Beyond the Pale (The Outlander) – Book Review
It’s been a long time since I’ve read a science fiction novel, let alone one of this quality; having grown up reading the likes of Asimov’s foundation trilogy, Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001, and Frank Herbert’s Dune series, it’s not easy for a Sci-Fi book to impress me so it was with some trepidation I started on this one. I must say, this book took me completely by surprise, being very different to what I had expected but one that I nonetheless enjoyed from start to finish.
Senan Gil Senan is another author I discovered via my Indie Author Review Exchange Fb group, and his own writing has proved every bit as good and insightful as his reviews of many other authors. Further information about the author, and some fascinating background to his debut novel can be found at his blog:
In addition to this review, there is also a link below to the author’s recent interview by fellow blogger and book reviewer Andrew Updegrove, author of the highly acclaimed Sci-Fi thriller The Alexandria Project.
Beyond the Pale (The Outlander), by Senan Gil Senan
(Available from Amazon in eBook format)
This is a book that really hits the ground running, and in this case, quite literally. In the opening chapter we see two of the central characters, each one a valued member of their respective communities, come together when one comes to the aid of the other. The older of the two comes from a walled in society that has embraced and relies on advanced technology to enhance its citizen’s lives, yet at the same time monitoring every aspect of their existence, whilst the other lives in one of many small native communities, reliant instead on nature and the environment, and with a polar opposite view of man and his surroundings. This heralds the start of an adventure for the younger of the two that leads to a whole new world of advanced technology, unexpected friendships, violence, some explicit sex, romance, and indeed love, all intertwined with the ultimate goal of a return to his own people. There is a good introduction and preface to the book, giving a comprehensive outline of how the world came to be the way it is, eliminating the need for too much contrived dialogue to convey the same information in the body of the book, relying instead on passing comments and throw away references to fill in the gaps. Action and dialogue are very well balanced and equally convincing, continually adding to ad driving the story forward. An added bonus, and totally in keeping with a Sci-Fi theme there is an accompanying website link to the book, the author’s own wordpress blog, giving lots of additional background and explanatory information to the world and technology in which events take place.
Although a Sci-fi novel, this isn’t what I would call ‘hard’ sci-fi in the sense of an Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke novel; it doesn’t entirely rely on immersing the reader in far flung advanced technology or totally alien concepts, concentrating instead on developing the characters and what they’re doing, giving the book a real depth to it. The time period being set in the relative near future ensures that the technology and science, although highly advanced and with a definite sci-fi feel to it, are still very much rooted in the science of today thereby giving the book an added authenticity. Some of the themes will be familiar to sci-fi fans, namely the Dystopian concept of an enclosed technology based society surrounded by a less (technologically) advanced native population and the almost paranoid and obsessive monitoring and control of its citizens, having already been explored in both print and on screen – there are definite echoes of Brave New world, Shape of Things to Come, Nineteen Eighty Four, and Logan’s Run to name but a few, but the author treats these concepts with an original approach and with the added hindsight of current advancements and the potential of the emerging technologies of today.
I did feel however that the period in which the novel s set, i.e. circa 2060, was a tad too early considering where we’re at in society today and the immense engineering challenges the new world in habitants would have faced, not to mention the time it would have taken for society to recover from its original collapse. There were a couple of very minor typos and grammatical issues that might well have been picked up by one last line by line edit but certainly not so much of an issue to diminish my enjoyment or my 5 star rating. Overall though, this was a totally believable Dystopian sci-fi story, exceptionally well researched in relation to the native culture and background of the ‘outlanders,’ as well as the financial machinations that might well yet lead to the sort of collapse as befell the society of the book. The story is well concluded, providing a comprehensive round up of events, as well as a brief glimpse beyond – and best of all, the conclusion begs for a sequel, which I will surely be reading when it comes out. Great book!