SPSFC Semifinalist Review: Any Minor World by Craig Schaefer

Self-Published Science Fiction Competition (SPSFC) Team Tar Vol On has sent our two semifinalists to a pair of other teams, and in return, we’ve gotten four new semifinalists to review and rate. Our scores will combine with those of these two other teams in order to select two books to advance to the finals, starting in mid-April. As in the first round, a seven-person team full of idiosyncratic preferences means we will rarely all agree on a particular book, so we’ve included review snippets in order to help each book find its audience. Additionally, every book at this stage was loved by at least one other team, so there’s always going to be a rave review to check out outside of Team Tar Vol On.

Today, we’re looking at a superhero thriller with noir stylings, drawing another glowing review from EdpoolAny Minor World by Craig Schaefer.

Azrah’s Review and Rating

If I was to choose one word to describe this book it would be cinematic. From the first chapter the snappy pacing flows so well, you’re immersed right into the world and the characters fly off the page. Honestly Schaefer’s characterisation is phenomenal, each and every one of the characters fells well fleshed out and you get a real sense of their personalities within a few pages.

The story has a very DC Comics feel to it, the setting was giving me flashes of Gotham for sure and I also found my mind drawing parallels to Watchmen and The Sandman too. Though I have to say that as a whole it leans much more towards gritty urban fantasy than science fiction for me and this is probably because when it comes to the more speculative elements there is a lot more magic/black magic involved than science. As someone who loves it when SFF in paired with mystery/crime I still had such a fun time with it though.

Azrah has rated Any Minor World 8/10. For more, check out her full review.

Bowen’s Review and Rating

Any Minor World is awesome! Do you like thrills and suspense? Like action and tough guys? Like superheroes and comic books? Then you’re going to love Any Minor World. I read it as my first semifinalist read of the Self Published Science Fiction Competition, and boy am I glad I chose this first!

The plotting is excellent. Characters are given pasts to overcome, which they do at exactly the right moment. Crucial details are hinted at and set up, yet not given away. At about 75% of the way through the book, I was ready to ding the author for a big spoiler, but it turned out to be 180 degrees off of what I thought was coming. Just grade A top quality writing all the way around. I couldn’t stop turning pages.

Bowen has rated Any Minor World 8/10. For more, check out his full review.

Dave’s Rating

Dave has rated Any Minor World 7/10.

Jay’s Review and Rating

The characterization is about what I would expect from something in the noir or superhero subgenres–it’s neither the selling point nor a drawback in a book that’s driven mostly by a propulsive plot with a strong “what happens next” factor. It’s pretty far from traditional sci-fi, and the metafictional elements may be polarizing, but as a reader open to all corners of speculative fiction, I found Any Minor World a fast-paced and highly enjoyable tale.

Jay has rated Any Minor World 7.5/10. For more, check out his full review.

Mark’s Review and Rating

 Fantastic writing and world building. Loved the story. Even the pacing was very good. Unfortunately, for the first ten chapters, this book reads like a simple noir private detective story. It left me wondering, “Where’s the science fiction?” When what was supposed to be the science fiction showed up, it came right out of the blue. If there was any foreshadowing, it didn’t stick in my mind. And really, it was fantasy, not science fiction. There were also a couple issues with characters behaving contrary to their established norms with no clear reason that rang false.

Mark has rated Any Minor World 7.5/10.

Paromita’s Review and Rating

I was disappointed by this novel. The writing and pacing were fine and good respectively but the story didn’t work for me. There was nothing in terms of theming or worldbuilding and the character work felt lacklustre. There was a noticeable lack of SF elements.

Paromita has rated Any Minor World 5/10.

Rari’s Review and Rating

Roy and Lucy are both well rounded characters, with depth and dimension. They are both battling their own traumas even as they’re running from enemies. The side characters are mostly the comic book people but even they have some depth to them. I loved how it ended, and how everything led to that conclusion. As someone who hates confrontation and was afraid to say no for a long time, I found Lucy relatable on a personal level. I want to give her a hug and keep her safe and warm. Same with Roy. For all his faults, he is a man struggling to do the right thing.

If you love Sci fi, fantasy and alternate dimensions with characters who are both believable and likeable, this is the book for you.

Rari has rated Any Minor World 8/10. For more, check out her full review.

Official Scores

While SPSFC takes an expansive definition of sci-fi that explicitly includes science fantasy, our judges read Any Minor World less as science fantasy and more as pure urban fantasy. We are only one team of judges, and we have no wish to unilaterally ruin the book’s score when other teams had different opinions about its subgenre. But we were unanimous in our feeling that the science fantasy label did not fit, and though many of us liked the book (as is reflected in our scores), we thought it appropriate to deduct one point from the average when considering Any Minor World specifically as a science fiction book, rather than a speculative fiction, broadly construed.

Azrah 8
Bowen 8
Dave 7
Jay 7.5
Mark 7.5
Paromita 5
Rari 8
Team 6.29


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