In Perks’ sci-fi debut, mercenaries track a rogue scientist who’s stolen a technologically advanced society’s most prized resource.
On the planet Stasis, two societies exist: one populated by Sunbathers, who live in permanent daylight, and the other by Darksiders, who live in eternal night. The two peoples used to help each other, with the Darksiders working as farmers and manufacturers for the Sunbathers. Then the daylight dwellers began using a rare energy source known as Ultimatter, leading them into a technological golden age, and they abandoned their nighttime cousins to cruel fate. But when someone steals the Ultimatter from the Sunbather capital, Minister Alter hires a group of Darksider hunters, famous for taking down the savage king of a race of gigantic, horned, wolflike creatures called the verron. These hunters—Wallace, Rodney, Jorge, and Henry—reluctantly agree to help those responsible for the Darksiders’ dismal lives, and even team up with Alter’s scientist niece, Halie, and a few other tech-savvy Sunbathers to find the Ultimatter. (Along the way, the four hunters love to bicker: “I could knock some of your teeth out.”) Minister Alter believes that the scorned scientist Olaf Heinemann, whose inventions were rejected by the Science Academy, is responsible; Sunbather tracking equipment has narrowed the location of his base to several fortified spots in Darksider territory. Olaf is aided, however, by a man named Tank, formerly of the High Guard Military. They’ve been using the Ultimatter to create new weapons that may be powerful enough to rule both sides of Stasis. Perks’ debut playfully situates futuristic elements, such as hover cars, on a primitive, Earth-like world similar to those found in the Final Fantasy video game series. His creatures, which include the branch-swinging “ioles” and lumbering herds of “phantions,” are at once familiar and enjoyably exotic. The fact that the Darksiders must wear special goggles while in bright light reinforces how the two peoples have diverged even on a physical level. The prose, unfortunately, screams out for stronger editorial guidance; typos, awkward grammar and punctuation errors abound, as in the line, “Clam down I’m sorry I couldn’t resist it.” The conclusion seems eager to retire the Darksiders, although it does leave room for further narrative.
A straightforward action fantasy held back by rough prose.