These are my personal initial impressions of the SPSFC Finalists. These reactions are not necessarily indicative of the team’s overall rating, and are subject to change as I take a deeper look at each book. Full reviews and final team ratings will be posted once every judge has had the opportunity to read and discuss the book. As always, readers are encouraged to read the books themselves and make up their own minds.
Duckett & Dyer: Dicks For Hire, by G. M. Nair
A Star Named Vega, by Benjamin J. Roberts
Steel Guardian, by Cameron Coral
This book is an odd mismatch of tropes I really enjoy, and ones I very much don’t. It starts off in an apocalyptic wasteland, and follows a robot who becomes the unexpected guardian (hence the title) of a human infant. Now, I don’t much care for human infants, either as characters or as people, but robots? Robots are something I can very much get behind. However, most people want a protagonist they can relate to, and so our robotic hero feels just as human as the flesh-and-blood characters. The book itself is one of the best written in the contest, and it absolutely flies by, but the protagonist feels to me like a missed opportunity.
Iron Truth, by S. A. Tholin
I don’t have the exact statistics to hand, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Iron Truth is the longest book in the competition. It certainly feels like the longest. This is a book that, on paper, sound like it has everything I enjoy. A crashed spaceship, a lost colony, a military squad with a mission. But it never gripped me. The military SF side of things is pretty good (and it’s about time we got some of the genre in the contest), but the horror elements did nothing for me, and it was the latter that soon came to dominate the narrative. To me, it all felt a bit muddled. And if a book isn’t working for me, having that book be so long is only going to make things worse.
I’ll be back in the near future with my Gut Reactions to the remaining three finalists, and we should be getting to our full length reviews any day now. In the meantime, there are more judges than just me in the SPSFC, so you should definitely check out what they’ve been saying.