How often do people say–with justified anger–that “the movie version is so much worse than the book!” I myself am usually of that camp, especially as Peter Jackson has done more and more to besmirch the good name of Tolkien with his zany-video-game-amusement-park-ride-bloated-monstrosity that was The Hobbit.
How happy was I, then, to find that sometimes the reverse is true.
But of course, this is a book review. Sorry.
To be honest, I only picked up this book because I was mesmerized by the look, feel, dialogue, characterization, and depth of the Syfy version of this novel, known as “The Expanse”. I had been burned by what Daniel Abraham’s (one half of the author duo that write this series) sloppy characterization and lack of detailed world building in another series. I was thrilled that the show was so good, because I wouldn’t have to spend time that I did not have reading a book I that I did not want to read.
Then season 1 of The Expanse ended in the middle of Leviathan Wakes. I hate cliffhangers.
Of course, all this is brilliant marketing, because I (and probably countless others) now found myself unable to avoid buying and reading Leviathan Wakes. And I’m glad I did.
It’s a fast-paced soap opera with a heavy dose of noir mystery–an effective combination and done with style as well as substance. The end is nothing like what you would expect, even if you saw the show, which thrilled me to no end. I loved the character arc of the main character Detective Miller.
The problem with the book is the other main character. Holden (in the book) is a moron. His supporting cast is remarkably light on characterization (in the book), something I found surprising. And here is where the series beats the book like Holly Holm knocking out Ronda Rousey (sorry, couldn’t help myself).
Because of the nature of a weekly series, various situations were ramped up in the show to the very limit of suspense. The stakes in the show are always much higher than the same situations in the book. I thought that this worked very well, and I wondered sometimes at the leisurely pace of the first half of the book. The secondary characters, especially Amos and Alex, are fully three-dimensional characters in the tv show. In the book, they’re only foils or, worse, comic relief (and not very funny at that). It’s amazing how much character is suggested for Alex in the show merely by including a photo of his wife and child on the dashboard of the Rocinante. Those kinds of details are missing from the book, but I can understand why–Holden is an idiot (I may have already mentioned this) with a very limited capacity to see anything other than his own angst.
I’m sure these issues get resolved in the course of the book series. Still, it’s such a rare thing to see a superior film version, and so I have the great pleasure of recommending the following:
Watch the series first, enjoy it. Then read the book. You’ll heartily enjoy both.
(By the way, the three star rating is for the book alone. If I were to rate both the book and the show, it would be an easy 4 stars)