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Blog Posts from December 2020 (9)

December 2020 and 2020 in general in Review

31 Dec, 2020


General comments

I wanted to review at least 100 works by POC. So close! 

Assuming I review the same number of books in 2021 as I did in 2020 (which, granted, given 2021’s zombie apocalypse, World Wars III through X, alien invasion, and that thing we will agree never to mention could be tricky), I should hit review 2000 for the site in the last week of December 2021. I should think about what book I want that to be. But I probably won’t. 

December 2020

22 works reviewed. 12 by women (55%), 9 by men (41%), 1 by a non-binary author (5%) and 7 works by POC (32%)

Year to Date

256 works reviewed. 139 by women (54%), 105.5 by men (41%), 8 by non-binary authors (3%), 3.5 by unknown (1%), and 99.5 by POC (39%).

Grand Total to Date
1748 works reviewed. 982.5 by women (56%), 730.5 by men (42%), 21 by non-binary authors (1%), 14 by gender unknown (1%), 479.75 by POC (27%)

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Merry Space Christmas!

25 Dec, 2020


Thanks to my editor Karen Lofstrom for descrambling my prose and my web person Adrienne L. Travis for giving me a place to post them.

Thank you to my audience of six plus years! Thank you to all my patrons, on Patreon and here. And a big thanks to creators everywhere, without whom writing reviews would be difficult.

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Book Received, Jólabókaflóðið 2020!

24 Dec, 2020

1 comment

(What is Jólabókaflóðið?)

This book is fast, furious, compelling, and angry as hell. — Seanan McGuire, New York Times bestselling author The Boys meets My Year of Rest and Relaxation in this smart, imaginative, and evocative novel of love, betrayal, revenge, and redemption, told with razor-sharp wit and affection, in which a young woman discovers the greatest superpower – for good or ill – is a properly executed spreadsheet. Anna does boring things for terrible people because even criminals need office help and she needs a job. Working for a monster lurking beneath the surface of the world isn’t glamorous. But is it really worse than working for an oil conglomerate or an insurance company? In this economy? As a temp, she’s just a cog in the machine. But when she finally gets a promising assignment, everything goes very wrong, and an encounter with the so-called hero” leaves her badly injured. And, to her horror, compared to the other bodies strewn about, she’s the lucky one.So, of course, then she gets laid off.With no money and no mobility, with only her anger and internet research acumen, she discovers her suffering at the hands of a hero is far from unique. When people start listening to the story that her data tells, she realizes she might not be as powerless as she thinks.Because the key to everything is data: knowing how to collate it, how to manipulate it, and how to weaponize it. By tallying up the human cost these caped forces of nature wreak upon the world, she discovers that the line between good and evil is mostly marketing. And with social media and viral videos, she can control that appearance.It’s not too long before she’s employed once more, this time by one of the worst villains on earth. As she becomes an increasingly valuable lieutenant, she might just save the world.A sharp, witty, modern debut, Hench explores the individual cost of justice through a fascinating mix of Millennial office politics, heroism measured through data science, body horror, and a profound misunderstanding of quantum mechanics. –Jennifer Estep, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Crown of Shards series 

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Books Received, December 12 — December 18

19 Dec, 2020


After her escape pod is found drifting through debris nearly two decades after the end of the Redelki Wars, Melin is woken from cryosleep to find a galaxy where she no longer belongs. The galaxy has moved on from the horrors she experienced, the experiences that transformed her into a hero while she slept, but she hasn’t.

Alone, broken in mind and body, Melin is slowly pulled to the planet of her ancestors. She just wants a fresh start. A chance to end the dreams plaguing her sleep. A chance for answers. For new beginnings. For a life lived in oblivion where no one knows her name or what she did.

But Satura is a planet at war. And there are no fresh starts for heroes.

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Books Received, December 5 — December 11

12 Dec, 2020


The job was routine, the money fair. Then the damn company diverted you to answer a distress call from a ship that disappeared almost 80 years ago — a derelict carrying something bizarre, twisted, and alien. What the ship’s frozen crew brought back with them was bad enough — what they themselves were turning into was a bloody nightmare. Add to that an annoying sensor ghost shadowing you in the void, and your stress level is shot.

It’s all a bit much.

You don’t get paid enough to deal with monsters. But hold your breath, count to three, and play your cards right with this one, and you just might walk away very rich. Oh, who am I kidding?
You’re all going to die.

This is a starter set for the official ALIEN tabletop roleplaying game — a universe of body horror and corporate brinkmanship, where synthetic people play god while space truckers and marines play host to newborn ghoulish creatures. It’s a harsh and unforgiving universe and you are nothing if not expendable.

Stay alive if you can.

This set contains everything you need to start playing:

  • A 104-page rulebook with a fast and effective ruleset designed specifically to support the core themes of ALIEN: horror and action in the cold darkness of space.
  • The 48-page complete scenario Chariot of the Gods by sci-fi novelist Andrew E.C. Gaska, taking you on a thrilling, terror-filled ride into deep space where no one can hear you scream. Chariot of the Gods is designed for 3 – 5 players plus the GM.
  • Five pre-generated characters to play.
  • A huge full-color, double-sided map, with one side depicting chartered space in the year 2183 and the other floor plans for the Chariot of the Gods scenario.
  • 84 game markers for keeping track of characters, motion tracker pings, and more.
  • 56 custom cards for weapons, personal agendas, and initiative in combat.

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Books Received, November 28 — December 4

5 Dec, 2020


I was suddenly struck with the sight of a trail of rich red vegetation of several miles in the midst of the eternal snows. I approached with curiosity this oasis in the frozen desert.”
An antique-shop owner gets a glimpse of the Red Planet through an intriguing artifact. A Martian’s wife contemplates the possibility of life on Earth. A resident of Venus describes his travels across the two alien planets. From an arid desert to an advanced society far superior to that of Earth, portrayals of Mars have differed radically in their attempts to uncover the truth about our neighboring planet.
Since the 1880s, after an astronomer first described channels” on the surface of Mars, writers have been fascinated with the planet, endlessly speculating on what life on Mars might look like and what might happen should we make contact with the planet’s inhabitants. This wonderful collection offers ten wildly imaginative short stories from the golden age of science fiction by such classic sci-fi writers as H.G. Wells, Ray Bradbury, and J. G. Ballard, as well as hard-to-find stories by unjustly forgotten writers from the genre.
Assembled and introduced by acclaimed anthologist Mike Ashley, these stories vividly evoke a time when notions of life on other planets — from vegetation and water to space invaders and utopian societies — were new and startling. As we continue to imagine landing people on Mars, these stories are well worth revisiting as gripping and vivid dispatches from futurists past.

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James Nicoll Reviews Review Categories

2 Dec, 2020


Curious about the list of Review Categories? Here’s a short and updated (as of December 2nd, 2020) guide:

Each category header is a link.

Sponsored Reviews

You can buy a review for a book for $100. Various guidelines pertain, which can be found at the other end of the link. 

Active Projects (some more active than others)

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You (335)

My weekly foray into the books I loved as a teenager, which is to say, books I first encountered between March 18, 1974 and March 181981

Big Hair, Big Guns! (27)

An episodic sampling of the science fiction of the 1980s.


An exploration of science fiction roleplaying games using the Basic Roleplaying Game engine.

Doing What the WFC Cannot Do (98)

A weekly review of works by Anglophone authors of colour, focusing on a different author each week of the year. 

Graveyard Orbits (5)

Reviews of the final books written by writers who have suffered author existence failure. 

Illimitable Dominion (2)

Reviews of books featuring pandemics. 

James Tiptree, Jr. Award (9)

Reviews of works that won the Otherwise Award. I don’t think I can rename the category without breaking a lot of urls.

KW Science Fiction and Fantasy (4)

Reviews of works by local authors. 

Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn’t Suck (38)

Reviews of Military SF works that were not unspeakably terrible.

Miscellaneous Reviews (282)

This is where everything that does not fit into one of the other categories gets put. 

Rediscovery Tuesday (42)

Reviews of works long out of print that have been recently republished. Ironically, back in 2014 this was going to be my main focus. 

Reds Under The Bed (5)

Reviews of works about those commie rat-bastards taking over the US. 

Roleplaying Games (6)

Reviews of roleplaying games, at least the ones not covered under the Tears reviews.

Space Opera That Doesn’t Suck (27)

Reviews of Space Operas that were not unspeakably terrible.

Special Requests (315)

Reviews of works I was asked to review that do not fall into one of the other categories.


Reviews of translated works. 

Completed Projects

50 Nortons in 50 Weeks (50)

Reviews of every Andre Norton novel listed in an obscure Ace Books ad in the 1970s. 

A Bunch of Bujolds (12)

Reviews of a dozen assorted Lois McMaster Bujold novels. You might expect every Bujold to be listed under this. You’d be wrong, although I reserve the right to change my mind. 

A Dozen by Tchaikovsky (12)

Reviews of a dozen assorted Adrian Tchaikovsky novels. Again, anyone expecting me to list every Tchaikovsky review here has unwarranted faith in my organizational skills.

A Variety of Vaughns (12)

Reviews of a dozen assorted Carrie Vaughn novels. See previous disclaimer re: whether all of the Vaughns I have reviewed are listed under this tag. 

A Year of Tanith Lee (61)

A now completed project in which I reviewed one Lee work a week. You may well wonder how I crammed 61 weekly reviews into 52 weeks. 

A Year of Waterloo Region Speculative Fiction (49)

Reviews of works written by authors in some way connected to or adjacent to Waterloo Region in Ontario. 

An Expanse of Coreys (6)

Reviews of some of the books in James Corey’s Expanse space opera. 

Leigh Brackett’s Solar System (7)

Reviews of works set in Leigh Brackett’s Planetary Romance setting. 

Not Actually A Review (1)

This was not actually a review.

The 2017 Prometheus Award Finalists (4)

Reviews of some of the works nominated for the 2017 Prometheus Award. 

The Great Heinlein Juveniles (Plus The Other Two) Reread (14)

Reviews of Heinlein’s Scribner juvenile SF novels, plus a couple of ancillary works. 

Twelve by Diana Wynne Jones (12)

Reviews of a dozen assorted Dianna Wynne Jones novels.

Women of Wonder (6)

Reviews of Pamela Sargent’s iconic Women of Wonder Anthologies, plus an interview with the editor. 

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