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Outer Perimeter
Ken Goddard
Bantam, 448 pages

Outer Perimeter
Ken Goddard
Ken Goddard received a BS degree in biochemistry from the University of California (Riverside campus). Because of a judo accident, he ended up being hired as a deputy sheriff/criminalist with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department. After night school in Los Angeles and a stint in the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department Crime Lab, he had an opportunity to set up a Scientific Investigation Bureau for the Huntington Beach Police Department. With an MS degree in criminalistics, 12 years of homicide/rape/robbery/burglary crime scenes, another opportunity presented itself to set up the first full service crime lab for national and international wildlife law enforcement in Ashland, Oregon. His first book was titled Balefire, the story of a professional terrorist sent out to destroy the city of Huntington Beach. Outer Perimeter is his 8th book.

Ken Goddard Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: First Evidence

Past Feature Reviews
A review by John Berlyne

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Outer Perimeter is Ken Goddard's sequel to his 1999 science fiction thriller First Evidence. As a rule, I try to avoid jumping into any series of books without having read the initial title. I always feel it is a little like turning up half an hour late to a movie -- once you've found your seat (in the dark), you spend the whole time piecing things together, instead of enjoying events as they unfold in front of you. In direct contrast to comments another reviewer made about this book (on amazon.com), I did not once feel I was playing catch-up whilst reading it.

This is a fast-paced and engaging thriller that falls under more than one genre banner. Goddard's protagonist, Detective Sergeant Colin Cellars of the Oregon State Police, has been imbued with much of the author's own experience of crime scene investigation. Indeed it is Goddard's attention to procedural detail that forms the central support in what might otherwise seem a too far-fetched plot for those who would rather take their thrillers without a dash of supernatural. The thrust of Outer Perimeter comes from events that took place in the previous novel, in which Cellars and three of his friends tangled with some shadowy extra-terrestrials -- and in good old X-Files fashion, those events did not result in any conclusive evidence. Goddard clues his readers into these events pretty quickly and it takes very little time for Outer Perimeter to pick up where First Evidence left off.

We find Cellars not exactly in the good books of his employers. Regulations and procedures have him under psychiatric review. And the acting regional commander is pissed at him for personal reasons. Cellars, though, seems to be taking all this in stride, despite the fact that matters are still unresolved. Returned to duty, there is the not insignificant matter of at least 50 unsolved deaths or disappearances that Cellars suspects may be linked to his experiences. We follow him through a carefully constructed maze, puzzling it all out alongside him in skillfully paced, rapid-fire chapters that keep us turning those pages until three in the morning.

There are some effective -- if not wholly original -- plot ingredients here. Cellars' maverick friend, Bobby Dawson, for example. A military man gone rogue, intent on hunting down and killing the shadowy aliens all on his own and taking pride in throwing the occasionally cryptic clue to Cellars along the way. Then there is his other friend, Dr. Malcolm Byzor, a computer wizard working for the NSA, who just happens to be running a mysterious newly minted black-ops facility nearby -- which really, truly, honestly has nothing at all whatsoever to do with any shadowy aliens that might be lurking in the woods!

One really good element here is that -- once you take into account the suspension of disbelief needed in the first place for any story involving extra-terrestrials -- the detection that takes place within this intricate plot is worked out with flawless logic by Goddard. How refreshing it is for conclusions to be reached without leaps of faith and divine revelations. All this is told in a distinctive, agreeable and easily digestible style. However, I must mention the presence of one or two outrageous examples of padding, which Goddard (and his editor) would do well to be wary of in the future. My favourite of these reads:

'"... can you guys pull a local map up on one of those monitors?"
"Yeah, sure, what area do you want?"
"How about the southern half of Oregon?"
"Yeah, no sweat. Coming right up."
Dombrowski reached for the telephone on the table, pressed a two-digit code, then said, "This is Dombrowski. You want to flash me a south sector map of Oregon on the main monitor?"
Moments later, a coloured map of the southern half of Oregon appeared on the screen.'
Now was there really no way to say all that in one sentence?

These stylistic lapses notwithstanding, Outer Perimeter is a pretty good, standard thriller and Goddard saves enough twists and unexpected revelations for the climax to keep you engrossed right up to the last page. On the whole, therefore, pretty good stuff.

Copyright © 2001 John Berlyne

John Berlyne is a book junkie with a serious habit. He is the long time UK editor of Sfrevu.com and is widely acknowledged to be the leading expert on the works of Tim Powers. John's extensive Powers Bibliography "Secret Histories" will be published in April 2009 by PS Publishing. When not consuming genre fiction, John owns and runs North Star Delicatessen, a gourmet food outlet in Chorlton, Manchester.


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