Space operas generally aren’t my thing. They tend to be complicated, over-ambitious, and convoluted with vast plot gaps and two-dimensional characters. But a change is as good as a rest so I decided to take a look at Rhett C. Bruno’s The Circuit: Executor Rising as a palate cleanser.
Set in the distant future, Earth is now a barren wasteland devoid of life and mankind has moved to the stars, populating planets, moons and even asteroids in the solar system connected by The Kepler Circuit, a group of conduit stations allowing solar ark transport between them.
A dangerous religious sect, The New Earth Tribunal, rules most of what remains with all but a few factions left to defy them. A series of attacks on their ships, carrying Gravitum, a powerful element discovered in Earth’s now highly unstable mantle leads them to call on a former member Cassius Vale to investigate. As we soon discover, Vale has plans of his own for the Gravitum and has orchestrated these attacks with the help of ADIM, a lethal and unstoppable android created by him.
The Tribunal have also sent Sage Volus, an Executor to infiltrate a gang of mercenaries they suspect are behind the attacks led by Talon Rayne, a former miner forced into servitude after killing a co-worker in a brawl.
I was pleasantly surprised by Bruno’s ability to drop us into this world with very little backstory. I didn’t expect the world building to be as effective as it was but the structure of The Circuit and its inhabitants and political and religious background is easy to understand. As a main character, Cassius Vale is brilliant, enigmatic and devious and as his plan is revealed throughout the cleverly-woven plot we see the true nature of his endeavours. Sage Volus, is a tough yet multi-faceted character, struggling with the subservient nature of her role as an executor while also coming to terms with the loss of the man she loved (who happens to be Vale’s son) and Talon Rayne is a man facing death left with no choice but to do the bidding of his masters in order to protect the future of his daughter.
The relationship between Vale and his creation ADIM is a very interesting one and plays an important part in the plot development. Although relying on the classic Pinocchio conundrum of the creation’s curiosity about being human and the intricacies of emotion and relationships, on the other hand ADIM is a brutal killing machine in the hands of Vale, as we see in the opening scene where he performs a chillingly clinical attack. It is clear, however that ADIM is evolving and I’m certain there is a much bigger story unfolding here.
As a debut, The Circuit: Executor Rising is highly accomplished and injects enough vibrant energy into a tired genre to entertain the reader from start to finish. It’s a thrilling, cinematic, action-packed adventure buzzing with tension and while violent in parts it expertly balances that brutality with sentiment in just the right places, while leaving space for a social commentary that sadly resonates with global events of late.
Buy now on Amazon