And so I have finally got my final thoughts together for the first phase of SPFBO Year Three, 2017. Since starting back in May I have gone on two trips within Australia for conventions, one overseas to Worldcon in Helsinki with touristing to Belgium, Scotland and England on the side, enrolled in and (so far) completed half of a Diploma (HR), started a new job (month so far and got the hang of it finally), been on a pretty disappointing date, was referred to be diagnosed for Aspergers, and got a new tattoo. Pretty crazy six months.
But enough about all that – you want to know which title I’ve chosen to get through to the final ten of 300 entries! As we know, I first worked my list of 30 down to 8, and this is what I got:
S.J. Madill – Magic Comes to Whiteport – my review – 4/5 stars
Daniel Olesen – The Eagle’s Flight – my review – 4/5 stars
Adam Steiner – The Censor’s Hand – my review – 4/5 stars
Harry Connolly – The Way Into Chaos – my review – 4/5 stars
Graham Austin-King – Faithless – my review – 4/5 stars
From the star rating we can see that it then came down to five titles, but it’s not always as easy as simply rating them by a few stars and writing a review. There’s so many things to look at when picking a winner – how everything fits together technically, overall quality, overall enjoyment… just because something is edited perfectly, does that mean it should get more merit than another? How about when you as a reader need to put aside your personal favourite for something that is a better overall package?
Personally… Magic Comes to Whiteport remains in my head as something I simply liked. The characters, the plot, the writing… all together, it’s just a nice, enjoyable and entertaining read. It was what I wanted at the time, and if I had time to read any of these again on an empty afternoon, it’s the one I’d pick up. Sadly, that’s not the same as recommending it as a winner for a competition.
The Eagle’s Flight and The Censor’s Hand are also of quality. They are solid reads, have very few errors, and do what they set out to do well. They don’t however have the spark that kept me reading, nor that I could put everything I have behind me and back it up to the other judges. But hey, out of 30 coming third and fourth is pretty dang good, guys.
So it comes to Faithless and The Way Into Chaos. It’s so close – so very close, guys. In the end it has to be The Way Into Chaos (and I’m so sorry, Faithless). These do what The Eagle’s Flight and The Censor’s Hand do, but just that little bit better. Editing and experience go a long way in a book, and I’m sure the rest of my shortlist will get there one day very soon. You’ve all done a marvellous job.