Babylon's Ashes (The Expanse #6) by James S.A. Corey Book Review

Write on: Fri, 12 Apr 2019 by  in Charles' Reviews Read 3060


BABYLON'S ASHES is the sixth book of the Expanse series and the conclusion of the "Free Navy" arc. I was a huge fan of the Free Navy introduced in NEMESIS GAMES and eager to see the story carried to its conclusion. Unfortunately, I don't think the story worked out nearly as well as it was supposed to. There's a lot of flaws and while much of it is set-up for later volumes in the series as well as the "Laconian" arc, this just didn't feel like a great conclusion to the storyline.

The premise of the Expanse is its two hundred years in the future and humanity has colonized the solar system. Humanity is divided into the Earthers, Martians, and Belters with the latter being hateful of the former due to decades of economic exploitation. SPOILER for Nemesis Games, eventually a pirate fleet of them drops asteroids on Earth and kills roughly half of the planet.

Unfortunately, the handling of the aftermath isn't really well done. Despite fifteen billion people having been killed, the Free Navy is treated like a guerilla insurgency that killed a few thousand soldiers. Not people who have been active participant in genocide. They're literally a thousand times worse than the Nazis in terms of body count. In effect, the premise is too large for the story they're trying to tell and I feel like the authors lost their sense of scale.

This is exemplified by the fact one of the main characters in the books is Michio Pa, who was a minor character in previous books. She's a member of the Free Navy who gradually comes to believe Marcos Inarios is a poor leader of the organization. Not the fact he's guilty of unimaginable murder of innocent starving people but the fact he's not very good to Belters. It makes her a despicable character who doesn't remotely elicit any sympathy. This is problematic when she gets a good number of chapters devoted to her.

The problem is made worse by the fact we also have the character of Filip Inaros who is Naomi Nagato's son and similarly unsympathetic. He's a child soldier raised in the Free Navy so, at least, there's some sympathy for his situation. Despite this, he's another person who turns against Marco because he's a lousy leader versus the fact he's exterminated whole countries by starvation, rocks, and disease.

The crew is entertaining as always with Naomi getting her chance to shine as she deals with the fact she used to be a child-soldier in Marcos' army. I never quite liked the relationship between her and Filip but that's just a function of disliking the lad to begin with. The rest of the crew also get their moments to shine with Amos having the most unexpected romance of them all come to fruition.

Still, our protagonists just don't seem to be treating the situation with the level of gravity it deserves. As such, my love of the book was hurt. Thankfully, there's still a lot to recommend this book. Marco Inaros remains an incredibly good protagonist who is simultaneously an egotistical fool as well as the most dangerous man in the galaxy. His ego and casual psychosis are things which make him understandable even as he has a child's view of war as well as his own limitations. As such, this just isn't my favorite installment of the series but it's not bad either.

Available here

Last modified on Sunday, 29 August 2021 10:10
C.T. Phipps

C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger on "The United Federation of Charles".

He's written Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer's Star, and The Supervillainy Saga.