Author: Rhett Bruno
Genre: Adult, Science Fiction, Thriller
After a massive meteorite nearly wiped out the human population to the point of extinction, mankind shifted its focus towards human expansion, actively seeking out means to safely inhabit other celestial bodies in the universe.
The story begins three hundred years after the meteorite hit. At this point, several places in the solar system—such as Luna (the moon), Mars, Europa (one of Jupiter’s moons), and Titan (one of Saturn’s moons)—are now populated by man. Those who are born on Earth are referred to as Earthers whereas everyone else is called as off-worlders. Additionally, the old forms of government all collapsed and have been replaced by the United Sol Federation (USF). However, the USF is actually a structure without real power due to the existing, prevalent corporate politics. Private corporations—namely Pervenio and Venta—are truly the ones in control.
Malcolm Graves has spent thirty years of his life as a loyal Collector for the Pervenio Corporation. As a Collector—which is pretty similar to a bounty hunter, it’s his job to do the dirty work for his employers. He chases after rebels and eliminates threats throughout the solar system. After a high-profile bombing on Earth, Malcolm soon finds himself traveling to Titan, where the locals have been pushed aside by Earthen immigrants, in order to hunt down a group of Titanborn dissidents who want nothing more than to reclaim what’s theirs.
I’ve read so many four (4) and five (5) star reviews for this book, and for a while, I pondered on why I could not quite immerse myself with the hype. Don’t get me wrong. It is not that I disliked the book. I liked it. I just wasn’t blown away. However, I think I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s talk about the elements in the book.
Corporate politics always made things interesting. In Sol, wars over control were fought in the shadows with checkbooks, with barely a shot ever fired.
First of all, I have to commend the author, Rhett Bruno, for the brilliant concept. Seriously, who wasn’t reeled in by the book’s synopsis? Titanborn promises a story packed with thrilling adventure, inevitable danger, and innovative science fiction—which was exactly what I got from the book! Each chapter held something fascinating, be it a large-scale bombing or interplanetary travel. The plot was quite intricate as well – gritty, exciting and detail-oriented. Secondly, I wouldn’t call the world-building phenomenal but it was very apparent to me that the entire set-up was well thought of. The book offered a comprehensive, detailed vantage point of the solar system.
The countless craters dotting the surface were hollowed out, with tunnels crisscrossing the moon as if a great metal parasite had crawled inside and spread its limbs. Docking chutes jutted from the rocky outer surface like crooked fingers. No place in Sol received more ships on a monthly basis. Being located directly on the planet’s Rings made sending out ice haulers and gas harvesters extremely efficient.
The harvesters were especially lucrative. They worked tirelessly to siphon from Saturn’s stormy atmosphere the valuable gases that powered modern fusion cores and interplanetary ion-drives—the cornerstones of the emergent Sol-wide economy. They were what made the Ring so desirable, and were the only reason other jealous corporations set their sights on colonizing the moons of Jupiter. But even the largest of the gas giants in Sol didn’t have those gases in abundance like its ringed cousin. Saturn was a relative gold mine, and while a handful of other corporations had their own smaller stations orbiting Saturn, there was no question that Pervenio ran the Ring.
The writing style of the author was neat. By that I mean, the narrative was plain, straightforward and had no unnecessary purple prose, which I personally saw as a great thing because it allowed me to really focus on what was going on. I particularly liked the author’s approach in educating the readers of the systems, history, technicalities and world-building in the solar system he crafted; the information dumping was minimal, if not nonexistent. (
Did I really just use a double negative? Eww.) A chunk of the information was delivered through subtle—but noticeable—means. Additionally, I think the simplistic writing truly aided in further pacing all the action and adventure.
Regarding the characters, I liked Zhaff the most. He really fascinated me, and his back story succeeded in reeling me in, wanting to know more about his life and to better understand his personality. I did not, however, particularly care about the actual main character, Malcolm Graves. I cannot really think of a legitimate explanation for it. I just really didn’t care.
My main problem with the book was the use of flashbacks as a literary device. It seemed to be significantly distracting and took away a portion of the suspense buildup. Also, the transition between the present and the past was not as smooth as I would have liked, which led to slight confusion every now and then. I am not saying that the content of these flashbacks was irrelevant because they were, in fact, supplementing the plot material; however, I just could not appreciate the approach. I wish they were delivered in some other way.
Another struggle I had with the book was the latter part, particularly the ending. Quite frankly, the ending left me with a single thought, and that single thought was “Meh.” For one thing, the “sudden twists” in the final chapters of the book were actually glaringly obvious to me. I saw them coming even before I reached halfway through the story. I think the foreshadowing and the element of suspense could be greatly improved upon. In addition to this, another reason why I did not enjoy the ending was because of the sudden change in pacing. For most of the book, everything was breezing through at a perfect pace, but upon reaching the latter section of Titanborn, every scene felt rushed and disconnected to me. I did not appreciate how abrupt everything felt.
These things aside, however, everything else was on point! Really, I genuinely believe that Titanborn is a well-written, solid science fiction novel. But again, as I’ve said earlier in my review, I did not love it. In fact, I read the book at quite a sluggish pace because as exciting and as gripping as the scenes were, I was not eager to continue reading. I do not think that this was due to technicalities, because the novel’s form, structure and prose were all right. I think my lack of eagerness boils down to my personal preferences as a reader. One of those “it’s not you, it’s me” sort of things. I’m sure I would have enjoyed this a lot more as a legitimate sci-fi film rather than a book. Every so often, I would think to myself, “My god, this would make a great movie.” I don’t know. I just couldn’t fully immerse myself in the story and the plot, despite knowing that they’re well-crafted. If this were a movie instead of a book, I can already tell that the visuals and the bounty-hunting action scenes would be spectacular and a lot more appealing. Although I cannot deny that Bruno’s writing skills in this book were on point, the location of that point is a galaxy away from where I am.
Excerpt from the book:
“That is scientifically impossible. Cogents are selected from children with heightened senses and intuition, among other abnormalities. I have heard us compared to savants, though that is not entirely accurate.”
“So basically you’re all brains, no gut.”
“Considering all facets of human activity stem from the brain, yes” he said. “However, I was born with a low-functioning amygdala and a—”
“You’re wasting your breath with all that talk. I didn’t pay much attention to science lectures when I was in school.”
“Simplistically, while my intelligence quota is high, I am not proficient in what you would call social situations.”
“No kidding?” I joked. His expression remained stagnant. “So, what, they slammed you into a solitary box on some asteroid and trained you to excel at the things you are good at?”
“It was not on an asteroid.”