Stolen Earth (J.T. Nicholas) – Book Review

Stolen Earth is the latest science fiction book from publisher Titan Books, a novel that transports readers to a future where humanity has fled the planet, forced to eke out a life on run down ships, remote space stations, and struggling colonies. However, when the captain of a small pirate vessel is hired for a dangerous mission, it soon becomes clear that nothing is as anyone has been led to believe.

The book focuses on the Arcus, a small ship with a crew of five misfits and outlaws who’ve come together on the fringes of society to try and survive the best they can in extreme circumstances. Set over hundred years, after humanity were forced to flee earth thanks to a war that quickly escalated beyond their control. After a series of AIs were put in charge of the military across the continents the battlefield soon span out of control. With nanite viruses and ecology–changing weaponry sweeping across the planet, those that could fled to the stars, taken in by those already living out in space. But the majority of humanity were left behind to their fate.

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Generations later, the crew of the Arcus, led by the former navy captain Grayson Lynch, is hired to sneak their way through the Interdiction Zone, an array of satellite weapons surrounding Earth to keep the AIs contained within, so that they can land on the planet and collect relics of the old world. Knowing that the mission is incredibly dangerous, but also highly profitable, the five of them decide to go through with the task; but soon discover secrets that could forever change the lives of every human in the entire solar system.

One of the things that’s great about Stolen Earth is how it very quickly sets up its universe, thanks to a first chapter flashback to Grayson in school having to learn the history of Earth, but then begins to subvert and twist what has just been learned, allowing the reader to discover that most of it might actually be a lie. Even before the crew of the Arcus head to Earth we see this in action, as we’re told the Sol Commonwealth are there to help all of its citizens, and that life is better with them, before then seeing that many people live in squalor, barely able to survive thanks to tightly controlled resources.

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One of the main themes of the book is learning that the information we’re given by those in power is often a lie. They’ll spin the narrative to make themselves look better, even making themselves the heroes. They’ll also act like those who don’t follow their specific ways are in the wrong, that they’re making a stupid choice to walk away from all the great things that they can do for them, just because they value their freedoms over slavery. This theme is reinforced time and time again when across the course of the book the people you expect to be enemies turn out to be potential allies, decent, reasonable people who are just trying to do their best.

Titan have marketed the book as ‘Firefly meets The Expanse‘, and that’s actually a really good way of looking at it. We’ve got a ship full of misfits and outlaws, people who are fighting against the status quo because they can see that things the way they are aren’t great, that the innocent are often left to suffer whilst the corrupt get wealthier and more powerful. And I think that if you’re a fan of those shows this book will definitely appeal.

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Stolen Earth is the second science fiction book I’ve read from J.T. Nicholas and Titan Books, and so far both books have been incredibly inventive, immensely engaging, and absolutely riveting novels filled with wonderful characters, a layered and complex narrative, and a central mystery that has grabbed me.

Nicholas writes in a way that really draws you in, a way where you can’t help but become engrossed in the characters and the world that he’s created. I was genuinely sad to see this book end, as I’d have been more than happy to see this extend into a series of its own. Perhaps that will happen one day, and J.T. Nicholas will come back to this universe in the future; but until then, and even if that never happens, this is an absolutely phenomenal stand alone novel.

Stolen Earth is out now from Titan Books.

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