|Author||James S. A. Corey|
|Cover artist||Daniel Dociu|
|Published||June 26, 2012|
|Preceded by||Leviathan Wakes|
|Followed by||Abaddon's Gate|
Caliban's War is a 2012 science fiction novel by James S. A. Corey (pen name of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck). It is about a conflict in the Solar System that involves Earth, Mars, and the Asteroid Belt (colonies of people living on asteroids, referred to as "Belters"). It is the second book in The Expanse series and is preceded by Leviathan Wakes. The third book, Abaddon's Gate, was released on June 4, 2013. One of eight short stories and novellas published by James S. A. Corey, entitled "Gods of Risk", takes place directly after the events of Caliban's War.
Eighteen months after the events of Leviathan Wakes, the solar system is in a precarious balance while they watch unknowable events unfold on the planet Venus. Earth and Mars are still poised for battle, and someone didn't recognize the warning that the Eros Incident held for humanity.
On Ganymede, Mei Meng is kidnapped from her preschool by her doctor. Several hours later, Earth and Martian space marines are attacked and effortlessly killed by a super soldier, with Bobbie Draper, a Martian marine, the only survivor. Earth and Mars begin a shooting war which throws Ganymede into chaos. In the aftermath, Mei's father Praxidike Meng fruitlessly searches for his daughter in the midst of the societal breakdown in the Ganymede colony. Several months later, the crew of the Rocinante are tasked with delivering emergency aid to Ganymede. Meng spots James Holden during a food riot and asks the crew to help find his daughter. They agree and are able to trace her kidnappers to unused tunnels on the moon. Holden, Meng, and ship mechanic Amos Burton discover a secret lab. In the midst of a shootout with lab security, they inadvertently release another super soldier who kills some of the lab personnel. In the wake of the battle, the crew find remnants of the protomolecule and the corpse of Mei's friend, who was being treated by Mei's doctor for immunodeficiency. The crew rush to escape the station as more chaos erupts around them, and are able to make it back aboard the Rocinante.
Draper is brought to the peace talks between Earth and Mars occurring on Earth, giving testimony regarding the super soldier attack on Ganymede. She violates diplomatic protocol and is dismissed by the Martian delegation, but is then hired by Chrisjen Avasarala, who is leading the UN negotiations. Draper discovers that Avasarala's assistant is betraying her, leading Avasarala to conclude that her UN superiors are trying to get rid of her, from which she deduces that a group within the UN is responsible for the super soldier attack. Avasarala allows Draper to be brought along as her bodyguard on a slow-moving yacht headed to Ganymede on an ostensible relief mission. On their way to Tycho station, the Rocinante crew discovers a super soldier stowed away in their cargo hold. They are able to lure out the creature using radioactive bait before vaporizing it with the ship's exhaust. The Rocinante is damaged during the encounter, but the crew learn more about the super soldiers. Holden confronts Fred Johnson, who he believes controls the only other sample of the protomolecule. Johnson denies involvement with the Ganymede incident and fires Holden's crew. They help Meng release a video asking for help searching for Mei, raising enough money to continue the search. Upon receiving information about Mei's doctor, Meng deduces that the super soldiers are being created on a base on Io. With the Rocinante repaired, they set out to recover Mei.
On board the yacht, Avasarala sees Meng's video appeal and learns that a UN detachment is heading to intercept the Rocinante. The crew of the yacht prevent her from warning Holden, claiming that their communication systems are broken. When they refuse her demands to get the yacht repaired, Avasarala has Draper take control of the vessel. Avasarala sends a warning to Holden, and she and Draper board a racing pinnace to rendezvous with the Rocinante. After meeting Holden's crew, Avasarala and Draper share notes of the super soldiers. Realizing that they are several days away from being destroyed by the UN detachment, Avasarala convinces the crew to let her send this information to her contacts within the UN to prevent an all-out war. Draper and Avasarala convince the Martian fleet to help protect the Rocinante. This culminates in a space battle between the UN detachment, the Martian forces, and a second UN fleet loyal to Avasarala. With the UN Secretary General recalling the admiral hostile to the Rocinante, the battle ends in victory for the Martians and Avasarala's faction. The crew lands on Io, where Amos and Meng rescue Mei along with other immunodeficient children. Draper kills a super soldier using knowledge about its capabilities. The crew heads back to Luna, where the people responsible for the super soldier project are brought to justice. Avasarala is promoted, Meng is hired to oversee efforts to restore Ganymede, Draper returns to Mars, and the Rocinante takes a contract escorting a supply ship. Throughout the story, the solar system had been watching changes on Venus, which culminate with the launch of something unknown as the book ends.
- James Holden is the captain of the salvaged Martian warship Rocinante. He and his crew have worked for the Outer Planets Alliance for 18 months since what’s become known as the Eros Incident, and the job just doesn’t feel right. While assisting a botanist in the search for his daughter, Holden comes across signs that people are still trying to tame the protomolecule, and the threat comes very close to home. Breaking his OPA ties, he becomes an ever-more-important piece in the four-way chess game for who will run the solar system.
- Chrisjen Avasarala is a high-ranking UN official who knows how to get things done. Plugged in to all sources of information, she’s simultaneously monitoring events on Earth, Mars, Ganymede and Venus, though the last one is the toughest to predict what will happen next. Seeing shifts coming but not able to completely grasp what they mean, she accepts a post that takes her away from the action knowing she is playing her expected part until it is time to do the unexpected. Then, she meets James Holden for the first time aboard his ship, trying to defuse a war.
- Bobbie Draper is a Martian Marine stationed on Ganymede, one of Jupiter’s largest moons and known as the breadbasket of the outer planets. After she witnesses the brutal defeat and destruction of military forces on both sides of a conflict by a third party, she is taken to Earth to participate in peace talks, but doesn’t follow the party line and gets in trouble with her leaders. Now helping Chrisjen Avasarala, she must quickly adapt to interplanetary politics and office intrigue. Later moving her duties to space, her military training comes in handy once again.
- Praxidike Meng is a botanist working on Ganymede when tensions erupt. His daughter is lost in the chaos, and he finds information that she was actually taken from her daycare before the action. He tries to find her in the decaying conditions of his home, but latches on to James Holden as a source of hope. Eventually becoming the face of the crisis at Ganymede, his efforts to find his daughter’s abductors have interstellar ramifications.
Critical reception for Caliban's War was predominantly positive, with Kirkus Reviews noting that the book could be enjoyed as a standalone novel but was "best appreciated after volume one". Wired.com's Geek Dad and Publishers Weekly both praised the novel, with GeekDad citing the book's "believable human personalities and technology that is easily recognizable" as a highlight. Tor.com gave an overall positive review for Caliban's War, but noted that there was "some rather tiresome dialogue in the cards, as well as an overabundance of laughably transparent politics, and a couple of at best cartoonishly characterised bad guys".
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- "Review: Caliban's War". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
- "Review: Caliban's War". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
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- "Popcorn Space Opera: Caliban's War by James S. A. Corey". Tor.com. Retrieved 21 October 2012.