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.

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.

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.

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.

“Ironshield” by Edward Nile- A dieselpunk epic (SPSFC)

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

Ironshield by Edward Nile

I saw this book in another group’s slush pile and thought it looked intriguing because, well, there’s a giant mech on the cover. I’m a simple man; I love fiction with tanks and mechs.

The draw of Ironshield is that it is a large-scale world with warfare and mechs. The staying power of this chunky book is found, though, in the characters, the politics, and the world. The core plot centers around a civil war between North and South Arkenia. Initially, I thought it might be an analogue for the United States Civil War. It’s not, really. The war is over whether or not to disarm at the demands of an outside force, the Xangese. The South wants to disarm to assure peace with Xang, the Northern industrialists refuse to do so, as they’re worried it could empower a different empire to attack and take them back over.

These plot points and political machinations get revealed in satisfying chunks in between character vignettes and action scenes. The moves between characters come at a good clip, so readers get to see both sides of the conflict as more and more of the world and background plot is also revealed. And trust me, there’s a lot going on here. Of course, the big hitters are the mechs, and I enjoyed how Nile made them make sense in-world while also making some of the restrictions using them to fight played out. It’s a tightly done world, and while there are a few quibbles one could bring up about how neatly some of the plot ties up, I found it all enjoyable.

The elevator pitch for this novel would be something like: WWI combined with Old West US meets mechs and a splash of Indiana Jones with implications of a bigger conflict coming.

I have a few small qualms. The Xangese people and the Native inhabitants of the region each seem a bit flat. It would be great to see them get more dynamic development and not ride the line of stereotyping. I think it’s supposed to contribute to the feel of the novel as a kind of Old West-esque setting, but I wasn’t a fan of the simplistic way these characters were written. Let them be people, and have deeper reasons to work–against colonialism or what have you! It made me feel a little iffy how they were portrayed. The final qualm is just that the book could use a little cutting of the corners here and there. It doesn’t feel bloated, per se, but there are parts where the flow could move a little better.

Overall, though, Ironshield a great read with some superb world-building. The ending feels like a huge setup for more, and I was excited to see the next book is coming soon. I recommend this for fans of dieselpunk/steampunk, and fantasy with warfare.

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.

The Second Annual Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC2) Begins! Here are Team Red Stars’ Slush Pile Reads

I am beyond thrilled to be a judge once again for the Self-Published Science Fiction Contest! The SPSFC can be shortened to “spacefic” (a la SPFBO being spiffbo), by the way! Here, I’d like to introduce all of our group’s “slush pile” reads. These are the reads that we are assigned to narrow down to quarter- and semi-finalists! I’ve posted covers, blurbs (shortened from Amazon), links to the books (affiliates), and my very short initial impression purely based on those two unless otherwise noted.

A Hardness of Minds by Eric Kay

Blurb

Against of backdrop of escalating tensions, double-sided revelations of first contact ripple through all involved as the probe attempts the first landing on the ice of Europa. The novel intertwines perspectives of Earth and under Europa as all struggle for truth.

Initial Thoughts

I like first contact and hard sci-fi, so I’m hoping to love this novel, too! The cover is quite striking in its stark simplicity.

All is Silence by Robert L. Slater

Blurb

A bat virus brought the world to its knees.
Lizzie had it worse than most. Will she give up?
At 17, Lizzie barely remembers her father. She needs to forget her mother’s loser boyfriends.
Surviving an apocalypse could push anyone to the unthinkable.
Lizzie’s shotgun is loaded.
Then she meets Spike.  

Initial Thoughts

Post-apocalyptic books are super hit-or-miss for me. They can trigger some latent anxiety, because the world already feels somedays like we’re headed there. I’m looking forward to seeing how this one strikes me!

Along the Perimeter by Steven Healt

Blurb

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.

Initial Thoughts

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.

Blackthorne by Clayton W. Snyder

Blurb

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.

Initial Thoughts

Um… what? A necromancer, notorious prison, and military sci-fi-ish showing up all together? This reads like a premise I’ll love. I look forward to diving in.

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

Blurb

In 2029, Gabriel Martiniere testified against the Martiniere Group’s forced imposition of mind control programming on unwilling indentured workers.

For his pains, he was forced into exile for over thirty years. Forced to divorce the love of his life.

Initial Thoughts

Okay, I didn’t really even read the blurb before I started reading this one, which I selected somewhat at random. Now that I’ve started it, I don’t know how to say much without spoiling some of the surprises I’ve run into. Let’s just say I definitely didn’t look at the tagline “An Agripunk thriller” before I started, lol. I look forward to continuing it for my great sifting of the slush pile!

Celestial Awakening by Frank Lobue

Blurb

Nearly 1,500 years have passed since the Human race fled Gaia, Earth to the ancients, in an effort for survival and, with time, expansion among the stars. Through dwindling hopes, a mass collaboration brought Humanity back from the brink and not only did they survive, they thrived. The vestiges of the Human race formed the Gaian Interplanetary Alliance, the GIA, to continue their expansion, known as the Auctius, past their home solar system and beyond.

Initial Thoughts

Can someone say “Space Opera”? This premise reads like space opera on a high level. It’s one of my favorite sub-genres, so I am excited to know how this one strikes me.

EMP Strike by Bo Thunboe

Blurb

Dan Fallon is a courtroom warrior at the pinnacle of his profession. That’s what he knows—it’s who he is. As he’s driving back from the biggest victory of his career an electromagnetic pulse [EMP] wipes out modern civilization and strands him hundreds of miles away from his family.

Initial Thoughts

Okay, the Amazon description of this starts with “THE ROAD meets SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON” and I just…. what is that!? Lol, I have to find out.

Ever the Hero by Darby Harn

Blurb

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.

Initial Thoughts

I also read this one from another group’s slush for the heck of it, and then it ended up in our slush pile! This superhero-fueled sci-fi story deserves attention. Check out my review for my fuller (mostly spoiler free) thoughts.

Falcon Fire by Erik A. Otto

Blurb

On colonial Venus, people who are susceptible to lies have been denigrated and barred from the citizenry. Ancient dirigibles dock at the top of colossal towers to shunt people to and from underground cities. Armies of enclosed, beetle-shaped biocrawlers creep around the planet providing a coveted, yet deficient, natural environment. Colonists strive for an outdoor ecology to call their own, but terraforming is faltering.

There is growing unrest, and at the heart of this rift is Hix, a member of the Venusian underclass. He has risen from the tenements to become a renowned film star, until he is accused of murder. Neeva is destined to be Keeper, an esteemed protector of First Colony Heritage. She is also an inspector assigned to Hix’s case… and the victim happens to be her sister.

Initial Thoughts

I love me a good sci-fi mystery, so I’m ready to settle in and read this one once I get the chance. I also like the cover. There’s a lot of detail to sink into the longer I look at it.

Fid’s Crusade by David H. Reiss

Blurb

For more than two decades, the sight of Doctor Fid’s powered armor has struck terror into the hearts of hero and civilian alike. But when a personal tragedy motivates Doctor Fid to investigate a crime, a plot is uncovered so horrific that even he is taken aback. Haunted by painful memories and profound guilt, the veteran supervillain must race against time if he is to have any hope of confronting the approaching threat. Every battle takes its toll…but the stakes are too high for retreat to be an option.

Initial Thoughts

Another superhero story that promises drama! I love superhero novels, so I’m ready to see where this one takes me.

Ghosts of Tomorrow by Michael R. Fletcher

Blurb

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.

Initial Thoughts

That got dark fast… the cover strikes me as badass sci-fi western. The blurb reads as nightmarish hellscape cyberpunk. We’ll see which it is (both?) when I sample it!

Heritage by S.M. Warlow

Blurb

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.

Initial Thoughts

The blurb reads like an epic space opera with a traditional premise: spaceships and guns on an adventure to save the galaxy. Strap in, and let’s ride!

In Times of Peace by The Loneliest Lone Wolf

Blurb

When the life Alex had created away from his murky past is destroyed by creatures from the deepest and darkest parts of space, vengeance forces him to return to the path of war! But can he walk this path, when the ghosts of his past come back to haunt him?

Join him and an ensemble cast of characters as they try and find a place for themselves in a changing new world as their old world begins to collapse… lost souls in the vast star system trying to help each other find their true paths… just as a great War charges ahead on its path to them!

Initial Thoughts

I’m curious about this one for so many reasons. The cover; the pseudonym; what is going on with the big cast; everything.

Intelligence Block by Kit Falbo

Blurb

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.

Initial Thoughts

On Amazon the subtitle is “A Gamelit Inspired Space Opera” and I’m all about that premise.

Mercury’s Shadow by PJ Garcin

Blurb

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.

Initial Thoughts

What’s this: a corporation in unfettered capitalism being evil? Say it ain’t so! I look forward to seeing what Garcin does with this premise.

Mother Savant by A.L. Hawke

Blurb

Savant Elise Jackson, Arkite’s supreme leader, is stricken with terrible grief over the recent loss of her lover. She has spent the last two years with her assistant, Sara, trying to repair and genetically engineer her lover’s damaged body and mind.

But the Viceroy of Pyramid City and her followers in the Savant Council have no interest in squandering the city’s resources for Elise’s personal gain. With the help of the mainframe AI, they will vie for power, even attempting collusion with Sara and sabotage.

Initial Thoughts

A Matriarchal society in sppppaaaaace. I dig it.

Novum Chronicles by Joseph Rhea

Blurb

As the last descendants of Earth struggle to survive beneath the surface of an alien ocean, one man’s discovery will lead him on a journey of redemption, while he fights to save what’s left of his world.

Jacob Stone is a man haunted by his past. When he reluctantly accepts a job to help pay for a cargo submarine he inherited but doesn’t want, he inadvertently awakens an ancient and terrible power. Its arrival triggers a chain of events that could destroy what’s left of the human race or be the key to its future. But, is it a future he’s willing to fight for, let alone die for?

Initial Thoughts

As a kid I was absolutely mesmerized by the show SeaQuest DSV (as an adult, apparently the last season is terrible, so I haven’t watched it because I don’t want to ruin those memories). I love the idea of humanity hiding under the sea. Submarines are super cool.

Of All Possibilities by Joe Butler

Blurb

What does someone who can slip between universes do for a living? They help shape the fate of this reality. When his grandfather dies, a young Eli Clarke takes over as the Key: an individual with the power to traverse the multiverse. Raised inside a cult that works with the government, he erases targets from the timeline. Then he meets Jess, a fellow outsider who shows him what it is to question everything. Set in the 80s, 90s, and now, OF ALL POSSIBILITIES is a dark universe-hopping, story about loss, identity, and obsession that explores the repercussions of the choices we make and what makes us who we are.

Initial Thoughts

The premise is haunting and promises to use time travel in an actual impactful way. I’m here for it.

Percival Gynt and the Conspiracy of Days by Drew Melbourne

Blurb

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.

Initial Thoughts

Is it a comedy? A serious time-travel novel? Something else entirely? I don’t know, but I am interested.

Pink Apocalypse by Carpenter Gibson

Blurb

Pink is a mysterious woman who walked out of the wastes. She is an up and coming member of the Patrol. They are the sheriffs of the wild wastes, taking on zombies, mutants, bandits and robots left over in the ruins.

Initial Thoughts

Something about the anime vibes of this cover and premise have me interested and this is the first book I grabbed on Kindle Unlimited from our stack. I haven’t started it yet, but rest assured, I’ll share my thoughts when I do!

Qubit by Finn Mack

Blurb

An ambitious Singapore gangster recruits an elite hacker to steal a devastatingly powerful quantum computer and hijack the world’s financial markets. Meanwhile, a beautiful streetwise CIA agent is determined to foil their plan in a case that could make or break her career. With settings ranging from Detroit to Singapore to the slums of Bihar, India (the “Sicily of India”), *Qubit* examines both the vulnerability of our cryptographic infrastructure and corruptibility of our financial systems. The story features international intrigue, a violent gang war, an unlikely love story, and an intricate cryptographic chess match that takes place as the global economy teeters on the brink of collapse.

Initial Thoughts

Will this be a math-filled novel about cryptography or something else entirely? I don’t know, but the premise has me wondering what direction it will take the global economy chess match.

Skein of Fates by Leslie Ann Moore

Blurb

Nuetierra. An alien world where twin moons light the night and massive air-breathing jellyfish float through the violet skies trolling for prey. Nue Bayona. A gaslit, steam-powered city caught between the iron fist of a despot and the bloody fist of a terrorist… Four hundred years have passed since The Great War toppled the technologically advanced colonial civilization created by refugees fleeing a dying planet. Since its fall, the descendants of the survivors have gradually rebuilt a new society on the bones of the old.

Initial Thoughts

The blurb has a ton of info in it (I only posted a fraction of it here), and I gotta say, it strikes me as potential for an epic space opera with a huge cast. I’m very excited to dive into this one.

Sudden Death by L.L. Richman

[NOTE: This book was actually taken off our allocation and given to a different group. I posted this before I knew that news. Apologies!]

Blurb

Fresh off his first Marine deployment, Boone must now choose between two schools: Intelligence or Scout Sniper. Though he’s shown clear aptitude for the second, he’s not sure he has what it takes to do the job.

When he puts the decision aside to join his buddies on a day of leave, the last thing Boone expects to see is a naval weapons locker in the hands of a man who is clearly not Navy. On impulse, he shadows the man, only to find himself running for his life… smack into a Unit operator.

Initial Thoughts

If this is a military sci-fi novel about a sniper I think it could be totally awesome.

The Treasure of Lor-Rev by Bryan Asher

Blurb

One discovery has unimaginable consequences…

While searching a deserted mountain range, an explorer locates a high-tech artifact he assumes is merely another interesting find. It’s only one piece in a greater puzzle leading towards a device of ultimate power, the Diffusor-Sphere. Suddenly, he’s thrown into a battle between an engineer who’s remade himself as a cybernetic demigod, and the one tasked with safeguarding humanity from him. The only way out is recovering the Sphere first, but will he reach it in time?

Initial Thoughts

Space archaeology is one of my favorite things. It doesn’t sound like this will have a ton of that, but the lost lore/artifact/etc. thing is something I am absolutely a sucker for. Is this Space Indiana Jones? We’ll see.

The Astral Hacker by Brian Terenna

Blurb

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. 

Initial Thoughts

I think the premise for this dystopia-cyberpunk mashup (based on the blurb, that’s what I’m calling it) sounds neat. Dystopias need a twist to make them interesting, so lets see of Brian Terenna brings it!

There Are No Countries by Marshall Smith

Blurb

Scouting crews arrive on newly discovered Dandros to find it ripe with life and fresh for colonization. There are no people and no vertebrate animals. But there is one castle, and one statue of a man known as the anomaly. Energy resonates from the head of this monument of times past where instruments and machinery probe the anomaly’s head and its empty keep, the only signs of civilization. It mourns for its love, speaks of its demise, and tells the humble beginnings of Dandros. It is kept under lock and key for the stories it tells. They learn that his name is Doug, a traveler from long ago, and he had prayed to a being known as the Goddess. Doug’s energy mentions her endlessly just before he had turned to stone. He had been making plans for her physical arrival on Dandros.

Initial Thoughts

The blurb for this reads like some zany New Wave sci-fi from Robert Silverberg way back when, and readers who know me know I love me some Silverberg. We’ll see where this wacky story leads us.

The Unpleasantness at Baskerville Hall by Chris Dolley

Blurb

Wodehouse steampunk version of The Hound of the Baskervilles!

Initial Thoughts

Welp, that blurb basically says it all. If it can execute, it should be quite the intriguing tale.

Tracker220 by Jamie Krakover

Blurb

When everyone has a brain-interfacing tracking chip, one glitch threatens the entire network.

Kaya Weiss is that glitch.

Through thoughts and blinks, Kaya can access anyone or anything on the tracker network. But the authorities monitor everything—where Kaya goes, who she talks to, and what she searches. And without the ability to turn it off, Kaya and her family can’t observe a tech-free Shabbat. To fix the glitch, the authorities slice into her skull to reset her tracker, leaving Kaya to question more than the system’s invasion into her faith.

Initial Thoughts

I read this one on a whim after the end of the last SPSFC. It’s a kind of YA dystopia with some great twists and turns, and I’ll have fuller thoughts and a review coming up.

Unplugged by J.B. Taylor

Blurb

Zendaya Fernwood carries with her a secret. The world around her is a lie, an ingeniously designed digital prison for the mind. Escape occupies her every thought. Freedom is her goal and nothing will stop her from unplugging. What awaits Zendaya is a fate far worse than she could have imagined. Beyond her prison is a scorched earth where man and machine wage war in a seemingly endless campaign of suffering. There is hope on the horizon, a unique figure with the potential of rising from the shadows of the scorched earth to make a difference. To finally, after so very long, give humans the freedom they deserve.

Initial Thoughts

Sounds like “The Matrix.” Sign me the hell up.

Conclusion

Let me know which books you plan to read/check out! Are there any you’ve read already? Share all your thoughts 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!

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.

“Ever the Hero” by Darby Harn- An SPSFC Review

The SPSFC started with 300 books and narrowed it down to 30 semi-finalists. I’ll be reviewing every semi-finalist, as well as several books from other group’s slush piles that looked interesting to me.

Ever the Hero by Darby Harn

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.

In Ever the Hero, Harn tells a superhero tale that has several twists on genre tropes. Most of these twists can be found elsewhere (like existing non-powered in a super-powered society; having superheroes be… less than heroic, etc.), but the combination Harn weaves is enough to make it all feel fresh and new.

I was especially taken by the relationship between Kit and Valene, which has enough wrinkles in it to be raw and exciting by turns. Are they going to survive? Do they love each other? Can they? And, of course, what of the aliens and the mysterious artifacts they’ve left behind that seem to grant super powers to some individuals and not others? There are many questions of this type raised throughout the novel, and while some answers are given, others are left for later in the series.

Ever the Hero tells fantastic superhero story. It has enough twists to keep even this comic book fan interested in seeing what’s going to happen next. I highly recommend it.

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.

“Convergence” by Michael Patrick Hicks – An SPSFC Review

The SPSFC started with 300 books and narrowed it down to 30 semi-finalists. I’ll be reviewing every semi-finalist, as well as several books from other group’s slush piles that looked interesting to me.

Convergence by Michael Patrick Hicks

Jonah Everitt is a hired gun who steals memories for others after killing the people who made those memories. After one kill gets him in trouble with the Wrong People, he becomes embroiled in a complex web of politics, narcotics, and international espionage.

The premise should clue readers in to what they’re getting into. This is a cyberpunk mystery along the lines of Altered Carbon though with bigger implications. It has a lot of the same gritty feel, but that grittiness comes along with plenty of content warnings. Sexual violence, extreme violence, mild misogyny, and drug abuse are rampant throughout the novel. It’s not a pretty world, and it’s hard to know where Hicks himself might come down on some of the “yuck factor” content therein. The world is just there, it’s rarely reflected upon or critiqued.

The characters are similarly there. None of them stood out to me in any major ways, but they get the job done as far as the plot goes. The story itself is, again, what one might expect from a cyberpunk thriller: a smattering of future tech-y stuff combines with Forbidden Power and the big political minds want to get their hands on it. It makes for a read that never slows down.

Convergence is a thrilling read. For readers less turned off by some of the content noted above, it will likely be a great read to get into a new series.

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.