Cibola Burn by James S. A. Corey

Filed under:Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on May 13, 2021 @ 3:55 pm

This is the fourth Book in The Expanse series. In this book, a Belter ship has gotten through the ring to a planet in a new star system. Having established a foundling colony, a company ship arrives with scientists and a private army claiming rights to the planet. The planet has an incredibly large deposit of lithium which the colonists expect to make them wealthy. The planet also harbors some alien artifacts.

When the company, Royal Charter Energy (RCE), arrives, a small independent team of the colonists attempts to destroy the only landing zone. Their bomb explodes as a shuttle is attempting to land causing it to crash killing most onboard.

The company hired Murphy to lead the expedition. He is a gung-ho ex-military type who displays sociopathic characteristics. He uses the shuttle’s destruction to start a campaign of bullying the colonists and killing them with the slightest provocation.

Mars and the UN cooperate to hire Jim Holden and the Rocinante to act as a mediator and try to understand and make peace between the two factions, they give him a lot of liberty to broker deals.

Presumably, the human activity activates the alien tech on the planet. An apparent meltdown unleashes a tidal wave and a high-speed shockwave threatening the colony. Then Fusion stops working, threatening all the ships in orbit.

One of the side-stories is that Murphy configures one of his shuttles as a guided bomb. Then he starts training some of his more extreme personnel as a space military. Alex discovers the shuttle modifications and Noami suits up to set up a remote shut-down on the shuttle. She is caught and imprisoned by Murhpy’s men. A rescue attempt succeeds only when one of Murphy’s men is enticed to change sides.

Miller guides Holden through the alien tech, revealing that it has failed and needs to be corrected. Holden has no choice but to go along if he is to save the three ships in orbit and have any chance of surviving. This exacerbates his problems both with Murphy and with the colonists. The colonists accuse Jim of holding information back in an effort to keep control over the situation. Some suggest he is controlling the tech as problems didn’t start until he arrived. Murphy suspects ulterior motives and follows Holden with the intent to stop (kill) him.

Overall, the book had too many characters to keep track of. But the story maintains a good pace, picking up as it moves along. It is well-told and maintains a good level of action and suspense all along.

Chrisjen Avasarala and Bobby Draper make minor appearances at the end foreshadowing the next book. I feel these characters add a lot to the stories and this suggests they will have a continued appearance in the next books.

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace