Rating: 2.75 stars
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Kato Ozark has achieved the pinnacle of success. The Queenship Selvans has chosen him as her pilot. Together they share an intricate and intimate link that serves as defense and protection for the Ozark Family space claims. But what Kato can’t understand is why Selvans picked two pilots?
Mas’ud Tavana is an engineer and nothing more, at least in his mind. But in him, Selvans sees the missing part of her triumvirate with Kato. When the three are mentally linked, they are capable of amazing power and skill.
A rival family has built a Queenship of their own, completely reliant on artifice intelligence. But the Queenships are born, not built, and when the artificial ship goes rogue, it’s up to Kato, Selvans, and Mas’ud to stop it, even as tragedy threatens to rip them apart forever.
Perihelion is a fast paced novel that starts off with a unique idea, but stumbles over too many useless characters and a plot that wanders off the rails about midway through. The concept is wonderfully original and I give the author credit for building a complex and intriguing world that combines chess, limitless imagination, and an almost corporate style familial system. The relationship established between the pilots and their ships is as integral and emotive as bonds between humans and just as substantial. Selvans is never given much on page time, but she exists as a distinct connection between Kato and Mas’ud and you can’t imagine one without the other. Kato and Mas’ud are incompletely drawn characters and, while both are likable and somewhat relatable, it’s hard to connect with them on a deeper level. Their romance is almost taken for granted, as if their co-existence as pilots has predestined them to be lovers as well. Which means the relationship isn’t very interesting and never really seems to go anywhere.
Perihelion is nearly crippled by a plethora of useless characters that neither further the storyline nor exist as anything more than cursory roles. The index of characters at the back of the book (that there is an index at all serves as a red flag) is several pages long. And while you can get away with that in a Game of Thrones or Tolkien style book, it simply doesn’t work given the small scope of this work. Perhaps the author is expanding the series to include future volumes, but even so the characters should have been parried and trimmed to better streamline their roles and importance to the overall story.
The overall plot is interesting and as a reader I enjoyed the complex world building. But the storyline falls apart about halfway through the book and for reasons that involve a poorly chosen story arc more than anything else. What happens to both Kato and Mas’ud is too absurd and too coincidental for believability and it actually distracts from the wider action. Had the author drawn the story out more completely and plugged in the gaps with missing information, perhaps the plot could have survived its brush with silliness but as it is, it just crumbles.
Despite some of these big issues, Perihelion is still enjoyable. Given that we seem to see so few expansively developed LGBT science fiction works, Perihelion was a breath of fresh air with its complexity and unique perspective. The plot needed a lot of help though and the characters never really come off the page. A quick character note: Mas’ud is trans but this is never delved into extensively and is written as a facet of his personality rather than the sum total. For those of you skittish about picking up fiction with trans characters, Perihelion may just be the perfect jumping off point. While far from perfect, Perihelion has a lot to offer and for fans of science fiction, it’s a nice break from the mundane.