Volume eight (of, reportedly, nine) of The Expanse (Persepolis Rising, 2017, etc.), Corey's (aka Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) sprawling alien-contact space opera.
Fashioned by an alien life form, the protomolecule opened an interstellar portal to thousands of other planets. As humans began to spread into the galaxy, civil wars flared across the solar system. But the protomolecule also proved the key to unlocking a highly advanced alien science. Thirty years ago, Martian dissidents fled through a portal and founded an aggressive, technologically sophisticated empire, Laconia, ruled by immortal dictator Winston Duarte. In the previous book, the Laconians returned to the solar system, effortlessly conquering it and capturing iconic ship's captain Jim Holden, who's managed to survive since the inaugural volume. He now languishes on Laconia, talking with Duarte's young daughter, Teresa, whom the dictator is training as his successor. Back in the solar system, a few freedom fighters—inspired by Holden's ex Naomi Nagata and space marine Bobbie Draper—continue the resistance, but even they are faltering against Laconia's protomolecule science–powered superiority. The empire, meanwhile, has its own problems. Millions of years ago, enigmatic but even more advanced aliens wiped out the protomolecule's builders and have already reacted with horrific violence to Laconia's attempts to reactivate ancient protomolecular artifacts. But rather than delicately investigate these aliens, Duarte recklessly orders his chief scientist, Elvi Okoye, to provoke them. The Expanse has always been, well, expansive, but recent developments have exponentially amplified it in scope. As an intriguing side effect, where previously the solar system yawned unfathomably vast, on a galactic scale it feels almost claustrophobic. So, what with the plentiful palace intrigue, freedom fighters battling desperately, an existential alien menace, and characters both familiar and fresh, the stage is set for another churning, relentlessly gripping, mind-boggling episode. The well-received TV series tie-in will help.
With only one installment to come, the tension and excitement show no sign of flagging.