SPSFC2 is here! The Red Stars team’s slush pile (or a book galore)!

Hello people! It seems like I am finally back, yay! To be honest, I am in a reading slump, sigh, but at least things are getting back to normal (reading excluded) and it seems like I am here to stay! So let’s start with something unique: SPSFC2 has begun! To learn more about the second edition of the Self-Published Science Fiction Contest you can visit the official site here (and do it, please! It is just so cool!!!!).

Anyway, last year I was a judge on team Red Star and I had a ton of fun! Sure, it is also a ton of work, but it is satisfying and you get to read books so… the pros win here! And it was a lovely experience altogether, so this year I decided to do it again, and today I am here to present you with all the books in our team slush pile!

A Near-Future Hard Sci-Fi about Data, War, and First Contact in our Solar System.
Life exists under Europa’s ice, but there’s doubt in the data.
Against of backdrop of escalating tensions, double-sided revelations of first contact ripple through all involved as the probe attempts the first landing on the ice of Europa. The novel intertwines perspectives of Earth and under Europa as all struggle for truth.
For fifteen years, the Europa Clipper has hinted at life under the ice-shell of Europa. An eccentric mogul, bent on expanding his legacy—funds and launches the first privately funded probe to Jupiter. The robotic submarine can reach the ocean floor and returning by an expertly trained AI. Tensions flare between the United States and China, while cyberattack threatens the project. Meanwhile, Dalton, a self-sabotaging synthetic data engineer, longs to make a name for himself in the scientific community, even at the cost of being infamous.
Unknown to Earth, alien society has penetrated up the kilometers of ice, and has long researched ‘Nullworld,’ the mysterious ‘ether’ beyond the ice from which no sonar returns. Tensions in their global society have escalated as their city-state fights with a neighbor whose hydrothermal vent has run cold. Now the military caste is in control, halted all research, and pressed capable scientists and engineers into militia service. The alien scientist must escape and bring back research he hopes will diffuse tensions: the revelation of another water world.

In a future that could be ours, Lizzie, a suicidal teen-age girl, barely navigates her own life. Then everything falls apart. In an apocalyptic land nearly deserted by disease, she lacks reasons to live until a shocking turn of events reveals a phone number. Her call pulls her dangerously cross-country to meet a stranger she thought was dead.
In a world where there is plenty of food, plenty of gas, plenty of space… fear, anger and a lust for power still control the patterns of human life.

A caustic fog blankets the Earth. Only the transparent barrier known as the Shield holds it at bay. It is the Amboians—an advanced alien species—and their technology that saved the last remnants of Humanity from the deadly Haze.
Cordelia Faucher, a scavenger known as the Haze Walker, has a secret she must keep hidden. Carter Gerro, one of the few Humans allowed among the City Guard is unexpectedly chosen to protect a member of the Amboian Council. A mercenary group known as the Amber Waves find themselves in over their heads after accepting a job they couldn’t pass up.
As disturbing reports of attacks from beyond the perimeter of the Shield reach the capital city of Amboy, all eyes turn eastward.
It is these events that bring together the Haze Walker, a City Guardsman, and a band of mercenaries.

Orphan. Conman. Conscript. Inmate. Haunted by the ghosts of his past, Mattias Temple, a failed cadre necromancer, is mauled by fate. When a rogue military squad kidnaps the governor and threatens the city with a magical plague, he has a shot to redeem a lifetime of mistakes and be the one thing he never thought possible: A hero.
Freed from prison, paired with Bridget, a Blackthorne operative, he sets out to right the one crime that truly haunts him.
As the body count rises Mattias finds himself neck-deep in trouble and drowning in ghosts. Hunted by the mercenary company he betrayed and facing the horrors of feral witchcraft, the question remains: who is Mattias Temple, and what does he want? Revenge, or something more?

Exiled heir. Rebel. Husband. Father.
In 2029, Gabriel Martiniere testified against the Martiniere Group’s forced imposition of mind control programming on unwilling indentured workers.
For his pains, he was forced into exile for over thirty years. Forced to divorce the love of his life.
But he’s still coming. Still bent on vengeance against the man who forced him into exile, Philip Martiniere.
Gabe will win…or die trying.

Near 1,500 years have passed since the Human race fled Gaia, Earth to the ancients, in an effort for survival and, with time, expansion among the stars. Through dwindling hopes, a mass collaboration brought Humanity back from the brink and not only did they survive, they thrived. The vestiges of the Human race formed the Gaian Interplanetary Alliance, the GIA,to continue their expansion and advancing in numerous areas of science: terraformation, Human augmentation, stellar travel, as well as the creation of an interstellar quantum computer dubbed the Gnanimus. With the knowledge of the Gnanimus and the introduction to alien technologies, from this dimension and beyond, Humanity grew by light years. At the furthest reaches of the Celestial, the Human race has found a way to reach beyond the known and expand Humanity faster than they could have ever imagined.
In the midst of the expanding Human condition and interspecies relations, Nachman Rosenblatt and his interdimensional partner, a Caiet named Sadie, are Arquis. The pair of Celestial private investigators have been just trying to do what Humanity has been doing for generations, survive. For the past five Gaian years Nachman has been outcast from the GIA which tends to make jobs, both independent and sanctioned, scarce for the duo. But now with a payable case from his former employer they are hot on the trail of a group of escaped prisoners near the outward reaches of the known galaxy. Upon the capture of one of the escapees, Nachman and Sadie stumble upon something that, not only, opens old wounds from Nachman’s past but could lead to the annihilation of the Celestial’s future.

Dan Fallon is a courtroom warrior at the pinnacle of his profession. That’s what he knows—it’s who he is. As he’s driving back from the biggest victory of his career an electromagnetic pulse [EMP] wipes out modern civilization and strands him hundreds of miles away from his family.
Dan’s legal skills are worthless against the chaos he must battle to get home. Is he strong enough? Is he ruthless enough? Can he can be the man his family needs him to be to survive in this new world?
Back home Mary and the children face their own challenges. Mary has run out of her medication and struggles to separate the apocalypse from her delusions. Erin is stranded at a Taekwondo tournament and decides to head home through the chaos alone. Sean thinks playing video games has better prepared him for the apocalypse than for picking a college major.
Do they have what it takes to survive in this new world? Can they come together as a family against all that tries to tear them apart?

Superheroes are big business. Imagine not being able to afford them.
Kit Baldwin just wants to make rent. The only work she can find in the ruins of her devastated city is scavenging for alien technology. When she finds a powerful alien weapon, her discovery pays off more than she could have hoped: it draws the attention of the most powerful of the superhuman Empowered, Valene.
Valene hears everything, everywhere. She suffers for it, and as they begin a precipitous romance, Kit believes she can use the weapon she’s scavenged to mitigate Valene’s pain. If she can’t, Valene will retreat to the soundlessness of space. Without Valene’s compassion, the stricken city is left to the mercy of Valene’s ruthless father, who denies the assistance the city needs unless it can pay for it.
As Valene’s condition worsens, Kit becomes more desperate and unleashes the full power of the alien weapon. In an instant, she is transformed into a being of cosmic power. She can acquire the knowledge and energy of anything – or anyone – she touches.

On colonial Venus, people who are susceptible to lies have been denigrated and barred from the citizenry. Ancient dirigibles dock at the top of colossal towers to shunt people to and from underground cities. Armies of enclosed, beetle-shaped biocrawlers creep around the planet providing a coveted, yet deficient, natural environment. Colonists strive for an outdoor ecology to call their own, but terraforming is faltering.
There is growing unrest, and at the heart of this rift is Hix, a member of the Venusian underclass. He has risen from the tenements to become a renowned film star, until he is accused of murder. Neeva is destined to be Keeper, an esteemed protector of First Colony Heritage. She is also an inspector assigned to Hix’s case… and the victim happens to be her sister.
Hix and Neeva must find passage through the winds of change, or their people will be swept away forever.

Rage, grief and guilt have fueled Doctor Fid’s endless quest to punish the unworthy and he has left a long trail of blood and misery in his wake. For more than two decades, the sight of the villain’s powered armor has struck fear into the hearts of hero and civilian alike! But when a personal tragedy motivates Doctor Fid to investigate a crime, he uncovers a plot so heinous that even he is taken aback.
Haunted by painful memories and profound guilt, the veteran supervillain must race against time if he is to have any hope of confronting the approaching threat. Every battle takes its toll…but the stakes are too high for retreat to be an option.
In the end, it may take a villain to save the world from those entrusted with the world’s protection.

The children are the future.
And someone is turning them into highly trained killing machines.
Straight out of school, Griffin, a junior Investigations agent for the North American Trade Union, is put on the case: Find and close the illegal crèches. No one expects him to succeed, Griffin least of all. Installed in a combat chassis Abdul, a depressed seventeen year old killed during the Secession Wars in Old Montreal, is assigned as Griffin’s Heavy Weapons support. Nadia, a state-sanctioned investigative reporter working the stolen children story, pushes Griffin ever deeper into the nightmare of the black market brain trade.
Deep in the La Carpio slums of Costa Rica, the scanned mind of an autistic girl runs the South American Mafia’s business interests. But she wants more. She wants freedom. And she has come to see humanity as a threat. She has an answer: Archaeidae. At fourteen, he is the deadliest assassin alive. Two children against the world.
The world is going to need some help.

25 years after the fall of Earth, the Commonwealth is locked in a vicious, galaxy-spanning war against the Revenant. Countless worlds have been lost in the fighting, and now one crew must come together and stand in the way of galactic annihilation.
Nathan Carter is an efficient criminal, but when he’s hired to steal supplies from a Commonwealth warship, what starts as an easy job soon transforms into something that could change the course of history. Now, Nathan must work with a group of unlikely allies to protect a woman whose heritage is the key to everything.

Against the backdrop of an immortal War that has entered into its final chapter…
A girl and a boy from a ravaged planet hope to start the first chapter of their new lives…
But no one could see what was lurking in the darkness that lies beyond what their eyes can see…
A SAGA SPREAD ACROSS THE UNIVERSE WITH A VERY GROUNDED CAST OF CHARACTERS…
As The Empire prepares for the inevitable war against an unseen, unimagined enemy from beyond the realm of the known, an enemy that is determined to destroy everything at any cost… a group youngsters from far and wide are brought together to begin their initiation into The Imperium and face their faceless foe… and in this group of outstanding people there are two that stand out… a girl and a boy…
They are the first of their people to be allowed back into The Imperium in generations… for it was generations ago that the rebellion against The Empire had failed and their people were pushed into exile, an exile that had to come to an end when the War came calling… but as they’re now being cautiously welcomed back into the mainstream fold… some are more careful about it than others…
Join them as they try and find a place for themselves in a changing new world as their old world begins to collapse… two lost souls alone in the vast star system trying to help each other find their true paths… just as a great War charges ahead on its path to them!
DESTINIES WILL BE CHANGED… LIVES WILL BE LOST… WHEN THE PAST & PRESENT COLLIDE!
The epic story that was in the making for a thousand millennia… is finally ready to be told…
This is that story… the story of an epic war between Darkness & Light… the story of how an immortal war finally died… this is the story of the Dance of Darkness & Light…
Witness the beginning of the end with… Episode 1…

In the far future. Performers battle it out as Wizards, Magicians, and Warlocks, using advanced technology to perform amazing feats for fame and fortune.
For Talos June, he is living the life he has wanted the most: competing, entertaining, working with the dangerous technologies that produce magic. When trouble finds him, he has to decide what he wants to do next and how to solve the new puzzle trouble has brought to him.
A GameLit inspired Space Opera.

A civilization changing technology threatens the future of humanity — can a young girl from the outer system stop it all?
Imogen “Chim” Esper is thrust into the center of an interplanetary conflict when her father is injured on a spacewalk on a mining station. Haunted by guilt over her own role in the events leading to the accident and the cold indifference of the Kardashev corporation, Chim struggles to find her place in a society that is poised for revolutionary transformation.
The Kardashev Corporation dominates all commerce and politics in the solar system after coming to prominence in the great expansion led by space mining. Alton Neal, the CEO of Kardashev is hell bent on transforming society by capturing the full energy output of the sun.
Citizens of Earth and the stations throughout the system must band together to protect access to the lifeblood of the system or risk becoming permanently enslaved to the Kardashev Corporation.
Mercury’s Shadow is a thrilling adventure that blends real science, big ideas, grand adventure and high stakes to introduce a new heroine and a deep universe that will leave readers asking for more.

Savant Elise Jackson, Arkite’s supreme leader, is stricken with terrible grief over the recent loss of her lover. She has spent the last two years with her assistant, Sara, trying to repair and genetically engineer her lover’s damaged body and mind.
But the Viceroy of Pyramid City and her followers in the Savant Council have no interest in squandering the city’s resources for Elise’s personal gain. With the help of the mainframe AI, they will vie for power, even attempting collusion with Sara and sabotage.
And even if her enemies fail and Elise somehow manages to revive her lover, Elise knows she’ll have to vie for something she covets even more—her lover’s love. For Sara once loved her just as much, if not more.
Mother Savant is the sequel to Candy Savant—Book 2 in the Candy Savant Series.
The books in this series are complete self-contained novels not ending in cliffhangers. Some spoilers cannot be avoided, but Mother Savant is a stand-alone novel that can be enjoyed without reading the first book.

The enemy has found our long-hidden refuge under the sea, the last colony of mankind. Will this be our final battle?
As the last descendants of Earth struggle to survive in an aging undersea colony, one man’s discovery will lead him on a journey of redemption, while he fights to save what’s left of his world.Jacob Stone is a man haunted by his past. When he reluctantly accepts a job to help pay for a cargo submarine he inherited but doesn’t want, he inadvertently awakens an ancient and terrible power. Its arrival triggers a chain of events that could destroy what’s left of the human race or be the key to its future. But, is it a future he’s willing to fight for, let alone die for?

What does someone who can slip between universes do for a living?
They help shape the fate of this reality.
When his grandfather dies, a young Eli Clarke takes over as the Key: an individual with the power to traverse the multiverse. Raised inside a cult that works with the government, he erases targets from the timeline.
Then he meets Jess, a fellow outsider who shows him what it is to question everything.
Set in the 80s, 90s, and now, OF ALL POSSIBILITIES is a dark, universe-hopping story about loss, identity, and obsession that explores the repercussions of the choices we make and what makes us who we are.

The year is 20018. The famed magician Illuminari is dead, and his greatest illusion has died with him. Dark forces now seek the Engine of Armageddon, the ancient, sentient doomsday weapon that Illuminari hid amongst the stars.
Enter Percival Gynt, accountant and part-time hero, whose quest to find the Engine before it falls into the wrong hands may be our universe’s last best hope for survival. It is a quest that will take him from the highest reaches of power to the lowest pits of despair and through every manner of horror and absurdity between.
But beware. This accountant has a secret. A secret that may damn us all.
Percival Gynt and the Conspiracy of Days is a sci-fi/fantasy adventure novel full of swashbuckling, math, dark secrets, space-faeries, obtrusive product placement, Nazis, beating up those Nazis, unlimited baked beans, zombie cyborg assassins, fate with a capital “F,” love, betrayal, wizards, jokes, paradoxes, a sentient doomsday weapon, eleven-dimensional space, clones, monsters, space-nuns, and at least one rat-chef.

“Forget diamonds, in the Post Apocalypse, Bullets are a girl’s best friend!
Pink is a mysterious woman who walked out of the wastes. She is an up and coming member of the Patrol. They are the sheriffs of the wild wastes, taking on zombies, mutants, bandits and robots left over in the ruins.
Pink is now freshly promoted and set out on a seemly mundane mission with three other wasteland warrior women at her side. However, she is haunted by a failed expedition to find her mentor in more ways than one.
Pink must now lead this team of bad ass bullet babes into the wastes for answers. The End of the World was just the beginning of Action and Adventure!”

 An ambitious Singapore gangster recruits an elite hacker to steal a devastatingly powerful quantum computer and hijack the world’s financial markets. Meanwhile, a beautiful streetwise CIA agent is determined to foil their plan in a case that could make or break her career.
With settings ranging from Detroit to Singapore to the slums of Bihar, India (the “Sicily of India”), *Qubit* examines both the vulnerability of our cryptographic infrastructure and corruptibility of our financial systems. The story features international intrigue, a violent gang war, an unlikely love story, and an intricate cryptographic chess match that takes place as the global economy teeters on the brink of collapse.

What if Snow White had been fated to be a revolutionary… instead of a pawn?
Nuetierra. An alien world where twin moons light the night and massive air-breathing jellyfish float through the violet skies trolling for prey.
Nue Bayona. A gaslit, steam-powered city caught between the iron fist of a despot and the bloody fist of a terrorist…
Four hundred years have passed since a great war toppled the fusion powered civilization created by refugees fleeing a dying planet. Since its fall, Old Earth’s descendants have gradually rebuilt a new society on the bones of the old.
Deanna Hernaan, daughter of Eduard, the former Alcalde of Nue Bayona, spends much of her time caring for her younger sister, Ceilia. Six years ago, her stepmother Lourdessa led a brutal political coup against their father. With the consent of the city’s elite, Lourdessa rules through patronage and oppression while Deanna’s father languishes in prison.
The common citizens chafe beneath Lourdessa’s yoke and yearn for their lost democracy. Many in Nue Bayona support a resistance movement led by the mysterious figure known only as Faustin, despite the fact his violent tactics have left innocent people dead.
Threatened by Deanna’s popularity, Lourdessa jealously arranges for her assassination. But the attempt fails and Deanna escapes from the city. Cast adrift in a hostile wilderness and near death, she is rescued by a band of diminutive hunters, members of a mysterious race she knows only from history books—the Tiqui.
Recovering in their distant village, Deanna meets a remarkable woman—the Tiqui chieftess Yellow Bird. The chieftess possesses the shamanic gift of foresight. Her visions have revealed that a girl from the race of tall folk would one day come, a girl whose fate is inextricably linked to that of the Tiqui.
When Deanna’s safe haven is destroyed in a night of horrific violence, she must make a choice: leave the Tiqui for a life of exile, or dare to embrace her destiny by embarking on the road to revolution. Dangerous and uncertain, disaster or salvation waits at its end—for both Tiqui and tall folk alike.

One discovery has unimaginable consequences…
While searching a deserted mountain range, an explorer locates a high-tech artifact he assumes is merely another interesting find. It’s only one piece in a greater puzzle leading towards a device of ultimate power, the Diffusor-Sphere. Suddenly, he’s thrown into a battle between an engineer who’s remade himself as a cybernetic demigod, and the one tasked with safeguarding humanity from him. The only way out is recovering the Sphere first, but will he reach it in time?
The Treasure of Lor-Rev is another exciting adventure from Bryan Asher, set in the world of floating nations known as The Intercontinents.

In 2120, New America is the world leader in technology and individual freedom. Why, then, has seventeen-year-old Fae Luna felt like an isolated prisoner her entire life?
She survived the worst of the foster care system by honing her skills as a top-level hacker and thanks to the support of her humanoid robot, Sunny, who is illegally upgraded to a human-level AI.
Finally, she’s matched with a foster mom who treats her kindly. Fae slowly lets her guard down until a suspicious tragedy tears them apart. With no flesh-and-blood friends, she is forced to call Blaze, a guild-mate from her online holo-game, who introduces her to a motley crew of rebels and loyalists. When they dig into Fae’s mystery, they discover a far-reaching and deadly conspiracy.
Fae promised her dying mother she would never alter her body with a brain implant, but with the Evo, her hacking skills would be unbeatable. Lethal battles and devastating consequences will challenge her vow.
Will Fae choose the enhancement or trust her own exceptional mind to defeat a secretive and powerful force threatening all New Americans?

Scouting crews arrive on newly discovered Dandros to find it ripe with life and fresh for colonization. There are no people and no vertebrate animals. But there is one castle, and one statue of a man known as the anomaly. Energy resonates from the head of this monument of times past where instruments and machinery probe the anomaly’s head and its empty keep, the only signs of civilization. It mourns for its love, speaks of its demise, and tells the humble beginnings of Dandros. It is kept under lock and key for the stories it tells.They learn that his name is Doug, a traveler from long ago, and he had prayed to a being known as the Goddess. Doug’s energy mentions her endlessly just before he had turned to stone. He had been making plans for her physical arrival on Dandros.

Wodehouse steampunk version of The Hound of the Baskervilles!
An escaped cannibal, a family curse … and Reginald Worcester turning up on the doorstep. Could things get any worse for the Baskerville-Smythe family?
As the bodies pile up, only a detective with a rare brain – and Reggie’s is so rare it’s positively endangered – can even hope to solve the case.
But… there is the small matter that most of the guests aren’t who they say they are, the main suspect has cloven feet, and a strange mist hangs over great Grimdark Mire.
Luckily the young master has Reeves, his automaton valet, and Emmeline, his suffragette fiancEe, on hand to assist.
This novel is the fifth Reeves & Worcester Steampunk mystery. The first four stories were published in the collection What Ho, Automata.

When everyone has a brain-interfacing tracking chip, one glitch threatens the entire network. Kaya Weiss is that glitch.
Through thoughts and blinks, Kaya can access anyone or anything on the tracker network. But the authorities monitor everything—where Kaya goes, who she talks to, and what she searches. And without the ability to turn it off, Kaya and her family can’t observe a tech-free Shabbat. To fix the glitch, the authorities slice into her skull to reset her tracker, leaving Kaya to question more than the system’s invasion into her faith.
Kaya won’t be a lab rat again.
Evading the authorities requires some serious tech skills the rogue underground Ghosts can offer. But Kaya’s not sure she can trust them—even if their top tech wiz, Bailen, has interest in her running deeper than her bum tracker. Kaya must decide if gaining freedom is worth losing her tracker’s infinite knowledge—because to take down the tracker network, she must betray the only tech she’s ever known.

Zendaya Fernwood carries with her a secret. The world around her is a lie, an ingeniously designed digital prison for the mind. Escape occupies her every thought. Freedom is her goal and nothing will stop her from unplugging. What awaits Zendaya is a fate far worse than she could have imagined. Beyond her prison is a scorched earth where man and machine wage war in a seemingly endless campaign of suffering. There is hope on the horizon, a unique figure with the potential of rising from the shadows of the scorched earth to make a difference. To finally, after so very long, give humans the freedom they deserve.

Okay, this was quite the long post, but now you can see all the books my team would try out! And really soon I would be back with my first impressions on some of them. But in the meantime…

Have you read any of these books? And which are the ones that are more appealing to you? Let me know!!!!

And don’t forget to vote the covers!

Happy reading!
S.

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