SPSFC Finalist Review: Hammer and Crucible by Cameron Cooper

The end of the second annual Self-Published Science Fiction Competition (SPSFC2) is within sight, with the winner to be announced in mid-July. My team advanced three of our semifinalists to the finals, before being given four more books to read on the way to determining an overall winner. Today, we’ll be looking at a fast-paced space thriller, Hammer and Crucible by Cameron Cooper.


Jay’s Review and Rating

There’s not a lot of connective tissue between the various parts of the thriller plot. The scenes themselves are entertaining, but the story moves from scene to scene so quickly and so easily—easily enough to be suspicious, a point which is adequately addressed by the plot—that it’s hard to really get attached to the characters, or to spend enough time speculating on plot twists for them to feel truly shocking. That’s the difference between a popcorn thriller that has you coming back for more and a relatively enjoyable read that you’ll forget within a week. I think the author nailed many of the popcorn thriller scenes, but I needed something more between them in order to truly invest in the story.

Jay has rated Hammer and Crucible 5.5/10. For more detail, check out his full review.

Josh’s Review and Rating

What you have is a book that’s not bad or offensive in any way, but just is a generic space opera thriller that knows how the formula is supposed to go, but doesn’t understand that the formula is meant to say something. I don’t see how this is was a finalist in this competition – we’ve had a couple of other thrillers in the competition that tried to do things, even if unsuccessfully, and I’d prefer to see that than this book, which just is so paint by numbers I’ll forget all about it tomorrow.

Josh has rated Hammer and Crucible 5.5/10. For more detail, check out his full review.

Matt’s Review and Rating

Matt was not able to read and score Hammer and Crucible before the completion of the round. His score will be listed as Did Not Attempt, which does not affect the overall rating.

Sarah’s Review and Rating

The AIs steal the show in this one. My favorite character is the ship, Lythion. Their appearance in the plot feels incredibly random, but they’re so fascinating, you can’t help but roll with it. At the same time, I wanted more. The scenes were soundly written, with lots of tech descriptions and humor, but they didn’t connect into a larger arc that made sense to me. I felt like I was missing buildup and emotional context that would’ve pulled me in more. The author clearly has lots of creative ideas; they just need more fleshing out on the page.

Sarah has rated Hammer and Crucible 6/10.

Official Scores

Jay 5.5
Josh 5.5
Matt DNA
Sarah 6
Team 5.67


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