SPSFC2 First Impressions: “Celestial Awakening,” “EMP Strike,” and “Percival Gynt and the Conspiracy of Days”

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!

Celestial Awakening by Frank Lobue

The prologue of this one is written kind of like an Olaf Stapledon novel. Basically, it’s soberly reported history of humanity up to a certain point, like reading the highlights of a made up civilization. I am a huge sucker for that kind of writing. Then, the main plot itself gets going and I was less intrigued by the main characters and their struggle than I felt by the big overview/big ideas of the prologue. I think I’ll try to circle back and give this one another look. I got about 15-20% of the way in and put it on hold to get through other books. It’s a “maybe.”

EMP Strike by Bo Thunboe

EMP Strike is well written, with a simple prose that suits itself to the genre. The multiple viewpoints from the beginning drew me in, and I liked how they get tied together. But as I kept reading, I kept wanting more. I wanted there to be more impact to the EMP event itself, or more information about it. Or, if Thunboe chose not to reveal more about why/how/etc. regarding that even itself, I was looking for more impact locally on the characters and more explanation of why things are they way they are. I kept reading and ultimately even finished this one to determine my final evaluation. The middle section felt like it dragged along too much with little happening, ultimately leading me to the feeling that the book is more part 1 of a long novel, not part 1 of a series. While it has an impactful ending, that came a little bit too late for me, having felt like I had to dig through many pages without enough happening to advance the main plots or answer the main questions before I got there. It’s a no, but I do recommend for those looking for this kind of survival series. I just wanted a little bit more in this first installment than we get.

Percival Gynt and the Conspiracy of Days by Drew Melbourne

Humorous sci-fi isn’t really my subgenre. But sometimes–once in a while–it just clicks. “Hitchhiker’s Guide” and series, for example, *clicked* for me big time. So I gotta admit, I started Percival Gynt with a bit of skepticism. “Not my style” was ready to roll out, to be honest. But Melbourne won me over with stylish writing, quick action, and yes, a number of witticisms that had me smiling. I also was caught up in the story, which seemed silly but feels like it has more depth to it than I’ve scratched so far. I enjoyed the brief time I spent with the novel and intend to read the whole thing even if it doesn’t make it to my team’s quarterfinalist round. It’s a yes.


These three books are all super strong entries. It’s clear that I’m going to have to make so many tough decisions. Saying “no” to EMP Strike was tough, and like I said, I do recommend for readers who particularly enjoy that subgenre. I just wanted a little bit more from it in the moment. I need to do more exploring for Celestial Awakening‘s final determination, but Percival Gynt won me over fairly quickly. We’ve got a strong slush pile here, folks!

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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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