To my dismay Persepolis Rising starts a full thirty years after the end of the previous book, Babylon's Ashes. I found myself instantly unhappy that the writing duo known as James S. A. Corey had decided it was time for the crew of the Rocinante to be getting old. All of a sudden my favorite characters were spending time complaining about the aches and pains associated with aging instead of kicking ass and taking names. Luckily the authors also put forth an intriguing story line that makes it easy to set aside such concerns. When everything goes to hell, Holden and company prove that despite their age, they aren't done just yet.
Our solar system will never be the same. Book 6 of The Expanse picks up right after the end of the last one in the bleak aftermath of the sudden and devastating attack on Earth by the Free Navy. Out of nowhere they laid waste to the bread basket of the solar system and now humanity struggles to pick up the pieces and find a way to survive. The super powers of the solar system who were central to mankind's expansion into space now find themselves mere shadows of their former selves and short on resources. Earth is in disarray after the attacks with billions of starving people and Mars is a hollow shell after being left behind by those that moved through the Ring Gate to colonize other planets with actual atmospheres. To add insult to injury, those same Martian defectors were the source of the military ships acquired by the Free Navy to wreak havoc on Earth so Mars also finds itself in the middle of a political upheaval.
The future, as initially presented by author James S. A. Corey, finds mankind having achieved space travel within our solar system but with no means to reach further out to the stars. Unfortunately, having access to additional planets and resources does little to unite humanity and instead it gives us a new way to discriminate against each other. A tenuous peace barely exists between Earth, Mars and the residents of the outer planets, and it is within this fragile environment that the discovery of an ancient alien proto-molecule lights a spark that threatens to ignite the powder keg. It all feels very plausible and makes for some great story telling.