When I was a kid, I fell in love with the books of Robert Heinlein. RH was considered the dean of science fiction. A former naval academy graduate that served on an aircraft carrier during the 1930’s, he later designed aircraft during World War II, worked as an Engineer back when it was bad-ass and later became one of the most famous science fiction writers ever. Most people know him for Starship Troopers, an enormously influential book that is on the Army’s reading list decades later. He was also a counter-culture icon during the 70’s due to his ideas about free love and strong feminist characters. Interestingly, he was also a hero to a generation of Libertarians with his themes of fighting oppressive governments, personal responsibility, civic responsibility and individualism (side note: I wish Tea Partiers idolized Robert Heinlein rather than the mythological demon love child of Ayn Rand and Grover Norquist; I might have actually bought into their ‘Party’ had they gone that route). One thing about RH, he sure did have range.
However, the RH I fell in love with were the books he first wrote in the 1940s and 50s. He wrote young adult books back before JK Rowling made it cool again. His books were very 1950s with strong-jawed and noble heroes falling in love with beautiful science ladies. Together they would blast off in rocket ships, teamed up with precocious but brilliant children to fight aliens, slavery, Fascists and all the evils of the universe with ray guns, guts, and moxie. Have Spacesuit will Travel, Citizen of the Galaxy, and Podkayne of Mars were favorites and I could not get enough of them. The best part was despite the fact that they were classic pulp fiction, RH never spoke down to his readers. He made it a point with his editors that ‘Kids were smarter than we give them credit’, and his books were far more ‘adult’ than what you would expect for that day and age. Sure, they were good clean wholesome fun, but you also got a sense that things could be complex, possibly even dangerous if it were not for actions of heroes of the story.
So what does this has to do with ‘Leviathan Awakes’ by author J.A. Corey? Well, let me put it like this. In the past year, I have read a lot of books and I would say that the most emotionally charged and gut wrenching writing was done by Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself. The best world building award belongs to Kim Stanley Robinson. The most visionary goes to Ramez Naam’s Nexus and Patrick Rothfuss simply tells the best stories. Corey’s book is not going to win any awards in comparison with those other stories.
But here’s the thing. Much like RH, Corey’s writing is good old pulp Space Opera polished up for a new millennium…and best of all, it is fun. It is the sort of book where the characters are not particularly complex. The good guys are good guys and the bad guys are bad. Heroes do what needs to be done with a heart of gold, tarnished a little bit because it is a modern story, but golden even beneath the smudges. It is the type of book where the good guys trade one liners in the middle of a firefight and while the story can get serious, there is always a sly wink and a witty smirk on every page. Reading Corey is like reading something out of the golden age of science fiction and I for one am glad someone is still holding the torch for those us that still remember what it was like to pretend to play with ray guns and rocket ships.