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Reviews from December 2021 (23)

Unto Eternity

Persepolis Rising  (Expanse, volume 7)

By James S. A. Corey  

31 Dec, 2021

Doing the WFC's Homework


2017’s Persepolis Rising is the seventh in James S. A. Corey’s Expanse series (which is now up to nine books and finished). 

Thirty years after the events of Babylon’s Ashes, the thousands of colony worlds reachable through the alien ring network are dominated by the Transport Union, which controls the slow zone, the pocket universe linking all the stargates. Vexed by planet Freehold’s repeated violations of safety regulations, President Drummer dispatches James Holden’s gunship Rocinante to inform Freehold that they are cut off from interstellar trade for three years. Since Freehold is not self-sufficient, this is a death sentence.

The Rocinante is a heavily-armed gunship. Freehold’s colonists are a collection of heavily-armed, government-hating libertarians. Can even Holden overcome such formidable opponents?

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Hopin’ to Pass

A Deadly Education  (Scholomance, volume 1)

By Naomi Novik  

30 Dec, 2021

Special Requests


Naomi Novik’s 2020 A Deadly Education is the first volume in her Scholomance series. 

Antisocial Galadriel El” Higgins has survived her time in the combination school/death trap of Scholomance; this despite her manifest lack of social connections or powerful allies. A meet-cute in the form of an unrequested rescue by the Scholomance’s self-appointed hero Orion Lake upends her sullen life.

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Eye of the Tiger

Mao, volume 2

By Rumiko Takahashi  (Translated by Junko Goda & Shaenon Garrity)

29 Dec, 2021



Mao, Volume 2 collects issues 9 through 18 of Rumiko Takahashi’s supernatural time-hopping fantasy. Originally serialized in Shogakukan’s Weekly Shōnen Sunday magazine, Volume 2 was first published in 2019. The English language translation was published in 2021

Third-year student Nanoka Kiba continues her adventures with the taciturn demon hunter Mao as he searches for the cat demon Byōki. Nanoka brings to their investigation resources and information new to Mao. Nanoka comes from the modern era, a century after the time in which Mao lives. She can reach Mao’s rustic town through a torii gate which serves as a time portal through an obscure mechanism, moving easily between times. She consults modern libraries to see what is in store for Mao’s town. 

Nothing good.

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A Picnic in the Rain

Picnic on Paradise

By Joanna Russ  

26 Dec, 2021

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


1968’s Nebula-nominated Picnic in Paradise is part of Joanna Russ’ Alyx sequence1. Although two previous James-reviewed entries in the series (here, and here) were fantasy2, this Alyx outing is closer to the entry in Orbit 6 (Alyx’s descendant, a time traveller, visits a 1920s American family). In this short novel, a fantasy protagonist is dropped into science fiction.

Retrieved from the depths of time, hardened swordsperson and professional thief Alyx is the Trans-Temporal Authority’s foremost agent. Because time scoops do not retrieve the living, and the circumstances that led to Alyx being dead enough to retrieve and alive enough to revive were extremely unlikely3, she is also the TTA’s only agent. However, she has the very skillset needed to guide a group of tourists from point A to point B via unexpectedly hostile territory C.

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Welcome to the Black Parade

Elder Race

By Adrian Tchaikovsky  

23 Dec, 2021

Miscellaneous Reviews


Adrian Tchaikovsky’s 2021 Elder Race is a stand-alone science fiction novella. 

Plagued by demonic invasion, the people of Ordwood begged Lannesite for aid. Lannesite’s Queen decreed that Ordwood’s problems, while tragic, were not Lannesite’s problems. No aid would be forthcoming.

Outraged at her mother’s lack of compassion, the Queen’s least impressive offspring, Lynesse Fourth Daughter, convinced herself to embrace bold action. Nyrgoth Elder, last of the ancients, long ago promised that Lannesite could call on him in their hour of need. Whether the old sorcerer is still alive is unknown. Nobody has seen him in a lifetime. Nevertheless, Lynesse sets out for his isolated mountain tower. 

Old Nyrgoth is still alive, scarcely aged a day. However, he is no sorcerer.

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Where Wise Men Never Go

A Bride’s Story, volume 5

By Kaoru Mori  

22 Dec, 2021



A Bride’s Story, Volume 5, is the fifth collection of Kaori Mori’s historical manga. Originally published as Otoyomegatari, Volume 5, this volume was first published in Japan in 2013. The English translation appeared in 2013.

This volume contains three episodes and some additional short pieces. Its primary focus is the culmination of a bold plan, plotted by twin sisters Laila and Leily, to find themselves wealthy, handsome husbands. 

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Just Lots of Little Frames

The Runequest Starter Set

By Greg Stafford, Jeff Richard & Jason Durall  

21 Dec, 2021

Roleplaying Games


Greg Stafford, Jeff Richard, and Jason Durall’s 2021 The Runequest Starter Set is a starter set for Runequest: Roleplaying in Glorantha. It’s the latest edition of the venerable table-top fantasy roleplaying game Runequest. It thus simultaneously embraces both the very new and the very old, so I thought it was particularly suitable for this, the two thousandth review on James Nicoll Reviews.

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Holly Jolly Christmas

The Sheep Look Up

By John Brunner  

19 Dec, 2021

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


John Brunner’s 1972 The Sheep Look Up is a stand-alone near-future science fiction novel. It is also one of a series of novels by Brunner that dramatize extrapolations of big issues of the era in which he was writing: The Jagged Orbit (racial violence), Stand on Zanzibar (overpopulation), and The Shockwave Rider (future shock). The Sheep Look Ups central focus is environmental degradation. 

1980s America in particular and the world in general have made enormous strides in reshaping the world to facilitate unbounded profit. The air is poisoned, such water as can be had is filthy, entire seas are lifeless, and children across the nation suffer life-altering disabilities due their exposure to toxic chemicals. In a word: capitalist utopia! 

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