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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
Wodehouse steampunk version of The Hound of the Baskervilles!
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.
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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