James Nicoll Reviews

Home > Reviews > By Date

Reviews from May 2022 (14)

Make You Real

A Mask for the General

By Lisa Goldstein  

19 May, 2022

Big Hair, Big Guns!


Lisa Goldstein’s 1987 A Mask for the General is a stand-alone near-future SF novel. 

By 2012 America’s banks were computerized and networked. One ambitious thief’s malicious software could and as it happens, did, bring the United States’ entire cybernetic and financial edifice down overnight. In the days after the Collapse, General Otis Gleason had no choice but to take control, first of America’s nuclear weapons and then of the nation as a whole. Or at least that’s what he claimed.

Nine years after the Collapse, the American economy is a pale shadow of what it once was. Gleason is convinced that the problem cannot be his obsessive micromanagement; the problem must be the American people. Each day brings new regulations aimed at guiding easily misled Americans back towards wholesome conformity. Despite laws and harsh punishments, America is still plagued by non-conformists, particularly in the Bay Area town of Berkeley. 

Seventeen-year-old runaway Mary is determined to be one of those non-conformists.

Read more ➤

Cold Folks

The Apothecary Diaries, volume 5

By Natsu Hyuuga  (Translated by Kevin Steinbach)

18 May, 2022



The Apothecary Diaries: Volume 5 is the fifth volume in Natsu Hyuuga’s secondary universe historical fantasy, the Apothecary Diaries series of light novels. The illustrations are by Touko Shino; the 2022 English translation is by Kevin Steinbach.

Having survived entanglement in high-level imperial conspiracy, Maomao returns to the pleasure district to pursue her vocation as a Verdigris-House-affiliated apothecary. She is accompanied by young Chou‑u, the last survivor of the disgraced Shi clan. Maomao fosters Chou‑u just as she does everything else: grumpily.

Maomao may wish to be done with imperial schemes, but imperial schemes are not done with her.

Read more ➤

Poison Pen

Leaven of Malice  (Salterton Trilogy, volume 2)

By Robertson Davies  

17 May, 2022

Special Requests

1 comment

1954’s Leaven of Malice is the second book in Robertson Davies’ Salterton Trilogy. 

Salterton Little Theatre’s production of The Tempest safely past, Salterton returns to that timeless self-satisfied stagnation to which all proper Canadian communities aspire. 

Chaos comes to Salterton in the guise of a simple wedding announcement in the city’s premier newspaper, The Bellman.

Professor and Mrs. Walter Vambrace are pleased to announce the engagement of their daughter, Pearl Veronica, to Solomon Bridgetower, Esq., son of Mrs. Bridgetower and the late Professor Solomon Bridgetower of this city. Marriage to take place in St. Nicholas’ Cathedral at eleven o’clock a.m., November 31st

Read more ➤

At Least It Was Short

The Star Dwellers  (Heart Stars, volume 1)

By James Blish  

15 May, 2022

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


James Blish’s 1961 The Star Dwellers is the first volume in the Heart Stars Duology. The Star Dwellers is a young adult novel. 

Humanity has long pondered questions like:

  • Are we alone in the galaxy? 
  • Are amicable relations between aliens and humans possible?
  • How does a novel this terrible not only get published but remain in print for twenty years (more than sixty in the UK)? 

The Star Dwellers answers two of those questions. 

Although he is only seventeen years old, Cadet Jack Loftus has benefitted from educational philosophies far superior to those of the 1960s, ninety years earlier. Good thing for humanity, as Jack will be playing a central role in its destiny.

Read more ➤

So Criminal

The Jade Setter of Janloon

By Fonda Lee  

13 May, 2022

Doing the WFC's Homework


Fonda Lee’s 2022 The Jade Setter of Janloon is a stand-alone crime novella that shares a setting with Lee’s Hugo-nominated Green Bones secondary-world fantasy series. 

Pulo dreamed of being a Green Bone warrior but ultimately found his niche as an apprentice to jade setter Isin-jen. Now a skilled artisan, Pulo chaffs at Isin-jen’s peculiar lack of ambition. Why does Janloon’s best jade setter settle for a small facility in a neutral part of the city, when, if he were to ally with one of the great clans, vast wealth could be his?

Pulo reluctantly concludes that personal ambition requires leaving his mentor behind. Before he can put his plan into action, tragedy strikes.

Read more ➤

No Mutant Enemy

The Cabinet

By Un-Su Kim  (Translated by Sean Lin Halbert)

11 May, 2022



Un-su Kim’s 2006 The Cabinet is a surrealist novel. The 2021 English translation is by Sean Lin Halbert.

Kong Deok-geun is a boring bureaucrat, someone whom nobody would ever expect to do anything interesting. He would have been perfect for a position requiring decades of meaningless paper-shuffling. Instead the unfortunate paper-pusher finds himself working for Professor Kwon. Kwon’s project sounds mundane, but it isn’t.

Read more ➤

Sparks Fly

Green Eyes

By Lucius Shepard  

10 May, 2022

Terry Carr's Third Ace Science Fiction Specials


Lucius Shepard’s 1984 Green Eyes is a stand-alone science fiction novel. It was the second book to be released in Terry Carr’s Third Ace Science Fiction Specials series.

Thanks to the scientific miracle of a bacterium retrieved from Louisiana gravesites, the dead can be restored to life. New processes always have a catch. In this case, there are two problems: revivification is temporary and the minds that manifest in the former corpses are not the minds those bodies once hosted. In many cases, the new inhabitants are far more brilliant than their predecessors, which makes them a valuable resource. 

Jocundra Verret is a therapist whose task it is to guide the zombies to productive use of their brief lives. Unfortunately for her employers, she will go very seriously off-mission.

Read more ➤