Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey science fiction book reviewsNemesis Games by James S.A. Corey

NemesisNaomi swirled the milky liquid in her glass, watching it slosh against the sides, a miniature sea, complete with little icebergs. “We need to talk,” she said.

Holden winced a bit inside, but forced his words to come out lighter than they felt in his head. “You mean man-woman talk, Captain-XO talk, or . . .”

“More of the ‘or’ type.”

“So, what’s on your mind?”  He leaned back against the bulkhead. Space-grade permasteel she thought, but between man and metal, she knew which she’d count on more.

“We need to review this book.”

“We’ve reviewed books before. And survived.”  He winced again, outwardly this time. “Mostly.”

“Yeah, but there are some killer revelations and plot twists in this one.”

“And?” he asked.

He’d tensed up slightly. Not much, but she knew him down to the nanometer by now.

“And I know you Holden. You think everyone should know everything about everything.”

“Yeah well, when you try to figure out why most of the bad sh-t in human history happened, how often do you come up with ‘not enough secrets’ as the reason?”

“Look, I’m not trying to cover up some evil plot to take over Mars or something. I just think we should avoid spoilers and since the whole book is shot through with them, I just think . . . “

“You don’t want to do a summary.”


He thought it over a moment. “You talking about just the big plot stuff, like missing space ships, terrorists, the way the new colony worlds are disrupting the power balance in the solar system among Earth, Mars, and the Belters?  Or is this character stuff too? Like how . . . “

The suite door opened and Amos stepped through. “Hey Cap’n. I wanted to let you know I’m heading out on my own P.O.V for a while.”

Holden looked at him as if he hadn’t heard correctly. “Your own what?”

“My own P.O.V. I got stuff I gotta take care of back on Earth, you know, with . . . “

“Hold that thought, Amos,” Naomi interrupted sharply. “We’re not talking about that.”

Amos looked at her. “We’re not?”

Naomi shook her head firmly. “No spoilers. We don’t want things getting out. People hear things, they talk, then more people know.”

“Yeah,” Holden said dryly. “The horror.”

“Don’t know why you think people gotta talk, XO. Easy ‘nuff to stop that.” He tensed his fingers instinctively.

“Yeah well, I’d rather not kill our readers,” Naomi said, just as Alex entered. He stopped, looking at all their faces slowly.

“Who’s killing who?” he asked, looking as if he did not at all really want to know the answer.

“Nobody’s killing anybody,” Holden said.

“Oh,” Alex responded. Then, after a pause, “Ok then. Well, good. Glad that’s settled. Anyway boss, just wanted to tell you I gotta go to Mars to deal with something, so I’ll need my own P.O.V. for a while.”

Holden looked a little hurt. “You too?”

“Me too what?”

Naomi chuckled. “Don’t worry about it Alex. Our fearless leader here isn’t sure he likes the idea of someone besides him getting a P.O.V.”

“That’s not it!” Holden said, slightly aggrieved even though he knew Naomi was only joking. “It’s just, just. We’ve always been together. Through all the other books. We’re, well, family. I worry things will go to hell if we split up.”

“Oh, they will,” Naomi, said. Amos smiled at the thought, while Alex looked a little nervous. “There’s gonna be pain and grief and betrayals. Space battles and hand-to-hand combat, blood and death on a scale rarely seen, old friends we haven’t seen in a while, and a few enemies, politics, conspiracies, mysterious disappearances, questions about . . .

Naomi was interrupted by the screech of the monitor and then Chrisjen Avasarala’s huge face was taking up the entire screen.

“Jesus Christ girl, is that your goddamn idea of keeping things secret? Has that moondust-for-brains boyfriend of yours turned his entire crew as stupid as him?”

Holden half-raised his arm. “I’m standing right here Chrisjen.”

“No sh-t moon-head. Just because I’m older and smarter than you doesn’t mean my body’s failing so as to keep some kind of goddamn balance in the f—ing universe or something. I can see just fine. Now is there something else you wanted to say beside just announcing your presence like I’m taking attendance in some f—ing grade-school classroom?”

Holden just shook his head. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Amos laughing.

“Good. And tell that other one to quit laughing; seeing his teeth like that makes me nervous. Now forget whatever Miss Portentous was saying over there. All’s anyone needs to know is you all each split up and get your own P.O.Vs, finally breaking up this goddamn coffee klatch you’ve been having the past four books and letting people get to see where you all came from. The rest is space-twaddle. I mean, Jesus, you think someone’s starting this Jupiter-sized series at book five? They already know what they’re going to get: the writing is going to be fast, fluid, and precise; the science will be a little sketchy but nobody’s gonna care because who gives a hydrogen molecule’s ass when things are so tense and exciting; and the characters as usual will be sharply constructed and vividly portrayed (especially yours truly and I saw that smile Monkey Boy and it better have been ‘cause you were remembering an old girlfriend of yours and what you two did in zero gravity or I’ll space you myself and sell the video on the black market). And it’ll have some funny moments, a few of them salty if I have any say in things. And you damn well know I will cause I know James S.A. Corey’s real name and if that Saturn-ring-f—er tries to mess with me I’ll whisper it in the Boy Scout’s ear over there — yeah, I’m talking about you Holden — and it’ll be all over the goddamn Expanse sooner than Amos there can kill a dozen space marines. Any dumb questions? Good. Now each of you grab a star and stick them up in the ratings; I’m on a goddamn video screen people.”The Expanse (9 book series) Kindle Edition by James S. A. Corey (Author)

~Bill Capossere

Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey science fiction book reviewsBill’s hugely entertaining review highlighted the most unusual thing about Nemesis Games. For the first time, each of the crew members of Rocinante gets a story in their own point of view. This allows Corey to provide the backstory we’ve all been craving, and to weave the stories together in a mostly believable way.

Nemesis Games also delivers a serious plot punch, and an emotional one, with an event that changes the direction of the story and may completely upend the balance of power in our solar system. James Holden, Alex, Amos and Naomi, each on their own personal quest, have a part to play in the new solar system order. Some characters from previous books, good and bad, make their return… and both a new villain and a new “voice” of the villain show up.

Alex goes off to Mars to do Step Nine in his version of the 12-Steps, Making Amends, with his ex-wife. It doesn’t go well, but while there he reconnects with Bobbie Draper. Soon Alex and Bobbie are on the investigation/detective end of the story, and then the help-run-they’re-shooting-at-us end. Holden and Fred Johnson, with the help of journalist Monica, try to puzzle things out on Tycho Station, but pretty soon they have their hands full too.

Amos goes off to Earth to say good-bye to a dead friend. Amos’s story drives the plot the least, I’d say — not that it isn’t action-packed — and his section seems to be there mostly so he can be our witness to specific events. Oh, and he brings an interesting character from a previous book along for the ride.

At the end of Nemesis Games, Naomi thinks that she made a journey to hell and has now emerged from the underworld, and that is an apt description of her story, which is the deepest. Through Naomi’s eyes, we see once again the dilemma of the Belters: exploited by Mars and Earth before, now being left behind as human move out into the stars. Naomi is forced to consider loyalty and love in a way she hasn’t before. It’s usually Holden who wrestles with these moral issues; Naomi’s conflicts go deeper than Holden’s ever could. Her story is not a surprise because the writers have expertly planted clues in previous books, but it answers our questions, and it nearly broke my heart.

One of my favorite moments is when Naomi, faced with a crisis, asks herself, “What would Amos do?”

This book made me think of the trope of “Clan of the Cave Bear” syndrome (EARTH’S CHILDREN) and how well the writers known as James S.A. Corey are managing that. In Jean Auel’s series, the protagonist invents basically everything. She domesticates animals, she invents the travois, she figures out how to preserve food, and on and on. It became unbelievable very quickly, and was soon laughable. In THE EXPANSE, statistically, it’s unlikely that one small ship would be at the core of every system-wide crisis. The stories get around this by connecting Holden and the crew of Rocinante to powerful political players, Avasarala and Johnson, in the first and second books. Avasarala is never reluctant to use someone to achieve her ends. That works well enough — and it works well enough here — that I suspended disbelief, particularly with Amos’s adventures and where he ends up.

The book delivers a degree of emotional shake-up that I didn’t expect, and ends with many more questions looming. I’ve already ordered Babylon’s Ashes, because I want to know those answers.

~Marion Deeds

Published in 2015. The fifth novel in James S.A. Corey’s New York Times bestselling Expanse series. Now a major television series! A thousand worlds have opened, and the greatest land rush in human history has begun. As wave after wave of colonists leave, the power structures of the old solar system begin to buckle. Ships are disappearing without a trace. Private armies are being secretly formed. The sole remaining protomolecule sample is stolen. Terrorist attacks previously considered impossible bring the inner planets to their knees. The sins of the past are returning to exact a terrible price. And as a new human order is struggling to be born in blood and fire, James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante must struggle to survive and get back to the only home they have left.


  • Bill Capossere

    BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

  • Marion Deeds

    Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town.