The Circuit: Earthfall by Rhett C. Bruno
*Published Dec. 13, 2016*
Earthfall is the incredibly satisfying conclusion to Rhett C. Bruno's The Circuit trilogy. Although I wouldn't recommend reading it without having read the other two first, I thought it was the best of all three books in terms of pacing, writing, and character development. The plot has a clear arc from the outset, and develops naturally from there. It never slows down too much, but nor does it feel convoluted. And most importantly to me, although it wasn't exactly what I would have hoped for, there's an ending that feels appropriate for each beloved character.
The concept of the Circuit is what drew me in, but it's the characters that kept me reading. What I love about the Circuit is that it's not dystopian, but it's far from the pie in the sky, colonize the stars dream of 1950s and '60s scifi. Humanity managed to escape Earth's demise, but society is stagnant, caught just existing in our original solar system, dependent on the element Gravitum, mined from the remains of Earth. It's in some ways a more potent mirror for today than fiction that reflects our deepest fears, like The Hunger Games or The Walking Dead. The worst hasn't yet happened, in fact, humanity largely weathered the apocalypse, civil society intact (more or less), BUT...our dreams are on hold.
These elements of the society in which they exist are evident in Bruno's protagonists. Most of all, Cassius, the villain with a conscience, is determined to break society's dependence on Gravitum and ensure the fated return to the stars. Bruno takes a nuanced look in asking us to examine Cassius' lofty goal, and as it turns out, noble intentions and all-too-human emotions, against the destruction his actions wreak. Whether or not Cassius is a redeemable character depends very much on the reader, and I like that invitation to think on a human scale. Personally, I lean towards no...but I'm not entirely sure.
The more obviously redeemable protagonists, Talon and Sage, still have their dark sides, of which Bruno is careful to remind in the final volume. Both have committed crimes for others in their past, and while it's arguable that those actions were necessary to support the societies in which they believe, it's also taken a toll on them. Especially Talon and Sage, but all of the protagonists, including Cassius and his robot "son" ADIM, find some redemption in the book's opening rescue of Talon's daughter Elisha. Following these characters' journeys and choices are what kept me tied to the screen of my ereader, and I was rewarded with the explosion of ADIM's ticking time bomb, which I mention in my review of the second book. However, Bruno did make some moves that surprised me, and the mix of an expected and unexpected ending was highly pleasurable.
For an interesting take on a post-apocalyptic human society in space, nuanced and compelling characters, and strong writing, I recommend the Circuit trilogy, especially to science fiction fans, but also fans of political and/or character-driven fiction.
Received for review from the author.