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Publisher's Summary

From New York Times best-selling author James S. A. Corey...

Before his trip to the stars, before the Rocinante, Amos Burton was confined to a Baltimore where crime paid you or killed you. Unless the authorities got to you first.

Set in the hard-scrabble solar system of Leviathan Wakes, Caliban's War, Abaddon's Gate, and the upcoming Cibola Burn, The Churn deepens James S. A. Corey's acclaimed Expanse series.

©2014 James S.A. Corey (P)2014 Hachette Audio

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  • Steven
  • Hillside, NJ, United States
  • 03-27-16

The Narration Killed This Poor Story

Well, this is odd! If you've seen my other reviews for the other expanse books, I've been all agog about their quality and the resourcefulness and general entertainment value. While this book is pretty much the reason why I don't do novella's in general. I enjoyed the idea of it, and what it was trying to show off, but the story really lacked any "pull" for me. The story for The Churn is entirely Earth based and gives you a pretty decent description of what the average life in a crowded, metro city, is like in the Expanse Universe. The city, Baltimore, has given way to a multitude of crime bosses, and organized black markets. There are multiple bosses who each keep a "family" of personal guards that operate the smuggling of goods, illegal memory implants, weapons smuggling, cybernetic implants etc. The story takes place over the course of about two days. The term The Churn, is referring to the Star Helix crackdown that is implemented on the city of Baltimore. The sweep is wide spread, and includes door to door checks, mass round ups, and many arrests take place.

This is a great place/event to have a story! Another bit of scene setting is that the story is given a very cyberpunkish feel. The main characters, a tag team duo, Timmy and Erich, are two very typical Earthers it seems. Themselves included, the people of Baltimore seem like to all verge on the edge of half hearted, petty crime, and desperate and sullen stagnation.
We're introduced also to a man, surprisingly named Amos Burton, a crime boss who has as few ethics as this book has pages. This is curious as that there is a person that has been come to be a trusted friend and companion of John Holden and the crew of the Rocinante.

***Spoilers Below***
At least for me, I knew something was up with this. I've read the first 4 books of the Expanse series, and it's been hinted at that Amos has had a checkered past. But something about the story and the appearance of the two characters Timmy and Erich had me skeptical about rather this was the Amos Burton that we know in the main story. The problem I have with this, is that the character that 'becomes' Amos... is *not* the same character that we know in the main story. Corey, for whatever reason, gives Timmy, who "becomes" Amos Burton seems to be a big ludditte. If you've ever read Of Mice and Men, Timmy is given the personality of Lenny. A big dumb brute who seems mentally challenged. This is a far cry from Amos' character that I've come to know in the main story. Even this name...c'mon Timmy? It just cuts out all respect I had for Amos' character. If anything this sort of diminishes the character. He also has a very ethical, loyality based flaw. He was literally about to kill Erich whom he has been associated with for years and years. And on a whim, under orders he goes to kill him. The brevity of the story doesn't allow me to get a better or extended story and reasoning behind how the two personalities are bridged. Because the Amos from Holden's crew does not resemble the "Amos" or Timmy that is introduced in The Churn.

Also the character of Timmy is given a surrogate mother, named Lydia. She raises him from a young age, and both are so emotionally attached that they form an intimate and sexual relationship. Lydia takes Timmy under her care, when his real mother, a friend and co-worker of hers, is killed. She rasies him from toddlership. So, this very odd mother/son incestious bond forms between the two, and for me, just adds another layer of creepiness to Timmy's character. An idea that fits with the environment, but come on, If you've read the regular Expanse books this is *not* the same character. I think another problem is that narration here. The narrators are different between the main novels and the novella's. The character of Timmy is given a very slow speaking, and "simple" tone to his voice. This just increases the image of Timmy being mentally handicapped, with a slight touch of mental retardation. Again this works in the environment incrediablly well, but it just doesn't jive with the character we've been given in The Expanse series.

Besides the flaky backstory of Timmy, none of the other characters are really expanded upon. The exception is Lydia, who started her life on "Basic" (think a really shitty form for welfare). She falls in with one of Amos Burton's Lieutenants, a man named Leev. He's a womanizing, violent, and scummy sort of person. He controls many of the brothels in the district, and Lydia finds her way apart of one. Leev, takes her as his personal mistress and when he's done with her "services" hooks her up with a job working in a semi cushy position, under the protection of Amos. While this sounds nice, she's pretty much miserable.

The book continues in this way detailing the lives of the characters during the two night 'first wave' operation of The Churn. At the end Timmy is given a new idenity by Erich, to take up the name Amos Burton. This is hinted at earlier in the book, when Erich goes on about how he set up Burton's Identity so he'd have access to go anywhere in the system. A pretty cool idea, but there just something about this tale that really rubs me the wrong way. It's a very gritty, brutal story that I suppose I was looking for something a bit more flowery, and elegant. It's not bad, but to me, due to the narration, the rough writing style, and the flawed character synthesis of Timmy to Amos leaves me feeling pretty cold on this one.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Philip
  • Decatur, AL, United States
  • 02-12-16

Glad I could speed up the audio!

While in every other respect, the performance was great, the narrator spoke a bit too slowly for my tastes. Great storyline. Amos is a very interesting character.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Best Expanse Story

This is a crime noir novella focused on a piece of backstory to Amos Burton from the main Expanse novels. While having read at least the first Expanse novel would enhance a reading of this novella, it is not necessary. The novella stands well on its own as a whole, fully-fleshed story. Much better than the other Expanse novella I read, Gods of Risk, which edged more on mere filler for me. I loved the way that, true to noir values, every character in The Churn is morally grey and broken. The idea of the Churn, while also speaking to themes that recur throughout the Expanse series, makes the events of the novella resonate with importance. Enough that, I gave this a second listening the day after I finished. The way these nobodies try to survive their harsh world made for a dark and twisted rough-and-tumble towards the inevitable ending, leaving me with a smirk. Good show.

And I have to say, despite popular opinion against the narrator of Book 4, I prefer Erik Davies' narration over Jefferson Mays.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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I just didn't enjoy the narrative

I found it a little hard to get into. Not sure if it was because the narrator's style of reading reading, but I thought it was dry

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • Walnut Creek, CA, United States
  • 10-06-17

Weak story, weaker narration

I really enjoyed the main Expanse books but this novelette was quite a bit different and I found inferior. It has almost zero SciFi and instead is almost completely (weak) crime noir fiction. The character this novelette follows seems quite unrelated to the character (Amos) in the main novel series. I did not get the connection. The first book of the main series has detective noir aspects mixed well with SciFi and politics which worked well. This I found boring.

Although the narration is both slow and uninspired, I could not blame the narration for the inconsistent characterization.

I would recommend skipping this novelette, or at least pretend it has no connection to the main expanse series. For me this novelette did not add anything to the expanse story except confusion.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Not his best work and the narration isn't verygood

I felt like this was written by someone else instead of Mr Corey. The narration is hard to follow as most of the voices were so similar. Also the speed seems to have been slowed down, had to increase spread your make it sound right.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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change of narrator is brutal.

should a have kept the same guy. all the voice are different and us quite jarring.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great backdrop story, terrible narrator

Seriously, this narrator makes the book almost awful. If I didn't already love Amos, I would not of been able to get through this novella. I love the back story for Amos, but I couldn't stand how he and the other characters were read. just terrible.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Slow, but interesting

This book will only be interesting to those familiar with the expanse series. Slow, but informative in a psychological level for the main character "Timothy".

I have to note that the narration was robotic at best. Erick Davies sounds like if you mated Will Shatner a Siri. I was able to make it through this short story but he made Cibola Burn unreadable and had to return it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Narrator is the worst

Decent story but the narrator is so lame I couldn't listen to the last 2 chapters. Hey authors make sure the narrator is a good match for your book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful