The Mysteries of Abaddon’s Gate: A Deep Dive into the Third Book of The Expanse Series

The solar system civilization made-up of the Earthers, the Martians, and the Belters has just defeated the threats of engineered proto-molecule monsters attacking Ganymede in the Asteroid Belt and putting the three societies on the brink of galactic war. As hinted in the previous book, however, the struggles and sacrifices to overcome the challenges are only the beginning of a larger imminent danger. Here’s a deeper look at the best seller: Abaddon’s Gate.

Abaddon's Gate

A sudden hike of proto-molecule activity on Venus brings about the emergence of strange structures in the atmosphere. In their final form, the structures form a massive wormhole – located two AU beyond the orbits of Uranus – that connects the solar system to stars beyond the known universe. The ring-shaped wormhole, subsequently referred to simply as “The Ring,” is roughly 1000km in diameter. All three major powers in the solar system have built stations nearby the portal to keep an eye on each other.

Events in Abaddon’s Gate take place a year after the ending of Caliban’s War. The Asteroid Belt is in a perilous food shortage situation because Ganymede can only yield a quarter of its normal production, and Venus is now a dead planet. Despite the troubles, the Rocinante has been doing pretty well with a profitable cargo ship business. Captain Holden deliberately takes a job as far away as possible from The Ring but it doesn’t work out as expected and he must go back to the centre of the problem again; and this, too, does not go quite as planned.

Somewhere inside The Ring, there is a peculiarity called the Slow Zone filled with hundreds if not thousands of gates leading to the unknown. Some gates are open, while others remain shut. No one knows exactly what will happen if humans enter a gate where it will take them. Because the three major powers also are reluctant to trust each other, it is James Holden who once again hurdles the Rocinante into the Slow Zone.

To get a glimpse of the story, it is best to look into the characters and their motivations. Chapters in the book rotate through the perspectives of four main characters:

  • James Holden: initially reluctant to even get close to The Ring, the captain eventually accepts the request from Monica Stuart (UN Public Broadcasting) to take her team of journalists into the portal. And Detective Miller is back, in some sort of apparition that only Captain Holden can see and hear. Each time Miller comes to Holden’s senses, the latter questions his own sanity. Miller only reveals himself when Holden is alone. If someone else from the actual reality enters the room, the apparition disappears. Miller claims to be the only one who can access control of The Ring’s defense system, but he needs Holden’s help to do that.
  • Clarissa “Claire” Mao: using a fake identity as Melba Koh to make her way into The Ring aboard a civilian ship Cerisier, Claire is determined to kill Holden for taking down her father Julie-Pierre Mao. Disguising herself as a technician and coming to the scene with an elaborate plan to discredit Captain Holden, her characters will come as close to full circle as they can get by the end of the book.
  • Carlos c de Baca (Bull): a former UN Marine who has now joined the OPA, Bull holds the position of XO on the generation ship Behemoth. Because of his history as Earther, he never sees eye-to-eye with Captain Ashford.
  • Annushka “Anna” Volovodov: a pastor from Europa chosen by the UN to join a civilian expedition aboard the UNN Thomas Prince into The Ring. Her religious belief will intertwine with Claire’s fate once her sinister plan unfolds.
A major part of Claire’s evil scenario is to frame Holden for the near destruction of the UNN investigative vessel Seung Un. Assuming the plan works as intended, Rocinante will take the blame and gets attacked by Behemoth. The sabotage fails because Holden stays away from any hostility and flees into The Ring instead. Claire makes her way as a volunteer to the UNN Thomas Prince, where she encounters Anna. Communication between the ships, both military and civilians, finally reveals that Claire is behind the attack on Seung Un. She also sends a fake broadcast of Captain Holden claiming responsibility.

Meanwhile, at the Ring Station, where nothing travels at a maximum speed of 600m/s (meters per second) in the center of The Ring, Holden and Miller deactivate the defense system and open all the gates. Nothing hostile comes out (for now), but Miller tells Holden that it is not yet completely safe.

Claire is not immediately arrested for her crimes because Holden refuses to take her to Luna for a fair trial. Instead, she is now repairing the damages that Rocinante has to sustain due to her actions.

We think the aptly titled Abaddon’s Gate opens the door to a much larger universe in The Expanse series. Now that The Ring becomes practically a free quick portal to everywhere beyond the solar system, the story is no longer confined in the Milky Way galaxy and its political conflicts. Abaddon’s Gate might even work well as a stand-alone novel thanks to an assortment of fresh characters and an already familiar base storyline. Apart from Holden, Miller, and the crew, all characters in Abaddon’s Gate were never mentioned in the previous books. Readers have an easy chance to catch up with the story and learn some new interpersonal conflicts.

Have you read Abaddon’s Gate? How do you think it compares to Leviathan Wakes and Caliban’s War? We’d love to hear from you.

Other things you might want to know:

Has Abaddon’s Gate received any award?

Abaddon’s Gate won a Locus Award in the Best Sci-Fi Novel category in 2014.

Is there an audiobook version?

An unabridged audiobook of Abaddon’s Gate was released at the same time as the original version. It is about 19 hours long and narrated by Jefferson Mays.

Other books to complement the storyline:

  • Gods of Risk (2012) by James A. Corey
  • The Vital Abyss (October 2015) by James A. Corey

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