James Nicoll Reviews

Home > Reviews > By Date

Reviews from March 2020 (21)

A Distant Drum

Comet Weather

By Liz Williams  

31 Mar, 2020

Miscellaneous Reviews

1 comment

Liz Williams’ 2020 Comet Weather is a standalone contemporary fantasy novel.

The Fallow sisters — practical Bee, DJ Stella, fashion-designer Serena, and the peripatetic Luna — are unremarkable save for their whirlwind love-lives, their vanished mother Alys, and the stars who occasionally descend from the sky to manifest as humanoid incarnations in the Fallow home Mooncote. Oh, and the occasional ghost. 

With Lerninsky’s Comet soon to be visible in the sky, the sisters (and a few friends) gather at Mooncote.

Read more ➤

Flowing Through My Veins


By Hal Clement  

29 Mar, 2020

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


Hal Clements’ 1950 Needle is a science fiction mystery. 

In hot pursuit of a killer, the Hunter and his quarry crash land on Earth. The Hunter survives the landing. It must assume the criminal did as well. Determined to catch the criminal, the Hunter must turn to local allies for help. 

The catch? Earth has never been contacted by anything like the Hunter and its prey. The Hunter must manage not just detection, but first contact.

Read more ➤

Sky, Don’t Let the Sun Go

Dread Nation

By Justina Ireland  

27 Mar, 2020

Doing What the WFC Cannot Do


Justina Ireland’s 2018 Dread Nation is a zombie apocalypse novel.

The American Civil War ground to a halt as soon as the dead began clambering from their graves. The cost of Grant’s march south against the undead was the South’s surrender and the freeing of the slaves. People once born in chains are now free.

There is, of course, one small catch, which is that entrenched white supremacy didn’t vanish when legal slavery did. As a consequence…

Read more ➤

Blue in the Night


By Liz Williams  

26 Mar, 2020

Space Opera That Doesn't Suck

1 comment

2018’s Phosphorus takes place in Liz Williams’ Winterstrike space fantasy setting, as does Banner of Souls.

A terraformed Mars is divided between belligerent sisterhoods. Bombs are falling on young Canteley’s home city of Winterstrike. Canteley’s mother sends Canteley off to live with her aunt Sulie in distant Tharsis.

Was this to protect the girl? Or was it because her prophetic dreams suggest Canteley could be useful to Sulie?

Read more ➤

Maybe a Great Magnet Pulls

How Do We Relationship?, volume 1

By Tamifull  

25 Mar, 2020



Tamifull’s How Do We Relationship? (Tsukiatte Agete mo Ii ka na) is a yuri manga.

Saeko, who has been pressured into attending a university mixer, drunkenly admits to Miwa that the boys at the mixer are out of luck. Saeko has eyes only for other women. Miwa admits she is in the exact same situation.

Why not date? After all, they know absolutely nothing about each other except both are women, gay, cute, and kinda drunk. What could possibly go wrong with being compromise girlfriends?

Read more ➤

War Paint

Phoenix Extravagant

By Yoon Ha Lee  

23 Mar, 2020

Doing What the WFC Cannot Do


Yoon Ha Lee’s 2020 Phoenix Extravagant is a (thus far) standalone fantasy. It’s also a mecha adventure. It’s genre-fluid.

Six years ago, the Empire of Razan invaded and conquered Hwaguk, which then became the drab Administrative Territory Fourteen, Artist Jebi is a survivor. They apply for a name change (a Razan-acceptable name) and a job as an artist for the new administration. Jebi’s sister, a Hwaguk nationalist, disapproves but hey … Jebi is a realist.

Jebi does not get the position for which they applied. They get a job offer they cannot refuse. 

Read more ➤

Oh Simple Thing

The Word for World is Forest

By Ursula K. Le Guin  

22 Mar, 2020

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


Ursula Le Guin’s 1972 The Word for World Is Forest takes place in her Hainish setting, during the League of Worlds period.

Three million years before the current era1, the Hain scattered humans across a swath of near space. Now after a long hiatus, various worlds have rediscovered nearly-as-fast-as-light star travel. Earth promptly applies its new NAFAL technology to colonialist exploitation.

Read more ➤

Bow to the Here and Now

What the Wind Brings

By Matthew Hughes  

21 Mar, 2020

Special Requests


Matthew Hughes’ 2019 What the Wind Brings is a standalone historical fantasy novel.

Dispatched by his master Don Alvaro to escort living cargo — slaves and farm animals — to Lima, Alonso Illescas instead finds himself marooned near the Rio Esmeraldas, in what is now northern Ecuador, in company with all the now-free slaves. 

Although Alonso is, like them, a dark-skinned servant to white masters, the Africans’ leader, Anton, would just as soon see Alonso dead; he’s a proxy for his despised master. Alonso’s greatest skill is being useful to those more powerful than he. It’s enough to buy his life, at least for the moment.

Read more ➤

One Sunny Mornin’

Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san, volume 1

By Honda  

20 Mar, 2020


1 comment

Honda’s Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san (Gaikotsu Shotenin Honda-san) is a Japanese slice-of-life comedic manga, based on the author’s experiences selling books. It was serialized online on the pixiv comic website between August 2015 and March 2019. Volume 1 collects the first seven issues.

Imagine a world where people were free, even encouraged, to venture into stores seeking goods and services! Honda works in one such store, a busy manga outlet providing a wide variety of manga to an equally diverse clientele. Honda is certain that patrons expect a certain sort of bookseller and that they do not fit that image at all.

They do their best.

Read more ➤

Tempestuous Seasons

War of the Maps

By Paul McAuley  

18 Mar, 2020


Paul McAuley’s 2020 War of the Maps is a thus-far standalone science fiction novel.

Fearing the consequences should Remfrey He, the Free State’s greatest evil mastermind, be allowed to roam free unchecked, a retired lawman — the lucidor — sets out on an extremely unauthorized, one-man mission to track down his old enemy. 

The world the lucidor must traverse is one vaster and stranger than our familiar Earth.

Read more ➤