To me, ★★★★★ reads are books which expand my thinking in some way, change my life. When I read Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, it blew my mind.
See, before that, when I’ve tried to write stories, I wrote descriptions which were super crappy because that just isn’t the way my brain works. Even when I read descriptions of people in books, my mind just defaults to a version of myself. Every character in every book I’ve ever read is some version of myself. It doesn’t matter if the author described the person’s eye color or hair color or whatever, in the end I just imagine me as the characters. The same with places or objects, I read them and imagine something totally different from what is on the page, something that conforms to my idea of castle instead of the castle with steeples and whatever in the book.
So, when I wrote stories back then, I tried to write descriptions. But they never really worked. Then I read Slaughterhouse Five and here was someone who didn’t describe things based on their physical attributes. Here was someone who wrote the way my brain worked. And it changed my view on how stories could be written forever.
The most recent book I gave 5-stars to is The Dark Forest by Liu Cixin. The concept of a Dark Forest as a solution to the Fermi Paradox was just something I hadn’t thought of before. And in this way, it expanded my thinking.
I’ve been thirsty for a new 5-star read but traditionally published books don’t seem to do it for me anymore. I hated Ninefox Gambit, the winner of the Locus Award. I didn’t even finish it. The science part of the science-fiction was totally nonsensical to me. The Old Drift, the winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award, was just okay. The science part of that science-fiction was very minimal.
I think I need to read more indie science-fiction. But there doesn’t seem to be many review blogs or booktubers that focus on this particular niche.
So, I decided to wade through the thousands of indie books published each month.
Amazon has pitiful discovery tools when compared to something like Steam. But I could probably make it work. I would use the advanced search for Kindle Books, input in Science Fiction as the subject, English as the language, and only look at books published two months ago, since I would be depending on the Look Inside feature and that might not be available for recently published books. Then I tick the Non-Romantic filter because I don’t want to read steamy romances.
204 pages of 16 books per page. 3248-3264 books were published in Oct 2020 alone. If I spent 5 minutes previewing each book I would need to spend 9 hours a day to preview all of them in 30 days time. So I decided to add some more filters, like only previewing standalone books. I wouldn’t even be reading the description because I know how hard it is to write one and even well written ones do not tell me if the book is a mind-expander.
Seven of Infinities by Aliette de Bodard
I looked through a couple of paragraphs in the preview and nothing jumped out at me that would make me pass on this. There’s some interesting worldbuilding going on, like people who seem to be spaceships, but it just didn’t grab my attention.
The Luminous Ones by Nicholas Ashbaugh
Starting with an infodump prologue makes me sad. The prologue also reads like a fantasy instead of science-fiction, what with ancient evils and words like Alas. I couldn’t get past the first paragraph of the first chapter because it didn’t read like what I thought the year One Billion would sound like. The 9.99 price doesn’t help either.
They All Died Screaming by Kristopher Triana
This is more horror than science-fiction but it grabbed me from the start. Something about the writing just makes it easy for me to follow.
So that’s it! I think I was lucky this time, getting something I can tolerate reading just 3 books in. I’ll post a review when I’m done.