SPSFC Book Review: “The Nothing Within” by Andy Giesler

I’m a judge for the Self-Published Science Fiction Contest, and while the semi-finalists are out, I’ve been circling back and reading through books from other groups that looked intriguing.

The Nothing Within by Andy Giesler

A plague knocked out most of the human population centuries ago. Now, Root lives in a society with rigid traditions and structures that they believe is the only way to survive. Meanwhile, readers dive into journal entries and a few other tastes of the past to help outline what’s happening in the novel’s present.

I wouldn’t call The Nothing Within kaleidoscopic in its storytelling, though it borrows some from that style. Instead, Root’s story grounds the other writings that are contained in the novel. And Root’s story is just phenomenally told. The narrative voice that Giesler gives Root makes everything feel not just interesting but also utterly believable and real. It’s a totally convincing narrative voice that makes reading the book feel like stepping into someone else’s head at times.

The world Giesler created is interesting, but a bit more generic than the narrative voice. It’s got some of the hallmarks of dystopia/post-apocalyptic to it, but Giesler gives enough twists to keep it engaging all the way through. The most important thing is that it’s understandable how society developed as it did once you read more of the story.

The real draw here, though, is following Root’s story as she comes of age and gets old, letting readers into the mind of someone whose life mattered in a society that needed some change. And Giesler absolutely nails that, making this a must-read for fans of the subgenre.

The Nothing Within is a great read for those who enjoy different takes on post-apocalyptic fiction. Recommended.

All links to Amazon are Affiliates

Links

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

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.

Star Wars Expanded Universe Read-Through: “X-Wing: Wraith Squadron” by Aaron Allston

I’m on a quest to re-read all of my favorite (or least favorite that I kept for whatever reason) Star Wars novels in the Expanded Universe and beyond. Come along for the ride and check out my Star Wars Hub for more. There will be SPOILERS for the book discussed.

X-Wing: Wraith Squadron by Aaron Allston

Wraith Squadron marks a departure for the series as Aaron Allston takes over for Michael A. Stackpole. Wedge has moved to a different task. Instead of leading the elite-of-the-elite in a squadron to be commando-pilots, he is taking on the castoffs and problem children of other squadrons, whipping them into shape, and making them into, er, commando-pilots.

The idea is a fine one, and it gives the series a slew of new faces. The best part of the book is all the side characters getting so much development. I was blown away when a certain event happened, showing characters in this series are actually vulnerable. It was quite well done, especially the aftermath.

The plot is a good thread, as an Imperial Warlord continues to meddle with Wedge’s affairs. There are plenty of well-written space battles (caveat being you have to accept the complete absurdity of Star Wars space battles–no; physics and common sense need not apply) to be had. What bogs the story down is some of the more commando parts in which the pilots are out of their various spaceships. There are many scenes that are apparently supposed to be a kind of spy-action type thing happening, but instead just feel slow. They’re throwaway scenes as far as the plot goes, too. One can almost feel Allston waiting to get pilots back into their fighters.

Wraith Squadron is another good read in an excellent series. I continue to enjoy my first-ever read through of this series, and I’m glad I’ve been able to circle back and read them at last.

The Good

+Great space battles
+A villain that at least has some mystery to how he acts
+Many side characters introduced
+Actual consequences for characters in the book

The Bad

-Gets bogged down in action scenes that aren’t in space
-A bit too much standing around talking with each other

Cover Score: 5/10 – They basically just mashed as many fighters on the cover as they could

Grade [measured against my super objective* Star Wars enjoyment factor]: B Allston takes over the series with hardly a hiccup.

*Not super objective and in fact wholly based on my feeling at the time of this review. Not measured against any other sci-fi works or really any other literature. This score is purely because I like giving scores to things.

All Amazon Links are Affiliates

Links

Star Wars Hub– All of my Star Wars-related posts can be found here. These include posts about more expanded universe books, the movies, and new canon novels.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

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!

There are other posts on science fiction books to be found! Read them here.

SDG.

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.

Conclusion

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!

All links to Amazon are Affiliates

Links

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

SPSFC2 First Impressions: “Tracker220,” “Qubit,” and “Along the Perimeter”

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!

Tracker220 by Jamie Krakover

People have implanted devices that let them basically be walking repositories of information and neural networks connected with others. But Kaya questions the validity of the system as it prevents her family from Shabbat observance in the way they’d prefer. Moreover, her Tracker seems to have a glitch that lets her access anyone and anything. This sets her on the run from the authorities and throws her in with some members of a budding resistance community. The novel reads as a YA-aimed dystopia, and since that’s right in my alley, I had a blast reading and sampling this one. It’s a “yes” from me.

Qubit by Finn Mack

Quantum computers are the goal in this tightly paced (so far) techno-thriller by Finn Mack. A few different viewpoints offer ratcheting tension throughout the early stages of the book, and I was easily sold on the hard sci-fi/techno-thriller mashup. Some mathematics and made up science accompany some real science and mafia-esque action behind the scenes. I’m enjoying my time with Qubit and plan to finish it even if it doesn’t advance from our group. “Yes” from me, now excuse me while I keep reading.

Along the Perimeter by Steven Healt

A young man lives “along the perimeter” of a shield that keeps out a malevolent gas and raiders that threaten the last vestiges of humanity. An alien race paints itself as benevolent saviors of humanity–but are they, really? This atmospheric first entry in what’s to be a lengthy science fantasy epic had me thinking of some of my favorite epic fantasy novels for its world-building. The world really is the star of the novel, as layers are peeled back in interesting ways throughout. I actually read this book last SPSFC on a whim from another group’s slush pile, so I have a full review and even an author interview! As one might guess, this is a “Yes.”

Conclusion

One might notice I have 3 “yes” votes in this batch, and going with my previous two batches, I’m already at 6 “yes” votes. Maybe I say “yes” too easily, but the good news (or bad news) is that if we have too many “yes” votes we just do a ranked choice and the top votes move on! As always, I’d love to read your thoughts on these books. Let me know what you think in the comments.

All links to Amazon are Affiliates

Links

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

“ARvekt” by Craig Lea Gordon – An SPSFC Review

As a judge for the Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC), I’m reading and reviewing all of the semi-finalists! Check out my SPSFC Hub for all my posts and reviews for the contest.

ARvekt by Craig Lea Gordon

Tannis Ord was an assassin fighting against brain hackers, but her mind suffered major damage. Malevolent AIs, corporate espionage, and hacking threaten Ord as she tries to figure out what’s happening.

As we open ARvekt, it’s unclear what’s reality and what is artificial. This is especially clear as we watch one character’s head get blown apart–only to discover it was Artificial Reality imposing on the real world. The lines between reality and non-reality are blurred intentionally throughout the book. Gordon does well using this to hide some plot twists longer than might otherwise have been possible.

The increasing threat of AI and brain hackers is interspersed with scenes about politicking about the same, and I admit the latter scenes began to feel sluggish especially in comparison to other action packed setups. Ord’s mind added another layer of unreality to events as readers have to try to figure out if it’s her own psychosis leading to observations or what she’s really–or not really?–seeing.

All these layers at times make the book a bit hard to follow. Seasoned Cyberpunk fans, though, I suspect will love strapping and and jumping down this rabbit hole to figure out where it might come out. What makes the book especially interesting, though, is the fusion of AR/AI/and our reality in ways that seem impossible now but aren’t implausible. What would and will happen as VR/AR becomes stronger and more people are integrated into it?

ARvekt is a stylish cyberpunk thriller that is perhaps too twisty. Recommended for fans of the subgenre and those with an interest in AI and/or Artificial Reality.

All links to Amazon are Affiliates

Links

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

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.

“Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Volume 1- Dawn” by Yoshiki Tanaka

The Legend of Galactic Heroes is a… well, legendary anime series. What far fewer people have experienced is the novels upon which it is based. I’m probably something of an outlier here–having only read some of the books while not having seen the anime. I wanted to write about the series of novels to encourage others to read them.

Dawn is the first novel in the 10-book series by Yoshiki Tanaka. The story starts off with a lengthy description of the state of the world that is reminiscent of Olaf Stapledon in scale. Grand history is recounted with only the smallest amount of details, skipping along in time as readers are introduced to the primary antagonists in the story to come.

The story itself, once it starts, primarily follows the military exploits of Reinhard von Lohengramm and Yang Wen-Li, commanders on opposite sides of the conflict who are brilliant tacticians. Readers are thrown into the story with massive combat that occurs on comically massive scale. Thousands upon thousands of ships are thrown into battle against each other, sometimes with millions of combatants resulting in hundreds of thousands of losses on one side or the other (or both). People who insist on realism in science fiction should probably steer clear. This isn’t aiming for realism. It’s aiming for drama and big ships blowing up other big ships on a grand scale.

It’s easy to see while reading the novel how it was moved almost seamlessly into an anime. I already talked about the ridiculously massive battles that make for great anime-like scenes. The characters are another aspect of this–brooding in their own thoughts at times while being overly brusque or emotional at others. It’s all high drama all the time. If you’re into that sort of thing–and I very much am–this is right up your alley. Do you like anime? Ever wish you could experience a big military anime in book form? This is absolutely the series for you.

On the negative side (for those who don’t see absurd scales and some behavior as a negative), the treatment of women throughout the first couple novels (still working my way though the series) is… not great. They’re largely either relegated to the sidelines or only exist as foils for the men in the story. While it could be dismissed as reflective of a somewhat conservative approach to society from Tanaka, I found it inexcusable to have so little attention given to women characters.

The grand scale of strategy is evident throughout the series. Huge battles are fought for various military objectives, and Tanaka does a great job showing why, for example, a single space station could become hugely important. Again, this requires some suspension of disbelief for the sake of plot, but I found it satisfying time and again to see the military action play out in traceable, objective-based fashion even in space.

Dawn is a superb read for those who want the grand scale that so rarely is visited in military sci-fi. The battles and world are almost comedically big, and that makes it a unique read in the subgenre. I recommend it to fans looking for something different.

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.

SPSFC2 First Impressions: “Ghosts of Tomorrow,” “All is Silence,” and “Unplugged”

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!

Ghosts of Tomorrow by Michael R. Fletcher

Okay, fair warning, this one’s graphically violent. That tends to be off-putting for me, especially when it involves children, as it does at times in this novel. But the violence fits the narrative and doesn’t ever seem pointless. And that narrative is fascinating, bouncing between a few viewpoints between a corporate bureaucrat trying to extend life no matter the cost and other, more action-packed viewpoints that center around the consequences of unfettered capital and the lust for endless life. I’m not really into grimdark/huge amounts of violence, but the characters in this one sucked me in. The plot moves quickly, too, making each scene read as a pivotal piece. The intricate, well-paced plot has me slotting this as a “yes.”

All is Silence by Robert L. Slater

A near-future post-apocalypse after a worldwide plague wipes out a huge percentage of the population. When Lizzie connects with a few people from her life who remain alive, some embark on a quest to survive. As I sampled this, I kept thinking I wanted something more from it to push it over the edge to be of more interest. It is well-written and interesting, but feels somewhat generic to me. The budding love interest plot has some moments that I didn’t enjoy, such as when one character specifically instructs the other not to touch/kiss/etc. and then that character still kisses the other on the cheek when they’re asleep. I know it’s a little thing, but if the plot is going in the direction of a love interest–as it potentially seems to be–I don’t like the notion of it starting off that way. The world is interesting–feeling just like our own sans billions of people–and I was enjoying seeing where Lizzie might take herself. The story hits a bit close to home, of course, with a global pandemic. But shades of more going on (like zombies… maybe?) show up in the background. It’s well written, but reads somewhat generically to me. At this stage I’m leaning “no” on this one.

Unplugged by J.B. Taylor

A dystopic surveillance state with shades of religious exploitation and a detective trying to avoid it all and break out? There are shades of “The Matrix” and “Equilibrium” here, and within the first few percent I was sold on the premise. I am interested to see where the plot goes, and I love the shades of religious language found for the dystopic world as well. It’s got the hallmarks of a great dystopia, and I’m very engaged in finding out what’s happening next. It’s a “yes.”

Conclusion

What did you think of these books? Which sound interesting to you? Let me know in the comments, and be sure to follow the blog for more SPSFC content!

All links to Amazon are Affiliates

Links

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

Reading the Horus Heresy, Book 21: “Fear to Tread” by James Swallow

I know I’m late to the party, but I finally decided to start reading the “Horus Heresy,” a huge series of novels set in the universe of Warhammer 40,000 (though it is set much earlier than the year 40,000). I thought it would be awesome to blog the series as I go. With more than 50 novels and many, many short stories, there will be a lot of posts in this series (I doubt I’ll get to all the short stories). I’m reading the series in publication order unless otherwise noted. There will be SPOILERS from the books discussed as well as previous books in the series. Please DO NOT SPOIL later books in the series.

Fear to Tread by James Swallow

I’ll admit it, I thought the previous books in this series about the any “Angels” were boring slogs. Descent of Angels is about the Dark Angels and was too long to carry its miniscule plot thread. Fallen Angels didn’t have enough action to sustain its political machinations. Fear to Tread, about the Blood Angels, is, instead, totally compelling front-to-back.

The story reveals quite a bit of background about the Blood Angels, including their apparent nature where they fall into a kind of raging bloodlust that cannot be quenched and leads to atrocities. Sanguinius has been keeping the nature of his Legion secret, ultimately (and fatefully) revealing it to Horus. This, of course, sets up a major movement in the Heresy as Horus sends the Blood Angels on a quest to allegedly find the cure. Instead, they find forces of Chaos and Xenos in zounds.

The action here is pretty awesome. I’ve said multiple times in my reviews of this series that I’m not only about action. However, the point of having space marines is, presumably, to have them fight stuff. So the political machinations behind the scenes should set up some big battles, and Swallow certainly delivers here. The xenos are interesting, too, which doesn’t always happen. The book also reads like it has bigger events going on beneath the surface, and that the events that take place herein are important in the grander scheme of things. It genuinely feels like its advancing the story in a meaningful way.

Fear to Tread is another great entry in a series that continues to be compelling despite its epic length. I recommend it.

(All Amazon Links are Affiliates)

Links

Horus Heresy and Warhammer/40K Hub– Links to all of my Warhammer-related reviews and writings, including those on the Horus Heresy, 40K, and Warhammer Fantasy (pending) can be found here.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

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.

“This Alien Shore” by C.S. Friedman – Cyberpunk Dune, or something more?

I’m part of the Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book Club on Goodreads  and they selected This Alien Shore for a book of the month. I got it through interlibrary loan originally, and stopped a little ways in (I think around 50 pages) because I loved it so much I wanted to listen to it. I could tell already that it would turn into something special for me. I have had some difficulties happen recently that meant that I didn’t listen as much as I normally would (10-20 hours/week), so it took a little bit longer than I’d have liked. 

It was totally worth it. The description as cyberpunk Dune doesn’t really do total justice to the book, but it’s not completely inaccurate. There are many parallels with the broader ideas of those, but it’s also quite different. This Alien Shore is much more intimate than Dune is, to the point where as a reader you’re almost claustrophobic at times. Much of the book is internal, but it never feels like there’s too much monologue to me. The plot follows a young woman who seems to be afflicted by memory loss as she’s being hotly pursued by at least one threatening group. Meanwhile, other characters work to try to stop a kind of computer virus from undermining space travel. 

I loved the central mystery of the plot, which you don’t really even get fully until the very, very end. It was such a great hook to get me interested, and it just stayed there the whole time without ever feeling stale. Some readers may see it as something of a deus ex machina, but I think there are enough hints to pick it up. Pay attention, if you read it!

Some books that do cyberpunk make it really opaque to the point of incoherence to me. Neuromancer is one I’ve read several times and I’m still not sure if I love or loathe it or understand it at all. Here, the elements that are standard for the subgenre were not always easy to pick up on, but they were much simpler to grasp. Absolutely loved the use of devices throughout and the way the whole story played out. The tech was integral to the plot at multiple key points, which made it seem much less of an attempt at prophesying the future than much cyberpunk does. The combination of different aspects of the plot with the many, many fantastic ideas Friedman brings to the table makes the book constantly feel fresh without being incomprehensible. 

I will definitely be seeking out more works by Friedman in the future. This was astonishingly good. Check out This Alien Shore yourself. I recommend it very highly.

Links

Sci-Fi Hub– Come read many, many more posts about science fiction novels and shows. I look forward to reading with you and discussing more books and shows!

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Vintage Sci-Fi– Click the link and scroll down to read more vintage sci-fi posts! I love hearing about your own responses and favorites!

My Read-Through of the Hugos– Check out all my posts on reading through the Hugo Award winners and nominees. Tons of sci-fi fantasy discussion throughout.

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.

SPSFC2 First Impressions: “Pink Apocalypse,” “Broken Angel,” and “Mother Savant”

With the second Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (“SPACEFIC”) well underway, 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!

Pink Apocalypse by Carpenter B. Gibson

A cop-type drama in a zombie (with a twist) post-apocalyptic setting. There are some hard boiled cop drama, several comments about cleavage, and decent action scenes early on. I noticed several editorial misses early on, such as saying “everyone once” instead of “every once…” and a few awkwardly worded sentences. I am kind of curious as to where this keeps going, and the anime-esque feel of the cover and contents makes me want to say yes. The focus on “fan service”-y [read: boob comments] moments and editorial things make me more cautious. This is going to the maybe stack.

Broken Angel: The Lost Years of Gabriel Martiniere by Joyce Reynolds-Ward

The book starts with a strange premise about a near mafia-esque family going through a battle for control within the family. To solve the battle, the matriarch decides the two brothers must each raise the other’s son. [One group member pointed out there’s some confusion here about how this is set up.] Anyway, skip forward and the plan has, inevitably, collapsed, but it’s yielded a main character who’s controlled by some code phrases and needs to go on the run as he’s testifying against his powerful family. Then, after the first 4-5% of the book focuses on that part of the story, the next portion (up to the 20% or so I’m at) turns into a kind of rodeo/ranch love story. No, really! It’s like the book just turned on a dime, decided, “Nope, I’m actually a rancher romance, now” with the sub-plot of the witness protection program being a thin veneer to keep the main plot waiting in the wings. And somehow, for me, it really is working. While the science-fiction-y aspects are super light so far, I’m curious to know where it goes, and I’m loving the characters.

It’s a yes, mostly because I’m confused and intrigued and that combination has me want to keep going.

Mother Savant by A.L. Hawke

In a futuristic matriarchal society, someone is protecting a male child, despite men being basically unneeded for the continuation of humanity. Content warnings should be plastered all over this one. The first scene is a somewhat inept torture and interrogation of a leader in the society, ending in some violence. Sexual violence and attempted power-rape are found in the first few chapters, as well. I thought the prose was strong, but the dialogue is cringe-inducing. Lines like “let me melt her fucking dollface” [kudos to another judge for pointing that one out] feel totally off-feel from the way the book itself is written. It’s like a Jekyll and Hyde scenario of the plot being interesting but the dialogue and content putting me off. This one is a “No” from me, but fans of dystopian fiction with stomach for violence may want to check it out.

Conclusion

What did you think of these books? Which sound interesting to you? Let me know in the comments, and be sure to follow the blog for more SPSFC content!

All links to Amazon are Affiliates

Links

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