“Hammer and Crucible” by Cameron Cooper- An SPSFC Semifinalist Review

I’ll be reading and reviewing every semifinalist for the Self-Published Science Fiction Contest! Check out my list with blurbs, covers, links, and first impressions for all the semifinalists here. Please let me know what you think of any/all of these books! I love comments, and love talking about books.

Hammer and Crucible by Cameron Cooper

Hammer and Crucible starts with a mystery- what happened to Danny Andela and her family? When questions begin to arise about her son, she gets thrown in with her granddaughter to solve a mystery that might have much wider implications than they realize.

What follows is a slow burn that builds up as Cooper peels away layer after layer of the complex world that’s been created for this series. One of the great joys of reading this book was how Cooper integrates technology into the story. One of the great joys of science fiction is seeing how authors manipulate existing ideas and tech to come up with new uses of existing technology or extrapolating new technology and inventions entirely, and I loved how Cooper used this to great impact throughout the story. Whether it was the anti-aging treatments or the extremely fun nanotech-driven spaceship later in the novel, the technology felt seamlessly real in this futuristic story and continued to impress upon the reader the setting.

The novel is driven by its plot, which goes through a fairly step-by-step journey to solve the central mystery. Since the characters don’t have much to work with at the beginning, they basically just follow a logical path of chasing the one lead they have, following the lead that one gives, etc. until the end of the novel. Again, this plays into the slow burn nature of the story. While the impact of the story is big, the way it plays out is quite intimate and even plodding at points. I would have liked to see perhaps a quicker lead in to the major events of the novel.

I enjoyed that we had a main character who wasn’t a teen or twenty-something. There’s nothing wrong with people that age as main characters, but they seem to dominate a lot of speculative fiction, so having a grandma as the main perspective made for a refreshing difference. I also thought the main story was well-done. The characters grew into relationship with each other through the book, and I thought that was a great way to bring dramatic tension and resolution about.

Hammer and Crucible is a solid read with big implications, interesting plot points, and great tech. I recommend it for fans of story-driven space opera.


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