Welcome back to the SPSFC! As we read through our thirty allotted books in search of three to send through to the next round, we sadly must bid farewell to the majority. At this stage in the competition, we are making initial judgements based on the first 20% of each book. It is entirely possible that our complaints are addressed in the following 80%. If a book strikes your fancy, we encourage you to pick it up and judge for yourself. For now though, we can reveal the first four books that will be removed from the competition.
Beneath 5th City, by Jesse Sprague
The Premise: Aliens have already taken over Earth. Billions are dead, and the survivors aren’t even allowed to grieve – emotions are punished and memories repressed.
The Verdict: While we liked the premise of this one, the occasionally gratuitous sexualisation of the characters seemed at odds with the setting Sprague had set up. The tone never quite matched the premise, and the rough prose failed to hold our interest.
Bragg for Hire, by John B. Cheek
The Premise: A tough, somewhat infamous mercenary gets hired for an easy job to keep a new rich officer safe and away for danger. Things do not go according to plan.
The Verdict: This was the first book to split our judges, and one judge did vote to keep reading this. Unfortunately, the other two judges aren’t fans of military science fiction, and this didn’t have enough to set it apart from other military SF. In addition, the protagonist could be hard to root for. Fans of traditional military SF and bug-eyed monsters are likely to get a kick out of this one.
Company Daughter, by Callan Primer
The Premise: A teenage daughter of a mercenary captain is tired of feeling trapped in her father’s military life and decides to run away and stow on a ship. She’s found, but the ship she’s on is under attack before they can take her back home.
The Verdict: There was a general consensus among our team that this was one of the better-written books in the first batch. Unfortunately, it is clearly intended for a younger audience than us, and we found it rather light. People looking for YA science fiction are likely to enjoy it far more than we did.
Crystal Deception, by Doug J. Cooper
The Premise: A strong new A.I has been devised, and may want self-determination. A race of hostile aliens wants the A.I as well. The A.I’s creator and a special agent need to work together to keep Earth and the A.I. safe.
The Verdict: We all felt this one had potential, but the writing occasionally felt clunky or prone to info-dumping. We never got a great sense of setting either, as much of the story takes place in similar labs or corporate offices. There is great potential for the ideas here, but the execution didn’t quite make the grade.
Commiserations to those who didn’t make it, and we hope you find readers better suited to your books than us. We’ll be back to announce the next round of cuts very soon, but for now, you can find the full list of At Boundary’s Edge’s books by clicking this link.