Leviathan Wakes (Expanse, #1) - James S.A. Corey,  Jefferson Mays

I haven't read anything by the two authors who comprise James S.A. Corey, but they can, collaboratively, spin a yarn. In particular, the SF elements of this book rank among the most engaging in recent years, with an escalating sense of wonder that is firmly rooted in "possible" science (as opposed to, say, pure fantasy). The vibe is part [b:Firefly|1472878|Firefly Lane|Kristin Hannah|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1362435448s/1472878.jpg|1463850], with an honorable schoolboy captain and his motley crew, and part high-adventure. They traverse the solar system that has established societies on Mars and the asteroid belt, in pursuit of (or being pursued by) an inscrutable and ancient alien. This is what space opera was meant to be. For the world building alone, this book is worth the read. However ...

Yes, there need be "howevers". For in the body and interstices of the narrative structure, the authors fill with: (a) Testosterone. Not just "fill in" but perhaps "lacquer with". Numerous brawny battle scenes and chase sequences. Two male POV characters, both of whom are chauvinistic, inordinately chivalrous and stubbornly self-righteous. The best character, in my opinion, does not have a POV of her own and for the bulk of the book is a ghost; Julie, the alien victim, I think would have had a compelling story to tell if only given the voice. The XO Naomi may also have given a meaningful feminine POV to the story and softened the implied masculinity in her character in the early going. (I peeked at the sequel and found the authors have fixed the T issue in the next book.) (b) Dialogue and character motivation. The main characters are Holden and Miller. Holden, who closely matches Captain Mal of the Firefly TV series is a straight-shooter imbued with an idealistic Wikileaks streak. Miller is a middle-aged cop detective pastiche who is presented in a noir haze like perhaps a Dashielle Hammett in space. Both Holden and Miller engage in prolonged existential arguments and soliloquies that lulled me to disorientation.

But despite the howevers, and in much the same way that the cult book [b:Revelation Space|89187|Revelation Space (Revelation Space, #1)|Alastair Reynolds|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1306807253s/89187.jpg|219037] captures attention by its strong SF storyline (overshadowing any of the head-scratching acts of the characters), the authors present an endearing tale. A good first entry in this trilogy that promises more good things to come.