I just finished Caliban's War. I liked it, but it has a lot of issues that, at least, did not convince me. I may ask about them here as they come back to my memory.

I'm about to ask something about the end of the book. I tried to keep the title spoiler-free but the rest, of course, will not be.

One I remember distinctly is: why is Holden the only one to go into Nguyen's ship to look for the transcoder codes for the bioweapons launched towards Mars?

“I’ll take the pinnace over to the battleship,” Holden said. “The transponder activation codes are going to be in the CIC.”
“You?” Avasarala asked.
“Only two people got off Eros,” Holden said with a shrug. “And I’m the one that’s left.”

Doesn't sound like such a hard idea to come up with. Why didn't the martians send marines to the ship to try and get the transponder code? Holden would argue that it was a better idea to just go in in a small force (for instance, just one hot-headed ship captain) that has experiencie with the protomolecule, but the other posibility is not even mentioned.

I was expecting Holden to call them and convince them to leave him try first. "Give me an hour, and if I am not back by then you go in and try it your way.

Is there a good explanation?

3 Answers 3


As far as I can remember, the Agatha King was irradiated, and Holden had already been exposed to radiation on Eros and had to take anti-cancer medicine for the rest of his life. Presumably, he felt he could risk his life and his DNA.

  • 1
    Sure, it makes total sense for him to go. It's in line with his recklessness. But it doesn't make so much sense for Mars to let him got and not send a score of marines to do the same.
    – Jk041
    Jan 20, 2016 at 11:28
  • This is the correct answer. The major issue at hand was radiation. The rest of the Roci's team was preparing for the ground assault. Nobody else had been exposed to huge amounts of radiation like were present in the Agatha King. Maybe as the weapons got closer to their targets, the Earth or Martian forces would have decided that it was worth irradiating their marines to accomplish the same task. Holden was already on anti-cancer meds and was familiar with the progression of a protomolecule infestation. And he volunteered.
    – rsegal
    Sep 13, 2016 at 18:19

It seemed to me that the most logical explanation was that ship was immediately declared under quarantine since protomolecule got loose on it.

They also seemed to observe that ship is being changed by it much more rapidly, now that it is more familiar with human biology and technology. So time was possibly running very short before transponder codes would become altogether inaccessible.

I do agree that it still feels like a stretch that Holden went all alone, even under those circumstances.


I know what you are saying. But if Holden had failed and an hour had gone by, it would have been too late as most of the crew on the King would have been turned into protomolecule monsters. Why was he the only one - why didn't Martian Marines didn't accompany him - I figure it had to be just a better story line.

The last time he was amongst vomit zombies, it was just him and Miller. This time it was just him with the crewman Larson. Larson was necessary to help Holden on his way - Holden isn't a super hero. But Larson was disposable to the story.

Sometimes the common sense thing isn't always the best story.

PS. I know this is an old question, but I had just finished reading Caliban's War for the second time.

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