Welcome back readers! This week I’ll be featuring a review from Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey. I read this book because it’s the favorite series of my husband and we’ve been reading a few books together recently. This is outside my comfort genres but in the end I really enjoyed it. My recipe this week is also not one I cook regularly but is still super quick, easy and delicious! This weeks themes are based on my husbands favorites: lasagna & sci-fi!!
Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
Initial Thoughts: Turns out husbands CAN be right sometimes!!
James S.A. Corey is a pen name of Daniel Abraham and Ty Frank. Daniel Abraham is a prominent fantasy author and Ty Frank is George R.R. Martin’s (author of the incredible series A Game of Thrones) assistant.
So lets start this one off with the truth: as I mentioned above, I’m not generally a sci-fi fan. I don’t dislike sci-fi but I have a hard time with it and it tends to get bogged down for me. But, that’s neither here nor there because I thoroughly enjoyed this book! With this in mind let us begin:
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, fa….nope, wrong science fiction story. In round about 200 years, humans have colonized the solar system. Our major players are Earth, Mars and the “Belt” (i.e. the stations located in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter). We’ve also got the OPA (Outer Planets Alliance) to contend with as well. The OPA is a group of loosely affiliated members fighting for the rights of those who inhabit the belt – known ever so cleverly as “belters”.
“Too many dots,” Miller said. “Not enough lines.”
This baby starts of with a serious bang with our prologue introducing us to Julie. Julie and her crew have been taken captive and she’s left alone in a dark locker for days on end. When her sanity begins to wane she breaks herself out to find an abandoned ship around her. When she does finally locate the crew, it’s a ghastly sight to say the absolute least. This is where our journey begins – what happened to Julie? Where is she now? Why is the ship she was on sending out an emergency signal? Enter James ‘the loudest mouth in the solar system’ Holden, the XO of the ice miner ship the Canterbury. His ship has picked up the previously mentioned emergency signal.
The law of the solar system was unequivocal. In an environment as hostile to life as space, the aid and goodwill of your fellow humans wasn’t optional.
When Holden and his crew board the Scopuli they have no idea what they will find and how this lone decision will be the catalyst that will change their lives forever. Enter down and out Detective Miller, he’s been given orders to investigate the missing daughter of a high-level, wealthy family. He has no idea that the case and search for one Juliette Mao will be the catalyst that will change his life forever as well.
Told from alternating POVs between Miller and Holden we’re given a broad and overarching look at the entire world and future Corey has built. This novel is a behemoth of a story and clearly the first in a series. A lot of groundwork is laid down in the first half of this to build a world thoroughly for the reader. The beginning got a bit bogged down for me and veered into the hard sci-fi that I’m not a big fan of. However, when the two storylines finally converge, man does this thing get cookin’.
You spent your life in a stone bubble with your food, your water, your air shipped in from places so distant you could barely find them with a telescope and a certain moral flexibility was necessary.
For being a novel so steeped in traditional science fiction tropes Leviathan Wakes was incredibly accessible as a whole. A lot of delicate intricacy is at work in this novel dealing not only in the overarching mystery but in more subtle ways as well. Things like sexism, racism, human morality and where we draw lines are discussed regularly throughout this read. The technical demands and logistics of deep space exploration and colonization were handled deftly and secured on a realistic and clearly researched basis.
I’ve been reading a lot of thriller / suspense novels recently and this was a really nice break from a lot of the patterns these types of stories fall into. There is a great mystery here that keeps the intrigue alive for the entirety of the read. The world building is top notch and I was left endlessly impressed throughout. Even further, it was so refreshing to read something that was full of genuinely likable characters. I felt a strong connection to the crew of the Canterbury and loved Miller’s thread and timeline.
All in all, this lost me a little because while as whole the novel was accessible and enjoyable (even for a non-sci-fi reader) the first 200 or so pages dragged a bit for me. There were multiple points that I didn’t understand and had to get clarification for from my husband (as this is his favorite book series). However, despite the tedious build up this was an impressive edge-of-your-seat read and I enjoyed going out on a limb with this one. I’m not sure I’ll be picking up the second installment right away as these novels are a huge undertaking but I’ll certainly be reading on down the line!
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes:
There hadn’t been a cowboy on Earth in a hundred years, and Mars didn’t have a blade of grass that wasn’t under a dome or a horse that wasn’t in a zoo. Mariner Valley had been settled by East Indians, Chinese and a small contingent of Texans. Apparently the drawl was viral. Because #TEXASFOREVER!
Suggested For: Those who love intricate world-building, science fiction fans, those who are looking to get into the genre and are willing to put in the work of a large book/series.
Alex Kamal’s Mariner Valley (aka Martian) Skillet Lasagna!
- Servings: 6 (Normally I would cut this in half, however, since this uses some canned goods and my husband loves leftovers I decided it would be easiest to use all the purchased ingredients. Feel free to cut this baby in half depending on your family size!)
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 35-40 minutes
- Pans Required: 1 cast iron skillet ya’ll!
- 1 Tablespoon Olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 7-8 sweet peppers, chopped
- 4-5 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- ½ tablespoon dried basil
- ½ tablespoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 8 lasagna noodles – broken into fourths
- 1 (16 oz.) can tomato sauce
- 1 (29 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
- ½ cup ricotta cheese
- 4 ounces fresh Mozzarella cheese, sliced thin
- Fresh basil leaves, torn
Easy edits to make on your end, per preference:
- I prefer yellow onion but feel free to use any you prefer!
- If you don’t have all the individual Italian spices but you have a mix of some kind you can use 1 ½ – 2 tablespoons of the mix instead of individual spices.
- Amp up the spice by adding more red pepper flakes.
- Feel free to make your own tomato sauce – this is an easy to cook, easy to clean weeknight meal that makes excellent leftovers but you could definitely raise the level of *fancy* for this one.
- Feel free to use ground turkey or ground chicken for a leaner take on this meal.
- I’m always looking for ways to sneak in veggies and we love sweet peppers in our household. You can easily replace with bell peppers, add some mushrooms or remove entirely as you see fit for your family!
- I love banana peppers and we have a friend who grows them– so think about getting some fresh banana peppers to serve with this dish!
- I’ll be having you put your skillet in the oven – if you do not have an oven-safe skillet at home, place a lid over the mozzarella in step 7 and steam until the cheese melts (3-5 minutes).
- In a large 12-inch skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add diced onion and stir until begins to caramelize and turn brown (7-8 minutes). About 4 minutes into the onion cooking add in chopped sweet peppers and continue to cook.
- As always, I suggest a cast iron skillet. Any oven-safe skillet will work. If you do not have an oven-safe skillet refer to the last bullet point in the “edits” section!
- Once sweet peppers are soft and onions are starting to caramelize add in garlic and stir until fragrant (1-2 minutes). Add (dried) parsley, basil, oregano, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to skillet (cook for 30-45 seconds). Remove veggies from pan (I scrape them onto my cutting board to cut down on dishes)
- Add ground meat to skillet. Cook and crumble beef until no longer pink and drain. Pour in half (8 ounces) of the tomato sauce and stir to combine.
- Place broken lasagna noodles evenly over beef and pour remaining tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes over the noodles. *Make sure noodles are completely covered in sauce or they won’t cook properly!
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer, covered for 20 minutes or until noodles have softened.
- Remove lid and add dollops of ricotta cheese. Gently stir ricotta into the lasagna.
- Place mozzarella slices evenly over the top of the lasagna and place under broiler until cheese melts and begins to brown (3-5 minutes). Keep a close eye on this as it can burn quickly here!
Serve immediately with fresh basil.
Quote: “She caught him looking and gave him a conspiratorial wink that probably would have made a lot of sense if he’d been able to hear what Alex was saying. He smiled and winked back, grateful just to be included in the moment. A sizzling sound from inside the oven called his attention back. The lasagna was beginning to bubble and run over the sides of the dishes.”
Music Mood: She Burns by Foy Vance
How do you feel about science fiction – do you have any suggestions? What’s a great Sunday meal you and your family cook?