James Nicoll Reviews

Home > Reviews > By Date

Reviews from November 2020 (22)

Wouldn’t It Be Nice To Walk Together?

Hellspark

By Janet Kagan  

30 Nov, 2020

Special Requests

1 comment

Janet Kagan’s 1988 Hellsparkis a standalone SF mystery.

It’s by mere chance that Hellspark trader Tocohl Susumo interrupts an apparent mugging. Consequences! What was supposed to be an enjoyable holiday finds her sent to the newly found world of Lassti. Thanks to a misapprehension, she will be trusted to make a number of important legal determinations. Whether the late researcher Oloitokitok died by misadventure or was murdered might be the least of her decisions.

The survey team may be in the midst of a first contact. Or it might not. Nobody is quite sure.

(spoilers)


Read more ➤

Just Like Magic

The Island of the Mighty  (Mabinogion, book 4)

By Evangeline Walton  

29 Nov, 2020

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

5 comments

1970’s The Island of the Mighty is either the first (by publication order) or the fourth (by internal chronology) of Evangeline Walton’s Mabinogion Tetralogy. 

Gilfaethwy is obsessed with Goewin, who to Gilfaethwy’s astonishment has no interest in surrendering her position as Math’s (King of Gwynedd in north Wales) virginal foot holder1 for a dalliance with a man who has had and who expects to have as many lovers as a field has blades of grass. Tiring of Gilfaethwy’s gloom, Gilfaethwy’s brother Gwydion comes up with a plan both extremely cunning and extremely foolish.

Key to his plan: Pryderi’s pigs.


Read more ➤

Dreams Are Hard To Follow

Trouble the Saints

By Alaya Dawn Johnson  

27 Nov, 2020

Doing What the WFC Cannot Do

0 comments


Alaya Dawn Johnson’s 2020 Trouble the Saints is a standalone urban fantasy novel. 

A lucky few have been given remarkable gifts, special powers in their hands that have been revealed by mysterious dreams. Some can sense malice with a touch, other can feel a person’s darkest secrets. Phyllis Green has a preternatural talent with knives. She works under the name of Phyllis LeBlanc, as an assassin who delivers pointy justice to deserving miscreants. Her boss? Depression-era crime-lord Victor. 

Victor’s angel,” as she is known, has come to terms with her bloody occupation by assuring herself that she is killing the worst of the worst. Because if you can’t trust a career criminal who has arrived at the top over the dead bodies of his rivals, who can you trust?


Read more ➤

To Reach the Unreachable Star

Only You Can Save Mankind  (Johnny Maxwell, book 1)

By Terry Pratchett  

26 Nov, 2020

Special Requests

1 comment


1992’s Only You Can Save Mankind is the first volume in Terry Pratchett’s Johnny Maxwell trilogy.

The grim tyranny of Margaret Thatcher was succeeded by the slightly less onerous rule of her former lackey John Major. Not that this concerned Johnny Maxwell, who was young enough to avoid most unpleasant world news. But his youthful innocence cannot protect him from the reality that his parents are on the verge of divorce nor from the fact neither parent seems up to the task of parenting him.

At least the same technological progress that allows the British government to whimsically snuff out lives half a planet away has also allowed young Johnny the distraction of computer games.

If only his video enemies would stop trying to talk to him.


Read more ➤

Streetwise Hercules

Kamigakari: God Hunters

By Rikizou  

25 Nov, 2020

Roleplaying Games

0 comments

Rikizou’s Kamigakari: God Hunters is a Japanese urban-fantasy table-top roleplaying game. The 2020 English-language edition was published by Serpent Sea Games.

Ever since the Japanese Synchronous Inferno1, malevolent beings known as Aramitama are invading our world in ever increasing numbers, corrupting mortals in a bid to bring about the apocalypse. Providentially, a handful of mortals, player characters included, are imbued with the attributes needed to hold back these supernatural menaces! These mortals can change the very laws of nature to fight evil! 

(Sometimes they end up incinerated after altering reality once too often. Aw shucks.)


Read more ➤

Paranoia is in Bloom

Command Decision  (Vatta’s War, book 4)

By Elizabeth Moon  

24 Nov, 2020

Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn't Suck

2 comments

2007’s Command Decision is the fourth volume in Elizabeth Moon’s Vatta’s War series. 

Having narrowly survived the previous adventure, Ky Vatta sets out to completely reshape interstellar politics. After all, if she does not do it, the Deepspace Benevolent Association — Team Evil! —most definitely will.

The various players split up so they can do more damage to the enemy. Because that alwaysworks.


Read more ➤

Leave Behind Your Heart

A Billion Days of Earth

By Doris Piserchia  

22 Nov, 2020

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

1 comment

Doris Piserchia’s 1976 A Billion Days of Earth is a standalone SF novel.

A billion days from now — which translates to some three million years — humanity has become a race of gods. Evolution (as well as genetic tinkering) has resulted in a world filled with super-capable humans and new non-human species … many of which are as smart as humans of our time, if not as smart as the godlike humans. These new species can also be as foolish as humans of our time (which, as we know to our sorrow, can be foolish indeed).

Into this world comes a new predator. 


Read more ➤

Happy Days Are Here Again

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

By Ernest J. Gaines  

21 Nov, 2020

Special Requests

2 comments

Ernest J. Gaines’ 1971 The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman is a standalone historical novel. 

The premise: an unnamed teacher interviews an ancient black woman, believing that she will provide a unique historical perspective.

Jane is a child slave still known as Ticey” when the first hint of change to come arrives in the form of Union troops chasing slaver soldiers. A Union officer named Brown takes a passing interest in Jane. He renames her Jane and then leaves. Although she will never see him again, the encounter transforms her life.

A couple of years later, the slaver state falls. The white slave-owning class is forced to submit to the Emancipation Proclamation. Slaves like Jane are now free. Life will no doubt be wonderful.

Or not.

Read more ➤

Dark as Hell and Hard to Find

Son of a Trickster  (Trickster, book 1)

By Eden Robinson  

20 Nov, 2020

Doing What the WFC Cannot Do

0 comments

2017’s Son of a Trickster is the first volume of Eden Robinson’s Trickster trilogy. 

Jared Martin might look like just another a drifting loser high-schooler. Look closer and you’ll see a First Nations kid who’s dealing with more than he should be expected to handle. Look even closer; if you have the sight, as his maternal grandmother does, you might have reason to think that he’s really Wee’git, the trickster. 

She’s not entirely right but she’s also not entirely wrong. 


Read more ➤

Life is Such a Chore

Terminal Boredom: Stories

By Izumi Suzuki  (Translated by Polly Barton, Sam Bett, David Boyd, Daniel Joseph, Aiko Masubuchi & Helen O’Horan)

18 Nov, 2020

Translation

0 comments

2021’s Terminal Boredom: Stories is a collection of short stories by Izumi Suzuki (19491985).Translations are by Polly Barton, Sam Bett, David Boyd, Daniel Joseph, Aiko Masubuchi, and Helen O’Horan. This is the first English-language publication of Izumi Suzuki’s work.


Read more ➤