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 second batch of four books that will be removed from the competition.
Thanks go to team member Ryan for gathering our collective thoughts into coherent summaries.
Devour The Stars, by R. Coots
The Premise: A man, abandoned and betrayed, alone save for a voice in his head, is out for revenge.
The Verdict: This tagline on this book says ‘A Dark Space Opera.’ Dark is the right word. This might work for fans of intense grimdark, but it seemed too over the top for us. (And one of us reviews for Grimdark Magazine!) It felt as if it were inspired by Warhammer 40k, so people interested in that franchise, feel free to take a look.
Personal Thoughts: I don’t mind a bit of grimdark, but I prefer it to come with a stronger element of humour. Devour the Stars didn’t quite hit that sweet spot for me.
Entity, by Toshi Drake
The Premise: A lieutenant is ordered to go on an away mission to examine a dead ship. It does not go well.
The Verdict: One of the judges was on the fence with this one as it did have grounded character work, but the slow start meant that we reached our 20% without having much in the way of an inciting incident.
Personal Thoughts: I am not a character-driven reader. For me, their needs to be a stronger plot. However, a lot of the character work here is very good, and I think this could be a winner for fans of Becky Chambers.
Ironshield, By Edward Nile
The Premise: An ol’fashioned dieselpunk civil war with giant mecha.
All the judges enjoyed the aesthetic of dieselpunk with giant mecha. I mean, read that sentence again. It’s impossible to not enjoy. One judge did mark this one as a ‘keep reading’ but the others could not connect with the writing enough.
Personal Thoughts: There aren’t a whole lot of dieselpunk novels out there, and it’s an aesthetic I really like. Unfortunately, I found the writing unengaging. I’m also not sure on the setting for this one, a sit appears to be a secondary world, which is quite rare for science fiction, and I would have loved to see be explored in more detail.
Life in the North, by Tao Wong
The Premise: Aliens turn our world into an RPG.
The Verdict: LitRPG is growing considerably, with a decent fanbase, but it’s a subgenre that didn’t work for any of our judges. If you like LitRPG, you’ll probably like this. If you don’t know about LitRPG, but you think reading a story about people trapped in a video game would be interesting, give it a shot.
Personal Thoughts: I don’t think I will ever understand the appeal of LitRPG, and Life in the North has not changed that.. When we were looking at our selection of books at the start of the contest, there was a lot of hype around Tao Wong’s book, particularly on Reddit. Life in the North fell victim to landing in a group that doesn’t care for the genre, but with the number of fans it has elsewhere, it’s definitely got readers out there.
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.