After a mission to Mars during the war against the aliens known as Antags (Antagonists), Michael Venn is in isolation in a sort of quarantine because he’s told of the fear that he and other Skyrines – Sky + marines – were contaminated. After being questioned about what they found on Mars, he fears that there’s nothing good for him in his future.
When he’s expecting the worst, Michael Venn is freed by a woman who explains to him that there are humans who don’t accept what was told them by the aliens known as the Gurus. To hope to discover the truth about the war in the solar system, Venn will have to go back to Mars but this time it’s just a step in a longer journey.
In “War Dogs” Greg Bear introduced a future in which humanity is faced with the attempted invasion of an alien species, the Antags, after receiving a warning from another species, the Gurus, who also provided advanced technologies needed to defend the solar system. The protagonist Michael Venn, who tells his story in the first person, is only a sergeant and knows only what was said to ordinary people about the aliens but during a military tour on Mars he’s part of he discovers that there’s a lot more out there and starts having doubts.
“Killing Titan” continues Michael Venn’s story and is the second part of a larger story divided into three books that should be read in its entirety. Through the protagonist, Greg Bear offers information on characters and events of the first novel but they’re good to allow the reader to remember them better, not to replace the reading of the initial part of a story that becomes more and more complex.
In this second novel Greg Bear starts offering some answers to the many questions spread from the beginning of the trilogy but a lot remains to be clarified. Michael Venn has already found himself in situations where it’s difficult for him to understand what’s really happening to him and to some extent his confusion increases because he finds himself in unexpected situations again. The discoveries take place in a way that is far from linear and among several ambiguities with the protagonist who must try not only to survive but also to hold on to reality and his mental sanity.
An important part of the events experienced by Michael Venn is linked to alien life forms and artifacts. The trilogy is considered military science fiction but in “Killing Titan” this element seems used even less than in “War Dogs” with the war in the solar system used to introduce a series of elements related to factions and manipulations. Over the course of his career, Greg Bear has written many works of which the scientific and technological elements formed the basis and in this trilogy they’re crucial as well but seem to me less developed than he did in the past.
The protagonist is not a scientist so his understanding of everything that is alien is limited while he can offer a lot of information about the events in which he’s involved. In essence, Greg Bear’s choice is understandable but for my tastes it makes the trilogy less interesting while it can be considered a merit for readers who prefer adventurous science fiction and stories full of secrets to be revealed.
In the end “Killing Titan” is above all the story of characters in search for the truth about the war in the solar system and the factions that are fighting it. All this is filtered by Michael Venn’s experiences and perceptions with all the consequences.
Reading “Killing Titan” I had a clearer idea of what to expect having already read “War Dogs” but I still have some doubts about Greg Bear’s choices and there’s the problem that this is the second book of a trilogy and tells the central part of the story with a very open ending. A final judgment can only be given after reading the third book so if you’re interested in the themes you must get the whole trilogy.