Titanborn by Rhett Bruno
Malcolm Graves lives by two rules: finish the job, and get paid. After thirty years as a collector, chasing bounties and extinguishing rebellions throughout the solar system, Malcolm does what he’s told, takes what he’s earned, and leaves the questions to someone else—especially when it comes to the affairs of offworlders.
But his latest mission doesn’t afford him that luxury. After a high-profile bombing on Earth, the men who sign Malcolm’s paychecks are clamoring for answers. Before he can object, the corporation teams him up with a strange new partner who’s more interested in statistics than instinct and ships them both off to Titan, the disputed moon where humans have been living for centuries. Their assignment is to hunt down a group of extremists: Titanborn dissidents who will go to any length to free their home from the tyranny of Earth.
Heading into hostile territory, Malcolm will have to use everything he’s learned to stay alive. But he soon realizes that the situation on the ground is much more complex than he anticipated . . . and much more personal.
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t read a huge amount of science fiction. Occasionally however, a book will come along that piques my interest. Titanborn by Rhett Bruno is one such example. The notion that when humanity heads to the stars we will split off into different factions, and ultimately different species, is intriguing.
Malcolm Graves is a cantankerous old sort. Grizzled and more than a little jaded by decades as a collector (think galactic bounty hunter/detective), he believes he has seen it all. Like all the best detectives, he is a bit of a mess as a human being. His personal life is a shambles and he does not suffer fools gladly. After a number of high profile lapses in judgement, the powers that be decide Graves needs a bit of help. His new partner, Zhaff, is the polar opposite to Graves; young, enthusiastic and highly trained, he is always focussed on the task in hand. Needless to say Graves and Zhaff don’t see eye to eye from the get go. Can they set their differences aside and uncover the truth?
The galactic diaspora has created resentment on all sides. Giant resource hungry corporations are happy to exploit everyone. In addition, those who stayed on Earth are suspicious of “offworlders”. Meanwhile, those who have been born elsewhere are keen to carve out their own cultural identity without Earth’s involvement. In particular, the beings who have been born on Titan see themselves as a breed apart from the rest of humanity. Their bodies have evolved from living in harsh conditions quite different from Earth. The Titanborn want freedom and will stop at nothing to get it. The question Malcolm and Zhaff have to answer – who is leading this revolution and for what reason?
I enjoyed Titanborn, I found it vaguely reminiscent of Total Recall. It is a superior science fiction thriller with a nice vein of political conspiracy running through it. Graves and Zhaff also have that whole mismatched cop thing going on and its fun watching how their relationship evolves as they dig further and further into their case.
You could perhaps argue that Titanborn doesn’t tread any new ground, I’ll admit that is probably true, but it is a well-executed example of its genre. The story cracks along at a fair pace, the characters are engaging and I found I was more than happy to lose myself in the action. I’d love to read more stories set in the universe that Bruno has created.
Titanborn is published by Hydra and is available now.