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Book Review / TITAN (The Titan Trilogy #1) (2022)

After a devastating war the world is now under the control of a “democratic” global government known as the World Unity and Peace Federation. Amidst the still as-yet unobtained peace and harmony the Federation seems unable, or unwilling, to achieve for their new world, crimson-eyed Alex is trying to find his missing brother. Street smart and tech savvy, he breaks into the Federation’s Chicago field office to swipe as much data from their servers as he can, desperate for a sign Levi is alive. When he’s cornered by security and cops, he can either fight – risking exposure and possibly murder - or he can run. He runs - and a death defying leap becomes a death defying fall from the tower.

And Alex walks away alive.

Meanwhile, former government super soldiers known as Juggernauts - eternally young, with accelerated powers of strength, healing and speed - are being hunted down and killed and not even the ones on the run know how. News tells of captured Juggernauts being held imprisoned. Jack Reid, the infamous Juggernaut known around the world for being a ruthless murderer, is looking to find out where. But when he witnesses his government contact killed on screen by a very dangerous Juggernaut he thought was long dead, he takes his crew on the journey to break out their comrades and expose the facility.

Little does Jack know that a chance meeting with a crimson-eyed young man will change the balance of everyone’s world. During a street tussle with the cops, Alex seemingly dodges a bullet fired barely a foot from his head. Jack is determined to prove the young man is not a Juggernaut as first thought, but one of the greatest myths of the war era: the indestructible Titan. And Alex is determined to keep hidden a devastating secret from his new protectors.

TITAN is a tightly written dystopian sci-fi, that I read in two sittings, only because I had to go to sleep, boo! I came to really like Alex, orphaned after his mother was killed and generally starving and lonely now, and who’s been searching for his lost brother for the better part of his teens. Though ageing normally, he’s discovering he has powers otherwise only ever associated with Juggernauts - powers he tries his best to keep hidden, for fear he’ll do more harm than he already has.

It was good to see a teenager – though typical on some levels – taking the responsibility of his new strength seriously and not using it to cause havoc or make himself rich, though he had to learn the hard way. He’s become a tech pro and perceptive enough to ensure he can keep under the radar – to the detriment of his health and welfare – whilst striving to ensure he doesn’t pull anyone else into his dangerous search, even if it means severely endangering himself. Even after finding out much disturbing information along the way, Alex’s strength of character means he doesn’t give up on his family, becoming more determined to do the right thing. I also like the fact that it’s his fear of hurting others and not his aversion to violence that stops him using his power to the full, which gives future prospects of shifting into darker more vengeful pursuit appealing (for the reader at least!).

Then we have Jack, a war veteran, who’s been trying to keep himself and his crew alive since the war ended, along with trying to get a foot into the inner workings of the government. After unwittingly seeing a close contact and former war buddy killed his life begins to take a strange turn, and his excitement at possibly discovering the Holy Grail of warfare in Alex, pushes both his team and the teenager into situations neither are prepared for. Jack’s desperation to prove Alex is a Titan begins to cloud his judgement and puts everyone in danger to devastating effect. Jack’s a likeable and honourable guy, but when he gets an idea in his head it’s like hitting an anvil with a marshmallow and expecting a crack. This was great for jamming the urgency and conflict in these situations, and I kinda like being infuriated with characters, knowing they can do better and wanting them too!

I really enjoyed the burgeoning friendship between Alex and Jack, the latter taking a familial role, older brotherly almost, and the conflict this causes within his group drove the dynamics well. Alex and Jesse’s friendship was also a sweet read, and the happenings along the way as Alex is taken in by them all gave Alex a new perspective on friendships, but showed him that he didn’t need to be alone in his fights, that he had people willing to risk their safety for his, even if he wasn’t ready to reciprocate. He saw trust and loyalty emerge, something unfamiliar but welcome. Jack’s team itself was distinct enough to get a good gist of all the characters, and they were all intriguing enough to keep my attention and make me want to know more. In particular I really liked Jesse’s patience and understanding, and also Samuel’s steadfastness and calm even in the face of real danger. All in all though, kicking arse.

Another character that we’ll probably see much more of is Christina Wallace, former Lieutenant and unexpectedly finding herself made captain after a run-in with the terrifying Juggernaut Eric Weiss. Wallace, though continuously pummelled with weird and changing circumstances, whinged not one moment, and began that longed-for awakening so common in characters of dystopias, where those conspiracy theories…well, might not be so much theories. I liked her unwavering resolve, and I’m interested to see what garden path she’s going to be led down in the upcoming series.

The pacing is well controlled throughout, and so the world-building and character development gets an excellent share of our time in the story and is brilliantly done. I love a dystopia. Love conflicts of Globalist tyrannies and super soldiers and underhand manipulative politicians, the grey area in the fight for good and evil. Titan’s characters and the twists and turn of their strange lives were intriguing enough to want to hurry back and see where they’re led and how far they’re willing to go to right the historical wrongs.

I’d like to have seen the writing a little more urgent in some places where the emotional stakes were sky-high, purely to increase the tension of the choices made and to force me to claw at the e-pages to find out what happens next RIGHT NOW. I do also like a bit of romance, which is one of the directions this story didn’t go into here, which wasn’t a problem nor necessary – it’s more my own problem. I do feel there’s something coming in future instalments though, something bubbling just under the surface. Maybe I’m wrong…

Tom Stein’s TITAN is a really great read from this new author, and recommended for anyone who loves a sci-fi, a dystopia or a coming-of-age tale in a desolate world. I’m definitely on board for the continuation of this story, and after that abduction thing (gasp!), and that ending (gosh!) am bloody well desperate to know what the hell these Juggernauts are going to do to those responsible for their comrades’ eradication. Roll on part two!


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