James Nicoll Reviews

Home > Reviews > By Date

Reviews from January 2019 (20)

Looking For the Burning Truth

Breaking Strain  (Arthur C. Clarke’s Venus Prime, book 1)

By Paul Preuss 

25 Jan, 2019

Big Hair, Big Guns!

8 comments

Paul Preuss’ 1987’s Breaking Strain is the first volume of six in the Arthur C. Clark’s Venus Prime series. 

Taking pity on the amnesiac woman in his care, a guilt-ridden doctor restores her memories. This act costs the doctor his life, but allows the young cyborg, code-named Sparta, to escape the secret medical facility in which she is being held prisoner. 

Reinventing herself as Ellen Troy, Sparta joins the Space Board as an investigator. Her cutting-edge education and advanced implants make her an exemplary recruit. First assignment: Port Hesperus, Venus! 


Read more ➤

It Looks Like Rain

An Excess Male

By Maggie Shen King 

25 Jan, 2019

Doing What the WFC Cannot Do

2 comments

Maggie Shen King’s 2017’s An Excess Male is a standalone near-future SF novel. 

Lee Wei-guo is one of forty million men who make up China’s so-called Bounty, the number of men in excess of the number of women. It’s a legacy of China’s one child policy that has been complicated by misogynistic choices to favor male children and abort or abandon females. Managing the Bounty is a pressing public policy challenge. Responses have included legalizing polyandry and assigning sex workers to the superfluous men. 

Wei-guo is forty; his chances of finding a bride are waning. But there’s a glimmer of hope. He has enough money saved for a dowry1; he and his fathers can afford to pay a matchmaker for a few lunch meetings with prospective brides. One such has agreed to meet with Wei-guo and his fathers. 

Read more ➤

Nobody’s Business But The Turks

Choukakou, book 2

By Xia Da 

22 Jan, 2019

Translation

1 comment

Choukakou, which is also known as Chang Ge Xing, Chang Ge’s Journey, or Song of the Long March, is an ongoing manhua (Chinese comic) series by Xia Da. Volume two collects issues five through eleven. 

Princess Li Chang Ge fled her uncle’s (Tang emperor Taizong) ruthless purge of Li Chang Ge’s immediate family. Posing as a young man of noble birth, she has wormed her way into the inner circle of Gong Sun Heng, Governor of Shuo. 

Chang Ge’s plans to kill the Emperor are on hold for the moment. She and the whole of Shou have far more immediate problems: 

Turks. 

Read more ➤

Cry, Little Sister

The Fog Maiden

By Jane Toombs 

20 Jan, 2019

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

1 comment

Jane Toombs’ 1976 The Fog Maiden is a standalone fantasy novel. If it were published today, I suspect it would be classified as urban fantasy/paranormal romance. 

After the death of her father, Janella Maki was raised by her well-meaning but distant stepmother. Janella has no memories of her early past and knows even less about her biological parents. It’s a surprise when an uncle shows up to renew family ties. 

Read more ➤

For Beautiful, For Spacious Skies

Black Star Rising

By Frederik Pohl 

19 Jan, 2019

Big Hair, Big Guns!

1 comment

Frederik Pohl’s 1985 Black Star Rising is a standalone science fiction novel. 

The world is divided into two spheres, one dominated by India, one by China, These two powers were the only slightly damaged by an apocalyptic nuclear war that ravaged the United States and the Soviet Union. North America falls under China’s benevolent umbrella. Its aboriginal population is monitored by Chinese supervisors. 

Castor is an Anglo farmer with pretensions above his class. Denied entry into university, he is an autodidact, hoovering up knowledge of no relevance to his duties to the Heavenly Grain Rice Collective. Elevation from this humble but necessary role comes courtesy of two unrelated events: a brutal murder and what seems to be a First Contact event. 

Read more ➤

So Far Away

Dragon Pearl

By Yoo Ha Lee 

18 Jan, 2019

Doing What the WFC Cannot Do

1 comment

Yoon Ha Lee’s 2019 Dragon Pearl is a standalone science fantasy novel. 

Thirteen-year-old Min is a magical fox girl. Other supernatural races may be respected throughout the Thousand Worlds, but not foxes. Foxes are seen as untrustworthy and murderous. Min is brought up to conceal her fox nature from neighbours on Jinju. 

Min is biding her time, waiting to turn fifteen, when she will be eligible to join the Thousand Worlds’ space force. That’s one way off backwater Jinju. She knows even a fox can do this, because her older brother Jun managed it. 

One day an investigator appears, with bad news about Jun. 


Read more ➤