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SciFi / Fantasy / Horror

  • Finalist

    A) The Vanirim (Midgard Cycle Volume 1)

    by TJ Slee

    Rating: 10.00

    This superb novel has it all -- a gripping and twisty plot, well-developed characters, and excellent writing. The story centers on Tully McIntyre, a “sanctioned” 19-year-old who is accused of killing a Vanir, one of the superior beings who rule Earth. The author skillfully keeps the reader guessing as to Tully’s guilt or innocence, all the while creating a complex new world with its own set of laws and systems of justice. Characterization is strong, the story progression logical and original, and while the ending clearly indicates a new installment is to follow, the book stands alone and is complete. Extremely well done.

  • Semi Finalist

    Catalyst: Decay Chains (Volume 1)

    by Kate Wars

    Rating: 10.00

    This brilliantly-written book is a page turner from the get-go. The story centers on Stormy, whose boyfriend, Matt, is extremely sick. After she insists he go to the hospital, she ends up entangled in a terrorist plot that releases a virus throughout the building and kills most of the people inside. The virus also has a strange effect on the dead; it reanimates them as zombie-like creatures called “supers” that aggressively pursue the few surviving humans. The author does a superb writing job throughout, but the action scenes in particular are very gripping. The story unfolds at a quick pace, and the reader is sucked in from beginning to end, feeling Stormy’s fear and the adrenaline that keeps her going. Character development, even of minor players, is strong. Overall, a top-notch book by a gifted writer.

  • Semi Finalist

    Calling Tower

    by Josh Leone

    Rating: 8.75

    A rollicking space adventure set in a complex universe in the grip an expanding humanity asserting its will over other species and civilizations, Calling Tower weaves together a complex plot as a band of unlikely companions fights to prevent a zealous potentate from killing billions in his lust for power. With intergalactic rogues, imposing imperialistic forces, killers and madmen, revenge and conspiracy, aliens, swashbuckling battles, and enough technical details to satisfy even the hardest of sci-fi fans, Leone's space saga is sure to please readers of every ilk.

  • Semi Finalist

    Casimir Bridge

    by Darren Beyer

    Rating: 8.00

    In a near-future of corporate space exploration/exploitation, AIC corporation controls a source of hyperium, an element necessary for the development of space technologies. But someone is destroying AIC’s ships, and the company sends the Dauntless to investigate. Beyer's novel is a jargon-heavy, hard-science story that delights in explaining process as much as The Martian -- but this is nevertheless a fun ride, with compelling characters and an ending that invites a sequel.

  • Semi Finalist

    The Good Man

    by Gwen Ryan

    Rating: 8.00

    After genius scientist Malcolm Enright injects Special Agent Oliver Carson with a drug that genetically connects him to Enright’s dog, Carson learns that he must find Enright’s former wife to protect her from Ajax, a chimp she had raised but that has turned violent. The characters here are well developed with distinct personalities. Although there is some telling instead of showing, the plot is fast paced and intriguing. The dialogue is believable for some of the characters, but others sound too similar, making them almost indistinguishable.

  • Quarter Finalist

    Stealing the Sun

    by Kyri Freeman

    Rating: 9.00

    In Stealing the Sun, Freeman opens a planned high fantasy trilogy with mettle and vigor. Set in a hardscrabble country where the human populace is besieged an encroaching race of agricultural wights and impending war with an ominous, supernatural Invader, the novel weaves a satisfying plot of political intrigue as warring families squabble over the future of their nation. Punctuated with bursts of violence and epic battles, Freeman's tale explores complicated themes of xenophobia and loyalty, while planting the seed of a sprawling saga that will leave readers eager for the next installment.

  • Quarter Finalist

    Crossing in Time (Between Two Evils #1)

    by D.L. Orton

    Rating: 9.00

    Isabel Sanborn travels across time to help save mankind from a deadly virus and find her true love, Diego Nadales. With the possibility of dying, she must give her true love up to her younger self. Alternating perspectives between three characters, this tricky, time travel plot is successfully executed and will leave readers wanting more. The author has woven together facets of science fiction in a dystopian setting with vivid imagery.

  • Quarter Finalist

    On the Verge

    by Garen Glazier

    Rating: 8.75

    In this nimbly executed dark fantasy Freya, an art history major living in Seattle, enlists the help of supernatural beings from an otherworldly realm known as the Verge to stop her art-collector employer from channeling its powers to serve her sinister schemes. The sinewy plot, which sends Freya on a quest to retrieve three paints with magical properties, provides a solid matrix for imaginative insights into the relationship between art, creativity, and myth that hold the tale together. Although the storytelling is schematic in places, the characters are solidly developed—especially Freya’s wary allies, the incubus Dakryma and the succubus Ophidia—and the tale’s events are well paced for a satisfying, if slightly predictable, outcome.

     

  • Quarter Finalist

    Raven's Peak

    by Lincoln Cole

    Rating: 8.50

    In Cole’s briskly paced supernatural thriller, Abigail Dressler is on assignment in Arizona when she ends up saving Haatim Arison’s life and circumstances force her to take him with her to Raven’s Peak where a darker evil awaits. The novel juggles multiple plot threads with ease. Both Abigail and Haatim are well developed with strong voices—even Arthur, who appears in the prologue stands out. As the book heads towards it’s rousing conclusion, readers will be left wanting more.

  • Quarter Finalist

    In this intriguing novel set in Colorado, newly graduated environmental scientist Riley Dale is shocked to discover that the voices and visions that have plagued her since childhood are intimations of a parallel universe populated by Demies: counterparts who are twins in looks but opposites in temperament and personality that represent our divided souls. After a somewhat leisurely start, the novel picks up steam. The author’s writing is crisp and engaging, and the story disappoints only insofar as, being the first book in a projected trilogy, it leaves subplots introduced early unresolved by the end.

  • Quarter Finalist

    American Siddhi

    by Curtis Mitchell

    Rating: 8.25

    Steeped in mysticism and metaphysics, Curtis Mitchell's American Siddhi evokes storytellers like Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft at their most high-concept. Through a series of transcribed interviews, a sometimes-sailor named Quinn recounts the supernatural psychic phenomena he is attuned to and his struggles against a secret society out to transform the world. Fueled by visions, Quinn strives to quash a prophecy and preserve mankind's freedom. Briskly-paced and thoroughly researched, Mitchell succeeds where many of his contemporaries fall short: he has crafted a taut supernatural thriller based in real mysticism and philosophy that never feels preachy or gives way to the unnecessary sermons of an autodidact.

  • Quarter Finalist

    Dragon of Ash & Stars: A Novel

    by H. Leighton Dickson

    Rating: 8.00

    In Dickson’s highly imaginative fantasy novel, readers are treated to the memoir of the dragon Stormfall, who describes his life from beginning to near the end. From the start, reading Stormfall’s story is like listening to a dear friend describe his fascinating life story. At times quiet and thoughtful, and at other times a gripping page turner, this novel is always well-crafted.

     

  • Quarter Finalist

    Fault/lines

    by Mark Lingane

    Rating: 8.00

    Detective Chief Inspector Tracy Hanson’s investigation of a mysterious plane crash puts her in the crosshairs of enemies who have seemingly impossible control over the laws of science and know her next moves before she does. Lingane’s hard science fiction thriller also keeps the readers guessing by staying one step ahead of the expected, and builds an increasingly fast pace driven by likable and tenacious characters who refuse to accept the doom that seems to be descending over the world. Half nail-biter, half classic invasion tale, this series opener promises great things.

  • Quarter Finalist

    Sucker

    by Mark Lingane

    Rating: 8.00

    Lingane provides a jewel of a work as sultry client Mina Carmilla pits jaded gumshoe Van H. Avram against vampires determined to finish off humanity by attacking women.  The dialogue and atmosphere of social decay brilliantly evoke Raymond Chandler, while the allurements of available women recall Mickey Spillane.  Although the second half is slower-paced,  the omnipresent wit and pulpish tone provide the whodunnit genre fan familiar delights.  The ending departs strangely from the detective motif, but Lingane's quirky atmosphere and vividly drawn main character will engage even the casual reader.

  • The Private Sector

    by Leigh M. Lane

    Rating: 7.75

    Lane provides an engrossing view of a dystopian American future where the privatization of public services erodes living standards. John and Dianne Irwin, committed to maintaining personal integrity and raising son Junior amid social decay, find foils in Dianne's degraded serum-addicted sister Jenny and wealthy mother Emma's fatuous life. Despite the sometimes too-obvious satirical asides, the ambiguous ending gives this compelling and timely narrative a substantial impact, while the differing perspectives of minor characters and questions of how best to reform society add complexity to the story framework and give the reader much to ponder.

  • Into the Darkness

    by A.M. Rycroft

    Rating: 7.75

    A trio of intrepid adventurers—sell-sword Aeryn Ravane, orphaned waif Theon and the ghost of legendary warrior Tynan Selvantyr—armed with the magic sword Aric, band together to defeat the evil Harbinger in this rousing sword-and-sorcery extravaganza. The novel is plotted well with a complex back-story that emerges gradually. The book's characters are well developed with nuanced personalities and motives, and Aeryn and Theo are a well-matched pair of stalwart women who can hold their own with the stereotypical male heroes who tend to dominate this type of fiction.

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