Monday, August 30, 2010
REVIEW: Pale Boundaries
Title: Pale Boundaries
Author: Scott Cleveland
Genre: science fiction
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib
Pale Boundaries is the first novel by Scott Cleveland, and I found it to be an impressive debut. Set in the 27th Century, man has developed faster-than-light travel and settled a number of worlds. Terson Reilly, a 20-something young man, is a resident of Algran Asta, a hot, jungle-filled and hostile world. Unfortunately for Terson, in the prologue his world is being evacuated due to the discovery of primitive but quite vicious aliens who where there before Man came.
Terson is very nearly killed during in incident in this prologue, but he survives and ends up on Nivia, a very different world – a seemingly peaceful one with strict environmental laws and a dislike of foreigners. We also discover that Nivia is not at all what it seems – in fact there’s an interplanetary mafia who is hidden but deeply imbedded in Nivian culture. It’s probably not a surprise that Terson gets himself on the wrong side of said mafia, and that various “kill or be killed” set-pieces form the bulk of the novel. This is very much a big-stake, action-oriented book, although Terson and the other characters are quite well realized.
I enjoyed Pale Boundaries, and I can recommend it highly to anybody looking for an action-packed story. I do, however, have two nits to pick with the author, one of which I noted in my own writing. There is a convention in writing, especially in books with multiple points of view (POV), that when a POV character takes the focus, we get a brief reminder of what was last on that character’s mind. So, for example, if the first chapter of a character’s POV is “my dog Fluffy is sick,” then the next time we see that character, there needs to be a sentence (early in the scene) that says how Fluffy is doing. This serves as a reminder to the reader of who’s who in the zoo. It can be overdone (I don’t need a paragraph on Fluffy) but I do need it. Here, the author tends to leave those hints out entirely.
My second nit is a bit bigger. In the future of Scott Cleveland, a failed alien invasion provides both the means and the opportunity for humanity to reach the stars. We don’t learn that until about half-way through the book, which is (in my view) a problem. This was important enough to address in the Prologue, as it explains a lot about the world. Explaining stuff like this is why you’ll sometimes see books where Chapter 1 is during some important holiday. If it’s the Fourth of July and you’re writing for a non-US audience, you have an excuse to briefly explain why the fireworks are going off.
Having said that, I truly enjoyed Pale Boundaries, and recommend it heartily to any fan of action and science fiction. I’m reliably informed that Scott Cleveland has a sequel coming out in 2012. I’ll be keeping an eye out for it.