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Literature / The Expanse

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"There are two sides in this, but they aren't inner planets and outer ones. Belters and everyone else. It's not like that. It's the people who want more violence and the ones who want less. And no matter what other variable you sample out of, you'll find some of both."
Naomi Nagata, Nemesis Games

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.

The series consists of the following novels:

The novellas The Butcher of Anderson Station, Gods of Risk, The Vital Abyss, The Churn, Strange Dogs, Auberon, and The Sins of Our Fathers 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 was released in 2022.

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 authors are currently at work on a new series with elements of Science Fantasy called The Captive's War. The first novel, The Mercy of Gods is set for release on August 6th, 2024.

The Expanse series contains examples of:

  • A Day in the Limelight: Many of the novellas shift the focus to characters who don't get many, if any, POV chapters:
    • "The Butcher of Anderson Station" is about Fred Johnson and Anderson Dawes, their backgrounds, and their motivations.
    • "The Churn" is about Amos's backstory.
    • "The Vital Abyss" depicts how Corázar went from being an idealistic medical student to a sociopathic doctor.
  • Alien Geometries: Anything the protomolecule creates, naturally, which includes the Ring Station and the ruins on Ilus/New Terra.
  • All Planets Are Earthlike: Averted. While many of the colony worlds superficially resemble Earth's environments in certain ways it's repeatedly stressed that humans are unable to safely eat the native flora and fauna and that many colonies are reliant on imported food and soil for their survival. Auberon, mentioned as one of the few that can easily support Earth crops without any intensive effort, quickly becomes one of the most populous and wealthy worlds after the time skip.
  • 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.
  • Ambiguous Ending: "The Sins of Our Fathers" ends without letting the reader know if Filip will survive his five-year exile or if the settlement itself will survive.
  • 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. The Miller apparition was largely exempt, as it was made by the protomolecule to investigate the gate shutdown.
  • 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 Abaddon'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.
    • In Leviathan Falls, Tanaka and Duarte suffer a Mutual Kill, and Holden sacrifices himself to shut the ring station down permanently. By the Distant Finale, everyone is dead except Amos.
  • 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.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Holden and his crew continually get caught up in larger historical events, frequently influencing the outcome.
  • 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."
  • Book Ends: On the immediate level, the first and last book being called Leviathan Rises and Leviathan Falls, respectively. Leviathan Rises explores humanity's first contact with alien technology whose consequences it barely understands, while Leviathan Falls brings its greater influence to a close as the ring space created by said technology is shut down by Holden to save mankind from extinction.
  • 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.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Razorback is first mentioned in Leviathan Wakes, only to play a critical role in Caliban's War and later again in Babylon's Ashes.
    • In Nemesis Games, it's revealed that a large number of military and civilian ships have gone missing. The military ships were stolen by Marco Inaros and become the major threat through Babylon's Ashes. The civilian ships, however, just vanished, and the mystery of what happens to them becomes very relevant later in the series.
  • Civil War vs. Armageddon: The Earth-Mars Coalition breaks down into interplanetary war and the Belters openly rebel against both planets due to the machinations of a MegaCorp 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, both because it's wasting its potential talent and because a generations-long Brain Drain is pulling the best and brightest to Mars.
    • Any Belter settlement, and the Belt in general at the start of the series. Vital services are provided by ruthless corporations that put profit far ahead of people, justice is laughably rare, and the inner planets manipulate economic conditions so that it's impossible for Belters to get ahead. Life expectancy in the Belt is abysmal compared to Earth and Mars. About the only nice places are those micro-managed by megacorporations, like Tycho Station and Ganymede.
    • Later in the series, Mars. After the ring gates open up hundreds of planets for colonization, all of them more livable than Mars, millions of Martians decide their world is a dead end and abandon it. Mars increasingly becomes a ghost planet, with both its government and its people realizing its time has passed.
  • Dawn of an Era: At the end of Abaddon's Gate, Holden shuts down the ring station's security protocol, which opens over a thousand gates to other worlds, many of which are habitable. The next few books deal with the consequences of this.
  • 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.
  • The Dreaded Dreadnought: Magnetar-class battleships, deployed by Laconia. They're huge, bristling with cutting-edge weapons, capable of self-repair, strong enough to tank nuclear weaponry, and pack a Wave-Motion Gun that can obliterate a city-sized ship at the atomic level in a second.
  • 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 Earth. The core issue is that the artificial ecosystems that support human life in space are incredibly fragile; they cannot be started or maintained without biological material shipped up from Earth.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Precursor Killers listed below definitely qualify. Whatever they are, they seem to exist largely outside of dimensional space, and attack either by firing anti-consciousness weaponry or erasing spaceships out of existence entirely. Elvi Okoye is a witness to the latter in Tiamat's Wrath.
  • Eldritch Location: In Leviathan Falls, it's revealed that the ring station and the slow zone exist in a different universe, with different fundamental laws. It draws power from the conflict between the laws of our universe and the next, and the Precursor Killers are not happy that it's being used again.
  • Fantastic Slurs: "Dusters" for Martians, "skinnies" for Belters and "Squats" for Earthers.
  • Fate Worse than Death: For the Earth elites, being threatened with a life on Basic Assistance is considered this. Of course, to Belters, a life of guaranteed food and shelter sounds like paradise (ignoring the unsafe living conditions, the high crime rates, the lack of social mobility, and other mitigating factors).
  • 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.
  • Fooled by the Sound: In the short story "Strange Dogs", as Cara runs off into the woods at night, she records a feigned cry for help on her tablet and drops it to fool her parents as she runs in another direction.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: The Roci's crew.
    • Holden: Melancholic.
    • Naomi: Phlegmatic.
    • Amos: Choleric.
    • Alex: Sanguine.
  • 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.
  • Generation Ships: At the start of the series, the Nauvoo, a generation ship commissioned by the Mormons, is nearing completion at Tycho Station. It's later stolen to use as a ram to throw Eros into the sun, retrofitted into a warship and renamed Behemoth, then ends up as Medina Station, a waystation in the slow zone. Ultimately, the dark gods destroy it in Tiamat's Wrath.
  • Genre Throwback: The authors describe the series as a renewal of old school Space Opera with both the science and the tropes updated for the 21st century.
  • 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 its 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 MegaCorp 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.
  • Magnetic Plot Device: Holden effectively becomes one due to his many experiences with the protomolecule. For example, if any other diplomat had been sent to Ilus they wouldn't have activated the planetary defense systems. Later, Holden gets special treatment by the Laconians after triggering alarms on the Medina because Holden was the only person to have interacted with the Ring Station and Duarte wanted information on 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.
  • MegaCorp: 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 Rights includes a provision for a union representative as well as (or in place of) a lawyer for a suspect upon arrest.
  • 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 Mutant: 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.
  • Nuclear Torch Rocket: the Epstein Drive, a kind of fusion rocket that can generate multiple G's of thrust. During which everyone sits on couches and takes drugs in order to survive the crushing force.
  • Obsolete Occupation: Most Belters make a living from mining asteroids, and the Martian Congressional Republic likewise keeps people together largely through the prospect of turning Mars into a garden world, so when a Portal Network shows up connecting the Solar System with over 1300 worlds —many of them hosting planets rich in resources and breathable atmosphere— those two groups suddenly find themselves in quite a bind.
  • 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.
  • Pocket Rocket Launcher: Most weapons are recoilless (a typo in the first book labels them "reactionless") pistol-sized rocket launchers, usually mounted on the wrist of a suit of Powered Armor; sometimes in a three-barreled minigun configuration.
  • 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.
    • The authors did not appear to be aware of how much water is in Ceres - it's estimated to be at least 25% water and have more water than Earth. Yet the inhabitants of Ceres need to import water (where is their water going? it should be a closed system and the only way water would be lost is it it was vented to space or broken down into hyrdroogen and oxygen)
    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.”
  • Security Blindspot: In Tiamat's Wrath, La Résistance discovers the Laconian dreadnought occupying the Solar System has a blind spot in its sensor array and promptly plans an attack on that dreadnought using an antimatter core that was meant to power it.
  • 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.
  • Theme Naming: Many of the Laconian warships, particularly their Storm-class destroyers, are named after meteorological phenomena (Gathering Storm, Monsoon, Mammatus, Rising Shamal, etc.).
  • 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 never shows up again, only getting a brief mention in Leviathan Falls, which reveals that Naomi still thinks he died with Marco.
    • While his daughter plays a significant role in Tiamat's Wrath and Leviathan Falls, Payne Houston barely gets a mention after the Roci turns him over to the Transport Union.
  • 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.

Alternative Title(s): Abbadons Gate