It takes places in a great doughnut hole of science fiction. There's lots of fiction of the not-too-distant future and there's plenty of far future imaginings, but there's not a ton of stuff that takes place just a few hundred to less than a thousand years away. We've colonized space, but not the stars. We're terraforming Mars and have stations on the Moon, big asteroids like Ceres and some of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. There is tension between the inner planets (Earth/Mars, etc.) and those who have grown and lived in false gravity/air past the asteroid belt (the "Belters").
This book has two point of view characters. Detective Miller is hard-bitten noir-ish cop in Ceres station where he's noticed some strange goings on that may or may not be related to an investigation of a lost rich girl who joined up with a revolutionary and loosely political activist group known as the OPA (The Outer Planet Alliance). Lt. then Capt. Holden works on a glorified tugboat of a ship that captures glacier-sized chucks of ice from Saturn's rings and delivers them tho Belter colonies until all hell breaks loose.
Holden's ship comes across a derelict ship called the Scopuli. They soon find themselves learning things that may bring the tensions between the Eathers, Mars and the OPA to a head. Miller finds out the last place his girl, the one with the rich and connected parents who want her found, was abord an OPA ship called the Scopuli.
There's obviously a lot more goig on here but it's a fun romp of a ride. I knew there was a sequel (called Caliban's War) but I didn't know what I was getting into. A comment on Goodreads got a response from the authors (Corey is a pseudonym for two authors) who complained that not enough background was given to one of the crew members on Holden's ship. Don't worry, the reply came back, she'll be a point of view character in the fifth book. Fifth book! What have I gotten myself into! Because you know I can't just stop with this one...
If you liked Blade Runner and Firefly you'll know where this book is coming from. It's definitely not "hard science fiction" but they do throw in just enough realistic touches to satisfy. The problems of overcoming massive g-forces are dealt with. The ships don't just have magical "inertial dampeners." Though they do have a very efficient "Epstien Drive" which allows trips to Jupiter and Saturn in weeks or months rather than years. When asked how this drive supposedly works in an interview, one of the authors grinned, "Very efficiently."
But these touches do make it realistic enough. I especially liked a bit in which Miller, Holden and the rest of the crew board an abandoned enemy vessel. Miller sits down to try to find out any secrets his girl might have found to make them ant to make her disappear.
The security assumed that anyone sitting at the console had access to the low-level feeds. It still took half an hour to parse the command structure and query interface.
Yes! I don't know about you, but in most science fiction shows when someone sits down in front of a computer or ship, even an alien one, they can just magically work the interface/controls. You know how unrealistic this is if you've ever seen someone with an Apple product try to give a presentation in a place only wired up for PCs.
I don't know why this isn't being made into a movie already. The only big decision they'd have to ake is how to differentiate the Belters from the Earthers. In the book, people not raised in a gravity well like Earth or Mars live with less gravity and are thus taller and thinner. Since I picture either Bruce Willis or Terry O'Quinn as the Miller character, they would have to CQI them somehow to mke them around seven feet tall.
The easier solution would be to hire all 5'9 and below actors for the Earther parts and actors all over 6'2 for the Belter parts, kind of like how Peter Jackson hired all tall willow folks for the elf characters in the Lord of the Rings movies. So in that case you'd have to hire 6'2 Terry O'Quinn for Miller and a good-looking younger and much shorter actor to play Holden.
But I digress. If you like this kind of thing, then it's all here. Space engineering, action, mad scientists, massive and tricky military strategy, horror, conflicting viewpoints and tough life-or-death decisions. I love that kind of stuff, so this was right up my ally.