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2014 Compton Crook Award Finalists

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society has announced their 2014 finalists for their Compton Crook/Stephen Tall Award! The award is presented to the best first novel of the year written by a single author and is named after Towson State College Professor of Natural Science Compton Crook, who wrote under the name Stephen Tall, and who died in 1981.

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Glyphbinder by T. Eric Bakutis

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What it's about: Kara's mother is dying, and only a powerful spell can save her. While gathering reagents, Kara encounters and rescues Trell, a soldier who remembers nothing about his past and lives for one goal... to protect her. Kara has only begun unraveling the mystery behind her mother's illness and Trell's amnesia when a madman starts hunting her family and friends. Her quest to save her mother soon turns into a quest for survival, and even she may not be able to save those she loves. Demons thought defeated seventy years ago are stirring again, driven by an urgent thirst and a bloody legacy, and they will not be satisfied until they have claimed Kara's world... and her soul.

In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods by Matt Bell

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What it's about: In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods tells the story of a newly married couple who take up a lonely existence in the title's mythical location. In this blank and barren plot far from the world they've known, they mean to start the family the unnamed husband wants so obsessively. But their every pregnancy fails, and as their grief swells, the husband─a hot-tempered and impatient fisherman and trapper─attempts to prove his dominion in other ways, emptying both the lake and the woods of their many beasts. As the years pass, the wife changes too, her suddenly powerful voice singing some new series of objects into being, including a threatening moon hung above their house, its doomed weight already slowly falling, bending their now-starless sky.

The Enchanted Skean by Vonnie Winslow Crist

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What it's about: Fourteen-year-old Beck Conleth is living a quiet life in the seaside town of Queen's Weather when his grandmother sends him on a journey to Ulfwood to retrieve his father's bones and a family skean (dagger). After reaching Ulfwood, Beck discovers the skean is magical, and that it answers only to him. Soon the enchanted skean and its owner attract the attention of dark mages, goblins, and worse. Helped on his journey home by Wisewomen, warriors, shape-changers, and the other good folk of Lifthrasir, Beck faces death, danger, and the theft of his skean. Accompanied by his best friend, Beck stows away on a ship, takes back his skean, befriends a dragon, and escapes with a troop of thieves. After reaching a dock in West Arnora, the company heads for the fortress of Ravens Haunt. As Beck and his companions face a hideous Skullsoul and an army of ogrehunches, he realizes there is a developing confrontation between good and evil, and he and his enchanted skean have a role to play.

City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster

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What it's about: The girl with no past, and no future, may be the only one who can save their lives.

Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a little girl. Now sixteen, she lives on the grounds of the isolated estate, where orphan girls apprentice as musicians, healers, courtesans, and, if the rumors are true, assassins. She makes her way as Matron's errand girl, her closest companions the mysterious cats that trail her shadow. Only when she begins a forbidden flirtation with the city's handsome young courier does she let herself imagine a life outside the walls. Until one by one, girls around her start to die.

Before she becomes the next victim, Nisha decides to uncover the secrets that surround the girls' deaths. But by getting involved, Nisha jeopardizes not only her own future in the City of a Thousand Dolls—but also her life.

Fire with Fire by Charles E. Gannon

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What it's about: 2105, September: Intelligence Analyst Caine Riordan uncovers a conspiracy on Earth’s Moon—a history-changing clandestine project—and ends up involuntarily cryocelled for his troubles. Twelve years later, Riordan awakens to a changed world. Humanity has achieved faster-than-light travel and is pioneering nearby star systems. And now, Riordan is compelled to become an inadvertent agent of conspiracy himself. Riordan’s mission: travel to a newly settled world and investigate whether a primitive local species was once sentient—enough so to have built a lost civilization.

However, arriving on site in the Delta Pavonis system, Caine discovers that the job he’s been given is anything but secret or safe. With assassins and saboteurs dogging his every step, it's clear that someone doesn't want his mission to succeed. In the end, it takes the broad-based insights of an intelligence analyst and a matching instinct for intrigue to ferret out the truth: that humanity is neither alone in the cosmos nor safe. Earth is revealed to be the lynchpin planet in an impending struggle for interstellar dominance, a struggle into which it is being irresistibly dragged. Discovering new dangers at every turn, Riordan must now convince the powers-that-be that the only way for humanity to survive as a free species is to face the perils directly—and to fight fire with fire.

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

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What it's about: The lush city of Palmares Tres shimmers with tech and tradition, with screaming gossip casters and practiced politicians. In the midst of this vibrant metropolis, June Costa creates art that's sure to make her legendary. But her dreams of fame become something more when she meets Enki, the bold new Summer King. The whole city falls in love with him (including June's best friend, Gil). But June sees more to Enki than amber eyes and a lethal samba. She sees a fellow artist.

Together, June and Enki will stage explosive, dramatic projects that Palmares Tres will never forget. They will add fuel to a growing rebellion against the government's strict limits on new tech. And June will fall deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die.

Shh! It’s a Secret: A Novel about Aliens, Hollywood, and the Bartenders Guide by Daniel M. Kimmel

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What it's about: The Brogardi appeared out of nowhere, and -- telegraphing their peaceful intentions -- they landed in the middle of nowhere: New York State's Catskills Mountains resorts. It was an alien invasion, of the most peaceful, friendly kind. But there had to be something sinister behind it all, right?

Movie executive Jake Berman lives fiction for a living, promoting movies to the masses. He's happy, and only moderately harried. But his peaceful existence is thrown into overdrive when one of the aliens sets his sights beyond the decaying resorts of the east -- when he decides it's time to invade Hollywood!

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

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What it's about: On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest.

Breq is both more than she seems and less than she was. Years ago, she was the Justice of Toren--a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of corpse soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy.

An act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with only one fragile human body. And only one purpose--to revenge herself on Anaander Mianaai, many-bodied, near-immortal Lord of the Radch.

The award will be presented at Balticon 48, May 23-26, 2014.

Recent winners include Myke Cole, Control Point (2013), T. C. McCarthy, Germline (2012), James Knapp, State of Decay (2011) and Paolo Bacigalupi, The Windup Girl (2010).

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