François Vigneault’s vision of the future is dark, not so much because of what’s going to change but because of how much will stay the same. Many things have moved on: white collar workers have digital personal assistants implanted in their heads; the moons of Saturn and beyond are being mined for precious mineral resources that are shipped back to Earth; and a genetically engineered humanoid subspecies have been established to do the hard interplanetary labour that our mollycoddled Earth-bound bodies are incapable of enduring. But beyond that, too much stays the same: big business continues to make inhumane decisions in the interests of economics and profit, while the exploited working classes remain all but powerless to do anything about it. Add in racism, prejudice and all manner of other modern social problems and you get the gist of what underlies the plot Titan.
The book pulls all these factors into a collision course. We follow the story of João Da Silva, a management trouble-shooter sent by a mining company to either sort out the profit problems of the failing mine on Saturn’s moon or wind it up. However, the colony is employment and home to thousands of Titans, who’ll have nothing else if the mine is closed. They can’t even travel to Earth, because their enormous frames are unsuited to its stronger gravity. That these natives treat Da Silva and his company with suspicion and disdain is hardly surprising. In fact, by the time Da Silva arrives, the colony is on the edge of a violent revolution.
The beauty of the book is in its detail. Much of this comes from the art, which is far more sophisticated than the few panels I’ve pulled out here can do justice to. The mining station is over a hundred years old and looks it, a mess of pipes, conduits, graffiti and machines with little screens and lots of buttons. Years of hard labour has left the Titans scarred and disfigured. Vigneault’s art looks simple in style but is rich in depth and character. The three colours, with a pinky-orange hue tempering the monochromatic light and shade, is more than enough to capture all this to perfection.
It’s not just the art, though. There’s detail in the story too. For example, the Titans have their own culture and dialect, that’s guttural, brutal and entirely in-keeping with their way of life. It lends an authenticity to their difference that isn’t just based on their physical size. All of this is added without fanfare, building a subtle but tangible reality that works wonderfully.
So there you have it. Titan is a perfect storm of European-style science fiction, packed with drama, character, understated futurism and a deep intelligence. It also has a great plot that keeps the pages turning. Check it out, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.