SPSFC: Aztra’s Mirror, The Rax: Out of Darkness, and Intergalactic Bastard

We’re back again with some SPSFC news! Some good, some bad. All of the books were read by at least two people, and at least 20%-25% before we voted (with a small exception for a NMS/DNF from me). Our opinions are collected into one. Since I read all three of these, and my opinion on some aspects differs from my team mates, I’ll do my best to highlight what my opinions are.

Aztra’s Mirror by Charles Freedom Long

Aztra’s Mirror was read by three members of the Wayward Stars, myself included, but I DNF’ed it after 8% because of the writing style. It felt archaic and strained, and at this point, I didn’t have the energy to force myself through it. The other two members had similar issues with the writing style but managed to read more.

The story itself had an interesting premise with twins having a strong bond. It’s one of the tropes that I personally like a lot. The main characters are humanoid wolves which is another interesting concept, but since it’s second-world fantasy, they use different words to describe things. This didn’t help with readability and slowed us down a lot. On the topic of worldbuilding, it was hard to believe the languages on the different planets were so alike when in real life two relatively close tribes can have wildly different dialects or languages. It seemed too convenient. So while the story so far wasn’t bad, the writing didn’t make it an enjoyable reading experience and we voted for cutting it.

The Rax: Out of Darkness by C. G. Harris

Out of Darkness was read by two members of the Wayward Stars. I was excited to dig into this one as I read The Nine by the same author before and enjoyed it. Out of Darkness is completely different, and not just the genre. It’s a YA scifi dystopian book where an alien race has turned humanity into slaves. It reads well and the first chapters were fast-paced. It’s clear early on what’s at stake, what the main character wants, and what direction he’s heading for.

There was one thing that I missed when I started this book. In the blurb it said the main character is blind. I prefer to start a book knowing relatively little about it and I forgot about this tiny factoid as I started. It’s only mentioned Tael is blind in the second chapter. I reread the first chapter again after I became aware of this and found out why it confused me. The first chapter had used sight terms. He had seen the aliens, he’s imagining machines, and he mentions dark and light even though it shouldn’t matter to him. Reading it back, some remarks didn’t make sense. It’s also not clear if he can’t see anything at all, or just a small portion (the spectrum of visually impaired and legally blind is large), or when he turned blind. It felt like it was added for shock factor by keeping the reader in the dark. In the second chapter, you’re not able to forget he’s blind because it’s constantly mentioned over and over again how it affects him to the point it feels like it’s hindering the storytelling. The difference in writing style between these two chapters deserves a mention. I will say that the descriptions of a blind person being in an unknown space does feel authentic. There was no draw for us to continue reading beyond the 20% mark as we had with other books, largely due to the characters and some of the writing style decisions. Out of Darkness has been cut.

Intergalactic Bastard by Dave Walsh

Three of the Wayward Stars have read the first bit of Intergalactic Bastard and we agreed we’d like to read more. Things that stood out to us were to fight scenes for sure, and since the main character is a pit fighter, a lot of this hinges on well-written fight scenes. It’s fast-paced because of all the action but the time between the fights doesn’t mean the story is paused. You learn more about the world, and Coop’s life. So far, it has held everyone’s interest.

My only gripe is how Coop treats his girlfriend. She loves him and gives him advice. He plainly ignores it without even considering it, as if her opinion doesn’t matter to him whatsoever. But with a title like Intergalactic Bastard, do you really expect the main character to be a saint? I am rooting for him and secretly hope he’ll be a better person (or at least be kinder to his girlfriend) in the end.

Intergalactic Bastard is the first quarterfinalist announced from the Wayward Stars.

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