Space Gaze 7: March Madness

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A banner with a starry background. In the foreground are the words "16 enter, 1 leaves" over covers of the 16 best rated Space Gaze books to date. The covers are paired up with versus symbols between them, symbolizing the first round of matchups.

Welcome to the Thunderdome!!!

We've rounded up the top 16 books from our previous 6 blogs to pit against one another in an *cough* entirely unnecessary *cough* winner take all, one hit KO battle to determine which will reign supreme! 

Please note, winners are based entirely on our subjective opinions which may or may not align with popular ratings, objective markers of quality, common sense or, sometimes, reality. Everyone's opinions on what the Best Book is are going to be different, and we are by no means saying ours are better or more correct than anyone else's. We're just here to have a good time and read some queer space books, and we're (temporarily) all out of queer space books. 

Side note: we had to remove Murderbot from the running due to a lack of objectivity on our part. It was wiping the floor with all the other books and honestly it was getting pretty difficult to watch.

 

If you haven’t checked out Space Gaze before, take a look at our previous installments here: Space Gaze  —  Space Gaze 2: Electric Boogaloo  —  Space Gaze 3: Failure to Launch  —  Space Gaze 4: Roll Initiative  —  Space Gaze 5: Transcendent  — Space Gaze 6: All You Need is Love

 

Round 1

Let's get ready to RUMBLE.

 

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The Jasmine Throne vs Psalm for the Wild-Built

The Jasmine Throne vs Psalm for the Wild-Built

Rae’s Vote: A Psalm for the Wild-Built  |  As much as I love The Jasmine Throne and really really want to see what happens next, if I were going to re-read either of them it would be Psalm for the Wild-Built. While Jasmine is an excellent world-building fantasy, top of the game really, Psalm is the master of its own category.

Rin’s Vote: A Psalm for the Wild-Built  |  The Jasmine Throne is amazing, but Psalm was the book I really needed in the moment I read it. It just resonated so much more. And I love a story that can stay small and self-contained and still be fulfilling, rather than something that sprawls across a whole continent to tell a story that's only just starting.

Winner: Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers [2021]  |  Look neither of us can pass up a good 'robots gaining personhood' story and that's just the facts.

Find our in-depth review of A Psalm for the Wild-Built here

 

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Gideon the Ninth vs The Bedlam Stacks

Gideon the Ninth vs The Bedlam Stacks

Rae’s Vote: The Bedlam Stacks  |  Gideon is a riot and very dear to my heart, but Bedlam Stacks hit me like a gut punch. The atmosphere, Merrick's desperate struggle to do the right thing without knowing quite what that is, the quiet yearning. It's a book that stuck with me long after I finished it.

Rin’s Vote: Gideon the Ninth  |  Gideon was a game changer for me. It was probably the weirdest book I've ever read, and that's a very good thing. I really enjoyed Bedlam Stacks and its quiet, sad men, but Gideon is too much of a himbo for me to pass up.

Consensus: As much as I (Rae) love Bedlam, I am willing to switch my vote if we take Gideon’s sequel, Harrow the Ninth, into consideration as well. Together they’re a pair that just can’t be stopped.

Winner: Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir [2019]  |  Because Gideon and Harrow could take Merrick and Raphael in a real fight, no questions asked.

Find our in-depth review of Gideon the Ninth here

 

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Foundryside vs Here There Be Gerblins

Foundryside vs Here There Be Gerblins

Rae’s Vote: Here There Be Gerblins | I just really love Taako, guys. Foundryside is good, but I can’t vote against my boi.

Rin’s Vote: Here There Be Gerblins | I love me some good integrated media; even though I was resistant to listening to The Adventure Zone podcast at first, it was well worth the time invested. And the graphic novel is such a good adaptation. I mean, who can resist Taako?

Winner: Here There Be Gerblins by Clint McElroy [2018] | Because of Taako. You know, like from TV?

Find our in-depth review of Here There Be Gerblins here

 

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The Magic Fish vs In Other Lands

The Magic Fish vs In Other Lands

Rae’s Vote: In Other Lands  |  While The Magic Fish is a gorgeous portrayal of a Vietnamese diaspora experience, In Other Lands, a book about finding your worth when everyone around says you simply don't have any, hit me harder at the time I read it. I could very much see this competition going either way depending on what stage of life and grief the reader is going through though. Catch me in 15 years, and we'll see if the answer stays the same.

Rin’s Vote: In Other Lands  |  In Other Lands is, fundamentally, about someone who grew up completely unwanted who learns how to be loved. Also, Elliot is a snarky little [redacted], and there are mermaids. You really can't beat that vibe.

Winner: In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan [2017] |  Because

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mermaids meme

Find our in-depth review of In Other Lands here

 

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The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet vs Monstrous Regiment

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet vs Monstrous Regiment

Rae’s Vote: Abstain | I can’t. I just can’t. It’s one of my current favorite books of all time (Angry Planet) vs one of my childhood favorite books of all time (Monstrous). If I were to read them back to back right now I could maybe wring out a winner, but as it stands now I’m officially waving a white flag. Rin was kind enough to allow my veto now in return for a single veto on his part later. Fair trade.

Rin’s Vote: Monstrous Regiment | A Long Way was a book that I needed to read at the time that I read it. But Monstrous Regiment has grown with me, in a way, and as I continue to figure myself out I feel like I can keep coming back to this book and still see myself reflected in the story.

Consensus: A veto and a pick means we’re going with The Pick. Thank you Rin for taking this choice out of my hands.

Winner: Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett [2003] Terry P says trans!Mal rights.

Find our in-depth review of Monstrous Regiment here

 

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Black Sun vs Silver in the Wood

Black Sun vs Silver in the Wood

Rae’s Vote: Black Sun I'm sorry, Silver but this wasn't even a question. I enjoy a dreamy novella as much as the next person, but Black Sun is a tour de force and I will respect the achievement.

Rin’s Vote: Black SunYou just can't top Black Sun. Crow gods? Meso-American based fantasy world? Sign me up. Yes, Silver has gently sad men, but Black Sun blows it completely out of the water.

Winner: Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse [2020] | It's a rout, people.

Find our in-depth review of Black Sun here

 

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Empress of Salt and Fortune vs Thirsty Mermaids

The Empress of Salt and Fortune vs Thirsty Mermaids

Rae’s Vote: Thirsty Mermaids | I enjoyed Salt but I literally laughed out loud reading Mermaids. It gave me a vision of family and friendship that I want to chase in my own life.

Rin’s Vote: Empress of Salt and FortuneAt the end of the day, Thirsty Mermaids just had too much second-hand embarrassment for me. The art was amazing, the characters funny, but Empress was a little more soothing for my soul.

Consensus: I (Rin) am bowing out gracefully on this one. Yes, Thirsty Mermaids gave me a little bit too much embarrassment, but other than that it was pretty much flawless. 

Winner: Thirsty Mermaids by Kat Leyh [2021]  |  Drunken mermaids + the power of friendship = irresistible. 

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mermaids meme

Find our in-depth review of Thirsty Mermaids here

 

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Activation Degradation vs The Black Coast

Activation Degradation vs The Black Coast

Rae’s Vote: The Black Coast While Activation Degradation is a fun space romp, it simply doesn't hold a candle to the sprawling, epic, world-building wonder that is Black Coast

Rin’s Vote: The Black Coast | No matter how similar Activation is to my beloved Murderbot (though with more body horror and less respect for someone's chosen pronouns), it can't compare to Black Coast. A six gender system? Culture clash? Pining?? Sign me up.

Winner: The Black Coast by Mike Brooks [2021] | Dragons! Dragons! Dragons!

Find our in-depth review of the The Black Coast here

 

Round 2: Quarter-Final

In which things get considerably more difficult for us, but probably more entertaining for you. 

 

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A Psalm for the Wild-Built vs Gideon the Ninth

A Psalm for the Wild-Built vs Gideon the Ninth

Rae's Vote: Psalm for the Wild-Built  |  This is a strange pair up because these books could not be more different. Like comparing apples to… a blood covered skull on the ground. Both do have one thing in common though, and that’s that they’re the first book in a series that's currently in progress. In that light, I think it’s only fair to compare Gideon to Psalm without taking Harrow the Ninth (Gideon’s sequel) into consideration. And since Harrow is where things really take off for me, Psalm is going to slide right to the victory spot here.

Rin's Vote: Psalm for the Wild-Built  |  This is so much harder than last round. But, to put it simply: Psalm is restful. I love Gideon, but it's... traumatic. And Harrow ups the ante considerably on that front. I’m already traumatized enough, thank you.

Winner: Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers [2021]  |  Based on the cover alone, Psalm's sequel is going to give Harrow a run for her money. But until then, Dex and Mosscap have Gideon beat. 

Find our in-depth review of A Psalm for the Wild-Built here

 

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Here There be Gerblins vs In Other Lands

Here There be Gerblins vs In Other Lands

Rae's Vote: In Other Lands  |  I love Gerblins because I love the TAZ podcast and it's a great way to revisit my bois. If I stumbled across the graphic novel knowing nothing about the podcast... I probably wouldn't be as in love. In Other Lands, however, stands on its own.

Rin's Vote: Here There be Gerblins  |  I love Elliot, and I dearly love a story that follows a character as they grow up. But I know where The Adventure Zone graphic novels are going, and I can't resist that siren song (ironically, neither can Elliot).

Consensus: In Other Lands only wins for me (Rae) if you divorce Gerblins from the podcast that inspired it. And as Rin reminded me, a huge aspect of my experience of Gerblins WAS tied into my previous knowledge of the storyline. How will they portray my favorite scenes? What will this character look like? The experience of the books is just so entwined with the podcast, that I can’t actually divorce them. AKA, I voted In Other Lands and then Rin said ‘oh hey Julia is going to be a character in the next GN’ and I promptly changed my vote. Oops.

Winner: Here There be Gerblins by Clint McElroy [2018]  |  It’s a great gateway into spending 80+ hours listening to three brothers and their dad "pretend" to be a bunch of idiots. What’s not to love?

Find our in-depth review of Here There Be Gerblins here

 

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Monstrous Regiment vs Black Sun

Monstrous Regiment vs Black Sun

Rae's Vote: Monstrous Regiment  |  Black Sun is gorgeous and expansive and oh so fascinating and maybe if I read both books for the first time today my vote would be different. But I learned so much of how to be a good (or at least ok) person in this world from Monstrous, and that's not an experience I can overlook lightly.

Rin's Vote: Black Sun  |  As a queer trans person, Monstrous Regiment speaks to me on a very personal level. But where Monstrous Regiment walked, Black Sun ran. And it's so rare and precious to see a fantasy novel about indigenous cultures written by an indigenous author, that I just can't pass it up.

Consensus: I (Rae) am willing to concede on this one. I’m well aware my love for Monstrous is heavily colored by nostalgia glasses, and there is no shame at all in losing to Black Sun.

Winner: Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse [2021] | Mrs. Roanhorse give us the sequel pleasssee

Find our in-depth review of Black Sun here

 

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Thirsty Mermaids vs The Black Coast

Thirsty Mermaids vs The Black Coast

Rae's Vote: The Black Coast | This was a hard choice because Thirsty Mermaids and The Black Coast could not be more different. Ultimately, the only way I could decide was to ask myself 'which book do I most want to read a sequel to?'. And while there is nothing like the sunbaked, slightly (maybe not so slightly) tipsy vibes of Thirsty Mermaids, I really gotta know what happens next in The God-King Chronicles

Rin's Vote: The Black Coast | I really like the art of Thirsty Mermaids, and the relationships are stellar. But The Black Coast is absolutely epic, and did we mention the feathered dragons? I don't see any dragons in Thirsty Mermaids.

Winner: The Black Coast by Mike Brooks | If Kat Leyh writes us a Thirsty Mermaids sequel with sea dragons all bets are off.

Find our in-depth review of the The Black Coast here

 

Round 3: Semi-Final

Where it gets real sweaty

 

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Psalm for the Wild-built vs Here There Be Gerblins 

Psalm for the Wild-Built vs Here There Be Gerblins

Rae's Vote: Here There Be Gerblins  |  Now that I've replaced Gerblins with the entire TAZ: Balance intellectual property in my mind, it's going to take the win here. Although this is a tough choice, I decided to think about it this way; which title would I rather lose all knowledge and memory of? And the MANY hours I spent with the TAZ bois, both in book and podcast form, are just too precious to give up.

Rin's Vote: Here There Be Gerblins  |  This was one of the hardest decisions yet. Psalm is a balm for my soul, but Gerblins is the total package of witty banter, amazing art, and (technically) a completed storyline, even if it's not available in graphic format yet. And Magnus, Merle, and Taako are just... so dumb, and I really love them for it

Winner: Here There Be Gerblins by Clint McElroy [2018] |  AKA, The Adventure Zone: Balance by Griffin McElroy.

Find our in-depth review of Here There Be Gerblins here

 

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Black Sun vs The Black Coast

Black Sun vs The Black Coast

Rae's Vote: Black Sun  |  This isn't even a close call for me. Both books have truly epic world building, but the characters and emotional arcs in Black Sun are going to beat out the ones in Black Coast every time.

Rin's Vote: Black Sun  |  This is the matchup I've been waiting for, because I feel like they're the most similar books (down to the titles, even). What made the decision for me? Serapio. The other characters were compelling and unique in their own ways, but this is a man who has been told his whole life that he will bring about the end of civilization as they know it. And yet he's still kind and gentle and I am here for it.

Winner: Black Sun  |  Sorry BC, Black Sun has dragons and giant crows you can ride.

Find our in-depth review of Black Sun here

 

Round 4: The Final

Sure hope we both vote for the same book. Otherwise there might be blood.

 

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Here There Be Gerblins vs Black Sun

Here There Be Gerblins vs Black Sun

Rae's Vote: Black Sun  |  I love love love both of these books. The hours I've spent listening/reading/talking about/and just in general experiencing TAZ: Balance are invaluable. BUT. I'm not sure I can think of a book I would recommend more than Black Sun. It's simply such a well rounded, gorgeously drawn, power house of an experience. TAZ does what it does so well. But Black Sun does everything well. It's a book I would recommend to fantasy and non-fantasy fans alike.

Rin's Vote: Black Sun  |  This one was purely gut instinct for me, though, I will admit, I did pick it because I was hoping Rachael would go for Gerblins and we could fight it out. But she's right. Nothing compares to how Black Sun makes me feel when I think about it, even months after I first read it. Gerblins is fun and spunky and bouncy, but Black Sun is a grounding book, and that's really hard for me to find these days.

Winner: Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse [2020]  |  The sequel will be published April 19, 2022. Do I know that because the date is circled on my calendar? Perhaps.

Find our in-depth review of Black Sun here

 

The Ultimate Winner!
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Black Sun cover art

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse [2020]

The first book in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy, inspired by the civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas and woven into a tale of celestial prophecies, political intrigue, and forbidden magic.

A god will return
When the earth and sky converge
Under the black sun


In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.

Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.

 

Which books were you rooting for? Who would be your ultimate winner? Let us know on social media or fill out your own bracket (open the accordion below and right click on the image to print).

 

Our Bracket
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The full bracket for Space Gaze 7: March Madness. It includes all of the match ups from every preceeding round.
Blank Bracket
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A blank version of the above bracket. The book covers for the first round have been filled in, but the rest is empty so that patrons can decide their own ultimate space gaze title.

 

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By RachaelR on March 23, 2022