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 fourth batch of four books that will be removed from the competition.
The Immune, by David Kazzie
The Premise: A virus decimates humanity, and those left must struggle to survive.
The Verdict: This book fell victim to poor timing, as none of our judges were particularly enthusiastic about a fictional pandemic while living through a real one. In addition, we felt that the number of PoVs worked against the book, as not enough time was given to any one character.
Personal Thoughts: Even in the pre-coronavirus world, I’ve never been a fan of apocalypses. I do wonder how this book would have fared if we’d read it a few years ago, but for me the constant PoV shifting was the real issue.
The Flight of the Kingfisher, by Chloe Garner
The Premise: A mysterious woman drags a crew of smugglers into danger that they were not prepared for.
The Verdict: A crew of misfits getting into trouble is a staple of science fiction, from Firefly to The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. But although this book has a lot of familiar ingredients, our judges didn’t find the results to be engaging enough to continue.
Personal Thoughts: I love a good ship and crew adventure, so I was looking forward to this one. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite come together in the end. The characters often felt flat and the pacing had a few issues. Still, the overall story is a fun adventure, which was a much needed break from some of the heavier reading on the SPSFC list.
The Exodus Betrayal, by N.C. Scrimgeour
The Premise: A bounty-hunting cyborg bites off more than she can chew with her latest mission.
The Verdict: This is another book that repackages familiar ingredients in a way that didn’t quite work for our judges. The cyberpunk aspect being put in space rather than a gritty noir setting did appeal for one of our judges, but as a majority we found that it didn’t live up to expectations.
Personal Thoughts: I am the judge who voted Yes on this, but I can see why I’m in the minority. Though the characterisation isn’t the best we’ve seen in this contest, this book played straight-faced cyberpunk very well, and that is a rare thing indeed.
Lead Cloak, by Erik E. Hanberg
The Premise: Colonel Byron Shaw works at Area 51, guarding a technology that eradicates the concept of privacy. A terrorist attack forces him to take direct, and violent, action.
The Verdict: This is another book that got cut for its two-dimensional characters. While Byron could work well on-screen as a Jack Bauer type, in prose he was hard for our judges to relate too. This book’s prose was better suited to its action sequences than to in-depth character work.
Personal Thoughts: If this was turned into a TV show, I’d watch it. But as a book I found it somewhat lacking, and many of the big ideas it played with were explained in rather clunky writing.
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.