by Rhett C. Bruno
Kindle Edition, 246 pg.
Read: November 28 – 29, 2016
I’ve been to the rotting sewer tunnels submerged beneath the Martian domes. I’ve been to the most remote slums on Earth, and to the depths of asteroid mining colonies where being able to see the outline of your own hand in front of your face was considered bright. I’ve seen death all over and been on the end of the killing more times than I cared to count . . .
When he’s not reminiscing like an inverse-Roy Batty, Malcolm Graves is a bounty hunter of sorts — working for one of the handful of corporations that really run the solar system. He’s been at it longer than most, and has no intention of retiring anytime soon. His body, however, might have other things in mind — he’s slowing a bit, both in reflex and thought — add in a little bad luck, and Malcolm’s starting to worry about his future.
So when he’s near the site of a terrorist attack during Earth’s biggest celebration, he seizes the opportunity to get some justice and re-establish his position with the company. Sure, they’re saddling him with a partner rather than letting him work alone, but if that’s what it takes. . . . Only it’s not just a partner, it’s a young guy, fresh from an elite training program for exceptional cadets. Zhram is almost an android, it seems.
Their investigation brings them into contact with a seditious group, trying to overthrow the ruling forces on Saturn’s moon, Titan, so that the descendants of the original colonists (Titanborn). It soon becomes a race against time — can the duo find those responsible for the crime on earth and bring them in before the movement can grow and begin to make inroads against the ruling powers? Why they attempt to do so, their partnership grows and the two being to trust and learn from each other. Zhram is one of the more promising characters in the Lt. Commander Data/Odo/Sheldon Cooper-vein of people trying to learn to be more human that I’ve seen recently.
At its core, the central relationship is the classic mismatched police partners (see the Aykroyd/Hanks Dragnet, Lethal Weapon), but with a SF twist (see The Caves of Steel and Almost Human). The book is full of themes, tropes and scenarios straight from these (and similar) sources. Which isn’t to say that Titanborn is derivative — it’s part of the tradition, reflecting the best parts of its antecedents, shaping them to tell Bruno’s story.
The writing was strong (I thought a couple of times early on that he overwrote a line or two, but nothing too horrible) — the fight scenes good, the tech was believable, etc. An all-around well constructed novel.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again — it doesn’t matter if you tell a story that’s been told before, or using tropes commonly used — it’s how you use those tropes, how you tell the story — and Bruno did it in a very satisfactory way. I liked Malcolm from the get-go, I enjoyed watching the budding partnership between he and Zhaff, and even though I pegged (most of) the solution very early on, I really dug the reveal. I liked the characters, I appreciated the way that Bruno paced things and guided us through the shaky political landscape (and at least some of the reasons for the instability). I’d gladly read another half-dozen (at least) novels about these two racing around the solar system.
Disclaimer: This was provided to me by the author in exchange for my honest take on the book — note that I said “honest” and not “timely.” I was supposed to have this done months ago. My thanks for the book and apologies for the tardiness, Mr. Bruno.