SPSFC Finalist Review: Children of the Black by W.J. Long III

We’ve made it to the finals of the third annual Self-Published Science Fiction Competition. Team Tar Vol On has combined with eight other teams to select six finalists to be read by every judge in the competition. We’ve already read and scored Thrill Switch and Kenai, but we’re reviewing four more as part of the last round of the competition. As always, our team has varied tastes and rarely are univocally in favor of one book. For those where we aren’t recall, that every book that’s made it this far has drawn rave reviews from multiple teams. Even if they’re not for us, they’re for someone, and we hope our reviews will help those someones find the right books. 

Today, we’re taking a look at a multi-perspective space thriller, Children of the Black by W.J. Long III.

Azrah’s Review and Rating

The first part is packed with tension and action and whilst a sense of tension does continue, as the story goes on the action cuts back a bit and merges with a more character focused narrative. However, with a story like this that has a lot of moving parts plot wise I did find that when the story got going the descriptive heavy narrative did start to drag things out a little too much.

Pacing issues and all the repetition aside this was a really well thought out read. The memorable characters, captivating setting and all the interwoven mysteries and secrets kept me intrigued until the end.

Azrah has rated Children of the Black 7/10. For more, check out her full review.

Bowen’s Review and Rating

This book opens with a gripping scene pulled straight out of the most potent tropes of sci fi: a space station mysteriously abandoned. Everyone dead, and no one can tell why. Terrifying hints of whatever it was that killed them. Claude DiSilva dies trying to investigate, or at least that’s what everyone assumes.

The story moves slowly for a while. The author digs into his worldbuilding and his characterization. All that is interspersed with scenes of intense action to keep things moving.

And then the conclusion is, in the classic phrase, an edge of your seat thrill ride. From about the 70% mark, I couldn’t stop turning pages. It had gripping suspense, action-packed scenes of heroism, and characters I truly cared about.

Bowen has rated Children of the Black 6.75/10.

Dave’s Review and Rating

The book started fast and furious on a derelict ship with mysterious beings. All the elements were there for a rousing space adventure: an expansive world, space pirates, living silver, psionics, and battles in the black. The writing immersed the reader in the action and in the heads of the characters. Same for the world-building, which was well thought out and incredibly detailed. I expect some readers would find this a great read.

Unfortunately, I found backstory and exposition to be a bit much. The author went into great detail about the history of their world and the backstory of the characters. Which is all well and good if it moves the plot along, but I found most of it inconsequential. As a result, I paid close attention to everything and quickly became overwhelmed. The finale was more of the same, with the last quarter of the book a (very) long battle sequence that ended just as I expected. For me, I think if the author would have tightened up the book by cutting a quarter or more of the words, it would have been a better read.

Dave has rated Children of the Black 6.2/10.

Jay’s Review and Rating

Overall, Children of the Black is a solid space opera, with myriad factions providing plenty of plot-related conflict and leading to some action-packed confrontations. The one major weakness is the pacing, with too much time spent doling out character background relative to the fairly standard level of characterization. But patient readers who enjoy plot-driven sci-fi may really enjoy this one!

Jay has rated Children of the Black 6/10. For more, check out his full review.

Mark’s Review and Rating

Mark was unable to read Children of the Black and will not be providing a score.

Paromita’s Review and Rating

The prologue was excellent. In the chapters, the dialogue was a bit stilted at times for me but the writing in the more reflective parts was well done. The story was a bit too action-packed for me and there was a lack of cohesion in parts, however I liked the core idea communicated through the conflict. It was perhaps a bit too long – that could be partly because the story does not align with my reading interests but I did feel some things were overdescribed. I found it slightly lacking in theming, there were a lot of events but we didn’t get to explore the implications as much as I hoped. Overall, it was a good read with something missing for me to make it more than that.

Paromita has rated Children of the Black 6.5/10.

Rari’s Review and Rating

Rari was unable to read Children of the Black and will not be providing a score.

Official Scores

Azrah 7
Bowen 6.75
Dave 6.2
Jay 6
Mark DNA
Paromita 6.5
Rari DNA
Team 6.49


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