Along the Perimeter by Steven Healt
I am a judge for the SPSFC- The Self Published Science Fiction Contest, and I saw Along the Perimeter in another group’s reads. I decided to give it a go after someone in my group said they enjoyed the prologue quite a bit. I’m glad I did, because Steven Healt delivers an absolutely fascinating world that’s full of questions.
The book starts off with a bang–a young man who lives, er, along the perimeter (get it?) of a shield that covers a massive expanse of land that includes several cities, villages, farmland, and more. The shield keeps out the Haze/Fog, a dangerous cloud of deadly gases. The boy is stunned when raiders from outside the perimeter come and steal food from his village, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. Fast forward past this pulse-thumping intro and readers are thrown into a fully-formed world in which aliens, the Amboians, live alongside humans and have apparently rescued humanity from certain destruction.
The world is the star in the novel, really, as it makes for a great setting to explore and learn about the characters. What’s especially awesome is how deftly Healt combines elements of both science fiction and fantasy. Even writing that seems to take away a bit from how well Healt does this. It’s clear that the book could be set in our future–the “fantasy” part isn’t so much magic as it is the feel of the world. You know those epic fantasy books that present a big world full of possibilities in every corner? That’s part of what’s happening here–the world both inside and outside of the Shield feels massive. But another way Healt combines the elements is by having a kind of creeping loss of tech the farther you get from the center of the Shield. For example, the communicators people use to pay each other stop working swiftly towards the perimeter, so they continue to rely on coinage and bartering to pay for things. Little touches of world building like this abound throughout the book, and make it an experience start-to-finish.
The plot itself follows multiple viewpoints as characters work alongside the Amboians, explore the world outside the perimeter, and try to deal with the rising level of conflict happening along the perimeter. Each character’s arc has enough to hold interest. What’s clear reading the book is that it is a slow burn, building the world, showing how pieces are moving, and then easing into the action. Mysteries abound in the world of this novel, and only a few answers are even hinted at here. The experience of reading the book feels very much like an introduction to a lengthy saga. Readers looking for a one-off won’t find many of the answers here, but those looking to explore a series will find much to theorize about in these pages.
What’s striking to me, too, is how many of the scenes are memorable even days after finishing the novel. Longtime readers of speculative fiction can certainly name favorite scenes in books, and Along the Perimeter provides a few truly excellent set pieces in which characters get to shine in surprising and challenging circumstances.
Along the Perimeter is a great start to a series that’s full of interesting characters and mysteries. I look forward to reading the next book! Recommended for fans of science fantasy and first contact novels.
All Links to Amazon are Affiliates
The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC) Hub– Check out all of my posts related to the SPSFC here!
Science Fiction Hub– I have scores of reviews of Hugo nominees, Vintage Sci-Fi, modern sci-fi, TV series, and more! Check out my science fiction related writings here.
Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!