James Nicoll Reviews

Home > Blog

Blog Posts

Books Received: The Box From Haikasoru

20 Mar, 2017


The golden brat” Reinhard von Lohengramm, a military prodigy and admiral of the Galactic Empire, has ambitions beyond protecting the borders or even defeating the empire’s enemies. He seeks to overthrow the old order and become a truly absolute — yet benevolent — dictator. His rival, the humble Yang Wen-li of the Free Planets Alliance, wishes to preserve democracy even if he must sacrifice his political ideals to defeat the empire. Their political and military battles play out over a galactic chessboard in an epic saga fifteen centuries in the making!

After a coup d’état erupts in the Free Planets Alliance, military strategist Yang Wen-li is ordered to use his tactical wizardry to put down the rebellion, but the ringleader holding the capital is someone he once trusted deeply. Meanwhile, in the Galactic Empire, Reinhard will soon face a new trial, as in the wake of the emperor’s death he stands amidst an intensifying power struggle among the aristocracy. The unbeatable magician and the unstoppable genius: the battles these heroes wage will send shock waves across the galaxy!

A grand scheme for retaking Iserlohn is delivered to Reinhard, who with renewed determination seeks to become ruler of the galaxy and fulfill the oath he made with a dear departed friend. But what are the aims of Phezzan, the third force at work behind the scenes? Meanwhile, no sooner is Yang breathing a sigh of relief at Julian’s safe return from his combat mission than Yang is summoned to an inquest and departs for the capital of the alliance. As if waiting for an opportunity to strike, however, the imperial military sends their secret weapon right to the gates of Iserlohn. The battle begins! Who will endure?

In the year 2020, Kazumi Kimura, proprietor of shooting star forecast website Meteor News, notices some suspicious orbiting space debris. Rumors spread online that the debris is actually an orbital weapon targeting the International Space Station. Halfway across the world, at NORAD, Staff Sergeant Daryl Freeman begins his own investigation of the threat. At the same time, billionaire entrepreneur Ronnie Smark and his journalist daughter prepare to check in to an orbital hotel as part of a stunt promoting private space tourism. Then Kazumi receives highly sensitive, and potentially explosive, information from a genius Iranian scientist. And so begins an unprecedented international battle against space-based terror that will soon involve the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, NORAD, and the CIA.

Read more ➤

Books Received, March 11 – 172017

17 Mar, 2017


What if you could fix the worst parts of yourself by confronting your worst fears?

Dr. Jennifer Webb has invented proprietary virtual reality technology that purports to heal psychological wounds by running clients through scenarios straight out of horror movies and nightmares. In a carefully controlled environment, with a medical cocktail running through their veins, sisters might develop a bond they’ve been missing their whole lives — while running from the bogeyman through a simulated forest. But…can real change come so easily?

Esther Hoffman doubts it. Esther has spent her entire journalism career debunking pseudoscience, after phony regression therapy ruined her father’s life. She’s determined to unearth the truth about Dr. Webb’s budding company. Dr. Webb’s willing to let her, of course, for reasons of her own. What better advertisement could she get than that of a convinced skeptic? But Esther’s not the only one curious about how this technology works. Enter real-world threats just as frightening as those created in the lab. Dr. Webb and Esther are at odds, but they may also be each other’s only hope of survival.

With her new novella Final Girls, bestselling, award-winning author Mira Grant has conjured a heartstopping, gut-wrenching story filled with as many twists as it is versions of reality. Grant offers a chilling exploration of how surviving horrors might define us all.

As the city rebuilds from the onslaught of sorcery that nearly destroyed it, the great Houses of Paris, ruled by Fallen angels, still contest one another for control over the capital.

House Silverspires was once the most powerful, but just as it sought to rise again, an ancient evil brought it low. Phillippe, an immortal who escaped the carnage, has a singular goal — to resurrect someone he lost. But the cost of such magic might be more than he can bear.

In House Hawthorn, Madeleine the alchemist has had her addiction to angel essence savagely broken. Struggling to live on, she is forced on a perilous diplomatic mission to the underwater dragon kingdom — and finds herself in the midst of intrigues that have already caused one previous emissary to mysteriously disappear.…

As the Houses seek a peace more devastating than war, those caught between new fears and old hatreds must find strength — or fall prey to a magic that seeks to bind all to its will.

To solve some mysteries, one must embrace the impossible.

Has there ever been a more unlikely pair of consulting detectives than Jesperson and Lane? They certainly make a striking duo: Mr. Jasper Jesperson, with his shock of red hair and seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of all subjects — save common sense — and Miss Lane, whose logical mind is matched only by her fascination with psychic phenomena.

Their talents are rare … as are their customers. So when Jesperson and Lane are hired to track the nocturnal wanderings of a sleepwalking London business owner, they’re simply happy to be working again. The case begins as a window into the séances and other supernatural parlor games that are so popular these days, and takes a sinister turn as the intrepid investigators pull back the curtain on the cutthroat rivalries underpinning polite society.

But after several mediums go missing, it’s clear that Jesperson and Lane are in over their heads. For they’ve uncovered a presence beyond their understanding — an evil force that won’t hesitate to kill in order to achieve its nefarious ends.

Read more ➤

Book Received: March 82017

8 Mar, 2017


A young man plagued by the ability to see ghosts races to save the mythological land of Tara from a terrible fate in Erika Lewis’s stunning debut, Game of Shadows.

Thousands of years ago in Ireland, an ancient race fought a world-changing battle — and lost. Their land overrun, the Celtic gods and goddesses fled, while the mythical races and magical druids sailed to an uncharted continent, cloaked so mankind could never find it. This new homeland was named Tara.

In modern day Los Angeles, Ethan Makkai struggles with an overprotective mother who never lets him out of her sight, and a terrifying secret: he can see ghosts. Desperate for a taste of freedom, he leaves his apartment by himself for the first time — only to find his life changed forever. After being attacked by dive-bombing birds, he races home to find the place trashed and his mother gone.

With the help of a captain from Tara who has been secretly watching the Makkais for a long time, Ethan sets out to save his mother; a journey that leads him to the hidden lands, and straight into the arms of a vicious sorcerer who will stop at nothing until he controls Tara.With new-found allies including Christian, the cousin he never knew he had, and Lily, the sword-slinging healer who’d rather fight than mend bones, Ethan travels an arduous road — dodging imprisonment, battling beasts he thought only existed in nightmares, and accepting help from the beings he’s always sought to avoid: ghosts. This L.A. teen must garner strength from his gift and embrace his destiny if he’s going to save his mother, the fearless girl he’s fallen for, and all the people of Tara.

Read more ➤

Book received

7 Mar, 2017


Bob Howard’s career in the Laundry, the secret British government agency
dedicated to protecting the world from unspeakable horrors from beyond
spacetime, has entailed high combat, brilliant hacking, ancient magic, and
combat with indescribably repellent creatures of pure evil. It has also
involved a wearying amount of paperwork and office politics, and his
expense reports are *still* a mess.

Now, following the invasion of Yorkshire by the Host of Air and Darkness,
the Laundry’s existence has become public, and Bob is being trotted out on
TV to answer pointed questions about elven asylum seekers. What neither Bob
nor his managers have foreseen is that their organization has earned the
attention of a horror far more terrifying than any demon: a British
government looking for public services to privatize. There’s a lot of
potential shareholder value in the Laundry’s knowledge assets.”

Inch by inch, Bob Howard and his managers are forced to consider the truly
unthinkable: a coup against the British government itself.

Read more ➤

Book Received: Like Clockwork by Ali Abbas

2 Mar, 2017


Commander Raymond Burntwood of the Royal Navy has returned to England where he meets the reclusive heiress Lady Ariana Grayhart. After the scandal of a night spent dancing together, Ariana returns home to Northumberland. Raymond’s superiors — seeking information about Ariana’s father — dispatch the commander under the cover of courting the heiress.

All is not as it seems in the Grayhart household. Captain Grayhart is an invalid, the servants maintain a monkish silence, and secrets are layered upon secrets. Everyone has their own agenda, from Raymond’s friend and confidante Du Bois, to the family lawyer Sir Berwick, and Ariana herself.
In the midst of it all, Raymond must unravel the truth of Captain Grayhart’s decline and save Ariana’s reputation and fortune. In doing so, he learns dark secrets about himself that could tear his world apart.

Read more ➤

Books Received

1 Mar, 2017


The luxury cruise ship the Martian Queen was decommissioned years ago, set to drift back and forth between Earth and Mars on the off-chance that reclaiming it ever became profitable for the owners. For Saga and her husband Michel the cruise ship represents a massive payday. Hacking and stealing the ship could earn them enough to settle down, have children, and pay for the treatments to save Saga’s mother’s life.

But the Martian Queen is much more than their employer has told them. In the twenty years since it was abandoned, something strange and dangerous has come to reside in the decadent vessel. Saga feels herself being drawn into a spider’s web, and must navigate the traps and lures of an awakening intelligence if she wants to go home again.

When Hob Ravani’s uncle turns up dead, and her childhood friend gone without a trace, Hob will put everything on the line to find out what happened. With her adoptive father, the leader of the mercenary company the Ghost Wolves, Hob will defy TransRift, the company that owns their entire world.

Read more ➤

February 2017 in Review

28 Feb, 2017



19 works reviewed. 11 by women (58%). 8 by men (42).

Works by POC: 14.5 (76%).

I wanted to review at least 20 items but heath and technical issues got in the way. 19 is still better than last year. As well, 2017's attempt to focus on black authors was a lot more successful than 2016: 14.5 works versus 8, with no authors repeated. Still room for improvement but not as much room as last year.

Year to Date

42 works reviewed. 23 by women (55%). 18 by men (43%). 1 by a non-binary author (2%).

Works by POC: 20.5 (49%)

Compared to last year: Up 2 works reviewed, down 1 by woman (My Friday theme this year has a lot more men than the last two themes, which is to say "any at all".). POC up by 9.5. Non-binary authors down by 1, which is sad because I want to make 2017 the year when I do a better than terrible job at reviewing non-binary authors. The problem is that I tend to focus on one issue to the exclusion of others. Oh well. Ten months to improve my stats, unless the Americans kill us all.

And now for my favourite part: the meaningless table!

Key: WNB stands for “women and non-binary genders”, while POC stands for “person of colour”. R/R stands for “reviews/reviewers”. Figures in brackets are percentages; for R/R the percentage represents the site’s R/R over my 2015 R/R. SFX is actually called SFX; it is not short for anything. Same with io9. F&SF is the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. SFS is Science Fiction Studies. LARB is the Los Angeles Review of Books. CSZ is the Cascadia Subduction Zone

Review source


WNB (%)

POC (%)


R/R (%)



163 (50)

22 (7)


19 (5.7)

JNR 2016


163.5 (64)

62.5 (25)


255 (78)



48 (29)

10 (6)


5.5 (1.5)

Romantic Times


84 (57)

14 (10)


n/a (n/a)



66 (47)

18 (13)


5.2 (1.6)

Strange Horizons


66 (48)

30 (22)


1.7 (0.5)

Rising Shadows


25 (30)

1 (1)


41.5 (12.6)



21 (31)

7 (10)


3.5 (1)



32 (54)

5 (9)


11.8 (3.6)



10 (17)

3 (4)


58 (17.6)



17 (30)

12 (21)


5.6 (1.7)



21 (23)

3 (6)


17.7 (5.4)



18 (35)

4 (8)


2 (0.6)



48 (21)

2 (4)


1.2 (0.3)

James Nicoll Review 2017


24 (57)

20.5 (49)


42 (13)



11 (26)

6 (13)


1.8 (0.5)



9 (24)

1 (3)


1.4 (0.4)



11 (31)

7 (20)


1.3 (0.4)



16? (57)

14 (50)


9.3 (2.8)



19 (80)

8 (35)


1.4 (0.4)

I love this time of year. It’s so easy to bound up the chart, from last place to 6th from last and I can now say I reviewed more works by POC than Analog, Asimov’s, CSZ, F&SF, Foundation, IO9, Interzone, LARB, Lightspeed, NYRSF, Rising Shadows, Romantic Times, SFS, SFX Tor, and Vector did in 2015.

Read more ➤

Book Rescued

21 Feb, 2017


I was literally just thinking I should review another Carey.

It’s good that I went out to see what Canada Post had delivered because the squirrel who has taken such an interest in the mail box recently had the package halfway to the sidewalk when I looked out the door.

Read more ➤