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Reviews from September 2014 (24)

You call it murder, I call it an unparalleled opportunity for the victim’s understudy

Murder on Cue  (A Jocelyn O’Roarke Mystery, book 1)

By Jane Dentinger

30 Sep, 2014

Rediscovery Tuesday

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In 2011, I got back into FASS and asked Jane Dentinger, then Editor-in-Chief at the Mystery Guild and someone who accounted for about half the books I was reading, if she knew of any theater-themed mysteries. She then very kindly sent me a package of Jocelyn O’Roarke mysteries. The Jocelyn O’Roarke theatrical cozies were exactly what I was looking for. Their author was none other than Jane Dentinger herself, thus underling the fact that I am the sort of lack-wit who wouldn’t think to drop an editor’s name into Google for the entire time I was freelancing for them. Because I suck. 

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Also, there is a shark

Sewer, Gas & Electric: The Public Works Trilogy

By Matt Ruff

29 Sep, 2014

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A note about the title: this book is the whole of the Public Works Trilogy. As much fun as it would be to encourage you to button hole the author to demand the next two volumes, Sewer, Gas and Electric is a standalone novel with a misleading subtitle. 

I remembered liking 1997’s satirical Sewer, Gas & Electric almost 20 years ago so I was looking forward to rereading it. That may sound ominous and it should. I suspect the issue is not the book so much as it is me but unfortunately I seem to be stuck with being me 247.

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Pointed social commentary undermined by unfortunate world-building choices

Shadow of Earth

By Phyllis Eisenstein

28 Sep, 2014

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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Eisenstein is probably better known for her Alaric the Minstrel stories, if only because that’s still an on-going series; the most recent Alaric story, Caravan to Nowhere” appeared in 2014’s Rogues. As it happens, Eisenstein is one of those authors for whom I discover in retrospect I am a completist, so I could have reviewed Born to Exile, the first Alaric fix-in. Instead I decided to go with the considerably more obscure Shadow of Earth, a tale of a modern American woman who finds herself trapped in a backward world where her only value is as a brood mare of rare breed: a full-blooded white woman! 

Some aspects of this novel have aged more gracefully than other elements.

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Sound and fury, signifying nothing

The Powers of Light Trilogy: Treasure of Light, Redemption of Light & Abyss of Light

By Kathleen M. O’Neal

27 Sep, 2014

Special Requests

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Kathleen O’Neal is probably better known these days as Kathleen O’Neal Gear; particularly in combination with her husband Michael, she is a prolific author, with at least 34 novels published since her debut novel, Abyss of Light, appeared in 1990. I am personally unfamiliar with the main body of her work but it appears for the most part to be an exploration of prehistorical North America, drawing on her training as an archaeologist. Have not read those books, don’t have an opinion on them.

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Innocent farmboys, spoiled heiresses and lovable rogues

Starman Jones

By Robert A. Heinlein

26 Sep, 2014

The Great Heinlein Juveniles (Plus The Other Two) Reread

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1953’s Starman Jones sees Heinlein abandon the Solar System (and plausible propulsion systems) for the wider galaxy. He also discards the idea of his protagonists coming from loving (if sometimes troubled) families and the quasi-utopian settings of some previous books, although he does not venture into the outright dystopia of Between Planets, the better to force his protagonist head-long into adventure.

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A magnum opus of occult history 

Ash: A Secret History

By Mary Gentle

25 Sep, 2014

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I will admit I’ve been kind of dreading Ash, first because I didn’t think I’d be able to find a copy, second because I knew if I did find a copy the novel was much longer than the books I had thus far reviewed and would require a lot of time to read and thirdly because reputation has this as very dark and I didn’t want to spend 1100+ pages being kicked in the face by the author. As it turned out, one of the local used bookstores had a reasonably priced trade paperback, although it is not exactly bedtime reading, Ash is nowhere near as grim as I had expected, and it was an astonishingly quick read because I had a hard time putting it down.

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Because my tears are delicious to you” does not earn its title

The Planet That Wasn’t

By Isaac Asimov

21 Sep, 2014

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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Following the Soviet launch of Sputnik, Russian-born American Isaac Asimov (1920 — 1992) turned from focusing on fiction to a lengthy and extremely diverse series of non-fiction works. To quote Wikipedia, Asimov’s books span all major categories of the Dewey Decimal Classification except for category 100, philosophy and psychology” (and he had essays and introductions that ventured into category 100). 

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But what about Meade?”

The Rolling Stones

By Robert A. Heinlein

19 Sep, 2014

The Great Heinlein Juveniles (Plus The Other Two) Reread

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1952’s The Rolling Stones is intriguing from any number of angles. It’s the final Heinlein juvenile set entirely in the Solar System. It has genuinely interesting and potentially informative rocket science. In contrast with several of the earlier books the stakes, while important to the characters, are comparatively low. The sexual politics are tragic in a way I can talk about. My discussion about the two leads will starkly illuminate how poorly I manage to keep current affairs separated in my head from whatever I happen to be reading. It’s all good!

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Ghosts, talking rats and teleporting couches — the speculative fiction of Suzanne Church

Elements: A Collection of Speculative Fiction

By Suzanne Church

18 Sep, 2014

KW Science Fiction and Fantasy

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Unlike the previous two Kitchener-Waterloo (KW) Science Fiction and Fantasy authors, I have not to my knowledge met Suzanne Church – yet — but I did encounter her Synch Me, Kiss Me, Drop”, during my failed attempt to listen to every audio piece at Clarkesworld1. Church was first published almost a decade ago but she is not especially prolific and this is her first collection. Elements collects twenty-one stories by Church, which is actually eight more stories than are credited to her over at isfdb. I would like to say that the gaps in her isfdb entry are because seven of the stories in Elements are original to Elements itself — which is true — but Elements itself is mentioned in that entry. 

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