Nemesis Games by James SA Corey 4/5 Stars Thrilling 5th book full of character developement, high stakes all around and huge shattering events. I could not put it down!
4 Stars,  Books

Nemesis Games (The Expanse #5) by James S.A. Corey

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4/5 Stars – Book 5 had me staying up far too late! This one is a game changer in the series.

Format: Kindle (while my other half reads the paperback)
Read: October 2017 and January 2024

I finally got to Book 5 in The Expanse series! We’re making slow progress because I’m buddy reading with my partner, and sometimes it takes us a while to sync up to start a new book.

I first read Nemesis Games in 2017, and I remembered that it felt like a return to the BIG DRAMATIC SPACE STUFF, after I found Books 3 and 4 enjoyable but not as exciting as Books 1 and 2. It is also the book that contains the Big Event that changes the course of humanity forever.

Once of the things that I like about this series is that the authors are willing to switch things up. The first two books were galaxy wide investigations and conspiracies, then book three focused more on humanity facing the unknown but the threat to The Roci was more localised. Then book 4 shrunk down its setting all the way down to a claustrophobic single planet, focusing on the survival of a group of warring colonists. Through all of these adventures the crew have been together, or at least in communication, but book 5 splits them up.

The Roci needs a lot of repairs after everything she went through in book 4 and is grounded on Tycho for a couple of months. Amos, Alex and Naomi decided to use the downtime to pursue their own personal missions, leaving Holdon behind with the ship. Amos goes to Earth, Alex to Mars and Naomi to answer the call of her Belter ex-boyfriend who is an extremist fringe leader in the OPA. For the first time we get POVs from every member of the crew! There is a lot of character development in this one, and I loved it.

I have been very happy to finally get a Naomi POV because so far we have only had Holdon’s view of her, along with this starry eyed tendency toward romanticising, there is a lot that he doesn’t know. Now we find out about her past, and how someone as brilliantly talented and smart as she is ended up The Canterbury. I enjoyed her character growth as she faces the narcissistic, manipulative ex-boyfriend from hell and recognises how much she has changed in the intervening years. I also liked that even though we now we know she is a mother, she remains pragmatic and realistic and doesn’t sacrifice her own wellbeing for a child that she does not have the power to help. Maybe she would be able to reach him in the future, but right now there is nothing she can do and he would only be used against her. I’m glad that the book did not have her wallowing in that. Naomi definitely moved up to be one of my favourite characters.

I have always found Amos an interesting character in how simple he is. There is not a lot of depth to him, but he is acutely away of his shortcomings and monitors himself closely. This book explores how his horrifying childhood growing up in the streets of Baltimore gave him an instinct for survival and violence, and how those skills are certainly useful in some situations. His time with the crew on the Roci has developed a growing empathy, and I do like his friendship with Peaches and his desire to help her. If you read this book you might feel like a chunk of background to Amos, Erich and the oft mentioned Lydia is missing from the story. It is, there is a novella called The Churn that goes into all that. I did read that one, but kind of wish I didn’t – would rather I didn’t know about Timmy and Lydia to be honest!

Alex I can still take or leave. We learn he’s something of a clueless, self-absorbed idiot when it comes to relationships and generally lacks direction outside of piloting the Roci. I was glad his plan to drop in on his ex-wife went as it did! The best part of Alex’s chunk of this book is that they include Bobbi, and I love some Bobbi. Likewise Holdon‘s chapters were a bit bland. He stays behind on Tycho generally moping and making a few classic Holdon blunders, but he has finally learned that blurting out the truth on galaxy wide broadcasts is not always the best course of action. I did like that the events in this book made him grow up in regard to his relationship with Naomi too, I always love a bit of open and honest communication – that the stuff of romance for me!

The plot of this one turns up the stakes for the future of humanity by a significant magnitude, but everything happens off page and completely outside the control of any of our characters. There are of course some wins for the crew, but they are small in comparison. I actually like this. The crew being split up and away from The Roci already felt “wrong” and then as events spin out of even the control of our usual power players, it really heightens the tension. I could not put down the last half of this book!

Having been on a re-read and knowing what was to come in this book I have been able to spot clues dropped into the earlier books about what might be lurking in the shadows – they were there, this didn’t all drop out of nowhere.

I am not awarding it 5 stars because I did find the first 50% a bit slow, it does take quite a while before it kicks off.. but once it does, oh boy! There are also a lot of incredibly close calls and superhuman feats that allow characters to survive in a way that really stretch the edges of believability! I just have to remind myself that – as the book jackets like to boast – these books are really like “blockbuster” movies but with better character development and a more realistic feeling world than you might expect.

The next books is Baylon’s Ashes, not sure when I’ll be able to start it because I’m not again waiting for my partner to finish!

REVIEW SUMMARY

I LIKED

  • Sky high emotional stakes and events that will change the course of the series.
  • Very happy to have separate POV chapters for each member of the crew, at long last.
  • Lots of character development! (I now love Naomi)
  • Runaway, snowballing tension that made it unputdownable!
  • Payoff for easily overlooked breadcrumbs in earlier books.

I DIDN’T LIKE

  • The first half is a bit slow.
  • At times stretches the limits of believability!

You can read my thoughts on the previous 4 books here.

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