SPSFC Finalist Review: Iron Truth by S.A. Tholin

We’ve made it to the finals of the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition (SPSFC), and six of the seven finalists are new reads for my judging team. The farther we get into the competition, the more highly recommended each book comes–each of the seven has been hand-picked out of a 30-book slush pile by one of the ten judging teams, and each fell in the top quarter of a semifinal round consisting entirely of the books that had been hand-picked by those first-round judging teams. Every book we read from here out has multiple other bloggers singing its praises. But, as we saw with the previous two rounds, we still bring a variety of interests, likes, and dislikes to the table, and a book hitting with one reader doesn’t always mean it will hit with everyone. Along with our scores–which will be averaged with the nine other judging teams to determine the winner–we’ve done our best to explain what we like or dislike about any given book, but it’s up to the readers to try to extrapolate from our tastes to their own tastes.

Today, we’ll be looking at an epic that mixes military sci-fi with swathes of romance and horror: Iron Truth by S.A. Tholin.

Jay’s Review and Rating

The slow, military-heavy build kept me from loving Iron Truth from start to finish, but once I began to understand the outline of the story, I was truly hooked. Cassimer’s relationship with his past and with his people was interesting enough to drive an entire book by itself, and the aspects of that storyline that remain after the close of Iron Truth are enough to make me very interested in the sequel, even though the first book offered closure on some of the chief plot points. For fans of slow-building epics, there’s a lot here, and it’s all worthwhile. 

Jay has rated Iron Truth 8/10. For more detail, check out his full review.

Esme’s Review and Rating

Overall, I was super impressed with this. It has a lot of ambition, really big concept ideas and it also had personal relationship drama going on to keep the reader interested on many levels. This had a lot of heart and I can recommend it to anyone looking for an epic sci-fi adventure.

Esme has rated Iron Truth 8/10. For more detail, check out her full review.

Lilyn’s Review and Rating

Overall, Iron Truth really is a good book. Even with the issues I had with it, I admired S.A. Tholin’s world-building and the relationship between the strike team. I found myself actively rooting for them, even when people were being stupid. And the people on Cato? Yes, they were hard people, often horrible, but the life that they were living had made them that way. It was easy to empathize with them.

Would I read the next book in this series? No. I no longer have the attention span required to do what this book asks. However, if you’re a fan of novels like Leviathan Wakes, you may blow right through it.

Lilyn has rated Iron Truth 7/10. For more detail, check out their full review.

Bill’s Review and Rating

I really enjoyed Iron Truth a great deal. I found the characters, for the most part, pretty interesting. And it was certainly action packed which appeals to me. The revelation of the enemy was. . . unique. But I think it was pulled off successfully.

As others have noted, the book was too damn long. After about the 2/3 mark, I did find my self scanning pages for the plot driving elements and letting most of the actual words flow by. It’s hard for me to suggest exactly how so much of a story should be told in many fewer words. So I’ll on the wisdom of Emperor Joseph II: Cut a few and it will be perfect.

I have the second book on my TBR at the moment, and if I recall correctly this is only the second series in the competition that I will continue. So well done!

Bill has rated Iron Truth 8/10.

Tracy’s Review and Rating

As many others have mentioned, Iron Truth was the longest book we read in this competition, and while Tracy was enjoying it at the halfway point, she was unable to finish in time for an official score.

Official Scores

Jay 8*
Esme 8
Lilyn 7
Bill 8*
Tracy N/A
Team 7.75

*indicates judge’s top book read as SPSFC judge

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