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The Expanse: Book 1 vs Season 1

It’s no secret that I like SFF books, so naturally I also enjoy SFF shows! Thanks to Shannon, Beth, and Greg for convincing me to start watching (and reading) The Expanse, I’m really enjoying the blend of technology, politics, ethics, and human ingenuity. This will be a relatively spoiler-free post, I’ll talk about some of the broader themes or characters but no plot spoilers.

I read Leviathan Wakes, book 1 of The Expanse series, before I watched the show. I must say, overall I was more impressed by the book than the TV show, especially with the slow start. The very detailed world-building and political/cultural dynamics between the Belt, Earth, and Mars was a lot to swallow in a few dense episodes compared to the book. That’s not really a flaw of the show though, it’s just inherently easier to digest a complex world with the slower pace of a book. I did really appreciate how well the show captured the vibes of the different planets, you could really feel the grungey and eclectic atmosphere of the Belt, the proud and sleek Martian military aesthetic, and the power of a more culturally blended yet politically fraught future Earth.

One thing I really enjoyed about the show was how quickly they introduced Avasarala, a character who doesn’t appear until book 2. I will say that as a South Asian person I was a little ticked off that they decided to cast an Iranian woman to play a Desi character since there is already a lot of confusion and conflation of our cultures (thanks Aladdin…) but I will say that Shohreh Aghdashloo plays the character extremely well. I loved seeing such a savvy and intelligent woman brought to life on screen, especially since she also embraces moral ambiguity and questionable methods in service of doing what she thinks is right. I love a good flawed character, and too often the “strong female leads” are also infallible and unrealistic. Not the case here, thankfully!

Although I felt like the show mostly stayed true to the characters in the book, there were some elements I really missed in the show. One of the big themes in the books is the philosophical debate between Miller and Holden. Holden is an idealist, who believes in doing the honorable thing, consequences be damned. He truly believes that if you always do what you think is right, you will help the most people. Meanwhile, Miller is more of a cynic who takes it upon himself to make the hard decisions or do the distasteful thing that will lead to the survival of the most people. He thinks more about the consequences of his actions rather than his actions themselves, and can even justify killing people as long as he believes it will minimize long term harm. These wildly different approaches really come to a head in a confrontation with a certain scientist, and I found the philosophical contrast and its fallout much more satisfying in the book than the show.

Miller and Holden from The Expanse | Science fiction series, The expanse,  Thomas jane
Miller and Holden, always at odds…

One character I liked better in the book was Naomi. Book Naomi isn’t afraid to call out Holden on his bullshit, and although show Naomi is not passive by any means, she is a little too accepting of Holden’s hero complex and general arrogance. On the other hand, I liked Amos a lot more on the show. Amos didn’t have a huge role in the first book, and I did like his character, but Wes Chatham perfectly captured the sociopath with the rough childhood who is trying his hardest to be a good guy. Amos is a little insane, honestly, but somehow still endearing!

Although this bleeds into season 2, the climax of book 1 was masterfully translated to the screen, and I felt even more awe and excitement seeing the massive scale of galactic events on screen compared to imagining them in my head.

Overall, each medium has its own strengths, and I enjoyed both of them. I’m interested to see how the differences play out in future books and seasons!

5 thoughts on “The Expanse: Book 1 vs Season 1”

  1. I am so glad you’re liking The expanse! I haven’t read the books but LOVE the show. I agree that they capture the vibes of the different worlds very well. And all the love for avasarala- she is awesome.

    I’m intrigued about the philosophical differences you mention re: Holden and Miller. I definitely think they could have done more there in the show. I love Naomi on the show too…

    Thanks for the shout out! πŸ™‚

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  2. I could not agree more! I love the character development in the books- which continues throughout the books- and that gets a bit lost in the show. But they’re definitely differently respectable beasts.

    I hope you continue on with both, and if you do, I’m excited to hear your thoughts on the next book!

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    1. I read the first chapter of book 2 and then I was too mentally checked out to read for a week but I’m planning to pick it back up tonight! I feel like I can’t watch the next season of the show until I finish this book πŸ˜…

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  3. Beth will be popping in here any minute to tell me to read the books too, yeah? πŸ˜‚ I really do want to! But it is a lot of reading, and someone overrequests review books, whoops. I love Avasarala, and agree that Shohreh nails the character- of course, I haven’t read the books, but I love her so much. I am also a huge Wes Chatham fan from back in his Mockingjay days, so I was thrilled to see him here. And Idk how it works in the books, but he gets a MUCH bigger role in the show as the seasons go on. I feel like they really dropped the ball with the Holden-Miller stuff, because there is not much like that at ALL in the show. And in fact, Miller’s whole existence in the show was kind of confusing for me. (Again, I should read the books heh.) It’ll be REALLY interesting to see how Alex’s character is handled, since as far as I know, he’s still a thing in the books? Freaking Cas. Makes me so mad- not just for the show obviously, just in general. Looking forward to more of your thoughts as you make your way through! I will say, I really thought the character development in S5 was on point. OH, and I think it is S4, but it gave me The 100 vibes!

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