James Nicoll Reviews

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Books Received, November 30 — December 7

8 Dec, 2018


Peter S  Beagles Immortal Unicorn

The author of The Last Unicorn presents thirteen fantastical and mystical stories celebrating the most beloved mythical creature by some of today’s top fantasy authors, including an original tale by Janet Berliner written especially for this edition.


Devin Eveson is a Soulkeeper, traveling through remote villages as a preacher and healer. But when a mysterious black water washes over the world, the veil is torn, flooding the land with ancient magic and forgotten races: fire that dances as if alive, corpses that walk, and creatures that can manipulate time itself. And not all the creatures that have re-awakened remember humanity fondly. 

As the land grows more dangerous and more chaotic, Soulkeepers are turning up dead, their bodies transformed into macabre works of art. Devin must set aside his words of peace and accept his new role: slayer of monsters and protector of the human race. 

The Hod King

Fearing an uprising, the Sphinx sends Senlin to investigate a plot that has taken hold in the ringdom of Pelphia. Alone in the city, Senlin infiltrates a bloody arena where hods battle for the public’s entertainment. But his investigation is quickly derailed by a gruesome crime and an unexpected reunion. 

Posing as a noble lady and her handmaid, Voleta and Iren attempt to reach Marya, who is isolated by her fame. While navigating the court, Voleta attracts the unwanted attention of a powerful prince whose pursuit of her threatens their plan. 

Edith, now captain of the Sphinx’s fierce flagship, joins forces with a fellow wakeman to investigate the disappearance of a beloved friend. She must decide who to trust as her desperate search brings her nearer to the Black Trail where the hods climb in darkness and whisper of the Hod King. 

As Senlin and his crew become further dragged in to the conspiracies of the Tower, everything falls to one question: Who is The Hod King? 

A Boy And His Dog At The End Of The World

When a beloved family dog is stolen, her owner sets out on a life-changing journey through the ruins of our world to bring her back in this fiercely compelling tale of survival, courage, and hope. Perfect for readers of Station Elevenand *The Girl With All the Gifts.* 

My name’s Griz. My childhood wasn’t like yours. I’ve never had friends, and in my whole life I’ve not met enough people to play a game of football. 

My parents told me how crowded the world used to be, but we were never lonely on our remote island. We had each other, and our dogs. 

Then the thief came. 

There may be no law left except what you make of it. But if you steal my dog, you can at least expect me to come after you. 

Because if we aren’t loyal to the things we love, what’s the point? 

Avalon City

AVALON CITY. Human tourists come chasing myths and legends, but the feral megacity’s fabled hallucinatory glamour barely masks its mean streets. 

ACPD Detective Reis Rat” Attalus is having a dark week. His partner’s dead, a ruthless trafficker is building a fat pipeline for a long-forgotten lethal narcotic from the human world, and the dealer who was Rat’s key to the trafficker’s network has vanished. Worst of all, Rat can’t let his guard down for a second — even when he’s not undercover — or someone might discover his half-human parentage, kick him off the all-feral police force, and subject him to the harshest punishment the courts of the Realm have to offer. 

Then he meets Leoni Minides, the cartel’s money launderer, who promises to help him if Rat cuts her in on the deal. Leoni has her own enigmatic agenda — which probably includes betraying Rat — but she might be his only chance to unravel a conspiracy that runs from the down-and-dirty streets of Oldcity to the lofty mansions of the power elite. In Avalon City, sociopaths are the norm, and trust is a liability. Rat’s used to playing it close to the edge, but this case might just carry him over the brink once and for all. 

The Rising The Newsflesh Trilogy

The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beat the common cold. But in doing so we created something new, something terrible that no one could stop. The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED. 

Now, twenty years after the Rising, Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives — the dark conspiracy behind the infected. The truth will out, even if it kills them. 

The Gutter Prayer The Black Iron Legacy

The city has always been. The city must finally end. 

When three thieves — an orphan, a ghoul, and a cursed man — are betrayed by the master of the thieves guild, their quest for revenge uncovers dark truths about their city and exposes a dangerous conspiracy, the seeds of which were sown long before they were born. 

Cari is a drifter whose past and future are darker than she can know. 

Rat is a Ghoul, whose people haunt the city’s underworld. 

Spar is a Stone Man, subject to a terrible disease that is slowly petrifying his flesh. 

Chance has brought them together, but their friendship could be all that stands in the way of total armageddon. 

How Long Til Black Future Month

Three-time Hugo Award winner N. K. Jemisin’s first collection of short fiction challenges and enchants with breathtaking stories of destruction, rebirth, and redemption. 

N. K. Jemisin is one of the most powerful and acclaimed speculative fiction authors of our time. In the first collection of her evocative short fiction, Jemisin equally challenges and delights readers with thought-provoking narratives of destruction, rebirth, and redemption. 

Dragons and hateful spirits haunt the flooded streets of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a parallel universe, a utopian society watches our world, trying to learn from our mistakes. A black mother in the Jim Crow South must save her daughter from a fey offering impossible promises. And in the Hugo award-nominated short story The City Born Great,” a young street kid fights to give birth to an old metropolis’s soul. 

The Raven Tower

For centuries, the kingdom of Iraden has been protected by the god known as the Raven. He watches over his territory from atop a tower in the powerful port of Vastai. His will is enacted through the Raven’s Lease, a human ruler chosen by the god himself. His magic is sustained via the blood sacrifice that every Lease must offer. And under the Raven’s watch, the city flourishes. 

But the power of the Raven is weakening. A usurper has claimed the throne. The kingdom borders are tested by invaders who long for the prosperity that Vastai boasts. And they have made their own alliances with other gods. 

It is into this unrest that the warrior Eolo – aide to Mawat, the true Lease – arrives. And in seeking to help Mawat reclaim his city, Eolo discovers that the Raven’s Tower holds a secret. Its foundations conceal a dark history that has been waiting to reveal itself…and to set in motion a chain of events that could destroy Iraden forever. 

The Vela

In the fading light of a dying star, a soldier for hire searches for a missing refugee ship and uncovers a universe-shattering secret.

Asala Sikou is used to looking after number one while crisis reigns in her dying planetary system. But when she’s hired to find a missing refugee ship, she discovers that this is no ordinary rescue mission, and she must play a role in deciding the fate of the whole universe.

The Best Of Michael Moorcock

From the legendary author of the Elric saga, a Science Fiction Grand Master, a platinum album-receiving rock star, and the controversial editor of the new wave’s New Worlds, this definitive collection captures the incomparable short fiction of one of science fiction and literature’s most important contemporary writers. These exceptional stories range effortlessly from the genre tales that continue to define fantasy to the author’s critically acclaimed mainstream works. Classic offerings include the Nebula Award-winning novella Behold the Man,” which introduces a time traveler and unlikely messiah that H.G. Wells never imagined; The Visible Men,” a recent tale of the ambiguous and androgynous secret agent Jerry Cornelius; the trilogy My Experiences in the Third World War,” where a Russian agent in an alternate Cambodia is powerless to prevent an inevitable march toward nuclear disaster; and A Portrait in Ivory,” a Melibone story of troubled anti-hero Elric and his soul-stealing sword, Stormbringer. Newer work handpicked by the expert editing team includes one previously unpublished story and three uncollected stories. With his finest stories finally collected in one volume, this book is a long-overdue tribute to an extraordinarily gifted, versatile, and much-beloved author.

Shadow Captain

Adrana and Fura Ness have finally been reunited, but both have changed beyond recognition. Once desperate for adventure, now Adrana is haunted by her enslavement on the feared pirate Bosa Sennen’s ship. And rumors of Bosa Sennen’s hidden cache of treasure have ensnared her sister, Fura, into single-minded obsession. 

Neither is safe; because the galaxy wants Bosa Sennen dead and they don’t care if she’s already been killed. They’ll happily take whoever is flying her ship. 

Shadow Captain is a desperate story of cursed ships, vengeful corporations, and alien artifacts, of daring escapes and wealth beyond imagining … and of betrayal. 

The Speed Of Darkness

AFTER FIRST CONTACT, when earthlings learn the Djbrr tale of creation, a tale of conflict between Darkness and Light, humans interpret the story as a metaphor for Satan’s revolt against heaven, or the battle between good and evil, or the struggle of light and darkness inside the soul. As is often the case, the universe will prove them wrong. 

Humanity faces a choice as it reacts to the Djbrr, friendly and technologically advanced extraterrestrials who LOVE to party: should it embrace the fun-loving Djbrrs and their high-tech gifts, or fear them? At first, jubilation sweeps earth following the Djbrr’s arrival. But celebration turns to distrust when catastrophe strikes earth’s greatest technological achievement, Grissom Base on Jupiter’s moon Io, and humans face a crisis of confidence. 

Kelso Frick, earth’s top physicist, responds, creating Excelsior, the craft he believes will travel faster than light, an achievement the Djbrr — like Albert Einstein — think is impossible. Frick hand-picks the crew who will join him on Excelsior’s quest to break the light barrier: Mission Commander Roy Geiger, a Navy veteran haunted by his role in the Grissom Base disaster, Pilot Nancy Mac, decorated war hero, top test pilot, and aerial combat ace, Science Historian Thomas Wilson, tasked with documenting Excelsior’s historic journey, and Science Officer Mnggs, known to earthlings as Mingus, the Hero of First Contact, first Djbrr Nobel Laureate and first Djbrr celebrity, and to Las Vegas casinos as an optimistic — and compulsive — gambler. 

Excelsior’s mission is soon imperiled by the suspicious death of a crewmember, rising anti-Djbrr sentiment, and an unknown scientist’s warning of hidden danger lurking behind the light barrier. Despite these setbacks, Excelsior launches, hurtling ever faster through space, and in accordance with Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, time aboard the craft slows relative to the passage of time on earth. 

As a year goes by on Excelsior and decades pass on earth, scientists who question the mission’s safety rush to decode a message left behind in the echoes of the Big Bang, dislike of the Djbbr intensifies into a powerful political movement, and support for Excelsior’s mission waxes and wanes. Aboard Excelsior, crewmates struggle with earth’s shifting political winds and the dictates of their own consciences. As concerns grow about the consequences of breaking the light barrier, each of them must decide whether to fulfill their destiny by continuing the mission, or aborting it. Their decision will determine the fate of the cosmos and answer the question: which is faster, the speed of light or the speed of darkness? 

The Rosewater Insurrection

The year is 2067. The city of Rosewater is chaotic, vibrant and full of life — some of it extra-terrestrial. 

The charismatic mayor, Jack Jacques, has declared Rosewater a free state, independent to Nigeria. But the city’s alien dome is dying. Government forces await its demise, ready to destroy Rosewater’s independence before it has even begun. 

And in the city’s quiet suburbs, a woman wakes with no memory of who she is — with memories belonging to something much older and much more alien. 

Unholy Land

Lior Tirosh is a semi-successful author of pulp fiction, an inadvertent time traveler, and an ongoing source of disappointment to his father. 

Tirosh has returned to his homeland in East Africa. But Palestina―a Jewish state founded in the early 20th century―has grown dangerous. The government is building a vast border wall to keep out African refugees. Unrest in Ararat City is growing. And Tirosh’s childhood friend, trying to deliver a warning, has turned up dead in his hotel room. 

A state security officer has now identified Tirosh as a suspect in a string of murders. A rogue agent is stalking Tirosh through transdimensional rifts―possible futures that can only be prevented by avoiding the mistakes of the past. 

From the bestselling author of Central Stationcomes an extraordinary new novel recalling China Miéville and Michael Chabon, entertaining and subversive in equal measures.