Pros: brilliant world-building, great characters, lots of plot twists, excellent pacing
James Holden is the XO of the ice harvester Canterbury. When the Cant encounters a distress beacon, they're the closest ship and must send aid. Holden's sent with a five man crew to check out the damaged ship. But something's not right and things for Holden start to go very, very wrong.
Miller is a cop on the asteroid Ceres. He's given an off the book ‘kidnap' job to send the daughter of a rich magnate home. He becomes more invested in the case than he should, and uncovers more than he was supposed to.
First off, if - like me - you've seen the show and were wondering if it's worth reading the book, the answer is yes. It covers the entire first season (from the POVs mentioned above) and a fair bit of the second, but there's enough new information, nuance, and divergence to keep you entertained. Most importantly, the pacing of the book is brilliant. While not all of the reveals will be a surprise, the novel propels you forward into the next crisis.
The novel is told from two points of view. The opposing chapters help ramp up the tension as you're often given hints that something has happened but switch POV to find out what that thing is.
The world building is brilliant. I love that belters shrug with their hands, because you can't see shoulders move in a space suit. I loved the (unfortunate) realism of racism between belters, Earthers, and Martians. There's a lot of nuance with language - how it's changed and melded by having people from all over Earth living in close quarters outside of Earth. The fact that there's low-brow belter slang and Martian accents was great. The physics were real, aside from the drive that makes interplanetary travel possible (which, while not currently real, is plausible).
I found that some of the motivations and actions made more sense in the book than they did on the TV show (as much as I LOVE the show). It was nice seeing more nuance with character development and gaining a better grasp of who everyone is.
The characters were great. Holden can be a little to ‘righteous' at times, but he firmly believes he's in the right. I did like some of his interactions with Miller, where he's forced to realize that his POV isn't necessarily the right one and that the world isn't as black and white as he seems to believe. The Rosi's crew works together well. Naomi's brilliant! I love her smarts, her intuition, her observations, her skill. I was impressed with how concentrating profanity to Amos's character worked in terms of releasing tension and creating some comic relief. I'm not usually a fan of swearing but this was well handled.
I found the romance sub-plot slow moving enough to feel realistic. It was great when the couple finally got together.
I had high expectations going into this book and it exceeded them. If you like hard science fiction and space mysteries, this is for you.