Each of the 10 teams judging the Self Published Science Fiction Competition (SPSFC) chooses three books from their allotments to be semifinalists.
After two months of reading, the ScienceFiction.news team has selected these three books as tribute. They will be sent to the Capitol, where they will engage in ferocious battle against the 27 books chosen by other teams until only one book remains standing.
Even a young adult book can be sent into battle in the SPSFC Games.
Dim Stars: A Novel of Outer-Space Shenanigans by Brian P. Rubin.
This space opera novel's a bit lighter in tone than most entered in the contest, but it's a witty and engaging tale about a 14-year-old girl genius who learns why people always say to never meet your heroes. Hers is Captain Dash Drake, who saved the entire galaxy but ended up helming a tramp freighter broke and bitter.
In his review, judge Joshua Scott Edwards praised the novel's humor: "Dim Stars is story with unique and imaginative worldbuilding, showcasing a range of interesting non-human characters, such as a talking octopus, people made of rocks who puke gravel, and let's not forget, Frawgs. Not frogs. Frawgs. But yes, they're frog-humanoids. One of the standout elements of the book is the humor, which while subjective, always worked for me. The author even managed to make chapter titles funny. Multiple times. Let that sink in."
The Peacemaker's Code by Deepak Malhotra.
This science fiction novel feels like a fast-paced political thriller you find on the train, start reading and become so engrossed you completely miss your stop in Cos Cob and end up in Stamford.
The protagonist Kilmer is awakened by government agents in the middle of the night and whisked to Washington, where he is shown the top leaders in government discussing how to deal with a situation that humankind has never faced -- first contact with hostile extra-terrestrials.
Kilmer's a historian renowned for negotiating peace. Edwards offered high praise for Malhotra's storytelling: "It's a masterclass of surprising plotting and ratcheting up the tension until the whole thing feels like it's going to burst apart at the seams. The stakes just keep getting higher, and problems are always solved in brilliant but historically grounded ways. ... I really think this is a book that everyone should read, regardless of if you're a fan of science fiction. It's just that good."
The Last Gifts of the Universe by Rory August.
This is a space exploration novel in which space feels exceptionally enormous. Lonely space archivists jump from one extinct galactic civilization to the next, looking for some kind of data that will explain why their civilization is the only one that remains.
The Home worlds archivist Scout finds an ancient message left by the long-dead Blyreena, a leader who was the last of her people.
After wondering whether it would suit his tastes, Edwards was surprised when the novel gave him all the feels: "Despite being led by the early chapters to believe this would be a well-written but fairly light adventure, this story features some particularly poignant writing, including one moment that just ... emotionally destroyed me. Seriously, no exaggeration, I was ugly-crying during one chapter. Any story that can pull that off gets an immediate recommendation from me."
Congratulations to these books and to the other four that made up our quarterfinalists. The scoring was extremely close.
Happy Semifinals! And may the odds be ever in your favor.
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