SPSFC Book Review: “Zenith” by Arshad Ahsanuddin

Zenith: The Interscission Project- Book One by Arshad Ahsanuddin

When my group, Team Red Stars, was doing its initial sampling of this book, I was somewhat put off by having it so clearly sell itself as a space opera, when it didn’t read like that at all. It went on to my personal “no” stack, but ended up in our quarterfinalists. I’m glad it did, because it has some serious strengths, but it also has some weaknesses that keep it from being great in my opinion.

Zenith is set something like 100 years in the future. For all that, many of the scenes read as if they’re domestic scenes from the present day. Whether it’s characters casually moving sacks of groceries around, cooking dinner in the same fashion as we do now, or having beds on spaceships that don’t seem to have noticeable differences, I admit I felt a constant annoyance at the lack of many contrivances for technology. I get the idea of not innovating for the sake of innovation, but at some point I think that as a reader, I should have had some discernible moments where the book told me “yes, this is the future” with some startling tech. Instead, everything was mundane, as if the next century is going to go on in stasis, with the only real innovations happening in space travel.

Going along with that, the main plot wasn’t engaging. A spaceship is developed and a motley crew is assembled to send it on its maiden voyage. Behind the scenes, there’s much more to the technology. I was intrigued by finding out more about some of the plot developments, but not enough is revealed in this entry. It’s almost as though the author is holding back on the reveals, but doesn’t give the readers the insights they need to see where things may be going.

All of this may make it seem like I didn’t enjoy the book at all. That would be wrong, because despite the problems I listed, the core character interactions are pretty excellent. There is quite a bit of romance here, and much of it is queer romance. Going along with that, there are genuine moments of true character development for all the main characters, and even a surprisingly thought-provoking take on the differences between physical attraction and love. I wanted to see more of these characters, and if I were to continue the series, they would be the reason why.

Zenith is not at all a bad book. It’s just decidedly in the “not for me” category based on the problems I outlined above. That said, it has serious strength in the sense of great characters and some thoughtful moments. Fans of character-driven sci-fi with an interest on queer representation should definitely take a look.

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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!

All links to Amazon are affiliates.


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!