Sunday, January 31, 2016

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.

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