“Dead Star” by Simon Kewin- An SPSFC Semifinalist Review

The inaugural Self-Published Science Fiction Contest is over, but I am reading and reviewing every single semifinalist! Follow along to see what I think of the judges choices for the top 30 out of 300 books!

Dead Star by Simon Kewin

A theocratic government dominates known space as Selene, sole survivor of a planet that was completely destroyed seeks a new life. She meets up with Ondo Logan and together they begin an adventure that leads them to seeking out a mythic paradise planet that could be the key to what went right–or wrong–in the universe.

As plot setups go, this one has an epic one. Selene and Ondo experience quite a bit of adventure as the story goes on, too. Selene is doubtful of Ondo’s belief in the lost planet, even when presented of evidence. Over time, more and more events come together to point them in a certain direction and send them on a grand adventure.

The adventure is a good one, too. The characters experience quite a bit of growth, though one sometimes wonders whether Selene shouldn’t be more emotionally distraught by her loss of… basically everything. The worldbuilding is quite well done, too, as the malevolent theocracy that dominates their lives feels genuinely foreboding at times.

The main problem here is that the novel reads very much like the first part of a story rather than a complete adventure on its own. It leaves off almost exactly at the point where readers will most want to know more about what’s going to happen next. That makes it feel a bit of a letdown when it ends, though it certainly whets the appetite for the next book.

Dead Star is an intriguing space opera with good worldbuilding and strong characters. Recommended, so long as you’re willing to dive into more to find out the end.

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I received a copy of the book for review.

Links

The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC) Hub– Check out all of my posts related to the SPSFC here!

Science Fiction Hub– I have scores of reviews of Hugo nominees, Vintage Sci-Fi, modern sci-fi, TV series, and more! Check out my science fiction related writings here.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

My Read-Through of the Hugos: 1982

I’ve almost completed my read-through of the top science fiction books of all time and was casting about for something else to do. I decided that reading through the list of Hugo award winners and nominees wasn’t a bad way to spend my time. I’ve marked the winner as well as my own choice for which novel would win, had I the choice among the nominees. There is a reflection on the year’s nominations at the end.

The Claw of the Conciliator by Gene Wolfe (My Winner)- Grade: A+
The Claw of the Conciliator is the second book of the tetralogy The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe. I first read this series as a teenager in high school and was totally blown away by the scope and language while being baffled by its perplexing narrative style and tantalizing hints at more. After reading the first two, I sought out virtually everything I could find by Wolfe, but lost steam and basically stopped reading them, even selling them off online. Later, I re-read the first book but was not at all in the right mood and ended skimming it, not really taking in the language or details. Finally, I’m re-reading the whole series for my Hugo list and am once again enthralled by this series. It’s sort of impossible to describe exactly how it impacts the reader so strongly. The Claw of the Conciliator is a travelogue through a kind of baroque future filled with terrifying things that, when described by Wolfe as though they are normal, somehow almost become normal for the reader. The parts of the story that make it sci-fi are slim-to-none thus far, with very small shades of science fantasy thrown about. Nevertheless, this is the kind of book that transcends genre/literature and becomes an event. This series ought to be at least tried by every science fiction/fantasy fan once in their lives to see if it is to their taste. I eagerly look forward to the next one.

Downbelow Station by CJ Cherryh  (Winner)- Grade: B-
Cherryh creates a fascinating future world that is vast in scope in the introductory sections. Then, she zooms in to a particular crisis set within that vast universe, but goes just a tad too far. Because of this, the vast universe seems to be, in fact, quite tiny and restrictive. Rather than having expansive, endless stories to explore, it feels like there are only a few. Of course, what she delivers is a highly complex political crisis centered around one system, and that is enough to make up for much of the disappointment from the transition of big- to small-scale story.

The Many-Colored Land by Julian May- Grade: C
I wanted so much to love this novel. High recommendations, great reviews, and the like all had me hyped for it. But this is almost 100% a set-up novel. It introduces many characters before it finally ties them all together by throwing them back through a one-way trip to the past. The characters are interesting, but because there are so many, there is little chance to really get into any of them. I wanted to spend more time exploring the world, as well, but ended up stuck trying to sort through so many narrative voices and places that it became difficult to keep up. I read the book after this one, The Golden Torc, and wasn’t struck by it either. It’s an interesting, exciting setting, but overall seems to just be a huge number of characters with little to tie them all together.

Little, Big by John Crowley- Grade: B-
I think this is a book I would absolutely adore if I read it in the right mood. It is definitely one I’m going to go back and revisit when I feel like reading a massive book that moves rather slowly. The premise made me think quite  strongly of Galilee by Clive Barker, which I remember absolutely loving when I was younger. It doesn’t play out in a very similar way at all, but the idea of following a family throughout a series of fantastical events as they discover the layers of universes within and around our own. It’s fascinating, but long, and it moves along at an absolute snail’s pace, plodding through plot twists that hit so gradually they don’t even feel like a twist by the time the events finish. As I said, I hope to revisit this one in the right mood, because I suspect I’d love it more.

Project Pope by Clifford D. Simak- Grade: A
Clifford Simak is one of those authors I think would be very difficult to dislike. His writing style is like someone’s kind old grandpa sat down to describe to them the events of some far future while sitting in front of the fireplace. All of Simak’s major themes come to the forefront in Project Pope, considered by many to be his masterpiece. It has the questions about robots and whether they can have souls found throughout even his earliest work. It asks the big questions about faith and the hereafter. It has some weirdness, but it is so toned down by the pastoral themes that you barely notice it. This is a story about some robots who decide to make the perfect, infallible religion and questions about whether that is possible or could succeed. Seriously. But the robots also farm and grow food for humans, they live fairly normal lives. It leads to more and more questions from the reader about what it means to have a soul, what the relationship between reason and revelation might be, and more. It’s an intensely deep book, but written in a tone that is like a conversation with, as I said, a kindly older man. It’s fantastic and haunting and wonderful and cozy all at once.

1982- A superb year for the Hugos, with each book having something to offer that one could see how it would appear on the list. While The Many-Colored Land was my least favorite, it still had flashes of potential that I could see there. Downbelow Station and Little, Big are frequently mentioned in conversations about the best-of-the-best. Project Pope was an astonishing read, a classic by an acknowledged Grand Master of science fiction that takes readers into a pastoral, wonderful setting to contemplate life. The Claw of the Conciliator is part of one of the greatest masterworks of science fiction ever written, The Book of the New Sun, and deserves to at least be tried by every fan of the genre. Of course, one must start with Shadow of the Torturer (the two books come together in a new edition as “Shadow and Claw”). A banner year for the Hugos and well done to the nominees!

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Science Fiction Hub– I have scores of reviews of Hugo nominees, Vintage Sci-Fi, modern sci-fi, TV series, and more! Check out my science fiction related writings here.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

“Broken Angel: The Lost Years of Gabriel Martiniere” by Joyce Reynolds-Ward- An SPSFC Review

I’m a judge for the Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC), and I’m reading and reviewing whichever books in the contest appealed to me! Follow the blog to keep up with more updates from the contest, along with many, many other reviews and topics!

Broken Angel: The Lost Years of Gabriel Martiniere by Joyce Reynolds-Ward

Broken Angel is a rarity. It’s a novel that feels unique and unusual even to someone who constantly reads science fiction. It ended up in my group’s reads for the Self-Published Science Fiction Contest, and that’s what clued me into it. Reynolds-Ward starts the story with a kind of strange child-swap as the matriarch of a wealthy family attempts to end an internal feud by artificial means, giving the child of each of two brothers to the other to raise. It’s a strange setup that somehow feels exactly in line with what one might expect in some kind of cozy mystery story with a sci-fi bent.

Things don’t go as planned, however, and one of the children, Gabriel, has to flee the family at a relatively young age. He tries to testify against his vicious uncle, only to discover a kind of nanobot imbued control scheme has been placed upon him to control some of his actions and words. He goes into witness protection and then… the story turns for a while into a kind of rodeo romance. And it is, frankly, a pretty good rodeo romance, though I probably am not the best judge of that. Just as I was settling into this new frontier as a reader, Reynolds-Ward threw more twists into the story. Mind control, nanobots, corporate espionage, and some slight shades of agriculture all make up the rest of the way with a story that spans almost a full generation in length.

The length of time covered by the novel means readers get a big picture view of Gabriel’s life and struggles, but it also means that occasionally the focus moves on quickly in scenes that could have used a little more development. That said, readers won’t ever get too settled into a single idea or even the feeling of a single subgenre as Reynolds-Ward deftly juggles conflict, romance, and the core plot throughout.

Broken Angel is a well-written story that sucked me in based on its characters and then sustained that interest with plenty of twists and turns and “what’s going on?” moments. Recommended for sci-fi readers looking for something very different from what they’ve read.

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Links

The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC) Hub– Check out all of my posts related to the SPSFC here!

Science Fiction Hub– I have scores of reviews of Hugo nominees, Vintage Sci-Fi, modern sci-fi, TV series, and more! Check out my science fiction related writings here.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

“Living Memory” by David Walton- A hard sci-fi dinosaur adventure

David Walton is an author I’ve followed ever since I first read the fabulous The Genius Plague. Walton delivers time and again on hard sci-fi premises with just the right mix of taking itself seriously and campiness. Living Memory is another roaring adventure that absolutely nails the feel of hard science mixed with total insanity that makes books like this so much fun to read.

Walton asks a simple question with the main story of this book: what if dinosaurs really did have some sentient creatures among them, but didn’t have ways we could detect their presence among the bones we’ve found? He takes that premise and runs with it, delivering two parallel storylines that converge in the best ways. I can’t say a lot about one of them without spoiling too much, so suffice to say the second plot is great.

The primary story follows archaeologists as they make a series of startling discoveries that suggest there may have been intelligent dinosaurs. It turns out that some world governments are very interested in these findings, and the race is on to find out why and prevent mega-weapons from being developed. The premise is gripping, and the characters are well-written. There’s a lot of action here, as the archaeologists are set to dodging local and non-local authorities, dealing with corruption, and trying to figure out why they’re suddenly on the most-wanted lists.

Comparisons to Jurassic Park are inevitable. I can tell you these are wildly different works, though fans of the well-known Crichton novel should definitely sink their teeth into this one. Walton also nails the ending, sticking us with a potent plot point that has me yearning for the second book, which is already promised for next year (2023)!

Living Memory is a fast-paced read that still delivers on the nerdy goods of fake science. I can’t recommend it enough to fans of dinosaurs, hard sci-fi, or adventure novels.

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Links

Science Fiction Hub– I have scores of reviews of Hugo nominees, Vintage Sci-Fi, modern sci-fi, TV series, and more! Check out my science fiction related writings here.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Author Interview- Clayton Snyder, author of “Blackthorne,” an SPSFC Quarterfinalist

I’m a judge for the Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC), and wanted to spotlight some of the authors in the contest.

Clayton Snyder

Here, we’ll be interviewing Clayton Snyder, author of Blackthorne and many other works, including co-authoring the SPFBO Finalist, Norylska Groans.

What was your gateway into speculative fiction? What lead you to write it?

I’d say my gateway at the earliest age was Grimm’s Fairy Tales. My mother bought me the big bound version, and I used to read it on a regular basis. As far as writing it, it wasn’t until I read Zelazny’s Amber series I thought it was possible. He had such a facility for painting a picture in small strokes. For whatever reason, that opened the craft for me. I could see how the sausage was made, so to speak, and loved the idea that writing wasn’t this opaque wall, but a window I could see into and subsequently learn from. It also helped that something about Amber really captured my imagination and made me want to spin out worlds of my own.

Zelazny certainly had an impact on many readers! His “Lord of Light” is among my personal favorites. “Blackthorne” is your entry for the SPSFC2, and one of the first thing I noticed is the theme of some darker magic combined with cyberpunk ideas. What inspired you to bring a kind of necromancy over to science fiction?

Honestly, I’ve always loved that idea of magic mixing with tech. I had my first taste of it through RPGs like Shadowrun and Rifts, and the early Pern novels to Final Fantasy. I’ve always kind of figured if I’m going to write speculative fiction, why not go for broke.

What else did you draw on to inspire “Blackthorne”? Can readers expect a sequel?

Movies. Action flicks, specifically. The Rock, a little bit of Blade Runner, some Conan, etc. I will be working on a sequel next year, as I’ve had more than a couple readers threaten me with unrelenting positivity towards this novel. In the interim, I’m working on a more traditional cyberpunk noir.

Your novel, “Norylska Groans” was co-written with Michael Fletcher, another semifinalist from our group! What’s it been like being in the SPSFC with your coauthor?

Fun. Mike and I get along really well, and in this case it’s less friendly competition and more of us cheering each other on. I figure as long as I stay positive for him, he’ll never see the assassins coming.

Your library of works includes westerns, fantasy, and science fiction. What has led you to incorporate a grimdark flare into the genres you’re writing?

I’m a weird mix of optimist and cynic, and I mostly write about the terrible things we do to each other, but as cautionary tales. The idea that there’s hope, but only if we’re willing to open our eyes and see the things we’re capable of and turn away from those paths.

Awesome! Glad you’re having a good time in the contest! Where can my readers find you?

I’m really only on Twitter at the moment, but I do have a website as well: @claytonsnyder2 claytonwsnyder.com. I can also be found on Amazon.

Thank you for your time! Good luck in the contest!

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Links

The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC) Hub– Check out all of my posts related to the SPSFC here!

Science Fiction Hub– I have scores of reviews of Hugo nominees, Vintage Sci-Fi, modern sci-fi, TV series, and more! Check out my science fiction related writings here.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

“Blackthorne” by Clayton Snyder – An SPSFC Review

The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest continues with year two, and as a judge, I’m reading all of my group’s quarterfinalists and giving them full reviews!

Blackthorne by Clayton Snyder

Mattias Temple witnesses a horrific crime, then gets framed for another. He’s got the powers of necromancy, but is locked up for some reasons unknown–they seem to want him to stay where he’s at. Then, a military group captures a governor and Temple’s talents are needed again.

Snyder sets up an action-packed premise and mostly keeps the gas pedal firmly depressed to the floor. The action doesn’t let up, whether it’s a heist gone wrong or Mattias’s multiple escape attempts from incarceration. Plenty of the early scenes are revealed as stage-setting for the big conflict to come. When the governor is captured, witchcraft and other dark forces abound and the only way to stop them is to… well, you’ve got to read it to find out! Snyder doesn’t let readers get very far from the edge of their seat as they read this story, and that was definitely the high point.

The book is also deeper than it appears on the surface (my thanks to another group member for pointing this out). There appears to be no small critique of warfare set alongside the sorrowful consequences of the same as a theme running throughout the book. This is especially evident with one character and Mattias’s constant hope to be reunited with them.

I did wish, however, that Mattias’s powers were revealed in a broader way. We learn more about the powers of witches and some related magic users, but while necromancy is constantly lauded as this super powerful skill, we don’t see much of it beyond glimpses. One person in our group of judges pointed out that early on, the necromancy just reads like glorified lock picking. I’d have liked to have seen it unshackled more so that we could know more the workings and powers being discussed.

Blackthorne is an action packed, gory entry that meshes science fiction and fantasy in some intriguing ways. It would be great to see a sequel exploring the magic powers more deeply. Recommended for fans of grimdark and science fantasy.

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Links

The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC) Hub– Check out all of my posts related to the SPSFC here!

Science Fiction Hub– I have scores of reviews of Hugo nominees, Vintage Sci-Fi, modern sci-fi, TV series, and more! Check out my science fiction related writings here.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

The Great Honor Harrington Read-Along: “The Short Victorious War” by David Weber

The Great Honor Harrington Read Along is a read along led by me with critical analysis and SPOILER FILLED looks at the Honor Harrington series and related works by David Weber and collaborators. I’ve read the whole main series and the overwhelming majority of the offshoots, but some of these will still be first time reads. However, spoilers will be abundant throughout these posts, including for much later books in the series.

The Short Victorious War by David Weber

Honor gets the Nike! This is an honor that’s played up in this book and we’ll hear about it later in the series, too. It’s a fun way to kick off the novel, and MacGuiness getting a bigger role in this novel too. It’s kind of interesting how much he grows on me and I wonder if he gets bigger roles in later books or if I just enjoy that he cares about Honor. This is my third or fourth time through them all, so a lot of it is pretty mashed up in my head.

Speaking of characters who loom large later, Nimitz remains effectively silent here. There’s some scenes of him being playful, and Honor picks up a little bit on emotions from others through him, but he’s largely a nonfactor, dispensing the occasional hiss from her shoulder. In The Honor of the Queen, he got some major action scenes, but here he remains effectively shoulder ornamentation.

Michelle Henke is introduced, and longtime readers of the series know what a major character she is. She gets her own place in later offshoot books, too. I believe she’s one of the first black characters we encounter in the series, as well. It gives Weber the chance to talk about the disapora from Old Earth and how it played out a little bit, and some of that backstory is quite important later, of course. Anyway, for now we see her as a steadfast friend of Honor.

Joe Webster, who served with Honor before, shows up only to make a great defense of Honor as a damned fine captain, and it certainly leaves an impression on Sarnow. As a reader, I’m sitting there like “Yeah, I’m proud of Honor, too!” I love this scene from chapter 6.

Tankersley–oh no. I honestly kind of forgot about him. I mean not forgot forgot, but in the sense of kind of blurring the painful memory out. The first time I read the series I was totally devastated. Weber sets up Honor as a kind of awkward woman who doesn’t realize how beautiful she is, and whose hesitancy is at least somewhat tied into Pavel Young’s awful attempted rape (more on that later). To have her fall in love is a great thing to see, and Henke’s beauty tips are awesome. The whole ship apparently knowing about Honor’s special Tankersley time is a tad awkward, but I wonder how true to life on board a ship like that it’d be. I imagine it’d be difficult to keep secret. Henke’s beauty tips scene in chapter 12 is a wonderfully domestic setting in a series that doesn’t get a lot of them. While Weber doesn’t go through the details of cosmetics that he does with weaponry, it was a nice character building aside.

The Havenites’ increasing incursions being kind of unexplainable for a bit is a good way to foreshadow the later big revelation of their use of sensor platforms. As Haven and Manticore keep up an arms race going forward, it’s fun to see how they innovate with different technology to try to throw each other off. We also get yet another hint about the Solerian League being a thing. When I read the books the first time, I definitely wrote that off as mostly unnecessary fluff to show the universe was bigger. Little did I realize how important it’d be. It’s nice to know Weber was seeding it this early in the series.

Speaking of Haven, the coup at the top is something I thought I recalled taking a lot longer than it does here. It kind of surprised me how quickly it happened from the conspirators meeting in secret to boom the navy blows away the Legislaturists. I’ll be curious to see if I remembered wrong or if there’s more going on with this whole thing than I recalled.

Finally, we need to talk about the battle scenes. Here, they’re a bit few and far between. There “big showdown” type battle is mostly because of a gaffe by Parker, but is cleaned up off stage. It’s not a bad way to do things, but after all the buildup it feels maybe a bit like a letdown to not see quite as much ship-to-ship blowing up as expected. That might just be me, though. And, to be fair, we did get a pretty hefty page count worth of battles towards the end, as we watched a series of traps get set off on the Havenites and then Young flee like the dog that he is.

Young… yeah, he’s the worst. I forgot that we witness his attempted rape of Honor from his viewpoint in this book and it’s bad. It’s not super graphic, but there’s enough there to make it a rough scene and cement Young as among the most hated characters on my list.

The final scene, in which we learn from Parker that Young has been sent to Manticore to face a court martial for cowardice in the face of the enemy, is super satisfying. One might say that I “bared my teeth” in my smile as I read it again. Can we talk briefly about Weber’s penchant for using the same types of phrases over and over? Baring teeth in a smile is one of these recurring themes in most of Weber’s corpus as I recall. What others do you remember? Do you like/hate them? They remind me personally of “tugging braids” in the Wheel of Time, and it’s almost a comforting thing at this point: ah yes, this is what people in this world do.

How about you? What did you think of the book? What were your highlights? Leave a comment and let’s discuss it more!

Links

The Great Honor Harrington Read Along– Follow along as I read through and review all the books and offshoots in this series!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

“Life on Planet Earth” by Andy Gorman – A Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC) Semifinalist Review

We’re now in the round of semi-finalists for the Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC), and I’m reading and reviewing all of the semi-finalists! Check out my SPSFC Hub for all my posts and reviews for the contest.

Life on Planet Earth by Andy Gorman

After the Terminal Plague, humanity left Earth behind. Those left behind turned into a devolved species of homo sapiens. Now, those who have been living in orbit have decided to come back, training with simulations to be ready for the challenges back on Earth. Liam Stone is one who is training on the simulations to go back to Earth. Now, after his sister is chosen instead of him, he’ll give anything to get back.

Following Liam’s story gives readers a kind of survivalist story that reminds me of the survival video game subgenre. Liam is thrown together with several other characters on this adventure, dodging hostile pseudo-humans and trying to figure out how to live on an Earth depleted of resources… at least ostensibly. The characters develop quite a bit, though in mostly predictable ways. The survivalist plot is also predictable. Realistically, my biggest complaint is that everything feels kind of bland. Everything about the novel, whether the characters, plot, or world, felt average. It’s all “okay” but doesn’t really rise above that level.

Life on Planet Earth will deliver what one expects: a post-apocalyptic survival story. While it didn’t wow me, fans of the subgenre will likely feel right at home, with many things to enjoy with the plot.

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Links

The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC) Hub– Check out all of my posts related to the SPSFC here!

Science Fiction Hub– I have scores of reviews of Hugo nominees, Vintage Sci-Fi, modern sci-fi, TV series, and more! Check out my science fiction related writings here.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

“Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Volume 2- Ambition” by Yoshiki Tanaka

The Legend of Galactic Heroes is a… well, legendary anime series. What far fewer people have experienced is the novels upon which it is based. I’m probably something of an outlier here–having only read some of the books while not having seen the anime. I wanted to write about the series of novels to encourage others to read them.

Volume 2: Ambition

The first novel of the series sets the stage for the epic back-and-forth battle between the Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance. The main protagonists are Reinhard von Lohengramm and Yang Wen-Li, respectively. In that first novel, we find out about the war, its origins, and more. Tanaka writes from the perspective of an historian, reporting the events in a rather matter-of-fact way, while foreshadowing upcoming events.

Volume 2, Ambition, expands on the universe with more information about the Phezzan Dominion, an independent planet state that thrives on trade with both major powers in the galaxy. Because they thrive on that trade, it is in their interest to see the war happen while not interfering, selling freely to both sides. This seems like a recipe for disaster in later books, however. For now, they profit. Meanwhile, a coup attempt in the Free Planets Alliance and a power vacuum after the death of the Emperor in the Galactic Empire means that the main fighting stops while each side has to tend to interior struggles.

In this second volume, Tanaka also turns up the character building quite a bit. One, Senior Admiral Ofresser, turns into a monumental challenge in chapter 4. Here, Tanaka manages a devilish task: taking his massive, comically huge space battles and making a single fight in a single corridor somehow matter to the plot. It’s not uncommon for tens of thousands (or more) casualties in this series from a single battle. That means that the scale is so huge that single losses might lose meaning. But Tanaka, in the course of a single chapter, manages to use the narrative “historian” voice to make Ofresser into an almost unbeatable opponent who becomes both repulsive and intriguing to the reader. It’s a phenomenal set of scenes in one of the best chapters in the series so far.

Later, the huge scale of loss is used by Tanaka to cause moral turmoil for Reinhard. Having found out about a potential nuclear attack, does he rush to prevent it, or allow it to happen to muster even greater public outcry on his side? The few pages that cover this event have great weight. Because Tanaka has made huge numbers of losses seem so casually normal in the first book, the plight of the civilian was seemingly a non-issue. But here, he twists the reasoning, allowing major players around Reinhard to effectively argue that a few million dead in light of uniting 25 billion people seems like not such a great loss. And the hardest part is that it makes a twisted kind of sense! But only a devil would pay that butcher’s bill, and the toll it takes later on Reinhard will be interesting to see.

Other epic moments include the use of ice for a massive, debilitating attack in chapter 7. Chapter 9 is another great work of character building amongst otherwise matter-of-fact reporting from the narrative voice. Here, Reinhard tries to cool his relationship with Kircheis because he took advice about not sharing power. But when push comes to shove and Kircheis literally puts his life on the line for Reinhard, the latter realizes what a terrible mistake he’d made. It’s a powerful scene.

One thing that makes these books such a treat for me as a reader is how unexpected some of these character moments are. The way the books are reported, almost as if from a newspaper, makes it easy to think that you may not connect with the characters. But Tanaka uses that same narrative style to cleverly make these vignettes that make these newspaper figures so relatable and interesting in ways that as a reader, I didn’t expect. The series also, as I mentioned in the first post, reads like an anime. It was developed into an anime, and I wonder if Tanaka was thinking this as he wrote it. The epic scale lends itself to that format, as does the narrative style.

Ambition takes the massive battles and scope of the first book and turns the plot up a few notches. I am excited to see where it goes next. I forget exactly which volume I read through before, but I believe I got to 3 or 4, so there’s plenty more to go for new reads in this 10 volume saga.

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Science Fiction Hub– I have scores of reviews of Hugo nominees, Vintage Sci-Fi, modern sci-fi, TV series, and more! Check out my science fiction related writings here.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Announcing the Quarterfinalists for SPSFC2 from Team Red Stars!

I’m so pleased to announce that Team Red Stars has our 10 quarterfinalists ready! These 10 books are those that we chose out of our slush pile to move on to get fully read by the group and get narrowed down to just 3 to pass on to the wider group of judges! For those books/authors cut–know that we had so much fun sampling all the books and some of us will be reviewing some of those slush books that didn’t make it through but made an impression on us! So know we’ll have some more reviews coming even if you’re not in the quarterfinalists! Check out the whole Red Stars slush pile here.

Along the Perimeter by Steven Healt

Blurb

A caustic fog blankets the Earth. Only the transparent barrier known as the Shield holds it at bay. It is the Amboians—an advanced alien species—and their technology that saved the last remnants of Humanity from the deadly Haze…

As disturbing reports of attacks from beyond the perimeter of the Shield reach the capital city of Amboy, all eyes turn eastward.

Initial Thoughts

I already reviewed this book last year when I saw it in another group’s slush pile and even interviewed the author. My thoughts can be found there, but here I’ll just say that I think the book delivers on its premise for an epic introduction to a big world.

The Astral Hacker by Brian Terenna

Blurb

In 2120, New America is the world leader in technology and individual freedom. Why, then, has seventeen-year-old Fae Luna felt like an isolated prisoner her entire life? She survived the worst of the foster care system by honing her skills as a top-level hacker and thanks to the support of her humanoid robot, Sunny, who is illegally upgraded to a human-level AI. Finally, she’s matched with a foster mom who treats her kindly. Fae slowly lets her guard down until a suspicious tragedy tears them apart. 

Initial Thoughts

I actually read this whole book to decide whether or not to pass it. Terenna packs tons of twists and turns into this book that seems like it should be straightforward (it’s not). Group members thought the writing was strong and the characters were enough to get into and keep going. I’ll have a full review when I can.

Blackthorne by Clayton W. Snyder

Blurb

Framed for a crime he didn’t commit. Haunted by the ghosts of his past. Incarcerated in the most notorious prison in the Freeholds. Fate has mauled Mattias Temple, a failed cadre necromancer, leaving him with little hope.

Initial Thoughts

One of the two goriest books we got, which usually puts me off, Blackthorne sold me on the totally weird premise and the way it used tech to incorporate things that are more traditionally fantasy (such as necromancy). I was also very curious about the kind of black ops/project going on with the main character and others. Military sci-fi with a big twist on the sub-genre.

Ever the Hero by Darby Harn

Blurb

Kit Baldwin can’t afford trouble, not in a city where superhuman Empowered offer their help only for a fee. But rent doesn’t wait so she scavenges the ruins for valuable artifacts from a crashed alien ship. When Kit discovers a powerful alien object, it pays off more than she ever hoped.

Initial Thoughts

I read this one last year and will re-read it for the contest this year. This superhero-fueled sci-fi story deserves attention. Check out my review for my fuller (mostly spoiler free) thoughts.

Ghosts of Tomorrow by Michael R. Fletcher

Blurb

The children are the future. And someone is turning them into highly trained killing machines.

Straight out of school, Griffin, a junior Investigations agent for the North American Trade Union, is put on the case: Find and close the illegal crèches. No one expects him to succeed, Griffin least of all.

Installed in a combat chassis Abdul, a depressed seventeen year old killed during the Secession Wars in Old Montreal, is assigned as Griffin’s Heavy Weapons support.

Nadia, a state-sanctioned investigative reporter working the stolen children story, pushes Griffin ever deeper into the nightmare of the black market brain trade.

Initial Thoughts

Lots of violence and gore in this one, which is usually a huge turn-off for me. But the violence and gore is there for a reason and makes sense within the flow of the story. And what a story! It’s got robotics, cyberpunk vibes, grimdark, and more. I’m super into it, and want to see where it goes.

Heritage by S.M. Warlow

Blurb

25 years after the fall of Earth, the Commonwealth is locked in a vicious, galaxy-spanning war against the Revenant. Countless worlds have been lost in the fighting, and now one crew must come together and stand in the way of galactic annihilation.

Initial Thoughts

Heritage is a big-feeling space opera with vibes of found family and heist. I enjoyed the big scale of events and the narrow focus taking place therein. It’s a chunky book, so there’s a lot to read to find out the ultimate payoff!

Intelligence Block by Kit Falbo

Blurb

Talos June performs with the creed of never break character. It lets him hide his awkward self from the universe as the ancient and powerful Wizard Joontal. No one knows the man behind the curtain.

It is a good job, and he has his artificial companions to keep him company as he plays with the most fabulous technologies the colonized planets have produced. Technologies as dangerous as they are exciting.

Initial Thoughts

A wizard in a cyberpunk/gamelit world at a birthday party starts this book off, and I was sold from the gate. I enjoyed the introspective voice, the kindness of the main character, and the way “magic” worked in this tech-y world. I want to know what happens next, and I’m glad we’ll be finding out more in this round!

Mercury’s Shadow by PJ Garcin

Blurb

Imogen “Chim” Esper is thrust into the center of an interplanetary conflict when her family is torn apart by the cruel and indifferent Kardashev Corporation. Forced to run, along with her robotic best friend, Chim struggles to find her place in a society that is poised for revolutionary transformation.

The Kardashev Corporation dominates all commerce and politics in the solar system. Its megalomaniac CEO, Alton Neal, is hell-bent on transforming society by capturing the full energy output of the sun through the creation of a Dyson Swarm.

Citizens of Earth and the stations throughout the system must band together to protect access to the lifeblood of the system or risk becoming permanently enslaved to the Kardashev Corporation.

Initial Thoughts

At first, I was worried this was going to be a pretty straightforward adventure, but one big twist early on changed it into something more than that. I am a fan of YA, and I loved the tone, style, and characters in Mercury’s Shadow were all delivering the goods in the part I sampled. I am very much wanting to read more.

Percival Gynt and the Conspiracy of Days by Drew Melbourne

Blurb

The year is 20018. The famed magician Illuminari is dead, and his greatest illusion has died with him. Dark forces now seek the Engine of Armageddon, the ancient, sentient doomsday weapon that Illuminari hid amongst the stars.

Enter Percival Gynt, accountant and part-time hero, whose quest to find the Engine before it falls into the wrong hands may be our universe’s last best hope for survival. It is a quest that will take him from the highest reaches of power to the lowest pits of despair and through every manner of horror and absurdity between.

But beware. This accountant has a secret. A secret that may damn us all.

Initial Thoughts

Our group had such fun sampling this one. The tone, the humor, and even the plot all were spot on. For me personally, I find melding sci-fi and humor is something that can really put me off, but Melbourne sucked me in with a solid plot and tone that never relented or distracted. It felt to me a bit like reading Douglas Adams, and that’s high praise. I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

The Unpleasantness at Baskerville Hall by Chris Dolley

Blurb

Wodehouse steampunk version of The Hound of the Baskervilles!

Thoughts

The tone and style of this one excite me, so I want to see where it goes. Group members were impressed by the prose, the witticisms, and the banter and are looking forward to more fun.

Conclusion

Here we have it, my group’s top 10 from the slush pile! Which ones have you read? What are you going to read along with us? Let me know in the comments!

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Links

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SDG.