– Review by Jacob Foxx –
The Circuit: Executor Rising is a solid high tech space opera from indie author Rhett C. Bruno. It is a brutal take on the future of humanity and our less than ideal nature. Fast-paced and full-of action, it introduces readers to the beginning of a long epic. The ending is open-ended, leaving space for a sequel that is being written as we speak. If you are willing to commit yourself to a new series, The Circuit is worth picking up.
The novel takes place in the distant future, where Earth is left barren from a catastrophic war. Humanity has spread among the various planets, moons and asteroids in the Solar System. People get around using a Solar-Ark shipping network built by “the Ancients.” A brutal theocracy calling itself the Tribune rules most of humanity and promises to restore Earth to its former glory. They create a faux religion around the idea: the New Earth Spirit. Cassius Vale was once a tribune, one of the senior leaders of the order until he was cast out. He spends his exile plotting his revenge with an autonomous robot named ADIM. Sage Volus is a deadly assassin known as an Executor. She is tasked with uncovering a gathering threat to the Tribune. There is a third main character named Talon Rayne but he doesn’t factor much in the plot. He is a former pirate turned miner who is forced back into piracy after killing a peon of a powerful mobster.
The book is not a complete story but more like Act I of a larger epic. As a result, the ending is open-ended, which may disappoint. Bruno better get to publishing the second one soon.
Act I provides interesting opening events and some good background for the series. The future seems to have throwbacks to Roman culture. Tribune is an ancient office, part of the Roman Republic. There are ruling families, clans, and obligatory bowing to the Tribunes – all throw backs to ancient civilization. Even the main character bears an old Roman name: Cassius.
Fusing ancient and medieval culture with futuristic settings is common in science fiction. It is part of our history but why are we so sure it will be part of our future? It could also be that referring to old names, customs, and traditions adds a nostalgic flavor to the story. Many modern and sci-fi stories emulate classical tales such as the hero’s journey (Star Wars), the Minotaur and the Labryinth (The Hunger Games), gunslingers of the Wild West (Firefly), and messianic legend (The Matrix). I’m not sure which classical tale The Circuit is invoking yet, if any.
The neologisms are a little confusing at first but it gets clearer towards the end. Tribune is a long forgotten office of the old Roman Republic. Executor is a term usually used in a legal sense for a person given authority over an estate or trust. I kept wondering if it was short for “executioner.” Other than that, the neologisms were easy to follow.
The style is straight-forward and easy to read with a few bumps here and there. There is a little info-dumping but no more than a normal sci-fi novel. It could use another round of editing though.
The unsatisfying ending is by far the biggest issue but is easily addressed with a sequel. As for other criticisms, there isn’t much. The book was enjoyable overall. If I had to get nitpicky I’d say the secondary characters are fairly one-dimensional. Some of their lines were pretty cheesy. The three main characters were more interesting and well-rounded. However, Sage Volus’s role was a little inconsistent. She is supposed to be a deadly assassin yet seems to fall into the conventional lovestruck damsel in distress role. Feminists may not enjoy the book too much as there are no significant female characters.
A good start to a solid space opera series. I’m not sure where its heading, which is a good thing. The characters need to develop a bit more, especially Sage. All in all, a good start.