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.
Captain Wu, by Patrice Fitzgerald & Jack Lyster
One of few books in this years competition with more than one author, Captain Wu is a proper space opera romp. It’s loud and flashy, with all the tropes of the genre that you’d expect. While it’s not terribly original, it is a whole lot of fun. The characters are refreshingly diverse, with the titular Wu being a sexagenarian woman of Asian descent. She doesn’t come across as feeling that old, but I know there are readers out there who will appreciate the representation.
In The Orbit of Sirens, by T. A. Bruno
Probably the most confidently written book I’ve read in the competition, this is also one of the most professionally presented. tell me this was traditionally published, and I’d have no doubts about it. It’s another space opera, which makes it a good fit for me, with great aliens and surprisingly alien worlds. The structure does knock it down a lot for me, with a lot of flashbacks and alternating timelines. Even so, it’s one of my favourites.
Monster in the Dark, by K. T. Belt
If you want relentlessly bleak coming of age stories, then this is the book for you. The protagonist’s life is essentially one long torture scene. As someone who doesn’t like nihilism or child protagonists very much, it was a struggle for me to remain interested in this one. Heavily dystopian, this was just a very bad fit for me on all accounts.
And there we have it. All my gut reactions are now public, and our judging team has completed scoring every finalist. I’m compiling scores and finalising reviews as you read this, so the full team reviews will be with you very shortly.