SPSFC2 First Impressions: “Mercury’s Shadow,” “Ever the Hero,” and “A Hardness of Minds”

The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (“SPACEFIC”) is underway, and my group is going through one of my favorite parts of the contest: sorting through a slush pile. Basically, we get a stack of books and need to sample them all to narrow down our selections for quarter- and semi-finalists. Here, I’ll be going over my first impressions of some of these books. Please note my “Yes,” “No,” or “Maybe” vote is only indicative of my opinion and may not reflect the opinion of our whole group. Since we advance books as a group, it’s possible a “Yes” from me may end up a “No” overall and vice versa. Let me know what you think of the books in the comments!

Mercury’s Shadow by PJ Garcin

Humanity struggles as the ultra-rich determine the future, and the way it happens here is when one corporate autocrat decides to basically dyson sphere the sun with micro-robots. The twists so far have been somewhat predictable, and the contrast between the down-on-her-luck MC and the others is an expected trope. But tropes are tropes for a reason, and here the characters are done quite well with the drama building steadily through the first 20%. It has a fun YA feel to it that I find extremely endearing. It’s a “yes” because I want to read more.

Ever the Hero by Darby Harn

I read this one from another group’s slush pile last year because I love superhero stories. Kit finds an alien artifact as she’s scavenging through the ruins of her city for something to sell. When she goes to swap it, she gets caught up in the tragic story of Valene, a super-powered woman who can hear everything, everywhere, all the time. Her suffering from this power is great, and Kit finds herself trying to manipulate the artifact to help the ailing super. The plot has the “wrong side of the tracks” vibe with Kit, while also taking into account race, economic disparity, and more, wrapping all of it up into a compelling superhero story.

This one’s a yes. It’s a great read, which I recommend!

A Hardness of Minds by Eric Kay

I have feelings about this one. The first chapter of the book didn’t really grab me. It felt kind of like a generic near-future in which a character is trying to get a space expedition going. But then I discovered the chapters alternate (so far) between that perspective and that of aliens living under the ice of Europa. The second, alien perspective is fascinating, as characters struggle with the theological questions of what would happen if the ice were breached (would null space take over!?) and fighting against supposed scientific progress. It was a fascinating perspective even if the aliens didn’t quite feel alien enough. When I sit back and think about whether to mark books as “yes” or “no” (or hedge with “maybe”) the question I ask is mostly do I personally want to read more of this book? For me, the alien perspective made A Hardness of Minds a Yes.


Yeah… apparently I’m loving our slush pile yet again. Very few “no’s” showing up so far, and even they have some good qualities to them. I’m gonna either have to rely on my fellow group members to have their votes decide or we’re going to have a lot of reorganizing/ranked choice voting to figure out our quarterfinalists! But this is a great problem to have. It shows the breadth and depth of the indie sci-fi field, which is exactly what we want!

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

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One thought on “SPSFC2 First Impressions: “Mercury’s Shadow,” “Ever the Hero,” and “A Hardness of Minds”

  1. Eric K says:

    Thank you so much for all your reviews!

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