Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

Explorers clash with settlers on a newly discovered alien planet with deadly consequences.


In the science fiction novel "Cibola Burn" by James S.A. Corey, the fourth book in the popular "The Expanse" series, readers are transported to a future where humanity has colonized the solar system. The authors, writing under the pen name James S.A. Corey, deliver a thrilling story filled with political intrigue, scientific discoveries, and moral dilemmas. "Cibola Burn" takes readers on an adventure to the newly discovered planet of Ilus, where tensions between Earth, Mars, and the Belt threaten to escalate into a full-scale war.

Brief Synopsis

The story of "Cibola Burn" is set in the not-too-distant future, where humanity has colonized various planets and moons in the solar system. The arrival of the alien protomolecule has dramatically altered the balance of power, leading to political tensions and conflicts between Earth, Mars, and the Belt.

On the newly discovered planet of Ilus, a group of settlers from Earth called the Royal Charter Energy (RCE) arrives to exploit the planet's resources. However, they soon find themselves in conflict with the Belters, who have already established a presence on the planet.

As tensions rise and violence erupts, the crew of the Rocinante, a small spaceship captained by James Holden, is caught in the middle. Holden and his crew must navigate the dangerous landscape of Ilus while trying to prevent a full-scale war between Earth and the Belt.

Main Characters

Character NameDescription
James HoldenThe captain of the Rocinante and a former officer of the United Nations Navy.
Naomi NagataThe Rocinante's chief engineer and a skilled Belter.
Amos BurtonThe Rocinante's mechanic, known for his strength and loyalty.
Alex KamalThe Rocinante's pilot and a former Martian naval officer.
Elvi OkoyeA scientist sent by the United Nations to study the planet Ilus.
Basia MertonA Belter and former miner on Ilus, caught in the conflict between RCE and the Belters.
MurtryThe head of security for RCE, with a ruthless approach to maintain control on Ilus.

Chapter Summaries

Chapter 1-5: Arrival on Ilus

  • The RCE crew arrives on Ilus and begins setting up their operations.
  • Tensions rise between RCE and the Belters, leading to several confrontations.
  • Holden and his crew arrive on Ilus to investigate the situation.

Chapter 6-10: The Protomolecule Mystery

  • Elvi Okoye, a scientist from Earth, discovers evidence of the protomolecule's presence on Ilus.
  • Holden and his crew encounter strange phenomena and investigate the alien technology.

Chapter 11-15: Rising Tensions

  • Violent clashes between RCE and the Belters escalate, leading to casualties on both sides.
  • The Rocinante crew tries to mediate between the two factions and prevent further bloodshed.
  • Murtry, the head of security for RCE, takes drastic measures to maintain control.

Chapter 16-20: The Threat from Within

  • Basia Merton, a Belter miner, becomes involved in a plot to sabotage RCE's operations.
  • The Rocinante crew uncovers evidence of a hidden agenda among some of the RCE personnel.
  • Holden and Naomi work together to expose the conspiracy and avert disaster.

Chapter 21-25: The Battle for Ilus

  • The conflict between RCE and the Belters reaches a boiling point, leading to an all-out battle.
  • Holden and his crew risk their lives to protect innocent civilians caught in the crossfire.
  • A surprising revelation about the true nature of Ilus changes the course of the conflict.

Main Events

  • Arrival of RCE on Ilus and the subsequent conflict with the Belters.
  • Discovery of the protomolecule's presence on Ilus and its potential implications.
  • Rising tensions and violent clashes between RCE and the Belters.
  • Basia Merton's involvement in a sabotage plot and the uncovering of a hidden agenda.
  • The battle for Ilus and the shocking revelation about the planet's true nature.

Themes and Insights

"Cibola Burn" explores themes of colonization, power struggles, and the consequences of human interference in new territories. The novel raises questions about the ethics of resource exploitation and the impact it has on indigenous populations. It also delves into the complexities of political systems, highlighting the potential for corruption and abuse of power.

The authors provide insights into the human condition, exploring how individuals and groups navigate moral dilemmas and make choices in challenging circumstances. The exploration of the protomolecule and its connection to the larger narrative arc of "The Expanse" series adds a layer of mystery and intrigue to the story, inviting readers to contemplate the nature of alien life and humanity's place in the universe.

Reader's Takeaway

"Cibola Burn" is a thrilling and thought-provoking addition to "The Expanse" series. It offers a captivating blend of science fiction, political drama, and adventure, keeping readers engaged from beginning to end. The complex characters, intricate plot, and exploration of relevant themes make this novel a must-read for fans of the genre. It is a reminder of the potential consequences of our actions and the importance of empathy and understanding in a rapidly changing world.


In "Cibola Burn," James S.A. Corey delivers another stellar installment in "The Expanse" series. The novel combines elements of science fiction, political intrigue, and moral dilemmas to create a captivating story set in a richly imagined future. With its well-developed characters, thrilling plot, and exploration of relevant themes, "Cibola Burn" is a must-read for fans of the series and anyone who enjoys thought-provoking science fiction.

Cibola Burn FAQ

  1. Who is the author of Cibola Burn?

    Cibola Burn is written by James S.A. Corey.

  2. What is the genre of Cibola Burn?

    Cibola Burn is a science fiction novel.

  3. Is Cibola Burn part of a series?

    Yes, Cibola Burn is the fourth book in the 'Expanse' series.

  4. Can Cibola Burn be read as a standalone novel?

    While it is recommended to read the previous books in the series for better understanding, Cibola Burn can be enjoyed as a standalone novel.

  5. What is the premise of Cibola Burn?

    Cibola Burn follows the crew of the Rocinante as they travel to a newly opened planet, Ilus, rich in resources. The crew finds themselves caught in a violent conflict between settlers and a corporation vying for control of the planet.

  6. Is there any political intrigue in Cibola Burn?

    Yes, Cibola Burn explores the political tensions between the settlers, the corporation, and the various factions involved in the colonization of Ilus.

  7. Are there any new characters introduced in Cibola Burn?

    Yes, Cibola Burn introduces a variety of new characters, both settlers and representatives of the corporation, who play significant roles in the story.

  8. Is there a central mystery or conflict in Cibola Burn?

    Yes, the central conflict revolves around the discovery of ancient alien technology on Ilus and the struggle for control over it.

  9. What is the overall tone of Cibola Burn?

    Cibola Burn combines elements of adventure, exploration, and political intrigue to create a tense and suspenseful narrative.

  10. Is Cibola Burn considered a fast-paced novel?

    While Cibola Burn has its moments of high action, it also delves into character development and explores the complexities of the human condition.