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SciFi / Fantasy / Horror

  • The Sound of Light: The Age Of The Sonic Soldier

    by Robert Allen Miltenberg

    Rating: 9.25

    Plot/Idea: Billed as a sci-fi word symphony in three movements, The Sound of Light is the endlessly inventive first movement of Miltenberg's proposed trilogy. A fresh, dynamic, and personal ode to music and the natural world, The Sound of Light is an unforgettable and uplifting spiritual adventure.

    Prose: Miltenberg's text is passionate, involving and delicately told with a clear aesthetic in mind. His endlessly creative and imaginative psychedelic journey stays true to its vision throughout, resulting in a colorful and enlightening read.

    Originality: The Sound of Light is vibrant and full of verve with several cute, if rather obvious, nods to pop music culture. The imaginative worldbuilding and consistent "hippy rocker" vibe combine effectively to sustain the reader's interest throughout.

    Character/Execution: Soniqa StarCloud is a convincing protagonist in a book where music plays a pivotal role in bonding and uniting people. The character names and mannerisms are heavily indebted to rock music lore, lending the book a powerful nostalgic feel and an overwhelmingly positive energy.

    Blurb: A mind-bending sonic trip.

  • Minimum Safe Distance

    by X. Ho Yen

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot/Idea: Ultimately, Minimum Safe Distance is a fascinating novel about an intergalactic threat and how humanity responds in kind. Ho Yen's novel hosts an intriguing storyline with identifiable development throughout. The work suffers from narrative fragmentation, however, which results in a sometimes disjointed reading experience. 

    Prose: Ho Yen's prose is readable and generally well-executed, though a degree of stiffness pervades much of the writing.

    Originality: Conceptually, Minimum Safe Distance is strikingly fresh and unique. Most notable is the work's detailed worldbuilding surrounding the nature of the SelfMades and the relationship between the Cosmologist and the Ethnologist.

    Character/Execution: Minimum Safe Distance features a number of potentially rich and broad-ranging characters. However, due to the fragmentation of the plot, it is difficult to grasp the whole development of these characters; while they are intriguing, readers only have brief glimpses of their collective journeys. 

  • Plot/Idea: Isle of Stars is a compelling and well written supernatural thriller that is full of tension and intrigue. Porto's consistently engaging storyline sees Morgan Thomas battle for survival against a strange and slippery enemy, resulting in an imaginative and absorbing read.

    Prose: Jess Porto's text features intricately described characters, with their idiosyncrasies and nuances succinctly realized. Isle of Stars effectively explores the subconscious in a novel rife with mysterious entities and a brilliant attention to detail.

    Originality: Isle of Stars is written with guile and confidence, effortlessly emitting wit, charm and dramatic tension from the start. Its biting melodrama and supernatural charm literally seeps through its pages in a passionately written swarm of self-discovery and sacrifice.

    Character/Execution: Morgan Thomas is the protagonist of Isle of Stars, a gripping mystery filled with well written and engaging characters. The dialogue is realistic and believable, allowing the reader to become fully immersed in Porto's excellently crated supernatural realm.

    Blurb: A strong, character-driven mystery thriller.

  • Hecate's Labyrinth

    by Michael Lightsey

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot/Idea: Hecate's Labyrinth is a high-octane fantasy mystery which traverses history and mythology. The plot is adrenaline-fueled, fantastical, and enormous fun.

    Prose: Lightsey's text is passionately written and moves at an electrifying pace. The foul-mouthed characters of Hecate's Labyrinth enliven the text in an often invigorating read which confidently blends folklore and mysticism.

    Originality: On the surface, Hecate's Labyrinth is a fairly typical fantasy tale, but is written with such vim and conviction, that it is very hard to ignore. A must for lovers of fantasy fiction, Hecate's Labyrinth is full of interesting and enlightening ideas.

    Character/Execution: Lightsey's central relationship between Dmitri and Helena is intriguing and the supporting characters are impressively woven into the story. His dialogue is regularly sharp, witty, and of course, delightfully full of expletives.

    Blurb: A rip-roaring fantasy adventure.

  • From a Broken Grail

    by Daryl K. Hill

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot/Idea: Hill unites dark magic, mythical creatures, and a hero crusade in this well-developed fantasy. Moments of intense action are well-crafted and keep the story’s pace brisk, as the Order of the Brothers of the Holy Sword fight to overcome their past, while trying desperately to survive against new forces that are far more dangerous than any they’ve ever faced. When central characters fall in battle, Hill renders their deaths as tragic as they are memorable.

    Prose: Hill’s prose holds a poetic beauty in places that subtly builds the story’s setting while advancing the action at the same time, and the story’s structure holds throughout, despite the complexity of the plot. 

    Originality: Striking a nice balance between the magic, religious, and political systems in the story, Hill delivers skilled worldbuilding that makes From a Broken Grail stand out. That, coupled with the story’s arresting characters, transforms the storyline into an exceptional read.

    Character/Execution: Hill fine tunes his characters, with special attention to their internal battles and backstories. Godfrey, in particular, is carefully wrought, with inner conflict that is both vivid and, in places, heartbreaking.

  • Of Friction (Altered Earth Book 1)

    by S.J. Lee

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot/Idea: Of Friction is a fast-paced military adventure set in a future where the impacts of climate change has split an adapted species of the human race apart, resulting in a tense political scenario that underpins the book’s plot. The character-focused story builds to a climax that will leave readers eager for more.

    Prose: The writing is consistent and well paced, seamlessly pulling readers into the book's creative worldbuilding. Characterization is strong, rendered through vivid description and dialogue.

    Originality: The scenario is creative and the characters are unique and dynamic. Lee successfully sets the stage for future installments.

    Character/Execution: Of Friction renders a large and likable cast whose rapport and camaraderie really come off the page well, leading to a very fun read and setting up for a gratifying emotional punch in the entry’s final pages.

  • Earthweeds (Sons of Neptune Book 1)

    by Rod Little

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot/Idea: Earthweeds takes its time revealing its greatest twists and surprises, keeping readers on their toes while developing the one-of-a-kind dystopia that has taken hold of Earth. This is definitely not your average apocalyptic novel.

    Prose: With ominous and atmospheric prose, Earthweeds creeps, scares and excites–but also never sacrifices key character moments.

    Originality: Earthweeds spins the apocalyptic dystopian genre on its head, foregoing zombies for man-eating lizards, intelligent, sentient spiders, and a couple of super-humans to boot. Sam’s origin story is a particular highlight.

    Character/Execution: Earthweeds cleverly subverts the trope of the typical, dystopian despot antagonist with a third-act reveal. However, a lack of relationship development between the main ragtag team at the Lodge leaves the readers wanting more, especially during the novel’s lowest moments.

  • Promised Land: The Encoding

    by Katib bin Vilio

    Rating: 8.00

    Plot/Idea: Promised Land is an enthralling story of self discovery which highlights racial bullying and the ongoing struggles of minorities in the US. Full of religious imagery, Vilio's intriguing tale is an endearing and soul-stirring exploration of 21st century Black America.

    Prose: Katib bin Vilio's text is powerfully written and contains several tense scenes of drama that are articulately realized. The characters' believable dialogue and naturalistic interactions help elevate the author's candid representation of modern Black America to another level.

    Originality: Vilio's Promised Land effectively highlights the proliferation of racist attitudes and difficulties facing minority groups in America. Pertinent themes, such as the heavy handed nature of policing, result in an arresting novel that deserves to be noticed. 

    Character/Execution: Abeni, Ida, and Soweto are a tenderly drawn triumvirate of characters forging their way in an unfair world. The interactions between the central characters are truthful and authentic, making the representation of racial discrimination all the more affecting and meaningful.

  • Nephilim

    by Marc Arginteanu

    Rating: 7.25

    Plot/Idea: Nephilim hatches an inventive concept as a PhD student invents a machine with components that merge with human brain waves and is scouted by a secret society. Overall, Nephilim's intriguing setup develops well and nicely hooks readers. However, the antagonist's motivation remains somewhat unclear, causing the conflict to fall a touch short.

    Prose: Overall, the writing carries a propulsive staccato rhythm, with dialogue effectively balanced against tense descriptions.

    Originality: Nephilim is anchored in authentic science while playing off humanity's desire for betterment and fulfillment; the work offers unique flavor, along with psychological intrigue and philosophical questioning throughout.

    Character/Execution: The main characters are distinctive, with memorable identities and histories that serve a unique purpose in the progression of the plot. However, the female characters are not always paid the attention they deserve and would benefit from greater depth.