May 16, 2023

Titanium Noir

By Nick Harkaway
Review by
With its likable narrator and explosive action, Titanium Noir is an entertaining sci-fi mystery that blends a broody noir whodunit with a cyberpunk dystopia.
Share this Article:

Nick Harkaway fuses a broody noir mystery with a cyberpunk dystopia in Titanium Noir. Set in a fictional American city tucked away in the mountains, Titanium Noir follows Cal Sounder, a detective who helps the police with only the most unique of cases: those that involve Titans, people who have attained the closest thing to immortality that capitalism can provide. After taking a drug named T7, a human is “reset” to adolescence, then, rapidly and painfully, they sprint back through puberty, resulting in a rejuvenated body. Since they start their second puberty as a fully grown adult, they become much larger, their bones denser and their muscles thicker, hence the name Titan.

Titans are almost exclusively ultrarich or highly influential, their physical stature often merely a reflection of their broader social power. Stefan Tonfamecasca, the creator of T7 and controller of its distribution, is now impossibly huge as a four-dose Titan. Cal is Stefan’s liaison with law enforcement, sparing the police from dealing with the ruling rich of the city while also keeping Titan problems from escalating out of control. But Cal’s latest case is especially challenging: A Titan has, somehow, been murdered.

Harkaway colors each character and vignette with just enough detail to keep things interesting, while assembling the setting and unraveling the mystery in a steady stream of information. Cal’s sardonic and witty internal monologue helps keep the reader from losing track of important details, with Cal himself acting as a necessary anchor as Harkaway introduces new characters and reveals new plot points on nearly every page. 

Titanium Noir’s fast pace drives home just how much Cal is floundering, a very small fish in a very large pond, doing his absolute best. There are several well-choreographed, graphic but not gratuitously bloody fights and several tense negotiations with very powerful figures, each leaving Cal increasingly feeling like the odds are stacked against him. Yet, he relentlessly pursues the truth, flirts with rebellion and even performs some mild blackmail on the way. (What is a little extortion between friends, anyway?)

With its likable narrator, explosive action, noir-style rumination and just the right amount of twists, Titanium Noir is an entertaining sci-fi mystery that never overstays its welcome.

Trending Reviews

Get the Book

Titanium Noir

Titanium Noir

By Nick Harkaway
ISBN 9780593535363

Sign Up

Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our newsletter to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres.