First cuts! I'll list six of the twenty-one total books cut from the first round of SPSFC for Team Red Stars. My team members will be listing their own cuts here, here, and here! All the other cuts will be up on Friday. Check back each day this week for another of my reveals. The final ten which we will read in full for January 2022 can be found here!
Note, there are some books that will be cut this week for which I haven't posted a full review or DNF yet. Never fear! I'll still be reading through all thirty-one books on our list, with a review for each. You can see the full list of reviews here.
My cut books are:
#1 - The Golden Crunk of Cringle
#2 - World of Difference
#3 - Banneker Bones and the Giant Robot Bees
#4 - Turnabout
#5 - Infinite
#6 - Things They Buried
The Golden Crunk of Cringle - Ken Rudisill
I think this book ended up with a "no" from all four members of the team. While there were some interesting concepts involved with a brother/sister team stealing from pirate vessels, using sexual behaviors as a characterization method at the beginning combined with sexual violence and some problems in editing led this one to be cut from our final choices. You can see my review on my SPSFC reviews page.
World of Difference – W.J. Donovan
I know at least one of our team read all the way through this book. I ended up with a DNF, even though I was intrigued by the story. There are some interesting seeds of plot at the beginning dealing with societal inequality, exploration, and synesthesia, so if that's your cup of tea, definitely check this out for yourself! There were some issues with typos and POV, and I personally don't enjoy stream-of-consciousness style writing, so it was a no from me. You can see my review on my SPSFC reviews page.
Banneker Bones and the Giant Robot Bees - Robert Michael Kent
This was a fun read, but unfortunately got caught in some of the first-year growing pains with the contest. It's a Mid-Grade book, which is technically not allowed, but YA is. I think there was some contention which this was originally, and for whatever reason, it got added to the final roster. I read the whole thing, and realized early on this definitely fell on the MG side. In any case, the story itself is a fun diversion, but didn't really hold my interest overall. There was too much of "Here's the next thing that happens!" for me and not quite enough fleshing out the main character, especially as he is overshadowed by an unlikable secondary character. Even for an MG book, I think that aspect could have been expanded on a bit. You can see my full review on my SPSFC reviews page.
Turnabout - Carmen Webster Buxton
Another interesting read, well written, and with an engaging plot. I read this one in full, and you can see my review on my SPSFC reviews page. This was a case where there were other books in the contest that were more ambitious or simply resonated with the judges more. For me, I felt there were two things against this book going to the final ten. First, this straddles the YA and adult category for me, and doesn't sit well in either. There are some fairly explicit and adult descriptions of sex, and the main character is a minor, so I got a strange feeling reading it as an adult. Second, I felt there was a bit too much male gaze and over sexualization of women, even though this is a point related to the plot. The (male) main character didn't really seem to learn a lesson about how to view women, even though he was in a situation where the dynamic was reversed and males were treated as desirable objects. There could have a been a lot more depth of discussion and character growth over this point, though what was there was treated well. Turnabout is an interesting book, and if you're looking for a fish-out-of-water story in an alternate universe, it might be a good fit for you!
Infinite – Jeremy Robinson
Infinite is, overall, a really thought-provoking book. As of now, it's still on my (personal) top ten list, though I'm guessing it will just fall off the bottom by the time I read through all the books. It also happened to be the first book I read in the contest! You can see my review on my SPSFC reviews page. I will say the beginning of the book is a little hard to get through as there is some pretty gory violence and some lowbrow humor, which might have turned off some of the judges. However the book is well-written, and an excellent character piece showing the development of the main character. I had a few quibbles with it, the main one being that there are actually too many twists and turns. Some of them near the end, in my opinion, revert some of the character development with made me frustrated with the story. I almost think this should have been two books, in order to get the triumph of the first half, and then save some of the really twisty plot progressions for the second book. As it is, there is a second book released, Infinite², which from reviews looks to be just as trippy as the first one, if not more so. So if you want a mind-bending, deep space, character focused science fiction with a bunch of unforeseen twists that are hard to predict, give Infinite a try!
Things They Buried – Amanda K. King & Michael R. Swanson
My last cut is a hard one for me. I’d love to see this one go on to the top ten. It will likely stay in my personal top ten list. I really loved the worldbuilding, the character growth, the lowkey scifi and steampunk, the diverse inclusion and the fun romp of the story. The main reason this one got cut (and what I was afraid of when writing up my review on my SPSFC page) is that the story contains a hefty dose of child abuse, and that is certainly not for everyone, especially if you are the parent of a child. It’s treated with respect in the story and helps to drive the narrative, but there is a lot of it, even to the point of reading descriptions of dead children’s bodies, and having adults fight off (what amounts to) zombified children. When I was writing my review, I spent a fair bit of time wondering if the same story could have been told without this aspect. My final conclusion is that it potentially could be cleaned of all instances of child abuse, but the story would be vastly different, as would the main character’s journeys. That tells me this is part of the core of the book and something the authors wanted to explore in the narrative, and so deliberately included. It’s not a subject for everyone, but then neither are romances, or gory violence a la Game of Thrones, or even just sword and sorcery vs. science fiction. In all, I really enjoyed the book, and I’ll be reading next one in the series once I’m finished reading for the contest. If you’re looking for a dark science fantasy with powerful themes and intriguing characters, definitely check this one out.