Drive • 2012 • Science Fiction short story by James S.A. Corey

★★★★

Meta: isfdb. This prequel set some 150 years before the Expanse series appeared 2012 in Edge of Infinity.

Synopsis:  Solomon Epstein tests his famous spaceship drive for the first time, and it works. It works too well, because he has difficulties stopping the acceleration. In alternating chapters to this malaise we learn about his past on Mars and his evolving relationship with Caitlin on the background of colonial tensions with Earth.

Review:  Corey is the pen-name of the two authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, both having worked with GRRM. Knowing that, it is clear without giving away too much that someone in this story has to die. The story keeps you involved from the first sentence on – the building tension in the test drive part where Epstein realizes his situation, but also an emotionally engaging love story with believable characters.

The author doesn’t throw too many technical details at you considering the importance of the Epstein drive for the later Expanse series. He manages to slice the setting into believable conversations of friends. It is this modified fusion drive which made it possible to colonize the Asteroid belt and the outer planets because it enables spaceships to sustain thrust throughout the entire voyage. Mars is already technologically advanced, but the Epstein drive sets the defining advantage against any potential threat by Earth.

The story works as a standalone, but far better if you’ve read Leviathan’s Wake already. Expanse fans might consider buying the anthology only because of this story.

Great tension arc, fine characters, emotions, a small bit of setting, what else would one expect from a story? Maybe a bit more literary experimentation or exoticness.

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