I found the new female a bit irritating because I find it frustrating to watch an educated women lose her head over a man. Thankfully that subplot resolved itself in a rather humorous way. I did appreciate that the biologist prospective brought some hard science into the story (an aspect usually lacking in this space opera series).

The authors did an incredibly job setting up the situation for the next book in the series. Needless to say, I am very excited to reread Nemesis Games.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,967 followers
September 25, 2018
Re-Read 9/25/18:

This second read went down SMOOTH. :) Sure, we're out of the Solar System and Holden is attempting to play peacemaker rather than the lone voice of truth, but what he's got on his shoulders is the one-eye'd king in the land of the blind syndrome... AND massive conflict. Not whole Powers breathing down his neck this time, but things get really hairy out on the frontier where law and order is played fast and loose.

Yep. It's a cowboy novel featuring slugs that blind you, a planet literally going through an upheaval, falling moons, billions-of-years-old alien genocide, and one undead cop.

Cool? Hell yeah. Still loving the crap out of this. :)

Original Review:

After the sequence of the last novel, practically anything was possible. The whole universe was up for grabs, tempered with the terror of knowing that everyone in it had died. I had tons of faith in these authors before picking up this book. I knew they could pull off anything they wanted, and not only did they succeed, they succeeded fantastically. This is some of the absolute best space opera-ish sci-fi I've ever read. Perhaps I am also very invested in the characters, and so anything I think is going to be skewed horribly. Fortunately, that's also a great sign of a great book.

Holden. What the hell. That guy...

Seriously, he's one of the most interesting guys I've ever read. He has one hell of a flaw. Without him, it would certainly make for a shorter story, but never as good.

I love it!
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,030 reviews2,604 followers
June 25, 2014
4.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum http://bibliosanctum.com/2014/06/25/b...

The Expanse is probably my science fiction series right now, and I think Cibola Burn is the best installment yet.

Why, you ask? Well, unlike the previous books, which I felt started off slow but gradually built up to bigger and better action, Cibola Burn breaks this pattern and kicks things off right away with an explosive conflict you can’t ignore. The mysterious proto-molecule that somehow created a massive ring structure just outside the orbit of Uranus has turned out to be a gate leading to thousands of habitable planets on the other side. To the annoyance and chagrin of the corporation with the planetary exploration and harvesting rights, a ship of refugees have made it over and settled on the first of such new worlds, claiming it as their own and starting up their own mining operations.

Violence erupts when the company finally arrives to protect what they think of as their property, with the colonists pushing back. This is how the book starts out – literally with a bang. Protagonist James Holden, deemed as the best person to act as mediator in this conflict, is dropped into the middle of things before they can escalate and both sides end up killing each other. The whole situation is a lit powder keg waiting to explode and the atmosphere could not be more intense, and this is all just within the first handful of chapters. There’s none of that “slow climb to the apex”, which is how I described Abbadon’s Gate. Here, you get to the good stuff right off the bat.

But before you think all the action is front-loaded, rest assured that this is not the case. The tension continues to build and it’s safe to say that circumstances get worse for the characters (which translates to “More exciting!” for the reader) before they get better. Cibola Burn is part space colonization story and part space disaster thriller. For those reading this series who might be suffering from proto-molecule fatigue by now, the good news is that while the proto-molecule still plays a big role in the overall story, it takes a backseat to the more dramatic and more human events happening right there on the frontier planet. It’s wild and lawless territory out there, with neither side willing to relinquish control. With no real police force, no courts and no legal system, authority is determined by who has the greatest firepower, and when you’re in a region of space eighteen months from the closest civilization, that there pretty much spells a recipe for disaster.

Like all the previous books in the series, Cibola Burn is told from the perspective of a handful of point-of-view characters. The cast has expanded yet again, changing up all the key players except for Holden, who as the main protagonist has kept up a constant presence in all four books now. For the first time in this series, however, I became partial to his chapters. In books 1-3, I’d always felt that Holden’s character was eclipsed by more powerful and interesting personalities (in Leviathan Wakes, by Miller; in Caliban’s War, by Chrisjen Avasarala, my favorite potty-mouthed UN politician; and in Abbadon’s Gate, by Bull) and he’d never managed to capture my attention. That is, until now. What changed? It’s not like the other POV characters here were any less compelling. But somehow, Holden definitely came into his own in Cibola Burn. As someone who’s always so sure of his moral position, it’s a new experience to see him try to compromise for the sake of keeping the peace, and when the situation devolves, his leadership skills are put to the test.

In fact, all the POV characters – Holden, Basia, Havelock and Elvi — were enjoyable to read about in their own way. Compared to a relatively weaker cast in the last book, Cibola Burn was a much more engaging read for this reason. The only character I didn’t care for was Murtry – and not because he’s the villain. I notice the authors seem to have a tendency to paint the “bad guys” in this series as really BAD guys, all super evil psychopaths with terrible motives and inflexible attitudes. While it leaves little room for doubt who you should be rooting for, that doesn’t add much to the person or situation. Other characters who sometimes lack in depth is an occasional issue I encountered, but the baddies seem to have it the worst.

Still, if that’s my only complaint, and it’s a minor one at that, this book is clear a winner in my eyes. Like I said, I found this to be the most exciting and powerful book so far. When a strange planet that no one understands turns against colony and corporation alike, the notion of people putting aside their differences to help each other survive becomes a central theme, and all the while the clock is ticking. It’s really no surprise that the series is heading to TV, being the perfect mix of science fiction chills-and-thrills with the passion and weight of human drama. Fans of The Expanse will eat this book right up. And if you haven’t started this series yet, what are you waiting for?
Profile Image for Ginger.
753 reviews372 followers
February 20, 2023
And the madness of the protomolecule continues!

Cibola Burn is the 4th book in The Expanse series and it's got a blend of the Wild West about it, colonists and government fighting over land, and lots of action and tension in space that has you on the edge of your seat.

I loved everything about this one! It takes all of the previous plots of the series and gives the reader a new direction to what's past the Rings, and how this alien technology plus exploring new worlds will keep the series staying fresh and exciting.

This is one of the best sci-fi series that I've ever read!

If you've watched the TV series of The Expense, it is worth reading the books. There's enough differences in the characters POVs and overall story that I've been pleasantly surprised by it!
Profile Image for Samir.
111 reviews174 followers
October 17, 2018
Not on the same level as the previous installments but still good.
Profile Image for Lori.
308 reviews100 followers
February 3, 2018
A lot better than the last one, still some bits where I lost interest.

The regular cast is great. Alex and Naomi got bigger parts. Miller is back from the word salad either.

"You’re like Peter Pan, she says. When a child died, Peter Pan would fall halfway with them. So they wouldn’t be scared.

Weird. And that’s a kid’s story? Anyway, it’s not me, the investigator says (Miller), smiles at her. Holds her hand. I don’t go for half."

Although these guys don't have any problem with killing characters, I hope Miller isn't gone for good.
Profile Image for Rob.
848 reviews535 followers
September 21, 2021
Executive Summary: I still feel that that this book was very different from the rest of the series to me. I found it much more enjoyable on my reread than I did the first time, but I still consider it the weakest book in the series.

Audiobook: So one of the things I worry about with digital media beyond DRM is that you don't really own things. Here is a good example. They re-recorded this book and instead of the Erik Davies version I originally listened to, I now have the Jefferson Mays version.

Thankfully I'm happy about that, but I'm still concerned I didn't get a choice to swap versions. I worry the same thing will happen with The Martian where I like the original narration.

In this case I think the Jefferson Mays version is far superior. I'm not sure why I didn't like him when I first did this series, but I think he's a pretty great narrator. It could also be that he's gotten better as he went along and now I just tend to lump all his performances together.

If nothing else, it's nice to have all of the books narrated by the same person.

Full Review
So for the first 3 books of the series I haven't been bothering to update my reviews. I think I enjoyed those books on first read, and reread simply confirmed my first impressions. This book however I like much more on my reread than the first time.

There are a lot of factors at play here. 1) It's been 7 years and 1 global pandemic since I first read the book. 2) The book has been adapted into a TV show that I enjoyed 3) They re-recorded the book with the normal narrator.

It's hard for me to decide which of those factors played the largest role, but I suspect the answer is some of all 3.

I still found parts of this slow and I still found that some of the characters felt more like camera than actual characters I cared about or rooted for.

But I was far more interested in how the events unfolded this time. And while I feel like Murtery was an over the top asshole, I've come to realize just how many Murtery's there are in the world.

Elvi's lovesick subplot was still annoying, but didn't feel as pronounced as I remember it. I thought Havelock and Basia were both still pretty unlikeable early on, but I found more nuance in my second reading than I picked up on the first time.

Overall I feel like this book is largely a side story that sets the stage for far bigger events in the next book. The epilogue is an excellent summary of the novel, and kind of feel like the bulk of the story could have been a novella instead. That said, I still enjoyed it, and thought it was a much better read the second time around.

--------------Original Review---------------
Executive Summary: This one felt very different from the rest of the series to me. Whether or not that is a good thing will largely depend on the reader I suspect.

Audiobook: Erik Davies is OK. Originally I was pretty indifferent about the narrator change for this book. I was never particularly attached to Jefferson Mays. I had sort of of hoped that as this was the first book released in hardcover maybe the change was due to them getting a better reader.

Turns out that wasn't the case. For the most part he’s not worse than Mr. Mays, just different. However Mr. Mays at least did a few accents and Mr. Davies seemed to only have a Russian accent and spoke with no accent for Avasarala, which just seemed to really annoy me.

If this wasn't a series that I thought made for an easy to follow audiobook, I’d probably consider switching to reading it for book 5. Who knows though, maybe he’ll grow on me.

Full Review
This is a hard review for me to write. I spent a good portion of it annoyed at the book. That would make it sound like I didn't like it, but that’s not the case.

I've always been more of a Star Trek fan than dystopian sci-fi fan. When it comes to Space Opera, I like politics and war at a higher level. Large factions feuding over planets and ideals.

For me the first three books really sort of fell more into this. This book however felt much lower level. The politics of the first three books serve as the basis for things. There has always been discrimination between the belters and the inner planets, but never has it been so central to the conflict as in this book.

That may appeal to some reasons, for me it mostly made me uncomfortable and mad. Not at the book or the authors, but the characters. I think most authors would be happy to evoke strong emotions in their readers, but for me personally I generally don’t like to spend my recreation time angry.

As seems to be par for the course, we get a bunch of brand new POV characters this go around, save for James Holden. Two of them are minor characters from previous novels. First there is Havelock, who was Miller’s Earther partner in Leviathan Wakes, and Basia who was a friend of Prax on Ganymede in Caliban's War. This is rounded out by an Elvi, a human scientist.

I didn’t like any of them, especially Elvi. I think she is the weakest female character they’ve written yet. I still wish they'd bring back Bobbie and Avasarala (thankfully there looks to be potential for this in book 5). I loved them so much that everyone else seem to disappoint me. I felt Anna in Abaddon's Gate was already a step down, but still likeable. Elvi was another step in the wrong direction for me as well.

So you have a bunch of characters you don't really like in what to me felts like a side story for most of the book. They do stupid and hateful things to one another. I know the types of people portrayed in this book exist in the world. Maybe they once existed in greater numbers. Maybe I’m just sheltered or fortunate not to run into these kinds of people on a regular basis.

The whole thing just made no sense to me. Everyone’s actions were stupid. I was especially bothered that many of the Engineers were the worst. Most of the engineers I know are very logical and well thought out in their actions. Sure there are exceptions to that, but this seemed to flip that on their head.

I despised Murtry, head of the Earther's security and all around asshole. I'm pretty sure that was the point. The problem was I didn't feel like I had anything to root for. I spent most of the book wishing Holden and his crew would just leave and go do something else that was related to the protomolecule and the developments from Abaddon's Gate.

Overall this book seemed to focus on the worse things that humanity is capable of. Discrimination and pointless violence. Spending way too much time and energy trying to kill one another when there are far larger problems to worry about.

Despite this, I ended up enjoying the book. I found it hard to turn off when it was time to stop listening. I’m still not sure how they pulled that off. Eventually I did find myself liking Havelock and Basia more though. Elvi still felt like she was there to serve at a 4th "camera" most of the time. She was important to the plot, but I just never grew attached to her I guess.

I enjoyed the final quarter of the book a lot more than the first three. We eventually get some development of things with the protomolecule, though not as much as I would have preferred. I just really enjoy spending time with the crew of the Rocinante, no matter what’s going on.

With the announcement of 3 more books, I worry things will be drawn out too much. Personally I’d like the protomolecule story arc to get wrapped up by book 6, and have the three new books be a completely new story arc. Time will tell what happens. Either way I’ll be eagerly picking up book 5 when it comes out.
Profile Image for Trish.
1,931 reviews3,402 followers
September 25, 2018
It's utterly fitting that this fourth volume in the The Expanse series is about the exploration of an entirely new planet in another solar system since it is also the first book where I don't know what will happen because the TV show has not caught up to the book series yet.

After the protomolecule has built the Ring and humans have gone through, finding the station connecting us to all kinds of planetary systems, humans want to leave Sol and live some place else. The problem? Well, it's mostly greed and bureaucratic bullshit.
Thus, the powers that be in Sol sanction a corporation to hold the rights for the exploration of the first new planet while a few Belters simply go there and touch down. Conflict inevitably follows.
Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are sent to mediate after a violent incident killed many people. It's a powder keg ready to explode and the fact that there are strange organisms and artefacts of The Builders (the creators of the protomolecule) on the planet doesn't really help.
Not to mention that there is something strange about the planet itself, which "Miller" wants to investigate and bugs Holden about.

I very much enjoyed the investigation as I, as a reader, was trying to figure out more about The Builders as well. Thus, getting a glimpse into what absorbed Miller and how it worked was fascinating and, yes, alien. It was also very rewarding because it was almost poetical.

One prominent theme in this book was the age old "us vs them". The thing is: I didn't like any of the factions. *lol*
First, we have Elvi and the scientists sent by the corporation. Elvi was annoyingly naive. I get that you want to explore, also to make the colony safe, but you can't put your head in the sands.
Then, we had the trigger-finger-happy security team, also sent by the corporation that was like Rumpelstiltskin (to put it in Thomas Jane's words from another movie: "I wonder how much dynamite one would have to blow up between your ears to get your head clear").
The third group was the Belters that had settled there before the corporation arrived. I more than understand the need and desire to find a new place to live, especially after what's been going on in Sol and especially for the Belters. However, that does NOT ! Thus, HOW you do something is as important as WHY and people need to own up to their actions. Therefore, the term Fucking ironic, also, that the engineers are later doing exactly what Basia and his "friends" were doing at the beginning. How's your own bitter pill tasting, Basia? The sad part is, I work with engineers so I can totally picture that scenario.
Last but not least, we have Holden and his crew who are in an impossible situation. Nevertheless, I disliked the mentality that they should be getting everything they want (in the beginning, I'm not talking about saving lives later) just because of who they are.

As you can see, I understand most motivations but there was a certain whining about all of them. They all needed to grow up and I wanted to slap most of them. You can see why Avasarala is my favourite person in this series (apart from Bobby)?

The highlight, for me, definitely was the exploration of an alien world. After all, that is what scifi is all about for me. I delight in strange new worlds with ruined structures and weird bioforms so walking on New Terra (horribly boring name by the way) was seriously cool!

My favourite quote from this book:
„Choosing to stand by while people kill each other is also an action. We don‘t do that here.“

Oh, and I might have spotted something: "A building larger inside than out" ... Doctor Who reference?! *lol*

So yeah, I could go on and on and on about this universe and what the people in this book encountered on just this one planet because the authors are just that good at creating a mysterious and rich environment full of life-like people and awesome technology. The question is: where are they gonna take this now?! This was just the first of over a thousand new planets and I don't want to return to Sol yet.

P.S.: I LOVED Spidey-Miller!
Profile Image for Lone rider 1.
78 reviews37 followers
August 8, 2016
I dalje odlična zabava.. kraj malo škripi ali sve u svemu ja sam zadovoljan!!!

Sa nestrpljenjem čekam nastavak...!!!
Profile Image for Mr. Matt.
288 reviews82 followers
July 13, 2015
Just when I thought I was getting tired of the Expanse ... Cibola Burn takes humanity through the mysterious gates built by the protomolecule, to a thousand habitable worlds. The new worlds promise a rebirth for humanity. No more population controls, no more crowded, polluted planets, no more scraping a subsistence living in an air pocket on a planetoid. A thousand Edens await; however, as Detective Miller reminds us, you gotta watch the doors and corners.

Just because humanity made it to a new Eden, it doesn't mean that we left humanity behind. On New Terra, the very first post-solar colony, two factions are squaring off: belter refugees and a corporate, UN sanctioned expedition. The refugees are jealous and protective of their rights as squatters. The RCE expedition is jealous and protective of their rights as granted by the UN charter. When as act of terrorist vandalism accidentally kills hundreds, real trouble ensues. Murtry, the driven security chief of RCE, finds himself the nominal head of the RCE faction and he will be damned if he allows this group of squatters to trample on the UN Charter. Smelling trouble, the UN and OPA send in a mediator - Holden.

Through all of this I kinda thought we were tapping a dry well. The book was interesting, moved along at a decent clip, but kinda, well, dull. Not much was happening. And then everything started happening. Detective Miller was back as an incarnation of the protomolecule, probing, exploring, investigating. Where did the beings that created the gates go? What happened to them? His investigations actually awake the planet's defense mechanisms. Suddenly we have life or death struggle both in space and on the planet.

Not only is the RCE fighting the colonists, but the planet itself is striking against humanity. In a very cool twist, life as we know it on Earth and New Terra are incompatible. And why shouldn't they be? Evolution took a very different direction on each planet. A small, microscopic organism discovers that humans make the perfect hosts and multiply like mad in their eyes, blinding everyone ... everyone except Holden.

All of this finally comes to a head in an alien structure where we finally catch a glimpse of what it was that destroyed the protomolecule's civilization.

Four stars. The book started off slow - too slow for my tastes - but ended with a gripping tension. These books continue to entertain. Each has a mystery that more or less drives the entire series. With each book, more is revealed of the mystery. Very cool, although I am starting to wonder where exactly the entire series is going. I feel like I am just getting to the real punch. What will happen when humanity finally bumps into whatever it was that killed off the protomolecule's creators? How will that resolve? At the pace the series is moving, are we looking at the SF equivalent of The Wheel of Time series?
Profile Image for Anissa.
859 reviews258 followers
January 22, 2021
I fell off on my Expanse reading but I feel like this is a bit of a detour in the series and it's one I could have skipped. I had been excited to see what the first adventure after the Ring gate opened would be so I was primed to love this. Alas, I didn't.

Ilus/New Terra is the site of a land war between a group of Belters who make a colony in basically a land rush and a mining corporation. This is an interesting enough set up but not for an entire book. Holden and the crew of the Roci are pretty much on a mission to mediate between the two parties and it's pretty dicey. Behind the scenes is Fred Thompson of the re-branded OPA and Avasarala of Earth who needs things to be quelled but also to try to gain leverage for their respective factions. All in all, I'd have preferred for the land dispute to be the side story here. The characters were okay but didn't captivate my interest like the ones in Abbadon's Gate. Like, I'm not even going to bother listing and explaining by character but suffice it to say, Havelock is the only one I'll retain because I remember him from way back with Miller. By the end, I thought the best parts were the brief Bobbie sections and the Investigator interlude sections.

I'll definitely keep going with the series because overall it's awesome. It's completely usual to read a series and come across a book one feels they could skip and be just fine. I'm hoping for more Avasarala and Bobbie in the next book and just more enjoyment all around.
Profile Image for Ashley.
2,653 reviews1,688 followers
July 3, 2022
June 2022: Whoops, need to get this review out before I start my re-read of book five.

This wasn't my least favorite of these books the first time through, that for some reason was book two (even though I can objectively say that one is a better book, I just prefer this more inferior one for some reason). This is also people's least favorite of the series, and I can see why, I really can. This is actually the only one of these I read in hardcover the first time through. I did the audio narrated by Jefferson Mays the first time on the other eight, but for whatever reason, good ol' Jefferson was unavailable to record this one and it was some other dude, and no thank you. And I think that actually might have worked in my favor. This is one of the few of these books that really works better not in audio, because it starts so slowly, you can get through those parts quicker than you can in audio. By about the middle of the book, though, this one is really cracking.

Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are sent on a peacekeeping mission to be mediators in the conflict between settlers on the planet Ilus/New Terra (depending on how you ask). Avasarala wants to take advantage of Holden's reputation for transparency, so they head out through a gate and to one of the first planets colonized. Belter colonists claimed the planet first, but not "legally" (as if anyone can have jurisdiction here) and when they learned a corporation had chartered an official claim and was coming to either kick them out or cut them out of their profits from mining, things get start badly and start with violence.

It's interesting to see what Corey does with an alien planet for the first time, alternate biologies and ecosystems that are a big part of the plot, and also seeding in clues for the overarching story of the gate-builders and the civilization that ultimately killed them. The conflicts on Ilus are really a microcosm for the tribalism and greed and strains of humanity and hopefulness that are hidden within, that we see play out so broadly in the rest of this series, and that's ultimately why I think this book really works, and why I definitely don't see it as a pointless filler book like some. If you're going to write books about humanity expanding out into the stars, it's good to see what that actual expanse looks like down on the ground.

October 2014: The Expanse is one of those series I sort of accidentally fell in love with. I only sort of liked it at first, while also being terrified by it (the first two books especially could fit comfortably into the horror genre, in my opinion). And then the third book hit and I was suddenly really, really into it. I know if I went back and re-read the first two I would retroactively love them, because that’s what always happens to me in these situations (Farscape and The Dresden Files are the first two series that come to mind when thinking of this phenomenon).

If you haven’t read the first three books (which constitute the first of three trilogies that will eventually make up this series), this isn’t the best place to start, although you certainly can. It’s intentionally written as more accessible than the last two expressly for that purpose. Why anyone would want to start a series in the middle is beyond me, but I suppose it happens.

Anyway, the first three books were all about this strange alien protomolecule being terrifying and transforming things and killing people, but the original trilogy wraps up as you realize it’s all sort of an accidental terror. The protomolecule wasn’t designed as a way to kill people and turn them into scary vomit zombies. It was designed to locate and transform viable planets for future habitation, and it was sent billions of years before humans were even a possible thing that could happen, only it got waylaid. The first trilogy ends with the realization that literally thousands of new habitable planets have opened up for colonization, and that’s where Cibola Burn comes in.

If I had to guess, I’d say that the second trilogy is going to be chronicling humanity’s journey to colonize those planets and the problems they find along the way, only half of which will be coming from alien threats. The other half they will bring with them, as they do in this book. Almost the entire book takes place on or above New Terra/Ilus. It has two names because two groups of people are fighting over it: the colonists who got there first the year before, essentially squatting there and claiming it as their own, and the first ‘official’ colonists, a science team from the RCE corporation. An act of terrorism on the part of one of the colonists goes awry and kills a bunch of people, and that’s where Holden and the crew of the Rocinante come in. The UN and the OPA want him to do his ‘transparency’ thing and work peace between these two peoples before things escalate beyond their control (which of course they do anyway, helped along by the signature Expanse Horrific Thing that always happens in these books). Cibola Burn wasn’t my favorite of the books, but I enjoyed it. It’s a solid piece of space opera featuring characters I’ve grown to love and new ones that are pretty great as well. I’m definitely excited for the remaining books in the series to be published.

As for the third trilogy? Oh, that’s going to be wack, and it’s going to scare me out of my mind, and I’m going to love it, because if this series stays on pace, that’s totally when the baddest of all big bads is going to hit, and it’s probably going to be a blood bath.
Profile Image for Sud666.
1,938 reviews158 followers
July 8, 2020
I am a big fan of this series. Both the book and the show. Having watched the show I now realize that season 4 combines this book and the next. This book tells the part about what happened on the planet.

The gates are open. Mankind has access to thousands of new worlds. One has been settled by some rogue belters, but a UN force is en route to "officially" settle and study the planet. The Belters commit a terrorist act and blow up the shuttle. The ERC, the corporation that's charged with settling this planet, in response to the deaths ramps ups its security efforts.Into this mess the UN throws in james Holden.

That's the gist of the plot. No more spoilers. I enjoyed this book because the humans have already begun the colonization process. It has huge ramifications not only for Earth but for Mars itself. The situation that Holden has to navigate is tense and neither the ERC commander nor the Belter leader is helping matters.

But the best part is the Miller/machine planet story. The planet they are on was constructed by the protomolecule aliens and is coming alive. Miller's ghost (animus?) tries to help Holden navigate the issues with the planet. I won't say more but there is an interesting note about what destroyed the aliens, but I'll let you figure it out.

great sci-fi story. Highly Recommended.
Profile Image for Niki Hawkes - The Obsessive Bookseller.
724 reviews1,205 followers
July 15, 2015
I love this series – the plot, the characters, the humor, the world building… all of it. I was excited for this one in particular because when I first started The Expanse a couple of years ago I thought it was only going to be a trilogy. Cibola Burn (and Nemesis Games) felt like bonus books. I’m super thrilled the story is not over!!!

As always, this Expanse book had an excellent mix of familiar and new POV characters – an element that has always kept these novels fresh and exciting for me. Of all the non-Rocinante crewmember POVs we’ve met, I unfortunately enjoyed the ones in this book the least. They just couldn’t compete with Avasarala, Bobbie, or even Bull… but they were still good because I don’t think these authors could write crappy characters if they tried. I’ve mentioned before that strong characterization is my favorite part about this series, in part because they always feel like real people, flaws and all. It’s fantastic.

Admittedly, I expected the story to go much broader from this point (it is, after all, The Expanse series), especially after the vast potential and new revelations discovered in Abaddon’s Gate. But the scope of Cibola Burn maintained a fairly narrow scope (not that it wasn’t just as enjoyable, mind you). Having it different than my expectations didn’t disappoint me like many other novels have, but instead made me appreciate how consistent these authors are. They don’t jump the story ahead of what is feasibly possible just to advance the plot. As a result, all of the progression the solar system makes feels natural and unforced. Human ambition never goes beyond what is technologically possible, and I love that consistency. Not to mention that it was still wildly interesting even without fast expansion.

As narrow as the story might have felt, the things that happened in this novel will definitely have galaxy-wide ramifications… I can’t wait to see how they’re going to cope next! The broadness of the concept (particularly involving the protomolecule and its origins) always makes me feel so immersed these books.

Overall, Cibola Burn was a great continuation of the story (the next book, Nemesis Games, was even better! Review to come…). If you are a Firefly fan, or if you’re even looking to dip your toes in the space opera genre, give this series a try!

Via The Obsessive Bookseller at www.nikihawkes.com
Profile Image for James Trevino.
68 reviews34.1k followers
February 20, 2019
If I think of this as a stand alone sci-fi book it would probably get a 5 star rating. But this is part of The Expanse series and so far it is the weakest of them all. That should tell you how much I love this series.

Ciobola Burn is slower than the previous volumes and, just like them, it introduces a some new POVs next to the ones of the Roccinante crew. The problem here is that the new POVs all fail to some extent. Basia, Elvi and Havelock are interesting characters but they don't come out good when they follow in the footsteps of Avasarala or Bobbie. And I still hope we get more of those two in the next few books. Especially Avasarala.

But back to Ciobola Burn, it explores the first alien planet settled after the ring station made over 1000 solar systems accesible to humanity. The new world is interesting but it can't compensate for the lackluster new characters. Thankfully, the second part of the book picks up and the Miller-Holden banter is so good it keeps you glued to the page.

I feel like I am giving this a lot of bad press, even if I flew through it. Finished it in 2 days. On to the next one now.

As a final thought: this is accesible, amazingly written sci-fi. I can't recommend it enough.
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