Rhett Bruno asked me to review his novel "TitanBorn". It is a post post-apacolyptic, space science fiction, buddy cop story. I will examine Plot, Characters, and Polish before assigning a grade.
I like the prologue. The prologue has good foreshadowing and the characters create this sense of impending conflict. It also sets up the Ringers/Titan Born as sympathetic by providing their POV first thing. Without this first piece, the conflict would be less grey and the climax and resolution make less sense.
The main narrative is also good. I generally don't like first person narratives because they come off to me as awkward or self-conscious without a frame narrative. In here, Malcom Graves starts his narration by talking about the ultimate result of the mission, which makes this whole story basically a flashback and then he narrates further flashbacks, including a transition sentence between the two layers of flashback. I thought it was clumsy, but then I reached the ending, and that's when I discovered the frame narrative. With that discovery, my opinion of the first person narration improved.
The plot is basically a Buddy Cop story, but IN SPACE! One is a veteran who works on experience-based intuition and the other is a fresh graduate who works on data-crunching logic. They have been assigned to work together by the head of their company to track down the organization that both bombed and stole something from New London. Naturally, they butt heads and bicker all the way, but their boss thinks they can make a fantastic team.
While I think some aspects of this setting are ridiculous, it is generally well put together. For instance, cities on Earth are all built in a line instead of a sprawl because this is supposed to keep things scattered and less vulnerable to another meteor. I think this would be impractical to live in, and difficult to maintain. I just ignored it. On the other hand, the constant push to spread humanity to other planets and moons of gas giants makes more sense, given that this society has developed the necessary technology centuries ago. It also ties into the plot's conflict; the underpinnings for it.
Like Star Trek, it has a "future racism" sort of thing. The kind of discrimination going around in the 21st century is no longer relevant. Instead, the most significant form of social intolerance is between those born on Earth and those born in other places, particularly those as far away as Saturn. Those born there are referred to as "ringers" by others, and they take this as a slur. They prefer "Titan Born", but Malcom at least sees this as the sign of superiority over others given their attitude.
When I neared the end of the book, I didn't think Mr. Bruno would be able to close it without a cliffhanger or something open ended. I was incorrect. This is a great ending. It is both resolved and unresolved at the same time.
Malcom Graves is a veteran "collector" which is what this story calls "bounty hunters". He is cynical, slovenly, sarcastic and has been busting heads for Pervenio Corp for decades. He's the oldest collector to do so for two reasons: 1.) he's good at what he does and 2.) he's a thrill seeker. At the start of the story, his boss gives him a vacation as a punishment.
Aside from a collector, Malcom is a father. The flashbacks universally include or refer to his daughter Aria and how he messed up their relationship. On the one hand, he clearly loves his daughter and tries his best to prepare her for adult life, but on the other hand, he's a single dad and his only skill set involves tracking people down and killing/arresting them.
Zhafft is a fresh graduate from the Cognent Initiative. This is an academy Pervenio runs for unusual individuals. It trains them to maximize their natural strengths while ignoring their handicaps. Zhafft, for instance, is heavily implied to be on the Autistic Spectrum. He doesn't understand sarcasm, metaphors, and typical human relationships but he does understand deduction reasoning, mission parameters, and numerous forms of combat. He's also a living lie detector.
It's a Red Oni/Blue Oni partnership.
As stated in the grey morality at the top, there is no Big Bad. In fitting with Malcom's cynical mindset, what we have here are anti-villains fighting each other. Only one person in this story has a motivation other than "follow orders", "follow the money" or " Revenge!" and that person enables this plot's starting conflict.
I found maybe one typo. The book looks good.
Trickster Eric Novels gives "Titan Born" a B+
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To read the review for the sequel, "From Ice to Ashes", click here