One of the most enjoyable things about having spent the last couple of years as a science fiction and fantasy book reviewer is that occasionally a new author will see a review I’ve written about a book intended for a similar audiences as their new effort. Sometimes those authors get in touch with me and offer a free copy of their new book in exchange for an honest review. Who am I to turn down free books after all?
The Circuit: Executor Rising found its way to my reading list because the author, Rhett C. Bruno, stumbled upon my review of James S.A. Corey’s Leviathan Wakes from a while back. This book fits into the same genre and intended audience that Leviathan Wakes goes after, so the author thought I might be interested in giving it a try.
There is a certain charm to science fiction novels that base themselves exclusively in our solar system instead of ranging into fictional galaxies and strange places that the reader knows nothing about before they pick up a book. Pretty much everyone knows where Saturn is located, or that there are well-known moons such as Titan or Enceladus. Readers already know about Earth’s moon and Mars as places that even in real life scientists have notions about colonizing. The fact that a reader can know where an author is referring to from the first mention of the place rather than needing a lot of extra world building to make things effective allows an author to keep their focus on the story. A small part of me thinks that all new science fiction authors should be forced to start in our solar system instead of inventing their own, but I’m not foolish enough to think that would ever actually happen.
The Circuit: Executor Rising keeps itself firmly rooted in our home system, dealing with a future where humanity has done what seems to be the inevitable and ruined our home planet. Earth is a shell of its former self, barren and unable to support life in any meaningful way. Instead humanity is exiled to the Kepler Circuit, a string of colonies and stations spread through the solar system linked by ever-moving transports known as Solar-Arks. The Tribune, a religious faction, has assumed control of most law enforcement and most of society in general, and as as a result exert their influence and control as widely and brutally as possible.
With a book like The Circuit: Executor Rising it can be very easy for the author to overwhelm a reader with far too many viewpoints as they try to set the stage for everything going on in their book’s universe. However, Bruno, like James S.A. Corey with Leviathan Wakes, has managed to keep the number of viewpoints in The Circuit: Executor Rising to a small few while still providing a rather expansive view of the book universe he is working in. As a reader jumping into a book by a debut author, or as a reader jumping into a new trilogy or series in general, I find that only having to keep three or four character viewpoints straight in my mind is so much easier than a dozen or two dozen. It makes for a tighter, more engaging first experience with the book.
An android by the name of ADIM was my favorite viewpoint by far. His artificial intelligence is very advanced, but he still has struggles comprehending some of the more basic feelings and situations that a normal human would find to be second nature. I enjoyed the character as I watched him grow bit by bit over the course of the book even though he had what seemed to be the least amount of screen time by a significant margin. My second favorite character is Sage, a Tribune Executor who has been sent to infiltrate a rebellious group, but is struggling with her own past decisions in service to the Tribune. I think there is a lot more coming from Sage, and perhaps even a lot more back story than I originally thought. It would be interesting to read a prequel type novella revolving exclusively around Sage and the very briefly mentioned relationship she had in the past with another main character’s son.
When it comes to how well The Circuit: Executor Rising compares to other science fiction, I think it stands up rather well. The opening chapter or two did feel a little bit disjointed to me, but by the time I was four or five chapters in I had a good grasp of where the story was taking me. There are a few patches that aren’t as polished as they could be, but they aren’t bad and I think with future installments the author will see those rough edges smooth themselves out on their own. The story was tightly paced, never leaving me feel like I was waiting for something to happen and the switches between viewpoints were well organized to let me connect with a character, but not get worn out by only seeing things through their eyes.
There are a lot of good things going on with The Circuit: Executor Rising. I think Rhett C. Bruno has found himself a wonderful story to tell and I’m looking forward to seeing what a second book has to offer at some point in the future. If you are a fan of The Expanse series, or anything remotely in the same vein, then The Circuit: Executor Rising is probably a book you should take a good, hard look at picking up sometime.