James Nicoll Reviews

Home > Reviews > By Date

Reviews from October 2015 (29)

Not the House of Shattered Wings

Of Books, and Earth, and Courtship & In Morningstar’s Shadow

By Aliette de Bodard  

21 Oct, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

0 comments

My review title for for this is Not the House of Shattered Wings, but that is just to avoid confusion. What this really isn’t is de Bodard’s Harbinger of the Storm, which I am holding off on reviewing until its author brings the Acatl books back into print. House of the Shattered Wings (part of her Dominion of the Fallen sequence) was plan B until I discovered my Kitchener Public Library’s copy was signed out. 

The nice thing about being in a mood for a de Bodard story is that instant gratification by means of ebooks is now an option. Since I was thinking about de Bodard’s Dominion of the Fallen setting anyway, I bought her short story Of Books, and Earth, and Courtship” from Kobo and since I noticed her related collection In Morningstar’s Shadow was free, I grabbed that as well1.

Onward!


Read more ➤

The timing of this review is entirely coincidental

Doomsday Morning

By C L Moore  

20 Oct, 2015

Rediscovery Tuesday

0 comments

I had never even heard of C. L. Moore’s 1957 novel Doomsday Morning until an ebook version showed up in my inbox. It would have made a fine election day review, if only I had read it a bit earlier. Oh, well.

President Raleigh rebuilt America after the Five Days War and a grateful electorate has re-elected him five times. Of course, the electorate might have been nudged in that direction by one of the tools Raleigh created to rebuild America: Communications US aka Comus. Constant monitoring and finely targeted media control allow the government to nudge Americans in the direction of the most sensible decisions. 

Now Raleigh is dying. Someone will have to replace him. Comus boss Tom Nye is determined to be that someone … but there’s a hitch. Which I will explain later. Tom schemes to remove the hitch with the aid of an old friend, the once great actor1 Howard Rohan … 


Read more ➤

“… doesn’t matter if the game is crooked when it’s the only game in town.”

Double Star

By Robert A. Heinlein  

19 Oct, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

0 comments


If all goes according to plan, this will be posted on the day of the 2015 Canadian Federal election. On my Livejournal, More Words, Deeper Hole, I asked for suggestions of SF novels about elections. I had already thought of two options: this book, and The Wanting of Levine. I received many good suggestions, but, in the end, two factors ruled in favour of Robert A. Heinlein’s 1956 Hugo Winner Double Star: I own it and it’s short. I didn’t have much time to acquire and read whichever book I chose. 

It turns out at least part of the reason the 1970s-era1 Signet mass market edition is a scant 128 pages is because the font size is microdot. Not that it would have been much longer had it been printed in a reasonable font, as the allegednovel is really more of a novella. Still, it’s long enough to serve its purpose. 

A seemingly chance meeting in a bar drops a job opportunity in Lawrence The Great Lorenzo” Smythe’s lap. While the job, from the few details he gets, sounds like it should be beneath a master thespian like Smythe, it just so happens that his would-be employer, Dak Broadbent, speaks the language that speaks most loudly to a down-on-his-luck actor: money. 

Smythe convinces himself he is being hired as a double for a politician who fears an assassination attempt. The prospect of being shot at does not please Smythe at all. Smythe is half-right — he is being hired to play prominent politician John Joseph Bonforte, leader of the Expansionist Party, currently the Opposition — but he is completely wrong about the reason behind the ruse. 

Smythe has also grossly underestimated the stakes. 


Read more ➤

Cursed, cursed creator! Why did I live?”

Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus

By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley  

18 Oct, 2015

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

0 comments

The Monster from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus is one of the great iconic figures in Western fiction; the story in which it appears is also well known. Unsurprisingly, the idea that a woman was able to create a work of great significance is confounding to certain people. Some have reacted by claiming Shelley did not write the novel, others by claiming that a story that has remained in print for two centuries is mere trash, the kind of thing a woman would write. Mountains of nonsense have been written about Frankenstein over the centuries and now it is my privilege to add a stone to those mountains. 


Read more ➤

Parents Who Love Their Kids to Pieces

Unwind  (Unwind Dystology, volume 1)

By Neal Shusterman  

17 Oct, 2015

Special Requests

0 comments

Neal Shusterman has been publishing for a quarter century, but 2007’s Unwind is the first novel of his I recall having read. I wish I liked it more.… 


The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. None of the factions involved were able to win a complete victory. The compromise that emerged from peace talks was as counter-intuitive as it was inhumane. While the US legal system now considers life to begin at conception, from ages thirteen to eighteen, parents can opt to consign unsatisfactory children to the organ banks, a process called unwinding. As long as 99% of the teen is used for organ donations, they have not technically died, only become more dispersed. Everyone is happy! 


Except for the teens who are slated to be unwound. Eh, teenagers, always complaining. 



Read more ➤

The Trader and the Witch

Exiles of the Stars  (Moon Singer, volume 2)

By Andre Norton  

16 Oct, 2015

50 Nortons in 50 Weeks

0 comments

1971’s Exiles of the Stars is the first sequel to Andre Norton’s Moon of Three Rings. It was followed by 1986’s Flight of Yiktor and 1990’s Dare to Go A‑Hunting, neither of which I will review (because they fall outside the boundaries of this review series1). Exiles picks up where Moon left off, with star-trader Krip Vorlund and alien witch Maelen the Moon Singer ensconced in brand-new bodies — Krip in the body of a Thassa and Maelen in the body of a small animal called a glassia — and on their way to the stars on the Free Trader Lydis.


But they’re not out of trouble yet. From the start, Lydis’ contract on Thoth had a whiff of danger. Nervous theocrats, threatened by religious strife and civil disorder, have hired the Lydis to transport precious artefacts, relics of a lost Forerunner race, to safety. The destination: Ptah, one of the other worlds in the Amen-Re system. 


A temple insider leaks the news that the priests are sending holy artefacts off-world. Even as the precious cargo is loaded aboard Lydis, angry mobs converge on the starship. Only the customary prohibition against attacking Free Traders can defend the Lydis.


They manage to escape from the riot-torn world, but worse is yet to come. Getting to Ptah will prove more challenging than expected.



Read more ➤

At the narrow passage, there is no brother and no friend

The Dark Forest  (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, volume 2)

By Cixin Liu  (Translated by Joel Martinsen)

15 Oct, 2015

0 comments

2015’s The Dark Forest, originally published in 20081 as 黑暗森林, is the second volume of Cixin Liu’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy. It follows Liu’s 2006 (for the Chinese edition)/2014 (English edition) novel The Three-Body Problem.


Three-Body Problem won the 2014 Hugo, despite notable handicaps. Not only had a translated book never before won the Hugo, two bloc-voting schemes conspired (knowingly or not) to keep it off the ballot. Only the fact that Marko Kloos withdrew (for reasons explained here) allowed Three-Body Problem onto the Hugo best novel ballot. 


That is a nice story of triumph over great odds, which is rather suitable considering that Three-Body Problem is a story of humanity facing a seemingly insurmountable challenge: resisting extermination at the manipulating appendages of the technologically superior Trisolarians. It’s a bit of shame, therefore, that I was somewhat ambivalent about Three-Body Problem2. Many of the same issues coloured my reading of the sequel.

Read more ➤

Trouble in Paradise

Prometheus Unbound  (Appleseed, volume 2)

By Masamune Shirow  

14 Oct, 2015

Translation

0 comments

Appleseed Book Two: Prometheus Unbound picks up where The Promethean Challenge left off. While Briareos Hecatonchires recovers from the injuries he suffered in the previous volume, Deunan Knute is trying to fit into a police force made up of former cut-throats barely distinguishable from the criminals they oppose. She’s soon head-hunted by ESWAT (Extra-Special Weapons and Tactics), less for her remarkable skill set and more because the powers-that-be (or a faction thereof) want her somewhere where they can keep an eye on her. Deunan has, as she discovers, a closer connection to the founders of Olympus than she had ever suspected. 


The people running Olympus (the city) and Aegis (the world government it heads) have bigger problems than one survivor from badside. The world war was horrible, but it did allow Aegis time to consider and address the issues driving humans towards global suicide. Not enough time, it seems, which leads the Council, bioroids all 1, to consider a bold strategy: apply bioroid discipline to all humans. The result may not be human as humans of the 22 nd Century define it, but at least it and the world it inhabits will be alive. 


Interestingly, it’s not the humans who object to this scheme. It’s Athena, Aegis’ senior politician and a bioroid herself. 


Athena finds it easy enough to deal with the council: detain them all. While they are in detention, Athena and her subordinates run the proposal through Gaea, the city’s supercomputer. Normally the council is plugged into Gaea while it cogitates, but obviously that won’t work in this case. The vast, cold intellect is free to consider the issue without human or bioroid moderation. 


What could go wrong? 



Read more ➤

Apartness

The Matter of Seggri

By Ursula K. Le Guin  

13 Oct, 2015

James Tiptree, Jr. Award

0 comments

Ursula Le Guin’s 1994 novelette The Matter of Seggri won the 1994 Tiptree, an honour it shared with Nancy Springer’s Larque on the Wing. It was an interesting year for Le Guin and the Tiptree: her A Fisherman of the Inland Sea and Forgiveness Day” both made the 1994 short list. For some reason ISFDB classifies inclusion in the short list as a nomination, probably because they don’t understand how the Tiptree process works. 


The Matter of Seggri takes place in Le Guin’s Hainish setting. Perhaps some background would help. As you know, about a million years ago 



Read more ➤

Now I have to wait another year for the next Angel Crawford book

White Trash Zombie Gone Wild  (White Trash Zombie, volume 5)

By Diana Rowland  

12 Oct, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

0 comments

Diana Rowland’s 2015 White Trash Zombie Gone Wild picks up some months after How the White Trash Zombie Got Her Groove Back. Angel Crawford may be technically post-mortal (since she’s what normals call a brain-eating zombie), but otherwise her life existence is going pretty well. Work at the coroner’s office is fine, aside from hints of low-key hostility from her boss, Allen Prejean. She’s currently sans boyfriend, but she’s OK with that. Plus, thanks to a little drug she likes to call V12, she’s energetic, chipper, and has a handle on her dyslexia!


It’s true she has to steal the V12. But that’s totes easy; all she has to do is water down Philip Reinhardt’s experimental V12 medication. It’s not like anyone is going to notice! And it’s not like experimental medications ever have undocumented effects! And it’s true V12 greatly increases her need for human brains. But she can just steal those from work! It’s not like anyone would miss a brain or two or even all of them.


Except Allen does. 



Read more ➤