Leviathan Falls: Epic Conclusion to the Expanse Series

The 9th and final book of The Expanse series, Leviathan Falls, couldn’t pick up the story from the previous installment – Tiamat’s Wrath – in a more seamless fashion. As told in the preceding release, Captain Holden has reunited with his crew aboard the Rocinante, whereas the Laconian Empire is in disarray. Teresa, daughter of the empire’s High Consul Winston Duarte, is also on the ship trying to escape the chaos of war. Now that Duarte becomes rendered lethargic due to deliberate direct exposure to protomolecule, Admiral Trejo assumes temporary leadership of the empire.

Leviathan Falls
Since the earliest discovery of protomolecule and the emergence of wormhole networks known as the “Ring” that connects over 1300 worlds across the universe, Captain James Holden has been busy deciphering the secrets of both the infectious agent and the Ring Builders. He needs to figure out who the Ring Entities are. One thing is believed to be true: the Ring Entities killed the Ring Builders, presumably for using protomolecule to create the wormhole networks in the first place and encroaching far away worlds. If the Entities had the power to annihilate the Builders, for sure they shouldn’t find it challenging enough to send humanity on an expedited course toward extinction. Only when the mysteries are unfolded, that humans can afford a tiny chance of survival.

In the meantime, the humans’ continued use of the Ring for space colonization has brought about unexplained peculiarities, from minor space-travel annoyances to large-scale disasters such as the disappearance of exploration ships and the destruction of space stations.

Leviathan Falls kicks off the story knowing that the Laconian Empire’s ambition to be the single absolute ruler of the galaxy became shattered by insurrection. Admiral Trejo, currently in charge of the system, has a brief encounter with the already recovered Duarte, during which the High Consul implies he has a grand plan to save humanity from a much bigger enemy. Trejo loses trace of Duarte afterwards. In frantic, he sends the bloodthirsty Colonel Tanaka on a search mission and gives her pretty much whatever it takes – both authority and weapon power – to succeed.

Part of what makes Colonel Tanaka the perfect officer for the job is that she has no hesitation to take a few or more lives for the sake of the mission. Left without a clue on Duarte’s whereabouts, she quickly determines that her best chance to locate the High Consul is to find his daughter first. Teresa is aboard the Rocinante with Holden and his crew, so what follows is a series of constant pursuit, near capture, and repeated escape with armed confrontations in between.

Duarte is nowhere to be found, but it doesn’t mean he escapes the battle. The High Consul is still fighting on multiple fronts. He has known all along that the Ring Entities, also known as Dark Gods or Goths, were never fond of the idea of Ring Builders creating a wormhole network to connect thousands of worlds. For the network to function as intended – billions of years ago and present day – there needs to be some drastic alterations to the laws of physics, making space-time jump an easily achievable feat.

The wormhole network requires a monumental amount of energy to power the gates/bridges that connect thousands of worlds. Back then, the Ring Builders lived as a Hive Mind and infiltrated older universes to harvest all resources necessary to run and maintain the gates. As time went on and the Builders’ civilization grew larger, the Hive Mind spanned beyond the imaginable limit.

It might be an astounding accomplishment for them, but a clear and brazen breach of protocol in the eyes of the Dark Gods, who then eliminated the Builders but not the network itself. Billions of years have passed since those days.

When the Ring Network re-emerged in the sky of Venus (Leviathan Wakes, the first book in the series), the Dark Gods saw it as another instance of violation and would punish anyone or anything using it. Only this time, the violators are humans. There have been signs of powerful entities in the Ring, but humanity was too busy waging war with each other to notice the existential threat.

Both Captain and Holden Tanaka learn Duarte is most likely in the Ring Station, at the center of the Slow Zone. Duarte, despite his ruthlessness, may actually prove the solution given his engineered ability to merge with a protomolecule. Everyone realizes that the High Consul is planning to create a hive mind for humanity, imitating what the Ring Builders did long ago and giving some sort of effective defense against the Dark Gods, at the expense of erasing individuality and the nature of humanity.

Duarte’s effort almost comes to fruition with many people experiencing events from others’ memories. Tanaka puts an end to his life before too late and frees everybody’s consciousness. However, Duarte’s death also removes the only workable protection for humans from the Dark Gods.

Holden to the Rescue

The series hero, Captain James Holden, is about to walk a path he never travelled before. He injects himself with a protomolecule to gain control over the Ring Station and keep the Dark Gods at bay, just long enough to give everyone a chance to escape the imminent destruction. All must escape to an established system: Amos and Naomi head to the Solar System, whereas Alex takes the Rocinante to Nieuwestad to meet with his family. The real irony here is how Holden breaks character as he decides for all humanity. He destroys the gates, and with that, all the worlds previously connected to the gates become unbound. The colony systems everywhere are on their own. There are no more Dark Gods to worry about; the only thing left to do now is survive to and rebuild human civilization.

We think the biggest message from The Expanse series is how humans never really changed as a species from ancient times to the far-flung future. Humans are prone to conflicts and they have tendencies to engage in battle with each other. The only difference is that The Expanse gives 1300 worlds, and therefore chances to learn from history and be better humans.

Have you read Leviathan Falls? Do you think the series concludes well with the ninth book? We’d love to hear from you.

Other things you might want to know:

A list of novellas and short stories to complement the series:

  • Drive (2012)
  • The Churn (2014)
  • The Butcher of Anderson Station (2011)
  • The Last Flight of the Cassandra (2019)
  • Gods of Risk (2012)
  • The Vital Abyss (2015)
  • Strange Dogs (2017)
  • Auberon (2019)
  • The Sins of Our Fathers (2022)

Books like The Expanse series:

  • The Mars Trilogy – Kim Stanley Robinson
  • The Culture Series – Iain Banks
  • The Night’s Dawn Trilogy – Peter F. Hamilton
  • Remembrance of Earth’s Past Trilogy – Liu Cixin
  • Dread Empire’s Fall Trilogy – Walter Jon Williams
  • Heechee Saga – Frederik Pohl

What is James S. A. Corey’s newer book?

There is not yet another big series by the author. However, Corey has written “How It Unfolds” published in 2023. The book tells the story of space colonization with some romance and fun science. It is part of “The Far Reaches” collection.

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