Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and published sci-fi and horror author.
“The Perihelion” is a book by D.M. Wozniak. “The Perihelion Complete Duology” presents a United States several decades after the Second American Civil War. The United States is divided between the blue core cities and the "redlands", each with their own laws and culture. But the legacy of genetic engineering and systemic oppression mean tensions are slowly simmering in the blue cities themselves ...
This book is set several decades in the future. The red (conservative) rural areas have split from the blue (urban core) areas, resulting in two parallel societies on the same continent. We prevented a civil war by having a less than civil divorce. However, people can and go between the areas with a number of restrictions.
The Redlands are mostly rural, very independent, pro-gun, pro-life and quite traditional.
The Blue Cores are following what many big cities have done for years, outlawing guns, discouraging marriage (by high taxes), and a host of other regulations. To distance modern cities from history, they get renamed with letter and number combinations. Chicago became Blue Core 1C.
There’s no magical, technological hand-waving here. The basic cybernetics are realistic. The artificial uterus or “arterus” technology in the book is already under development. The genetic engineering is not far-fetched, nor is the reactions of the general population to the resulting 99ers, though their animal DNA is less than 1% of their makeup. It’s a logical conclusion given the Frankenfood hysteria today.
Military drones, ad spewing floating cameras that double as security monitors and implanted tracking devices are integral to society. Micro-reactors that produce nuclear power are tightly regulated but universal technology. All of these technologies are integral to the plot, and they are well explained in a science fiction book that is strong on the science.
The Strengths of “The Perihelion”
The book fleshes out its characters, their motivations, their reasoning. And yet it manages to share surprises and depth even up to the very end.
The plot is strong from the very start, and it doesn’t let up. There are twists and turns from the very start of this murder mystery, as the Hummingbird or drone-based reporter tries to find out not only what happened but why. It continues as seemingly unrelated characters are tied into the story and new mysteries and challenges arise. All the strands literally tie up at the end.
You see the little cultural adaptations that technology brings, and you see the ways that life doesn’t change at all. Women who use artificial uteruses no longer have a baby bump, but they buy jewelry designed to show off the same thing – publicly marking how long they’re baby has been growing. Cutting edge technology is developed, but few end up adopting it (Hummingbirds) or there are failures along the way (the 99ers). Guns are pretty much illegal, but criminals can still get them. Even in a surveillance society, people find ways to spy on others and make illicit payments.
The ending of the Duology could stand as an ending if nothing else is written. It is certainly better than the books written in the hope of sparking a series ending in a cliffhanger that never gets resolved.
The Weaknesses of “The Perihelion”
This is a duology, two books in one print edition. That alone would make it long. However, the 750 pages could have been trimmed to 600 or fewer pages. This isn’t because of a long, winding plot but long-winded descriptions of every aspect of the environment.
The couple of pages with the planet’s point of view were utterly irrelevant. The meaning of the term perihelion was already explained early on in the text, and the relationship to the start of a shift in society should be obvious to any reader.
I give “The Perihelion” book four stars. It loses one star for the long slog of reading a richly detailed world where the little details in every scene slowed down the story. With regard to the story itself, I hope there is another novel by Wozniak.
© 2018 Tamara Wilhite
Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on July 07, 2018:
Superb review, Tamara. I will probably read this book. The sociocultural factors you mentioned are enough to draw a reader into the story. I'll probably skim through the long-winded sections. Thanks for a great review.