Titanium Noir by Nick Harkaway (SciFi / Mystery)

Writing: 4.5/5 Plot: 4.5/5 Characters: 4/5

Screams noir from the very first (excellent) sentence. Cal Sounder — hard-nosed detective (with a heart, of course) — specializes in “socio-medical criminal investigations.” In other words, he gets called in on highly sensitive cases — those concerning the Titans, the medically enhanced elite who run … everything. In this case he gets thrown a murder — of a very odd Titan.

I liked this book a lot — it made me think, it surprised me (after 50+ years of reading SF, this is difficult to do), and it was quite well-written. The banter between characters was edgy and often laugh out loud funny (in the wry snorting kind of way); the plot kept twisting in unexpected directions; and the rich inner life of our hero often featured struggles with confusing philosophical issues. I really liked the way being / becoming a Titan had a cost. Nothing about the story was straightforward. A side note in the story — writing with a pen engages theta rhythms and parietal lobe activity in the brain leading to better and faster retention. I knew it!

Great for fans of John Varley’s Irontown Blues — one of my favorites.

Some good quotes:
“No need to waste a perfectly good bit of bad news with conversation.”

“In her hands, a corpse is like one of those old Bibles chained up in a dusty room, not only the printed text and the rich colours of the pictures, but the records of marriage and birth and deaths in the back pages, the history of a town.”

“If either one of them was possessed of a rich and healthy interior life, we wouldn’t be meeting at Victor’s.”

“But at the end, he clapped, the way people clap when they’re crying inside.”

“She hates old movies and TV shows. A lot of people do, without knowing why. It doesn’t occur to them to notice that we’re locked to the patterns of life in the moment T7 was developed, as if there can’t be new things because the old ones aren’t going away.”

“I should have preferred him discursive. I suspect his death is very much of his own engineering, thought of course one always looks to the employer in such a context.”

Thank you to Knopf and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on May 16th, 2023

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