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Literature / The Expanse

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The Expanse is a series of Space Opera novels by "James S. A. Corey", the pen-name of authors Daniel Abraham (The Long Price Quartet) and Ty Franck. Set a few hundred years in the future, humanity has expanded into and colonized large parts of the Solar System.

As of the beginning of the series, the three main political powers are Earth, Mars, and a rough coalition of "Belters" who inhabit the asteroid belt and many of the outer moons. These groups have been in economic dependence and conflict for almost as long as they've existed, but now shadowy conspiracies are pushing humanity to the brink of outright interplanetary war. As if that wasn't bad enough, in the midst of all this a virus-like alien "protomolecule" with horrifying capabilities has been unleashed and threatens the existence of all mankind.


Against this backdrop, the series mostly focuses on Space Trucker James Holden and his crew as they try to navigate through the increasingly dire political/cultural/existential crises plaguing the solar system, all the while trying to make a quick buck. Each book features new protagonists and side-characters, with the one constant thread throughout the series being Holden and his crew.

The technology featured in the series is relatively realistic but not described in detail. An unexplained breakthrough in fusion and drive technology (the Epstein Drive) has made interplanetary travel possible but there isn't any FTL travel and thus no interstellar voyages have been attempted yet. At least, not invented by humans.

The series so far includes the following novels:

  • Leviathan Wakes (2011)
  • Caliban's War (2012)
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  • Abaddon's Gate (2013)
  • Cibola Burn (2014)
  • Nemesis Games (2015)
  • Babylon's Ashes (2016)
  • Persepolis Rising (2017)
  • Tiamat's Wrath (2019)
  • Leviathan Falls (TBA in 2021)

The novellas The Butcher of Anderson Station, Gods of Risk, The Vital Abyss, The Churn, Strange Dogs, and Auberon also take place in the same universe and serve to tie the novels together. A short story, Drive, is a prequel concerning Solomon Epstein and the discovery of the Epstein Drive. A compilation of the short stories called Memory's Legion, which includes a new short story of the same name is set for a 2022 release.

A TV series, produced by Syfy, premiered on December 14, 2015. Syfy cancelled the series on May 2018 to much fan, media and celebrity backlash. During the 2018 ISDC, Jeff Bezos (himself a fan of the books and show), announced that Amazon Studios has picked the series up for additional seasons.

The Expanse series contains examples of:

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     The series in general 
  • Alien Geometries: Anything the protomolecule creates, naturally, which includes the Ring Station and the ruins on Ilus/New Terra.
  • Ambiguous Robots: The protomolecule civilization left behind mechanical drones that seem to be a little like insects and a little like robots. Any structure built by the protomolecule seems to look both artificial and organic at the same time, with any moving mechanical components bending and pulsing rather than spinning or clicking.
  • And I Must Scream: The fate of anyone absorbed into the protomolecule, such as everyone on Eros station. As of Cibola Burn, it turns out they're still vaguely conscious in the protomolecule.
    • Somehow both Julie and Miller are largely exempt from the horror of this trope.
  • Anti-Interference Lock Up: In Caliban's War, Chrisjen Avasarala and Bobby Draper get invited to board an incredibly luxurious spaceship Guanshiyin, together with its owner Jules-Pierre Mao, for a months-long humanitarian trip to disaster-struck Ganymede. Both suspect it's a Gilded Cage to keep them out of the political game for finding out that Errinwright was keeping them in the dark on what Admiral Nguyen was doing around Jupiter, and once they board the shipnote  their suspicions get proven right when their communications become monitored, Jules departs prematurely on his private yacht and the staff aboard the ship becomes evasive about giving access to emergency communication systems. Thankfully Bobbie was wise enough to smuggle-in her Powered Armor.
  • Anyone Can Die:
    • In Leviathan Wakes, all but five of the Canturbury's crew is killed, and when the survivors are rescued, Shed dies. At the end Miller, whom half the book focuses on, dies in a Heroic Sacrifice.
    • In Abbadon's Gate, there's Bull and Sam.
    • In Babylon's Ashes, there's Fred Johnson, the only character besides the Roci crew to appear in every single book to date.
    • In Persepolis Rising, Santiago Singh and Clarissa Mao both end up dead.
    • In Tiamat's Wrath, Avasarala dies of natural causes at the start of the book and Bobbie sacrifices herself to destroy the Heart of the Tempest.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Artificial gland implants like Clarissa's are widely seen as this in-universe. They allow the user a few moments of heightened strength and reaction time, which would make them a formidable weapon... except that they're also expensive, with aftereffects that cause the user to crash and spend a several minutes vomiting after use. They also degrade with age and start leaking into the bloodstream, causing terminal illness. And they can't be removed without killing the owner.
  • The Battlestar: Martian Donnager-class battleships are Type 1. Half-kilometer long vessels with a crew of over two thousand, including companies of marines. They are heavily armored, equipped with torpedo tubes with generous magazines of both plasma and nuclear warheads, point defense networks with multiple overlapping fields of coverage, and a pair of high-yield Gauss emplacements for slugging it out with other capital ships in a close-range battle. Add to that its interior docking berths are large enough to hold a few Corvette-class frigates which can be deployed to screen its flanks, detach for scouting, or run down targets which might otherwise try to outrun the battleship.
  • Body Horror: As the author puts it in the afterword to Leviathan Wakes:
    "I've never written anything in my life that didn’t at least blur the line into horror. If I wrote greeting cards, they'd probably have a squick factor."
  • Been There, Shaped History: Holden and his crew continually get caught up in larger historical events, frequently influencing the outcome.
  • Casual Interplanetary Travel: Acquiring a small ship capable of interplanetary travel seems to be about as difficult as acquiring a house is now. With all the attendant risks of defaulting on your loans and having it seized by the bank. It still requires weeks to months to get anywhere though.
  • Civil War v. Armageddon: The Earth-Mars Coalition breaks down into interplanetary war and the Belters openly rebel against both planets due to the machinations of a Mega-Corp experimenting with — and failing to control — the alien Protomolecule that threatens to consume all life in the solar system.
  • Colonized Solar System: Early on there were only Lunar settlements and a colony on Mars, with anything further out too difficult to make permanently habitable or even reachable via anything crewed. Once the Epstein Drive was invented though, spreading further out suddenly became a lot more economically viable, and the subsequent "gold rush" to claim land and resources resulted in a mostly colonized solar system by the beginning of the series.
  • Common Place Rare: Actual cheese is worth, pound-for-pound, more than starship fuel. Ceres Security once parceled out the cheese they confiscated from a smuggling ring to its employees.
  • Cool Starship:
    • Both present and averted. It is noted that the lack of atmosphere to deal with, combined with efficient designs, has resulted in mostly ugly, blocky looking ships. Some of them are very large and impressive, but still look like a simple warty skyscraper laid on its side. Some of the ships however, as exemplified by the Rocinante, are very cool on the inside.
    • The ultra-rich do have more idiosyncratic designs for their personal space yachts, as do some OPA captains with their flagships.
    • The United Nations navy also includes stealth ships, which are described as being extremely sleek. This is both to minimize their radar profile and to minimize the total surface area that needs to be equipped with sensor absorption paneling. The result is something that is hard to find and hard to get a weapon lock on.
  • Corporate Conspiracy:
    • A lot of people die in Leviathan Wakes thanks to Protogen's plan to test out the Protomolecule by unleashing it on the entire population of Eros. Just their distraction plan of starting a war between Earth, Mars and the Belt kills thousands, and then there's the population of Eros.
    • It continues in Caliban's War with Mao-Kwikowski (of which Protogen was a subsidiary). In this case they try to weaponize the Protomolecule by creating Super Soldiers, reigniting hostilities between Earth and Mars.
  • Crapsack World: Earth. The UN adopted a welfare state while also failing to provide sufficient educational programs for people who want to take on a trade. From the looks of it, the system drew a hard line between upper and lower classes. The welfare state doesn’t prevent homelessness, and Earth is falling behind Mars technologically, because its wasting its potential talent.
  • Domed Hometown:
    • Martian cities are under domes because though the planet is being (slowly) terraformed, it is nowhere near habitable yet.
    • Transparent domes are ubiquitous on the surface of Ganymede, but rather than housing cities they house farmland, where the transparency is necessary for the crops to get sunlight (which is further strengthened by orbital mirror arrays.) The actual habitation there is underground, carved out of the moon's thick surface ice.
  • Earth Is the Center of the Universe: Mars is in some ways more technologically advanced and both Mars and the Belt view themselves as independent of the home planet, but more educated people are pretty sure that they couldn't survive without access to the resources of the home planet.
  • Fantastic Slurs: "Dusters" for Martians, "skinnies" for Belters and "Squats" for Earthers.
  • Flooded Future World: Climate Change has resulted in many coastal buildings getting lost in the water. While those in space are killing each other over water, Earth is practically drowning in it.
  • Future Food Is Artificial: Extremely common. Mars and the Belt have no natural arable land, and all their food production is necessarily done in capital-intensive artificial environments using crops which are heavily genetically modified to yield maximum nutrient return for the organic and energy resources invested in growing them, with various soybean and fungi derivatives particularly common staples. Even Earth, with its vast biosphere, depends on similar technological means to feed its enormous population. This does not stop demand for variety, and many of these staples are combined and treated to give approximations of other foodstuffs ("steak" made from compressed fungus stalks for example.) For those with a little more wealth to spend on consumables, vat-grown meat is also available. Genuine organic food and animal products such as cheese are luxury goods, especially the further out one goes from Earth.
  • Future Slang: Belter slang, which is a mix of various languages.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Inventor of the Epstein Drive discovers, to his detriment, that it works far better than he dreamed. Protogen's experiments with the protomolecule and their attempts to distract Earth and Mars all work FAR better than they planned, to their detriment.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: The protomolecule was sent by precursors to terraform Earth when it had single-celled life, presumably to seed a colony of themselves. When it encounters multicellular life (ie, humans), it turns them into paste. Still-alive, still consious, still screaming paste. That or Plague Zombies.
  • Grey Goo: Averted. While the Protomolecule can and will render people down for more biomass, it doesn't eat inanimate objects. It tends to work said biomass into the decor..
  • High-Speed Missile Dodge: Played with. In space, no crewed ship can compete with an anti-ship missile for thrust-to-mass ratio and acceleration tolerances, so actual dodging is practically impossible. However, an Ace Pilot of smaller craft can still use their skills to jink and spin in just the right way to give their counter-measures a few critical fractions of a second more to down an incoming missile before it reaches critical distance from it's target.
  • Homosexual Reproduction: Medical technology in this setting involving gene splicing and surrogacy is reliable and inexpensive enough that it is commonly employed by same-sex couples who want to have biological children together.
  • Impeded Communication: This is a major issue throughout the series, due to the simple physics of reality. Light cannot travel faster than c, and therefore neither can radio transmissions. So, light-delay must be accounted for when sending messages across the infinite void of space.
  • Ironic Name: Laconia is named after the region of Greece that Sparta is in, but the title of Persepolis Rising implicitly compares them to the Persian Empire.
  • Law Enforcement, Inc.: Private contractors have taken over most law enforcement functions, with varying results: while Star Helix attempts to be a legitimate police force on Ceres, other outfits like CPM a subsidiary of Protogen consisting mostly of former inmates and gang members recruited as muscle are only just barely better than the criminals themselves. See also Mega-Corp below.
  • Legendary in the Sequel: Holden becomes increasingly more famous after each installment, and although he doesn't necessarily like the attention it does feed his ego and occasionally the rest of the crew and his employers have to bring him back to reality. In later volumes the leadership of the UN and OPA use Holden's fame to their advantage, hiring the crew to mediate conflicts and lead the combined UN/Mars/OPA task force seeking out the Belter Free Navy at the end of Nemesis Games because of Holden's high profile, general trustworthiness, and heroic public image.
  • Lightworlder:
    • Downplayed by Martians, who find Earth-normal gravity uncomfortable and exhausting unless they go through a lot of muscle-therapy and training (as the Martian Congressional Republic Marine Corp habitually does.)
    • Played much straighter by the Belters, who often grow up with only a minor rotational gravity or thrust gravity and spend a significant portion of their life in zero-g. This results in them having low-density bones, with tall, thin frames, and it's legally considered torture to force them into a high-gravity environment without sufficient physical support. Some of them are capable of overcoming this limitation with lots of training and hormone treatments, but not all of them can afford that nor can some of their bodies support it.
  • Meat Moss: Anywhere the protomolecule has had time to take over ends up looking like something from Dead Space. It's especially gross because it's still got bones and organs floating in it.
  • Mega-Corp: Several of them exist, with as much or more power than the planetary governments. Some, like Protogen or Mao-Kwikowski, verge on N.G.O. Superpower until they run afoul of the real powers of Earth and Mars, and get dismantled. Others, like RCE, are somewhat more ethical although in RCE's case one sociopathic security chief makes life difficult for everyone—the company included—in Cibola Burn. The extent to which the corporations are in charge is so great that the setting's Miranda Warning includes a provision for a union representative as well as (or in place of) a lawyer for a suspect upon arrest.
  • Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness: 4. Corey acknowledges in an interview that he/they wanted to make the universe plausible without letting the science get in the way of telling a good story. In their Reddit AMA, they say they're looking for "wikipedia-level plausibility".
    "We don't want the tech to pop anyone out of the story, but we do want all the cool stuff that comes with light delay and coriolis effect and variable gravity."
    • Hardness: slower-than-light travel, limited Stealth in Space, generally excellent physics where described.
    • Softness: ships powered by Applied Phlebotinum fusion reactors, almost everything about the protomolecule (which is acknowledged in-universe as being pretty close to magic, as it plays by very, very few of the rules people are used to).
  • No Biochemical Barriers: Averted by the habitual exo-solar planets on the other side of the Protomolecule Civilization's ancient Portal Network. Physics being what they are, those planets are chemically similar to Earth and even have some similar evolutionary drivers resulting in Earth-analogous biospheres, but the biochemistry is incompatible. This limits the new colonies' growth and ability to survive independently since their food production can rarely be entirely self-supporting.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Averted with the Epstein Drive, which was recovered from plans kept by its inventor - who decided to test the first prototype with himself on boardnote .
    "Solomon Epstein had built his little modified fusion drive, popped it on the back of his three-man yacht, and turned it on. With a good scope, you could still see his ship going at a marginal percentage of the speed of light, heading out into the big empty. The best, longest funeral in the history of mankind. Fortunately, he’d left the plans on his home computer."
  • Nuclear Nasty: The Protomolecule seems to have the ability to metabolize radiation to fuel itself, not dissimilar from the way plants photosynthesize sunlight but at a far higher level of energy, and severe radiation rapidly accelerates its growth.
  • Nuclear Option: Every major faction (Earth, Mars and the OPA) has access to nuclear weapons - and are willing to fire them in anger. Since the Colony Drop has become the new real weapon of mass destruction and nukes are mostly used for ship-to-ship combat, they're not as taboo as in real life.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Completely averted. Humanity is just as religious as it has ever been, with all of today's religions and some new ones featuring in the story. The Mormon Church in particular appears to have become quite wealthy and powerful, to the point that it can fund its own interstellar expedition.
  • Outside-Context Problem: The protomolecule, its creators, and the ones who destroyed them present a constant series of these. Just when everyone thinks they're starting to get a handle on how things work, a curve-ball gets thrown their way through some unexpected application or interaction with the technology that flips everything on its head. The Laconians end up causing these in rapid succession by repeatedly provoking the entities within the gate system, first causing them to collapse a neutron star into a black hole and unleashing the mother of all Wave Motion Guns, and later causing them to attack the slow zone directly and annihilating everything within.
  • Powered Armor: Used by Space Marines in combat, though the Martian Congressional Republic Navy probably has the most cutting-edge variation, able to keep a marine fighting even after sustaining multiple hits from infantry-scale weaponry.
  • Precursors: The creators of the protomolecule, who existed billions of years before humanity.
  • Precursor Killers: The thing that forced the original precursor aliens to lock down Ring Station. As of Nemesis Games they may be back because something is eating ships that go through the Ring.
    • As of Tiamat's Wrath, they are definitely back. After the Laconians sent a bomb at them, they caused a neutron star to collapse into a black hole, wiped out every human ship and installation inside the Slow Zone and (if Elvi is correct) are trying to figure out how to switch off all human consciousness.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Thoroughly averted. The inherent bigness of outer space is constantly referenced in multi-week-long travel times and the lag of message transmissions which take between tens of minutes to several hours to get from place to place even when travelling at the speed of light. Specifically in Cibola Burn, even with the contracted scale of orbiting a planet, the Roci has to zoom in its telescope to to 50X magnification just to have a thumbnail-sized view of another orbiting ship.
    Basia: “Space is too big,”
    Alex: “It’s been said. And this is just the space in low orbit around one planet. Breaks the head a bit to think about.”
    Basia: “I try not to.”
    Alex: “Wise man.”
  • Space Pirates: Naturally. Mentioned a few times in the book but don't have much to do in the plot until the Belter radicals start seizing Martian Ships in Nemesis Games.
  • Space Station: Tycho Station. By Nemesis Games Medina Station formerly the Nauvoo is positioned at the Ring Station, a strategic meeting place that all ships attempting to use the Ring network must use, not unlike a certain other space station.
  • Status Quo Is God:
    • The crew of the Rocinante remains unchanged over five books — it's just Holden, Naomi, Amos and Alex. In Nemesis Games Naomi mentions that their Plot Armor might not hold out forever and it would probably be a good idea to get some extra crew aboard just in case someone needs to take over someone's position in a crisis. Independently of Naomi, Alex also notes that even a minor personality conflict amongst any two members of the crew is likely to doom the whole operation, and that a larger crew would help change the interpersonal dynamics and avoid disaster. By the end of the book it seems as if Bobbie Draper and Clarissa Mao might finally be permanent additions to the crew.
    • Averted in Persepolis Rising. The book starts with Naomi and Holden deciding to finally retire and leave Bobbie as the new Captain of the Rocinante. By the end of the book, Clarissa is dead, Holden is a prisoner deep behind enemy lines on Laconia, and Bobbie and Amos are now crewing the stolen Laconian frigate Gathering Storm, leaving Naomi and Alex as the only crew left aboard the Rocinante.
    • Played with in Tiamat’s Wrath. While Naomi, Holden, Alex and Amos all end up back on the Roci by the end of the book, Bobbie is dead and Amos has been resurrected as some kind of part-alien construct.
  • Stealth in Space:
    • Earth and Mars both have stealth ships in the sense that they're designed to not radiate heat; using radar in space is impractical due to the distances involved, so most everyone looks for heat signatures instead. Which means that using your engines gives you away immediately (lots of heat) and people frequently talk about "lighting up" everything around them by doing so.
    • Nemesis Games also mentions a special stealth coating that can be applied to ships which masks their radar signature. The "Free Navy" uses it to hide the asteroids they send to hit Earth.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Alien: The protomolecule and the other technology from the aliens, once it gets to work, is able to do things utterly impossible by the standards of human technology. It's able to ignore inertia, lock down maximum speed within an area of effect, disassemble ships piece by piece instantly, communicate at FTL speeds, and eventually form a wormhole to a hub of other wormholes. Several characters explicitly refer to the technology as God-like.
  • Terraform: A project to terraform Mars is ongoing, but it is currently still reliant on imports from Earth. The creators of the protomolecule apparently intended to use it to "alienform" the then primitive Earth.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: Happens at least twice and is mentioned numerous times as appropriate punishment for especially unpleasant people. Among the Belters, throwing someone out the airlock is a method of execution to make a statement, "This person endangered the environment we all live in." Belters take the maintenance of their artificial environments very seriously and violators are considered especially heinous.
  • United Nations Is A Super Power: The UN literally controls Earth and its armed forces.
  • Used Future: Many of the civilian spacecraft are described in such a way that you just know some crucial life-support system is being held together by duct tape.
  • The War of Earthly Aggression: This is one of the things that the Belters are worried about, although they're more immediately worried about a War Of Martian Aggression. Mars itself has also prepared for war with Earth, both in terms of military buildup and running elaborate battle simulations. In Nemesis Games, the Belters launch a devastating first strike against Earth, with the assistance of a Martian splinter group. Subverted, at least with respect to Mars, in that Mars has the upper hand—Earth may have more ships, but Mars has better ships, and its crews are better-trained than Earth's. Holden mentions that in every simulation the UN ran of an Earth-Mars war, Mars wins rather lopsidedly, unless Earth launches a devastating first strike.
  • We Will Wear Armor in the Future: Ballistic suits with rigid plating are common among all the militaries and sufficiently-funded private security. While military-grade weapons often pack armor piercing rounds sufficient to penetrate it, it does still provide reasonable protection against civilian-grade small arms or plastic low-penetration rounds commonly employed when depressurization is a serious hazard, such as on a space ship or space station. If that is not enough, many of the militaries also employ Powered Armor for when they really need an infantry-equipped force-multiplier, but such suits are expensive and take half a year of training to be fully qualified to operate, so their use tends to be limited to elite forces.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: At the end of Babylon’s Ashes, Filip abandons the Free Navy, gets a labourer job on Callisto and changes his surname to “Nagata”. He's never mentioned again in any of the subsequent books, despite 30 whole years going by.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: In universe example - Belters, and Martians to a certain extent, who grew up under low or micro-gravity are tall and skinny and look slightly deformed to people who grew up on Earth. Belters also have their own dialect that can make it difficult for "Inners" (Earthers and Martians) to understand what they're saying even when theoretically speaking the same language. It is speculated that many Inners don't even view Belters as real humans anymore and that is part of the reason why conflict has developed between them.
  • Worf Effect: The Martian Congressional Republic Navy is constantly referenced as being the best there is. They get their asses kicked (curb-stomped, really) an awful lot.

     Leviathan Wakes 
  • All of Them
    Naomi: We’ve got ships on their way from all over the system.
    Holden: How many are coming?
    Naomi: At a guess? All of them.
  • Awesome Mc Coolname: When Miller as trying to find the Rocinante through data analysis, one of the ships he came across was the freight hauler Badass Motherfucker by the Luna company "MYOFB Corporation" (the acronym likely means, judging by the name of the ship, "Mind Your Own Fucking Business").
    • In the same breath, however, Miller notes that it's Awesome, but Impractical since a ship with a name like that simply begging for a bored port official to bust their chops for kicks.
  • Blob Monster: The first Protomolecule creature we see is one of these. It's sucking on the Scopuli's fusion reactor and shreiking "help me!" over and over with the half-assimilated head floating in it. When it's seen later, freeze-dried, it's still got floaters-a colon and a spine are mentioned by name, showing that its an extreme case of Body of Bodies.
  • Brick Joke: The legal dispute over the colonization rights to Venus has been in the courts for over eighty years with no sign of resolution in sight. Then the protomolecule-infected Eros is deliberately rammed into Venus, seeding that planet with alien life and making any further litigation over its fate moot. Holden's comments at the end of the book indicate that Venus may become Chekhov's Planet in the long run, but at least for now humanity is safe and can plan for that contingency.
  • Crapsack World: All of Them, to varying extents. Earth is severely overpopulatednote  and recovering from the environmental damage of the 20th and 21st century. Mars is better by comparison but implied to be a military dictatorship in all but name, and the kids are put through enormous performance stress in school.note  The exploitation of the people of the Belt and the outer worlds is severe enough to drive a revolutionary faction, the Outer Planets Alliance, to open violence against Earth and Mars interests. Living standards in the Belt are not much different than a developing country on Earth—with the exception that even developing countries don't need to worry about losing their air or water supply on a daily basis.
  • For Science!: Enforced by Protogen on their science personnel by modifying them into high-functioning sociopaths. As long as they are given an interesting problem to solve, they will be completely unfettered, never running into moral crisis about the things they are asked to research.
  • Hurl It into the Sun: At Miller's suggestion, the OPA eventually adopts this plan for Eros to keep the Protomolecule out of everyone's hands, by crashing the Nauvoo into it unmanned on a long acceleration trajectory.
  • Imaginary Friend: Miller starts having conversations with a hallucinatory Julie Mao.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: Holden's plan to intercept the missiles involves pulling this kind of con on the UN.
    Holden: We'll tell them we're going to trick them so they stop listening, and once they're not listening, we'll trick them.
  • Meaningful Name: Several, to wit:
    • Holden consciously names his ship Rocinante after Don Quixote's horse, and explains to Naomi that the choice was deliberate.
    • Security on Eros is handled by an outfit called CPM (short for Carne Por La Machina, or Meat For The Machine). At first it just looks like a crude joke about the disposability of its personnel, who are all former gang members recruited from throughout the Belt. Given that the protomolecule devours them along with everyone else, the name turns out to be more than appropriate.
  • N.G.O. Superpower: Protogen, having enough firepower to bring down the Martian flagship with ease. But Reality Ensues when Earth and Mars learn they're responsible for Eros, and tear the company apart almost immediately.
  • Only Electric Sheep Are Cheap: Miller relates a story to the crew about how he disbanded a cheese smuggling ring that was assassinating its rivals. While drugs, prostitution, and synthetic food substitutes are readily available, genuine cheese comes only from Earth or Mars and a single shipment can cost easily as much as the ship transporting it. A single block of Vermont cheddar is considered a sizeable bribe for a cop. Miller's remarks indicate that all non-synthetic food products are considered valuable luxury items in the Belt.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The protomolecule uses them to vomit brown goo to further spread the infection.
  • Population Control: When being interrogated on the Donnager, Holden says that Earth has a population of 30 billion and thus being the only child of an eight-person group marriage entitled them to enough tax credits for justify a 22-acre farm.note 
  • Reality Ensues:
    • The evil, corrupt Mega-Corp Protogen, an N.G.O. Superpower with enough political connections to let them push Earth to attack Mars, is seemingly invincible. Nope. They get outed as being responsible for Eros and go down almost immediately.
    • Also used with Holden, whose constant self-righteous moments of Information Wants to Be Free immediately backfire and make things worse.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • A nameless Martian officer who learns about the protomolecule on Phoebe responds to it by immediately nuking the moon to atoms so no one else can use the damned thing.
    • The Donnager crew in general, but particularly Lieutenant Kelly, Holden's interrogator aboard the Donnager, is a professional doing a job—he's not brutal at all, just asking questions, and gives his life to make sure Holden and his people make it out with their information. His sacrifice—and those of his crewmates—is not unnoticed. Holden (via Fred Johnson) ensures that Kelly's body is returned to Mars and accorded full military honors.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Citizen Kane:
      "Razorback", Naomi said. "What's that?"
      "It's a sled," Miller replied.note 
    • Dune:
      Julies's notes: Panic doesn't help. It never helps. Deep breaths, figure this out, make the right moves. Fear is the mind-killer. Ha. Geek.
    • TheHitchhikersGuideToTheGalaxy
      The food dispensers aboard ship can give you something that is not entirely unlike coffee.
  • Useless Spleen: When Holden is performing a sustained high-g burn, he complains about his spleen.
    Holden: My spleen is collapsing. Hurry up.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Holden gets these pretty often from just about everybody, as he tends to publically broadcast whatever everyone else is trying to keep secret and is personally responsible for two open conflicts as a result.
    • Miller also gets one when he shoots Dresden, an act which results in Holden disliking and distrusting him for the remainder of the novel.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Breaks out in Eros following the introduction of the protomolecule and lots and lots of radiation to the general populace.
  • Zombie Puke Attack: The standard method in which the zombies spread the protomolecule to others

     Caliban's War 
  • Adult Fear: The kidnapping of Prax's daughter Mei.
  • Amazonian Beauty: Bobbie Draper is described as more than two meters tall (approx 6'7"), and as someone that "couldn't be more than thirty and looked like a comic book illustration, complete with muscles on her muscles". Alex seems very smitten with her, and Bobbie appears to know that she attracts the look of lovers of big, solid women, a development she doesn't seem to like much.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Bobbie's suit gun fires 2 mm rounds at "more than a thousand meters per second", which is treated as something awesomely powerful and being able to penetrate an entire ship. In reality, it's actually firing tiny bullets at a normal rifle velocity - the rounds would have roughly an order of magnitude lower momentum and kinetic energy than a modern assault rifle's.
    Cotyar: "Would the bullets even slow down as they went through both of the ship's hulls and let all the air out?"
    Bobbie: "Nope"
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Avasarala is able to unravel almost the entire conspiracy simply by noticing Soren biting the inside of his cheek and extrapolating from there.
  • Cliffhanger: As if the mass of protomolecule on Venus shooting off into space as a gigantic tendril to become who knows what isn't enough, the last moment of the book is a previously thought-to-be dead character showing up on the Roci to give Holden a cryptic "we need to talk."
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: Deconstructed when Prax accidentally turns a Mexican Standoff into a Blast Out by cocking his gun, which he just thought was the appropriate thing to do in the situation from what he'd seen in movies.
  • Enemy Mine: The UN and Mars marines on Ganymede are in a tense standoff when one of the monsters attacks the UN patrol. Bobbie and her patrol immediately attempt to reinforce them, but are themselves wiped out. Unfortunately Bobbie's radio is damaged in the fight, and she's unable to tell her superiors or the ships in orbit about the changed situation on the ground.
  • Explosive Leash: The protomolecule-monsters are fitted with them. However, after the first one explodes, the others figure out how to remove them.
  • Gender-Blender Name: In a highly obscure example, Prax is named after Jupiter's moon Praxidike, which his parents didn't realize was named after a Greek goddess.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Admiral Nguyen's ship gets taken over by one of the protomolecule-monsters he launched at Mars.
  • Immune to Bullets: The protomolecule-monsters. Bullets pass right through them, and they heal immediately afterwards.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Holden grows a beard in an attempt to disguise himself. It fools exactly no one.
    Avasarala: What happened to his face?
    Soren: The reporting officer suggested the beard was intended as a disguise.
    Avasrala: Well, thank God he didn't put on a pair of glasses, we might never have figured it out.

    Abaddon's Gate 
  • Apocalypse How: The Ring Station is capable of Stellar/Physical Annihilation.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The OPA dreadnought Behemoth - formerly the generation ship Nauvoo. The biggest spaceship ever built, turned into a giant battleship bristling with weapons ("the biggest, baddest weapons platform in the solar system"). Unfortunately, since she wasn't designed from the start to be a battleship, just firing one of its rail guns would probably tear the ship apart.
    "Apart from painting teeth on her and welding on an apartment building–sized sharkfin, nothing could have been more clearly or effectively built to intimidate. Which was good, because she was a retrofitted piece of crap, and if they ever got in a real fight, they were boned."
  • Bungled Suicide: A political activist en route to the Ring attempts to set himself on fire, only for the Navy ship's fire-suppression system to douse him in fire retardant before the flames can do much more than singe his hair and cloths. Navy security personnel had him cuffed and escorted out under guard within thirty seconds of the incident.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Early on, Ren teaches Clarissa about how incorrectly installing a brownout buffer can bring down the whole power grid. This becomes a vital lesson for her in the ending.
  • Disability Superpower: The way Cohen perceives the world through his sonar glasses gives him an extraordinary ability to perceive and model 3D objects.
  • Improvised Weapon: The Nauvoo was equipped with a communications laser large and powerful enough to communicate with the Sol system across a distance of light years. When the "Slow Zone" activates, the crew of the Behemoth realize they can reconfigure it into an impromptu Energy Weapon. Considering how projectile-dependent most human military tech is (whether magnetic or self-propelled) this makes it one of the only effective weapons in that environment, regardless of how impractical it would be outside that.
  • Jerkass: Captain Ashford.
    "The captain was one of those guys who'd sneer without moving his mouth."
  • Low-Speed Chase: The Ring Station limits the speed of any object in its vicinity ("The Slow Zone") to a hard limit. This leads to a number of painfully slow (for spaceships) chases, as as any object going above the speed limit is instantly decelerated (see Not the Fall That Kills You below).
  • Make an Example of Them: Bull's first big act aboard the Behemoth is to space an otherwise harmless drug dealer. Just to "frame the issue" for the Belters.
  • The Mutiny: Happens on board the Behemoth. Several times, in fact.
    "So this is a coup," Monica said.
    "Counter-countercoup, technically," Bull said.
  • Not the Fall That Kills You: Averted. The effects of sudden deceleration are expanded upon in gruesome detail.
  • Restraining Bolt: The leg cuff put on Clarissa to stop her from using her combat implants.
  • Stealth Pun: After waking up on The Behemoth, Alex asks "Were we arrested?". Technically, that's exactly what happened when The Slow Zone lowered the speed limit again
  • Too Awesome to Use: Alex' rationale for recommending that the Roci have a keel-mounted railgun installed is that, while their torpedo launchers are a lot more flexible and often more deadly, Martian-built military-grade torpedoes are understandably hard to come by outside of the Martian military. Hence it would be useful to have comparable anti-capital weapon that was easier to keep the magazine stocked for.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: When the Slow Zone's speed limit changes, several ships undergo rapid deceleration which causes all sorts of death and horrific injury. This makes sense for the worst-off ships: 600m/s to 0 in 5 seconds is about 120m/s/s or 12G of acceleration. That could certainly do serious damage to a human body, though still highly unlikely to turn anyone into chunky salsa. However, it mentions that the Behemoth was doing about 10% of that at the time. A few seconds of 1.2G of acceleration is nowhere near enough to do any serious damage to anyone. It's highly unlikely that there'd be anything worse than a few minor fall injuries from people caught offguard and landing awkwardly.

    Cibola Burn 
  • Ascended Extra: Havelock and Basia. Havelock appears, briefly, as Miller's partner in Leviathan Wakes, and Basia appears for a single scene in Caliban's War. Here, however, they are both POV characters who play a major role in the story.
  • Death World: Ilus was already difficult enough, with the settlers having to import soil to grow crops in. After the reactor explodes and inundates the planet's surface with a super-tsunami, slugs that secrete an immediately lethal neurotoxin combined with microorganisms that colonize the vitreous humors of the eye and blind the colonists make matters even worse. And that's before the super-advanced alien defense technology shuts down the fusion plants of the ships in orbit, making escape or resupply impossible. And then the alien technology starts to break down...
    "Apocalyptic explosions, dead reactors, terrorists, mass murder, death-slugs, and now a blindness plague. This is a terrible planet. We should not have come here.”
  • Diverting Power: Discussed when the Rocinante is forced to operate on battery-power. The ship's keel-mounted railgun has its own very substantial set of batteries and capacitors which were already topped off, and they have to consider tapping into those to keep other systems powered. However, the power is only designed to flow into the railgun system, not back out of it into the rest of the ship (for cogent safety reasons) and they do not have the time to effect a workaround, so they abandon that plan in favor of a different solution using the railgun.
  • Dying Town: Its suggested by the end of the book that Mars, and possibly various habitats in the Belt will become examples in the near future - with all the habitable worlds outside the Ring network, all with staggeringly abundant resources, they may just become redundant and irrelevant.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Ilus "Dead Zone," described by Elvi as "the eye of an angry god." Whatever it is, it cannot be detected by (and is instantly fatal to) anything related to the protomolecule, but to naked human eyes it appears as a small area of space with infinite depth and fractals of darkness. The one and only person who witnesses it is deeply unsettled. And that's not even mentioning her reaction to passing through it!
  • Eye Scream: An alien organism starts taking up residence in the Ilus settlers' eyes, turning their vitreous humor green and blinding them.
  • Gaussian Girl: As part of the aftereffect of the Eye Scream organism that blinded her, Elvi notes that the world is still blurry, and thinks that it makes Fayez look like a movie star.
  • Genius Loci: After shutting down all of Ilus' technology, The investigator's task is complete, and Miller and all the people assimilated by the protomolecule on Eros become the planet's consciousness.
  • Gravity Sucks: Downplayed to realistic levels. The ships orbiting Ilus / New Tera are in a very low orbit for practical reasons, low enough that there is a very minor amount of drag from the near-vacuum vestiges of the upper atmosphere. But this is normally a non-issue, as any ship with a functioning Epstein drive just needs to do some minor correction burns every few orbits to make sure it stays on station. Unfortunately when the protomolocule-civilization planetary security system simply causes nuclear fusion to cease to function around the planet, falling toward the planet becomes a mathematical certainty.
  • Madness Mantra: 113 times per second it reaches out it reaches out it reaches out it reaches out it reaches out it reaches out...
  • MacGyvering: Basia and Naomi do this several times, in their efforts to save the Belter freighter Basia's daughter is on.
    • They design and build a tethering cable to drag the ship into a more stable orbit.
    • They design an improvised Escape Pod by combining two emergency airlocks to rescue the crew when the ship starts to enter the atmosphere.
  • Mood Whiplash: For most of the book, the Investigator interludes are pure Nightmare Fuel, with the minds of those "eaten" by the protomolecule subjected to a horrifying And I Must Scream scenario. Then the protomolecule makes an (accidental) pun, and we get a hilarious moment of the mind of an old woman rolling her metaphorical eyes at it...
  • Mundane Utility: The Rocinante's railgun gets repurposed as an ersatz thruster, to stabilize their orbit.
  • Naming Your Colony World: The refugees from Ganymede name it "Ilus" while the RCE charter names it "New Terra." Neither party is particularly fond of the other party's name choice.
  • No Biochemical Barriers: Averted, the biosphere on Ilus / New Tera might superficially resemble some Earth analogues but their protein structures are completely different. The colonists there cannot eat any of the local flora or fauna, and likewise some of the local biting insects promptly drop dead when they try to take a tiny nip out of humans. Of course while they may be biologically incomparable both still operate on the same laws of chemistry and thus humans might be subject to infection by, say, algae-analogues that thrive in warm saline solutions, such as are found in human eyeballs.
  • Phony Veteran: In the prologue, a homeless Martian is panhandling on the tram, asking if someone can spare change for a veteran of Ganymede. Unfortunately for him, the one he asks is Bobbie Draper, who served on (and lost comrades on) Ganymede:
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Wei is a perfectly nice person. Too bad she works for Murtry, and believes in the importance of doing her job...
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Bobbie's first scene in the book involves her scaring off a beggar trying to pass himself off as veteran of Ganymede, which as a Ganymede survivor herself, she probably took way more offence to than she implies. The last three words she says to him before he scurries away:
    "Find. Another. Story."
  • Ragnarök Proofing: Both played straight and averted. Straight in that Ilus still has a mostly working orbital defense network, underground transport system and structurally sound above-ground skyscraper ruins after two billion years, averted in that most of the tech works barely if at all, and some of it fails spectacularly.
    "What is that?"
    "One of the moons."
    "What's it doing?"
  • Springtime for Hitler: Avasarala and Fred Johnson's reason for sending Holden as the ambassador in the New Terra conflict was for him to be the Spanner in the Works they knew him to be; i.e, to show what a mess the whole space colonizing business to be. Instead, the colonization efforts prove successful, and now everyone's flocking to the wormholes and seeking their fortunes on other Earth-like planets; this in turn will lead to the collapse of Mars and the terraforming project they heavily invested in. And the one valuable resource that the Mars government has that they'll be able to sell to recoup their losses is their massive stockpile of nuclear weapons.
  • Starfish Robots: The tunneling robots left behind by the Protomolecule civilization have a variety of arms mounted to a central platform, all of which can be reconfigured quickly to perform whatever specific task needs to be done.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Later in the story, Alex (the pilot of the Rocinante) uses a ship-to-ship railgun to delete a single person in a light, barely-armored spacesuit. He was a total dick, though.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math:
    • A 2kg slug shot out of the railgun at 5000 m/s will impart a net recoil on the firing ship of 10,000/[weight of ship in kg]. Which is to say, essentially nothing.
    • Where's the 500 m/s coming from? The novel says "a detectable percentage of the speed of light". If we're conservative, and say that it's 0.1%, that's still 0.2 m/s dV to a combined ship mass of 3 kilotonnes. Keep it up for several tens of shots, and it could do a pretty reasonable amount of orbit lifting.

    Nemesis Games 
  • Apocalypse How: Planetary/Societal Collapse. The Earth is subjected to a Colony Drop that devastates much of the surface and starts an impact winter, effectively making the planet unlivable outside domed cities.
  • Bathhouse Blitz: Exploited by Amos' when he takes a cheap passenger ship to Earth. A shipboard gang shakes down the passengers, and he refuses their demands on behalf of a couple of men with a young daughter. He deduces that the gang is operating on "prison rules" and will only likely beat people who fail to pay their protection money in the communal showers, since that's the only place where security cameras won't be watching. Amos is correct, and when they come for him in the showers, he's ready for them but they weren't ready for him.
  • Colony Drop: Marco drops a number of high-speed radar-shielded rocks on Earth, killing billions.
  • The Conscience: Holden is revealed to be this for Amos, and Naomi realizes she's in trouble when an imaginary Amos becomes her inner voice of reason.
  • The Coup: The radical attacks divide the OPA into two major factions: Fred Johnson's government, which holds Tycho Station, and the Belter Free Navy, which holds Medina Station and a large pirate fleet in the outer belt.
  • Eldritch Abomination: At the very end, Naomi realizes that something is "eating ships" in the space between the Rings. Sauveterre's ship encounters it in the epilogue. It's possible that this creature is whatever killed the protomolecule masters.
  • Explosive Decompression: Averted when Naomi purposefully ejects herself out of an airlock without a spacesuit. She had been planning for it and knew how vacuum would affect her body. She even brings along a specialized emergency device Belters developed specifically for explosive decompressions: a self-injecting vial of oxygenated blood that gives you a few more seconds of consciousness in order to get to safety (or at least drifting in that general direction before passing out). She survives but the effects of prolonged exposure to the vacuum of space take a debilitating toll on her.
  • Extranormal Prison: "The Pit", a subterranean supermax prison for the bio-augmented.
  • Foreshadowing: Miller's Virtual Ghost constantly warning Holden over the past three books to check "doors and corners" takes on a whole new meaning when the crew realizes that something is devouring ships as they pass through the Gates.
  • Friendly Enemy: Amos and Erich spend most of the book fully prepared to kill one another if either of them makes a move, but they help each other more often than not and are on decent enough terms by the end.
  • Great Escape: Amos and Clarissa make one from the Pit. Subverted in that the guards assist them, as the facility has become unsafe due to the asteroid bombardment. Also, the greatest threat to the escape plan comes not from the prison staff—whose lives are also in jeopardy if they remain—but from another, dangerously psychotic prisoner.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang!: Five chapters into the book Alex has headed off to Mars, Amos to Earth and Naomi to Ceres, with Holden left alone on Tycho Station. This turns out to be less than helpful when a lot of plot suddenly starts happening all at once...
  • Last Stand: Defied and played for laughs. Alex thinks Bobbie is about to make one when she realizes there isn't enough room in the Razorback for both of them as well as Prime Minister Smith — but she was just thinking of tearing out one of the crash couches so she'd fit, and is a little freaked out when she realizes Alex's assumption.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Discussed; once it becomes public that Marco is responsible for the attacks, Fred comments that he wouldn't have expected Marco to be capable of this kind of planning, and speculates that he probably has a puppet master somewhere. In the epilogue, we learn that he was right; everything was orchestrated by a rogue faction of the Martian Navy, led by Commander Duarte.
  • Meaningful Name: Somewhat YMMV, requires Genius Bonus. The title "Nemesis Games" can be seen as Foreshadowing (spoiler alert!). We're not talking of the Greek goddess of vengeance here, that would be too generic, but ''this'' Nemesis.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: Lightly subverted. Most of the novel is set amidst the backdrop of a cataclysmic terrorist attack. While the protagonists are clearly affected, they all have more immediate concerns, and the handwringing is kept to a minimum. Naomi is probably the most affected. And, playing with the trope, it's because of her relationship with the perpetrators of the attack, rather than the victims.
  • Missing Mom: Naomi abandoned her son, Filip, as a baby in order to escape Marco's control. Though, to be fair, this was done after she realized what an extremist Marco was. When she decided to leave him, Marco kidnapped Filip and used him as a bargaining chip to keep her around, while also spreading lies to everyone that Naomi was dangerous and unstable.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: Everyone, including himself, is shocked to see Holden actually keeping secrets instead of broadcasting them to the entire world.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: The Free Navy cares more about avenging the Belters' treatment than about creating a stable, sustainable future for the human race as evidenced by their catastrophic attack on Earth, the only body truly capable of sustaining human life over generations without assistance.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: How many Martians react to the opening of new habitable worlds via the Ring network. Mars has become politically unstable as a result, which is how a good portion of the Martian Navy ends up in the hands of Marcos' faction of the OPA.
  • Ungovernable Galaxy: The political structure of the system that had mostly stabilized over the course of the first four books (Earth, Mars, OPA, colony worlds) falls all to hell.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • By the end of the book, Marco and his crew remain at large and play no part in the final leg of the story.
    • The fate of Lydia's widower Charles, whom Amos helped to avoid eviction, is left unresolved after the Free Navy's attack, but given the destruction one assumes the worst. There are only a few perfunctory lines from Erich and Amos to show that neither of them even care.
  • Working the Same Case: Alex, Naomi, and Holden all end up looking into the same mysterious missing spaceships for totally different reasons. (Amos's plot doesn't intersect theirs until everything becomes a lot less mysterious, though...)
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: Some of the radical Belters' grievances against the inner planets are legitimate, and they frame their attacks as an uprising.

     Babylon's Ashes 
  • Analogy Backfire: Marco re: Fred Johnson:
    Marco: He is my white whale, and I will hunt him to the end of time.
    Rosenfeld: Didn't finish reading that book did you?
  • Ascended Extra: Michio Pa is promoted to a POV character.
  • Doomed Moral Victor: Fred Johnson dies while en route to a conference to unify the OPA and end the faction fighting that has allowed Marco's Belter Free Navy to disrupt the entire system. Marco's forces attempted to intercept the Rocinante but lost the battle; however, Fred suffered a severe stroke while under high-g boost.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The same unknown entity that "ate" resp. disappeared spaceships coming through the gate (such as the Laconian ship of Sauveterre in the epilogue of the previous book) did so when certain criteria such as speed, mass and so on were met. Through careful analysis of the data about the disappeared ships, Naomi was able to deducde the criteria and used them to their advantage: She made the unknown entity "eat" Marco Inaros' ship on course to wrest control over the Medina Station from the Consolidated Fleet (Earth-Mars-OPA coalition fleet) opposing him.
  • Graceful Loser: Anderson Dawes. After Fred Johnson's death and being excluded from power, he secretly convinces the rest of the OPA cabal to join forces with Holden as his final act.
  • Heel Realization: Filip belatedly realizes what he has done and who Marco is and goes AWOL on Callisto.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Pa and her crew do not only escape any responsibility for their raiding innocent supply ships but she ends up the head of the Trade Union.
    • Filip Inaros, who stole the stealth paint for the asteroids, also got away with aiding his father in the deadliest terrorist attack ever without punishment by going AWOL and changing his name.
  • Reality Ensues: Nico Sanjrani explains to Michio Pa that the Free Navy, in plunging Earth into a nuclear winter, has vastly overestimated the capabilities of non-Earth agriculture, and that without Earth to feed the rest of the system, there won't be enough supplies to last 4 years, maximum.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Martian and Atlas Shrugged: Two of the ships in Michio Pa's fleet are named after these books' protagonists:
      In the middle column, the colony ships she and her fleet had taken: the Bedyadat Jadida, out of Luna. The John Galt and the Mark Watney, out of Mars.
    • Another ship is named the Hornblower
    • Two characters make literary references, one to Moby-Dick and another to the "How can man die better" passage from the Horatius poem of Lays of Ancient Rome.
    • Holden want's to call the new Belter government the spacing guild
  • We ARE Struggling Together: Marco's Belter Free Navy with respect to Fred Johnson's more moderate OPA, and Pa's fleet in relation to Marco's Belter Free Navy. The OPA itself is little more than a coalition of disparate factions with few unifying factors other than a hatred of Earth and Mars.

    Persepolis Rising 
  • Big Damn Heroes: Subverted after Holden allows himself to be captured in order to ensure his mission succeeds. The underground has every intention of rescuing him, but he ends up getting transferred off station and out of reach before they can initiate their effort.
  • Boarding Party: Bobbie leads one with Amos and a bunch of underground fighters to scuttle the Laconian destroyer the Gathering Storm after Alex uses the Rocinante to lure it away from the station (and the possibility of it being reinforced during the attack.)
  • Cacophony Cover Up: Double, during the resistance's plan to steal the Laconians' decryption keys. The keys will be useless if the Laconians realize they have them - so the resistance plans to blow up a sizeable chunk of the station to cover up the theft. After realizing that the guards have alarms that would tip them off anyway, Holden starts setting off every alarm he can find so that the real alarm gets lost in the noise.
  • Curbstomp Battle: One Laconian ship vs the entire combined military forces of Sol System. It's not even a contest. The Laconians mop the floor with the Sol forces in minutes.
  • Day of the Jackboot: Laconia announces via communication that they are ready to rejoin the wider scope of human civilization after three decades of self-imposed exile... only for their two "diplomatic" ships to refuse protocol on arriving and invade and occupy Medina Station almost effortlessly within hours of their gate transit. The occupation is (relatively) benign but they demand submission, tolerate no interference, and reserve the final say on any matter.
  • Downer Ending: At the end of the book, the Laconians have subjugated humanity, Clarissa is dead, and Holden is Duarte's prisoner.
  • Eldritch Starship: Laconian technology is derived from the shipyards of the Protomolecule-makers and all of the creepiness that implies. Most notable is Magnetar-class which is described as a self-repairing flying vertebra.
  • The Empire: Laconia, a defecting offshoot of the Martian military, reestablishing contact with the rest of humanity after a thirty-year self-imposed exile... with Protomolecule technology and an intention to establish a permanent centralized government.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Being used as a protomolecule cultivation substrate in the Pen.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: Inverted and exploited; when Amos isn't right, he deliberately picks a fight with the one person he thinks he will lose to (Bobbie) in order to get a hold of himself.
    Amos: If I want to beat someone up, I have an entire station of people out there to pick from. But if I want to get beaten up? It's pretty much down to just you.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Clarissa Mao dies using one last burst of her Bio-Augmentation in a body already wracked frail from its long-term side effects.
    • James Holden, as he often does, goes off on a suicide mission. He survives, but is taken captive by Laconia and shipped off-station and back to Laconia itself before he can be rescued.
  • Human Resources: Laconia punishes slips in discipline among its own population by sentencing them to be used as substrate for breeding more Protomolecule cultures.
  • Lost Technology: The Martian breakaway fleet settled in Laconia because of the presence of apparent ancient shipyards established there by the Protomolecule civilization. Using the Protomolecule sample stolen for them by Inarios' forces, they were able to reactivate the shipyards and use them to construct new starships using ancient Protomolecule tech that is centuries more advanced than anything humanity previously had access to.
  • Race Against the Clock: The heroes and their allies must get out of Medina before the Eye of the Typhoon arrives.
  • Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: The Freehold Colony. Three-hundred gun nuts with delusions of personal sovereignty. They're given exactly the characterisation one would expect. Ironically, they actually become a safe haven for the heroes once an actual totalitarian government with an overwhelming monopoly on force takes over.
  • Self-Healing Phlebotinum: The Protomolecule-assembled materials used in Laconian ship hulls, in addition to being highly resilient, shows an apparent ability to seal itself rapidly after undergoing any kind of rend or puncture. Anti-ship railgun shots pass right through it with minimum apparent damage and even Amos' attempts to cut through it with a torch are frustrated because it closes itself barely slower than the rate he can trim it away.
  • Shout-Out:
  • 10-Minute Retirement: Holden and Naomi decide to retire and sell the Roci to Bobbie. Before they can even finish the paperwork, Laconia finally decides to invade.
  • Time Skip: Thirty years have passed since Babylon's Ashes.
  • Wave-Motion Gun: The Magnetar-class capital ships fielded by Laconia are aptly named, as their primary armament is a magnetic field beam of a strength similar to that of the magnetic field of a magnetar neutron star, which is to say strong enough to distort the shape of the electron clouds of atoms, causing anything hit by it to instantly come apart at the molecular level. Needless to say, this is decisive in fleet engagements.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: A running theme in the novels, but never as strongly as here, where several of the 'good guys' are members of the Voltaire Collective, a motley gang of terrorists and psychos who didn't join Inaros' crew because he wasn't hardline enough.

    Tiamat's Wrath 
  • Apocalypse How: "Stellar" scope, "Physical Annihilation" severity. The neutron star at the center of the Tecoma system is so massive it is just on the edge of collapse, while the rest of the system is unnaturally clear of mass. All it takes is a relatively small addition of mass to the star to cause it collapse, emitting such high energy rays that the gate linking to it and the gate on the opposite side of slow zone from it and everything in a line between them besides the spherical station are all reduced to atoms.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: The Laconian strategy to deal with the Precursor Killers is to keep trying to hit them back, regardless of the damage that has been done to them in response. Even after the counterattack against them destroys an entire star system, two gates, and then annihilates every human ship and structure in the slow zone, the Laconians keep looking for a way to hit back and don't consider backing down.
  • Back from the Dead: The repair drones on Laconia occasionally resurrect the dead as protomolecule zombies. This happens to Amos after Ilich kills him. Fortunately, he seems to be the same old Amos, just with a otherworldly skin tone and some new knowledge from the protomolecule builders.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Underground destroys the Magnetar construction yards, preventing Laconia from maintaining their domination over mankind and the surviving members of the Rocinante crew reunite. However, Bobbie is dead, Amos might be a a protomolecule meat puppet that is very good at impersonating the original Amos, millions of innocents have been killed by the aliens's retaliation and the aliens are now intent on wiping out humanity.
  • Came Back Strong: Amos, who earlier had the entire top half of his head removed by multiple gunshots at short range, comes back to rescue Teresa and Holden as they wait for rescue. In doing so he takes multiple pistol rounds to his bare torso without slowing down.
  • David Versus Goliath: A recurring motif explicitly called out in the text itself, as a metaphor for Bobbie's crusade against Laconia. She has command of one of their smaller ships, which is powerful on its own, but would be little more than an annoyance to one of Laconia's Magnatar-class battleships in direct combat. When her crew intercepts some of the Laconian-produced anti-matter and replacement parts that suggest one of those battleship's has a sensor blindspot, "David" finds a way to make his sling shot fatal.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him:
    • Chrisjen Avasarala died of natural causes four months before the events of the book.
    • Subverted when Ilich and his men gun down Amos with little ceremony. Death can't keep Amos down.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Bobbie, having released her anti-matter charge and knowing she won't have the delta-v or thrust to Outrun the Fireball, decides that the best thing she can to is to distract her target from firing at her crew on The Gathering Storm. She dies facing down the deadliest battleship known to humanity in only her Powered Armor. The characters who mourn her after agree this was probably exactly how she wanted to go.
  • Hermit Guru: "Timmy", an older man who lives by himself in a cave on the mountainside overlooking the Laconian Palace. Teresa visits him when she sneaks out, where he dutifully listens to her and delivers unfiltered wisdom whenever she asks. He is of course, Amos, and is using his mountain hideaway to reconnoiter the Palace for the Underground.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Bobbie gives her life to destroy the Heart of the Tempest.
  • Left for Dead: Being shot several times in a close range firefight that literally removes the top of a person's head is generally a good way to ensure they are Deader Than Dead, which happens to Amos after Teresa accidentally leads Ilich and his men to him. But bodies left around Laconian-native repair drones don't tend to stay dead...
  • Made of Indestructium: The sphere at the center of the Slow Zone is directly hit by a gamma ray burst from a collapsing neutron star, a beam which is sufficient to even annihilate the ring gate it came through and the ring gate on the opposite side of the Zone. However, the sphere suffers no damage, successfully absorbing all the energy directed upon it. It does take several weeks to disperse all that energy though, during which time it glows like a sun before gradually fading.
  • No-Sell: While humans are resistant to the consciousness-breaking super-weapon of the Precursor Killers, the enemy has shown an ability to begin adapting the weapon to more effectively break human minds. On the other hand, the humans whose corpses were rebuilt by the repair drones seem to be entirely immune to the effect.
  • Out of Focus: Holden, who has been one of the main POV characters in every prior novel, is only the POV character of the prologue, epilogue, and a single intermission chapter. This is to prevent the audience from learning that Holden tricked Cortazar into attempting to murder Teresa until Elvi and Teresa learn this on their own.
  • Perilous Power Source: The magnetic beams on Laconia's Magnatar-class battleships require an immense amount of energy to fire (understandably as their output is on-par with a small pulsar neutron star.) This energy is provided by a matter/anti-matter reaction, with the anti-matter produced in their Protomolocule-driven shipyards. It would be a shame for them if the underground got their hands on some of it...
  • Pink Mist: Duarte's developing abilities with the protomolecule cause him turn Cortazar into this, despite his mind being damaged by the alien attack, due to the threat the latter represented to Teresa.
  • Real Name as an Alias: The pseudonym Amos uses when talking to Teresa, Timothy, is actually his birth name.
  • Wham Line:
    • The opening line of the book:
      Chrisjen Avasarala was dead.
    • When the reader learns exactly why everyone's been having trouble communicating with the slow zone:
      They found out why the repeater on the slow zone of the gate wasn't responding. It was gone, and so were all the other repeaters like it. And the Eye of the Typhoon. And Medina Station and all the ships that had been quarantined inside the ring space. Only the alien station at the center remained, glowing bright as a tiny sun.

Alternative Title(s): Leviathan Wakes, Nemesis Games, Calibans War, Abbadons Gate, Cibola Burn


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