The Reactor: A Review of Persepolis Rising – An Expanse Novel

By Miclpea
SPOILER ALERT-Do not read if you have not read Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey

Persepolis Rising is the seventh and latest book in the planned nine book Expanse series of novels by James S.A. Corey (Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham). Persepolis Rising is the third book in the Expanse series to have an ancient city in its title. Both Cibola Burn and Babylon’s Ashes used the name of ancient cities in their titles. Persepolis is the name of an ancient Persian city that was the capital of Persia before it was invaded and sacked by Alexander the Great. How this relates to the Expanse universe is revealed in the novel.

Cover Art for Persepolis Rising

The story takes place several years after the events in Babylon’s Ashes. The solar system and especially Earth have almost recovered from the devastation wrought by Marco and his Free Navy revolutionaries. An era of peace and prosperity seems to have broken out in the system and the colonies located through the gates. However, as with most of human existence, no peace lasts forever. There is a returning player who interrupts this new peace with his own vision for humankind: Winston Duarte.

The novel opens using the same format that readers have seen in previous books, where each chapter is told from the perspective of a different character. The first chapter is a prologue told from the point of view of Paolo Cortazar (see The Vital Abyss). Fans of the television show will remember him as the scientist captured in the raid on the Protogen facility and later taken by Anderson Dawes with the help of Diogo. In the novel Nemesis Games, Cortazar was taken with Duarte when he and a group of traitorous Martians fled the system via one of the gates to land on a planet called Laconia.

Cover Art for the Vital Abyss

Duarte managed to steal a sample of the Protomolecule when he fled the system and, with the help of Cortazar and the Martian scientists, he has unlocked many secrets of the Protomolecule on Laconia. Duarte and the Laconians used the knowledge they gained to build better warships. Cortazar, continuing the work he started back in the Sol system, has mutated a strain of the Protomolecule to modify humans. He has been injecting this mutated strain into Winston Duarte, which, of course, is changing Duarte and possibly making him immortal. And like any normal human being who has been injected with alien DNA, Duarte wants to rule humankind.

Back in the Sol system, Holden, Naomi, Amos, Bobbie, and Alex are older and in the process of making major changes to their lives. Holden and Naomi decide to retire after their last mission for Drummer, who is now President of the Transfer Union. The Transfer Union is responsible for all traffic through the gates. Bobbie is to become the new captain of the Rocinante. Clarissa Mao (Peaches) is still part of the Rocinante crew but her illegal body modifications are killing her. Duarte interjects his representatives into this milieu: Captain Santiago Jilie Singh and Admiral Trejo, who have been tasked to bring the new Laconian order to the Sol system and its colonies.

Captain Singh arrives in the Sol system aboard his ship, the Gathering Storm, which has hitched a ride through the Laconia gate on the behemoth Magnetar class warship, Heart of the Tempest. Both of these ships were built using Protomolecule technology. Upon disembarking from the Heart of the Tempest, the Gathering Storm heads for Medina Station, where they assault and take over the station. With the takeover of Medina Station, Duarte’s plan to subdue humanity and implement his new vision for mankind begins. Later, the Heart of the Tempest, which is commanded by Admiral Trejo, heads toward the inner planets to engage and subdue the Belt, Mars, and Earth. The result of their encounter is surprising for everyone involved!

The action as Holden, his crew, and allies struggle against the Laconians for their freedom and the freedom of the entire solar system is nonstop! Quite simply, the book is an exciting page turner. And yes, the fan favorite, Chrisjen Avasarala is back working behind the scenes to help guide the key players. She has “retired” from politics but she is still the same sharp-tongued operative whose intellect still serves her and the solar system well. And just to make the action even more interesting and exciting, the strange artifact which was last seen on Ilus (see Cibola Burn), that was built by another race of aliens to destroy the gate builders’ civilization, is back. With all of these great players, what could possibly go wrong, or right, or is there a third possibility that no one has considered?

Cover Art for Nemesis Games

Persepolis Rising returns to the exciting and epic space opera writing fans saw in Nemesis Games. Duarte is the best type of villain as he truly believes that he has the right to dictate to humankind how they will live in the future, since he is promising them a better life. The reality is that it appears as if Duarte is the truly rarest of beasts: a benevolent dictator. His policies, which govern Laconian society, hold each person, including himself, responsible for their actions. However, he suffers from the same “illness” which has plagued humankind since the discovery of the Protomolecule (and all of history for that matter): hubris. It is always instructive to remember that when gods fight, mortals die. The gods in this case will be the alien artifact and Winston Duarte. One can only hope that by the end of the series, humanity will survive. It is going to be very difficult to wait for the last two books as this novel feels more like Part 1 of a trilogy than a continuation of the Expanse series. Persepolis Rising is a reminder of why The Expanse is such a brilliant and popular series. I want the 8th and 9th books now! I don’t want to wait!

For those who may not be aware that there are other printed materials besides the novels in the Expanse universe, here is a list of the related novels, novellas, and comic books.

Novels in the Expanse universe: Leviathan Wakes, Caliban’s War, Abaddon’s Gate, Cibola Burn, Nemesis Game, Babylon’s Ashes, Persepolis Rising

Novellas in the Expanse universe: The Butcher of Anderson Station, Gods of Risk, Drive, The Churn, The Vital Abyss, Strange Dogs

Comic Books in the Expanse universe: The Expanse Origins: James Holden, The Expanse Origins: Naomi Nagata, The Expanse Origins: Alex Kamal, The Expanse Origins: Amos Burton
Graphic Novel-February 2018

Of course, DO NOT FORGET about the BRILLIANT television show based on the novels and novellas called The Expanse on the SYFY network.


I love going to conventions around the US. I'm an ardent fan of all things science fiction and especially The Expanse. I write for Friends of CC and I have written a science fiction script with a friend.