© 2009 James Swallow
On the cover: Johnathan Frakes as William Riker; Carolyn McCormick as 'Minuet'/'Titan',
Although Synthesis may appear a steamy romance novel, the sixth novel in the Titan series is a serious and thrilling tale about artificial intelligence, featuring a race of sentient computers --some the size of continents -- fighting a destructive force greater than can be imagined. So fierce is their struggle that it has literally destroyed the fabric of space in part, and when the Titan is violently thrown out of warp while passing through the battlefield, her crew is forced into a war that has lasted for longer than the Federation has existed. Riker and his crew must contend with their own unease about dealing with sentient computers (so soon after the last great Borg War) as well as some of the AI's contentious attitude toward 'wetminds', or organic individuals.
To my knowledge, this is the first novel by James Swallow I've read, and if it presents his usual quality I'll be looking forward to more. Though no one can match Christopher Bennett for worldbuilding, Swallow's machine culture is impressively developed, with its own history that has produced a diverse set of individuals as divided between themselves as we are. There's no faulting Swallow approach to drama, and discrete references to Firefly and A New Hope relieved tension through laughter early on. The most interesting element of Synthesis is one I can't quite reveal without spoiling -- let's just say Riker's companion on the cover is not Minuet, but something much closer to him.
Easily one of Titan's tier-one books, joining Orion's Hounds.