Welcome back to the SPSFC! After several months of reading and deliberation, At Boundary’s Edge is happy to reveal our three semi-finalists. The rules for this part of the competition were simple, we all read the books to completion and gave them a rating of between 0 and 10. The average of our ratings was then taken as the team rating. There was an option to DNF, which was the equivalent of a 0, but with the caveat that it was weighted at half the vote of a completed read. Furthermore, there was a possibility of a DNA (Did Not Attempt) for books we didn’t have time to read, or could not read for other reasons. If, like me, you are confused by that, here’s a quick explanation. A book that received three ratings of 4,5, and 6, would be rated as 5 (15 divided by 3), while a book that received 5,6, and a DNF would receive a 4.4 (11 divided by 2.5). Trust me, my head hurts too.
The original plan had been to write a full review of each book, but ultimately that proved unfeasible, as we were reading right up until the deadline, and didn’t know some of the scores until late yesterday evening. To be honest, I underestimated how long it would take to read this many books. But we still wanted to give some kind of feedback on those eliminated at this stage, so there are micro reviews below. So let’s start by finding out who didn’t make it.
Blood Animus: This had a thrilling story with plenty of shocking brutality, but our judges found the secondary characters to be poorly drawn in comparison to the protagonist, and the book as a whole hard to engage with, especially given its overt attempts to be edgy, sometimes at the expense of readability.
Delphine Descends: This had one major problem: Its length. While the start was very promising (one of the best in the contest!), we found the book to be too drawn-out. Personally, I think that this is a rare case where splitting a book into multiple volumes would have created a stronger narrative.
Defiant: Our judges all agreed that this was a well-written book, but felt that the science fictional aspects did not make enough of an impact on a story that was otherwise a straight fantasy. Personally, I think this book would be better suited to the SPFBO, but I’m sure some would find it too science fictional for a fantasy contest.
KHAOS: This one had a great structure and easy to read style, but couldn’t quite stick the landing. Nevertheless, the journey was an interesting one. On a personal note, I also enjoyed the fairly unique handling of corporations. For once, capitalism isn’t treated as the villain! That being said, the impending apocalypse did make for unfortunate timing given real-world events at the time of reading.
The Nothing Within: This book split our team down the middle, receiving both the highest and the lowest ratings of the team. While the voice is something truly special, the unusual structure was not to everyone’s tastes. Regardless of the result, this was among our most discussed books.
Terms of Service: A neo-noir with a heavy dose of snark, this one was initially popular with all our judges, but lost favour with one for its sometimes juvenile humour, and a terrible sex scene. For those seeking a light-hearted detective adventure, this one is sure to be worth a look.
The Dark That Dwells: In spite of some technical difficulties with the e-book, our judges enjoyed this book for the novelty of its setting and the story itself. This book is proof that self-published books can be just as professionally put together as their traditionally published counterparts.
Ghosts of Tomorrow: A slice of ultra-grimdark with vivid violence and strong character work, even the judges who dislike the genre couldn’t argue with how well put together the book is. Fletcher’s background in traditional publishing clearly pays off, and this perhaps the most professional feeling book in the contest.
Our commiserations go to those eliminated. But getting this far is no mean feat, and these are all books worth checking out. For now though, it’s time to look forwards. So without further ado, here are At Boundary’s Edge’s three semi-finalists.
Daros: Comedy is hard, but Dobson pulls it off with this fun (and occasionally quite silly) space-based romp. This was an early favourite with all our judges, and hung in despite some stiff competition.
Destroyer: A solid piece of space opera. The confines of a spaceship made for a tense setting, and the strong characterisation and well-handled plot twists made this a winner for our judges.
Mazarin Blues: Popular among the judges. even those who did not enjoy the romance aspect were intrigued by its portrayal of artificial intelligence. It was also nice to have a story that wasn’t all about the end of the world.
We’ll be bringing you full reviews of our top three over the next few days, but for now all that remains is to thank the entrants for sending us their books, to congratulate the semi-finalists, and to encourage you to read them yourselves. We’ll see you soon with more SPSFC!