After whittling our initial 30-book allotment down to three, my SPSFC team has received six more semifinalists from other judging teams. Our scores of these six new books, along with our original three semifinalists, will combine with with 81 other scores (nine each from nine teams) to determine the SPSFC finalists.
Each of the six books we’re reviewing this round comes with a recommendation from another blogger judging this competition, and almost all of them come with multiple strong recommendations from members of their first-round judging team. So keep in mind when you read our reviews that they are only our own thoughts, and they do not exist in a vacuum.
Finally, before I move to the scores themselves, I want to offer some candid comments about this competition so far. My teammates have been wonderful to work with, but it sometimes seems as though there’s an unwritten rule that we cannot be permitted to agree on anything. Of the sixteen books we’ve read to completion across the quarterfinals and semifinals, fourteen of them have received a low score or a DNF from at least one team member–even though almost all of those fourteen have earned hearty recommendations from another teammate. As a result, our mean scores have fallen significantly short of our median scores. Now it would be unfair to books we’ve previously judged to change our scoring system in the middle of the competition (though there will be plenty to reevaluate for next year), so the official scores stand. But I want to highlight that one or two readers not meshing with a particular writing style or subgenre can really harm a score, and that does not mean the book is not worth reading. So while the score matters for the competition, it’s the reviews that should be your guide as you determine whether or not a particular book may be worth a look. Because one reader’s hard stop may be another reader’s favorite element.
Today, we look at an exploration story on a distant planet with no shortage of threats to humanity, T.A. Bruno’s In the Orbit of Sirens, which finished at the very top of Fan Fi Addict’s first-round pile.
Jay’s Review and Rating
Overall, there’s plenty to like here in an easy-to-read story with plenty of action and intrigue, but an overstuffed structure with inconsistent pacing keeps it from really being a favorite. It delivers in spades on the battles, both physical and psychological, but it doesn’t quite sustain the creeping dread that could’ve made it an excellent work of sci-fi horror, and the diplomatic first contact plot takes a backseat to more immediate danger. There are plenty of good ingredients here, but for me they just didn’t totally come together.
Jay has rated In the Orbit of Sirens 6.5/10. For more detail, see his full review.
Esme’s Review and Rating
I found this to be a very engaging book, and nearly genre bending with the telepathy and god like characters that got thrown into the mix. The writing was fast and engaging, I found the dialogue to be mostly believable and fluid. I loved the world building, it felt very adventurous and tense each time the group of humans went out in the alien jungle. I’d recommend it to people who enjoy colonization stories, non human races, and exploration.
Esme has rated In the Orbit of Sirens 8/10. For more detail, see her full review.
Lilyn’s Review and Rating
Overall, In the Orbit of Sirens was solid enough to engage a reader that normally shies away from multiple timelines, filled with compelling characters and vivid imagery. However, the story felt dragged out at times, which was not helped by an ending that slowed everything to a crawl only to let happen what readers could guess was going to happen anyways. Still, it’ll hit better for some than it will for others, so it’s worth checking out.
Lilyn has rated In the Orbit of Sirens 7/10. For more detail, see her full review.
Bill’s Review and Rating
In the Orbit of Sirens was entertaining and easily one of the best novels that I’ve read as part of SPSFC. It moved at a fairly good pace, and I thought the character development was excellent. The climax really went to 11 in a way that was both surprising and a little less than satisfying but still mostly effective. There were some editing issues, and the time effect of space travel was not well explained up front which made interleaved stories needlessly confusing. But all in all, a top flight work.
Bill has rated In the Orbit of Sirens 8/10.
Tracy’s Review and Rating
In the Orbit of Sirens is a fast-paced, chunk of a novel and I found myself flying through it. I’m generally pretty hard on science fiction books, especially those with A LOT of timelines and so much happening, but in this case it all worked for me. There are a few parts where the forward motion lagged a bit and I’m still not sold on a few other small things. This one is my favorite of the competition thus far.
Tracy has rated In the Orbit of Sirens 8/10.
*indicates judge’s top book read in the first two rounds of SPSFC judging