The book begins with Julie Mao, a rich Earther turned Belter sympathizer, incarcerated in a closet aboard the Scopuli. The unpleasant sounds of crew mates being tortured around her are all she knows for several days. Then silence. When she finally gets the nerve to find out what's going on, she breaks out of her prison and discovers that everyone on board is dead... sort of. I won't say more, but this creepy prologue sets off a chain of events that kept me glued to my iPod for twenty-something hours of sci fi bliss.
Besides the prologue and epilogue, LW sticks with two pov's: Holden and Miller. The chapters switch back and forth between them, spreading out screen time equally. Holden is the XO on an ice freighter, returning from the ice fields of Saturn's rings. He and his crew stumble upon the Scopuli and wind up in the middle of a conspiracy that could cost them their lives. Miller is an aging detective given a missing person case; turns out, Julie's family wants her to come home. It isn't long before Miller and Holden find themselves on the same path, trying to figure out what happened on Julie Mao's ship.
I don't want to spoil any more of the fun. All of the story takes place within our solar system, as FTL hasn't been discovered yet. LW is full of action, great characters, and cool settings. The tech is absolutely believable based on the world we live in today. I can't tell you how happy I was when real-life physics came into play and ships weren't flying around like WW II fighter planes. The ships get the shit kicked out of them in battle, the vacuum of space makes for very dangerous circumstances, and human relations are at an all-time low with Earthers, Martians, and Belters in a three-way slugfest.
There are Mormons. I got a kick out of this... being one and all. I usually hold my breath whenever members of the church are described in fiction. The vast majority of people seem to be ignorant of us, and tend to treat us unfairly. I can happily say that Abraham and Franck--besides referring once to members of the church as zealots--don't take shots at the church. They only add more flavor to their story by including Mormons in it.
The setting: Mars has been colonized, and is in the process of being terraformed. Because of the difference in gravity, Mars-born humans are shorter and wider than Earthlings. Colonies have also reached the outer planets and asteroid belt. Humans born out there are tall and skinny because of low gravity. I love how the different settings have affected mankind, and it makes for great tension between the different factions.
I got into a bit of trouble on Twitter the other day. I was part way in to LW and tweeted, "Not sure it's worthy of a Hugo nom... but it's entertaining anyway." Daniel Abraham got my tweet apparently, ( I didn't include his @AbrahamHanover in the message) and tweeted me back saying "entertaining anyway" was fine by him. He seemed--as much as anyone could, while communicating through 140 character texts--totally cool with my offhanded comment. Thing is, I felt like a bit of a twit afterward. I reconsidered and thought about this year's Hugo noms. I've only read one of the others on the list--George R.R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons. I honestly enjoyed Leviathan Wakes so much more than Martin's latest. So why shouldn't it be a Hugo contender? It hit all the right buttons by its ending. I will never again tweet about a book until I've finished it!
This review is getting overly long, but I've got to say one last thing. I expected the current fad of gray moral characters to be the type to populate LW. Abraham and Franck surprised me, however. Holden and Miller are good. Neither are perfect, and they certainly make some serious, serious mistakes, but inside... where it counts... they are good. I really appreciated this about them. I can only hope that the characters Corey team has created continue on this way. Thanks, guys, for a great story. Everyone read this, and pick up the sequel when it hits shelfs at the end of June.
Leviathan Wakes gets 4.5 out of 5 stars.