My judging team in the third annual Self-Published Science Fiction Competition (SPSFC3) has made our way through our full 24-book allocation and selected seven quarterfinalists. Since then, we’ve spent a couple months reading these seven quarterfinalists in full in an effort to narrow our allocation down to the two books we’ll be sending forward to the semifinals. While our scores at this stage will determine whether or not a book will advance to the next round, we’ve also included short snippets of each judge’s review in an effort to help our quarterfinalists find their audience. After all, every book we’ve read in this stage comes with a hearty recommendation from at least one of our seven judges. None of them are unanimous favorites, but all of them are books that we can attest will be hits for the right readers.
Today, we are proud to introduce our first of two semifinalists: the suburban litRPG Apocalypse Parenting by Erin Ampersand.
Azrah’s Review and Rating
This was my first experience with LitRPG and although there are certain things that would definitely come across stronger visually with a gaming storyline like this, it was still a lot of fun! I’d say the book definitely falls into the Science Fantasy category and reminded me of some of the family adventure films I watched growing up – Jumanji for sure – but what I loved about this in particular was that it was all from the perspective of a parent.
The single person narrative limits us to Meghan’s experiences but she was such an interesting character to follow. I found myself cheering on her resilience whether she was parenting, fighting Leafenrats or encouraging her neighbours to work together. The scenes with her kids were equally distressing and heart-warming with a welcome sprinkling of humour. It was entertaining to see how they all repurposed household objects for the crazy apocalyptic circumstances.
With how fast we’re immersed into the action from the beginning there is a point when all the levelling up and waiting for new challenges to arrive drags the story out a little. However, the action-packed closing scenes ramp up the pace again and throw Meghan into a new kind of turmoil which sets up the next book perfectly.
Azrah has rated Apocalypse Parenting 7.5/10. For more, check out her full review.
Bowen’s Review and Rating
This lighthearted fun eases the threshold for willing suspension of disbelief, making it easier to accept the premise, and the harried “single” (for purposes of this story) mom MC trying to balance keeping her kids out of trouble with leveling up as a video game character simply made me smile through the whole thing. Overall I loved this book.
Bowen has rated Apocalypse Parenting 7.5/10. For more, check out his full review.
Dave’s Review and Rating
An outrageous premise handled in such a matter-of-fact way this reader was happy to suspend disbelief. Loved the wank, squirt guns, the alien overlords, and army of three kids battling monsters.
Dave has rated Apocalypse Parenting 8/10. For more, check out his full review.
Jay’s Review and Rating
Overall, I had a lot of fun with Apocalypse Parenting. I did find that the serial pacing led to a few slow spots, and I would’ve liked to see some of the character-related sequel promises developed further in the opening book, but it was a really entertaining read that has caused me to reevaluate litRPG as a subgenre. If you enjoy watching ordinary people trying to find ways to survive extraordinary situations, Apocalypse Parenting demands a read.
Jay has rated Apocalypse Parenting 7.5/10. For more, check out his full review.
Mark’s Review and Rating
Really enjoyed the story overall. Liked that it was grounded in “everyday life”. Made it a lot easier to relate to the characters and to suspend disbelief. There weren’t big info dumps — the reader had to find everything out the same way the characters did — a bit at a time. The trials and tribulations of being a parent under those circumstances were also well done. I particularly liked when the six-year-old lost his temper with the three-year-old and injured her with his new found powers. That’s exactly how it would happen. Well done.
Unfortunately, the pacing slowed in the middle and the author did not create as much tension as she might have around the new monsters spawning. I also think more selfish neighbors would have added greatly to the story. These, along with a few glaringly obvious typos in critical places detracted from an otherwise well-written story.
Mark has rated Apocalypse Parenting 7/10.
Paromita’s Review and Rating
Overall, this book did not really work for me. The writing was very readable, there were some good character moments and character development and some nice theming. However, was a sense of disconnect with the storytelling for me – it felt like we were going through the motion until the next skill was revealed/challenge appeared.
In summary, I might have enjoyed playing this (or more realistically for me watching someone stream playing it on Twitch). But as fiction, it did not work and left me underwhelmed.
Paromita has rated Apocalypse Parenting 5/10.
Rari’s Review and Rating
*indicates judge’s top score of the round