Romance Science Fiction

SPSFC2 Quarterfinalist Review: Trials on the Hard Way Home by Lilith Frost

The At Boundary’s Edge team has narrowed our original allocation down from 28 books to 7 “Quarterfinalists”, all of which we are now reading in full and scoring out of 10 points. The top three books will move forward as semifinalists.  As always, this is my own review and reflects only my own individual opinion and score, not that of the team

I followed the captain’s lead and read Trials on the Hard Way Home by Lilith Frost as my second quarterfinalist read through.  I voted YES on this book during the slushpile because it is well edited and very readable, plus I was interested in the psychological mystery and what sci-fi may have been included going forward.

Let’s take a look at the book then I’ll share why this one ended up being a DNF for me.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Trials on the Hard Way Home
  • Series: Hard Way Home #1
  • Author: Lilith Frost
  • Publisher & Release: Self, 2021
  • Length: 279 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: DNF – for SPSFC purposes, this counts as 0/10 points but only half of a score

Here’s the synopsis via Am*zon:

Twenty-five-year-old Bryan is a student scientist living off-planet with the two men he loves. But when he senses that danger is about to befall his adopted home, Bryan wants to evacuate. Convincing one of his lovers to board a spaceship toward home, Bryan is soon confronted with the truth about his life. His journey through the void of space not only exposes his current troubled relationships but also threatens to uncover the secrets about his past. Now, Bryan must finally come to terms with who he is and how his origins might put his lovers in danger.

A story of three polyamorous lovers and one man’s secrets, Trials on the Hard Way Home is an intense and dramatic journey embracing the best in science fiction and LGBTQ+ literature.

My thoughts:

As I said above, I voted to read this one through because there was a rather large psychological mystery presented early on, as well as a whodunnit on the ship itself.  There was a lot of relationship background between the three men which had thrown me off, but generally the book was well written and coherent and I wanted to keep reading.

Unfortunately after the first 80 pages or so the book went downhill for me.  The author would constantly interrupt the plot to spend pages and pages talking about the history of the men, their issues, their sex lives in detail that NO ONE EVER needs to know, and I just rapidly lost interest in the storyline.

The plot started out interestingly enough but is completely lost in all the background once they get onto the ship.  Despite the sex life discourse and lost plot, I kept pushing through until a character smelled his partner’s underwear to see if he could get any clues from the penis smell  .. good god just ask the guy when he wakes up, I couldn’t keep going after that.

The characters were also starting to annoy me after a few medical scenes took place, it was turning into a DNF by that point.

There were soft sci-fi elements like space travel and space stations and little robots, but it was all kept pretty soft.  I don’t mind cozy sci-fi but a little hard science can go a long way for keeping my interest through these softer books.

I guess I would recommend if you like character, psychological, drama, relationship drama, and more along those lines than anything that focuses on sci-fi elements. If nothing else, the book IS very well edited and Frost is not a bad writer at all, very readable.

Looking at the next two books in the series (on a whim) I see werewolves and mysticism in the description, so take from that what you will about where the series may go and see if you’d like to check it out for yourself.

Thanks for checking out my SPSFC book review of Trials on the Hard Way Home. I found my copy on Kindle Unlimited and offering my honest review for the competition! As always, all opinions are my own ♥️

Science Fiction

SPSFC2 Quarterfinalist Review: Black Table by Anttimatti Pennanen

The At Boundary’s Edge team has narrowed our original book pile down from 28 to start, to 7 “Quarterfinalists”, all of which we are now reading in full and scoring out of 10 points. The top three books out of those seven will move forward as semifinalists.  As always, this is my own review and the thoughts reflect only my own individual opinion and score.

Going again in alphabetical order, my first full read is Black Table by Anttimatti Pennanen.  Let’s take a look at the book and then I’ll share my thoughts!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Black Table
  • Series: The Black Table Series, #1
  • Author: Anttimatti Pennanen
  • Published & Release: Self, 2020
  • Length: 238 pages
  • Rating: 4/10 for the SPSFC

Here’s the synopsis via Am*zon:

Jon and Gus, science fiction fans from Finland with a penchant for fist bumping and pop culture references, travel to the Portland Comic Con where tragedy strikes. Their hero, Dr Wells, suffers a heart attack. With his dying breath, the doctor exhorts Jon to “find the …” as he pushes a book into Jon’s hands. Following clues inscribed in the book, Jon and Gus discover an alien structure with a mysterious Black Table which they accidently activate, transporting them to an alien world.

Jumping from world to world via the Black Table galactic transportation network, Jon and Gus embark on the adventure of a lifetime where they encounter monsters, alien tech, giant vessels made of water and make new friends. But those friends are facing an unstoppable and mindless enemy. An enemy that is destroying the galaxy, and Earth is next in its path.

Can two fans from Finland save the day? Black Table is a rollicking yarn of two likeable, wise-cracking friends who like nothing better than pranking each other. That is, except when they are not doing something more serious, like saving the universe.

My Thoughts:

This is a fun sci-fi adventure for those who love pop culture references in their books. My original draw was the Finnish characters, which ended up being a bit of a let down because the humor was nearly entirely American and there weren’t many noticeable references to Finnish customs or culture.

The characters are adults but the writing feels geared towards middle grade or YA, with lots of excited shouting and fist bumps and such.  Jon and Gus are definitely likeable, if not static characters, cracking lots of jokes and Star Trek references when they’re not busy saving the world.  They’re relatable enough but man, they just felt entirely juvenile.  Huge Bill & Ted vibes.

It’s also quite full of typos and sentences with poor structure so I’m wondering what an editor and a proofreader were doing while reading it. I may have been reading a prior version from Kindle Unlimited, as it seems like the book was re edited at some point. I totally understand the authors note about Finns speaking English, but this goes well beyond dropped articles to just not being well written or edited.

Ex: “He rolled one end a few times around his free hand a few times…”

Like I said, the dropped articles don’t bother me. It’s the repetitive phrases, frequently off putting verbiage, sentence structures, etc, this book just frankly needed a strong proofreader and it affected the reading experience.

That said though, it is a fun book with a fast moving plot and likeable characters.  That’s why I originally voted to read the entire book. The characters are fairly static so the plot is driving, which I definitely prefer because I hate books with tons of inner monologue. That said, I did enjoy reading it quite a bit and the concept is actually cool, with the discovery of a time and space travel device, alien races, a threat to the Galaxy, and of course, hissing Star Trek doors.  I was smiling too, I mean it’s funny but it’s only funny so many times.

Overall: I don’t regret reading the full book, but based on the overall presentation and perceived reading level of Black Table, I can’t go much higher than ⭐⭐✨ , or 5/10 for SPSFC grading purposes.

I’d recommend it for YA or middle grade sci-fi fans that don’t mind reading through some rough editing, and those who enjoy plot driven books with lots of jokes. This would have made a great graphic novel

Thanks for checking out my quarterfinalist book review of Black Table by Anttimatti Pennanen.  I found my electronic copy on Kindle Unlimited and all opinions are my own.

Science Fiction Thrillers

Recursion by Blake Crouch (Book Thoughts)

Oh, oh, this is a hard one to write. Crouch is one of my favorite sci-fi authors and I fully enjoyed flying through this book.  Recursion is another total mind fuck and while I loved it, it also got lost in it’s convolution and created way too many inconsistencies and discordant notes for my poor little brain to handle.

That said, I love the ideas and themes and still fully recommend this one to anyone that enjoys sci-fi thrillers.  I’m pretty sure it’s at least partially a me-not-you issue. Let’s take a look at the book then I’ll pick it apart a little more!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Recursion
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Blake Crouch
  • Publisher & Release: Ballantine Books, 2019
  • Length: 339 pages
  • Rate & Recommend:⭐⭐⭐ ✨ yes for sci-fi & thriller fans. This isn’t actually a bad review!

Here’s the synopsis via Am*zon:

From the bestselling author of Dark Matter and the Wayward Pines trilogy comes a relentless thriller about time, identity, and memory—his most mind-boggling, irresistible work to date, and the inspiration for Shondaland’s upcoming Netflix film.

Reality is broken.

At first, it looks like a disease. An epidemic that spreads through no known means, driving its victims mad with memories of a life they never lived. But the force that’s sweeping the world is no pathogen. It’s just the first shock wave, unleashed by a stunning discovery—and what’s in jeopardy is not our minds but the very fabric of time itself.

In New York City, Detective Barry Sutton is closing in on the truth—and in a remote laboratory, neuroscientist Helena Smith is unaware that she alone holds the key to this mystery . . .and the tools for fighting back.

Together, Barry and Helena will have to confront their enemy—before they, and the world, are trapped in a loop of ever-growing chaos

My thoughts:

So yeah, this was actually a really cool book and it tackled all the bigtime sci-fi dilemmas about humanity, memory, power, life and love, and the meaning of everything.  He even quoted Vonnegut in the epilogue and then gave us a typical Crouch ending, which I loved because it boiled the entire book down to inevitability 😅

Similar to Dark Matter, this is a huge mindbender that I don’t think the reader is supposed to think too hard about.  Just read the thriller and let it race over you, right? I am all for that method except there were so many layers that my brain kept saying “wait I’m pretty sure this event isn’t possible, or XYZ would have happened earlier…” Or “wait wait wait, he already disproved that…”  I COULD BE TOTALLY WRONG SO DON’T LISTEN TO ME, JUST GO READ THE BOOK 😅

I do always feel pretty disgruntled after finishing a Crouch though so … I’m probably wrong.

If nothing else, it was easy to root for the characters.  I liked how they discussed the ideas and drilled home the points Crouch was trying to make about second chances and inevitability.  How terribly things can go when power is placed in the wrong hands, but then things can also get equally fucked when handled with the best of intentions.  Helena started out with the absolute best of intentions, trying to help her mom, and look where they all ended up…

He summarized the book (and honestly his entire bibliography) with this one rough quote from the main character: We are fucking with shit that’s not supposed to be fucked with!

Overall: if you like thrillers, sci-fi, big ideas, and books that will make your pulse race while also taking your brain for a ride, I fully recommend anything by Blake Crouch.

Thanks for checking out my book review of Recursion by Blake Crouch! I bought this one on my own when it was published and as always, all opinions are my own ♥️

Science Fiction

Rubicon by J.S. Dewes (ARC Review)

Thank you so much to Tor Books via NetGalley for the early read, all opinions are my own!

Well… I finally finished Rubicon even if it took me a month 😳.  Let’s take a quick look at the book first then go into my thoughts:

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Rubicon
  • Series: to be announced?
  • Author: J.S. Dewes
  • Publisher & Release: Tor Books, 03/28/23
  • Length: 480 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for space opera and AI fans

Here’s the synopsis via Am*zon:

J. S. Dewes, author of The Last Watch and The Exiled Fleet, returns with another science fiction space opera, Rubicon, that melds elements of Scalzi’s Old Man’s War with Edge of Tomorrow.

Sergeant Adriene Valero wants to die.

She can’t.

After enduring a traumatic resurrection for the ninety-sixth time, Valero is reassigned to a special forces unit and outfitted with a cutting-edge virtual intelligence aid. They could turn the tide in the war against intelligent machines dedicated to the assimilation, or destruction, of humanity.

When her VI suddenly achieves sentience, Valero is drawn into the machinations of an enigmatic major who’s hell-bent on ending the war―by any means necessary.

My Thoughts:

I don’t know why it was so hard to sit down and read this book. The long chapters didn’t help and I really only got enthusiastic about Rubicon in the final 150 pages, and then couldn’t put it down.  I think it just has a LOT going on. It’s a  character driven space opera, there’s military involvement, there’s a discourse on AI and ethics (my favorite), aliens, and just so much else happening.

Dewes did a lot of things well, like the characters and their trauma, coping and new relationships and team bonding. The military operations would go from zero to 100 real quick as did Adrienne’s relationship with the Rubicon.

I generally wanted more from the science in a lot of places. Dewes dedicated the book to a Warcraft character (also a great name for a dog) and turned the game’s resurrection protocol into chips and rezone areas. I think the overall concept was great and we did eventually get some of the “how” behind it. There are weapons and advanced tech, contact with alien vessels, and the terrible truth that in order to avoid becoming part of the hive mind, it’s best to just “wipe” or kill yourself in order to rezone instead of being captured. I liked learning about the alien history too and just wish she had connected it personally to… The big boss guy. I’m pretty sure there were a few more WoW things in the book but I could also be projecting.

After some thought, I’ve decided that I love the ending. Oh those poor characters LOL but I’m here for it. I’m afraid I won’t remember what happened when the sequel comes out (oh hey, publishers – make it clear when a book is going to be a series, yeah)? But man, oh man, that was an ending for you. 100% the ending bumped her rating up.

Overall: I can’t say any one thing that the book did wrong (although hopefully they edit out how many times someone’s lock of curly hair is mentioned) but I also can’t latch onto anything that grabbed me until the final plot line emerged. I do love themes of AI and finding humanity in these genres. It was a solid military sci-fi adventure with good characters and many different elements. I’d recommend for space opera fans if you aren’t squeamish about suicide and I will definitely read the sequel!

Thanks for checking out my early book review of Rubicon by JS Dewes! I received a free advanced digital copy in exchange for an honest review and as always, all opinions are my own ⭐

Science Fiction

A Talent for War by Jack McDevitt (Book Thoughts)

Ok let me say one thing first so that no one else makes the same mistake I did: This is not a typical military sci-fi 😅 if you are expecting a war with wall to wall action, you will be disappointed.  Once I realized A Talent for War is a historical mystery in space, and adjusted my expectations, my enjoyment grew tenfold.

Basically picture Sherlock but on other planets and in space.  There is an ethical debate on war, tough and exciting situations, futuristic technology, aliens, and many war stories, but we are learning about a 200 year old war through Alex Benedict’s eyes as he tracks down clues to try to explain why a large passenger transport carrying his uncle disappeared.

You want Sherlock in space, 100% keep reading. I originally picked up books 2-4 in this series at a yard sale, then bought this one so I could start at the beginning.  Reading in chronological order is not necessary though to enjoy the series

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: A Talent for War
  • Series: Alex Benedict, #1
  • Author: Jack McDevitt
  • Publisher & Release: Ace, 1989 (mmpb)
  • Length: 310 pages 
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ once it gets going, this really turns into an absorbing mystery 

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:

Christopher Sim changed mankind’s history forever when he forged a rag-tag group of misfits into the weapon that broke the alien Ashiyyur. But now, one man believes Sim was a fraud, and Alex must follow the legend into the heart of the alien galaxy to confront a truth far stranger than any fiction.

Here also is the back cover because the synopsis doesn’t quite match:


Speaking of the cover, I can’t believe Stephen King blurbed the front cover back in the 80s! I always wondered what sci-fi he reads.. 

Ok so finally, here are my thoughts!

If you come into this one expecting a slow burning mystery you will be on the right track.  I loved discovering the true history along with the main character as he read through archives, talked to descendants of fighters and resistance advocates, saw it through interactive video, and eventually went out to discover the “artifact” in question.

Plus there’s the present day mysteries of ‘What the heck happened to the transport carrier with all those people on it, why did it just disappear?’ Was it an accident or foul play? Then you trace back in history to which stories are true, false, embellished, which leaders are frauds? The clues leading back from Alex’s uncle’s library through time present a rather tragic puzzle of the history humans manufacture and the legends we create.

I think those are the main themes too.  Who writes history and what shape does it take? How concrete is the truth that evolves 200 years down the line? What does humanity need to hear to move forward? Who even creates the heroes? This book reminded me a lot of the Civil War in American history, in the way that the South created a totally glorified mythos and down the timeline erected many monuments, the motivations for which the general public are just now broadly being educated about.

There’s a lot of good sci-fi here too. Some of my favorite aspects included his exploration of old time battle ships and deficiencies in early space travel. There are also the terraforming marvels on various worlds like Fishbowl and plenty of ‘ooh-ahh’ moments in the stars. The holo-sim reenactments would be cool too if they actually existed. 

Alex Benedict is a likeable enough character on his own, but McDevitt isn’t the best at character building.  His female sidekick showed up fairly randomly and for some reason latched onto Benedict. None of his females have a lot of personality although for me it’s a not a big deal. The characters aren’t the focus at all even though I was definitely rooting for them.

I docked a star because there were way too many names and places to keep track of.  Some were dead ends and it’s ok to forget them but I feel like I didn’t entirely grasp everything.

All in all, I really liked this book. I had to google what the prologue and epilogue referred to and had a huge AHA moment.  Once A Talent for War got going, I really got lost in the mystery and surprises and tension building in both the present day, and past times.  I love reading history and considering how it is written too.  If you also like history’s mysteries and science fiction, I would totally recommend this one

Thanks for checking out my book review of A Talent for War by Jack McDevitt! As always, all opinions are my own ♥️

audiobooks Science Fiction

Goodbye to the Sun by Jonathan Nevair (Book Review)

I tried to focus on indie books during Sci-Fi month this year and then fell off the reading boat. I hope you guys enjoy the few reviews I’ve managed to post!

I did manage to finally finish Goodbye to the Sun by Jonathan Nevair. I hear so much about the Wind Tide series and have had it on my TBR since it was released.  So then #1 popped up on Chirp with an audiobook sale and I said OH PERFECT, IT’S TIME!

Overall there were some really good aspects, and others missed the mark by five miles for me, so let’s look at the book then dig into my thoughts

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Goodbye to the Sun
  • Series: Wind Tide #1
  • Author: Jonathan Nevair
  • Publisher & Release: Self, 2021
  • Length: 348 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: all thoughts on the audiobook (DNF) aside, I’m rounding up to ⭐⭐⭐ for the book itself

Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:

A nonstop thrill ride across an unstable galaxy, combining moral struggle with character-driven adventure…

Tucked away in the blue sands of Kol 2, the Motes are on the brink of cultural collapse. Razor, a bold and daring pilot, leads a last-ditch gambit against their local oppressors, the Targitians. The plan – abduct visiting Ambassador Keen Draden and use him as a bargaining chip to restore her people’s independence in the Sagittarius Arm. But when the operation unravels, Razor is forced to renegotiate terms with the arrogant diplomat.

Light years away on Heroon a radical resistance blossoms. The alluring rainforest planet haunts Keen. All his problems started there during the Patent War, but it’s where Razor’s troubles may find a solution. The moral tide ebbs, exposing an impossible choice that links their futures together more tragically than they ever thought possible.

Goodbye to the Sun: a space opera inspired by the Greek tragedy, Antigone.

My Thoughts

A quick note on the audio: I just strongly dislike the production and couldn’t finish it. The narrator barely varies his voice or brings excitement. I don’t know if it was the voice or the recording but a lot of words, regardless of playback speed, sounded fuzzy and I kept hearing words incorrectly and became confused. The audio was a DNF after maybe one hour of playtime

So I ended up reading the Kindle version because honestly, the story wasn’t that bad once I took a break and forgot the audio.  There’s a story of a rebel trying to save her people, an ex soldier turned diplomat who is carrying PTSD and war trauma, and a bunch of other interesting characters.  I loved the characters and you never know what you’re going to get from their arcs.

One of my favorite tropes and one that Nevair did execute well, was bringing a place into play as a character itself.  Heroon is a tropical rainforest planet in danger, with beautiful insects and trees and a true spirit of its own. In a way, Kol-2, the other main setting, also had a life of its own with blue sands and wind tides used for energy production.

I also liked the family vs honor vs loyalty vs duty themes.  Who is deluded, who is willing to make what level of sacrifice, what motivates these characters at the end  … All of these things play into the plot and add depth.  As far as the science itself, I needed a little more about how the wind was used in these monopolies, is it stored, shared, transferred, how is the energy even stolen during raids? There was plenty of sci-fi though!

I did think there were too many planets and people and names thrown out at first, some of the politics were lost on me but at the end most of it came together.  I think scope wise it’s a fairly solid space opera.

So now we are at the point where I talk about the things that drove me nuts. I hate feeling lectured by books, and there’s no way around the fact that the book spends an inordinate amount of time lecturing about gender politics. In the middle of a terse situation. It’s not normalizing something if there are multiple lectures involved and I think it went beyond a normal amount of topic exploration. Even in the middle of a heated exchange of rifle fire these characters are hand signing their genders to each other.  I’m all for normalizing but not if it comes at the cost of a lecture.  Also I had a hard time with the points of view – Razor was used in the present tense to summarize the action and give more insight into Keen, who then covered the “action” chapters that occured in the past.  I think I wanted Razor to have a little more agency in the past tense chapters because she would have been interesting on her own, not just as a frame for Keen and other challenges of morality.

In closing, I can’t recommend the audio.  I did absolutely love the settings and plot and moral conflicts. Nevair also nailed the action scenes when he didn’t slow them down with lecture or diatribe, which is just a huge pet peeve of mine.  I think if you like sci-fi with a strong ethical base and plenty of twists, turns, and betrayal, check this one out!

Thanks for checking out my book review of Goodbye to the Sun by Jonathan Nevair! The book was purchased by me and read for my own enjoyment. As always, all opinions are my own ♥️

audiobooks Science Fiction

Wistful Ascending (Audiobook Review) by JCM Berne

Before jumping into this review I have to thank everyone who has reached out this week. As much as I joke around it’s been a bit dreadful and I endlessly appreciate everyone in the book community who has been down for shared storytime or just validating how useless I’ve been this week. I’m not sure what I’d do without the book community sometimes 😅

Secondly, thank you so much to the author for the audiobook code. I rely a little heavily on audio these days due to my eyesight and am endlessly thankful especially for a bit of pure escapism this week. I’m trying not to just be numb and having superheroes and sentient AI ships (and bears with three penises) queued up on audio has been just what I needed.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Wistful Ascending
  • Series: Hybrid Helix #1
  • Author: JCM Berne
  • Publisher & Release: Self, 2020
  • Length: 405 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ for anyone interested

A quick note on the audio: narrated by Wayne Farrell at 13h 29m, definitely recommend for fans of audio!

Here’s the synopsis:

A superhero space opera for grownups.

For fans of Invincible and Marvel Cinematic Universe films who like a little hard science fiction in their superheroes.
If Thor and Harry Dresden combined in a transporter accident.

The il’Drach have conquered half a galaxy behind the civilization-ending Powers of their mixed-species children.
Half-human Rohan, exhausted by a decade fighting for their Empire, has paid a secret and terrible price for his freedom.
Now retired, he strives to live a quiet life towing starships for the space station Wistful. His most pressing problems are finding the perfect cup of coffee and talking to a gorgeous shuttle tech without tripping over his own tongue.
A nearby, long-dormant wormhole is opened by a shipful of scared, angry refugees, and the many eyes of the Empire focus uncomfortably on Wistful.
As scientists, spies, and assassins converge, reverting to the monster the Empire created is the surest way to protect his friends. And the surest way to lose them

So what if our superheroes are half alien? What if there’s a DS9ish space station (that’s also sentient) out by some wormholes in the far reaches of a galaxy, and one such superhero has escaped there after deciding to escape his past? What mix of aliens would gather there? What if there’s equal parts humor and tragedy and high octane fight scenes? Would a superhero feel awkward if someone talked to him while peeing?

I listened to this one nonstop in my free time this week, then read the last few chapters on Kindle. You’ll love Rohan and Wei Li and Wistful.  Snarky ship AI’s and the integration of different species are some of my favorite sci-fi tropes and they are here in abundance. I like that the book never took itself too seriously but did have some serious themes. It’s fast paced with readable prose and perfect for my brain right now. I guarantee with all the plot lines and things happening that you’ll never be bored.

I also liked the world building and look at space station life.  There are shopkeeps, refugees, many cultures meshing together,  and even a mysterious tailor.  On a wider scale I think there’s enough background given to the wider conflict and dominant alien race to paint the big picture without bogging the book down with too many details.

There was one wtf moment regarding where their powers came from but I ultimately decided it was more funny than anything else.

All in all, I totally recommend this one as pure space opera & superhero escapism. It’s great in book or audiobook form!

Thanks for checking out my audiobook review & book review of Wistful Ascending.  The audiobook code was received for free in exchange for an honest review and all opinions are my own. Stay tuned for my thoughts on #2 and #3 because both are queued up on Kindle Unlimited right now!

Science Fiction

Final SPSFC2 Slushpile Thoughts!

Yay I made it through the slush pile 😅 and I believe the rest of the team has too! That said, do look for quarterfinalist updates soon (link at the bottom of this post to the team page!)

That said, here are the final 7 books in the allocation and my own personal thoughts and votes on them!  It’s been an adventure reading 20% of 28 books, and great to be exposed to so many sci-fi authors I’ve never heard of before.

As a general note, I voted yes to keep reading on 8 out of 28 of the books total.  I do plan on reading and reviewing those books, even if they don’t make it to the quarterfinalist round.   I wish everyone’s books good luck moving forward and without further jabbering, here are my first impressions on the last of our books!

(P.s. you can search my prior SPSFC2 posts here using SPSFC2 in the search bar at the top of the page)

22) Rim City Blues by Elliot Scott is a “sci-fi noir mystery adventure” and definitely has some high points. It’s fast paced, has hilarious chapter titles, is well edited, and the synopses for future books sound promising.  It’s weird and up my alley although I just did not enjoy it on a personal level and couldn’t get into the mystery or the story or the characters so far.  I think fans of the genre should check it out but for me,

Voting: no

23) Rise of Ahrik by Nathan W. Toronto has an interesting premise and a promise for lots of military action.  I had a hard time becoming engaged with the narrative and writing though and am

voting: no

24) Road to Juneau by Liam Quane is a YA futuristic novel that takes place after a fictional third world war.  I’m going to recommend it for YA sci-fi fans but had a hard time getting invested in this one.  I think the language put me off more than anything else but I didn’t find much that made me want to keep reading 😭

Voting: no

25) Sugar Plum Tea by Sinnamon Carnelian is a cute story about warring alien races, one eventually occupying earth to mutual benefit, and a little girl left in the rubble.  I was enjoying reading it until it went from a cute found family story to more romance focused, and at that point it came to light that for a mostly character driven story, I didn’t understand the main character  😅 It was also a bit hard to follow along at times.  I think clean romance readers may enjoy this one but I’m going to have to vote no.  That said though, sign me up for a tall, monogamous, pretty alien boy any day

Voting: no

26) Trials on the Hard Way Home by Lilith Frost isn’t something I would pick up based off the description most likely, but found it extremely readable.  There’s some mental health things going on and complicated relationships as a pair of husbands flee a planet for either a real or imagined reason, and that’s all part of the mystery.  There’s a lot of mystery and a bit of sci-fi and I’m curious enough to keep reading

Vote: yes

27) Unknown Horizons by Casey White starts out with an alien abduction and looks like it’s heading towards space opera territory by the end of the first 125 pages or so.  I like the concept and action but am a little iffy on continuing, just based on how long it was taking things to develop and start happening.  I think the space opera audience should check this one out because it could be a case of ‘it’s not you it’s me’, but ultimately I am going to say no.

I did vote this book for my favorite cover in our group though, isn’t it lovely!

Vote: no

8) Webley and the World Machine wraps up my initial round of reading! It’s got a fun concept for a book that is geared towards young adults but I was not a huge fan of the characters at all.  I’m also a big plot reader and just kind of overally was not interested in the opening chapters.  There are lots of good reviews for this one though so if you like humor check it out!

Well – that’s it from me on the slush pile books! I believe we have 7 quarterfinalists selected that will be announced this week, so I’ll hopefully be reading roughly one of those per week between now and the end of January! Keep an eye out on for the books we have decided to read in full!

Science Fiction

A Bonus Classic: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne


Back when I polled you guys for my Fall classic book read, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea came in a near second to Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde. There were multiple buddy read offers too.  Seeing as one stood out more than the rest, here I am having read two classics this Fall 😅

If you want to read something more academic on Verne, skip to the end.

Verne needs little introduction as one of the founding fathers of sci-fi.  His series of very sciency travelogue type novels are dubbed The Extraordinary Adventures and I have to say I enjoyed the trip around the world’s seas in Captain Nemo’s Nautilus.  That said, I didn’t realize there were more Nemo novels and I’m curious now.

These are the things I learned while reading, and my general thoughts in no specific order.

20k  was originally published as a serial in 1869-1870.  I’ve got a gorgeous box set edition of Verne’s classic adventure novels and as much as I enjoyed reading this relatively short one, it took me a while because small print slows me down and classic sci-fi books are notoriously small printed!

Like someone on my blog pointed out with Lovecraft and aviation, here with Verne and exploration & travel, classic sci-fi took the science of the time and made it accessible to the general public.  I think Verne really succeeded here because despite all the hard facts and science and navigation, it felt a lot more readable and accessible than some of the classic Sci-fi that I’ve read.  I’m paraphrasing here but apparently, Very wanted people to actually be able to learn about geography, history, biology, and other natural sciences by reading his books and I can see where this would have been wildly popular at the time.

As well as informational, there’s the fictional part: it was interesting to see Verne extrapolating on the uses for submarines when the sub seemed to have been a mere prototype he was shown, and even making plausible electricity undersea when most homes still had (idk, what, gas lamps? I know electric wasn’t a common household utility in the late 1800s.)

I also never realized that Arronax and friends were essentially prisoners! While Nemo was gracious enough to take them on a tour of the world underwater, I guess I didn’t recall the mai plot of the book from my childhood read.  I did enjoy the dialogue and Stockholm syndrome esque worship of Nemo during the professor’s captivity.

Overall – I did like reading this one.  There was plenty of danger and action among the science.  I liked the prose well enough for the 1800s without being bored, but some of this could be the translator. I did read though that this is accepted as a more literal translation than those done by the guy who changed all the names in Journey to the Center of the Earth, for example. (Google that, there’s some interesting literature on various Verne translations).

At the end of the day I think it’s interesting to read these classics and just see where so many modern novels take inspiration from.  I also like how a lot of these classic novels are character studies and spend a bit of time taking a look at the nature of man and applying it to, say, the nature of scientific discovery.

Here are some more random thoughts that may make more sense for people who have read it and want to discuss the book:

  • If I was Nemo, I wouldn’t have shown them how the escape boat worked 🤣
  • Nemo is like Batman or Tony Stark or Elon Musk even – a rich guy doing rich person things.  Iron Man, Batmobile, Space X rocketship – I ask my readers, if you were rich: what stupidly cool thing would you build?
  • I learned a lot about the timeline of electricity becoming mainstream because I got curious and found an article
  • I also learned about ocean currents and such, I assume these are still pretty currently valid observations
  • Underwater libraries and museums sound like a good plan! I did like how studious both Nemo and Arronax were, even if they knew there was a chance of never making outside contact.
  • I wish the editor had left in Nemo’s backstory, the gaping hole where it was cut out is obvious
  • The French really love to write hyper dramatic men.  I thought Nemo felt a lot like Hugo’s villain in Notre Dame, without the back story but equally dramatic. Verne and Hugo did work together so maybe they rubbed off on each other
  • Did anyone else wonder at the Arronax and Conseil relationship? I don’t know how devoted typical manservants were but it felt like a too close for comfort father & son relationship 😅

In closing, if anyone ever wants to Buddy read a classic novel with me, I am always willing. I have a little mini series called Struggling Through the Classics but I didn’t really feel like this one was a struggle at all.   Also I want to mote that this article makes me feel stupid 🤣 but here’s a much more academic look at the novel, Verne, and the foundation of sci-fi on general from the reading buddy!

Fantasy General Posts, Non Reviews Science Fiction

Happy Veterans Day ~ Let’s Chat About Some Favorite Military SFF

Happy Veterans Day to those who have served! I wish I had taken the time to compile a list of SFF authors who are also veterans, but for sure if anyone wants to throw some names out there I will make a post at a later date to feature them! Those also a link at the end which leads to a great article on how various authors took to writing military sci-fi after their service!

For now, let me randomly pick a few military science fiction & fantasy books that I have enjoyed, have been recommended, or want to read! Definitely comment if you want to add any favorites or make recs!

The Fantasy books are pretty well known but I would love to know what y’all think of my sci-fi picks, mostly written by veterans!

Let’s start with fantasy, because I only have three to mention that I’ve read in the past few years:

1) Green Rider: doesn’t present itself initially as a military fantasy.  The riders are a much underrepresented and fascinating branch of the Sacoridian army that function as the King’s messenger service, but are also fully trained and equipped to fight.  They serve many roles. The riders become more prominently featured as a military branch throughout the series and gain respect and military involvement due to the actions of the main character, Karigan, and their leader,  captain-turned-major Laren.  Might be a good choice for those transitioning into harder military fantasy


2) The Black Company: I don’t think Glen Cook needs any introduction.  My favorite thing about these books initially is that the narrator is the chronicler/medic, and he doesn’t quite understand magic nor care for warfare so much, so you get a chronicle of events from a more human perspective.  It’s pretty military though if not so tactically heavy.  It’s wild throughout the first few books and I’d like to keep reading at some point for sure.


3) I’ve only read the first two, but I’m amiss if I leave Malazan off my list of military fantasy books.  All I’m going to say is epic battles, huge sorcery, devastating consequences, it’s all there.   I’m not an elitist but I’ve had a blast reading so far and Deadhouse Gates was phenomenal.



I’ve read less military sci-fi than other genres over the years but have found a few favorites, and many more that I’d like to get to.  Kindle Unlimited has an absolute wealth of space Marines and military sci-fi to surf and I always wish I had time to randomly try and find more gems.

1) I’ll start with Starship Troopers because it helped spawn the entire genre.  I read and reviewed it last month and definitely think it’s worth checking out just for how influential it was.  Plus, Heinlein was a veteran of the U.S. Navy! 


2) Speaking of veterans, while surfing Kindle Unlimited I stumbled across another veteran who writes Military SF.  I’m pleasantly surprised at how many people I know that have read and enjoyed Frontlines by Marko Kloos.  My reviews for the first three or four books are up on the blog here.  MK – thank you for your service!


3) Another Veteran, one that I haven’t read yet but need to check out, is Michael Mammay and his Planetside series. He is a retired Army officer! These books come highly recommended and Mammay is pretty chatty with book recommendations on social media which makes me appreciate him.  Thank you for your service as well!


4) Another Veteran & author that I would like to continue reading, is John G. Hemry aka Jack Campbell. He is a retired Naval officer and has written a ton of military sci-fi books, including The Lost Fleet series as well as some spin offs. Thanks for your service as well Mr. Hemry!


5)  Not long ago a friend also recommended Evan Currie’s series On Silver Wings.  He said “sometimes you just want explosions!” These books seem pretty short after the first one and are fairly highly rated, so I may check them out some day. I don’t believe Currie is a veteran but if he is, I apologize!


I also found this article that talks about some famous and not so famous veteran authors! It’s a great read for sci-fi fans

Please let me know what you think, add to my list!