Mysteries Science Fiction

SPSFC2 Quarterfinalist Review: The Diamond Device by M.H. Thaung

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

Welcome to my third “quarterfinalist” review here! Let’s take a quick look at the book first, then I’ll share my thoughts!

Bookish Quick Facts:
  • Title: The Diamond Device
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: M.H. Thaung
  • Release: Self published, 2020
  • Length: 270 pages
  • Rating: Scoring 5.5/10 for SPSFC
Here’s the synopsis via Am*zon:

After diamond power promises to replace steam, an unemployed labourer and a thieving noble unite to foil an international plot and avert a war.

Alf Wilson resents the new technology that cost him his factory job, especially as his clockwork leg bars him from army enrolment. He daren’t confess his unemployment to his overbearing mother. Desperate over the rent, he ends up in a detention cell with a hangover.

Impoverished Lord Richard Hayes maintains his expensive parliamentary seat by a mixture of charm and burglary. During a poorly planned break-in, he inadvertently witnesses a kidnapping. To cap it all, the police arrest him for the crime. At least he’s using a fake identity. The real criminals make off with not just the professor who discovered diamond power, but her plans for a diamond-fuelled bomb.

When Rich encounters Alf in the neighbouring cell, he sees an opportunity to keep his noble reputation intact. He persuades Alf he’s a secret agent who needs an assistant. This chance association will take them to the oddest locations. But law-abiding Alf’s first assignment? Break Rich out of jail.

My thoughts:

First and foremost in my mind is that The Diamond Device is a shorter, fast paced read that is exceptionally light on sci-fi for what I was expecting to read here.  It’s a variation on steam punk where diamonds are newly used as a power source, but there’s no indication on how it works including from the character trying to assemble a device or from the scientist who created it.  Anyway, we decided it’s close enough, so genre questions did not affect my score.

Overall I enjoyed the read through. The pacing was steady, with bursts of action tempered by fairly low consequences in most cases. The writing is solid, flowing, and easily digestible. It just all felt more like a cozy British mystery to me than sci-fi, complete with blundering policemen and over the top shenanigans.

The characters are likeable, a lord and a laborer.  Watching them try to mix their worlds and work together was the most entertaining part for me, especially so once a hilariously temperamental cop was thrown into the mix.  That said, the character’s reactions to major events felt so muted that I almost wondered if the author wasn’t targeting a young adult audience, although no indication of this is given.

Science or lack of it aside, I think Thaung managed to cram an amazing amount of world building into the pages too.  We see all about how the classes live, the airships, what they eat, how they comport themselves, and political relations.

Overall, I think it was a fun and inoffensive book full of shenanigans.  If you like light steampunk you might want to check out The Diamond Device!

Thanks for checking out my review of The Diamond Device. A free e-copy was provided for judging purposes and 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!

Science Fiction

Even More SPSFC2 Slushpile Books: Yay for Progress!

Whewww with this post concluded, I’ve read the first 20% of 21 out of 28 of the team At Boundary’s Edge slushpile allocation! There were some super strong books here and I wish everyone could win – this would be so much easier that way.  Once again, all opinions here are solely my own and don’t reflect that of the team, other judges, or the competition in general. 

Before getting into my next round of votes, don’t forget to check out the updates from other teams too!

In other news, our most excellent team captain is also sharing his individual thoughts on each book so check that out too.  He is also up to book number 21 and you can use this link to surf back through his picks so far

In case you missed it, my first seven books are listed towards the end of this link here. Numbers 8 through 14 can be found here, and 15-21 below! I hope to be done by about this time next week and then be ready to start reading quarterfinalists in entirety ♥️

Without further ado, let’s get on with the next selection of books!

All books include their Amazon links so do check them out if you’re interested!

#15 The Empyrean by Katherine Franklin opened with a planet on fire and stayed equally wild throughout the first 120 pages or so.  It’s a little longer at 478 pages and didn’t always seem to keep track of itself but it’s very readable and I’m totally on board with the fast paced adventure so far

Voting: yes

#16 First of Their Kind by C.D. Tavenor is an interesting look at synthesized intelligence.  This is one of my favorite sci-fi sub genres but I found myself not all that absorbed in the narrative voice of the SI. I wouldn’t expect it to have a human syntax but it did have a lot of human issues and I felt lectured at times.  I skipped ahead a bit too and just never became interested. I do think people who like moral, political, AI focused, scientific sci-fi may be interested in this one!

Voting: No

#17 Inish Carraig by Jo Zebedee is another shorter read. It’s about a post invasion city in Ireland that might as well have seen as apocalypse, and the people trying to survive.  After the aliens are attacked by a virus, another war looms … I really liked the characters too so far and the plot and the writing itself as well.

Voting: yes

#18 Inquisitor by Mitchell Hogan … Oh my, this is a strong group of reads so far.  This is a fast paced crime thriller that is lighter on the sci-fi and turned into something like an action flick before too long.   It’s not terribly well developed but I am a huge fan of serial killers and techy thrillers so … 

Voting: yes

#19 Mercuryville by Tara Summerville is a funny, wild story that contains the following quote:

All I knew about Bill was that he had a basement full of dead bodies and a general disdain for interior design.

Honestly I wished I gelled with the narrative voice more because I know this one has an audience with the weird & humorous crowd, but I just wasn’t enjoying the reas.  Check it out if you are up that alley

Voting: no

#20 Pulse by B.A. Bellec … Oh wow, ok this has some horror elements for sure.  And it reads like a movie script, in a third person omniscient present tense…. With multiple points of view. Did I do that right? It’s honestly a little hard for me to follow and I would love to see the script acted out as a play or a movie, but in book format I am struggling with this one despite liking the premise quite a bit

Voting: No 

#21 Political Nightmare by Rainbow Maccabre is hard to describe.  I feel like I get what the author is getting at but it’s got some significant issues with cohesion and editing and there’s not a lot of description to latch onto as things move along, which makes it hard for me to become moored & vested

Voting: no

Stay tuned, I am super excited to go back and start finishing some of these books 🚀⭐

audiobooks Science Fiction

Armada by Ernest Cline (Audiobook Thoughts) ~ Or, does anyone care about Wil Wheaton anymore?

Synopsis & book facts can be found at the end, I just decided to rant and joke around in uninterrupted peace

I’m going to have a hard time writing out a whole review of this book.  It’s literally The Last Starfighter’s plot having a baby with Enders Game, re written with one idea from every science fiction game, tv show, movie, and adjacent pop culture item out there, shoved into one book. It’s like item -> location -> item -> location, ad infinitum. Everything from HG Wells to Team America to Tron.


Ok. Great

Everything was a thing from something else. While this did feed into the plot and make sense at the end, I found that it got boring real quick.  It didn’t help that both the start and ending were weak either.  I love a good pop culture reference as much as the next person but how much can you really take from everywhere else and then slap the actual most half-assed ending ever on it? 

Well friends, read the book and find out.

Or don’t. I had content issues with it too for a YA book but I know I’m on a losing battle with that one, let’s just say the defending generals spent too much pre invasion time mixing business with pleasure 🙄 . Actually I’m not even sure if it’s a YA or not, but Zack is in high school so I assumed so.

Anyway, maybe don’t do what I did. Don’t listen to the audio.  I never particularly had strong feelings one way or the other about Wil Wheaton but his voice irked me for some reason. I can’t take him seriously and I think it rubbed off on my feelings on the book, which by no means is meant to be taken seriously either.  It’s just a big geeky parade of everything.

I actually picked the book up because I was curious as to Wheaton’s narration skills.  Plus what’s he even been doing these days besides raising kids, podcasting, playing games, and narrating a few Ernest Cline books? Who knows.

I can’t really dislike the guy because Sheldon (Big Bang Theory) made him a hilarious long running joke on the show.  I can’t really dislike him because TNG gave him a stupid ending either.  I just, I don’t know, let me pose it to any audience members here:

Does anyone actually care about Wil Wheaton anymore? Did you guys ever have  feelings about him one way or another?

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Armada
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Ernest Cline
  • Publisher & Release: Ballantine Books, 2015
  • Length: 384 Pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐✨ sorry not sorry hahah but if you really love sci-fi pop culture and young adult books maybe try this one

Quick note on the audio: obv narrated by Wil Wheaton, I didn’t love it.  Whether he was hollering or sad or just talking, I just didn’t enjoy this book at all.  It’s 11:50 long from Random House Audio

Here’s the synopsis:

Zack Lightman has never much cared for reality. He vastly prefers the countless science-fiction movies, books, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. And too often, he catches himself wishing that some fantastic, impossible, world-altering event could arrive to whisk him off on a grand spacefaring adventure.

So when he sees the flying saucer, he’s sure his years of escapism have finally tipped over into madness.

Especially because the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of his favorite videogame, a flight simulator callled Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting Earth from alien invaders.

As impossible as it seems, what Zack’s seeing is all too real. And it’s just the first in a blur of revlations that will force him to question everything he thought he knew about Earth’s history, its future, even his own life–and to play the hero for real, with humanity’s life in the balance.

But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking: Doesn’t something about this scenario feel a little bit like . . .  well . . . fiction?

At once reinventing and paying homage to science-fiction classics, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a coming-of-age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before

Science Fiction

Sci-fi Month & the Joy of a Fairly Open November TBR

Oh November, between work and getting sick and more work, I’m in pure survival mode right now.  Let’s see what’s in store here for this month!


Here’s some good news: for the first time in years I can finally say that my ARC list is only two books long right now and it’s an amazing feeling.  Both are very exciting sounding books too! 

  • The Prisoner by B.A. Paris – I’m halfway done with this one, released today 11/1, and should post about it soon. Thanks to St Martin’s Press
  • Rubicon by J.S. Dewes – not out until March but Tor has offered me author interviews before so I’d like to get there asap
  • I’ve also got Hex You by PC & Kristin Cast but will probably put it off until the end of December

Sci-fi Month!


This lovely sci-fi month artwork is by  Simon Fetscher

I did decide to jump into sci-fi month, it’s a great group of people with many familiar faces from Wyrd & Wonder, and I have a tentative TBR!  For all that people talk about a lack of sci-fi community, I think it exists. Somewhere. 10 years, wow! It’ll be fun to get some sci-fi recs and see what everyone is talking about! (I do have a TBR but at the same time it’s just incredible to be able to look at my shelves and read whatever I want).

  • Rubicon – see above, this is a perfect ARC for sci-month. A space opera about a sergeant’s many traumatic resurrections, I literally am bouncing to get to this one
  • Armada by Ernest Cline – I picked this one up on audio and started last night but should have listened to GoodReads. Will Wheaton’s voice is just. Ugh. I’ll probably finish it
  • I’ve got the first three Alex Benedict books by Jack McDevitt that have been on my TBR forever.  Back this summer someone said they wanted to see my thoughts and I never got there, so maybe I’ll binge A talent for War, Seeker, and Polaris
  • 20k Leagues Under the Sea by Verne – ok yes let’s finally read this, I’m all about the boys club of scientific exploration 🤣
  • Empire of Silence – it’s so long, should I finally read it though?

That’s seven sci-fi books and I think a realistic goal, I will maybe add or subtract as the month goes!


There isn’t a lot of miscellany for November.  I’m off to see Hamilton tomorrow night 11/2 and have a seat at the theatre’s president’s club dinner prior and I’m just hoping I can taste the catering because I’m kind of sick 🤣

SPSFC wise – I will definitely start posting more slushpile thoughts this week too.

Here’s to another month of reading, I’m just waiting for December though 🙃

Science Fiction

Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein (and how certain books enhance their own reading experience)

It’s time for sci-fi on Saturday, isn’t that fun? I’m supposed to be reading and featuring GrimDark reads here this month but in truth it’s going to be one of the most genre diverse months I’ve had in a long time.

The plan was to share my thoughts on Starship Troopers today. What I’m really feeling is a post about the times when the book itself, as in the physical item, means something and therefore enhances the reading experience. We will see where I start and end on this post.

I know I’m adding nothing to the Heinlein review canon so I’m just going to leave you guys with a few brief thoughts on the book, and then start talking about something else that will continue in a post I’m writing for next Saturday.

I am open for and do absolutely encourage discussion on Starship Troopers, I just find no reason to “review” it

So here are my thoughts, then I’ll digress if this post isn’t way too long already.

Bookish Quick Facts: 

  • Title: Starship Troopers
  • Author: Robert A. Heinlein
  • Publisher & Rease: originally GP Putnam’s Sons, 1959
  • Length: 263 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: I do firmly believe this is a sci-fi canon must read, and enjoyed it

Here’s a synopsis:

In Robert A. Heinlein’s controversial Hugo Award-winning bestseller, a recruit of the future goes through the toughest boot camp in the Universe—and into battle against mankind’s most alarming enemy…

Johnnie Rico never really intended to join up—and definitely not the infantry. But now that he’s in the thick of it, trying to get through combat training harder than anything he could have imagined, he knows everyone in his unit is one bad move away from buying the farm in the interstellar war the Terran Federation is waging against the Arachnids.

Because everyone in the Mobile Infantry fights. And if the training doesn’t kill you, the Bugs are more than ready to finish the job…

I originally read Starship Troopers back in high school when I was about 15 and did not remember it at all.  I saw the 1997 movie a few years later and recall it as something that was way too long and slightly terrifying. It hardly felt like the same story.  Now after reading the book again, I feel my brain shifting back to a fonder stance on the story in general.

I like that Heinlein did in 263 pages what it can take some series 8+ books to do.  I like that it’s military sci-fi that is about war, but not about THE war so much as a main theme.  Heinlein is the crazy uncle of sci-fi that kind of tells a story but mostly throws a lot of ideas at the reader, and I appreciate him for that. There’s a story there, you just have to see it as a reeeaaalllyyy general framework for his ideas, not vice versa.

As someone that spent years living with military persons, I can say that all the hemming and hawing about the book being military propaganda feels more than a little ridiculous to me in 2022.  It probably could have seemed that way but any military person (that I’ve talked to anyway) will tell you that voluntarily putting their lives between harm and home becomes part of who they are.  It’s not propaganda, the pride and military family and routine become a way of life, like the survival mechanisms they adapt, and I think Heinlein just encapsulated this feeling from his own military service experience and put it on page when he was discontent with the state of the military, nuclear testing, etc during the Cold War era.

That said though, he had some hilarious views on certain military things. He clearly just *loved* bureaucracy and, to pick one rant I laughed at,  the American Military Structure that has officers for absolutely everything.  Sergeants also take a verifiable ton of shit in real life (as in the book) and I think Heinlein did a decent job, as a Navy man, setting up the social structure of the Mobile Infantry.  My favorite thing to focus on when reading these books is how things like the command and social structure are portrayed.

Idea wise, like anywhere else, some of Heinlein’s ideas are good and some seem sketchy. Either way, some of his foresight was dead on, like for example, the absolute lack of corporal punishment for kids these days? I’m not getting into a debate about spanking and such but the point is that a lot of these questions, ideas, and arguments, are still quite valid today.  Our military has been in active conflicts for most of my waking memory (Desert Storm, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc…) so the peace time debate seems moot, but maybe not, say, the part about where members fit into society after active service. The size of the organization. Finding holes for everyone wanting to participate in this giant machine.  As a literal reader in this case, I did think a lot of his tangents (yes, I’m calling them tangents) were fairly dead on.

That all said though, I liked the book before and I liked it again some nearly 20 years later.  The action is good when it’s present, the ideas are still relevant, and besides that, it so clearly influenced enough media and literature that followed that I feel it’s one of those sci-fi books that everyone just has to read.

I’m running out of page space but I do want to quickly touch on my point above about nostalgia and certain books.  I was at a friend’s house not too long ago and besides the fact that I have a 900+ book library in my house, I saw Starship Troopers on his bookshelf (that distinct green color stands out) and was thumbing through it.  We sometimes pass books back & forth and I always feel like reading someone else’s book is a special experience.  Maybe it smells like the person’s house or has notations in it or something else like a leftover scrap of bookmark, but I found myself generally enjoying the experience of reading, more than I have recently. I think it’s because I have some odd reverence for other people’s books. Anyway, I’m about to return it in one piece and am always honored when fellow bookies trust me with their property😅

Next week on Sci-fi on Saturday: The October Country (or the experience of reading something that is a multi generational treasure, or, stories that keep stories alive?)

Science Fiction

More Things SPSFC2: The Slushpile Continues!

Happy October and welcome back to my progression through the team’s slush pile of SPSFC2 books! First off, let me link a few general updates from across the competition and other judges on our team!

Once again here is the link to the general competition website so you can see the updates from all the teams:

The cover contest also had a winner, and there’s a cool interview that everyone should check out as well as the other top ten winners!

In other news, The Captain put up his thoughts on the first seven books so go see that for sure at this link here 

Our first 7 books don’t quite match because I can’t alphabet, but don’t be alarmed, all the books will get their time in the spotlight!

In case you missed it, my first seven books are listed towards the end of this link here. I’ll do the next seven here and then start a new post for the halfway point! All prior disclaimers stand, these are my opinions alone and I encourage everyone else to check out these books regardless of my opinions.

Without further ado, let’s get on with the next selection of books!

#8 is The Diamond Device by M.H. Thaung.  It’s another shorter one at 270 pages, a little steampunk and a little potential heist work. I was not exactly enthralled but felt pretty neutral, and am willing to read on to see if the scifi elements develop. I voted yes

#9 is Earthship by John Triptych.  It’s a bit of a longer book at 495 pages but they flew by. This is probably my favorite read so far as it immediately gripped me in both action and content.  I liked the characters, felt all the tension, got invested, and am sad to put it down at 20%.  Voting yes 

#10 Next up is Earth Warden by Tyler Aston.  I love the cover and think it’s a decent idea, but nothing about the writing, actual story, or delivery was really drawing me in.  I gave it about 25% and was just not feeling invested, but I do encourage sci-fi action fans and possibly space opera fans to give it a look. My vote is no

#11 Moving right along… The Elitist Supremacy by Niranjan is up next! This started out as a potential medical mystery or medical thriller and had me all eyes and ears, and then I unfortunately lost track of the storyline in a small sea of names and events and technology.  It’s a shorter book at 252 pages and seems to hold a lot of intrigue and thriller aspects for the right audience. I really think it’s got a lot of good ideas and just needed some help in execution. I am voting no


#12 The Emerald Princess by J.D. Richards is listed as a sci-fi adventure, psychic mystery, and female sleuth on Amazon.  I was interested in how San Diego changed into its current state in this future world, and how/why the war took place to turn Earth into a colony of another species. That said, at 20% the book had mainly focused on a mixed race human/conquering species character and her trials as someone without full citizenship on Earth.  I liked that the action kept moving but I also needed either a larger, central conflict, more background, or at least the mystery aspect to grab onto the story. This is also a vote no for me, but if you like character-central books without the info dump, this is one to check out 

#13 Empire of Ash & Blood by Matthew Thompson begins with a conversation with a vampire. He is drinking single malt blood like whiskey and seems to be an alright dude.  My main concern with this book is that I was not getting too much of a science fiction vibe in either content or context.  The writing itself (while again the story is a great idea) was a little bit hard to immerse into as well for me and I am voting no, although fans of vampires and competitions should try this book!

#14 The final book to bring me to the halfway point is Empire Reborn by A.K. Duboff.  This is a start to a new trilogy within an existing world, where an interdimensional menace may or may not be back to wage war again.  I like space operas, I like the two siblings who appear to be the main characters, and I like the story so far.  It can definitely be read as a standalone so far although I wouldn’t mind going back to have some more background.  I’m voting yes to see where this one goes!


There you have it, my first 14 books in the team At Boundary’s Edge slushpile! Stay tuned for updates from other team members and overall competition progress on the SPSFC home page ✨🚀