James Nicoll Reviews

Home > Blog

Blog Posts

Announcing Thirteen Days of Atomigeddon!

15 Oct, 2014


Which will take me 14 days because of course I still have the Heinlein reviews to post.

It’s in honour of Cuban missile crisis, which to be honest I don’t really remember because I was very young at the time. As confrontations between the US and SU that could have led to a nuclear go, it was nowhere near as risky as stuff like Able Archer or the 1983 Soviet nuclear false alarm incident because the nuclear arsenals were much smaller then (and strongly favoured the US) but it definitely would been bad for Europe. I was living in London, somewhere near where the region dominated by collapsing buildings due to a 1 MT strike gives way to third degree burns and for me it’s always been the iconic near-miss nuclear war.

For reasons I don’t understand, stories about the immediate aftermath of a nuclear war tend to be by men, while women prefer to look at the long term consequences. Even Connie Willis’s A Letter from the Clearies” is set long enough after the war that the new way of clinging to life has set in, although soon enough after the war the war and all it cost people still looms over them. I have no explanation for this, and am not even sure if there really is a such a difference or if this is just a side-effect of biases in my library.


Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Read more ➤

The Great Heinlein Juveniles (Plus The Other Two) Reread

15 Aug, 2014


From 1947 to 1958, Robert Heinlein wrote a series of science fiction novels aimed at the young men of America. Aided in this effort by editor Alice Dalgliesh, whose efforts to shape Heinlein’s books into something suitable for their intended market Heinlein was not entirely appreciative of, he wrote what are for many people of a certain age one of the great series in science fiction. For many writers it is a model seared into their brains, although not one many authors can successfully emulate1. Indeed, the reasonable reaction to the announcement by a once-favoured author that he (it’s almost always a he, and almost always of a certain age) is going to try his hand at this Heinlein Juvenile thing is lamentation and despair, as the results are hardly ever any good and the effect on the author often corrosive.

Read more ➤