With Abbadon’s Gate having successfully renewed my interest in this series, I eagerly went into book four, Cibola Burn. As with my past reviews, while there are no spoilers that follow for this particular novel, I cannot make the same promise for content from the previous books.
Cibola Burn skips ahead two years in the timeline and takes place on the first human settlement within the newly accessible alien worlds. Barely one year into the fledgling colony’s existence old conflicts from back home threaten its stability. The colonists, all survivors of the disaster on Ganymede, have unwelcome visitors when scientists from an Earth-based corporation arrive with permits to study the world. Fearing the eventual loss of their home and its lithium deposits, more extreme elements of the settlers attack and critically damage an incoming shuttle, causing a political crisis back in the centers of humanity. Realizing few good outcomes exist, the UN and OPA nominate none other James Holden to mediate between the two sides and defuse tensions. Holden, however, has more than diplomacy to worry about. The protomolecule consciousness, still in the guise of Detective Miller, is very interested in the alien ruins on the outskirts of the colony and is imploring Holden to help it uncover the answers about its creators. Those answers, however, might not necessarily benefit the world’s human population.
Overall I liked this book. It did an excellent job advancing the protomolecule/Miller storyline in some really interesting ways. The few chapters from what was presumably Miller’s perspective were fascinating and eerie. On the human side, the growing political intrigues make for very compelling reading as they are getting more complex and far-reaching as the books go on. There was a pretty major development at the end of this novel, and the teaser chapters featuring two of my favorite characters from previous books, Bobbie Draper and Chrisjen Avasarala, hint that they will have significant roles to play in upcoming events much to my delight. Although I have had somewhat mixed feelings about the characters in this series as a whole, the possibility of more Avasarala is alone enough to keep me going, at least as long as the overarching story remains strong.
That said, when I consider how much I like the overall story, it is disappointing that similar character issues have hurt my opinion of three out of the four books I’ve read so far. This time around I was troubled by two major flaws. The first of these was pretty much the majority of POV character Elvi Okoye’s storyline. As a scientist visiting the first alien world humans have landed on, there was a lot of potential for her character. Unfortunately that was largely wasted on a ridiculous storyline involving a crush on Holden and a personal “problem” that took up way too much of the book and frankly felt out-of-place and a bit insulting to both character and reader. The other flaw was that upon first arriving at the planet, Holden’s reactions to events on the ground were mind-bogglingly inept. I don’t want to get too much into the details, but I felt he inexplicably gave one side way too much leeway and as a result enabled events to more rapidly escalate out of control. As a reader, I was able to clearly see merits of both sides in the dispute, as well as recognize the terrible people in both groups. With Holden’s outlook being so central to the story, I feel like this insight was mostly lost and prevented the novel from making a more effective point – if that was even the intention.
I do plan to continue on with the series. At this point I guess I’m committed to see it through. I am almost reached a different sort of problem. I am four books into the nine that have been planed and only the next two are currently out. Book number seven is slated for release this year and then I am waiting for 2018 and 2019 for the last two, which almost sound like SciFi dates themselves. As someone who’s not accustomed to reading a series before it’s done this is rather troubling to me!