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Books Received, November 18 — November 24

26 Nov, 2023


Fathomfolk by Eliza Chan (February 2024)

Welcome to Tiankawi — shining pearl of human civilization and a safe haven for those fleeing civil unrest. Or at least, that’s how it first appears. But in the semi-flooded city, humans are, quite literally, on top: peering down from shining towers and aerial walkways on the fathomfolk — sirens, seawitches, kelpies and kappas — who live in the polluted waters below. For half-siren Mira, promotion to captain of the border guard means an opportunity to help her downtrodden people. But if earning the trust and respect of her human colleagues wasn’t hard enough, everything Mira has worked towards is put in jeopardy when Nami, a know-it-all water dragon — fathomfolk royalty — is exiled to the city. When extremists sabotage the annual boat race, violence erupts, as does the clampdown on fathomfolk rights. Both Nami and Mira must decide if the cost of change is worth it, or, if Tiankawi should be left to drown. 

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Books Received, November 11 — November 17

18 Nov, 2023


The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction (2022) edited by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, Eugen Bacon, and Milton Davis (December 2023)

This is the follow up to the highly acclaimed 2021 anthology described as containing some of the most exciting voices, old and new, from Africa and the diaspora, published in the 2020 year.”

The first won the World Fantasy Award for best anthology and was met with widespread critical acclaim from across the world, with the science fiction trade magazine, Locus, calling it a must read.”

Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, who created the first anthology now joins forces with Eugen Bacon, a 2022 World Fantasy Award finalist and Milton Davis, an award-winning Black Speculative fiction writer and editor to introduce readers to an ever more diverse set of writers associated with Africa.

Timely and relevant to today’s world, the set of stories in this book will astonish, shock and amaze the reader while introducing them to a whole new world. 

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Books Received, November 4 — November 10

11 Nov, 2023


The Dead Cat Tail Assassins by P. Djèlí Clark (April 2024)

The Dead Cat Tail Assassins are not cats. 

Nor do they have tails. 

But they are most assuredly dead. 

Nebula and Alex Award winner P. Djèlí Clark introduces a brand-new world and a fantastical city full of gods and assassins. 

Eveen the Eviscerator is skilled, discreet, professional, and here for your most pressing needs in the ancient city of Tal Abisi. Her guild is strong, her blades are sharp, and her rules are simple. Those sworn to the Matron of Assassins — resurrected, deadly, wiped of their memories — have only three unbreakable vows. 

First, the contract must be just. That’s above Eveen’s pay grade. 

Second, even the most powerful assassin may only kill the contracted. Eveen’s a professional. She’s never missed her mark. 

The third and the simplest: once you accept a job, you must carry it out. And if you stray? A final death would be a mercy. When the Festival of the Clockwork King turns the city upside down, Eveen’s newest mission brings her face-to-face with a past she isn’t supposed to remember and a vow she can’t forget. 

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Glorious Apolitical SF

4 Nov, 2023


(Another piece that was declined by tor dot com)

As previously established, SFF (science fiction and fantasy) has long been a studiously apolitical genre. No finer example of this can be found than in a minor kerfuffle over US involvement in Vietnam. Rather than embarrass itself by expressing opinions on matters far beyond their station, the SFF community prudently kept opinions to themselves, their closest friends, and the entire readership of the June 1968 Galaxy Magazine.

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November 2023 Patreon Boost!

1 Nov, 2023


Another month, another 22 reviews up on the site. Aside from that, it was an uneventful month, although I see now I only added 1 2023 science fiction novel to my 2023 count. Something to address in November. Suggestions welcome!

As ever, James Nicoll Reviews owes its ongoing existence to commissions and generous patrons. Details on commissioning reviews are here. If you would like to support my Patreon, please go here. If you have a sudden desire to just send money, my Paypal is here. 

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October 2023 in Review

1 Nov, 2023


October 2023

22 works reviewed. 12 by women (55%), 10 by men (45%), 0 by a non-binary author (0%), 0 by authors whose gender is unknown (0%), and 8 by POC (36%).

2023 to Date

217 works reviewed. 120 by women (55%), 89 by men (41%), 5 by a non-binary author (2%), 3 by authors whose gender is unknown (1%), and 86 by POC (40%).

Grand Total to Date

2485 works reviewed. 1387 by women (56%), 1038 by men (42%), 39 by non-binary authors (2%), 21 by authors whose gender is unknown (1%), and 753.75 by POC (30%).

Government Types October 2023

Total 22, Not Applicable 3 (14%), Unclear 0 (0%), Anarchy 0 (0%), Pure democracy 1 (5%), Representative democracy 9 (46%), Oligarchy 8 (33%), Autocracy 0 (0%).

Government Type 2023 TD

Total 217, Not Applicable 32 (14%), Unclear 11 (5%), Anarchy 3 (1%), Pure democracy 2 (1%), Representative democracy 76 (35%), Oligarchy 85 (39%), Autocracy 7 (3%).

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Books Received, October 14 — October 20

21 Oct, 2023


Ghost Station by S. A. Barnes (April 2024)

A crew must try to survive on an ancient, abandoned planet in the latest space horror novel from S.A. Barnes, acclaimed author of Dead Silence. 

Space exploration can be lonely and isolating. 

Psychologist Dr. Ophelia Bray has dedicated her life to the study and prevention of ERS — a space-based condition most famous for a case that resulted in the brutal murders of twenty-nine people. When she’s assigned to a small exploration crew, she’s eager to make a difference. But as they begin to establish residency on an abandoned planet, it becomes clear that crew is hiding something. 

While Ophelia focuses on her new role, her crewmates are far more interested in investigating the eerie, ancient planet and unraveling the mystery behind the previous colonizer’s hasty departure than opening up to her. That is, until their pilot is discovered gruesomely murdered. Is this Ophelia’s worst nightmare starting — a wave of violence and mental deterioration from ERS? Or is it something more sinister? Terrified that history will repeat itself, Ophelia and the crew must work together to figure out what’s happening. But trust is hard to come by…and the crew isn’t the only one keeping secrets. 

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Books Received, October 7 — October 13

14 Oct, 2023


Ocean’s Godori by Elaine U. Cho (April 2024)

An ambitious, witty, and big-hearted science fiction debut about a disgraced space pilot struggling to find her place while fighting to protect the people she loves. Ocean Yoon has never felt very Korean, even if she is descended from a long line of haenyeo, Jeju Island’s beloved female divers. She doesn’t like soju, constantly misses cultural references, and despite her love of the game, people still say that she doesn’t play Hwatu like a Korean. Ocean’s also persona non grata at the Alliance, Korea’s solar system-dominating space agency, since a mission went awry and she earned a reputation for being a little too quick with her gun. When her best friend, Teo, second son of the Anand Tech empire, is framed for murdering his family, Ocean and her misfit crewmates are pushed to the forefront of a high-stakes ideological conflict. But dodging bullets and winning space chases may be the easiest part of what comes next. Becky Chambers meets Firefly in this interplanetary adventure that delivers hyperkinetic action sequences and irresistible will-they-won’t-they romance alongside its nuanced exploration of colonialism and capitalism. Ocean’s Godori ultimately asks: What do we owe our past? How do we navigate our present while honoring the complicated facets of our identity? What can our future hold? The book we wish we had grown up with, that takes on classic characters and tropes we love through a lens that finally sees us and our experiences at the center using a voice and a narrative that captures who we are and what we fight for. 

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