A fast-paced and satisfying sci-fi adventure, Titanborn by Rhett Bruno (@rcbruno44) includes a lot of familiar elements that are elevated through the author’s confident execution. This review is based on an advance copy of the book provided by the author for that purpose. The book is slated for release on June 21, 2016.
After thirty years roaming the solar system as a collector for the Pervenio Corporation — a sort of enforcer-slash-security consultant — Malcom Graves is starting to worry about his ability to do the job. More to the point: Malcom is worried that his employer, the system’s richest man, thinks he is no longer up to it.
So when Malcom just happens to be nearly at ground-zero for a terrorist bombing on Earth, he sees the opportunity to demonstrate to his employers that he hasn’t lost anything over the years. Then his boss saddles him with a partner — the socially-challenged top graduate of the corporation’s special development program named Zhaff — and though he prefers to work alone, Malcom has no choice but to grit his teeth and try to keep the rookie from screwing up his big chance.
The action takes place on Earth, 300 years after a meteorite strike decimated the planet and spurred colonization of the solar system, and beyond. The terrorist group wants independence for Saturn’s moon Titan, which is controlled by Malcom’s employer. Descendants of the moon’s original settlers — hence, Titanborn — who arrived before the meteorite strike, they’re tired of the second-class status afforded them by the Earthers who came later. Earthers also brought diseases the Titanborn were no longer immune to after decades of living in sterile environments, and have set up quarantine camps that function as hospices, not hospitals.
A lot of the ideas in Titanborn are familiar, but the author does a great job executing a quick-moving plot that includes a few well-placed twists. The pairing of Malcom and Zhaff is straight out of the ‘mis-matched buddy cop’ school of TV/movies — i.e., Lethal Weapon or Will Ferrell’s The Other Guys — but even so I really enjoyed their interactions. Zhaff is the young gun, with a nifty high-tech eye-lens and a data-based approach, while Malcom is the grizzled veteran who prefers following his gut. There is some mystery to Zhaff’s background and the biggest twists revolve around him.
One concept that really struck me was the idea that in rebuilding Earth after the devastating meteorite strike, people would settle in long, narrow “strings” parallel to high-speed transit lines along the highest parts of continents. There are miles and miles of continuous urban sprawl but get too far away from the transit line and you’re in an untamed wilderness. A neat notion.
Titanborn’s author indicated the book is a standalone, but the conclusion is open-ended and there are plans for more stories set in this universe. Sign me up.
For more about this book, visit the author’s website.