SPSFC Round 1, Battle Royale Part 5

Skybound by Lou Iovino

I was intrigued by the hard sci-fi premise of this novel. What would happen if the Earth stopped spinning? Iovino dives into some of the science questions this brings up, and provides answers to some of the big ones, like what happens to the moon (in this book, whatever stopped the Earth’s spin kept the moon in a kind of stasis as well), or satellites, or why didn’t everyone just fly off into space? Scatter in some great character pieces, and the book was set up for success. I had a ton of questions as I got to the 3/4 mark of the novel. I was especially interested in the strange alien (?) object that seemed to be the source of all the problems. [There are spoilers for the ending after these brackets. I’ll close out spoilers with more brackets.] But then, they just solve the problem. An astronaut from the ISS worked throughout most of the novel to get information back to Earth, and they can’t read it, but that doesn’t matter because nukes. I re-read the last 20% or so of the novel twice because I was so surprised by how so many threads were left dangling and some of the biggest investments in characters were just dead ends. They literally just shoot a bunch of nukes at the object and it disappears after a couple hits. Flash forward 5 years and some people are bittersweet about the events. That’s it! There’s no explanation of what the object was, why it did what it did, nothing! I am left wondering if it is supposed to be some broader point about the pointlessness of various things, like how we could invest a ton of time and effort into a project only to have it all be for nothing. But really, it just feels incredibly unsatisfying after a super strong first part of the novel. [/Spoilers.] Because of this, Skybound is, disappointingly, a “no.” There’s just not the satisfaction of an ending I was looking for. I would read another novel by the author, though.

World of Difference by WJ Donovan

I don’t really know what to make of this book, now that I’ve finished. It’s got a kind of sardonic narration style that makes it difficult to tell if some of the worst comments are satire critiquing awful things or whether the narrator is just… awful. One example is a character who goes on about how incarceration rates (even in the future, apparently) are skewed in America towards imprisoning people of color, which seems like a potential critique of mass incarceration. But then that same character jokingly (?) says mass incarceration is good because it was a way to help explore the Solar System through forced labor. Moments like this abound. The plot is at times buried to the point it feels one needs an excavator to figure out what’s happening. Is it a slice of life novel, showing what’s happening across the lives of several characters? Or is it something more? By the end I was still asking myself this question. It’s got the seeds of interest here, but not enough for me to bump it to a “yes,” especially with my concerns over some of the problematic content.

Age of Order by Julian North

We’ve got another school-based dystopia here! I gotta confess, I love this concept. Combine Harry Potter with a dystopia and you’ve got the classroom drama of teens or kids and the potential for much bigger consequences.

Round 1 Status

As my group pushed to find the last 10 books our group selected, I had to cut my reading of Age of Order short (about 43% in), but I could tell that it stood out from the crowd enough this round to move on. I’ll be interested to see if my group decides to pick it as one of the group choices, as I know there were some mixed opinions on it. World of Difference is an intriguing story with maybe just a bit too little cohesion and too many things going on for a satisfying answer to any of the many basic character questions it raised in my head. Skybound is a fantastic read that just… kind of fizzles out. With Age of Order, we’ve rounded out my personal top 10 from my team’s books for the SPSFC! I can’t wait to see what my group’s official choices are, but I said I’d promise reviews for all my own selections, and you’ll have them even if they don’t make the group’s list! Let me know in the comments what you think!

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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.

SPSFC Round 1, Battle Royale Part 4

There were 5 slots left on my “yes” list for the Self-Published Science Fiction Contest but 15 books in the running. That means I need to eliminate 2 out of every 3 books. To do so, I decided to commit to fully reading these 15 books (or, minimally, reading until I decide it’s not for me) and pitting them against each other for the final 5 slots. I had to re-think my reading to do this, because I enthusiastically put too many books on the “yes” stack to start off. So, for the sake of seeding, each former “yes” goes up against two “maybe” books (except for one post where two higher seeds will face off).

Memories of the Khassos by Leah Flaherty

The first 10-20% of this novel had me intrigued by a world-hopping adventure that seemed to blend some elements of hard sci-fi, dystopia, and, frankly, whimsy. As I read the rest of the novel, though, it didn’t ever get over the hump. That is, the premise of the world never seemed fully to be cashed in. There are supposedly numerous civilizations on the line here, but we don’t get enough of a view of any of them as a reader to become invested in their setting. Are they civilizations worth saving? One, hinted at early on, seems to be something of a police-state. But that’s it–we just get hints. The characters feel the same way. While a few of the main characters get fleshed out over time, most of the others seem to be just their as props, barely carrying along the plot. There’s not enough flavor to this world, and that’s a shame, because I think the potential for a wonderful read is there. I thought Flaherty’s prose was a strong point. The Memories of Khassos was initially intriguing, but ultimately it’s getting the cut.

Extinction Reversed by J. S. Morin

I hugely enjoyed J.S. Morin’s Black Ocean series, which is like “Firefly” with magic (and it does work and feel about that way). So, when I first sampled this book, I was surprised it wasn’t an immediate yes. I threw it on the “maybe” stack and figured I’d give it a deeper go later. I’m glad I did, because while I haven’t had the chance to fully read the book, once I got past the confusion with names and places that was piled into the front portion of the book, the plot truly takes off. It becomes an interesting look at how AI and robotic life might examine itself and try to find a place in the world. It also picks up more of the humor and personable characters that I expected from familiarity with some of Morin’s (huge) corpus. I have been enjoying it hugely ever since, and it has moved up the pile.

Things They Buried by Amanda K. King and Michael R. Swanson

I have such mixed feelings here, because Things They Buried is quite the strong work, as well. It’s all about world-building here. There are several different alien(ish) factions here battling for control in a cityscape that is as depressing as it is hope-filled. The characters are fighting against an evil threat that is stealing and harming children. There are dark themes and awful violence here, but its for a purpose and never feels, so far as I can tell, exploitative or pointless. The book is also relentlessly dense, forcing an intense focus as you’re reading it. This is a science fantasy not to be missed by fans of the subgenre, and certainly more so if you enjoy the darker side of storytelling while still having hope even in the midst of atrocity.

Round 1 Status

Battle Royale Round 4 may have been the most difficult of them all. These books each have many merits, and they each bring entirely different things to the table. Memories of the Khassos didn’t quite live up to a promising start, but stands as an interesting enough, if disjointed, story. Things They Buried vs. Extinction Reversed is a tough battle, and I ultimately decided that Extinction Reversed is my choice, though it was very, very close. I’ll be interested to see what my fellow reviewers think of these books. Let me know your own thoughts in the comments!

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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.

SPSFC Round 1, Battle Royale Part 3

There were 5 slots left on my “yes” list for the Self-Published Science Fiction Contest but 15 books in the running. That means I need to eliminate 2 out of every 3 books. To do so, I decided to commit to fully reading these 15 books (or, minimally, reading until I decide it’s not for me) and pitting them against each other for the final 5 slots. I had to re-think my reading to do this, because I enthusiastically put too many books on the “yes” stack to start off. So, for the sake of seeding, each former “yes” goes up against two “maybe” books (except for one post where two higher seeds will face off).

Dog Country by Malcolm F. Cross

Dog Country is a military science fiction novel about geneforged dog-people who were created for war only to find there’s no war waiting for them in adulthood. Honestly, this is one of the most thoughtful books in our selection, in my opinion. Time and again, there are problems with our major protagonist, Edane, attempting to adapt to the “real world” and away from war. Then, a crowdfunded war to oust a totalitarian regime gets underway and we get some solid military sci-fi action that feels believable and surprisingly intense at times. Edane struggles to find out how to express himself to his girlfriend, Janine, and takes comfort from the his two adoptive mothers. The inter-character relationships are of utmost importance in the book, and I found it impossible not to get deeply invested in Edane’s story and struggles. There are shades of the big questions asked in books like The Forever War, but with a twist because they involve hypothetical situations of future weapons and technology. I hugely enjoyed this novel.

The Coldsuit by Andy Wright

First contact with a twist- our main character grew up effectively a slave laborer for an alien species. Ry grew up believing a lie, and as he discovers the truth, he starts to fight back against it. The plot and characters are interesting, but they didn’t draw me in to this twist on the dystopic genre. Yep, it’s a dystopia but it’s aliens this time instead of some far off human power (as in The Hunger Games). I’d recommend this to people who truly can’t get enough of dystopias, and I’d recommend it to them pretty strongly. For me, it read as too familiar. However, based on how the rest of my group thinks, this might end up on our group’s collective “Yes” pile.

The Lore of Prometheus by Graham Austin-King

I wrote in my initial impression of this book that I was interested in finding out more about what powers were at work, whether it was urban fantasy, and more about the characters. Now that I’ve finished, I sort of have the same questions in my mind. The plot meanders quite a bit and I’m still not convinced about how the protagonist’s powers work. It’s a decent yarn, but unfortunately won’t be moving on past this round for me.

Round 1 Status

Round 3 of the Battle Royale had some super heavy hitters. Each of these books seems worthy in its own ways, and I won’t be unhappy should my group select others of them for our group reads. For me, though Dog Country stood canine head and (furry) shoulders above the rest. It’s just a fabulous character piece told with excruciatingly powerful moments scattered throughout some solid action sequences. Fans of military or thoughtful sci-fi should consider it a must-read. Coldsuit, again, reads as a very good dystopic setup, but I found myself skimming after a while with a sense of having been there before. The Lore of Prometheus is another intriguing plot with good characters, but I was a bit confused by everything as I approached the end. Again, any of these seems a good read, so if you’re yearning for some indie reads, go grab them and read them! Let me know what you thought of them in the comments.

All links to Amazon are affiliates.

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.

Announcing Team Red Stars SPSFC Round of 100 reads- The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest

We’ve done it! Team Red Stars has narrowed our 31 selections for the SPSFC down to 10. 10 groups have done so, which means the remaining books are the top 100 out of about 300 entries into the SPSFC! Without further ado, here are our 10 books for the round of 100, along with some comments on each!

Of Cinder and Bone by Kyoko M.

Our whole group was enthused about this read from the sample we read. We loved the character-driven drama and the hints at science-y, dragon-y plot. I have since finished the book and will have a review coming… eventually!

The Shepherd Protocol by Fowler Brown

The group was sold on this AI/Robot mystery that seemed to get deeper the more we read of it. I personally quite enjoy the cover art–it’s not often you see art in this style, which looks like a kind of advanced colored pencil drawing.

The Trellis by Jools Cantor

I may as well say it: I’m a sucker for the mashup of science fiction and mystery. The Trellis has that from the get-go, and Cantor also sprinkles in some commentary on unfettered capitalism and more as the novel gets going. I am about halfway through and it’s captured me completely.

Zenith by Arshad Ahsanuddin

Another character-driven drama, with this one set in space. I found the characters compelling, and it was exciting to see representation of characters outside the norm for science fiction.

Refraction Wick Welker

This story takes place in three different time periods spanning from our past to a future a few hundred years from now. The group was into the main characters, as well as intrigued by the way the plot hinted at bigger things to come.

Age of Order by Julian North

Our group had a bunch of dystopias, and this one was one that stuck out from the crowd with its setting and potential for big implications about its world. We also liked the main character, for whom we’re all rooting!

Wherever Seeds May Fall by Peter Cawdron

I couldn’t stop reading this first contact/hard sci-fi novel by Peter Cawdron. It just kept getting bigger and more intriguing as it went on, and I think it’s just a wonderfully told and timely story. Others in the group enjoyed the tone and were interested to see where the plot goes.

Dog Country by Malcolm F. Cross

Our group enthusiastically selected this no-luck military sci-fi drama that intensely focuses on character-driven plot. I have finished it since, and I’ll save my main thoughts for the review; for now, let’s just say the story is as good as its cover.

Extinction Reversed by J. S. Morin

Artificially intelligent robots are trying to revive the human race in this touching novel about robots. I wasn’t entirely sold on it until I got about 20% in, but it truly starts to ramp up from there. I’m excited to see where it goes.

Above the Sky by J.W. Lynne

Our group dug this dystopia (maybe–it’s not clear if it’s a dystopia or simply playing on the subgenre’s tropes yet) about a looming threat that lingers above the sky. I admit I’ve been sitting on it, waiting for a good moment to start truly diving in. I anticipate savoring it based on the sample I read.

First Round Status

As a group, we’ve determined our final 10 books. I have several posts in the docket to show how I came to my personal top 10, as well. 8 of my personal top 10 made our quarterfinalists, which is pretty exciting for me. So what’s next? More book reviews and discussions. Let me know if you’ve read any of these and what you think in the comments!

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Links

The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC) Hub– my hub post with links to all of my other posts related to the SPSFC.

Announcing Our SPSFC Round One Top Ten!– Red Star Reviews has his own write-up related to our group’s reads.

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.

SPSFC Round 1, Battle Royale Part 2

There were 5 slots left on my “yes” list for the Self-Published Science Fiction Contest but 15 books in the running. That means I need to eliminate 2 out of every 3 books. To do so, I decided to commit to fully reading these 15 books (or, minimally, reading until I decide it’s not for me) and pitting them against each other for the final 5 slots. I had to re-think my reading to do this, because I enthusiastically put too many books on the “yes” stack to start off. So, for the sake of seeding, each former “yes” goes up against two “maybe” books (except for one post where two higher seeds will face off).

The Shepherd Protocol by Fowler Brown

I love stories about robots, AIs, and “sleeves.” I especially love mechs, but there aren’t enough mech stories. Anyway, The Shepherd Protocol is about robots who live in a world in which Asimov’s Laws aren’t a thing. Synths–the robot stand ins–are starting to die/go idle due to the Decay and our protagonist is right in the middle of trying to figure out why things are happening. What follows is a mystery that weaves around a vaguely cyberpunk cityscape. More revelations hit at satisfying intervals. The main characters, whether synths or not, feel realistic and human. But it’s this very humanity of the robots that makes the book seem less intriguing for me. There’s no sense of “other” with the synths here, and it’s never entirely certain if that’s part of the reason why. There is occasional exploration of how humans might treat the synth “other,” but the discussion never delves deeply and the ground is well-trod when it comes to science fiction. The Shepherd Protocol is a fine story, but one that reads as if most of its punch is taken away by having been done before, if differently.

Refraction by Wick Welker

There are three storylines here, each taking place about 80-100 years apart between circa 1980 and circa 2150. The first of these follows a scientist, Timothy Straus, as he works on a groundbreaking discovery. The second, set in the middle time period, follows Caleb (aka “Cal”) as he learns some of the darker secrets behind his cloistered dream life. The third is centered around Custos, a sentient robot who has become the President of Mars. While these stories initially seem unconnected apart from the link of the first two characters hearing voices, they eventually become entangled within each other in deeply connected ways. What’s remarkable about this is that at no point did the entanglement of these narratives seem contrived or forced. Welker does a simply phenomenal job of weaving a cohesive narrative across three timelines while keeping readers on the edge of their seat the whole time. Each society and time period felt fleshed out and full of side characters who mattered. The science-y aspects were detailed enough to survive the suspension of disbelief, and the big reveals, when they started to hit, were fun even if occasionally predictable. The book is almost 450 pages but I sat down on my day off and marathoned through the last third or so of it over a morning (cat on my lap, the best way to read!) because I couldn’t get enough of it. This is a true compelling science fiction yarn, folks.

This Blue Ball by Wayne V. Miller

When I sampled this kaleidoscopic novel by Miller, I was struck by the conspiratorial tone and the way the story was told. I put it on the “maybe” list and was intrigued enough to circle back to it. Now that I’ve finished the novel, I am… confused. “Straightforward” is not a word I’d use for the beginning, but compared to where the story goes, the early parts are pretty simple. You’ve got the story told through a found manuscript that tells of a strange light burned into a computer display that might signify something other or out there in existence. It’s conspiratorial in tone, with a kind of “they [government/illuminati/something] don’t want you to know that we [storyteller(s)] know that they’re [aliens… maybe?] out there.”

And then it just kinda… gets weird. Like the plot doesn’t actually go anywhere. It turns into a series of vignettes with no apparent connection. Like there’s a whole lengthy scene of a Minister Brown introducing a number of people to a group of people and how they represent aspects of an idealized [Thomas] Jeffersonian government but then there’s someone else who talks about the way that the same ideals have led to massive inequities regarding arrests, imprisonment, representation, and more and then Minister Brown is just kinda like “Well that guy’s kinda angry but I don’t necessarily disagree” and then the scene is over. Yes that was a run on sentence but I had to get it all out there. I don’t… get it. I genuinely don’t know where the early plot even went. And then the ending shifts back to the conspiratorial tone talking to the reader and talks about a cacophony and sensation and none of that makes sense either. And interspersed with all of this is a weird obsession with prostitution and masturbation but it gets called “onanism” in reference to the Biblical Onan and I’m not sure where that’s from or why the obsession is even there.

The book doesn’t make sense. At all. And honestly? I’m kind of annoyed by that. Early on, I was sold on the conspiratorial weirdness but then it just keeps spiraling and seems to turn into a rambling commentary on like, life, man, as if you’re reading dialogue from “The Big Lebowski” overlaid with some debates about political philosophy and race. I’m left thinking, “What?”

Battle Royale Round 1 Result

Refraction is moving on to the yes pile! I’ll have a full review of it coming when my group moves on with this round. It’s got a pretty firm standing among my favorites, now that I’ve finished it. I recommend it pretty highly to my readers here. This is exactly the reason it’s worth diving into indie titles, because you find gems like this book that you’d never have known about otherwise.

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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.

SPSFC Round 1, Battle Royale Part 1

There are 5 slots left on my “yes” list for the Self-Published Science Fiction Contest but 15 books in the running. That means I need to eliminate 2 out of every 3 books. To do so, I decided to commit to fully reading these 15 books (or, minimally, reading until I decide it’s not for me) and pitting them against each other for the final 5 slots. I had to re-think my reading to do this, because I enthusiastically put too many books on the “yes” stack to start off. So, for the sake of seeding, each former “yes” goes up against two “maybe” books (except for one post where two higher seeds will face off).

Edge of the Breach by Halo Scot

Tons of reviews for this one (147 on Goodreads at 4.5 stars) had me wondering what the buzz was about. My sample dive into it had me worried about how depressing it all felt. There are a couple storylines going on in a truly post apocalyptic setting. But there’s also a strange sense of normalcy, including school bullies. Of course, the bullies get murdered in an insanely violent and magical (???) way. Reading more of it is confirming that it’s just a bit too dark and hopeless for me. I hate to do this on the first book I’m delving deeper into, but it’s a DNF because of all the brutal, senseless violence combined with me struggling to get to empathize with any characters.

The Echo Effect by John McGuire

My first look at The Echo Effect had me interested because of the premise–waking up on a hard reset on time with few others who know about what’s going on, as other variables play out in entirely different ways. I was interested to see where the story went, and whether our protagonist, Aaron Anders, would figure it out. So I dived in to my full read-through of the book with some anticipation, as this was on the “yes” list initially.

As I read the book, around the 50% point, I began to wonder if the premise was going to pay off. Aaron had encountered numerous others who were aware of the same experiences he was having, but so far the only real thing that happened was that one of them tried to sell him on a consequence-free type living like the movie “Groundhog Day” before Bill Murray gets himself turned around. Then, the rest of the book does start to step it up with a far greater conspiracy-type plot in which everyone is trapped, not just those who have realized it. At that point, though, the investment on my end wasn’t there. I was finding it hard to care much about the characters, most of whom had spent the majority of the book wandering around with little impact on anything. So, when people started showing up who wanted to change things permanently, it was hard to get on board with the direction the plot took.

The Jagged Edge by A J Frazer

Dominic Elliston has moved from a war correspondent to a media mogul. He can travel wherever he wants, do whatever he wants, and be with almost whomever he wants. But when he comes into contact with Victor Sagen, an environmental terrorist bent upon vengeance, his life gets much more complicated. My initial sampling of this book was for the first 20% and I genuinely didn’t know what to think. I was lured along more by the premise than by the writing or characters. Elliston isn’t a particularly likable guy, and the early plot doesn’t go far. At 20% it was a “maybe” largely because right on that threshold, Elliston was picked up with news he could interview Sagen and I was intrigued by the eco-terrorist.

I started where I left off and I’m glad I did. Elliston’s first major interaction with Sagen takes the novel to another level. Frazer writes Sagen’s origin story as a near-supervillain in a way that is also utterly enthralling. Is the eco-terrorist in the wrong here? The story gets better from there, too, and takes some twists I did not expect or see coming. I won’t spoil them here.

I don’t have the skillset to analyze the book for its extensive use of hand-waving regarding hacking, computer viruses, and worms, so those who do may have more issues with it than I did. However, hand-waving does occur. Frazer does acknowledge this in-narrative by having Elliston almost literally wave his hands at the finer technicalities of the computer tech. This is not a cyberpunk techno-thriller. It’s a thriller with cyber technology trappings. The other downsides to the novel are its slow start, women being generally absent from the core of the narrative, and heavy suspension of disbelief required for some of the ways people avoid detection.

That said, this was a fascinating character study that forces readers to ask questions about what might be best for humanity and the planet. It takes a while to get going, but it was ultimately a satisfying read.

Battle Royale Round 1 Result

The Jagged Edge is moving on to the yes pile! I’ll have a full review of The Jagged Edge coming in later! Let me know what you think of these books in the comments.

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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.

SPSFC Round 1: My Quarterfinalists (more to come!)

I’ve finished sampling all 31 books from my group’s list for the Self-Published Science Fiction Contest! That means I have some choices for my quarterfinalists (those books that I’m voting to move on for my group to read fully, then rank, and from which to pick semifinalists) settled. Note: my vote is one of several, so my quarterfinalist choices are personal to me. If any of them do not make it to the next round for my group, I will still fully review them because their appearance here means they’re in my top 10. Here, I’ll post the covers and a little personal blurb about each one of my picks. In a later post, we’ll be having some Battle Royale sessions to fill the last few slots. Only 10 can be chosen!

Wherever Seeds May Fall by Peter Cawdron

I read this book first and just couldn’t stop. Its hard sci-fi/first contact story set in a contemporary world grounded it and made it a thriller from start to finish. I was a fan of the book all the way through, and to date it is one of only two books on the whole list that I’ve pushed through and read in its entirety. It was hugely enjoyable for a number of reasons, but I particularly enjoyed how it felt utterly contemporary. Cawdron wrote a sci-fi novel that genuinely feels like it could happen tomorrow.

The Eye of the Storm by R.K. King

I knew right away this would be a book for me, and even though I only read the first 15% or so, I feel very confident voting for it to move on. It’s set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland that feels familiar in a Mad Max way but changes things up by incorporating a more structured story and some clan and possible teen drama. I am stoked for this one, will be voting for it, and if it’s not picked–I still plan to read it all and review it.

Above the Sky by J.W. Lynne

Apart from sharing an excellent first name with yours truly, J.W. Lynne has written a captivating dystopic novel that I’m not even really sure is a dystopia. There’s some of the tropes of the subgenre here–a school that selects kids for lifelong jobs at a certain age, a hush-hush threat, etc.–but it’s all so well written and mixed up that it feels fresh. Most of all, I want to know about the threat looming “above the sky!” This was an easy yes from me almost from the beginning, and frankly I can see myself easily diving in to the whole series.

Of Cinder and Bone by Kyoko M.

I love that this book is a kind of Jurassic Park rewrite but with a made up past as well in which dragons lived alongside other creatures. At 20%, I was not only loving its bite-sized doses of science-y talk, but also the fun dynamics of the main characters. I’m genuinely excited about this one. I see it’s part of a series, so it looks like more reading is ahead if I like the first one!

The Trellis by Jools Cantor

I love the cyberpunk feel of this futuristic mystery novel, but what truly sold me was that combined with a heavy feeling of unfettered capitalism and corporation takeover that still seemed utterly, chillingly plausible. Sci-fi/mystery mashup is also one of my favorite subgenres, so at that point we basically have a book checking many boxes for me. The Trellis is set apart by its world along with its unique feel compared to other books on the list. It’s just different from everything else we got, and that made it stand out as well.

Round 1 Status

I pressed the red button and blew everything up at the end of my journey through sampling all of my group’s novels. Now it is go time. I’ve picked 5 books that I am firmly convinced are on my “yes” list, but that leaves 5 slots open with 15 books clamoring for places. What’s next? I’ll be reading those 15 books in their entirety (or at least far enough to decide the book is not on my list) with 5 blog posts announcing my final 5 choices and cuts. For seeding purposes, I’ll be pitting almost every “yes” against 2 of my “maybes.” I’m super excited. Have you read any of my “yes” stack here? Let me know what you think (spoiler free!) in the comments.

All links to Amazon are affiliates.

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.

SPSFC Round 1, Part 10: Self-Published Science Fiction Contest Reading

I’m beyond thrilled to be part of the first-ever Self-Published Science Fiction Contest! What is that? Check out the write up over at Red Star Reviews for an explanation. The first round of the contest for we judges is to whittle down the pile of books we’ve been given from the 30 (31 for our group!) to 10 that we’re going to read in their entirety. How do we do that? Well, we read 10-20% of all 30 of the books and then vote on whether we’d like to continue them. I’m going to blog about these as I go, and I want to know what you think! How do you like the covers? Have you read the book? Did my write-up make you want to read it? Let me know!

Quinn of Cygnus: Lift Off (Quantum Fold Book 1) by AM Scott

Quinn is off to Adzari Net Academy where she is confronted by uneven standards, punishing physical er… punishments, and a Mean Girls like environment. It’s got the pieces there, but I struggled to find the voice in the first 15% of the novel. Is Quinn a hero orphan? Is she a Chosen One? Is she a teen? Or an adult? And why do the others at the academy act so much like pre-teens? I honestly felt pretty lost as I read this one, and Quinn didn’t grab me as a character. It’s on the “no” pile.

Refraction by Wick Welker

Three characters connected (maybe?) by a strange phenomenon of hearing voices are at different times in this intriguing hard sci-fi novel. I’ve gotten into the characters from the beginning and I’m super curious about the way the psychological and physical science is going to play out. It’s got no small amount of social commentary, as well, if the first 14% is any indication. What especially drew me in is how each time period seems distinct but very lived-in. They don’t feel artificial at all so far. It’s an easy “yes” on the stack.

The Echo Effect by John McGuire

The book starts with our protagonist going suddenly from New Year’s on a Mars mission to waking up back at home with everything changing and a loss of memory of what his “real life” is. After some confusing back-and-forth with his partner, he encounters someone who seems to know too much about what’s going on. It feels a little bit like a time loop, a little bit like an interesting mystery. I’m hooked. At this point, I could feel this needed to get onto the list for a “yes” (more on that later).

The Coldsuit by Andy Wright

A young human man has to deal with the fact that he is human and effectively used as slave labor by some aliens while also trying to reconcile that with his alien “family.” It’s a decent premise, but it seems to throw too much at the reader all at once. Is it a dystopia? A utopia gone wrong? Are we supposed to empathize with the aliens or hate them? The aliens seem nefarious, for sure, and the “coldsuit” people are a wild card factor as well. Nothing seems terribly clear at 15%, and while it’s not bad, I’m not totally sold on it at this point. I give it a “maybe.”

Round 1 Status

I’ve sampled at least 10% of all 31 books my group has ben assigned. I’m now at 11 yes [revised because after reading further in a different book, it’s going to be a “no” instead of a “yes”], 11 no, and 9 maybes. I have too many ‘yes’ reads, and too many ‘maybes’ that are calling to me. To resolve this issue, I’m going to start a Battle Royale of the maybes vs. some of the “yes” books that I wasn’t 100% all in on. My next post will be a list of the books I am 100% sure on continuing. Then, I’ll be having at least 2 battle royale matches in which I read the entirety of some of the maybes and “yes” books to determine the final slots. Buckle up, because it’s going to be some great reading!

I’d love to hear from you what you think if you’ve read any of these books or want to see them on my longer reviews! Want to know what other books are on the list? Check out Red Star Reviews’ post on my team’s list to see the covers!

All links to Amazon are affiliates.

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.

The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC) Hub

I’m beyond thrilled to be part of the first-ever Self-Published Science Fiction Contest, in 2021. Here, I’ve collected all my posts having to do with this ongoing contest. There are 300 self-published science fiction novels in the running, and my team is assigned the task of narrowing our 31 books down to 3!

Round 1

First Impressions Posts

SPSFC Round 1, Part 1– I test out three books featuring a battle school (The Combat Codes), some hard sci-fi mixed with first contact (Wherever Seeds May Fall), and one that didn’t strike me at all (Turnabout). The hard sci-fi novel was great!

SPSFC Round 1, Part 2– A dark science fantasy, a space dragon romance, and a curiously intriguing conspiracy-driven novel are sampled this go-round.

SPSFC Round 1, Part 3– science fantasy with some horror elements (Things They Buried) goes up against hard sci-fi (Zenith) and a near-future climate thriller (The Jagged Edge) this part of round 1.

SPSFC Round 1, Part 4– I get totally drawn in to a dystopia (Above the Sky) and then take a look at a fun romp (Banneker Bones) and confused by a very unique feeling novel (World of Difference) with my look at these three novels.

SPSFC Round 1, Part 5– post-apocalyptic with some loss of technology (maybe?) (Detonation) goes head-to-head with futuristic mystery (The Trellis) and… weirdness (The Golden Crunk of Cringle).

SPSFC Round 1, Part 6– AIs are the name of the game in two of the entries here (Extinction Reversed and The Shepherd Protocol) while Memories of the Khassos has so much going on that I want to know more.

SPSFC Round 1, Part 7– a dystopic classist nightmare (Age of Order), a thoughtful bit of military sci-fi (Dog Country), and a cool cover (The Revolution Will be Tokenized) make for an intriguing batch of samples.

SPSFC Round 1, Part 8– a Mad Max-style post-apocalyptic novel (Eye of the Storm) meets a hard sci-fi apocalypse (Skybound) and military sci-fi with superpowers (The Lore of Prometheus) in this go-round.

SPSFC Round 1, Part 9– this batch has a time travel exploit (Infinite), hard sci-fi with dragons (Of Cinder & Bone), and an action-packed prison planet (Petra). Which books come out on top?

SPSFC Round 1, Part 10– an action-filled sci-fi thriller (Quinn of Cygnus: Lift Off) squares off against a thoughtful, centuries-spanning epic (Refraction), a time-bouncing, question-everything novel (The Echo Effect), and a dystopia, but with aliens (The Coldsuit) in my final round of samples.

Battle Royale Posts (These posts determined my personal top 10)

SPSFC Round 1, Battle Royale Part 1 cli-fi thriller The Jagged Edge faces off against the dark Edge of the Breach and the time bouncing The Echo Effect to see which book comes out on top!

Full Book Reviews

SPSFC Book Review: “Wherever Seeds May Fall” by Peter Cawdron– I started this book as a sample and then couldn’t stop as I got totally sucked into the story. This was my first full book review for the SPSFC.

SPSFC Round 1, Part 9: Self-Published Science Fiction Contest reading

I’m beyond thrilled to be part of the first-ever Self-Published Science Fiction Contest! What is that? Check out the write up over at Red Star Reviews for an explanation. The first round of the contest for we judges is to whittle down the pile of books we’ve been given from the 30 (31 for our group!) to 10 that we’re going to read in their entirety. How do we do that? Well, we read 10-20% of all 30 of the books and then vote on whether we’d like to continue them. I’m going to blog about these as I go, and I want to know what you think! How do you like the covers? Have you read the book? Did my write-up make you want to read it? Let me know!

Infinite by Jeremy Robinson

Wake up, die, repeat? Infinite has an intriguing premise that combines a number of sci-fi subgenres. Will, our protagonist, wakes up after a botched cold sleep to find himself killed but immortal? Is it a time loop? Is it something else? I don’t know yet, at 15% in. I liked the concept, but didn’t find myself sinking into the main character because it read a bit too much like fantasy fulfillment to me. I truly found the main character off-putting, which made me feel standoffish from the beginning of the book. It’s a no from me.

Of Cinder and Bone by Kyoko M.

There are all kind of vibes from this novel that I enjoyed from the get-go. It has a very light hard sci-fi touch (I don’t know if the science-y portions get more science-y later, but for now it’s basically just a line or two about concepts) with a sprinkling of Jurassic Park and the great character interactions of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. I was immediately drawn into the characters and their interactions with each other. They each showed more depth than I thought they may have at the beginning, and the main plot is off to a strong start. There’s a little bit of made up archaeology, a bit of science fantasy, and a bunch of fun so far. I’m looking forward to reading more of this one, and it’s going on my “yes” stack.

Petra: The Prison World Revolt, Book One by Matthew S. Rotundo

I’m not really sure what I expected here. The subtitle is enough to reveal the basics. I guess I was expecting a kind of campy 50s-60s style sci-fi adventure. What the first 20% showed me is that was not an accurate assumption. The story takes itself far more seriously than that, and I’m not convinced that’s a good thing. What is a plus is that Rotundo amps up the action fairly quickly, making it easier to get into the flow of the plot. As it stands, this one feels like a “not for me” story, but I’m not saying it’s not a good book. If you like action-packed adventures in space, it’s probably worth a look.

Round 1 Status

I’ve now dipped my toes into 27 out of 31 books. I’m now at 9 yes [revised because after reading further in a different book, it’s going to be a “no” instead of a “yes”], 10 no, and 8 maybes. With 4 books left, it’s clear I’ll need to do some re-shuffling. Some of those maybes are calling to me. Once I’ve finished my initial rankings, I’ll start reading a few books completely from both the yes and maybe piles. That will tighten up which ones are true “yes” books for me. For now, off to start those last 4.

I’d love to hear from you what you think if you’ve read any of these books or want to see them on my longer reviews! Want to know what other books are on the list? Check out Red Star Reviews’ post on my team’s list to see the covers!

All links to Amazon are affiliates.

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.