As you may recall, last year, Dog Country placed 12th in the inaugural Self-Published Science-Fiction Competition, or SPSFC. (Consensus seems to be it is either pronounced ‘Space-fic’ or ‘Space-face’.)
This year, Mouse Cage is a semi-finalist. And a bunch of the semi-finalists have put together a sale on Amazon Kindle this week, in Amazon US (and sometimes UK). If you’re interested in that deal, you can find it here: https://tinyurl.com/spsfc2
For your amusement (and to increase engagement), I will be giving quick, positive reviews of the first few paragraphs of all of these books.
Disclaimer: Intentionally positive because I have a vicious inner editor/critic streak that is nasty to everything, even good stuff, and I’m not sharing that with y’all today. Also, it’s just the first couple pages, and I wrote ALL of these in about two hours, so, y’know. Hardly a deep look at any of them. Disclaimer done with… let’s get going!
Aestus: Book 1: The City
Opens on a preface which is evocative of one of the masterstrokes in Star Wars’ Ep 4: A New Hope- the way Luke, in the original, yearned for the stars, and adventure, for an escape from what was, to him, the boring backwoods of home. The (I presume) protagonist of the opening, Jossey, is clearly equally hopeful of a wide world with more than the boring deserts and abandoned tunnels of the City – points of mystery I, for one, already find fantastical.
Empire Reborn (Taran Empire Saga Book 1): A Cadicle Space Opera
Opening up on a scene that could be a cross between Top Gun and a sci-fi blockbuster, it’s clear that the presented protagonist – Jason Sietinen – is not only a crack pilot, but someone wwho enjoys aerospacial flying on a bone-deep level. Could well be a protagonist flight-lovers can connect with.
Mouse Cage (the one wot i wrote)
Wow who’s this guy stumbling around in the dark and being paranoid? I bet he’s a super cool protagonist you’ll love hanging out with (and watching suffer horribly) for nearly six hundred pages.
Debunked: Volume One of the Terravenum Chronicles
Opening on a spot of Epistolarism (Epistolary novels are those written as letters, although this merely seems to use a letter to introduce things), Debunked starts pitch-perfect steampunk Victorian-esque travelling explorerers. The author has nailed the vibe from the outset, and that’s always a good sign.
Percival Gynt and the Conspiracy of Days
Another brief foray into the Epistolary, with some absolutely evocative news headlines that imply quite a lot about the amount of magic we’re going to be seeing here, combines with a train station that immediately feels both off-world and out of this world, with some commentary on our own society very neatly woven throughout.
The Last Gifts of the Universe
I’m not sure if an Archivist is more librarian or more archaeologist, but I am sure that the author of this has owned and loved pet cats. And put up with them puking on things. Which is especially inconvenient amidst strange stars, and, it sounds like, ancient civilizations and their ruins. Not sure if this’ll be humorous, but it does feel extremely well grounded from even the first lines.
This is retro. And this book appears to love being retro, being utterly playful on a sentence-to-sentence level, and it clearly embodies a love and appreciation for some of SFF’s finest humorists with a clear and adept understanding of what makes them tick. I’m very curious to find out just how far this author can push that – humor is HARD.
The Diamond Device
There is a flat cap in the opening. I own, and happen to love, my flat cap. And it’s being successfully used as a fashion-marker of being working-class, in the UK sense, which pushes heavily on a kind of steampunky airships and industrial revolution vibe and worldbuilding that sets up this story with a ton of potential.
Galaxy Cruise: The Maiden Voyage
Theoretically humorous, this book opens on what appears to be horrific torture and impending death. It is, in fact, the viewpoint character’s interpretation of a karaoke set that shares DNA with Vogon poetry. That kind of whiplash can be hard to recover from, but the gag works. Very much detecting more love for SFF’s humorists, here.
The Clarity Of Cold SteelL Tales of the Machine City: Book One
Neo-noir detectives in what, judging by a bit of flavour-text, is a sort of grimdark steampunk gross-out necromancery (? Organ-thefty, at least.) setting. I am very unsure of where this is going, but I suspect this could hook someone on style alone. Very curious about this one, due to enjoying the necro-insanity of Tmasyn Muir’s Locked Tomb series, and it feels like it might share some points of reference.
A Space Girl from Earth (The Kyroibi Trilogy Book 1)
There’s a strong YA vibe from the opening, with a few cryptic hints that – combined with the book blurb – imply this author knows their audience very, very well. I’m not a YA reader, but I recognize the hallmarks – petty, small-time injustices and authoritarian teachers pushing unfairness on our protagonist is, obviously, helping to build up the pressure to get our protagonist changing their life, and probably their world.
Tropical Punch (Bubbles in Space Book 1)
Opening on a frankly classic dance-club scene, I’m getting definite neo-noir vibes from this, which pair well with a cyberpunk aesthetic that shows the author’s put in all their love of the genre. Hard to tell where this is going, but the dead-on aesthetic is already pointing in the right direction/
The Pono Way
A relatively calm opening, heavy on the worldbuilding, gives an impression of something I personally adore – sun-soaked post-cyberpunk. Maybe that’s natural for what’s billed as a Solarpunk novel, but this work already clearly loves its escape from the packed sci-fi cities in favour of a beach atoll with a calming cup of charmingly synthetic algal coffee.
Exin Ex Machina: Asterion Noir Book 1
I don’t usually like amnesiac-protagonist openings, but this one… this one works. It’s not even wholly clear if that’s what we have, but this amnesiac has access to an augmented reality (cybernetic implant?) that, in combination with a very evocative setting, gives us a ton of hooks to drag us into reading more deeply.
Those Left Behind (The Waystations Trilogy Book 1)
We’re introduced to a rags to riches story, one that has apparently carried the protagonist from homelessness to the absolute heights of her society – and a moment of solemn contemplation that’s brought crashing back to mundanity in an instant. I don’t know if this book goes into conflict between classes, haves and have-nots, but this author is obviously considering every societal strata of their setting – and it sounds like it might be an absolutely epic-scale one.
Intelligence Block: A GameLit inspired Space Opera
Juxtaposition is sometimes delicious. Putting a gamer/LARPer doing a cantankerous Gandalf into working as a hired birthday party entertainer? Already genius, without touches like influencer streaming. Not familiar enough with the genre to know whether it’s hitting those notes, but the world it introduces has legs, and hits the ground running.
I love orbital mechanics. I play Kerbal Space Program, a lot. I happen to know, from trying, how hard it is to write a convincing take on orbital freefall, and this author nails the vibe in its astronaut training/certification opening.
The View from Infinity Beach
The opening view, although it appears to be through a starship porthole rather than the titular infinity beach, is good. Grim, but good, the ‘camera’ viewpoint for the reader brought across evocative material that promises a lot of heart in this story.
Heritage (Tales of the Phoenix Titan Book 1)
A somewhat lecture-ish toned prologue walks us through philosophy, a short history, and a point of view on the social and emotional soul of humanity in the face of some kind of alien invasion, fought back by another alien commonwealth who rescue what’s left of humanity. A surprisingly compelling way to quickly get through a complex introduction.
Echoes of Another Earth
It’s the end of the world, incoming asteroid and all, and it’s a cause for brief soul-searching. With a brief glance at the blurb, it’s also a multiversal book, slight shades of Quantum Leap, with early touches of self-deprecating humor that are entirely hopeful.
Okay! So. Did any of those books get an actual fair review and attention? No, like I said, I spent like, two hours on this. So, at absolute most, each of these 20 books got like six minutes of attention and consideration. (Less – I was also dinking around on social media. We live in a multitasking society!)
But, hopefully, one or more caught your interest. And, again, you can find the full list with actual links to them over here: https://tinyurl.com/spsfc2
Please do browse, enjoy, and pick up a few books on special!