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By Chad Lester

IR Rating:
Chad Lester’s TITAN’S TEARS is an intelligent and entertaining sci-fi thriller that grips the reader from the first page. Cleverly plotted, it has some well-disguised twists as the story gathers pace and lands a thoroughly satisfying conclusion.
IR Approved
A speculative sci-fi thriller in which the true identity of a mysterious child may have serious repercussions for the future of mankind.

In a future where artificial intelligence has grown to be the driving force in society, thirty-year-old Belle lives in exile in an isolated Alaskan village. Unable to find work, she feels trapped and is increasingly paranoid, convinced that she is being watched. She passes her time wandering the snow-filled landscape and hoping one day she may get to see more of the world. Out of nowhere, she is offered an opportunity by the enigmatic Sophia Eccleston, a Nobel Prize-winning entrepreneur and owner of the global tech company Eccleston Evolution. The job is to look after Sophia’s blind daughter Juno, who is 8 years old. Belle travels to the mysterious island base of the company, where she must take care of the child by following strict, sometimes bizarre rules and security protocols. The pay is outstanding, the accommodation luxurious, but there is more to the task than is first apparent.

Alongside its artificial intelligence and robotics divisions, Eccleston Evolution is at the forefront of bio-tech and cutting-edge medicine. Able to resurrect extinct animals from their DNA record and heal previously incurable diseases, the company is an international titan. Little wonder that it is under constant threat from hostile takeovers, industrial espionage, and lawsuits. As Sophia’s requirements for Juno’s care become ever more sinister, Belle begins to question her employer’s true motives. There is something strange at the heart of Sophia’s enterprise, and the key to unlocking the mystery may lie with Seth, a terminally-ill slaughterhouse worker, whose life has long been bound to Eccleston Evolution. He, too, has had his own summons to the island.

Chad Lester’s TITAN’S TEARS is a futuristic thriller that builds on many of the pressing issues of the contemporary era to serve as a stark warning of what may be just around the corner. In this future, mankind’s fear of the rise of AI has been partly assuaged by the fact that the “rise of the robots” did not result in a doomsday scenario. Indeed, many citizens seem happy to settle into serfdom guided by machines, as long as they are fed and housed. Sophia Eccleston has bigger plans, though. She claims to be the only person on the planet who can, as she puts it, “take this wretched species to the next level, to seize our rightful throne, to turn hairless apes into gods.” She has already succeeded in filling her island domain with resurrected Tasmanian tigers and cloned mammoths. The true extent of her genetic experiments is yet to be fully realized.

Lester does excellent work in creating a believable, speculative, near-future world: A place where genetically modified humans can become stars, such as the supermodel Tully sisters—“seven feet tall, with extended necks and skin and hair as white as alabaster.” It’s also a place where human genes are spliced with pig’s genes so that both bacon and organs for transplants can be economically factory farmed in the same automated facility.

The character of Sophia is a recognizable (and somewhat cliché) eccentric genius, and the reliance on extensive verbatim transcripts from her journals to fill in her backstory sits a little awkwardly with the more fluid narrative elsewhere. This is counterbalanced by the more sophisticated rendering of Belle and the mysterious child. Most intriguing is the character of Seth, whose story begins some twenty years before the main narrative and runs in parallel until the timelines eventually converge. When Seth’s wife was dying, he had been coerced into taking out a contract with Eccleston Evolution to keep her body frozen until a cure was found, resulting in him working endlessly to service a debt for a wife still in stasis.

Aside from the aforementioned journal entries, the story is well-paced, and Lester even manages to throw in some successful action sequences set around the island while maintaining the more cerebral central mystery.

Chad Lester’s TITAN’S TEARS is an intelligent and entertaining sci-fi thriller that grips the reader from the first page. Cleverly plotted, it has some well-disguised twists as the story gathers pace and lands a thoroughly satisfying conclusion.

~Kent Lane for IndieReader

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