Science Fiction

SPSFC2 Quarterfinalist Review: The Empyrean by Katherine Franklin

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

As one additional note here, the first round is now complete! We chose to read seven full books and you’ve seen my reviews for each of those.  Soon there will be semifinalist announcements from the competition and I’ll know which six books we are reading next!

Alright everyone, my last “quarterfinalist” review is for a space opera called The Empyrean! Let’s take a quick look at the book first and then I’ll share my thoughts.

Bookish Quick Facts:
  • Title: The Empyrean
  • Series: Galaxy of Exiles #1
  • Author: Katherine Franklin
  • Release: Self pub, 2022
  • Length: 478 pages (Paperback length)
  • SPSFC Rating: 5.5/10
Here’s the synopsis via Am*zon:

Emotion is a weapon. Harnessing its power could destroy worlds.

Palia’s emotions are in turmoil. After watching her son succumb to Empyrean fire, she barely escapes the same fate. Guilt ridden and alone, she will not stop until his killer is brought to justice.

The Protectorate forbids Ferrash to have emotions. That suits him, since he cannot avoid the people who control the Empyrean. Making this sacrifice prevents them from hijacking his feelings and using them as a weapon against him.

When Ferrash spots Palia’s ship venting atmosphere, he is forced to save her. Having an enemy from the Hegemony on board could see him accused of treason. But when the Empyrean reveals its potential as a destroyer of worlds and Palia’s link to it, Ferrash knows he can’t let her leave.

With billions at risk of succumbing to the Empyrean weapon, can the enemies join forces and prevent the same fate that killed Palia’s son?

My thoughts:

I first want to add the disclaimer that I purchased the audiobook (I can only stare at an e reader for so long). I physically read the first 150 pages in order to judge technical presentation, editing, etc.  The fact that I listened to the rest is not affecting my score nor am I going to comment on the experience, other than that it was a decent production and James Alper seems like a solid narrator.

So, about the book! I liked the overall idea quite a bit.  The story opens with a planetary explosion and utter devastation, vivid imagery, and it was enough to snag my attention from the get go.

Broadly, I can appreciate the plot regarding interstellar weapons potential and the fact that emotion could be harvested as a source of power, magic, fire. The Empyrean is full of interesting concepts.

It’s also got a few likeable characters and, my favorite part, a hilarious but all too brief episode with a rather large animal companion.

Where this story ended up falling flat for me was in execution.  There were some big, overarching mysteries hinted at throughout, and the thing is that for an author to hold onto those mysteries and just keep dropping hints, the reward has to be worth it.  I really truly hate to say that the “answers” fell flat for me and that the entire final resolution was a bit of a weak setup for the next book in the series.  Many characters and events appeared and vanished throughout without the page time they needed to land an impact.

While individually I liked Palia and Bek, Farrash felt pretty out there. The romance felt more like a proximity attraction without much to ground it on, so the … Uh … Pinnacle of Action scene didn’t land either. The concept did, I get what the author was going for, I just couldn’t see it.

I’m smacking myself because this sounds harsher than I mean it to.  For editing and presentation this is one of our stronger books, and if I had spent a tiny bit less time feeling lost I would have enjoyed it much more overall.  It’s a great plot that just got lost in the execution.

(Plus, I’m one of those blind-ish people who endlessly appreciate books that are turned into audio and made affordable).

TLDR: Overall – The Empyrean held a great idea and a lot of wonderful imagery, but overall it didn’t hit home for me.  I’m rating 5.5/10 for SPSFC purposes and would recommend for fans of space operas with broad scopes!

Thanks for checking out my book review of The Empyrean by Katherine Franklin! I was provided a free digital copy for judging purposes, although I purchased the audiobook on my own to help me finish our books (and save my eyes) within the allotted time frame. As always, all opinions are my own 🚀

Science Fiction

SPSFC2 Quarterfinalist Review: Empire Reborn by A.K. DuBoff

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

As the first round winds down to a close in the next week, I’m back with ‘quarterfinalist’ review number 6 out of 7! I’m also absolutely ecstatic to say that I finally found a book that I personally believe has a chance of making the top ten.  Empire Reborn is meticulously edited and the best presented, every character motivation makes sense, her ideas translate to paper 100% of the time, and it hits all the space opera first in a series checks.  Again these are only my personal thoughts but I’d throw down for this book!

Let’s take a look at the book itself and then I’ll share the rest of my thoughts.

Bookish quick facts:
  • Title: Empire Reborn
  • Series: Taran Empire Saga #1 (Cadicle Universe #12)
  • Author: A.K. DuBoff
  • Publisher & Release: Self, March 2021
  • Length: 388 pages (Kindle Length)
  • Rating: 8/10 for SPSFC purposes (⭐⭐⭐⭐) and yes for space opera fans
Here’s the synopsis via Am*zon:

A forgotten enemy’s return reignites an ancient war.

Jason Sietinen lives in the shadow of greatness. He’s worked hard to become a TSS officer in his own right, but having war heroes for parents is hard to top.

When Jason is assigned to investigate a mysterious attack, he finds evidence of powerful transdimensional beings never before seen. Or so he thought.

Jason soon learns that critical information was lost through the millennia: Tarans had an ancient treaty with the aliens. Unfortunately, rogue actions by a shadow faction within the Empire just broke the peace.

With the future of the Empire hanging in the balance, Jason must find a way to unite the Taran worlds, including the lost colony of Earth, against the mounting threat. There’s just one problem: how do you fight an enemy you can’t see or touch?

My thoughts:

The first thing you probably noticed is that this book is very deep in an already existing universe.  Past events are referred to fairly frequently but the author also does a good job setting up this series on its own merit.  All the big pieces are there to create something multifaceted and interesting going forward.

 I believe in presentation and editing, both of which were accomplished near flawlessly here.  I think I found one tiny grammatical typo and that is huge compared to the rest of our book allocation. Technical merit aside, space operas should have these big casts, big stakes, and big moral discussions, all of which DuBoff has here.

 I wasn’t a huge fan of the slang (really, fok vs fuck and shite vs shit, etc, isn’t going to break any language barriers) but otherwise I have nothing else bad to say.  It makes sense to have similar language roots between descendant cultures but I think that facet needed something…just a different approach.  It didn’t affect the book though, plus she was consistent with it, and I got what she was trying to do. Not the biggest deal but that’s my only nitpick here.

Theme wise, she tackles some big sci-fi tropes and moral dilemmas.  There’s multiple instances of first contact, force vs diplomacy, the integration of new government,  interdimensional cause and effect, and a lot more.  I generally overall just like what she did her even if it ultimately wasn’t the most exciting read.

Oh heck, did I mention telekinesis as a weapon? The book didn’t need the Men In Black tie-in but it was there, and I believe it’s going to come into play moving forward. There’s a whole idea of this telekinesis tying into an upper dimension that I’m waiting to learn more about too.  Also planet sized space leviathans.  Realistic characters.  Big ideas that suit this genre well.

TLDR & Overall: this has all the good space opera elements and is presented as well as the average trad pub book.  I hope I get time to read more of DuBoff’s books, I did already download the next one for when time permits.  I also truly hope we see this one in round two 😅

Thanks for checking out my book review of Empire Reborn by A K. DuBoff.  I was provided a free copy for judging purposes although found it on, and used Kindle Unlimited. As always, all thoughts are my own 🚀 

Science Fiction

SPSFC2 Quarterfinalist Review: Earthship by John Triptych and Michel Lamontagne

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

As the first round winds down to a close in the next week, I’m back with ‘quarterfinalist’ review 5 out of 7!  Today I’m talking about another book that I voted to read in full, and feel like overall it was a positive decision.

Bookish quick facts:
  • Title: Earthship
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: John Triptych & Michel Lamontagne
  • Published: Self, 2021
  • Length: 578 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ or 6.5/10 for SPSFC purposes. I recommend for fans of apocalyptic stories like 2012
Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads

Our world will be destroyed. Only a chosen few can escape.

In the near future, a cataclysmic collision with a rogue planet destabilizes the sun, causing an exponential increase of its output. With the ever-increasing heat, life on earth will be extinguished within a decade.

As the global crisis deepens, it falls on a handful of individuals who will determine whether humanity survives. NASA scientist Dr. Olivia Quinn must outwit a corrupt government system and warn the public before it’s too late. Veteran astronaut Valerie McKinnon and her son Sawyer are in a race against time to build a space ark that could rescue countless lives. And Armand Balkan, a cutthroat trillionaire who seeks to maintain his empire by any means possible, could either save or doom them all.

My thoughts:

I generally enjoyed reading Earthship and consider it a slightly above average self published work.   It has super short chapters, lots of action, moves forward quickly, and covers a huge scope of storytelling through many different plotlines.

The thing with end of the world plots though is that there are only so many ways to tell that story, and this one took it on a global.scale. The downside is that there’s a verifiable metric ton of head hopping that left me confused at times. There are tons of names to keep track of, multiple big storylines, and at the end of the day there are many loose ends trailing off into space.

The characters are easy to root for but there are just way too many.  This would have made a great movie but trying to compact it into a book would have been better served with a more streamlined plot.  Each point of view added something to the story but definitely were not necessary.  The first six, possibly 7 chapters were all from different perspectives and it made my head reel.  Also towards the 3/4 mark they threw in a rather large religious cult storyline that changed the tune of the book and added even more complications. I have mixed feelings on it including that the book already had enough going on and that I couldn’t really believe how influential the cult got,

Regardless, I love a good end-of-the-world plot. 😆 Earthship tackles issues like the building of space stations and generation ships, who survives, who dies, what do the people remaining behind have to deal with? It doesn’t really go hard into moral debates though, just mentions these themes as a matter of fact. It’s equal parts exciting, gory, sad, and properly horrifying at times. I liked the characters but never had time to get attached to any of them and they were all 2-dimensionally static as this was a pure action flick.   I am ok with that, I would rather read big disasters and military coups than character growth, but I also like having something to grab onto.

Technically speaking, the book has a fairly good presentation.  It was at least spell checked although it had more than a few word placement errors.  I like the cover. One of my biggest qualms was the passing of time not being shown except by character comments.  I think if months or years are going to go by in between these short chapters, it’s best to show dates.

There’s a lot of inconsistency in character motivations too. With time passing randomly and no development it was often hard to place characters from one appearance to the next.  He changed chapter styles too towards the end of the book, going to multiple points of view within one chapter.  Again, an exciting read if you don’t follow details too closely.

Overall – the less you think about this one the better. For an action flick in book form it provided a proper amount of entertainment.  The ending left a lot of loose ends as some space operas will, but I think we should have had a little more general closure. It’s been designated as a stand alone so I would have loved an epilogue. A good idea that ended up falling flat on execution.


Earthship is a good action story that had way too much going on. I read it quickly and enjoyed it but can also pick at issues all day.  I would recommend for fans of action, adventure and apocalypse type fiction.

Thanks for checking out my book review of Earthship by John Triptych and Michel Lamontagne. A free copy was provided for SPSFC  judging purposes but I found my copy on Kindle unlimited. As always, all opinions are my own 🚀

Science Fiction

SPSFC2 Quarterfinalist Review: Inquisitor by Mitchell Hogan

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

Hi everyone, I’m back with my fourth SPSFC ‘quarterfinalist’ review! Let’s take a look at the book and then I’ll share my thoughts.

Bookish quick Facts:
  • Title; inquisitor
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Mitchell Hogan 
  • Publisher & Release: Self, 2015
  • Length: 300 pages (Kindle version)
  • SPSFC Rating: 7/10 
Here’s the synopSis from Am*zon:

To Inquisitor Angel Xia, it was just another corporate killing on a backwater planet. But as the bodies begin to pile up and she finds herself a target, she realizes she’s stepped on one toe too many.

Barely escaping attempts on her life by powerful agents with seemingly limitless reach and influence, Angel senses even her co-Inquisitors can’t be trusted. But as the web tightens, she receives a cryptic message from a computer program claiming to be a little girl in desperate need of her help. She insists she’s being held prisoner by a major corporation, but is this just a trap to silence Angel…permanently?

Now a fugitive with her life inextricably linked to the girl in the program, Angel is taken to extremes she never knew she was capable of, and to forgotten places at the edges of known space that hold the darkest secrets of humanity, and the greatest threat to its future.

My thoughts:

Inquisitor is a fast paced adventure featuring an agent (inquisitor) who ends up in an interstellar race for her life as she unravels a corporate scheme.  The thing is, what she initially encounters and investigates is only the tip of the iceberg as far as the scale of the crimes and conspiracy taking place.

I really liked the idea of the book, and it was blisteringly fast paced. The reason I rated it so high is because despite it’s issues, I couldn’t put it down, and for me the entertainment value of a space opera/adventure counts for a lot.

The themes cover a lot of AI ethics, a rogue AI and rogue agent, the agency of sentient creations, right and wrong on an interplanetary scale, and the rights and needs of one vs many.  Plus don’t forget explosions and high tech weapons.

The issue is that the “big plot” has a lot of “big questions” left highly unresolved.  *Oh, they’re working on it* isn’t a resolution to me.  Which brings me to MY big realization: this was supposed to be a character centered book.  I didn’t like the characters and the idea that *women are useless if they can’t procreate*. Hello, we have other goals too. There are big plot questions with the main character’s family and with the genevolve race that were hinted at and not answered, so I was getting ready to buy the sequel and was shocked when there wasn’t one.  Alright, so he probably just didn’t know how to wrap it all up.

About the characters: both main characters were emotionally volatile, flip floppy, and ultimately annoying, also like REALLY ungrateful, and I hope the author thinks women can be more than that 😅 I think overall he just really didn’t know how to wrap up the plotlines, so he gave the characters resolution and called it a day. (PS how exactly does he think 2 year olds act? Those kids are kindergarten age at least)!

I think the author should have given the relationship a little elaboration too, he didn’t give us anything to make it believable and also hinted at infidelity (a huge turn off for me).

That ALL said though – Inquisitor was still entertaining as hell. If the end hadn’t changed my view of the entire story, I’d be up at 8 or 9 points. I love AI stories and the action was on point.  If you like international agents in space and rogue AI, I’d recommend it for sure.

You can also see my team mate’s review here

Thanks for checking out my ‘quarterfinalist’ review of Inquisitor by Mitchell Hogan! A free digital copy was provided for judging purposes although I did find mine through Kindle Unlimited. As always, all opinions are my own ♥️

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 ♥️

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

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

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 🚀⭐

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 ✨🚀