Welcome back to the SPSFC. In this second year of the competition, we are currently at stage one, affectionately known as the slushpile. In this phase, each team has been given a selection of books to sort through in search of a handful of quarterfinalists. At Boundary’s Edge has 28 of these books (you can find a full list of them by clicking on this link). Our team of four will be reading our way through these books for the next couple of months.
For those who need a refresher, at this early stage we don’t read the whole book. We read the opening 20% of every entry and vote either YES or NO on continuing. The books that receive the most YES votes will become quarterfinalists and be read in full. Those that receive more NO votes than YES votes will be cut from the competition.
Last year, At Boundary’s Edge only brought you the end result of these cuts. This year, we’re playing it a little looser, with each judge able to reveal their personal votes prior to the final announcements. You can find my previous slushpile comments by clicking HERE and HERE.
Now it’s time for that old disclaimer. These are my opinions. Not necessarily those of my team, or any other judge, or anyone else in particular. Once again, my opinions. Though others are more than welcome to share them. With that out of the way, here we go.
Pulse, by B.A. Bellec
This one was a struggle for me largely because (and no surprises here) of a formatting choice. For some reason, all the dialogue is delivered in the form of a script, which doesn’t gel all that well with the prose around it. An odd choice that ultimately lost me as a reader.
Rim City Blues, by Elliott Scott
This one has nice clean prose, great formatting, and a real Fallout: New Vegas vibe going for it. It’s not often that post-apocalyptic stories work for me, but this one could break that trend.
Rise of Ahrik, by Nathan W. Toronto
First of all, any book based around the idea of one gender destroying/taking over the world is unlikely to work for me. And while the writing itself is quite good, I found that the family drama that makes up much of the opening wasn’t all that convincing.
Road to Juneau, by Liam Quane
This one took me rather by surprise. Even though it borders on the post-apocalyptic, and I’m not wholly taken by the characters I’m clearly supposed to be rooting for, the narrative voice is very strong and a whole lot of fun. On that basis alone, I’m interested in reading more.
Sugar Plum Tea, by Sinnamon Carnelian
This one commits one of the cardinal sins where it comes to my enjoyment as a reader. Every other chapter is a flashback, but concerning the same characters, meaning I was never fully engaged with either thread. A shame, as the opening paragraphs and overall concept was very interesting.
The Ceph – Reborn, by Matthew Poehler
One of the most uniquely written books in our slushpile, this had me hooked from the first page with its inhuman narrator, and general sense of scientific weirdness. It’s not going to be for everybody, but for me the distant style really worked.
The Diamond Device, by M. H. Thaung
Falling somewhere under the steampunk umbrella, this one was a nice break from the more futuristic offerings of the contest. Confidently written and with a great cast of characters, this is one I’m looking forward to getting properly stuck into.