The Final Novel in the Expanse Series
“My destiny calls and I go”
With the publishing of the novel, Leviathan Falls, the epic Expanse series comes to a perfect, but heart-wrenching, end. The crew of the Rocinante once again saves humanity with Holden making a final sacrifice that comes at a tremendous cost to him, his family aboard the Rocinante, and humanity. Even in the midst of this cosmic crisis, the authors remind readers of the human element with one final bittersweet, bright spot as they bring back a favorite character one last time.
Throughout the series, the crew of the Rocinante, from the Canterbury to Eros to Ilus to Adro, have fought for what they believe to be just, while led by the inimitable James Holden. In Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare wrote: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.” I would argue that Holden has had greatness thrust upon him. In contrast, there is Duarte, a person who has chosen greatness.
Under Duarte’s leadership, a faction of Mar’s Navy acquired a sample of the Protomolecule, kidnapped the scientist best able to use it, created havoc in the Solar System by arming Marco, escaped through the Gates, and established a dictatorship that eventually ruled the entire Gate system.
Duarte was possibly the rarest of birds: a benevolent dictator. Heinlein had postulated that this would be the most efficient and probably the best government. The government that Duarte established on Laconia was a military dictatorship based on merit. Duarte’s undoing came when his effort to provoke the alien intelligence responsible for the demise of the Gate builders succeeded. They responded by unleashing a powerful weapon that wreaked chaos and devastation throughout the Gate system.
After almost being destroyed by the alien weapon, Duarte returned as something greater. His expanded awareness and greater abilities enabled him to see a solution that would end the creatures trying to destroy humanity. Unfortunately, his solution involved an evolution into a hivemind. This loss of individuality for many, especially Colonel Tanaka (a Martian marine with many secrets), was a price too high to pay.
The future of humanity would be decided by two very different men: one with a galactic scope, the other with a very human focus.
Duarte’s vision for the future encompassed the entire galaxy. He saw a possible future where the hivemind, with universal awareness of every human’s thoughts, memories, and feelings, would conquer the galaxy, and possibly the Universe. Duarte forced this hivemind throughout the Gate system, with little compassion and regard about the effect of being part of a hivemind would have on the populace. Some people, such as Colonel Tanaka, were deeply troubled, while others were just confused and afraid as they tried to separate their thoughts and memories from others.
Holden, on the other hand, understood that this solution to the alien threat was being forced by Duarte on an ignorant populace. Holden wanted all of humanity to make a decision on this option after it had weighed all of the options and consequences. Although he did not have the level of awareness that Duarte possessed, Holden did not trust the hivemind solution, since it originated with the Builders of the Gate system. Eventually, Holden sacrificed himself and destroyed the Gate system.
Duarte’s plan to unite humanity as a hivemind was far from perfect. However, what if the hivemind was the correct evolutionary path? Holden’s belief that each person should individually make decisions, with limited understanding and empathy regarding their fellow beings, may seem provincial when perceived through a galactic lens. History (as well as events in the Expanse novels) says that the cost of humanity’s indifference to the suffering of others would point to the hivemind as a better solution.
Should Duarte’s vision of humanity have won this battle? After all, he was the brilliant leader of Laconia whose mutated awareness encompassed the entire Gate system. However, he was up against the proverbial farm boy from Montana. Duarte did not have a chance since, as any reader of fantasy knows, the farm boy always prevails.
But Holden was more than the proverbial farm boy. He was a seasoned leader who, with the help of his crew, had overcome incredible odds to make it as far as he did. He knew the true cost of his sacrifice and he made it willingly. He realized that the hivemind was the wrong solution to the problem of the aliens. Also, he suspected that the hivemind was an evolutionary dead-end. The prologue with Amos in the future tends to vindicate Holden’s choice.
The journey for Holden, Naomi, Alex, and Amos was long and very difficult. They lost so many friends: Josephus Miller, Julie Mao, Chrisjen Avasarala, Bobbie Draper, Clarissa “Peaches” Mao, and Fred Johnson. In the end, they were all true to their natures. Holden made the ultimate sacrifice and Naomi, because of her love and respect for Holden, accepted his choice. Alex decided to go live with his son and Amos, as indicated in the epilogue, was the ultimate survivor. And, in his final moments, Miller returned to guide Holden.
Leviathan Falls is the culmination of an epic nine novel series whose ending is bittersweet, while at the same time quite satisfying. The ten-year journey from the publication of Leviathan Wakes to the publication of Leviathan Falls, along with the many novellas and television series, has been extraordinary because this type of epic and successful cross-media collaboration is unique. It is sad to say farewell to such great friends, yet all good things must come to an end.