BOOK REVIEW: Memory’s Legion, by James S. A. Corey

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
  • A collection of 6 novellas and 2 short stories, all set in the universe of The Expanse
  • Published by Orbit in 2022
  • Space Opera with a Hard SF edge
  • 418 pages

Earth, Mars. The Belt. Laconia. Beyond. As humanity reaches across the stars, there are countless stories to be told. Countless lives to lead. Here are but a handful of them, covering decades and worlds, but all joined by a common theme. What does it mean to be human in this new age . . ?

James S. A. Corey’s The Expanse series is a highpoint of modern space opera. Across nine novels, it delivered the perfect blend of great open vistas, and claustrophobic action. It brought some semblance of realistic science to a genre often populated by what is essentially space magic. It told the story of a future humanity striving for the stars, while not being afraid to remind us all that space is more dangerous than most people realise. The series gathered both popular and critical acclaim, and the TV adaptation is one of the best science fiction shows of the past decade. And one of the features that separated The Expanse from dozens of other storytelling universe was that it had a set endpoint. Nine novels, telling a complete story. No deviations, sequels, prequels, or spin-offs. The series is a complete package.

But audiences, particularly in genre circles, are rapacious carnivores. We always want something more, and so James S. A. Corey write a series of novellas alongside the main series. Memory’s Legion gathers those stories together for the first time, along with a single new story which serves as a coda for the series as a whole. One last treat for loyal readers, and one last chance to inhabit this unique universe. With the exception of Sins of Our Fathers, every story in this collection has appeared before, and most of them are available in some combination of ebook and audio. That last story is also available digitally for those who don’t want to shell out for the whole collection. Prior to reading Memory’s Legion, I had listened to Strange Dogs and The Vital Abyss in my aborted first attempt at getting into audiobooks, but the rest were new to me.

At least in theory. In practice, a lot of the material in this book will be familiar to viewers of the TV adaptation. With the advantage of an existing body of work to grow from, The Expanse on Tv was able to effortlessly fold in the events of several of the shorter works without disrupting the narrative of the show. The obvious example of this is Strange Dogs, which was split across the entirety of the show’s final season, and actually works better on screen than it does on the page. And that’s something that stands out in this collection. I chose to read Leviathan Falls before watching the final outing of the show, and thus kept the two versions of the story separate in my head. With this collection, it’s hard not to picture the show as you read. Really this is a testament to the acting and production levels of the show, but for the book purists among you, it does softly start to erode the versions of the universe we create in our own heads. So be warned.

Nothing that happens in these stories is crucial to the overall series, which is exactly how it should be. A story should always be understandable to those who don’t dive as deeply as others. The Expanse‘s relatively straightforward storytelling has always been one of its strengths. What these stories do is shine a light on side characters, or pick at an event mentioned in passing, building the universe a little more firmly. As a consequence of this, and particularly after the main series’ race to the finish line, Memory’s Legion does feel somewhat lacking in significance. The stories are all good, but they do sometimes feel of little consequence. It’s nice to have these shorter pieces collected together on paper, but without the framework of the larger narrative, they feel disjointed as a whole. This final outing for The Expnase is a fine book, but it’s ironically rather forgettable.

Published by Alex Hormann

I'm a writer, reader, and farmer, with an interest in all things speculative.

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