James Nicoll Reviews

Home > Reviews > By Date

Reviews from December 2021 (23)

Howl at the Moon

Squad

By Maggie Tokuda-Hall & Lisa Sterle  

17 Dec, 2021

Doing the WFC's Homework

0 comments

Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s 2021 Squad is a horror coming-of-age graphic novel. Illustrations are by Lisa Sterle.

Becca has been dragged to upper-class Piedmont by her divorced mother. A moment of charity saves her from a pariah existence as a socially awkward stranger at her new school. Marley, to whom Becca handed a spare tampon, is a member of the school’s elite clique. Because Marley takes an immediate shine to Becca, Becca joins Amanda, Arianna, and Marley in their squad. 

It’s a dream come true, except for the serial killing. 


Read more ➤

Don’t They Know It’s The End Of The World?

The Art of Saving the World

By Corinne Duyvis  

16 Dec, 2021

Miscellaneous Reviews

1 comment

Corinne Duyvis’ 2020 The Art of Saving the World is a stand-alone contemporary fantasy novel. 

Hazel Stanczak faces some of the same challenges that confront other teens. Such as worrying that her attraction to Marybeth McKellan might mean that she is gay1. But there’s one challenge no other teen on the planet faces: the interdimensional rift in her back yard.

The Mysterious Government Agency — so classified that the Stanczak family doesn’t know its actual name — wishes that it knew more than it does about the interdimensional rift on the Stanczak farm near West Asherton, Pa. The MGA does know that the rift appeared when Hazel Stanczak was born and that it goes wild whenever she gets more than a mile and a half away from it. The MGA’s determination to protect America from a rift run amok, while keeping the rift a secret, has defined Hazel’s life to date. 

On her sixteenth birthday, Hazel discovers who she really is: Earth’s Chosen One! Which, as it turns out, is a destiny not to be desired.

Read more ➤

Cloudy Gray Times

The Warning Voice  (The Story of the Stone, volume 3)

By Cao Xueqin  (Translated by David Hawkes)

15 Dec, 2021

Translation

0 comments

The Warning Voice is the third of the five volumes of Cao Xueqin’s The Story of the Stone. The 1981 translation of The Warning Voice is the third and final volume translated by David Hawkes. The final two volumes were translated by Hawkes’ student, John Minford. Although the first three volumes were translated by Hawkes and the final two by Minford, they comprise one long translation project. 

This volume begins with a discussion by Hawkes of the challenges inherent in conveying this volume effectively. Prominent among the issues face: due to the history of the text’s creation and publication two centuries ago, the tale is somewhat contradictory, almost as though in the course of producing five different drafts, Cao Xueqin and his editors lost track of characters’ names and fates.


Read more ➤

The Skies Above Are Clear Again

Orbit 14  (Orbit, volume 14)

 Edited by Damon Knight 

14 Dec, 2021

Damon Knight's Orbit

6 comments

1974’s Orbit 14 is the fourteenth volume in Damon Knight’s Orbit anthology series of original science fiction. This means I am now 2/3rds done with this project. Incremental progress over a long period for the win! Please don’t ask how the Story of the Stone project is going. 

Perhaps because Orbit 13 was a bit of a dud, Knight offers some new features in this volume.


Read more ➤

When in Rome

Aldair in Albion  (Aldair, volume 1)

By Neal Barrett, Jr.  

12 Dec, 2021

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

0 comments

1976’s Aldair in Albion is the first volume in Neal Barrett, Jr.’s Aldair science fiction quartet. 

Aldair of clan Venicii could have enjoyed the conventional life of his Gaullian people: raising crops and children and fighting off the Stygianns. He would also have ignored the Rhemian conviction that their empire includes Gaullia (easy to ignore because Rhemians don’t care to visit that distant barbarian land). But Aldair doesn’t ignore the Rhemians: he travels to attend a Rheimian college in Silium, where he studies under Master Levitinus. 

Whim leads Aldair to converse briefly with a Stygiann prisoner named Rheif. It’s a decision Aldair will regret.

Read more ➤

The Nights of Wild Distress

Terra Nullius

By Claire Coleman  

10 Dec, 2021

Doing the WFC's Homework

3 comments

Claire Coleman’s 2017 Terra Nullius is settler science fiction. 

In the land Europeans called Australia, Jacky flees in a bid to escape rural slavery at the hands of the Settlers. Not only is this unacceptable because Jacky’s flight denies the Settlers the fruits of his labour. It is unacceptable because if Jacky succeeds in escaping the life specified for him by the Settlers, other Natives might follow his example.

Jacky’s odds of escaping are dismal. They are not helped by the fact Jacky has no idea where exactly he is going.

There’s no way to discuss this without a fairly large spoiler. 

Read more ➤

The Right Kinda Friend

A Spindle Splintered  (Fractured Fables, volume 1)

By Alix E. Harrow  

9 Dec, 2021

Miscellaneous Reviews

0 comments

Alix E. Harrow’s 2021 A Spindle Splintered is the first volume in the Fractured Fables series.

Twenty-one-year-old Zinnia Gray has her whole future ahead of her … which, thanks to the Generalized Roseville Malady she has lived with her entire life, will consist of the next few weeks. She is the last survivor of GRM and her disorder is very rapidly catching up with her.

This makes her 21st birthday party special, since she will not have a 22nd birthday.


Read more ➤

And Far Too Old To See

Crown of Shadows  (Coldfire, volume 3)

By C. S. Friedman  

8 Dec, 2021

Special Requests

0 comments

1995’s Crown of Shadows is the third and final book in C. S. Friedman’s Coldfire science fiction trilogy.

Priest Damien and undead Tarrant return to their respective homes with a much better understanding of the challenges now facing them. On the minus side: many lives (including their own) depend on finding a solution to their problems. On the plus side, there’s a strict time limit. Soon enough it won’t matter what they do.

Read more ➤

Stop Singing These Sad Songs

Golden Sky Stories

By Ryo Kamiya & Tsugihagi Honpo  (Translated by Ewen Cluney)

7 Dec, 2021

Translation

2 comments

Ryo Kamiya & Tsugihagi Honpo’s1 2006 Golden Sky Stories is a Japanese fantasy roleplaying game. The 2013 translation is by Ewen Cluney2.

Golden Sky players adopt the role of henge, magical animals (fox, raccoon dog, cat, dog, rabbit, or bird) able to briefly don human form. Inherently magical, each character has special gifts unmatched by humans. There is, of course, a catch. There are several catches.

Read more ➤

Confusion is Nothing New

Doomsday Book

By Connie Willis  

6 Dec, 2021

Special Requests

4 comments

Connie Willis’ 1992 Doomsday Booktakes place in the same continuity as Firewatch (1982), To Say Nothing of the Dog (1998), and Blackout/All Clear (2010).

A time-travel apparatus provides mid-21st century Oxford University scholars with access to the past, an unparalleled opportunity that the scholars use with all the acumen previously demonstrated by the R‑101, the de Havilland DH.106 Comet, and the UK’s rapid deployment of thalidomide.

In another novel, the combination of time travel with hapless nincompoopery could have led to zany hijinks. Unfortunately for aspiring historian Kivrin Engle, she is not a character in madcap comedy. She’s found herself in a tragedy.

Read more ➤