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HUGO AWARD WINNER FOR BEST SERIES
Enter a new frontier.
"An empty apartment, a missing family, that's creepy. But this is like finding a military base with no one on it. Fighters and tanks idling on the runway with no drivers. This is bad juju. Something wrong happened here. What you should do is tell everyone to leave."
The gates have opened the way to a thousand new worlds and the rush to colonize has begun. Settlers looking for a new life stream out from humanity's home planets. Ilus, the first human colony on this vast new frontier, is being born in blood and fire.
Independent settlers stand against the overwhelming power of a corporate colony ship with only their determination, courage, and the skills learned in the long wars of home. Innocent scientists are slaughtered as they try to survey a new and alien world. The struggle on Ilus threatens to spread all the way back to Earth.
James Holden and the crew of his one small ship are sent to make peace in the midst of war and sense in the midst of chaos. But the more he looks at it, the more Holden thinks the mission was meant to fail.
And the whispers of a dead man remind him that the great galactic civilization that once stood on this land is gone. And that something killed it.
The Expanse Short Fiction
The Butcher of Anderson Station
Gods of Risk
The Vital Abyss
The Sins of Our Fathers
Table of Contents
A Preview of Nemesis Games
A Preview of The Lazarus War: Artefact
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Prologue: Bobbie Draper
A thousand worlds, Bobbie thought as the tube doors closed. And not just a thousand worlds. A thousand systems. Suns. Gas giants. Asteroid belts. Everything that humanity had spread to, a thousand times over. The screen above the seats across from her showed a newsfeed, but the speakers were broken, the man's voice too fuzzed to make out the words. The graphic that zoomed in and out beside him was enough for her to follow. New data had come in from the probes that had gone through the gates. Here was another image of an unfamiliar sun, circles to mark the orbits of new planets. All of them empty. Whatever had built the protomolecule and fired it toward Earth back in the depths of time wasn't answering calls anymore. The bridge builder had opened the way, and no great gods had come streaming through.
It was astounding, Bobbie thought, how quickly humanity could go from What unimaginable intelligence fashioned these soul-wrenching wonders? to Well, since they're not here, can I have their stuff?
" 'Scuse me," a man's phlegmy voice said. "You wouldn't have a little spare change for a veteran, would you?"
She looked away from the screens. The man was thin, gray-faced. His body had the hallmarks of a childhood in low g: long body, large head. He licked his lips and leaned forward.
"Veteran, are you?" she said. "Where'd you serve?"
"Ganymede," the man said, nodding and looking off with an attempt at nobility. "I was there when it all came down. When I got back here, government dropped me on my ass. I'm just trying to save up enough to book passage to Ceres. I've got family there."
Bobbie felt a bubble of rage in her breast, but she tried to keep her voice and expression calm. "You try veteran's outreach? Maybe they could help you."
"I just need something to eat," he said, his voice turning nasty. Bobbie looked up and down the car. Usually there would be a few people in the cars at this time. The neighborhoods under the Aurorae Sinus were all connected by evacuated tube. Part of the great Martian terraforming project that had begun before Bobbie was born and would go on long after she was dead. Just now, there was no one. She considered what she would look like to the beggar. She was a big woman, tall as well as broad, but she was sitting down, and the sweater she'd chosen was a little baggy. He might have been under the misapprehension that her bulk was fat. It wasn't.
"What company did you serve with?" she asked. He blinked. She knew she was supposed to be a little scared of him, and he was uneasy because she wasn't.
"What company did you serve with?"
He licked his lips again. "I don't want to—"
"Because it's a funny thing," she said. "I could have sworn I knew pretty much everyone who was on Ganymede when the fighting started. You know, you go through something like that, and you remember. Because you see a lot of your friends die. What was your rank? I was gunnery sergeant."
The gray face had gone closed and white. The man's mouth pinched. He pushed his hands deeper into his pockets and mumbled something.
"And now?" Bobbie went on, "I work thirty hours a week with veteran's outreach. And I'm just fucking sure we could give a fine upstanding veteran like you a break."
He turned, and her hand went out to his elbow faster than he could pull away. His face twisted with fear and pain. She drew him close. When she spoke, her voice was careful. Each word clear and sharp.
"Find. Another. Story."
"Yes, ma'am," the beggar said. "I will. I'll do that."
The car shifted, decelerating into the first Breach Candy station. She let him go and stood up. His eyes went a little wider when she did. Her genetic line went back to Samoa, and she sometimes had that effect on people who weren't expecting her. Sometimes she felt a little bad about it. Not now.
Her brother lived in a nice middle-class hole in Breach Candy, not far from the lower university. She'd lived with him for a time after she got back home to Mars, and she was still putting the pieces of her life back together. It was a longer process than she'd expected. And part of the aftermath was that she felt like she owed her brother something. Family dinner nights was part of that.
The halls of Breach Candy were sparse. The advertisements on the walls flickered as she came near, face recognition tracking her and offering up the products and services they thought she might want. Dating services, gym memberships, take-out shwarma, the new Mbeki Soon film, psychological counseling. Bobbie tried not to take it personally. Still, she wished there were more people around, a few more faces to add variety to the mix. To let her tell herself the ads were probably meant for someone walking nearby. Not for her.
But Breach Candy wasn't as full as it used to be. There were fewer people in the tube stations and hallways, fewer people coming to the veteran's outreach program. She heard that enrollment at the upper university was down six percent.
Humanity hadn't managed a single viable colony on the new worlds yet, but the probe data was enough. Humanity had its new frontier, and the cities of Mars were feeling the competition.
As soon as she stepped in the door, the rich scent of her sister-in-law's gumbo thickening the air and making her mouth water, she heard her brother and nephew, voices raised. It knotted her gut, but they were family. She loved them. She owed them. Even if they made the idea of take-out shwarma seem awfully tempting.
"—not what I'm saying," her nephew said. He was in upper university now, but when the family started fighting, she could still hear the six-year-old in his voice.
Her brother boomed in reply. Bobbie recognized the percussive tapping of his fingertips against the tabletop as he made his points. Drumming as a rhetorical device. Their father did the same thing.
"Mars is not optional." Tap. "It is not secondary." Tap. "These gates and whatever's on the other side of them isn't our home. The terraforming effort—"
"I'm not arguing against the terraforming," her nephew said as she walked into the room. Her sister-in-law nodded to her from the kitchen wordlessly. Bobbie nodded back. The dining room looked down into a living space where a muted newsfeed was showing long-distance images of unfamiliar planets with a beautiful black man in wire-rimmed glasses speaking earnestly between them. "All I'm saying is that we're going to have a lot of new data. Data. That's all I'm saying."
The two of them were hunched over the table like there was an invisible chessboard between them. A game of concentration and intellect that wrapped them both up until they couldn't see the world around them. In a lot of ways, that was true. She took her chair without either of them acknowledging she'd arrived.
"Mars," her brother said, "is the most studied planet there is. It doesn't matter how many new datasets you get that aren't about Mars. They aren't about Mars! It's like saying that seeing pictures of a thousand other tables will tell you about the one you're already sitting at."
"Knowledge is good," her nephew said. "You're the one who always told me that. I don't know why you're getting so bent about it now."
"How are things for you, Bobbie?" her sister-in-law said sharply, carrying a bowl to the table. Rice and peppers to use as a bed for the gumbo and a reminder to the others that there was a guest. The two men scowled at the interruption.
"Good," Bobbie said. "The contract with the shipyards came through. It should help us place a lot of vets in new jobs."
"Because they're building exploration ships and transports," her nephew said.
"Sorry, Mom. But they are," David replied, not backing down. Bobbie scooped the rice into her bowl. "All the ships that are easy to retrofit, they're retrofitting, and then they're making more so that people can go to all the new systems."
Her brother took the rice and the serving spoon, chuckling under his breath to make it clear how little he respected his son's opinion. "The first real survey team is just getting to the first of these places—"
"There are already people living on New Terra, Dad! There were a bunch of refugees from Ganymede—" He broke off, shooting a guilty glance at Bobbie. Ganymede wasn't something they talked about over dinner.
"The survey team hasn't landed yet," her brother said. "It's going to be years before we have anything like real colonies out there."
"It's going to be generations before anyone walks on the surface here! We don't have a fucking magnetosphere!"
Her sister-in-law returned. The gumbo was black and fragrant with a sheen of oil across the top. The smell of it made Bobbie's mouth water. She put it on the slate trivet and handed the serving spoon to Bobbie.
"And how's your new apartment?" she asked.
"It's nice," Bobbie said. "Inexpensive."
"I wish you weren't living in Innis Shallow," her brother said. "It's a terrible neighborhood."
"No one's going to bother Aunt Bobbie," her nephew said. "She'd rip their heads off."
Bobbie grinned. "Naw, I just look at them mean, and they—"
From the living room, there was a sudden glow of red light. The newsfeed had changed. Bright red banners showed at the top and bottom, and on the screen, a jowly Earth woman looked soberly into the camera. The image behind her was of fire and then a stock image of an old colony ship. The words, black against the white of the flames, read TRAGEDY ON NEW TERRA.
"What happened?" Bobbie said. "What just happened?"
Chapter One: Basia
Basia Merton had been a gentle man, once. He hadn't been the sort of man who made bombs out of old metal lubricant drums and mining explosives.
He rolled another one out of the little workshop behind his house and toward one of First Landing's electric carts. The little stretch of buildings spread to the north and south, and then ended, the darkness of the plain stretching to the horizon. The flashlight hanging from his belt bounced as he walked, casting strange moving shadows across the dusty ground. Small alien animals hooted at him from outside the circle of light.
Nights on Ilus—he wouldn't call it New Terra—were very dark. The planet had thirteen tiny, low-albedo moons spaced so consistently in the same orbit that everyone assumed they were alien artifacts. Wherever they'd come from, they were more like captured asteroids than real moons to someone who grew up on the planet-sized satellites of Jupiter. And they did nothing to catch and reflect the light of Ilus' sun once it set. The local nighttime wildlife was mostly small birds and lizards. Or what Ilus' new human inhabitants thought of as birds and lizards. They shared only the most superficial external traits and a primarily carbon base with their terrestrial namesakes.
Basia grunted with effort as he lifted the barrel onto the back of the cart, and a second later an answering grunt came from a few meters away. A mimic lizard, curiosity drawing it right up to the edge of the light, its small eyes glittering. It grunted again, its wide, leathery, bullfrog-shaped head bobbing, and the air sac below its neck inflating and deflating with the sound. It waited for a moment, staring at him, and when he didn't respond, it crawled off into the dark.
Basia pulled elastic straps out of a toolbox and began securing the barrels to the bed of the cart. The explosive wouldn't go off just from falling on the ground. Or that was what Coop said, anyhow. Basia didn't feel like testing it.
"Baz," Lucia said. He flushed with embarrassment like a small boy caught stealing candy. Lucia knew what he was doing. He'd never been able to lie to her. But he'd hoped she would stay inside while he worked. Just her presence made him wonder if he was doing the right thing. If it was right, why did it make him so ashamed to have Lucia see him?
"Baz," she said again. Not insisting. Her voice sad, not angry.
"Lucy," he said, turning around. She stood at the edge of his light, a white robe clutched around her thin frame against the chill night air. Her face was a dark blur.
"Felcia's crying," she said, her tone not making it an accusation. "She's afraid for you. Come talk to your daughter."
Basia turned away and pulled the strap tight over the barrels, hiding his face from her. "I can't. They're coming," he said.
"Who? Who's coming?"
"You know what I mean. They're going to take everything we made here if we don't make a stand. We need time. This is how you get time. Without the landing pad, they've got to use the small shuttles. So we take away the landing pad. Make them rebuild it. No one's going to get hurt."
"If it gets bad," she said, "we can leave."
"No," Basia said, surprised to hear the violence in his voice. He turned and took a few steps, putting her face in the light. She was weeping. "No more leaving. We left Ganymede. Left Katoa and ran away and my family lived on a ship for a year while no one would give us a place to land. We're not running again. Not ever running again. They took all the children from me they get to take."
"I miss Katoa too," Lucia said. "But these people didn't kill him. It was a war."
"It was a business decision. They made a business decision, and then they made a war, and they took my son away." And I let them, he didn't say. I took you and Felcia and Jacek, and I left Katoa behind because I thought he was dead. And he wasn't. The words were too painful to speak, but Lucia heard them anyway.
"It wasn't your fault."
Yes, it was floated at the back of his mouth, but he swallowed.
"These people don't have any right to Ilus," he said, struggling to make his voice sound reasonable. "We were here first. We staked claim. We'll get the first load of lithium out, get the money in, then we can hire lawyers back home to make a real case. If the corporations already have roots here when that happens, it won't matter. We just need time."
"If you do this," Lucia said, "they'll send you to jail. Don't do that to us. Don't do that to your family."
"I'm doing this for my family," he said softly. It was worse than yelling. He hopped up behind the controls and stomped on the accelerator. The cart lurched off with a whine. He didn't look back, couldn't look back and see Lucy.
"For my family," he said again.
He drove away from his house and the ramshackle town that they'd started out calling First Landing back when they'd picked the site off the Barbapiccola's sensor maps. No one had bothered to rename it when it had moved from being an idea to being a place. He drove toward the center of town, two rows of prefab buildings, until he hit the wide stretch of flattened dirt that served as the main road and turned toward the original landing site. The refugees who'd colonized Ilus had come down from their ship in small shuttles, so the only landing pad they'd needed was a flat stretch of ground. But the Royal Charter Energy people, the corporate people, who had a UN charter giving the world to them, would be coming down with heavy equipment. Heavy lift shuttles needed an actual landing pad. It had been built in the same open fields that the colony had used as their landing site.
That felt obscene to Basia. Invasive. The first landing site had significance. He'd imagined it someday being a park, with a monument at the center commemorating their arrival on this new world. Instead, RCE had built a giant and gleaming metal monstrosity right over the top of their site. Worse, they'd hired the colonists to build it, and enough of them had thought it was a good idea that they'd actually done it.
It felt like being erased from history.
Scotty and Coop were waiting for him at the new landing pad when he arrived. Scotty was sitting on the edge of the metal platform, legs dangling over the side, smoking a pipe and spitting on the ground below his feet. A small electric lamp that sat beside him colored him with an eerie green light. Coop stood a little way off, looking up at the sky with bared teeth. Coop was an old-school Belter, and the agoraphobia treatments had been harder for him than others. The thin-faced man kept staring up at the void, fighting to get used to it like a kid pulling off scabs.
Basia pulled the cart up to the edge of the pad and hopped out to undo the straps holding the barrel bombs down.
"Give me a hand?" he said. Ilus was a large planet, slightly over one gravity. Even after six months of pharma to build his muscles and bones everything still felt too heavy. The thought of lifting the barrels back to the ground made the muscles in his shoulders twitch in anticipated exhaustion.
Scotty slid off the landing pad and dropped a meter and a half to the ground. He pushed his oily black hair out of his eyes and took another long puff on his pipe. Basia caught the pungent, skunky smell of Scotty's bathtub-grown cannabis mixed with freeze-dried tobacco leaves. Coop looked over, his eyes fighting for focus for a moment, and then the thin, cruel smile. The plan had been Coop's from the start.
"Mmm," Coop said. "Pretty."
"Don't get attached," Basia said. "They won't be around long."
Coop made a booming sound and grinned. Together they pulled the four heavy barrels off the cart and stood them in a row next to the pad. By the last one, they were all panting with effort. Basia leaned against the cart for a moment in silence while Scotty smoked off the last of his pipe and Coop set the blasting caps on the barrels. The detonators sat in the back of the cart like sleeping rattlesnakes, the red LEDs dormant for now.
In the darkness, the township sparkled. The houses they'd all built for themselves and one another glittered like stars brought down from the sky. Beyond them, there were the ruins. A long, low alien structure with two massive towers rising up above the landscape like a termite hill writ large. All of it was run through with passageways and chambers that no human had designed. In daylight, the ruins shone with the eerie colors of mother-of-pearl. In the night, they were only a deeper darkness. The mining pits were off past them, invisible as all but the dimmest glow of the work lights on the belly of the clouds. Truth was Basia didn't like the mines. The ruins were strange relics of the empty planet's past, and like anything that was uncanny without posing a threat, they faded from his awareness after the first few months. The mines carried history and expectations. He'd spent half a lifetime in tunnels of ice, and tunnels that ran through alien soil smelled wrong.
Coop made a sharp noise and shook his hand, cursing. Nothing blew up, so it couldn't be that bad.
"You think they'll pay us to rebuild it?" Scotty asked.
Basia cursed and spat on the ground.
"We wouldn't have to do this if it wasn't for people wanting to suck on RCE's tit," he said as he rolled the last barrel into place. "They can't land without this. All we had to do was not build it."
Scotty laughed out a cloud of smoke. "They were coming anyway. Might as well take their money. That's what people said."
"People are idiots," Basia said.
Scotty nodded, then smacked a mimic lizard off the passenger seat of the cart with one hand and sat down. He put his feet up on the dash and took another long puff on his pipe. "We gonna have to get gone, if we blow this. That blasting powder makes serious boom."
"Hey, mate," Coop shouted. "We're good. Let's make the place, ah?"
Scotty stood and started walking toward the pad. Basia stopped him, plucked the lit pipe from between his lips, and put it on the hood of the cart.
"Explosives," Basia said. "They explode."
Scotty shrugged, but he also looked chagrined. Coop was already easing the first barrel down onto its side when they reached him. "It's buena work this. Solid."
"Thank you," Basia said.
Coop lay down, back against the ground. Basia lay beside him. Scotty rolled the first bomb gently between them.
Basia climbed under the pad, pulling himself through the tangle of crisscrossed I-beams to each of the four barrels, turning on the remote detonators and syncing them. He heard a growing electric whine and felt a moment of irritation at Scotty for driving off with the cart before he realized the sound was of a cart arriving, not leaving.
"Hey," Peter's familiar voice yelled.
"Que la moog bastard doing here?" Coop muttered, wiping his hand across his forehead.
"You want me to go find out?" Scotty asked.
"Basia," Coop said. "Go see what Peter needs. Scotty hasn't got his back dirty yet."
Basia shifted himself out from under the landing and made room for Scotty and the last of the four bombs. Peter's cart was parked beside his own, and Peter stood between them, shifting from one foot to the other like he needed to piss. Basia's back and arms ached. He wanted this all over and to be back home with Lucia and Felcia and Jacek.
"What?" Basia said.
"They're coming," Pete said, whispering as if there were anyone who could hear them.
"Everyone. The provisional governor. The corporate security team. Science and tech staff. Everybody. This is serious. They're landing a whole new government for us."
Basia shrugged. "Old news. They been burning eighteen months. That's why we're out here."
"No," Pete said, prancing nervously and looking up at the stars. "They're coming right now. Edward Israel did a braking burn half an hour ago. Got into high orbit."
The copper taste of fear flooded Basia's mouth. He looked up at the darkness. A billion unfamiliar stars, his same Milky Way galaxy, everyone figured, just seen from a different angle. His eyes shifted frantically, and then he caught it. The movement was subtle as the minute hand on an analog clock, but he saw it. The drop ship was dropping. The heavy shuttle was coming for the landing pad.
"I was going to get on the radio, but Coop said they monitor radio spectrum and—" Pete said, but by then Basia was already running back to the landing pad. Scotty and Coop were just pulling themselves out. Coop clapped clouds of dust off his pants and grinned.
"We got a problem," Basia said. "Ship's already dropped. Looks like they're in atmosphere already."
Coop looked up. The brightness from his flashlight threw shadows across his cheeks and into his eyes.
"Huh," he said.
"I thought you were on this, man. I thought you were paying attention to where they were."
Coop shrugged, neither agreeing nor denying.
"We've got to get the bombs back out," Basia said. Scotty started to kneel, but Coop put a restraining hand on his shoulder.
"Why?" he asked.
"They try to land now, they could set it all off," Basia said.
Coop's smile was gentle. "Could," he said. "And what if?"
Basia balled his fists. "They're coming down now."
"See that," Coop said. "Doesn't inspire a great sense of obligation. And however you cut it, there ain't time to pull them."
"Can take off the primers and caps," Basia said, hunkering down. He played his flashlight over the pad's superstructure.
"Maybe could, maybe couldn't," Coop said. "Question's should, and it's a limp little question."
"Coop?" Scotty said, his voice thin and uncertain. Coop ignored him.
"Opportunity, looks like to me," Coop said.
"There's people on that thing," Basia said, crawling under the pad. The nearest bomb's electronics were flat against the dirt. He put his aching shoulder against it and pushed.
"Isn't time, mate," Coop called.
"Might be if you got your ass in here," Basia shouted. The blasting cap clung to the barrel's side like a tick. Basia tried to dig his fingers into the sealant goo and pry the cap away.
"Oh shit," Scotty said with something too much like awe in his voice. "Baz, oh shit!"
The cap came loose. Basia pushed it in his pocket and started crawling toward the second bomb.
"No time," Coop shouted. "Best we get clear, try and blow it while they can still pull up."
In the distance, he heard one of the carts taking off. Pete, going for distance. And under that, another sound. The bass roar of braking engines. He looked at the three remaining bombs in despair and rolled out from under the pad. The shuttle was massive in the black sky, so close he could make out the individual thrusters.
He wasn't going to make it.
"Run!" he shouted. He and Scotty and Coop sprinted back toward the cart. The roar of the shuttle rose, grew deafening. Basia reached the cart and scooped up the detonator. If he could blow it early, the shuttle could pull out, get away.
"Don't!" Coop shouted. "We're too close!"
Basia slammed his palm on the button.
The ground rose up, hitting him hard, the rough dirt and rocks tearing at his hands and cheek as he came to a stop, but the pain was a distant thing. Some part of him knew he might be hurt very badly, might be in shock, but that seemed distant and easy to ignore too. What struck him most was how quiet everything was. The world of sound stopped at his skull. He could hear his own breath, his heartbeat. Everything past that had the volume turned down to one.
He rolled onto his back and stared up at the star-speckled night sky. The heavy shuttle streaked overhead, half of it trailing fire, the sound of its engines no longer a bass roar but the scream of a wounded animal that he felt in his belly more than heard. The shuttle had been too close, the blast too large, some unlucky debris thrown into just the right path. No way to know. Some part of Basia knew this was very bad, but it was hard to pay much attention to it.
The shuttle disappeared from view, shrieking a death wail across the valley that came to him as a faint high piping sound, then sudden silence. Scotty was sitting beside him on the ground, staring off in the direction the ship had gone. Basia let himself lie back down.
When the bright spots it had left in his vision faded, the stars returned. Basia watched them twinkle, and wondered which one was Sol. So far away. But with the gates, close too. He'd knocked their shuttle down. They'd have to come now. He'd left them no choice.
A sudden spasm of coughing took him. It felt like his lungs were full of fluid, and he coughed it up for several minutes. With the coughing the pain finally came, wracking him from head to foot.
With the pain came the fear.
- "It's been too long since we've had a really kickass space opera. LEVIATHAN WAKES is interplanetary adventure the way it ought to be written, the kind of SF that made me fall in love with the genre way back when, seasoned with a dollop of horror and a dash of noir. Jimmy Corey writes with the energy of a brash newcomer and the polish of a seasoned pro. So where's the second book?"—George R.R. Martin on Leviathan Wakes
- "The science fictional equivalent of A Song of Ice and Fire... only with fewer beheadings and way more spaceships."—NPR Books on Cibola Burn
- "Combining an exploration of real human frailties with big SF ideas and exciting thriller action, Corey cements the series as must-read space opera."—Library Journal on Cibola Burn (Starred Review)
- "The Expanse is the best space opera series running at full tilt right now, and Cibola Burn continues that streak of excellence."—io9 on Cibola Burn
- "A politically complex and pulse-pounding page-turner.... Corey perfectly balances character development with action... series fans will find this installment the best yet."—Publishers Weekly on Abaddon's Gate
- "An excellent space operatic debut in the grand tradition of Peter F. Hamilton."—Charles Stross on Leviathan Wakes
- "High adventure equaling the best space opera has to offer, cutting-edge technology, and a group of unforgettable characters bring the third installment of Corey's epic space drama (after Caliban's War and Leviathan Wakes) to an action-filled close while leaving room for more stories to unfold. Perhaps one of the best tales the genre has yet to produce, this superb collaboration between fantasy author Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck should reawaken an interest in old-fashioned storytelling and cinematic pacing. Highly recommended."—Library Journal on Abaddon's Gate
- "Literary space opera at its absolute best."—io9.com on Abaddon's Gate
- "[T]he authors are superb with the exciting bits: Shipboard coups and battles are a thrill to follow."—Washington Post on Abaddon's Gate
- "Riveting interplanetary thriller."—Publishers Weekly on Leviathan Wakes
- On Sale
- May 5, 2015
- Page Count
- 624 pages