Corey, James S. A. -- Caliban's War (The Expanse, 2)

The solar system is still not exactly at war, and Venus has Something Is Going On but nobody (human) knows what. Perfect time for a military incident, right? A bunch of UN marines and a bunch of Mars marines get into a fight on Ganymede ("breadbasket of the outer planets"). Only what they get into a fight with is another alien monster. The alien monsters are supposed to be faffing around on Venus, not ripping apart heavy-armor infantry on Ganymede.

This book retains one of the viewpoint characters from book one -- Holden, the optimistic starship captain. We get some new ones, such as the freaked-out botanist whose daughter vanished on Ganymede slightly before everything else went to crap. Also, we get a marine gunnery sergeant, and a UN assistant undersecretary administrator. One of these is a polite and well-trained functionary; the other is a foul-mouthed, cynical, fire-spitting bastard who is the terror of all her subordinates and the despair of her nominal boss. Also one of them is a grandmother. I'm having way too much fun with this partial-description stuff. I love these two. (The botanist, well, he's okay.)

Somewhere in between the political machinations, the system-wide Kickstarter, and the space-naval battles, I had the thought that this is the distinctly liberal strain of near-future SF. I don't want to be absolutist about this, it's not a brand-new thing. But last book, an unethical corporation almost destroyed humanity. This time the bad guy is, spoiler, the incredibly rich arrogant asshole who ran the corporation (and is still running it under a different label). Governments contain many stupid, corrupt, and evil elements, but these are not books in which government is the problem.

(Nor are they dystopias constructed out of giant evil corporations. That's a different thing.) (Indeed, this whole series can be read as a non-caricatured, non-ridiculous take on the Alien/Prometheus mythology.)

Thoughts from a couple of days later: maybe four viewpoint characters is too many for this book? Like I said, the botanist is okay. He demonstrates a nasty period as a refugee, and then spends the last half of the book supplying bits of biological plot wisdom and being charmingly incompetent as an action hero. The marine, similarly: she is PTSD stereotype for a while and then it... goes away? She's still a character, but I'm not sure what her plot arc is other than "face the monster again". The first book was 100% about its two protagonists, and I liked that better.

Dan Abraham is usually good at this multiple-narrator thing. Well, we'll see how the third book shapes up.

Books I have acquired recently
All the books I own