Author Interviews & Guest Posts Science Fiction

The Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Brian P. Rubin

It’s Sunday and Brunch is back! This week continues my series of SPSFC features with Dim Stars author Brian P. Rubin!

Dim Stars was one of our team’s semifinalist reads and we generally agreed that it is a solidly entertaining read, with good themes and the cutest octopus.  Unfortunately Brian told me that we can’t adopt the little guy 🤣

Anyway, read on for our chat about sci-fi  themes, nerdy things, writing books that everyone can enjoy, and tons more! P.S. the book is .99 on Kindle right now so go go! Link at the bottom!

🥞Welcome to the Sunday Brunch Series! Can you tell everyone something about yourself that’s not in your author bio?

🎤Thanks for the welcome! One thing I don’t mention in my bio — or at least one thing I don’t mention with much detail — is that I’ve been in several bands throughout my life as a drummer. When I first moved to the Twin Cities here in Minnesota, I met some cool guys and formed a bluesy bar band called The Lost Wheels. We wrote and released our own album independently, and we even won a contest for the Twin Cities’ best blues band — though, the contest was put on by a local barbecue restaurant chain, so I’m not sure it was the major accomplishment it might seem.

🥞What’s your brunch order today?

🎤I am pathetically addicted to the sausage, egg, and biscuit sandwich at McDonald’s. It’s bad for me, but I love it. So whatever the closest, non-Mcdonald’s equivalent of that might be. Plus a hash brown and a black coffee, of course.

🥞Congrats on making the SPSFC semifinalists! How do you feel about the competition overall?

🎤Thank you! It’s been really cool to watch the contest unfold, and I’ve been exposed to a lot of extremely cool books. I’m currently reading fellow semi-finalist Dito Abbot’s “Debunked”! I’m really enjoying it, and I’ve got a ton of other great additions to my Kindle library as a result of the contest that I’m looking forward to diving into eventually.

That said, I have felt a bit of confusion throughout the contest about scoring, like when and where written reviews of the entrants would be published…things like that. It feels a bit more opaque than I’d have liked in some spots, you know?

We do know 🤷‍♀️ it was up to each team to decide when and how much review content to release, if they publish any at all, and everyone took a wildly different approach.

🥞What originally drew you into writing science fiction?

🎤I’ve always been geared towards sci-fi in one way or another — superheroes and comic books have held a lot of space in my brain for my whole life. Star Trek, likewise, was seemingly always on in the background of my house as I was growing up. So when I finally started writing this book, I just felt naturally attracted to the genre. It also freed me to get silly or strange with things. Dim Stars is definitely not hard science fiction, so whenever I wanted something strange or funny to happen, I didn’t feel too restricted by the constraints of reality — I just went for it and said, “it’s science fiction, it’s fine” when I didn’t have full explanations for things.

Even still, I did try hard to make sure that if I needed to rely on physics or biology for various plot developments, that I did as much research as I could to make sure it would work. I wanted what I was writing to at least be plausible and not fall apart immediately if it was held up to any scrutiny. I hope I succeeded!


🥞Was the goal to write for a younger audience or did Dim Stars just take that course naturally?

🎤I don’t think I necessarily set out to do YA or Middle Grade as much as I just wanted to do something for general audiences. I wanted as many people as possible to be able to read it and enjoy it, and I do feel as though I’ve managed to do that. To me, Dim Stars isn’t necessarily mature or juvenile — I was just targeting the same vibe in terms of subject matter that the average network sitcom might also hit without anyone batting an eye.

A show like, say, Abbott Elementary is the kind of thing the whole family could enjoy in different ways, but it neither talks down to its audience, nor talks over anyone’s head. It seems that Middle Grade and YA is where that kind of book lives for the most part, so that’s just generally where I go whenever I write.

🥞I love the theme of dealing with the fallout of heroes not being everything you’ve idolized them to be! What themes and topics do you think are important within Dim Stars?

🎤This is a tough one — one of the main ideas I really wanted to hit on in this book is that of truth vs. deception, and how important it is to not only see others for who they are, but also to see yourself truthfully and honestly. I think Dim Stars’ main characters struggle with that a lot, but by the end they each see each other and themselves a lot more truthfully, and that leads to greater understanding and teamwork between them.

🥞Will you be offended if we adopt Squix and take him home with us? I just love such a unique crew member. What drew you to an octopus character?

🎤I’m sorry: You can’t take Squix home with you unless you can fill an entire room with salt water or build him the proper exo-suit. As for what drew me to making one of the supporting characters an octopus, it’s tough to say, but I have a guess.

Many years ago I worked on a comic book with a friend of mine, Collin David (who, along with his amazing fiancee Beckie Hermans, created Dim Stars’ cover). It was called Coptopus, which is exactly what it sounds like: an octopus who’s also a cop. We didn’t get as far with it as we would’ve liked, but it was a lot of fun. So I think the idea of an octopus participating in our society has always just seemed funny to me. Not only that, but from what I’ve read, they’re amazingly intelligent creatures. It seemed like a fun idea for a story set in space — that someday in the future, if we could all figure out a way to bridge the communication gap, that we’d discover they’re as smart as humans (or, let’s be real, smarter).

🥞What are your favorite scifi topics and tropes in general?

🎤There’s something I’ve always loved about the idea of crewing a spaceship, and all the horrible things that go wrong when you’re stuck on what amounts to a flying house in the middle of the void. Like I said, Star Trek has been a huge influence on what I love about sci-fi, and that includes all the kooky ways characters have to cope with huge disasters in space.

Spaceships, big lasers, goofy robots, colorful personalities — that’s the stuff I like most in my sci-fi. If I’d have figured out a way to include a giant mech fight, I’m sure that would’ve shown up in the book at some point, too.

🥞What’s the last amazing book that you’ve read?

🎤The aforementioned Debunked by Dito Abbott is really enjoyable, and I see a lot of similarities with Dim Stars. It’s fun, broad sci-fi that blends over-the-top science adventure and pure, goofy comedy. It’s great stuff.

Before that, I think the last book that really hooked me hard was Leviathan Falls, by James S.A. Corey. It’s the last book in the Expanse series. Those books were a huge inspiration to me when I was thinking of writing Dim Stars. Again, spaceships, heroism — all that good stuff. And while the Expanse series is much harder in terms of its science, the bonds between the crew and the schlubby heroics of the lead character, Jim Holden, pushed all my buttons.

🥞What other generally nerdy things are you into?

🎤As a recovering comic book reader, I’m still pretty into the MCU movies and shows, not to mention the slate of DC films that are on the way. I also play board games regularly, and I enjoy a good fantasy yarn if it’s a good fit for my particular tastes. Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames and A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by Ursula Vernon are two of my favorite fantasy books from the last few years; they’re both quirky, clever, and a ton of fun.

But the nerdiest thing I’ve been into lately is this: My kid is three-and-a-half, and we’ve recently gotten really into Transformers: Rescue Bots, which is the line of Transformers toys and cartoons that Hasbro made just for preschoolers. The show and toys have been more or less out of production for years already, but we watch it on Netflix and YouTube. So since they’re not really carried in stores anymore, I’ve become strangely obsessed with tracking down as many of them as I can find via used marketplaces while also trying to get good deals on them. Heroic robots, goofy action — what’s cooler than a fire truck or bulldozer that a three year old can easily turn into a robot? Literally nothing.

🥞What can we look for next from you?

🎤I’ve started and stopped a number of projects since I finished Dim Stars — including a sequel, which is back in the drawer for the moment. But recently I was able to get some really good traction on a couple of projects I still like very much. The one I’ve gotten furthest on is tentatively titled Fools’ Errand, and I like to describe it as “Galaxy Quest meets Dungeons and Dragons.” It’s been a lot of fun so far, and I’m hoping I can keep the momentum going and actually finish the damn thing.

🥞Thanks so much for taking the time to interview! The last question is an open forum, so please use this space to talk about anything else you’d like to!

🎤Buy my book, please! And don’t be a jerk to anyone! Support marginalized people, support LGBTIQA+ people, support BIPOC, support women!

There you have it! You can find Brian P. Rubin and Dim Stars online at:

audiobooks Science Fiction

SPSFC Finalist Review: Those Left Behind by N.C. Scrimgeour

The SPSFC is in the final round now!  With winners to be announced mid July, the teams are hard at work reading the finalists.  Team At Boundary’s Edge has decided to review the books individually although not release a score until the entire team has finished reading.  As always these are my thoughts alone and don’t necessarily represent the opinions of the team or anyone else. That said, let’s just dive right in to the next of our finalist books!

Bookish Quick Facts:
  • Title: Those Left Behind
  • Series: The Waystations Trilogy, #1
  • Author: N.C. Scrimgeour
  • Published: Self, 2021
  • Length: 405 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: yes for fans of space operas!
Here’s a plot teaser via Am*zon:

A dying planet. A desperate mission. A crew facing impossible odds. Humanity’s last hope lies with them

Time is running out for the people of New Pallas. Nobody knows that better than Alvera Renata, a tenacious captain determined to scout past the stars with nothing but a handpicked crew and a promise: to find a new home for humanity.

But when a perilous journey across dark space leads to first contact with a galactic civilisation on the brink of war, Alvera soon realises keeping her word might not be as easy as she thought.

My Thoughts

I’d like to begin with the disclaimer that I received an audiobook code from the author.  I enjoyed the narration by Jared Kedzia immensely, although I read about as much as I listened to so that I also had a good handle on editing and presentation.  I am judging based on the text although I do highly recommend the audiobook.

Those Left Behind is one of my favorite reads of the competition.  I love the dying planet trope and also enjoyed how the author handled first contact.  All of my favorite scifi things are here, from sentient space stations to alien biology, dying worlds, snarky aliens, and the thing where we get to see narration on both sides of a conflict.

So there is a LOT going on.  The book was certainly never boring, as we head hopped between (I think) five different points of view.  I enjoyed how different each viewpoint was. There were “good guys” and “bad guys”, the captain, a mercenary, a scientist, and obviously a huge gray zone as we find out how each side of the various conflicts developed.

I also liked all the betrayal and fighting for survival.  Some had better intentions than others and everyone was willing to go to extremes for their race.  The stakes are real and everyone’s actions are appropriately in line with their arcs and motivations.

Speaking of everyone, I really liked all of the characters pretty much equally. Each viewpoint was pretty interesting and there wasn’t one where I would get to it and groan “oh, not this guy again!” Every one had a major part in the storyline, some kind of personal arc and growth, and hard decisions to make.

I enjoyed how some of the tropes were turned around too.  First contact with … Other humans? What are these Waystations? How is this back story unfurling to meet the present? Who’s going to betray who next? I really did enjoy this one all the way through.

The action is fairly constant as well, as it’s hard to slow down when head hopping points of views so much.  And there’s my only complaint is that honestly I would have loved to see it streamlined into fewer points of view.  Especially at first it’s hard to keep track of so many storylines – five chapters for five points of view at the start had me reeling a bit, although thankfully they were all different enough that I had no trouble keeping them separate.

All in all, this is a solid space opera with big stakes and plenty of character too. I definitely enjoyed Those Left Behind and wish it well in the final round!

Thanks for checking out my book and audiobook review of Those Left Behind by N.C. Scrimgeour.  I did receive an audiobook code from the author, and additionally read from Kindle Unlimited.  As always, all opinions are my own 

You can see my other SPSFC2 finalist reviews here:

Percival Gynt and the Conspiracy of Days

The Last Gifts of the Universe 

Aestus: The City

Those Left Behind


Night Music

Hammer and Crucible

Author Interviews & Guest Posts Science Fiction

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Dito Abbott!

Welcome back to Sunday Brunch! In an effort to spotlight some of the SPSFC contenders, I openly offered to host any author who has been eliminated so far! Next up in this series is Dito Abbott, author of Debunked

I have to admit after this interview that I’m absolutely dying to read Debunked Dito spotlights some great themes and travelling adventures.  I just can’t get over the flying airship either – and there are photos! Talk about family bonding! Read on for those things plus convention tips and much more

🥞Welcome to the Sunday Brunch Series! Can you tell everyone something about yourself that’s not in your author bio?

🎤Thanks for having me!

Every year my family celebrates a holiday we invented called the “GingerSLAM Tournament of Champions”. We invite friends over to build the mightiest graham cracker and candy structures possible, then destroy them with a wrecking ball.

Each year is slightly different, but the order of events always includes:

– Parade of Nations (homemade flags and marching to the Olympic theme song)

– Opening Ceremony (a speech imploring competitors to show no mercy and cheat at every turn)

– An Intimidation Circle (Competitors gather in a circle to glare and hurl outlandish threats)

The competition has two categories:

1. Most Beautiful – The trophy is a tiny improvised cardboard hat with small writing on it. We don’t want to encourage people to aim so low.

2. Grand Champion of Awesomeness – Awarded for the strongest structure design. The trophy is a much larger makeshift cardboard hat with ornamentation befitting their life-changing accomplishment.

🥞 What’s your brunch order today?

🎤If I need to save room for lunch, I’d like a Nutella crèpe. If I’m cruising till dinner, a breakfast burrito, please.

🥞Congrats on making the SPSFC semifinalists! How do you feel about the competition overall?

🎤I’m so grateful for competitions like the SPFBO and SPSFC. Marketing books is a never-ending challenge, so when a high-profile event offers to promote your book (for free!), it’s a dream come true.

Since Debunked is my debut novel, the competitions were a double blessing. Not only did I reach new readers, I was adopted into a thriving community of like-minded authors.

I don’t look at the SPFBO and SPSFC as competitions, but celebrations. Assuming solid prose and storytelling, judging books is a matter of taste. Some readers adore gritty, bloody war sagas. Others can’t get enough of space werewolf haikus.

By catering to all comers, SPFBO and SPSFC help authors find their readers.

Side Note: Shout out to all the judges, organizers, and bloggers who volunteer time and resources to highlight indie books. You are amazing and deserve magnificent cardboard hat trophies.

🥞Also a HUGE congrats on winning the cover contest! Want to spotlight your artist? How did you connect with the person?

🎤Thank you! My book cover journey was a lot like the first part of Frodo’s ring quest: everything started out chill, then a Nazgûl stabbed me, and Elrond saved the day.

A bit of background info: In addition to writing, I spent a year illustrating the Terravenum world map. Even though I’m comfortable with graphic design, I heard so many horror stories of authors shooting themselves in the foot by designing their own cover that I decided to hire a professional.

It proved to be the best marketing decision I’ve ever made.

The first artist I hired gave me a six month lead time, then dropped the ball when he started on my book. Concept art didn’t come together and it became clear we were a bad fit.

I resumed my search for professional designers. A fellow author’s cover led me to Kirk DouPonce, whose style fit Debunked like a glove. When I saw a time lapse video of Kirk illustrating his kids riding a pterodactyl to the soundtrack of Europe’s “Final Countdown”, I knew we were soul mates.

He asked for a copy of Debunked to get the spirit of the story. A few weeks later, I sent him concept ideas and illustrations.

Kirk produced a draft that was remarkably close to our final cover, using my illustrations to suggest whimsy, fantasy, and adventure. I was blown away. After a few rounds of revisions, we were good to go.

A great cover tells people who love your kind of book that this book is for them. Kirk knocked it out of the park.


🥞It looks like you travel quite a bit and have a long history of doing so! What was your favorite destination ever?

🎤That’s a tough one. I spent the majority of my life overseas, either growing up in Saudi Arabia or living on a sailboat. I’ve done three extended sailing voyages with my family:

Voyage 1 (1994-1995): Florida to New Zealand

Voyage 2 (2004-2006): Australia to Florida

Voyage 3 (2018-2020): Attempted to sail from Florida to Oz, got quarantined in Galapagos when Covid hit, then sailed north to the Sea of Cortez

If I had to choose one country that offered the most variety and bang for the buck, I’d go with Panama. It offers everything from tropical paradise (San Blas islands) to backpacker paradise (Bocas del Toro), engineering paradise (the Canal), and desert islands (Las Perlas).

If we’re talking sheer fun, it’s hard to beat Thailand. Affordable, fascinating culture, delightful people, and delicious food!


🥞I love the theme of adventure and travel in a scifi book for younger readers! What themes and topics do you think are important for young readers to be introduced to?

🎤A good portion of my readers are adults, but I wrote Debunked aiming for a novel that would have lived on my nightstand when I was thirteen. Fun, adventure, and imagination were my highest priorities.

The young adult years are tough. With one foot in adulthood and the other in youth, every day is a Battle Royale with insecurity. With this in mind, I explore themes like self-confidence, the inherent discomfort in adventure, and forgiveness (of yourself and others).

Debunked’s fifteen-year-old protagonists, Alexandria and Ozymandias, are in over their heads for most of the book. As they muddle through impossible situations, they gradually gain self-confidence and agency. This arc will develop over the next two books, as Ozzie deals with an unwanted prophecy about his destiny.

🥞 So you built an actual airship and bring it to conventions!? That’s amazing, can we hear about the process and maybe have a photo?

🎤When I started worldbuildng Terravenum, airships topped my list of Awesome Things to Build Around. For a sailor like me, they are the ideal form of travel.

As Jack Sparrow said: “That’s what a ship is, you know. It’s not just a keel and hull and deck and sails. That’s what a ship needs. But what a ship is…what the Black Pearl really is…is freedom.”

It was only a matter of time before my Dad and I built a scale model of Angelus (“Ann-jealous”), our heroes’ airship in Debunked.

The build started with a hull I found on FB Marketplace. We bought canvas and sewed an envelope (balloon). A candelabra from Goodwill served as a frame to hang the vessel. I contacted a 3D printer on Etsy about making replicas of my engine design. Dad and I hammered copper pipes to create engine mounts and scaffolding. I watched Youtube videos about painting miniatures, then went to town adding vibe to the vessel. Most recently, I added dragon wings and a skull to her bowsprit and LED lights to her engines.

Angie is a work in progress, but I’m excited for all the conversations she’ll start with airship aficionados.


🥞I see that you go to a lot of conventions as well! Which is your favorite so far? Any advice for authors who might want to try to participate in one?

🎤Last year, I attended 19 shows, ranging from comic-cons to dog adoption drives.

My favorite event was the Tucson Festival of Books. It was massive, but well-attended and smoothly run. It was fun to hang out with a crowd of readers.

A few tips for authors interested in trying their hand at live events:

1. Present your booth in a way that tells readers who love your kind of book that THIS is a book they will love.

2. A well-designed table runner and banner go a long way toward looking professional.

3. Hone a tagline that describes your book. Your window for connecting with readers is around 4 to 5 seconds. Let them know what your book is about. (My tagline is: “Indiana Jones meets Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!”)

4. Engage people who walk by. Unfortunately, this means you can’t look at your phone.

5. If physically possible, stand as much as you can.

6. Rehearse a 30 second elevator pitch to give readers a sense of your story.

7. Collect names for your mailing list

🥞What are your favorite scifi topics and tropes in general?

🎤My favorite sci-fi trope is when a trigger-happy warrior goes through security and is forced to remove an impossible quantity of hidden weapons from their body.

I’m also a sucker for sarcastic smugglers who have a heart of gold.

🥞 What can we look for next from you?

🎤 I’m currently working on a couple of projects:

1. Volume 2 in the Terravenum Chronicles

2. Illustrated Debunking Field Manual (and Bathroom Companion) – a creature and survival guide to Terravenum

In the meantime, I’m excited about the upcoming convention season! My 2023 schedule includes a few new events and some of my favorites from last year.

🥞Thanks so much for taking the time to interview! The last question is an open forum, so please use this space to talk about anything else you’d like to!

🎤Thank you for the opportunity to talk about my work!

More than anything, I’d like to thank bloggers and readers for promoting indie books. Your recommendations and word-of-mouth are game changers.

There you have it! You can find Dito and Debunked online at:


Dito Abbott Debunked book and map

Science Fiction

SPSFC Finalist Review -Aestus: The City by S.Z. Attwell

The SPSFC is in the final round now!  With winners to be announced mid July, the teams are hard at work reading the finalists.  Team At Boundary’s Edge has decided to review the books individually although not release a score until the entire team has finished reading.  As always these are my thoughts alone and don’t necessarily represent the opinions of my team or anyone else. That said, let’s just dive right in to the next of our finalist books!

Bookish Quick Facts:
  • Title: Aestus: The City
  • Series: Aestus, #1
  • Author: S.Z. Attwell
  • Release: Self Published, 2020
  • Length: 706 pages
  • Rating: *Vague gestures of approval from me*
The Synopsis Via Am*zon:

An underground city, built centuries ago to ride out the devastating heat. A society under attack. And a young solar engineer whose skills may be the key to saving her city…if she doesn’t get herself killed first.

When Jossey was ten, the creatures of the aboveground took her brother and left her for dead, with horrible scars. Now, years later, she’s a successful solar engineer, working to keep her underground city’s power running, but she’s never really recovered. After she saves dozens of people during a second attack, she is offered a top-secret assignment as a field Engineer with Patrol, but fear prevents her from taking it…until Patrol finds bones near where her brother disappeared.

She signs on and finds herself catapulted into a world that is far more dangerous, and requires far more of her, than she ever imagined. The creatures and the burning heat aboveground are not the only threats facing the City, and what she learns during her assignment could cost her her life: one of the greatest threats to the City may in fact lie within. With thousands of lives at stake, can she act in time?

My Thoughts:

I generally enjoyed The City. Due to the length and character descriptions I am left with some mixed feelings but I would totally read the next in the series.  The main point I want everyone to keep in mind is that overall this is a positive review from me! 

Let me get my gripe out of the way first and then do all the positives. I just don’t feel like this needed to be 700 pages long and it became a bit of a drag to keep reading at times. When thrillers write super short chapters to make the book feel faster and more digestible, that’s one thing, but I’ve never seen the tactic used to break up a chonker like this.  If we need to make the book feel shorter and faster, it’s too long, and I think I’d have settled in more with longer chapters.  The action was fairly constant though and after the first quarter the book moved along at a respectable pace.

Plot wise, I enjoyed the majority of the book. This is a story about a failing underground City, a rival faction, a brave engineer, and the men & women protecting and helping her along the way. I was very interested in the political plotting and how Attwell turned around the “bad guys” into something I never saw coming.

I liked the characters too.  Jossey is a great female lead. I thought we were setting up a love triangle (thankfully not in book one at least) and I ended up liking her supporting cast too. One of my favorite tropes is dysfunctional military groups learning to work together and I definitely got my fix of that within the Patrol unit.  What drove me nuts was, for example, constantly and repeatedly describing Caspar only by his eyes.

To end on a positive note: I loved the use of setting and climate.  The setting wasn’t just a backdrop for another story.  The climate affected EVERYTHING and dictated the entire way that everyone on the planet continues to live.  I just appreciated the fact that everything tied together so well throughout the pages.


A far too lengthy book, with short chapters and plenty of action.  I was pleasantly surprised by many aspects of the story.

See my teammate’s review here!

You can view my other finalist reviews …

Percival Gynt and the Conspiracy of Days

The Last Gifts of the Universe 

Aestus: The City

Those Left Behind


Night Music

Hammer and Crucible

Author Interviews & Guest Posts Science Fiction

The Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring O.R. Lea

Happy weekend everyone and welcome back to the Sunday Brunch Series! Today’s episode (31) starts a string of SPSFC feature interviews that O.R. Lea is kicking off for us!

The competition is currently in the final round, so while we wait for those scores to start coming in I thought it would be cool to interview some of the authors who participated!

O.R. Lea caught my eye with stories of travel, CATS, and a hard scifi novel in which first contact takes a slightly different approach.  I love the section below on theme and cultural divides! Read on to see these things plus his thoughts on the SPSFC and so much more.

🥞 Welcome to the Sunday Brunch Series! Can you tell everyone something about yourself that’s not in your author bio?

🎤 Aside from writing, my younger self’s dream was to be a rock star. I’ve played in numerous bands before finally admitting I’m not that great a guitarist, but I’ve recently started getting back into it, partly for fun, and partly because my teenage daughter is proving to be a very promising bassist and I want to be able to encourage and mentor her (as much as she’s willing to let me!)

🥞What’s your brunch order today?

🎤One English muffin with poached egg and a thick slice of black pudding

🥞 So I enjoyed the preview of your book, Riebeckite! It didn’t make the SPSFC semifinalist round but I hope you still had a positive experience? How do you feel about the competition overall?

🎤 Everyone involved is so supportive of each other, ‘competition’ almost doesn’t feel like the right word for it! I was read and wonderfully reviewed by some fellow contestants, and it was exciting to put in the same group as one of my favourite indie authors, Zamil Akhtar: when he made top 3 in the group, I was so stoked. And I was even more stoked that one of my indie author buddies, N. C. Scrimgeour, made the finals! She and I published around about the same time and accumulated reviews so closely in tandem with each other that it was almost a running joke. It’s awesome to see the wind is still in her sails and her trilogy is well worth checking out.

🥞 I know you said you were born in Wales, lived in Canada, and then settled in England – what other cool places have you lived or been?

🎤I’ve not done half as much travelling as I’d like, but I’d had holidays in Bulgaria, Romania, France, Germany, Czech Republic. My only visit to the USA was for the 2014 Roller Derby World Cup in Dallas, which was a blast!. I’m a huge fan of American whiskey so I definitely want to do the Kentucky bourbon trail one day.

🥞 Cool, I asked because it seems like bridging cultural and language divides is a big theme in Riebeckite, which uniquely enough takes place in the Persian Gulf!

🎤I’ve always enjoyed making friends all around the world and I grew up at a time when the internet was really starting to make that possible. You’re absolutely right, bridging divides is a major theme for me, but even more specifically than that is the truth that the divide between one country’s perceived culture and government and yours is much greater than the actual divide between you and an ordinary person from that country. Most of my books are set in non-western countries, and I always try to make contact with some people from that country and learn some of their language(s). This has become especially true in the past year, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I have friends in both countries, and none of them wanted to go to war – as always, it’s the people at the top who make those decisions. In fact, one of my fondest moments in making and marketing Riebeckite was commissioning a wonderful husband and wife photography team from Voronezh to produce a photoset of scenes from the book. Darya, who portrayed Tahira, speaks almost no English, so we communicated with a combination of my limited Russian and Google translate, even managing to share the occasional joke. I was blown away by how well they recreated my vision despite the language barrier.

Like I said, I love exploring unconventional locations in my books. I’ve written a mercenary adventure in Zimbabwe and an urban fantasy about vampires in Jordan. The earliest version of Riebeckite was quite different from the final version, in that it was going to be an alternative history scifi set in Soviet Azerbaijan in which the asteroid actually struck the earth, not the moon. I needed a big inland body of water for the asteroid to land in, hence the choice of the Caspian sea. While researching Azerbaijan I learned about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and hit upon the idea of childhood friends from opposite sides of the Azeri-Armenian divide having to work together. Whilst developing the idea, that conflict actually escalated, and I decided it might be a bit tasteless to use a real-world conflict for my story. When I came up with the idea of the bruised moon and the skyscrubbers, it made sense to have them being trialled on an island, and I absolutely fell in love with Qeshm as a setting. And inventing a fictional conflict between Azerbaijan and Iran allowed me to keep the idea about childhood friends working together across a divide.

🥞So Riebeckite is a hard scifi novel that focuses more on biology & technology?  My question had to do with choosing this storyline and setting say, vs, writing a space opera.  What draws people to various branches of sci-fi?

🎤I’ve actually never been married to a particular genre. It just so happens that I like stories about ordinary-ish people thrust into highly extraordinary circumstances, and when those circumstances involve magic or fantastical elements, it gets called Fantasy, and when it involves hypothetical natural or technological elements, it gets called Science Fiction. I’ve come to realise, in fact, that my favourite book trope is simply the Quest, but where the characters are all unprepared underdogs! Riebeckite is very much a near-future, earth-bound story, but it still contains ‘Quest’ elements, such as items which are acquired early on that turn out to have a surprising use later.


🥞What are your favorite scifi topics and tropes in general?

🎤 I like when SciFi explores the idea of just how alien and divergence life from other worlds might be. Unsurprisingly, the Alien franchise is one of my all time favourites. I’m also a huge John Wyndham fan: I love the way he write a very engaging human story with imaginative alien elements encroaching from the fringe.

🥞What other generally nerdy things are you into?

🎤 As a guitarist, I’m a geek for music gear to a degree thoroughly unjustified by my actual musical ability. I’m also a whiskey nerd: I keep a book of my tasting notes for every new whiskey or bourbon I try, and if I come across one I haven’t tried yet I absolutely have to buy a measure of it, not matter how much it costs or how early in the day it is. Finally, like many writers, I indulge in a little tabletop roleplay. Although, for me, this is less about the dice-rolling rules-exploiting min-maxing geekery, and more about the opportunity to enjoy a different format of storytelling.

🥞Is there a scifi book that you always recommend to everyone?

🎤 The scifi book(s) I recommend most often are Chris Wooding’s Tales of the Ketty Jay series. They are just so fabulously written, and I love everything about them. Recently I’ve been championing a fellow indie author, Steven William-Hannah, whose Interloper Series (beginning with Icebreaker) is just magnificent and I’m hoping he enters it into the SPSFC next year. But the one book I will never stop recommending to anyone who will listen is actually a fantasy series: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch and its sequels. Lynch is the writer I wish I could be.

🥞What can we look for next from you?

🎤Torpor’s End – the sequel to Riebeckite, and the second and final book in the duology I’m calling the Bruised Moon Sequence – is landing on the 15th July. After that, I’ll just have to spin the tombola that is my brain and see what idea is ready to come out next. There is a “ghost ship in space” story idea I’m particularly excited about – so much so that I already commissioned the cover art as a promise to myself that it will be written eventually!

Thank you so much to O.R. Lea for taking the time to interview! You can find him online at:




Author photo credit at the top, to himself!

Stay tuned for SPSFC2 updates and good luck to everyone! As always, if you are reading this we love it when you leave comments and let us know you’re here!

Science Fiction Young Adult

SPSFC2 Semifinalist Review: Dim Stars by Brian P. Rubin

As the semifinalist round of the 2023 SPSFC comes to a close, here is another full review from me. If you haven’t been following along, I’m a member of team At Boundary’s Edge and have been posting my individual reviews and scores. These opinions are mine alone and don’t reflect those of the team nor anyone else in the competition. Anyway, let’s look at the book and then you can see my 5th review out of six to come before the end of April!

Bookish Quick Facts:
  • Title: Dim Stars
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Brian P. Rubin
  • Release: Self Published, 2020
  • Length: 353 pages
  • SPSFC Rating: 7.5/10
here’s the synopsis via Am*zon:

Kenzie Washington, fourteen-year-old girl genius, signs up for a two-week tour as a cadet on the spaceship of her idol, Captain Dash Drake. Too bad Dash, who once saved the galaxy from the evil Forgers, is a broke loser and much less than meets the eye. But when an intergalactic evil appears and launches an attack, Dash, Kenzie, and the ship’s crew escape, making them the next target. On the run and low on gas, Dash and Kenzie encounter cannibal space-pirates, catastrophic equipment failure, and a cyborg who’s kind of a jerk. Kenzie is determined to discover the bad guys’ secret plan. But for her to succeed, Dash needs to keep his brilliant, annoying cadet from getting killed …which is a lot harder than it sounds.

My thoughts:

Dim Stars: A Novel of Outer-Space Shenanigans is full of humor and, yes,  shenanigans. There’s an octopus first mate and a 14 year old super hacker genius girl who saves the day. A pasta obsessed commander. A captain who’s kind of an idiot. A snarky robot ship doctor. These are just some of the characters you’ll meet and together they make a mildly exasperating crew.

I think Dim Stars is totally appropriate for middle grade or younger teens. I mostly found it silly but there are good themes for teens.  What do you do when your hero isn’t actually that heroic? Believe in yourself. Make the best out of, and do your best in every situation.  Be brave. I would hand this off to a middle grader for sure.

Plot wise Dim Stars definitely wasn’t slow or boring.  There’s a plot to steal planets and wreak havoc in the galaxy. There’s a cranky not-heroic-at-all captain who’s heart grows about three sizes as he admits he has responsibility to the galaxy and his crew. 

And…an octopus. I already said that but come on, there’s an octopus crew member. I love when alien biology and different races comes into the plot.  There’s a hilarious exchange where one alien thinks the octopus is a human and says they all look alike 🤣

Anyway, I don’t have a ton to say about the book but again, I like it for the recommended age group. I think he hit all the boxes for YA and am coming in at 7.5 to indicate a fairly strong book.

Thanks for checking out my book review of Dim Stars by Brian P Rubin. I found my copy through Kindle Unlimited and as always, all opinions are my own 🚀 Stay tuned for one final SPSFC2 Semifinalist Review as we wrap up this month!

Science Fiction

SPSFC Semifinalist Review: The Last Gifts of the Universe by Rory August

As we read through the semifinalist round of the 2023 SPSFC, here is another full review from me. If you haven’t been following along, I’m a member of team At Boundary’s Edge and have been posting my individual reviews and scores. These opinions are mine alone and don’t reflect those of the team nor anyone else in the competition. Anyway, let’s look at the book and then you can see my 4th review out of six to come before the end of April!

Bookish Quick facts:
  • Title: The Last Gifts of the Universe
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Rory August
  • Release: Self Published, 2022
  • Length: 203 pages
  • SPSFC Score: 10. I’m blasting this one with ALL the stars
Here’s the synopsis:

A dying universe.

When the Home worlds finally achieved the technology to venture out into the stars, they found a graveyard of dead civilizations, a sea of lifeless gray planets and their ruins. What befell them is unknown. All Home knows is that they are the last civilization left in the universe, and whatever came for the others will come for them next.

A search for answers.

Scout is an Archivist tasked with scouring the dead worlds of the cosmos for their last gifts: interesting technology, cultural rituals—anything left behind that might be useful to the Home worlds and their survival. During an excavation on a lifeless planet, Scout unearths something unbelievable: a surviving message from an alien who witnessed the world-ending entity thousands of years ago.

A past unraveled.

Blyreena was once a friend, a soul mate, and a respected leader of her people, the Stelhari. At the end of her world, she was the last one left. She survived to give one last message, one final hope to the future: instructions on how to save the universe.

An adventure at the end of a trillion lifetimes.

With the fate of everything at stake, Scout must overcome the dangers of the Stelhari’s ruined civilization while following Blyreena’s leads to collect its artifacts. If Scout can’t deliver these groundbreaking discoveries back to the Archivists, Home might not only be the last civilization to exist, but the last to finally fall.

My thoughts:

Oh gosh I finished this book over a week ago and I’m still having trouble writing about it. My disclaimer is that I lost a parent (who unfortunately passed alone) recently enough that the ideas of “I hope they weren’t scared” and “did it hurt” and lots of other self reflection related feelings still eat at me when I start thinking too hard.  I have a good enough handle on my grieving to read objectively but man, this book hit directly in the feels for me.

There’s a beautiful story about two siblings and their cat in space, trying to discover the key to saving Earth from whatever is turning the rest of the Universe into a graveyard.  They find dead world after dead world and finally there is  a potential lead.  The thing is the crew has to race against two employees from a selfish corporation for those answers and … well, it’s an ongoing morality play.

While they wait, Scout learns the story of Blyreena and Ovram, two aliens who meant the world to each other.  It’s a sweet interlude to the rest of the action and while I admit that at first I didn’t care about their story so much, I was hooked by the final Last Stand.

Sigh… There’s plenty of action in the book, lots of danger and high tension moments. I was never bored. There is a fluffy orange cat with plenty of opinions and LITTLE BOOTIE FEET.  Was I bawling at 4am because Pumpkin’s life means everything or because I was in a useless knot for the past 100 pages anyway? I don’t know.

I really don’t know. Last Gifts is about the journey, not the destination, so don’t go in expecting a showdown against the planetary life eating aliens. The point is that life is worth fighting for.  It’s so much more than I expected going in.

I waited a bit to make sure I was being objective but I loved the book. I can’t find a darn thing to dock a point for. It’s flawlessly edited and a wonderful reading experience. I’m throwing all ten stars here 🤷‍♀️

Thanks for checking out my SPSFC2 book review for The Last Gifts of the Universe by Rory August. I found my copy on KU and once again emphasize that all opinions are mine alone, and do not reflect that of my team. 

Fantasy Science Fiction

SPSFC Semifinalist Review: Percival Gynt and the Conspiracy of Days by Drew Melbourne

As we read through the semifinalist round of the 2023 SPSFC, here is my second full review. If you haven’t been following along, I’m a member of team At Boundary’s Edge and have been posting my individual reviews and scores. These opinions are mine alone and don’t reflect those of the team nor anyone else in the competition. Anyway, let’s look at the book and then you can see my 3rd review out of six to come before the end of April!

Bookish Quick Facts:
  • Title: Percival Gynt and the Conspiracy of Days
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Drew Melbourne
  • Publisher & Release: Self, 2018
  • Length: 356 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 8/10 for fans of  comedy and adventures
Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:

The year is 20018. The famed magician Illuminari is dead, and his greatest illusion has died with him. Dark forces now seek the Engine of Armageddon, the ancient, sentient doomsday weapon that Illuminari hid amongst the stars.

Enter Percival Gynt, accountant and part-time hero, whose quest to find the Engine before it falls into the wrong hands may be our universe’s last best hope for survival. It is a quest that will take him from the highest reaches of power to the lowest pits of despair and through every manner of horror and absurdity between.

But beware. This accountant has a secret. A secret that may damn us all.

Percival Gynt and the Conspiracy of Days is a sci-fi/fantasy adventure novel full of swashbuckling, math, dark secrets, space-faeries, obtrusive product placement, Nazis, beating up those Nazis, unlimited baked beans, zombie cyborg assassins, fate with a capital “F,” love, betrayal, wizards, jokes, paradoxes, a sentient doomsday weapon, eleven-dimensional space, clones, monsters, space-nuns, and at least one rat-chef.

(Only one rat-chef.)

My thoughts:

This book reads like a mashup of Austin Powers and Douglas Adams.  AKA it’s hilarious, over the top, entertaining, and sometimes I’m not quite sure what’s going on but it’s still funny. And dark. The book has a few surprisingly dark undertones that contrasted well with the general lighthearted tone.

Percival Gynt was a fast read for me. The pacing is constantly quick, the plot moves forward, and the characters are about as well developed as the average Austin Powers movie (that’s my analogy and I’m sticking to it) but I like them.

Percival is funny and has the best gadgets. Um is a long for the ride but takes a lot of death (poor guy🤣) and stays positive.  Esme cracks me up. Some people aren’t even who you expect them to be 😳  It was a good crew!

Another thing I really liked was the realistic looking “top news articles” at the beginning of each section.  I might have tried to click one 🤣

I did dock one point out of ten for some slightly confusing time jumping within two of the sections.  The other point I docked was for the plot getting a little confusing/convoluted about the time Percival tries to be a hero and the purity thing rejects him?  I don’t think I fully grasped what happened towards the end there but it didn’t change how I felt about the overall reading experience. (Good, I felt good)

Otherwise, I 100% recommend this book for those looking for a fun, funny, witty, snarky, brand infested space adventure of epic proportions.

Thanks for checking out my semifinalist review of Percival Gynt and the Conspiracy of Days by Drew Melbourne! An e-copy was provided for judging purposes although I read it through Kindle Unlimited. As always, all opinions are my own 🚀

Science Fiction

SPSFC Semifinalist Review: The Peacemaker’s Code by Deepak Malhotra

As we read through the semifinalist round of the 2023 SPSFC, here is my second full review. If you haven’t been following along, I’m a member of team At Boundary’s Edge and have been posting my individual reviews and scores. These opinions are mine alone and don’t reflect those of the team nor anyone else in the competition. Anyway, let’s look at the book and then you can see my 2nd review out of six to come before the end of April!

  • Title: The Peacemaker’s Code
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Deepak Malhotra
  • Publisher & Release: Self, 2021
  • Length: 500 pages
  • SPSFC score: 7/10

Professor Kilmer, a renowned historian of war and diplomacy, is collected from his home and whisked off to Washington. Thrust into the highest levels of government as an adviser to the President, the young historian must come to terms with the seemingly impossible, figure out how to navigate a world where not everything is as it appears, and use all the skills and knowledge he has acquired in his life to help save humanity from a conflict of truly epic proportions. A genre-breaking novel that re-examines the human condition and masterfully blends some of the most compelling themes in literature: war & peace, strategy & serendipity, love & friendship, courage & fear, the bounds of possibility, and the limits of imagination. Replete with mysteries that will compel you to keep turning the pages, powerful moments that will stop you dead in your tracks, and insights that will change the way you understand and navigate the world. Most of all… a journey you will not forget.

My thoughts:

My goodness this is a tricky batch of books so far. The first book was exciting but horrendously edited and presented, while The Peacemaker’s Code had my brain in a fog but is meticulously edited and well presented.

This is another surprisingly soft sci-fi. First contact will always be considered a dear part of the genre but I don’t think I’ve ever read a first contact book where the aliens remain an on page idea rather than an entity we don’t actually “meet”.

Hear me out here, spaceships appear and we see the aliens talking, but in 500 pages no character actually meets an alien. they took nearly 200 pages to land on Earth, and there was nothing but debate relating to the aliens leading up to that point.

So the crutch is this: it’s a book about negotiation, superimposed on a first contact setting. I was dying waiting to meet the aliens while the characters just debated and debated various facets that didn’t have any context yet since first contact (other than with radio relays)  hadn’t occured. How much of this can we read before we just meet an alien? Well… 500 pages worth.  Personally I tuned out irrevocably but I’m still giving credit where it’s due, despite that there’s hardly any action. Even when the world is being attacked we get the view from the Situation Room.

That said though, he didn’t set out to write an action thriller so I can’t treat it as something it’s not supposed to be.

So… You gave it a 7? Yes! That all said, I liked Kilmer and Silla and a few of the other characters. I’m not going to fault the author who is a professor at Harvard for writing something his colleagues would love.  There are plenty of interesting ideas buried in the historical comparisons and there’s actually something to say for a book about first contact that keeps the aliens more or less an on page idea only.

What do they want? Why are they here? How do we communicate? Can we save the planet? All the big sci-fi ideas are here somewhere, just not in typical form.

Personally I’m here for more sci-fi, actual aliens, & action, with much less chatter when things are getting heated.  Realistically, I can acknowledge that the MC is a dude I’d love to get a coffee with and let him make me feel like a total idiot while discussing nerdy things.

My favorite idea in the whole book, despite not being a fan of romantic notions in sci-fi, was this feeling of an “us” despite all memories being cleaned out and a situation that repeated itself anyway.

I’m coming in at a 7/10 here, which is about the best score I’ve given in the competition so far. This book is far above average in the self published world but I have to take into consideration that it completely beat my attention span. Sorry professor 😅

Thanks for checking out my semifinalist review of The Peacemaker’s Code by Deepak Malhotra! An e-copy was provided for judging purposes although I read it through Kindle Unlimited. As always, all opinions are my own 🚀

You can find all the competition updates at 

Science Fiction

SPSFC Semifinalist Review: Heritage by S.M. Warlow

Well well, here we are in the semifinalist round! If you haven’t been following along, I’m a member of team At Boundary’s Edge and like to post my individual reviews.  My opinions are mine alone and don’t reflect those of the team nor anyone else.  Anyway, let’s look at the book then you can see my first review out of six to come before the end of April!

Bookish quick facts:
  • Title: Heritage
  • Series: Tales of the Phoenix Titan, #1
  • Author: S.M. Warlow
  • Publisher & Release: Self, 2022
  • Length: 622 pages
  • SPSFC score: 5/10
Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:

Heritage is the debut novel from S.M. Warlow and the first instalment of the Tales of the Phoenix Titan series. This space opera is perfect for fans of Firefly, the Expanse, Star Wars and Mass Effect.

Make them proud, son of Earth.

25 years after the fall of Earth, the Commonwealth is locked in a vicious, galaxy-spanning war against the Revenant. Countless worlds have been lost in the fighting, and now one crew must come together and stand in the way of galactic annihilation.

Nathan Carter is an efficient criminal, but when he’s hired to steal supplies from a Commonwealth warship, what starts as an easy job soon transforms into something that could change the course of history. Now, Nathan must work with a group of unlikely allies to protect a woman whose heritage is the key to everything.

My thoughts:

One sentence TLDR: this is a good space opera adventure with plenty of action that had an unfortunately rough editing & presentation.  

The thing with Heritage is that while I genuinely enjoyed the plot, this is a 622 page long book that is absolutely riddled with presentation issues. There are punctuation typos involving commas, colons, and semicolons on every single page. The book repeats itself constantly and the character names keep changing spelling.


My last gripe is that the text changed sizes inconsistently to emphasize inner monologue, epigraphs, and anything else the author thought should stand out. Anything structurally, I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt to my EPub reader.

So now let’s pretend that all didn’t happen and talk about the story itself.

The plot is interesting.  We get to see a crew come together and meet quite a few different species of intelligent life.  Everything from cats that can operate sniper rifles with giant paws (what?) to doglike creatures, human types, droids, and many others.  The book certainly isn’t hurting for alien diversity. Between the ships and weapons and history there is a lot of good sci-fi material in there too.

There are many different plot lines to keep things moving.  Some are political and hint at conspiracy.  Others involve drawing moral similarities between different warring factions.  We are tracking down alien artifacts, building a crew, fighting bad guys, pulling off heists; there’s a lot going on.

(That’s a semicolon, in this case used like a super comma to designate a similar main clause that needs more separation than another comma could indicate).

There were a ton of characters too.  I wasn’t believing the romantic aspects but other than that, I liked the crew.  They worked together well despite being from different backgrounds and formed a fairly interesting dynamic.

My last main point is about the quasi cliffhanger. I’d love to read the next book to find out what happens, but I’m not a big enough fan of cliffhangers to read forward unless some form of editing is going to be involved.  I’d like a little more closure from Vol, Russell, and Gordon for where they are going next.  Also I really don’t think Jack’s storyline got enough closure for the amount of time we spent repeatedly hearing about it.

Would recommend for space opera fans that can take the editing

Thanks for checking out my SPSFC book review of Heritage by S.M. Warlow.  I was provided an e-copy for judging purposes and as always, all opinions are my own. Stay tuned for more team reviews!