Sunday, January 31, 2016

4th Annual SFR Galaxy Awards: Round Seven by Charlee Allden

Best New Series
Ice Planet Barbarians by Ruby Dixon

This series introduced a race of big, blue, horned aliens living on an ice planet and a group of abducted women who end up stuck on what they like to call not-Hoth. I had great fun with the hero and heroine of the first book and it only got better as the books progressed. I thoroughly enjoyed this flash back to the pure fantasy of the barbarian heroes of the 1980s mixed with modern women in a well-developed world. 

Best Dark SFR Trilogy
Tribute by Kate Pearce

The Tribute trilogy was the most difficult read I couldn't put down this year. In this dark SFR, a human civilization developed on a new world only to learn too late that is was already inhabited by a terrifying, underground dwelling species. Too keep the monsters at bay, they provide Tributes each season to appease the enemies perverse and cruel curiosity. Each book reveals more of the world and the underlying plots that put the characters in grave danger. The intertwined stories of four characters plays out with explicit, dark, and non-traditional romance that is alternately, offensive, fascinating, gut-wrenching, and gratifying. Not for the faint of heart, Tribute shows off the brave and rare talent of the author in an innovative feat of storytelling.

Most Continuing Series Using the Mars Needs Women Trope
Tornians by M.K. Eidem

I discovered this series when the hero of the first book, Grim, was nominated for a Best SFR Hero poll I was running on my blog. This series started in 2013 but had several new books added in 2015. It features a typical back drop of an alien race whose females have become scarce, but features a fresh take on the culture that has developed as a result. A culture that is rocked by the introduction of human females. The heroes of this series are stellar examples of the honorable and devoted alphas that fans of this trope adore and the heroines are varied and individual enough to keep each book fresh. My only reservation with this series is that the older books in the series would benefit from a solid round of editing, but the stories easily make it worth overlooking that flaw.

4th Annual SFR Galaxy Awards: Round Six by Marlene Harris

Best “After the Happily Ever After”
An Ancient Peace (Confederation #6/ Peacekeeper #1) by Tanya Huff
Tanya Huff’s Valor/Confederation series is one of the great military SF series that is a heroine’s journey instead of a hero’s journey. It is also an utterly marvelous military SF series from the point of view of someone who is a senior non-commissioned officer and is determined to remain so. Torin Kerr is a Gunnery Sergeant in the Terran United Planets Space Force Marines, and proud of it.

But the story in the original series was one of Torin digging deeper than she ever intended into the war between her side and the aliens. As the series progressed, Torin’s faith in her service is shaken. When she discovers the truth, the story is a classic of the “aliens manipulated events” type. And Torin falls in love with a private ship owner who doesn’t play by the rules. When the truth is revealed, Torin and her crew retire from the Marines, seemingly to live happily, if occasionally grumpily, ever after.

An Ancient Peace is what happens next. You can the woman out of the Marines, but you can’t pry the Marines out of the woman with a crowbar. And while Torin and her crew may have lost faith in the powers that be, she hasn’t lost any of her will to rush in where angels rightfully fear to tread and rescue whoever needs rescuing. Including the galaxy.

Best “Riff on To Serve Man”
The Terrans (First Salik War #1) by Jean Johnson. Also, Best Riff on the “Fated Mate” trope.
The Terrans by Jean Johnson is the first book in her First Salik War series, which is a prequel series to her Theirs Not to Reason Why series. (For those keeping score, it is more than possible to read The Terrans without reading the other series. After all, it’s a PREQUEL)

The First Salik War series, and particularly The Terrans is not military SF like Theirs Not. Instead, this is a first contact series that gets the history moving towards the later events. One of the cool things in Johnson’s universe is that psychic powers are not merely recognized, they are also codified in a way that explains what’s going on, and in a scientific manner that allows those powers to be measured and proven.

So when all the psychics on Earth have visions about certain ships with certain people meeting aliens, everybody, including the powers that be, listens. And that’s where our story begins. Ambassador Jackie MacKenzie goes out to meet the aliens, and discovers two things. A long time ago, and quite possibly literally in a galaxy far, far away, somebody seeded the galaxy with human colonies removed from Earth long before we developed space travel. And there is a whole race of aliens who thinks we make a very tasty lunch, especially if we are alive and squirming while we’re being eaten.

Best “Cyborg Supersoldier Romance”
Through the Static by Jeanette Grey
In a way, this is another SF slavery story, but it takes place here on Earth. It also picks up the classic SF theme that governments will do anything, break any law, corrupt any moral code, in order to create supersoldiers of the mindless killing-machine type.

In this particular universe, they do it just the way that the First Order in Star Wars: The Force Awakens creates stormtroopers - they kidnap children and reprogram them. And just like Finn in SW:TFA, sometimes the programming breaks down.

When a scientist successfully delves into the secrets that create these supersoldiers, the evil powers that be send multiple teams of those supersoldiers after her. But Jinx’ programming is already breaking down, and Dr. Aurelia Locke knows exactly how to return his memories and free will to the programmed assassin. What no one expects is that the former supersoldier will fall in love with the woman who saved him, and vice versa.

Jinx and his fellow supersoldiers will remind any SF reader of Robocop or the Terminator as well as SW:TFA, but this time, there’s a happy ending. Only after a massive struggle between Jinx, Aurelia, and the man who targets them both.

Best “Post-Apocalypse for Readers who don’t even like Post-Apocalypse”
Hell Squad series by Anna Hackett
I don’t normally like post-apocalyptic romances. The whole idea of the prepper’s paranoia finally paying off doesn’t actually do anything for me. Your mileage, of course, may vary. However, I love Anna Hackett’s Hell Squad series, which is absolutely post-apocalyptic romance.

I’m still trying to figure out why. The Hell Squad series blends a lot of things that I do like. For one thing, the apocalypse that Hell Squad is post of is an alien invasion. So this is definitely science fiction. Not just because of the aliens, but also because of other futuristic elements. The tech is definitely advanced beyond contemporary tech, or at least what we know of contemporary tech.

There’s also more than a touch of military romance, as either the hero or the heroine in each story, and sometimes both, are part of some organized fighting force against the aliens, even if they are not part of any military we now have. Although some of them were.

But ultimately, the Hell Squad series is a survival story. These are people who have faced terrible things, and are still fighting back. And as they fall in love, they remember that they have more to fight for than they ever imagined.

4th Annual SFR Galaxy Awards: Round Five by Jo Jones

Best Scene Stealer
Blue Yonder by Diane Dooley

Baby Jack is just full of surprises in this romance. H helps reconnect two people who have a past but have been apart for a long time. A very well-developed 45-page long story.

Best Use of Western Lore in Space
Space Wrangler by Kate Donovan

Rick Gage rides and ropes but not cows. He goes after robots.  Alexia Montoya needs help and Rick like a hero in the old west is the one to come to her aid. Action, danger and romance are the result. This is the start of a new series with a lot of potential.

Best Hidden Main Character
Dark Horse by Michelle Diener

Sazo is an artificial intelligence and one of the main characters in Dark Horse. He is often behind the scenes and many of the characters do not know he exists. A great use of an AI to keep the plot moving.

Best Back Story
Final Protocol by J.C. Daniels

Silence has lost much of her memory and in Final Protocol she begins to remember the past. Her back story drives the plot and keeps everything moving.

Best Slow Burning Romance
Minder Rising by Carol Van Natta

Lieren and Imara are acquaintances who haves secrets. It is Imara’s son Derrit that starts to bring them together. The romance is slow to develop but very believable.