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How to read The Expanse series by James S. A. Corey?

If you are into good sci-fi on TV, you probably are watching The Expanse on SyFy. This series is based on the novels by James S. A. Corey and it’s still ongoing with a new one announced for this year and probably a few more after that.

What is The Expanse?

Created by James S. A. Corey, the pen name of authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, The Expanse is a sci-fi series – a space opera – that takes us in a future where humans have started migrating into space. At the beginning, Ty Franck developed the world of The Expanse as an idea for a massively multiplayer online role-playing game. Abraham saw the potential for a book series and they started writing it, each author taking charge of specific characters.

The story begins approximately 200 years after mankind started colonizing the solar system and deals with the political, cultural and economic themes in the wake of a scientific discovery that will change the universe. The peace between Earth and Mars is in jeopardy and the belters, the peoples of the Asteroid belt who provide the system with essential natural resources see an opportunity to gain leverage, being exploited mercilessly by the governments of the two planets. With tension rising, James Holden and the survivors of his ship try to find out why they were attacked. What they discover will redefine the power structure of the system but many lives are at risk.

The Expanse Reading Order:

The Expanse Universe really starts with the first novel, Leviathan Wakes. You can read the prequel stories after this one, especially The Churn and The Butcher of Anderson Station so you’ll know the characters. That said, if you want to read the series in a chronological order, better start with the prequels. In the end, all the short stories and novella are optionals.

The prequel stories

  

  1. Drive (a short story) — Taking place approximately 150 years prior to the main series, this story is about Solomon Epstein and his invention of the Epstein drive that will change the universe.
  2. The Churn (a novella) — Before his trip to the stars, before the Rocinante, Amos Burton was confined to a Baltimore where crime paid you or killed you. Unless the authorities got to you first.
  3. The Butcher of Anderson Station (a short story) — One day, Colonel Fred Johnson will be hailed as a hero to the system. One day, he will meet a desperate man in possession of a stolen spaceship and a deadly secret and extend a hand of friendship. But long before he became the leader of the Outer Planets Alliance, Fred Johnson had a very different name. The Butcher of Anderson Station. This is his story.

The main story

  

  1. Leviathan Wakes — Two hundred years after migrating into space, mankind is in turmoil. When a reluctant ship’s captain and washed-up detective find themselves involved in the case of a missing girl, what they discover brings our solar system to the brink of civil war, and exposes the greatest conspiracy in human history.
  2. Caliban’s War — In the vast wilderness of space, James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante have been keeping the peace for the Outer Planets Alliance. When they agree to help a scientist search war-torn Ganymede for a missing child, the future of humanity rests on whether a single ship can prevent an alien invasion that may have already begun…
  3. Gods of Risk (a novella) — As tension between Mars and Earth mounts, and terrorism plagues the Martian city of Londres Nova, sixteen-year-old David Draper is fighting his own lonely war. A gifted chemist vying for a place at the university, David leads a secret life as a manufacturer for a ruthless drug dealer. When his friend Leelee goes missing, leaving signs of the dealer’s involvement, David takes it upon himself to save her. But first he must shake his aunt Bobbie Draper, an ex-marine who has been set adrift in her own life after a mysterious series of events nobody is talking about.

  

  1. Abaddon’s Gate — The crew of the Rocinante is now part of a vast flotilla of ships going out to examine the alien artifact that has appeared in Uranus’s orbit. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with the destruction of Holden at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to find whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them.
  2. The Vital Abyss (a novella) — The only company they have is each other and the Belters who guard them. The only stories they know are the triumphs and crimes that brought them there. The only future they see is an empty life in an enormous room. And then the man from Mars came along…
  3. Cibola Burn — The gates have opened the way to a thousand new worlds and the rush to colonize has begun. Independent settlers stand against the overwhelming power of a corporate colony ship with only their determination, courage, and the skills learned in the long wars of home. James Holden and the crew of his one small ship are sent to make peace in the midst of war and sense in the midst of chaos. But the more he looks at it, the more Holden thinks the mission was meant to fail.

  

  1. Nemesis Games — 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. As a new human order is struggling to be born in blood and fire, the crew of the Rocinante must struggle to survive and get back to the only home they have left.
  2. Babylon’s Ashes — The Free Navy has crippled the Earth and begun a campaign of piracy and violence among the outer planets. James Holden and his crew know the strengths and weaknesses of this new force better than anyone. Outnumbered and outgunned, the embattled remnants of the old political powers call on the Rocinante for a desperate mission to reach Medina Station at the heart of the gate network.
  3. Persepolis Rising — In the thousand-sun network of humanity’s expansion, new colony worlds are struggling to find their way. Every new planet lives on a knife edge between collapse and wonder, and the crew of the aging gunship Rocinante have their hands more than full keeping the fragile peace.

Maybe in The Expanse Universe, maybe not

  1. The Hunger After You’re Fed — It’s a short story you can read on the WIRED website described as “a story of early Basic Income that could almost be an Expanse prequel.”
  2. The Martian by Andy Weir — In Babylon’s Ashes, there is the mention of a ship named the Mark Watney, based “out of Mars”. If you’ve never heard about this book (or the movie with Matt Damon), it’s the story of Mark Watney, a scientist who becomes stranded alone on Mars in the year 2035 and must improvise in order to survive.

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2 Comments

  1. Kevin

    Where does the Strange Dogs novella fit in?

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