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SciFi / Fantasy / Horror

  • Pneumanauts

    by Cameron Armstrong

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot: Armstrong sets up an intriguing premise that probes big philosophical questions about belief and humanity’s place in the universe.

    Prose: Snappy dialogue, evocative descriptions, and high stakes suspense scenes will keep readers’ interests piqued.

    Originality: Armstrong breathes new life into the science fiction genre by uncovering and exploring existential dilemmas, something that good sci-fi ought to do.

    Character/Execution: Armstrong’s sharp characterization and a realistic depiction of the period will draw in even the most seasoned readers.

     

  • The Teeth in the Tide

    by Rebecca F. Kenney

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot: Kenney offers an adventurous, touching, and emotionally complex narrative replete with vivid characters and succulent prose, for an engaging ride that readers will find hard to put down.

    Prose/Style: Kenney brings the world and characters of The Teeth in the Tide to roaring life with a colorful, evocative prose that binds the reader to each and every page with all the beauty and charm of the oceans themselves.

    Originality: The Teeth in the Tide reinvigorates and re-contextualizes mermaids in a poignantly topical and terribly entertaining tale of adventure and intrigue.

    Character Development/Execution: The cast crashes upon the breakers of readership fully-formed and vivid with life, and an emotional complexity that is sometimes rare in the genre.

  • Homindroid: Marzian's Martians

    by Robert Erickson

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot: The author has created a strikingly well-realized setting for his characters to inhabit. The storyline is intricate yet still easy to follow and holds the reader's interest throughout. A lively, inventive premise and a distinctive universe result in an engaging and often memorable reading experience.

    Prose/Style: While the plot is solid, the prose here would benefit from some work, particularly in terms of dialogue, which can be stilted, robotic, and overly formal, even in exchanges between characters who are intimately connected.

    Originality: The author has crafted a unique universe and storyline, with original characters readers will find nowhere else. The creativity that has gone into developing this setting is beyond impressive.

    Character Development/Execution: Because of the language challenges and sometimes stilted dialogue, character development is challenging. Dr. Marzian is the most fleshed out in this work, but other minor characters are less finely explored and harder to pinpoint.

  • The Highwayman

    by Shannon Kelley

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot: The plotting here is strong, interweaving two plot lines separated by a few hundred years and centered around a spooky old building and a mysterious book. The story is well-paced and culminates in a satisfying ending.

    Prose/Style: The book’s prose is clear and reads well. The dialogue effectively conveys characterizations and fits the time periods aptly.

    Originality: The story appears original and unique. The book uses Gothic motifs and careful plotting to efficiently tell an atmospheric and haunting story.

    Character Development/Execution: The character relationships, in both time periods, propel the mood and plots of the book. The characters in parallel narratives are appropriately disambiguated. The family stories serving as the book’s backbone are full of heart.

  • The Dragon's Zenith

    by Jason F Boggs

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot: Boggs’s intergalactic drama broaches some new ground with a unique settings and alien societies.

    Prose/Style: Boggs’s prose is energetic and engaging. Snappy dialogue complements the emotional intensity of the story.

    Originality: Complex extraterrestrial societies and a strong internal metaphor for colonial expansion will resonate with modern readers.

    Character Development/Execution: Nelson and Alene are delightful protagonists, their blossoming love affairs equally humorous and touching. Unfortunately, consistent grammatical and punctuation errors scattered throughout the novel pull the reader out of the story at times.

    Blurb: This soaring space opera closes the Dragon Trilogy. Reluctant hero Nelson and his alien girlfriend Alene go up against the wicked Ira Bilis, set to light the galaxy aflame, ushering in a new dystopian era. 

  • The Eyes of Tamburah

    by Maria V. Snyder

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot: Snyder’s novel is a quickly-paced whirlwind of intrigue and adventure with characters in a mad dash to unravel the mysteries of the past for their own designs. Despite the machinations of many opposing players, The Eyes of Tamburah remains seamlessly plotted.

    Prose/Style: Snyder’s prose is direct and clear, serving the story well. It is its dialogue, however, which shines the brightest, with each character’s voice wholly unique even amid the myriad of inscrutable players vying for control.

    Originality: The Eyes of Tamburah is an engrossing tale that perfectly balances suspense and adventure in a well-realized, nigh-inhabitable fantasy world that speaks to discrimination and unbalanced power. Readers will find a captivating combination of political intrigue, religious furor, Indiana Jones-esque archaeological adventuring, secret organizations, and lost magic which may or may not have ever existed at all.

    Character Development/Execution: Despite a myriad of enigmatic players in a long-game for power and control for the city of Zirdai, characters’ motivations and clandestine operations never feel convoluted or forced. Readers will quickly fall for the protagonist, researcher Shyla, who slowly realizes her strengths and faults, rising to the challenges set before her despite overwhelming circumstances.

    Blurb: A whirlwind fantasy adventure filled with intrigue and suspense that will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the very last page and scrambling for the next book in the series.

  • Empire Reborn (Taran Empire Saga Book 1)

    by A.K. DuBoff

    Rating: 8.00

    Plot: DuBoff has woven together a complex, high stakes plot that will be sure to keep even the most seasoned science fiction reader engaged.

    Prose/Style: DuBoff writes with nuance and an eye for action and intricate detail. However, she does not obfuscate the complexities of the galactic Empire with unnecessary points; her writing remains clear and accessible.

    Originality: This tangled web of intergalactic politicking and adventurous space travel will appeal to fans of space operas like Star Wars and Star Trek.

    Character Development/Execution: Boff’s nuanced portrait of Jason will resonate with readers. Her atmospheric, detailed writing will pull readers into the heart of her story and keep them intrigued for the sequel.

    Blurb: Author A.K. DuBoff blends a coming-of-age story with intergalactic battles for a compelling new science fiction series.

  • Electric Trees

    by Melissa Bobe

    Rating: 8.00

    Plot: Bobe delivers a series of endlessly engaging tales of mystery and humanity centered in fantastical scenarios, each voraciously readable and wonderfully conceptualized.

    Prose: Confident prose and a strong voice leads the charge in Bobe's myriad collection of short stories, sure to hook the reader with verve.

    Originality: Even when playing with familiar concepts, Bobe succeeds in weaving a powerful mystery throughout her tales that imbue the material with an enduring vivacity.

    Character/Execution: Bobe's characters jump to life in short order, each selected with care to lead their individual story, and with enough space left between for the reader to inhabit all their own.

     

  • Bleed More, Bodymore

    by Ian Kirkpatrick

    Rating: 8.00

    Prose/Style: The first-person storytelling from protagonist Joey’s point of view sets readers perfectly in the action and the main character’s thoughts. A perfect balance between action and descriptive prose is achieved.

    Originality: The combination of a typical murder mystery with the otherworldly aspects of the afterlife make for a fascinating, wonderful tale readers of both mystery and fantasy genres will enjoy.

    Character Development/Execution: Joey’s equal parts passion, recklessness, and loyalty to her friends — even when they seem to be murderers — make for an interesting character who feels a little larger than life but never unbelievable. Secondary characters bolster the story successfully.

     Blurb: Mystery, fantasy, and contemporary Baltimore combine in this genre-blurring novel that will have readers hooked until the last page.

  • Running Behind Time

    by Jan Turk Petrie

    Rating: 8.00

    Plot: A clever time-travel narrative, the plot – and characters – shift between 2020 and 1982, while the book alternates between perspectives of two protagonists. The book’s central love story is woven into a sci-fi thriller in settings contrasted by the pandemic.

    Prose/Style: The prose moves quickly and is well-crafted, with some strong descriptive writing supporting the exposition. The clarity of the writing helps the reader keep track of a given chapter’s place in time, a common challenge with books in this subgenre.

    Originality: The plot utilizes many time-travel tropes but feels fresh rather than derivative. The characters are unique and well-constructed.

    Character Development/Execution: The two protagonists are multi-dimensional and interesting. Both are attached to the time period from which they originate, and their individual worries and motivations feel natural and solidly developed. Their relationship is one readers can easily root for.

  • Escaping Mercy

    by Sam Polakoff

    Rating: 8.00

    Plot: The plot flows chronologically and moves at a consistent pace. The conflict is established clearly and provides a satisfying immediacy and tension to the narrative. The ending presents resolution to the story while leaving room for further stories set in this world without overtly teasing such or leaving the reader on a cliffhanger.

    Prose: The writing is clean and the dialogue snappy. The characters are effectively rendered, and their individual motivations propel the narrative.

    Originality: The future the narrative presents is thoroughly depicted and will intrigue readers. The book effectively interpolates contemporary issues we face (global health, overpopulation, authoritarianism and technocracies, climate change) thoughtfully forward to a sci-fi future.

    Character/Execution: The characters’ individual motivations and personalities are crafted with care and effectively dimensional and dynamic. The complexity of character development helps propel the plot beyond your standard save-the-dystopian-world pattern.

     

  • Nemecene: Ripples in the Triverse

    by Kaz Lefave

    Rating: 8.00

    Plot: Though readers would be well-advised to acquaint themselves with the Nemecene universe prior, once familiarized they'll find an energetic and compelling storyline. Lefave’s meticulously detailed dystopian future and labyrinthine plot will challenge readers’ perceptions. 

    Prose/Style: Weaving between otherworldly third person, first person epistolary, and true first person, the varied narration style captures the spirit of the protagonists and gravity of the dangers they face. A commitment to vivid, visual prose reminds the reader to savor the fast-paced novel.

    Originality: While the twins' familial storyline isn't necessarily unique, Lefave's Nemecene universe is rare and remarkable. The innumerable chimeric creatures she’s created are worthy of praise in their own right.

    Character Development/Execution: Readers will get to know Elize and Keeto intimately as Lefave captures their adolescent musings and personal idiosyncrasies. Jumps back in time, though sometimes abrupt, serve to deepen the reader's understanding of the twins and their family history.

    Blurb: Set in an eerily probable post-apocalyptic future, Nemecene: Ripples in the Triverse is vividly detailed and imaginatively written. Lefave does justice to her twin protagonists, Elize and Keeto, by voicing them with unique narrative styles and liberally dotting the timeline with illuminating moments from their past. 

  • Memory Reborn

    by Steven M Nedeau

    Rating: 7.75

    Plot: The techno-futurist novel is paced and plotted well and features a fine balance of thrills and thematics, with a clever ending that opens itself to interpretation.

    Prose: While there is little in the syntax and prose that will truly wow readers, its consistency in voice and clarity allows for the characters and story to shine through.

    Originality: The cyberpunk conceit--clones being raised for memory transfers to effectively allow the powerful to live indefinitely, technocratic rule with corporations so powerful even the CEOs are indentured--will be familiar and welcome to readers, while the specifics of the story remain new and fresh.

    Character/Execution: The characters are a strength of the book, and the reader will find it hard not to root for them. Time is taken to develop characters and establish their motivations, while engaging complications are effectively folded into the plot and conflict .

  • Nascent Witch

    by Melissa Bobe

    Rating: 7.75

    Plot: With an initially brisk pace that settles into a steady simmer, author Melissa Bobe takes a cauldron of familiarity and nonetheless brews it into something undeniably engaging and entertaining that is sure to keep readers turning the page.

    Prose/Style: The accessible, organic prose of Nascent Witch acts as a foundational soil, channeling an ability to bring the magic of its scenarios and scenes to life with dazzling bursts of colorful descriptors that feel natural amidst the more earthen language.

    Originality: Though offering up several intriguing explorations and deviations, Nascent Witch may ultimately feel familiar to readers who are well-versed in the genre circles it hones its magic in.

    Character Development/Execution: While the characters of Nascent Witch aren't necessarily fresh windows through which to view the genre, they are nonetheless crafted with care, with kinetic interactions and well-thought-out dialogue that both fit the niche as well as imbue them with an inescapable, organic sense of charm and personality.

  • Horde

    by Bryan Cassiday

    Rating: 7.75

    Plot: The author is a capable storyteller, offering a solid balance of dialogue, action, and description throughout the narrative. The plot engages from the beginning and holds the reader's interest until the last page.

    Prose/Style: The author is a skilled writer but sometimes reverts to awkward colloquialisms. His command of dialogue is particularly strong, serving not only as a plot device but also as insightful clues as to a character's personality and moral compass.

    Originality: While the characters and their experiences are unique, the basic premise this world is built upon may strike readers as overly familiar.

    Character Development/Execution: The author effectively develops his characters through detail, nuance, and striking dialogue. 

  • Effacement

    by Hieronymus Hawkes

    Rating: 7.75

    Plot: Effacement is a fast-paced sci-fi thriller that flawlessly infuses complicated character relationships into a futuristic world grappling with rapidly growing technologies that threaten to drag society down the path of a cyberpunk-like surveillance state.

    Prose: Hawkes’s prose is engaging, with character’s voices perfectly encapsulating them. The third-person viewpoint deftly switches between characters at pivotal moments, allowing insight into motives readers wouldn’t otherwise have been privy to.

    Originality:  The author is skilled at worldbuilding. Readers will be easily drawn into this sci-fi thriller chock-full of devious plots, unknown assassins, and increasingly dangerous and invasive technology.

    Character/Execution: Characters in Hieronymus Hawkes’s Effacement are memorable and intriguing. Workaholic protagonist Cole Westbay is both likeable and complex, as he grapples with personal issues that quickly belie a much more sinister, wide-reaching plot. Meanwhile, antagonist Phillip Chestnut proves to be a classic villain.

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