What I remember from the novel:

The protagonist somehow gets transported to a different planet (I thought into some smaller object that happens to have a world in it). He starts out on ice where he has to be saved by the natives from the encroaching fire (natives have sleds to stay ahead of the fire). As the protagonist moves farther away from the fire, the land becomes warmer and greener and the civilizations more stable. Alternative world seems to have mainly medieval technology.

The song "Ring of Fire" by Johnny Cash was quoted more than once in the book. I think I read it quite a while ago (before 2000) from a library so I'm thinking the book is probably written in the 80s or earlier, but I might be wrong.

  • 2
    Not the right book, but this theme (a world-circling flame) appears in Iain M. Banks' "The Player of Games"
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 8:48
  • Any memories or images of the book's cover?
    – nine9
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 11:03
  • @nine9: Sorry to disappoint you, but no. I tend to not remember much about covers of books I've read.
    – HSquirrel
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 12:22

2 Answers 2


Ring van Vuur (Ring of Fire) (1996) by John Vermeulen

book cover

Because he is a Belgian author, this might not have been translated into any other language yet... I read this book in the late 90's and it had quite some impact.

This is what I remembered: The protagonist gets transported to the other world by means of a science experiment where the scientists on Earth keeps trying to bring him back. The strange planet is one of the core particles of the physics experiment. It has a ring of fire that slowly moves over it, and the civilizations on it try to stay within the habitable band.

A strange people captures Regis Lewmar and takes him on a sailing trip over a plain of ice. He does not have to expect any support from his fellow prisoners, whose fate is a prelude to what is in store for Regis. Even though he learns their language, they never understand what he is talking about. But Regis does not understand himself either: nothing gives him any guidance about his origins. Gradually Regis learns the horrible facts of the world in which he has landed from one moment to the next and whose population is constantly living with the fear of fire. A world that reminds him strongly of that other world, which is vaguely remembered from time to time ... Long after Regis escaped his imprisonment thanks to his ingenuity and gained a prominent position in the unknown world, he faces the choice to liberate the people who are always hunted by fire. To this end, he will have to take on the three princes, who for centuries have been divisive and have provoked wars. And at the same time he will have to say goodbye forever to that other, old world, to which he desperately begins to desire ...


The fire and ice stuck me as incongruous, then I remembered "Catch the Sun", a short story by Barry Longyear that I read many years ago in his book of short stories "It Came from Schenectady", published in 2001, and originally published in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, November 1980.

Space travellers encounter low-tech nomads living on a slowly rotating planet. The tribe moves constantly towards the sun, staying in the narrow band of habitable temperatures between the sunny side and the dark side. As I recall, someone falls behind and is rescued from the ice that endlessly chases them.

They also discover a second band living on the other side, constantly running from the sun, which ignites the world behind them. I don't recall Johnny Cash references, but if I can find it I'll check. It's in a box somewhere...

  • Thanks for your answer. I'm not sure it is this one (I thought it was a full length novel), but I'm going to check it anyways. I also thought there were multiple habitable places as it wasn't caused by the sun, but there was just an actual ring of fire. On the bright side, you did remind me of some book I read as a child that took place on mercury where they had to stay in a short habitable zone (it's a dutch-only book: 400 graden in de schaduw / werelden van vuur en ijs). So thanks for that! :D
    – HSquirrel
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 7:21

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