These are my personal initial impressions of the books allocated to the At Boundary’s Edge team during Phase 2 of the inaugural SPSFC. Ratings are subject to change as I take a closer look at each book. Full length reviews of each book will be posted once the whole team has had a chance to read and discuss the books. As always, readers are encouraged to read the books themselves and make up their own minds.
Resistance, by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky
Resistance fell afoul of something that affected a lot of books in the early stages of the competition. Our judges are not the target audience. The SPSFC’s approach to Young Adult fiction is something that will be worked on in future, but at present there are very few YA enthusiasts among the judges. Resistance is a fairly typical YA tale, with an oppressive society and young protagonists who want to break free. Personally, that’s not a storyline I have any real interest in. But Resistance has made it to the semi-finals, which makes it worthy of praise. I’m not the audience for this book, but for YA fans out there, this is one to keep an eye on.
Shadows of Mars, by I. O. Adler
Shadows of Mars has one of the weaker openings I’ve encountered in the competition. A few chapters in it kicks into a more psychological gear, the story is much better for it. And when it dips its feet into the deep wells of horror, it’s all the better. My issue with Shadows of Mars is one that likely won’t bother too many people, but it’s one I’ll mention every time it comes up. The stakes set out here are pretty big, and the early chapters quickly establish a world order that has changed greatly from what we know now. But the story itself is just too character-driven. Too interested in the struggles of its protagonist to delve into the larger societal impacts of the story it is telling. Of course, it is only the first book, but i would have liked to see more of the world, and less of the characters.
A Star Named Vega, by Benjamin J. Roberts
It’s a close-run thing with Destroyer, but A Star Named Vega is my favourite of the SPSFC books I’ve read thus far. This comes with the caveat that I’m not quite done with it, but it’s the sort of space opera I was expecting to be more common in this competition. It’s a lot of fun, and a bit more gentle than a lot of the traditionally published stuff out there, but it still has the decency to take itself seriously. It’s planet hopping, exciting, and has characters who are as swept away by the plot as I am. There’s also some great bits of worldbuilding in here that remind me of older pulp stories. Of all the books in the contest, this is the one I’m most looking forward to reviewing in full.
So there you have it. My gut reactions to all six semi-finalists are now up. You can find the first three by clicking HERE, and and find full reviews of the semi-finalists At Boundary’s Edge have passed on to other teams by clicking on these links for Daros, Destroyer, and Mazarin Blues. Full reviews of the others will be up in short order, and the finalists will be announced around the middle of May. Stay tuned for more.