SciFi / Fantasy / Horror
by Stella Atrium
Plot: Atrium's Seven Beyond is a well-paced, solidly plotted novel. Though the climax is somewhat moderate in its intensity, there are twists and turns that will cause readers to keep turning pages.
Prose: Atrium's prose is exquisitely detailed. The dialogue blends old-fashioned diction with contemporary, even futuristic, issues.
Originality: Seven Beyond is an intriguing blend of science fiction, fantasy, and mystery, calling to mind such endeavors as Cloud Atlas and Sense8.
Character Development: Atrium's characters are marvelously and imaginatively robed, named, and described.
by Barry Grills
Plot: Set in a compelling dystopian future, this story is congested by an overloading of exposition. While somewhat stalled by a lack of present-time scenes, the story develops greater urgency as it progresses.
Prose: Writing in fluid, lyrical sentences, Grills demonstrates a clear facility with language and tone. However, these attributes are hindered by a tendency to sacrifice clarity for poetry. Streamlining such alluring descriptions into more experiential showing, would allow these moments to have greater impact.
Originality: Striking prose and an enticing premise allow this novel to stand out within the larger category of dystopian fiction.
Character Development: Characters gain complexity and distinctive qualities as the novel develops, however, they remain secondary to the shining prose and many fall short of fully materializing.
by D.L. Gardner
Plot: The author presents an often engaging, uncomplicated sci-fi story that centers on an individual whose magical abilities provide him solace from cruelty and abuse, while also rendering him a troubled outsider.
Prose: Gardner's writing skews strongly toward a young adult audience. While the storytelling moves forward with a clipped pace, prose and dialogue are inconsistent, at times reading as stilted and unnatural.
Originality: Gardner's story is at its strongest and most original when exploring the darker side of Dylan’s magic, particularly his ability to conjure destructive energy.
Character Development: While characters are generally vivid and individually carry weight within the story, they are not as nuanced as the novel deserves.
by Jocelyn Tollefson
Plot: This well-plotted novel effectively pits two supernatural beings in a battle for the fate of the world. Demon Allastor's machinations—such as his attempts to destroy the world’s justice systems—are intriguing. However, the dynamics between the lead characters is often muddied, leading readers to question the story’s internal logic.
Prose: Dialogue and descriptions are well executed, particularly in tense action scenes. An overreliance on overt foreshadowing somewhat undercuts the power of the storytelling.
Originality: This supernatural novel’s most unique elements surround the protagonist’s internal struggles and sacrifice. Demon Alastor’s frustrations and bureaucratic tendencies that gloss over a deeper evil, are also particularly fresh.
Character Development: Friends and family members, willing to risk their lives to save a loved one, are the strongest characters, generally enhancing the story’s impact and providing greater humanity to Kyra herself.
by James Musgrave
Plot: Musgrave writes an engaging futuristic novel that is somewhat weighed down by exposition and backstory. Still, there is much to hold readers’ attention, particularly in its potent central conceit.
Prose: Descriptions are clear and precise, providing readers with a highly particular sense of time and place. Musgrave’s prose is reminiscent of Orwell’s in language and tone.
Originality: In paying tribute to Orwell’s 1984, Musgrave relies upon familiar genre tropes. However, the author brings a renewed sense of pertinence to a familiar realm.
Character Development: Musgrave’s world is populated by youth who bask in the freedom of believing nothing and thinking little beyond the present moment. He powerfully conveys his outlier protagonist’s greater sense of awareness as he approaches his 40th birthday.
by Dawn Greenfield Ireland
Plot: The Last Dog tells too much and shows too little, making the plot predictable and slowing the narrative pace.
Prose: The narrative’s blunt, informative tone often feels at odds with the storyline. Also, dialogue frequently falls flat because interactions between characters can feel superficial.
Originality: Some of the technological advancements introduced in the text are original and fascinating. But others bog down the narrative and feel like unnecessary and even flippant additions.
Character Development: Most of the characters, including the canines, feel more like types than fully formed individuals. As such, readers will have a hard time investing in them and their story.
by Alan Joshua
Disqualified due to word count over 100,000.