Within each of the judging teams for SPSFC there are roughly (30) books randomly assigned as their “slush pile” and this makes up each teams allocation. At Team Escapist, after some moving around, we ended up with 28 books as our official allocation. We then split up each book so that every book in our allocation was read by at least two people. We aim to read at least 10-20% of each book we’re individually assigned (although most of us will be reading more, if not all of it) and decide whether it’s one to move forward for the rest of our team to read or not. Personally speaking, we have a fantastic batch and I think it will make for a very exciting, yet difficult process. I am already dreading the idea of making those tough decisions because my personal batch feels amazing.
I do want to mention that within Team Escapist, each member chose the books that they wanted to read based on personal preferences. As a new judge this year, I didn’t follow the competition too closely last year. I did ask my team lead to keep it secret what books from our allocation were re-submissions because I’d like to approach each book not knowing. Please know that if your book isn’t listed in my batch, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t want to read it. I wish I could read all of them right away because each one had something that drew me in but we tried to keep it even. When a book already had two members indicate that they wanted to read it, I did look for another. If your book isn’t listed in my batch, it means that it is with two other judges from our team.
Below are the books that I have been assigned and my initial impressions before opening the book. Just a little edit… between typing this up and posting it, I have started making my way through my batch. I will be working on my next update very soon. As with all judging at this stage, these impressions only represent my own personal opinion. Each of these books have also been assigned to a fellow team member. Whether a book gets through to the next stage is a team decision. With that said, I personally have a very hard time not seeing a book through to the end, so I will be completing all of these books in my batch and posting reviews on here, Amazon, and Goodreads. Visit SPSFC for additional information on the competition, find all of the books entered, and the other teams that are judging.
Here we go —
Clicking on the photo for each book will link you to SPSFC where you will find all of the information on the book.
Aerovoyant by P. L. Tavormina
On planet Turaset, droughts ravage farmlands, cyclones rip through coastal cities, and with every barrel of oil the combustion industry pumps from the ground, the climate worsens. Alphonse has just refused a council seat because taking it means serving that rapacious industry. He leaves the city to seek solace in the wilderness, and there, a power to live the past awakens within him. Alphonse walks the steps of his distant ancestors on long-dead Earth, soon growing plagued with memories of its collapse, and he’s left with a troubling certainty: He must infiltrate the combustion industry to secure proof of its treachery, or Turaset will be next to fall.
Alphonse finds an ally in Myrta, a farmgirl who sees air, every molecule in every pulse of breath or blast of exhaust. With her talent, she can evade the patrols on the industry’s grounds. Together, Alphonse and Myrta can prove the industry lies about emissions. They can convince the councils to shut down fossil fuel use permanently.
But people in the industry have grown wise to Myrta’s power—and now she’s marked for death.
Initial Impressions: I was thrilled when Team Escapist was randomly allocated one of the two books in the entire competition that fell under the Climate subgenre. I was immediately drawn to Aerovoyant‘s cover and it was the first book that I chose to add to my assigned group. I am quite excited to get started on this one because I love dying earth and space exploration type stories. I really like the cover’s visual representation for what seeing what it’s in the air may possibly look like.
Those Left Behind by N. C. Scrimgeour
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.
Her only hope lies with the secrets of the ancient alien waystations scattered across the galaxy. The mysterious technology could be the key to humanity’s survival—or bring unwanted attention from the long-forgotten beings who built them.
But remaining united in the face of annihilation is a lot to ask from a crew already splintering under the weight of their differences. A jaded pilot looks for a place he can start over. A young translator searches for meaning out in the galaxy’s lawless frontier. And Alvera reckons with the aftermath of betrayal as she fights for a way to save them all.
As they break apart to forge their own paths, Alvera and her crew all face the same question: what are they willing to sacrifice to save those left behind?
Initial Impressions: A First Contact Space Opera with ancient alien technology scattered throughout the galaxy? My first impression is that this book sounds like it was made for me. Look at the beautiful cover and all that it promises! As I said before, we have such an incredible batch and I couldn’t be happier. I love stories that focus on how far one is willing to go to achieve their goals and the boundaries they are wiling to cross to do so– and this story seems like it will walk along those lines.
A Dream of Waking Life by E. S. Fein
HOW FAR WOULD YOU GO TO UNDERSTAND THE NATURE OF YOUR EXISTENCE?
HOW MUCH WOULD YOU SACRIFICE FOR LOVE?
When Matthew Willish wakes up on a cold steel floor unsure of how he got there, he begins desperately searching for answers. What Matthew doesn’t realize, however, is that this is only the beginning of a journey that will ultimately send him searching other worlds for the answer to numerous profound questions, the most pressing being: is he living in reality or in a dream? Or is he just an insane man who desperately needs help?
A Dream of Waking Life is a philosophical and psychological thriller that tells the story of one man’s journey through space, time, and mind to not only discover his true identity but also the love of his life—a woman who keeps slipping through his fingers and into another reality. A thought-provoking meditation on the thin line between what is real and what is not, A Dream of Waking Life will leave readers questioning how far they would go to understand the nature of their own existence and how much they would sacrifice for love.
Initial Impressions: Is anyone noticing a theme with the books that I initially allocated to myself? They are all shades of blue and I love that the sub conscience part of my mind did this. For starters, I love the juxtaposition from the cover alone. There were (18) total books submitted under the sub genre of “Weird” and our team received two of them, with A Dream of Waking Life being one of them. For those who don’t know me, I devour all the weird stuff and seeing this categorized as such made me jump to add it as part of my batch. The synopsis alludes to some elements of a blurred reality and that excites me as a reader, and I am eager to see how it’s been executed.
Psycho Hose Beast From Outer Space by C.D. Gallant-King
Newfoundland, Canada, 1992.
Gale Harbour hasn’t seen any excitement since the military abandoned the base there thirty years ago, unless you count the Tuesday night 2-for-1 video rentals at Jerry’s Video Shack. So when a dead body turns up floating in the town water supply, all evidence seems to point to a boring accident.
Niall, Pius and Harper are dealing with pre-teen awkwardness in the last days of summer before the start of high school. The same night the body is found, the three of them witness unusual lights in the sky over the bay. Is it a coincidence? Are the lights connected to the rapidly-increasing string of mysterious deaths? And what does the creepy old lady at the nursing home have to do with it?
There is an evil older than time hidden deep beneath the waters of the North Atlantic. It is hungry, and vengeful, and it has its sights set on Gale Harbour to begin its path of destruction. All that stands in its way are a group of kids who would rather be playing Street Fighter II…
Initial Impressions: When we initially received our allocation, Psycho Hose Beast From Outer Space was a title that immediately stood out to me. From the synopsis, you can tell you’re in for a treat with the Horror Comedy vibes. The questions it posed has made me eager to read and I like that I already have a feel for Gale Harbour. First impressions have me thinking that this sounds like an incredibly fun read. I’m getting Stranger Things vibes.
Alien Advantage by Lorain O’Neil
Comfortable. Safe. Orderly.
That’s what Mark Hemmings happily thinks of his law student life until one balmy Florida night he foolishly runs out to gawk up at that light in the sky. Zap! Mark is kidnapped by space aliens.
When the aliens’ experiment on Mark teaches him a little too much, Mark is able to accidentally steal an alien ship and plunge back to Earth, only to land smack into the clutches of General Peerless and Dr. Montgomery, the warring co-directors of Little Island. Little Island, the U.S. government’s secret facility where the government “collects” abducted returnees. Being the only person who can –sort of– fly the spacecraft makes Mark just what the government is looking for, but an imprisoned life on Little Island isn’t exactly what Mark had in mind. Not that Mark’s feelings matter, because no one has ever escaped Little Island. But no one before’s ever arrived with his very own spaceship!
In his fight for free will, Mark, the Doctor, and the General, battle each other to triumph, the Doctor by clever manipulation, the General by crushing force, and Mark by his cunning, wits… and spaceship! A humorous story of chase and determination, and above all else, refusing to forget who you really are, despite the craftiest of temptations.
Initial Impressions: This feels like an overall fun adventure story that will have a lot of heart. I like the underlying theme of identity that is alluded to here. I am wondering how large of a role the aliens will play in the story as I am getting the initial impression that they may stay off page in the background.
Of Mycelium and Men by William C. Tracy
The generational fleet planned to make landfall after eighty years, but eleven planets and four centuries later, they still had not found a home. Finally, they landed on Lida, but something already lives there, and it’s big.
Agetha and her husband have spent their whole lives in the fleet’s zero-G. Now all is turmoil as the fleet lands, discovering they are surrounded by a single fungal biomass spanning the entire planet. To build a new home, the fleet must confront a dangerous organism, and Agetha must decide if she can raise a family in this inhospitable landscape.
Jane Brighton holds tenuous command over the colony and its administrators. She and the other gene-modded leaders emerged from their four-hundred-year suspended animation to find a crew much different to the one that departed Old Earth. Jane must direct the colony’s fragile growth, and defend it against being overrun by the fast-growing biomass.
But there is something none of the colonists know. The massive organism that spans the planet is not simply a fungal mass, nor even a chimerical combination of species that once roamed the planet. The biomass has desires and goals, and one is to know these strange beings carving out a home in its midst.
Initial Impressions: This has such a great cover and title. It’s another First Contact story that I’m excited for and I believe it’s my only book that is Hard SF, LGBTQIA+. I’ve read several fungal stories (horrors) in the past that have hallucinatory scenes, and I’m eager to see if there are any here. I’m already getting the feeling that this book will pack a lot of emotion between the isolation and tension.
Transference by B.T. Keaton
Barrabas Madzimure is banished to the desert planet Eridania for his many crimes. Slaves to the Church and to the will of its prophet Jovian, a charismatic figurehead who rules everything on Earth, Madzimure and his cohorts toil underground digging endlessly for the substance eridanium—the source of Jovian’s alien power.
But Madzimure can no longer hide from his past. Facing execution he claims to have once been Thaniel Kilraven, transferred decades earlier into the body of Madzimure against his will. Under interrogation the stories of both men are brought to light, and the terrible fate of the lost Kilraven bloodline is revealed.
Madzimure escapes, knowing the only way to salvage what’s left of the Kilraven name and confront his destiny—and Jovian—is by facing them head on. But the horrific truths he finds on Earth might be the undoing of all mankind. What if everything humanity believed about civilization was a lie? Will anything or anyone be left from the fallout?
Initial Impressions: I’m obsessed with stories touching on themes of religion, and I’m sort of getting those vibes here but I will enter cautiously just in case I was off the mark. The concept of a human soul being transferred into another body upon death has me intrigued. A lost bloodline has created this exciting mystery to unravel before even opening the book. Madzimure has already piqued my interest and is a character that I am looking forward to meeting the most.