You can probably skip this post if you haven’t seen or read The Expanse and have no interest in doing so. And if you have any interest in doing so, my advice is to watch it and/or read it, whatever is your pleasure. Then you can come back, though this isn’t a deep post or anything.

I needed something to watch recently, and The Expanse was recommended to me. I really enjoyed it and recommend it to space ship sci fi people. Which I am not even, really. My main frustration is that it butted right up against some ideas that I had (Earth vs Mars with Ceres as a very important place).

I enjoyed it so much that afterwards I immediately went to the novels, which so far I like even more. The show is pretty faithful to the novels, with some rather big exceptions:

  1. The James Holden character is actually a leader in the books. On the TV show, he is basically the leader because he’s the protagonist and the protagonist needed to be a leader. In the books, he’s a leader and he’s the protagonist because he’s the leader. It seems like a subtle difference, maybe, but it’s abundantly clear how he became the second in command of the Canterbury.
  2. The Amos character is way better on the TV show. He may be the only character that is. On the TV show he’s just a mechanically skilled oaf, for the most part. On the show he has this weird intensity.
  3. The Holden/Naomi affair is so much better in the book. The pro forma feel of the TV show is kind of annoying. He’s the leader, she’s the #2, so of course they have to get it on. In the book it’s much more organic and I find myself actually caring about them.
  4. I get a kick out of the fact that Martians have a Texas drawl, even when they’re of South Asian descent. I don’t know why, but it’s cool. It was kind of nondescript on the show.
  5. There is a gaping hole in the first book where I kept expecting Chrisjen Avasarala to be. She was our window into what Earth was doing and why. Without that, their actions were just as mysterious as Mars. I’m on the second book now and am glad she is making an appearance.
  6. I really liked the mole character from the TV show and was disappointed that he didn’t appear in the book. Without Chrisjen he had no place in the book, but maybe now with Chrisjen there will be an equivalent character.
  7. I found it interesting that Mormons were pretty much the only remaining religion. Though the book makes a reference to Buddha, I guess.
  8. It’s really interesting the characters that were recast as white in the TV show. Interesting in part because was not an especially white cast on the whole. I guess they felt like for commercial reason there had to be limits.
  9. In both: The ability of the writers to make the Belters objectively sympathetic but kind of obnoxious is cool. There must have been a temptation to give them all hearts of gold or whatever. But there’s a “they are what they are, and they deserve rights like anyone else” that really works.

Anyway, that’s all I have. Maybe I’ll add more later. I’m looking forward to getting to know Mars more, which I expect will come. And seeing what happens on Venus (Earth and Mars vs Venus, maybe?). Looking forward to trucking through the books. Unless it gets too stupid.

Category: Theater

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4 Responses to The Expanse: Book vs TV Show

  1. James Kerr says:

    I’m a big fan of the Expanse too, a few thoughts on your thoughts:

    1) Holden was less of a leader in the first book IIRC, it’s more something he grew into.

    2) What the show is doing is front-loading some of what we find out about Amos. Amos isn’t a dopey mechanic, that just the normal human being suit he wears.

    3) Books have an easier time of showing you what’s in the character’s heads than a TV series does. I think this really helped with Holden and Naomi’s relationship.

    4) The Texas accent is one of my favourite setting details in the Expanse, although it’s only part of Mars (The Mariner Valley) that has that accent. Bobbie Draper doesn’t have a Texas drawl at all*

    5) More Chrisjen Avasarala is always better, though the show does her a disservice by toning down her swearing.

    6) The mole didn’t leave much an impression on me, maybe because I read the books first.

    7) It’s less that the Mormons are the only religion, and more that they’re the only religion with a big presence off Earth, and that’s mostly because they want to travel to another star, and hired Tycho Station to build the Nauvoo.

    8) Yeah, I guess TV casting has its limits on diversity.

    9) This is one of the great things about the Expanse, its not shy about showing the strengths and weaknesses of the different groups.

    * In the show Bobbie is played by Frankie Adams, a New Zealand actor. That’s not all that unusual, there are quite a few New Zealanders on US TV. the thins that makes her different is that she uses her own accent. It weird, in a good way, to hear a New Zealand accent on such a big production.

  2. trumwill says:

    With the movie as my frame of reference, I thought Holden was actually a better leader. Not that he always made the right decisions, but he wasn’t just bouncing around like he did in the TV show where I was sitting there wondering why Naomi didn’t just take charge.

    Yeah, Chrisjen is much more ornery in the books.

    Looking forward to future Amos character evolution!

  3. mike shupp says:

    I’ve read the first half dozen EXPANSE books; the first two seasons of the TV series are sitting about two feet from me, so I will get to them sooner or later. I’m very very much a “space ship sci fi” kind of guy so this is my kind of stuff. Please feel free to react to the series, to emote, to mumble about dark spots and what works and what doesn’t!

    How does your daughter like the series?

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