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Chad Lester
Titan's Tears
Chad Lester, author
Unnatural things are happening on an isolated island off the coast of Alaska. Just when Belle had thought her life couldn’t get any weirder—she finds herself arrested for murder. Only a few months ago she lived in a peculiar village, cut off from civilization, where she suffered from bizarre hallucinations and nightmares. Then she received a mysterious invitation to work for the world’s most brilliant scientist—the enigmatic Sophia Eccleston. The pay was outstanding. The accommodations, second to none. The catch? Belle had to live on isolated island and follow strict, often bizarre, security protocols. Meanwhile a slaughterhouse worker is declared obsolete, replaced by machines, and becomes a bearded recluse. As he sits in his crumbling manor awaiting the cancer to take him—he too receives an unusual invitation to the strange island where either his salvation or damnation await. Things aren’t going well for Sophia either. She faces the hostile takeover of her life’s work—her company—all while striving to keep the identity of her eight-year-old daughter a secret. They all meet on an isle where murder-machines and transgenic creatures run amok in a gothic odyssey where technology has been unleashed. What could go wrong?
Set before and after a singularity that, at first, no one cares about or even much notice, this captivating science fiction novel from Lester (author of the story collection Continum) offers a surprising and resonant story of technological advancements, the bonds of family, born and found, and most urgently the ways tech and power can change humanity. Belle is a young woman stuck in her small Alaska hometown until she receives a life-changing job opportunity working for Sophia Eccleston of the world famous tech company, Eccleston Evolution. Upon meeting the 70 year old woman—who doesn't “look a day over twenty”—Belle is tasked with being a caregiver to Sophia’s eight-year-old daughter, Juno, who’s hidden away from a world Belle worries soon will be aflame. Meanwhile, Seth Johnson is a hardworking warehouse worker until a life altering accident and machines put him out of work and a devastating tragedy befalls his family after a work accident results in chemicals in his system.

Told through the narratives of Belle, Sophia, and Seth, Titan’s Tears conjures a near-future where miraculous breakthroughs, like deliverybots and cloned mammoths, quickly are regarded as mundane. The story builds to a crescendo with climatic tension and a plot line that intricately weaves each character’s lives together, eventually bringing them to Eccleston’s remote island of ancient beasts, bleeding-edge wonders, and literal “murder-machines.” The mysteries and suspense entice, while Lester digs deeper than simple thrills, capturing the textures of life in this future.

Especially provocative: through journal entries, readers learn more about Sophia as she reflects on curing diseases such as Parkinson's, her heart-breaking relationship with a previous business partner, Lucas, and her vision for a brand new beginning. Lester deftly ties it all together into a layered, eerie puzzle. Fans of ensemble narratives and thoughtful thrillers with truly jolting twists will relish this trio’s journey into a stranger, newer world—and this novel that, as it looks forward, playfully engages with some SF classics of the past.

Takeaway: Eerie, deftly envisioned near-future thriller of life in the singularity.

Comparable Titles: Nick Harkaway, Charles Stross.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A-