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SciFi / Fantasy / Horror

  • In the Shadow of the Luminaries

    by Kallen Samuels

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot/Idea: Generations after a gravity event reshuffled the face of the planet, conflict between new nations arises. An earthbounder raised by the Aerish sets out on an expedition across the gravity area known as the swath. The plot is linear, following Valtteri on his adventure to find his home and uncovering an inventive sci-fi world as he goes. The primary plot arc is Valterri’s journey and the book ends at a launching point to a continuing series with a larger political arc.

    Prose: The book features strong worldbuilding with detailed descriptive writing that depicts exciting and unnatural vistas and effectively illustrates the political structures of the setting. The point of view moves between a few characters but is largely tied to the protagonist. Dialogue reads natural and contributes to the efficacy of the world-building.

    Originality: The book is refreshingly inventive. The central conceit is unique and the plot and exposition effectively and inextricably tie to it in a manner that feels organic. This is an extraordinary work of science fiction worldbuilding.

    Character/Execution: The protagonist exists between two cultures in a radically changed Earth. The narration effectively aligns the reader with Valterri, enticing them to explore a mysterious world while following his journey. Side characters fit nicely within the world, any many are unique and interesting in their own right.

    Blurb: Inventive and exciting, this is an extraordinary work of science fiction worldbuilding. 

  • The Afterlife Project

    by Tim Weed

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot/Idea: With humanity on the verge of extinction, a team of scientists catapult microbiologist Nicholas Hindman into the Earth's future to search for human remains. Meanwhile, back in the past, Nicholas's teammates embark on their own perilous journey. Weed delivers a highly intriguing storyline pulled off through creative worldbuilding and plausible technology. 

    Prose: The writing readily pulls readers into the storytelling through in-scene development and journal entries. Powerful imagery and engaging stylistic choices add to the uniqueness of the story.

    Originality: With the proliferation of climate fiction, many stories fail to make their mark. Here, Weed crafts a tale that feels wholly original and movingly conveys the full weight of the circumstances while providing a riveting read in the process. 

    Character/Execution: Weed provides full humanity to the cast of characters from Nicholas and Natalie Quist to other members of the transatlantic crew.

  • Plot/Idea: The text brims with fantasy, including demon-like creatures, magic, and human protectors—though the introduction of those supernatural elements happens abruptly and without adequate buildup. The narrative is lengthy, but Harper keeps the plot moving quickly and skillfully balances character-driven moments with action.

    Prose: Harper writes with ease, crafting natural dialogue and intense battles between the story’s characters and otherworldly beings. 

    Originality: This is so much more than just an immersive fantasy: Harper treats neurodivergence with sensitivity while bringing it gently to the forefront of many interactions between the characters, making this novel strikingly original.

    Character/Execution: The characters are solid and likable, particularly Matthew, who plays a steady, engaging role throughout. Emmeline, initially fearful that she has no deeper purpose in her life, blossoms into her own once her secret powers are discovered, gifting her a tailored way to help humankind

  • The Path to Vihaan (Man of the Mountain Book 1)

    by Daniel J. Lyons

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot/Idea: The Path to Vihaan is a slowly-paced tale following the life of the elf Vihaan as he explores his identity and learns long-held secrets about his world that could change absolutely everything.

    Prose: Lyrical prose paints a fascinating world while dialogue elevates the story, providing a wonderfully handled aspect of characterization. The narrative flows seamlessly through Vihaan’s childhood, teenage, and young adult years, never once falling into an awkward time jump.

    Originality: A fantasy adventure unfolds when the young Vihaan, already struggling with his parents accepting that he is a boy who simply happened to be born into a female body, finds himself accidentally bonded to an ancient, magical weapon of unparalleled power—a soul Hilt. Worldbuilding unfolds naturally, crafted through the Vihaan’s own discoveries and the memories of the ghost Theia.

    Character/Execution: Main character Vihaan is treated with immense love and care, his personal journey and character development propelling the story forward. Readers will find themselves quickly invested in Vihaan along with the more minor characters he meets, all of whom prove major influences on both the plot and Vihaan himself.

    Blurb: A wonderful, character-driven fantasy featuring a world with a deep history and wonderful worldbuilding along with a trans main character whose personal journey is the very soul of the narrative.

  • Bright Blue Planet

    by Kim Catanzarite

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot/Idea: In Catanzarite’s tightly written sci-fi story, Earth is struggling with a division between human inhabitants and the genetically engineered clones living alongside them. While all the power rests with the non-human Jovian royal family, the ones responsible for creating the clones, there’s cracks appearing in their relationships, and the upheaval on Earth may be just a hint of the trouble to come.

    Prose: The novel’s creative worldbuilding, in which clones—though technologically superior—are considered second-class citizens, is striking, and Catanzarite writes polished prose that makes this elaborate sci-fi easy to follow.

    Originality: Catanzarite laces the story’s intensity with character-driven moments that spark musings on the human side of AI, as well as elicit fears of their potential to take over, making this imaginative plot distinctly unique. 

    Character/Execution: The book’s characters are solid and relatable. There’s Evander, a Jovian-human hybrid who promised his mother he’d do his best to protect the human race, Fran, a human security leader who senses changes are afoot, and various members of the Jovian royal family, all of whom are forced to navigate the looming danger and unrest. The Jovians, for the most part, are calm and methodical, in a chilling way that skillfully highlights their detachment from humans, though the changes brewing for Earth and other planets foreshadow potentially devastating consequences for all involved.


  • Kill Your Darlings

    by L.E. Harper

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot/Idea: This engaging, riveting fantasy novel is not only about the power of storytelling, but it is also a moving allegory about the struggle of mental illness. When the novel switches between the “real” and “fantasy” worlds it is very compelling, but some transitions can be jarring.

    Prose: Harper is a very talented writer, and the prose is evocative and captivating. The dialogue is energetic and charming, and proves to be the greatest strengths of the novel.

    Originality: The plot is highly original, particularly in the manner that it takes established tropes and subverts them in clever, meaningful ways.

    Character/Execution: The narrator's emotional arc is the core of the novel, and it rightly takes center stage, which leads to some of the minor characters lacking in their own emotional arcs. Other than that, they are well drawn and fascinating.

    Originality: An author’s dreamworld quickly becomes a nightmare when she wakes up in a world of her own creation, distraught to find that not only are her characters real, but are in desperate need of saving.

  • Haunted Ground: The Ghosts of Laskin's Farm

    by Cailyn Lloyd

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot/Idea: The author is clearly a creative storyteller, able to craft a fast-paced, action-packed plot infused with supernatural elements. The story progresses quickly, keeping the reader on their toes and eager for the next development. 

    Prose: Lloyd possesses a rich command of language, and provides a steady stream of detail, action, and dialogue. 

    Originality: This is a unique and original work which offers an unusual but not unwelcome combination of thriller mixed with the supernatural. The author has created a truly memorable storyline with a striking setting and thoroughly unexpected details.

    Character/Execution: Lloyd does a fine job with characterization. Kat Lundquist is a winning protagonist--complex, flawed, and not easily rattled. Readers will root from her as she struggles to stay alive and beat the many forces (supernatural and otherwise) working against her. 

  • Plot/Idea: Division: The Chronicles of the Fallen States of America, set in the not-so-distant future, revolves around a world that has fallen apart and been pieced back together, brimming with fractious relationships and danger at every turn. Genetic mutations, power hungry rulers, and scarce resources abound. The plot moves quickly, and, despite the novel’s length, readers will stay engaged until the end. 

    Prose: The prose is supple and accomplished. Norris skillfully sets the stage for the story’s multilayered plot in a way that’s emphatic but gentle at the same time.

    Originality: Norris has crafted a fresh, imaginative world with a concrete set of rules and believable problems. There are some familiar elements, but Norris gives them new twists that make them feel original.

    Character/Execution: Characters run the gamut from the fantastical to the more conventional. The cast is immense, but Norris deftly balances central protagonists with secondary characters. Standouts include artist Astrid’s refusal to stop dreaming and her girlfriend Philippa, a weary, embattled soldier unsure of whether the cost is worth the fight. 

  • Farlands (The Antlands Series Book 3)

    by Genevieve Morrissey

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot/Idea: Fourteen-year-old Claire Dunn is on the run from a rough home life until she meets a woman who immediately takes her in. Claire’s cryptic dreams soon interfere, driving her to leave again and board a ship headed for Johns Island, where she hopes to find her father. But that plan, too, goes awry, leaving Claire virtually stranded. From there, the plot sends Claire on a rollercoaster adventure of self-discovery, where she must learn who to trust and uncover secrets about herself that even she doesn’t know exist. 

    Prose: Polished dialogue and smooth prose make this novel sparkle, and the story’s settings come to vivid life through the author’s skilled descriptions.

    Originality: Claire’s quirky character is what makes this novel unique, and her determination to achieve her goals is endearing—and admirable.

    Character/Execution: Claire is extremely likable, beset by external problems as much as she is troubled by her own bravado. Her encounters bring those characteristics to life, and readers will find her an entertaining lead. 

  • Critical Habitat

    by Terrence King

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot/Idea: While there are elements of Critical Habitat that may feel familiar to readers of dystopian and sci-fi fiction (the technology, plunder of the earth, class warfare, lack of resources, etc.), the novel is a complex, fast-paced, and moving story that readers will not want to put down.

    Prose: The prose is sharp and engaging; the author does a fantastic job providing background context about the world in which the characters live while also moving the plot along at a fact pace.

    Originality: Critical Habitat contains some of the plot points and tropes that are common within the genre (the inclusion of adolescent characters and the districts has traces of The Hunger Games, for instance), but these are framed in a way that is novel and compelling. The reader especially appreciates the juxtaposition of the Authority technology with the relative simplicity of the rebels' mission to save the bees. The characters, their actions, and motivations feature a lot of moral grey area, which provides intrigue and sophistication.

    Character/Execution: The characters in Critical Habitat are done to perfection. While there are certainly some -- like Speer -- who are purely self-motivated and evil, most of the characters are nuanced, complex, and -- frankly -- super interesting -- to a degree not often found in such an action-packed genre. The author provides an abundance of complex, deep female lead characters (X, Mel, and Leroi in particular) in a genre that is often lacking them.

    Blurb: A nuanced, smart, and exciting dystopian adventure, King's Critical Habitat chronicles the hardships and triumphs of a rag-tag group of rebels who seek to salvage the planet from a violent, power-hungry overlord. 

  • Minimum Safe Distance

    by X. Ho Yen

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot/Idea: Minimum Safe Distance is an odd and enticing book that puts a lot of ideas in a blender and results in a refreshing concoction. The book is intoxicatingly divergent in its exploration of the humanity. The plot follows mostly linearly but at a cosmic scale with Earth characters weaving in and out of the story.

    Prose: The book comes out the gate with a strong voice and holds that voice consistently throughout. The writing is dynamic and helps set the book apart as something special. Descriptive language is visceral and memorable and the diction effectively conveys the zaniness of the universe the book inhabits.

    Originality: Minimum Safe Distance maintains its sparkling creativity while providing cohesion and tenderness that allows its many parts to coalesce. The book does not follow typical patterns or tropes, charting its own course and doing so effectively.

    Character/Execution: The book has many characters who fit nicely into the themes and plot as it builds to a larger statement. Deeper characterization takes a slight back seat to the conceptual  priorities of the book.

  • Burning Man

    by K. Pimpinella

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot/Idea: Commander Sawyer and his loyal team of Time Rangers must go rogue in order to uncover a plot hatched in the future (yet unfolding in the past). But what will they--and Commander Sawyer himself--discover about their superiors (including Sawyer's father)? And what will this mean for Utopia's present (and future) timeline(s)?

    Prose: Fast-paced, futuristic, and entertaining, Pimpinella's prose pairs well with Sawyer's conflict, anger, and urgency as he must fight inner and outer demons to unravel an insidious plots in the past, present, and future.

    Originality: Despite being a veritable sci-fi treasure trove of tropes and influences, Burning Man is still able to capture the imagination and immerse the reader in an entertaining and action-packed narrative.

    Character/Execution: Commander Kai Sawyer is an "enhanced" human who, despite his upgrades and modifications (including his AI, Thor), has to deal with thoroughly human emotions and problems and his inner turmoil is explored (and exploited?) beautifully. The secondary characters (i.e. his team, his father, even Thor), work well as a supporting cast and are well-developed just enough to adequately further the plot--however, there is no doubt that Kai Sawyer is the star of the show.


  • Green Corrosion

    by Costi Gurgu

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot/Idea: Using elements of Man vs. Man and Man vs. Nature, Gurgu exposes the reader to a dire situation where resources are at a premium and the wrong people are in charge.

    Prose: Straightforward with nothing to sidetrack the reader, the plot moves at a brisk pace and begins building an intriguing but grim world. Gurgu delivers precise, striking descriptions illustrating the devastating loss of a vital resource and the impact of drinking gelled water on the human body. 

    Originality: The idea of corrosive water that turns to gel and causes humans to become deformed is highly original. The author develops a full and complex set of circumstances in a manner that feels both conceivable and chilling.

    Character/Execution: Gurgu offers convincing and immersive worldbuilding, establishing a clear social and governmental hierarchy and populating the setting with traumatized, militant, and often untrustworthy figures. Geo emerges as a formidable protagonist with an ability to see the humanity beneath disfigurement and desperation. 


  • Stage Fright

    by Diane L. Kowalyshyn

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot/Idea: The plot is intense and nuanced, holding readers' interest with the author's distinctive combination of steady pacing and a compelling set up that involves romance, suspense, and a little magic.

    Prose: The author is equally strong with dialogue and action. At times, description takes the form of an aside that feels jarring and detracts from the storyline, rather than enhancing it.

    Originality: Stage Fright boasts an engrossing plot line and noteworthy characters, alongside a setting that is both absorbing and immersive.

    Character/Execution: The author offers readers strong characters who will stick with them long after the book is finished. Through Skye's eyes, readers glimpse not only her own perspective but also the interiority of secondary characters.

  • A Debt to the Stars

    by Kevin Hincker

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot/Idea: A smart, thought-provoking novel that combines staple elements of sci-fi fiction with a novel plot, A Debt to the Stars is a great read. There are points when the reader may struggle to fully grasp the implications of some of the plot points (especially after the introduction of Robert and The Fund), though the fact that Diana is often also struggling to understand makes it feel like an intentional choice.

    Prose: The author's prose is clear and engaging; Hincker has a knack for bringing high-action scenes to life. There is an unexpected infusion of comic relief that readers will really appreciate as well, especially via Robert and Diana's dialogue.

    Originality: The author effectively balances creating new life-forms and inter-planetary organizations with life as we know it on Earth in a way that is very engaging. The parallels between Diana's reality and our own contemporary society—capitalism, waste, predatory lenders—are timely, if a bit heavy-handed at some points.

    Character/Execution: Hincker does an effective job letting readers into Diana's head, which places readers right in the middle of the story.  The audience will appreciate the way in which this character opens up throughout the novel, tapping into her own unresolved pain. Some of the minor characters like Liz and Greg seemed underdeveloped at times—more like plot mechanisms than individual personalities.

    Blurb: A Debt to the Stars is a smart, fast-paced novel that speaks to our own socio-economic moment in a fascinating, creative way. Readers of sci-fi (and anyone who thinks critically of capitalism) will be captivated by the planet-saving journey thrust upon Diana Roark and her swearing alien sidekick. 

  • Plot/Idea: The Movement, the second title in the Time Corrector Series Book, hosts an intricate storyline with many shifts in time and perspective. Readers not familiar with the first book will need to expend some effort to gain their bearings amidst the crossed realities the narrative presents. Ultimately, the story is well worth the investment; The Movement is a compelling, richly rendered, and unique sci-fi novel that, despite its multilayered elements, remains engagingly accessible. 

    Prose: The writing is consistent, immediate, and propulsive, which is critical given the frequent shifting of the storyline in terms of time, setting, and pov character. Datta capably balances these many narrative threads, allowing the reader to remain engaged in the moment, while not losing sight of the overarching storyline.

    Originality: The Movement takes a fresh approach to time travel and futuristic AI, spinning an intricate web. The world and setting are drawn effectively by the writing and create a complicated world sufficient in scope to support the book's ambitious plot.

    Character/Execution: The book features some larger than life characters with arcs that span beyond this entry alone. Although characterization takes a backseat to the sometimes dizzying circumstances, Datta makes the most of even short glimpses of characters, supplying them with distinctive traits and humanity.