Tiamat's Wrath
March 28, 2019 1:20 AM - by James S. A. Corey - Subscribe

The eighth book in the NYT bestselling Expanse series, Tiamat's Wrath finds the crew of the Rocinante fighting an underground war against a nearly invulnerable authoritarian empire, with James Holden a prisoner of the enemy.

hirteen hundred gates have opened to solar systems around the galaxy. But as humanity builds its interstellar empire in the alien ruins, the mysteries and threats grow deeper.

In the dead systems where gates lead to stranger things than alien planets, Elvi Okoye begins a desperate search to discover the nature of a genocide that happened before the first human beings existed, and to find weapons to fight a war against forces at the edge of the imaginable. But the price of that knowledge may be higher than she can pay.

At the heart of the empire, Teresa Duarte prepares to take on the burden of her father's godlike ambition. The sociopathic scientist Paolo Cortázar and the Mephistophelian prisoner James Holden are only two of the dangers in a palace thick with intrigue, but Teresa has a mind of her own and secrets even her father the emperor doesn't guess.

And throughout the wide human empire, the scattered crew of the Rocinante fights a brave rear-guard action against Duarte's authoritarian regime. Memory of the old order falls away, and a future under Laconia's eternal rule -- and with it, a battle that humanity can only lose -- seems more and more certain. Because against the terrors that lie between worlds, courage and ambition will not be enough...
posted by Alterscape (21 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
There's absolutely no way I stayed up until 1am reading that, and now I want to talk about it. Nope, no idea what you're talking about.
posted by Alterscape at 1:21 AM on March 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

Yep whew, did not see this until the am. Needed sleep last night. B back in a few. ;-)
posted by sammyo at 5:57 AM on March 28, 2019

Book 8? I guess I missed book 7...which means I have two books to look forward too.
posted by nubs at 7:48 AM on March 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh shit, it's out!

posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:21 AM on March 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

I've been looking forward to this for months and it's been on my Kindle since Tuesday and I keep not reading it! I want to save it for... something? I guess to reduce the wait time until the next one. But I'm going to get going on it this weekend.
posted by something something at 8:41 AM on March 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I read it straight through yesterday, too. I liked it a lot.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:23 PM on March 28, 2019

Bobbie :^(
Zombie Amos :^)
If Teresa is Peaches II The Peachening :^|
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 4:30 AM on March 29, 2019 [4 favorites]

(I mean I don't mind if Teresa hangs out on the Roci for a while; I just don't want her to have pretty much the same arc as Clarissa)
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 6:52 AM on March 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

I read it in two days and it took all my willpower not to spend yesterday reading it at work (I did sneak in a few pages at lunch). I very much agree with our ship compatriot from another universe about the potential pitfalls of Teresa's character arc and Amos as the patron saint of wayward teenage girls.

I enjoyed not having Holden at the center of the narrative (which will be good for the TV show when/if they get to book 8 since the actor who plays Holden is the weakest link in that cast), but hope book 9 seriously makes up for the lack of Amos as anything other than a symbol for the loss and resurrection of the Roci family.
posted by snaw at 8:23 PM on March 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

I do like that we finally get Duarte making transparently dumbfuck decisions after his initial setup with

Duarte: Looks at protomolecule turning people into vomit zombies before disassembling them into gooey reactor coating, all the puppets of a Lovecraft-style alien intelligence

Cortazar: You should roll around in protomolecule and let it give you superpowers. Trust me!

posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 5:06 AM on March 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

I liked this one a lot too. For whatever reason, it worked better for me than the last "Everybody's spread out and doing their own thing" book (Nemesis Games? My memory's fuzzy and I haven't re-read in a while).

I started to write "it's a shame we won't get any more Amos POV chapters" and then I remembered that we did get The Investigator POV chapters, or at least interludes, so Franck and Abraham are comfortable with having a go at writing from the perspective of an inscrutable extra-terrestrial computer program. I'm sort of excited about that idea now that I've convinced myself it could happen, actually.

I share the "please differentiate Teresa's arc from Clarissa's" feelings. Teresa's in a different-enough place that it has at least the potential to be different, but it does look like there's the potential for duplication there too.

Not sure how I feel about Duarte making it less than two books as The Big Bad. Nice to see him get his comeuppance but "Trejo and Evie Squabble" seems similar to plot beats in other media (prefigured by "Evie and Space Admiral Nukes-a-lot Squabble" in this book). Not sure how compelling that will be.

Very curious what the Adversary ends up being. Even though Duarte was at least partially nuts, his plan has a sort of psychopathic logic to it. On one hand, it will be interesting to see that get resolved. On the other hand I really hope they continue to be beyond human understanding -- for me, the Battlestar reboot kind of lost the plot once the Cylons were revealed to be basically a bunch of high school cliques with nukes. I understand that Moore did that on purpose to hammer home the "all this has happened before, all this will happen again" thing, but making them less mysterious also made them seem less threatening and creepy -- sorta like the Borg Queen in Voyager. On the other hand if Franck and Abrams want to go for a "let's all at least try to understand each other before we inavertently destroy each other" ending, it's somewhat necessary to communicate with The Adversary in some way.. I just hope they remain alien (think Peter Watts aliens, not TNG aliens).
posted by Alterscape at 11:02 AM on March 31, 2019

I thought for sure the book would end with them passing through the gate and into the netherspace of the enemy. I hope the next one starts that way.
posted by something something at 2:38 PM on March 31, 2019

The sense I had was that whatever's eating ships is not from reality as we know it. I had been assuming that physics are different enough there that consciousness wouldn't work. Then again, in favor of your point, the "success" of Duarte's plan indicates that if you send an antimatter bomb through to that environment, it still blows up real good, so exotic matter reacts at least somewhat similarly. I think the story will be stronger if they stick with the "the enemy is alien to the point that communicating with them is hard," but that's just me.

Lindsay Ellis did a little video on "War of the Worlds" vs. "Independence Day" where she asserts that Americans' taste in mass-entertainment changed with 9/11, to the point that "inscrutable villains do inscrutable things inscrutably" was not a plot element that sold (see also: aforementioned Cylons). I like me some capital-A-Aliens, so I hope that's not the case here, but I could totally see it going that way too. If the Aliens on the other side of the gate have nu-Galactica-style high school cliques, I'm taking my ball and going home, though!
posted by Alterscape at 3:23 AM on April 3, 2019

I finally got to the front of my library's hold queue and tore through the book in a little under 48 hours. So yeah, I enjoyed it.

Amos is basically Wolverine now. Gruff killing machine with a heart of something approximating gold, can’t die, given superpowers by science we don’t understand, adopts every wayward teenage girl he bumps into on the street. This makes Teresa an analogue to Jubilee, which....kinda works? I could see her 90’s incarnation handling the standoff with Voice of the Whirlwind that way.

Also, I’m not sure if this says more about the writing or the actor, but this is the first Expanse novel I’ve read since I started watching the TV show, and I was able to keep most of the characters separate in my head from their corresponding actors -- except Alex. I heard every single one of his lines in Cas Anvar’s voice, and usually I don’t hear/see characters in my head at all when I read. I could Steven Strait saying Jim Holden’s lines if I tried, but I couldn’t help hearing Anvar as Alex. I’m not sure if that’s because his performance is more true to the novels’ voice, or just that Alex changed less than the other core characters during the time jump, so his characterization is still on point even this far into the story.

The Adversary seems to treat material lifeforms as we would a wild animal – as long as it’s minding its business in the larger ecosystem we just ignore it, but if it starts tearing up your lawn you put down traps or fencing to keep it away. As long as that works, fine! You can deal with the occasional annoyance when it tests the boundaries and remembers why it shouldn't do that. But if it attacks, then you hunt it down. The idea that an entity who exists beyond our concept of time and space would open up negotiations with the equivalent of an angry bear is incredibly stupid.....but, as mentioned, it’s the same kind of stupid you’d expect from somebody who sees incredible alien technology that turns people into techno-zombies or planets into interstellar warp portals, and decides to eat it.

Given all that, there’s a bunch of ways they could take this for the final installment. I hope the crew doesn’t manage to begin direct communication with the Adversary (as tempting as that might be as a way to finally explain their deal) because it would go against all that setup about how alien they are. Other options: looking for a way to convince them humanity has dealt with the dumbass who sent them mail bombs and will be good neighbors in the future; blowing them up completely; figuring out a way to wall off humanity’s boring old four-dimensional world from whatever wacky plane of existence the gates pass through; uplifiting the human race to the trans-dimensional level so they can properly enact Duarte’s deterrence plan....
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:06 PM on May 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

Wow, I am curious about how this zombie!Amos thing is going to pan out.

It's so interesting that the book went whole hog on the "black-eyed children" urban legend thing, and then turned Amos into one of them, and had the Roci crew just invite him right into their ship. Do they not have creepypasta anymore a few hundred years from now? You don't invite the black-eyed kids in, they're not even really kids! It's like these jokers have never even gone on Reddit.

That said, I like that Amos has always been so disassociated that when zombie!Amos claims to be basically interchangeable with live!Amos, it's juuuuuuust plausible enough. I mean, it's not really plausible, the man is a walking corpse. He literally cannot be Amos, it is not "Amos" animating the Amos suit anymore, that's what death is. But even live!Amos was sort of a dead thing animating an Amos suit, in his own way, and obviously there's wishful thinking that Amos isn't really dead and gone, so there's this teeny tiny bit of wiggle room where you want to believe zombie!Amos when he says that nothing has really changed. Plus, it's still Amos's brain getting booted back up by the alien tech even if his "soul" is gone, and Amos was never very connected with his "soul," so it's not totally impossible that his brain actually would be like, "eh, this is pretty much the same." I mean, I think zombie!Amos is straight up lying and he's some kind of alien Trojan Horse, because if nothing else, he seems manipulative and sleazy in a slightly different way from how Amos was before -- but still, the lie is credible coming from Amos in a way that it wouldn't be coming from any other character. Such a cool idea, I have to give the writers props.

And he does seem basically like himself, but again, Amos always seemed to think of himself as an empty shell, so he's probably the easiest possible person for the alien tech to recreate using just his empty shell/corpse. He was trying to go through the motions when he was alive and now the tech is making his corpse continue to go through the motions, and I guess what's the difference? What I like is that in most stories there would come a point when the difference between living "real" Amos and dead "shell" Amos would become clear, but honestly, that's going to be so tough to do in this series. Amos never dropped the mask when he was alive, so the alien tech wearing the same mask isn't going to necessarily seem a whole lot different. Although that thought is also really depressing, because that makes it seem like Amos really died when he was a kid, like maybe when he "stopped feeling fear" or whatever, and he's been more or less a zombie this whole time and this just makes it official.

(I bet what happens, though, is that zombie!Amos outs himself by overdoing it on playing up his "humanity." He's already sort of doing that, with all the sentiment toward Theresa and Muskrat. Amos always downplayed his humanity as much as possible, but I guess the living dead don't really have that luxury without coming off as too creepy to befriend, so some overcompensation is inevitable haha. And then when he does out himself, all this alien tech and who knows what else will probably come streaming out of him, because I'm being pretty literal about that Trojan Horse thing!).

Anyhow, Theresa: I don't like (or really believe) the idea that Amos suddenly got sentimental about her and decided not to nuke Laconia HQ because of it, because how corny. Also, it's a pretty classic "trolley problem" kind of thing, where there's everybody that Laconia is harming on one track (which is literally everybody, arguably the entire universe) and Theresa on the other and...it's weird that Amos wouldn't be utilitarian about that dilemma. Or that he would even think twice about where his loyalties lay, considering that his mission and all his personal loyalties were on the one side -- and like Holden says at the end, he was loyal as hell. It would have been different if the stakes weren't so high or if he had had a real connection with Theresa, but for him to have a change of heart apparently all because he was still mourning Clarissa and maybe saw Clarissa in this other little princess...seems pretty incredible.

Also, Amos was clearly grooming Theresa as an intelligence asset, and pumping her for information, and that implies that he still was working some kind of plan. He even "joked" about how she should be worried about an assassin with a nuke, although whether that was him getting a guilty conscious or what, who knows. I dunno, I just don't trust zombie!Amos when, at the very end, he's like, "oh, I threw away the mission because I couldn't bear to hurt Theresa." Really, so you could bear to betray the mission you were entrusted with, and all your friends, and maybe all of life in the galaxy (considering what a fuck up Duarte was), but not this girl you have met maybe 8-12 times? But also you then just hung out on planet not contacting anybody? My guess is that it'll turn out that Amos was thinking that Theresa was too good of a possible asset to the Underground to just burn up right away, and maybe it was extra easy for him to convince himself that that was the case because she reminded him of Clarissa, and that's why he was stalling with the nuke -- but I really doubt that he decided that the nuke was "the wrong call," especially out of pure sentiment. If he were feeling that sentimental and insubordinate, I would think that he would have been more worried about blowing up Holden without even saying goodbye, anyway, rather than about Theresa. But he never even bothered to contact Holden (or any of his other friends) the whole time he was on Laconia.

I also felt like the whole thing with Muskrat was so heavy-handed. I appreciated that Holden flat out was like, "people trust people who dogs like, so I'll make this girl's dog like me by feeding her secret sausages." Hahaha. But then zombie!Amos started playing that same game with the Roci crew. Oh, can't be suspicious of this zombie wearing our dead friend's face, the dog likes him! I did like that Holden was obviously very suspicious of that, I guess player recognizes player hahaha. Holden just generally seemed like he was smelling a rat with zombie!Amos. But when Holden is the most paranoid member of the crew, you know things have taken a dark turn.

I didn't really care about Theresa until the very end, when the Roci crew was all reacting to having this strange, imperious, pseudo-empress on the ship. How different she was from all the rest of them made her more interesting. That said, I'm kind of done with the princess thing this series has going on, with the Mao sisters and now Theresa. I never even really warmed up to Clarissa, I don't know why we need yet another character like that. But maybe Theresa will turn out to be more interesting after all.

I enjoyed Elvi and Naomi a lot more than I did in previous books, but the standout for me was Holden. I really never thought I would legitimately enjoy reading about Holden in the least, but he made for an interesting prisoner. I actually liked him when he was seeing Miller everywhere and then was put in a livestock cage way back in the day, too, so maybe I just like him when he's penned up. Oh, and I thought Cortazar was interesting. He's always unaccountably interesting to me, though. I've always felt for that brain-damaged lunatic, and his now-simple-but-once-complicated feelings toward his dead mother.

That said, because of the rigid and boring political environment in this books, things seemed a little dry and just way more limited in scope. Despite the collapsing star giving off gamma rays and stuff. I liked in previous books how it felt like the whole universe was just teeming with life, and everybody had their own history and habits and hangups and ways of doing things. This felt much more "stage-play" somehow, I guess because all the worlds and even ships where the characters were were relatively "new" and the cast of characters was relatively small.

Well anyhow, I wish I could say more but I have to go to bed before this all turns into total gibberish.
posted by rue72 at 10:33 PM on May 30, 2019

If anybody's going to be suspicious of Amos it'll be Holden, because Holden's the one who had The Investigator in his head. He's seen the protomolecule recreate a person he used to know, and got a very close look at where the remnants of Josephus Miller ended and the alien programming began.

But, he also saw that "Miller" didn't actually turn on him; they worked together pretty well after he came clean about what he was. The protomolecule is a weird unknowable force but it hasn't actually been the enemy since the very early days of the series. So he might be more inclined to believe zombie-Amos when he/it says that it's still Amos' brain in there. And hell, that might not even be misplaced. Even when sentient, the protomolecule creations have never been big on deception; they just do what they do. Probably because they were designed for a universe with no sapient life beyond a single hive-mind. Who would they lie to?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:08 AM on May 31, 2019

The protomolecule is a weird unknowable force but it hasn't actually been the enemy since the very early days of the series.

The protomolecule itself is just a tool, but aren't the things that made the gates back now, and maybe using the protomolecule and other available tools for their own ends? Their ends being, as zombie!Amos and Holden agreed, snuffing out human consciousness? I rushed through the book, so I may be confused.

Also, the protomolecule and the things that made the gates can learn. And human brains can teach them all about deception, if they didn't know about it before. Amos in particular certainly can, his whole life was a lie. Ironic that Holden said that Amos only lied when he had to -- I think that was correct, but he had to literally every day of his life, so I don't know if that's saying much. I mean, he lied so much and for so long that eventually even when he said something that used to be the truth, like telling Theresa that his name was Timothy, that was arguably a lie, too.

So he might be more inclined to believe zombie-Amos when he/it says that it's still Amos' brain in there. And hell, that might not even be misplaced.

I think it is Amos's brain in there, but that doesn't mean it's Amos. How I understood it (might be wrong) the "people" that built the gates and were co-opting the protomolecule had figured out how to kick start brains back up again. But that doesn't mean they can bring an actual person back to life. That was Elvi's dilemma with Cara and Xan, I think. The kids' brains and bodies were animated by some kind of energy, so they sort of were the same kids who'd died, they were all the concrete physical parts of them, anyway, but they also weren't those kids because those kids were still dead. I figured Cara and Xan (and Amos) are just a version of Frankenstein's creature, new "people" made from the corpses of old people.

I think Amos is a really interesting choice for the series to make into a zombie like that, because like I said, I can see even Amos's own brain not really noticing a difference in his internal state, and basically figuring, "same as it ever was." And I can see him basically acting the same, too.

Except that he's not quite acting the same? The bullshit with the dog, and saying he scuttled the mission out of some sentimental impulse toward Theresa...I dunno. Those just don't seem to me like the kinds of things that Amos would do. Maybe he'd want to do them, who knows. But since when is Amos soft? That's like the one thing he's got going for him, he's not soft. And that's what makes me think he's lying, or at least isn't himself.

Well that, and Holden explicitly pointed out his trick with the dog and then noticed zombie!Amos doing what seemed to be the same thing. Holden's suspicions seem pretty legitimate, to me.

I think Proto!Miller and Proto!Julie were kind of the exact opposite of what Amos is now. The protomolecule was able to distill and reproduce Miller and Julie's animating energy, their "souls," and create ghosts of the people they were even after their bodies were gone. With Amos, it's just reanimating his corpse with its own energy.
posted by rue72 at 12:01 PM on May 31, 2019

The protomolecule itself is just a tool, but aren't the things that made the gates back now, and maybe using the protomolecule and other available tools for their own ends? Their ends being, as zombie!Amos and Holden agreed, snuffing out human consciousness? I rushed through the book, so I may be confused.

Nah, the protomolecule architects are extinct as far as we know; what's back is the being or beings that killed them. Maybe not even “back” so much as “has a new reason to be annoyed at lower-dimensional organisms,” because from what anybody in the cast can tell they’ve just been hanging out in whatever weird space they inhabit, and only noticed humanity when they started using protomolecule tech. So the “zombie” characters might have their own agenda, but they shouldn’t be agents of the enemy.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:22 PM on May 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


So we were watching S2 recently and there was the episode where Dawes spirited Cortazar away and it occured to me [rot13]

Ner gurl frggvat hc gb ercynpr Qhnegr jvgu Qnjrf? Be vf Qnjrf whfg tbvat gb or qhcrq ol FubjQhnegr?
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 5:19 PM on May 31, 2019

re: Show Thought [rot13]

Frysvfuyl, V jbhyq yvxr gung orpnhfr V yvxr gur Orygref naq V yvxr gur npgbe jub cynlf Qnjrf...

Ohg vg jbhyq or jrveq gb tvir n Orygre Qhnegr'f fgbelyvar, jbhyqa'g vg? V gubhtug uvz orvat Znegvna (naq irel znegvny) jnf cneg bs gur cbvag?
posted by rue72 at 5:24 PM on May 31, 2019

Have read it seven times now, definitely one of my favorites after Nemesis Games.

I too read book Alex as show Alex now, because book Alex prior to Cas Anvar’s performance was a sentient pilot’s chair the crew treated as human. He was a role, not a person, and Cas Anvar changed that.

Zombie Amos is 100% Amos. Before and during his rebuild by the repair drones, his mind was scanned and uploaded to the protomolecule cloud server Evie discovered (and will be returning to). His mind and personality are stored fully intact the way all the protomolecule engineers are stored, only he has the ambulatory prosthesis of his rebuilt body: they don’t. It’s extremely clear that off the cuff “good ole Amos” reactions are executed locally in his restored brain meats (no pauses), but anything that actually requires real thought and intent (like his words at Bobbie’s funeral) is being executed remotely on the cloud server and transmitted back to the body via the quantum entanglement communication of the protomolecule. It’s likely that Amos.exe is executing on a virtual machine firewalled from any stored proto-engineer minds, but has been given read-only access to their Wikipedia, like Cara(.exe) and Xan.

Hence the physical tic/stutter anytime he says anything outside the ordinary, but otherwise completely in-character behavior otherwise. It’s really him, he’s just piloting his body in a hybrid semi-remote/semi-autonomous mode now. Extremely similar to an Avatar in Banks’ Culture setting.

Looking forward to how this wraps up: I still suspect the protoengineer destroyers are just an automated defense system left hanging around in a higher dimension by a vastly older ascended race: something they put in place to keep younger civilizations in check if they start mucking about with technologies that carry a one in Avogadro’s Number chance of ending the universe, say.
posted by Ryvar at 2:39 PM on April 17, 2020

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