It has been a long time since I have enjoyed a work as thoroughly as I have enjoyed The Expanse. I started watching the television series (all seasons 1-6) and then moved on to the books. Even though the series is very much science fiction, it uses a much broader lens to look into the future of humanity than what we normally find in the genre.
Some of the things that I really liked about it:
Other Life Forms
Almost every science fiction series that tackles the idea of life forms that did not originate from the earth inevitably take the lazy route and imagine them to be humanoid forms that evolved differently from how humans evolved on earth. Or they wind up looking like variants of the things Sigourney Weaver took on in the Alien movie.
There are the rare exceptions to this in some of fictional works, but the norm is to fall into this trap and it does tremendous disservice to the fact that what life looks like on earth is due to a series of circumstances that and a set of variables that, on a galactic scale, is not easily replicated as the universe itself contains so many different combinations of these variations.
The Expanse does not go into a lot of detail as to what the other life forms the characters in the story have been impacted by look like. The most consistent presence is of the ‘protomolecule’ that present itself in a form that looks nothing like human beings and they work differently too.
Space travel in science fiction often show vessels with human beings zipping through galaxies, starting as a blip in one galaxy and reappearing another blip in a different galaxy. And the living beings on those ships carry on as if they display no physiological effects of moving themselves through space at these speeds. The slightly smarter shows work around this by putting the characters in some sort of cryostorage or suspended in some kind of liquid that protects them from the ill-effects.
The ‘burn’ in The Expanse, and the rate of it, is well thought-out and it impacts the characters and the story line in greater detail than what they could have easily gotten away with. The physics of space and its constraints are very real and it is good to see a work of fiction that takes it into account to the extent that The Expanse does.
Most of the story, without the use of the gates (some kind of wormhole), is based within the solar system. Even with the ‘Epstein Drives’ humanity still takes a long time to get to the outer limits of the solar system. This allows for faster mode of travel, but not that fast that we are able to ignore the limits of laws of physics and human biology as we know it.
Continuing the idea of the laws of physics in space, it is important to realize that at the scale of outer space everything — time, space — changes. Things we take for granted, like ‘locality’ is different in space when you expand the scope of it to even a little bit outside the inner planets.
To make things happen at the same time in those space, or to make something local in far flung areas in space at the same time, you need access to a different dimension from the ones we are used to. Not having access to that makes it impossible to project power in a meaningful manner.
Being Wrong While Doing Right
There are no outright evil characters in the series. Everyone is wrong and right at different times during their individual stories and they often do things that are wrong, but with the right intention. Just as in real life, even the people in the wrong believe they are doing right thing, because they believe that their intended outcome is noble.