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Books Received, April 6 — April 12

13 Apr, 2024

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Long Live Evil by Sarah Rees Brennan (July 2024)

Her fictional crush is the villain. And he’s about to meet his match… Rae is a bookworm who prefers fictional men over real life boyfriends. But her life takes a strange turn when she is trapped by magic inside her favourite fantasy series, and she finds herself pitted against her suddenly living and breathing crush, the Once and Forever Emperor’. In a palace on the brink of war, she has become the villainess in his tale, and she needs to take control of the narrative before it, and the Emperor, take control of her… fatally. This adult epic fantasy debut from Sarah Rees Brennan puts the reader in the villainess’s shoes, for an adventure that is both supremely satisfying’ (Leigh Bardugo) and brilliant’ (Holly Black): expect a cast of dilettante aristocrats, knights-in-armour, magic-wielding warriors, sarcastic servants and one particularly murderous, if annoyingly handsome, bodyguard. 


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April 2024 Patreon Boost!

1 Apr, 2024

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A huge shout-out to my donors, subscribers and audience, without whose support I would not have been nominated for Best Fan Writer1.

James Nicoll Reviews is supported by spontaneous donations, review commissions and Patreon subscribers. If you would like to commission a review, please see my guidelines. My Patreon is here. Spontaneous donations can be done via my Paypal. Advice on how to better promote my Patreon is also welcome.

1: I promise the nomination high will wear off soon, probably right after I get chided for imprecise terminology vis-à-vis nominee” vs finalist”.

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March 2024 in Review

31 Mar, 2024

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I always forget something when I do these little reports. I mean to create checklists but then I forget. I need to create a checklist with create checklist” right above read checklist.” Or perhaps just below.

The big news this month is that I am a Hugo finalist for Best Fan Writer. This is the fifth time I have been a finalist for this award. Experience suggests I will lose for the fifth time… but since I also was sure I’d never be finalist again after 2011 and 2020, maybe I will be wrong this time. In any case, it is an honour to be a finalist.

March 2024

22 works reviewed. 11 by women (50%), 10 by men (45%), 0 by a non-binary author (0%), 1 by an author whose gender is unknown (5%), and 9 by POC (41%).

2024 to Date

65 works reviewed. 36 by women (55%), 28 by men (43%), 0 by a 
non-binary author (0%), 1 by an author whose gender is unknown (2%), and 25 by POC (38%).

Grand Total to Date

2594 works reviewed. 1448 by women (55%), 1083 by men (42%), 40 by non-binary authors (2%), 23 by authors whose gender is unknown (1%), and 796.75 by POC (31%).

Government Types March 2024

Total 22, Not Applicable 1 (5%), Unclear 2 (9%), Anarchy 2 (9%), Pure democracy 0 (0%), Representative democracy 6 (27%), Oligarchy 10 (45%), Autocracy 1 (5%).

Government Type 2024 TD

Total 65, Not Applicable 8 (12%), Unclear 4 (6%), Anarchy 4 (6%),
Pure democracy 0 (0%), Representative democracy 21 (32%), Oligarchy 25 (38%), Autocracy 3 (5%).


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Books Received, March 23 — March 29

30 Mar, 2024

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Echo of Worlds by M. R. Carey (June 2024)

Following the critically acclaimed Infinity Gate comes the second and final novel in the Pandominion by international bestselling M. R. Carey. A thrilling adventure set in the multiverse, it tells of humanity’s expansion across millions of dimensions, and the AI technology that might see it all come to an end …Two mighty empires are at war — and both will lose, with thousands of planets falling to the extinction event called the Scour. At least that’s what the artificial intelligence known as Rupshe believes. 

But somewhere in the multiverse there exists a force — the Mother Mass — that could end the war in an instant, and Rupshe has assembled a team to find it: Essien Nkanika, a soldier trying desperately to atone for past sins; the cat-woman Moon, a conscienceless killer; the digitally recorded mind of physicist Hadiz Tambuwal; Paz, an idealistic child and the renegade robot spy Dulcimer Coronal. 

Their mission will take them from the hellish prison world of Tsakom to the poisoned remains of a post-apocalyptic Earth, and finally bring them face to face with the Mother Mass itself. But can they persuade it to end eons of neutrality and help them? And is it too late to make a difference?Because the Pandominion’s doomsday machines are about to be unleashed — and not even their builders know how to control them. 

Discover the conclusion to the spectacular Pandominion duology — an exhilarating science fiction series from the author of the million-copy bestseller The Girl With All the Gifts. Perfect for fans of The Space Between Worlds, The Long Earth and Children of Time. 

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Books Received, March 16 — March 22

24 Mar, 2024

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Crypt of the Moon Spider by Nathan Ballingrud (August 2024)

Crypt of the Moon Spider is a dark and dreamy tale of horror, corruption, and identity spun into the stickiest of webs. 

Years ago, in a cave beneath the dense forests and streams on the surface of the moon, a gargantuan spider once lived. Its silk granted its first worshippers immense faculties of power and awe. 

It’s now 1923 and Veronica Brinkley is touching down on the moon for her intake at the Barrowfield Home for Treatment of the Melancholy. A renowned facility, Dr. Barrington Cull’s invasive and highly successful treatments have been lauded by many. And they’re so simple! All it takes is a little spider silk in the amygdala, maybe a strand or two in the prefrontal cortex, and perhaps an inch in the hippocampus for near evisceration of those troublesome thoughts and ideas. 

But patients aren’t the only ones with trouble on their minds, and although the spider’s been dead for years, its denizens are not. Someone or something is up to no good, and Veronica just might be the cause. 

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Books Received, March 9 — March 15

16 Mar, 2024

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Glass Houses by Madeline Ashby (August 2024)

A masterful near future whodunit for fans of Glass Onion and Black Mirror; join a stranded start-up team led by a terrifyingly realistic charismatic billionaire, a deserted tropical island, and a mysterious AI-driven mansion – as the remaining members disappear one by one. 

A group of employees and their CEO, celebrating the sale of their remarkable emotion-mapping-AI-algorithm, crash onto a not-quite-deserted tropical island. 

Luckily, those who survived have found a beautiful, fully-stocked private palace, with all the latest technological updates (though one without connection to the outside world). The house, however, has more secrets than anyone might have guessed, and a much darker reason for having been built and left behind. 

Kristen, the hyper-competent chief emotional manager” (i.e., the eccentric boyish billionaire-CEO Sumter’s idea of an HR department) is trying to keep her colleagues stable throughout this new challenge, but staying sane seems to be as much of a challenge as staying alive. Being a woman in technology has always meant having to be smarter than anyone expects.…and Kristen’s survival skills are more impressive than anyone knows. 

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Books Received, March 2 — March 8

9 Mar, 2024

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The Friend Zone Experiment by Zen Cho (August 2024)

From the renowned, award-winning author Zen Cho comes a delightfully funny romance about family, class, and love in modern London. 

From the outside, Renee Goh’s life looks perfect. She’s thirty and beautiful, runs a glamorous — and profitable — women’s clothing company in London, and is dating a hot Taiwanese pop star. But Renee is lonely. Estranged from her family in Singapore, she practically lives at the office, and now she’s just been dumped by her supposed boyfriend. Who she never saw anyway, so why is she ruining her Instagram-ready makeup by crying?

Before she can curl up on the couch with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, Renee’s father calls. He’s retiring, and, thanks to the screw-ups of her wastrel brothers, he is considering her as the next CEO of the family business: Chahaya Group, one of the largest conglomerates in Southeast Asia. That stamp of her father’s approval would mean everything to Renee, but can she cooperate with the brothers who drove her out of Singapore? But fate isn’t done with her. That same night, Renee bumps into her first love, Yap Ket Siong, who broke her heart during university. They spend a wonderful night together, but Ket Siong is pursuing a dangerous vengeance for his family. In the light of day is there any hope for the two of them? 

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2024 Hugo Nomination deadline imminent

4 Mar, 2024

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The deadline for Hugo nominations is bearing down. To quote:

All ballots must be received by Saturday, 9 March 2024, 16:00 Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) (UTC+0).

Per my 2 Jan 2024 post, I’d be chuffed to be a finalist again (or for Young People to be nominated). That said, there are many people and works worthy of nomination, not least of whom is Paul Weimer, who was unjustly excluded from the ballot last year. Consider nominating them. I am too modest to remind you that in this instance I am part of them.

Something to bear in mind: I expect the number of voters to dip substantially this year, mainly because the Chengdu scandal has undermined voter faith but also because the Glasgow voting process isn’t exactly user-friendly. Accordingly, your vote may represent a larger fraction of the vote than in recent years. If there was ever a year when your picks had improved odds of making the final ballot, 2024 is that year.

Instructions on how to vote may be found here. 

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All Shaking Thunder; or, Why I Didn’t Mention Your Favourite Book

2 Mar, 2024

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I have been known to muse on particular themes and tropes common to science fiction, fantasy, and related fields. Often, I provide five examples1. Just as often, sometimes even more often, people will helpfully point out that an obvious example has been omitted from my list. What dreadful reasons could possibly explain these inexplicable lapses?

Here are five explanations, which may apply singly or in concert to particular cases.

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