SPSFC Semifinals: In the Orbit of Sirens by T.A. Bruno

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I read this for SPSFC! It’s a semi-finalist that landed in our batch, and I believe it’s the only one we got with an audiobook. I was super excited about this one based on the GR reviews, and the scores given to it by the OG blog, FanFiAddict

There are two main character groups at the start and they’re set in different timelines. You’ve got the Castus family that’s living on Ganymede “300 years ago”. They run a small family run fix-it shop on a moderately sized human colony. Humanity is facing extinction, though. Many of the colonies like Mars, and even Earth itself have been eradicated by a species known as the Undrial. There is a species does not sound not too dissimilar from the borg. Made of part flesh part synthetic/robotics, they absorb everything in their path without mercy. Humanity is now on the run in giant colony ships trying to find new moons or planets to host what’s left of humanity outside of the Sol system. Denton Castus is the primary character featured in the family, but they each get a little page time. I would say I leaned more towards Elania’s chapters. I just found her to be a more engaging person.

So, Elania is from the “present” which is 300 years post attack from the Undrial. Humanity has found a new planet to try and inhabit but there are several issues with it. The most immediate and apparent being a disease called “lung lock” which they did not know about when setting out. It’s caused by a bacteria on the planet that doesn’t jive with human anatomy, it causes the lungs to freeze up and then you suffocate. It’s quick, there’s not a lot of treatment, and the scientists are running out of ideas and time to make this planet worth living on. A secondary, and just as problematic event happens when Sirens, mysterious creatures from the planet, notice humanity. They have powers that are supernatural and almost god like, including telepathy and mind control. They don’t like intruders.

There are other POVs, but those can get kind of spoilery — so RAFO!

I found this to be a very engaging book, and nearly genre bending with the telepathy and god like characters that got thrown into the mix. I’m pretty accustomed to seeing telepathy in my fantasy, but so far in my SPSFC adventures, I’ve only seen it one other time.

The writing was fast and engaging, I found the dialogue to be mostly believable and fluid. There were times where I thought the three Castus brothers were just a touch immature for their ages – which I think is late 20s to early 30s. They behaved a bit more like teenagers which given the gravity of the situations they were in, and the rough upbringing they must have had, it was a little not-believable. There is a substantial time jump in the middle where a few years are skipped over, this worked fine for me. Some people find time jumps jarring but I find it necessary if you don’t want to bloat your story with stuff that doesn’t really matter. The pacing for this was tight and focused.

I loved the world building, it felt very adventurous and tense each time the group of humans went out in the alien jungle to try and find some kind of remedy to the bacteria. The way the Sirens came into play was definitely not something I really saw coming, which is nice.

Overall, I’d say this was an engaging read with a nice audiobook. I’d recommend it to people who enjoy colonization stories, non human races, and exploration.


  • Plot: 13/15
  • Characters: 11.5/15
  • World Building: 12/15
  • Writing: 12.5/15
  • Pacing: 13/15
  • Originality: 11/15
  • Enjoyment: 7/10

Final score: 80/100

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