James Nicoll Reviews

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Books Received, June 27 — July 3

4 Jul, 2020


Mexican Gothic

An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic artistocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets.… From the author of Gods of Jade and Shadow comes a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror” (Kirkus Reviews) set in glamorous 1950s Mexico — fans of classic novels like Jane Eyre and Rebecca are in for a suspenseful treat” (PopSugar).After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find — her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region. Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom. Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness. And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

Peace Machine

A thrilling historical adventure story from Turkey’s most daring young voice We’ll create a machine. A peace machine that will put an end to all wars. As the twentieth century dawns the world stands on the brink of yet another bloody war. But what if conflict were not inevitable? What if a machine could exploit the latest developments in electromagnetic science to influence people’s minds? And what if such a machine could put an end to violence for ever? The search for the answer to these questions will lead our hero Celal away from his unassuming life as an Istanbul-based writer of erotic fiction, and on a quest across a continent stumbling headlong towards disaster, from Istanbul to Paris and Belgrade, as he struggles to uncover the mystery of The Peace Machine before time runs out for humanity. 

Consolation Songs

For a while, we just slept and ate and told stories…”

A radio broadcast unites a scattered people; lockdown throws human and fey reluctantly together; a miner floats alone in the asteroid belt; a living ship rides out a storm.

In difficult times, stories sustain us. These twelve tales of selkies, hockey players, retired systems engineers, monsters, copyeditors and changelings are connected by a thread of optimism, and of hope: that we, too, will ride out this storm.

Consolation Songs: Speculative Fiction For A Time of Coronavirus is an anthology of speculative short fiction on an optimistic theme, featuring stories from Aliette de Bodard, Stephanie Burgis, Iona Datt Sharma, Jeannelle M. Ferreira, Rebecca Fraimow, Marissa Lingen, Freya Marske, Lizbeth Myles, Katie Rathfelder, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Adrian Tchaikovsky and Llinos Cathryn Thomas. It’s edited by me with assistance from Cathryn and Cara Wynn-Jones, Maya Berger and Amy, with cover art by Katherine Catchpole. All proceeds will be donated to the COVID-19 appeal being run by the UCLH Charity, the charity supporting the University College London Hospitals NHS Trust. 


Issue #15 of FIYAH Literary Magazine 


Bodily life is an uneasy business. The terror of disease is a ubiquitous one. New diseases are being discovered all the time. This book collects twenty contemporary diseases — privacy, for example, or innovation, or involuntary compassion — and presents their primary symptoms and etiologies. It presents sufferers’ anecdotes: Owen wakes up one day made of glass. Deirdre is allergic to tourists. A middle-aged diabetic is haunted by the feet of a Kurdish refugee child. Apples develop a persistent tremor, and peanuts plot underground. Human resilience is tested in dramatic new ways in Disease. 

Locus July 2020

The Magazine of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Field