Friday, February 5, 2016

The Expanse!

It's so very rare these days to come across an entertainment for which you have no ready expectation, a true-blue pleasant surprise. But I have had that experience in the SyFy Network's new series The Expanse.

I was unfamiliar with the novels this series is based on, so I have no frame of reference there. I missed out on most of the cross-promotion for the series and knew so little that I just took a gamble on the debut episode when I read a description which included the detail it had a detective story in its mix. I'm glad I punched into my DVR, because this rock solid bit of actual science fiction adventure has become the most anticipated show of my week since its debut.

The core story is about some rough and tumble astronauts, truck drivers in space really aboard an ice-hauler named the Canterbury who find themselves in the middle of a mysterious conflict between forces spread across the solar system. Two hundred years from now, Earth has sent its populace into space to successfully colonize Mars and to pioneer into the asteroid belt. The people of Mars have come identify with their new home and reject to no small degree the planet of their origin while the people who work in the belt are even more isolated from the distant Earth. Life in zero gravity has changed them, making them unable in practical terms to live on the planet from which their ancestor came so long before. Now we see them rankle at the exploitation they feel the soft population of Earth inflicts upon them. So it's nothing new, just the classic clashes of politics of this world expanded into a new and stark setting.

After some startling tragedies, our stalwart crew finds itself having to work together aboard another ship they dub the Rocinante, despite inherit reasons among them to distrust one another, to survive and to examine the mysteries which have disrupted their lives. I'm loathe to say too much, so as to not spoil the really dandy surprises in this story, but suffice it to say it's got some outstanding twists and turns and abrupt stops even along the way.

A parallel story develops on the dwarf planet Ceres where Miller, a policeman (played delightfully by Thomas Jane) investigates the disappearance of a beautiful rich girl who seems to be tied into all the intrigue which has touched the crew of the Canterbury as well as the rest of the solar system. Miller is a classic, a tough-minded disaffected cop who has little expectation from people aside from disappointment, and who grudgingly discovers that his life has not been all he'd imagined. As the mystery unfolds his colleagues and himself have to decide where they fit into the violent new worlds which are coming. At the same time on Earth a United Nations representative, a practitioner of realpolitik tries to find out the secrets which threaten to cast the whole solar system into a brutal and deadly war.

Three narratives, plus other odd bits of backstory, allow this yarn to unfold with a richness which the setting demands. We have space (literally) here for a large saga but always, as great stories must, it is rooted in characters recognizable who gain our empathy and sympathy while offering some clever surprises nonetheless.

There's little in fiction which is more exciting than getting started on a story which is lively and which promises some great things to come. This is a series which has yet to disappoint and which I'm eager to watch each and every week. The first season has just wrapped and it answered many questions and created more mysteries. Perfect.

Highly recommended.. 

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  1. I've read the first book a couple of years ago. I thought it was great but never thought it would be a series. It's awesome that science fiction is popular again

    1. And it's for real science fiction, not just space opera (which can be fun too). Smart snappy science fiction is a great vehicle.

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