James Nicoll Reviews

Home > Reviews > By Date

Reviews from July 2023 (21)

In Trouble Deep

The City  (Atlan, volume 4)

By Jane Gaskell  

30 Jul, 2023

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


1966’s The City is either the third or the fourth volume in Jane Gaskell’s Atlan series1.

Having survived many terrible betrayals, Cija is no longer a naïve, ignorant maiden. She is armed with caution fueled by bitter experience.

Nevertheless, no sooner does she arrive in the City than she is sold to a brothel, escaping only to discover that her rescuers have their own brothel. The seeming rescue was a ruse to avoid paying for Cija.

Read more ➤

Rise Up Unafraid

The Water Outlaws

By S L Huang  

28 Jul, 2023

Doing the WFC's Homework


S. L. Huang’s 2023 The Water Outlaws is a fantasy reimagining of the classic Chinese novel, The Water Margin.

Lin Chong is a Master Arms Instructor for the Guard. One of very few women to be deemed sufficiently talented that she could teach despite her lamentable choice of gender, she has served the (Northern) Song Dynasty loyally.

She will be repaid very badly for her service.

Read more ➤

A Bold World

House of Five Leaves, volume 1

By Natsume Ono  

26 Jul, 2023


1 comment

House of Five Leaves, Vol. 1 is the first of eight tankōbon for Natsume Ono’s historical crime manga. First serialized in Shogakukan’s seinen manga magazine Monthly Ikki in November 2005, the series was completed July 2010.

Masanosuke Masa” Akitsu is a proud and skilled samurai with a small flaw in his character, one that has comprehensively sabotaged his career. Crippling shyness ended his formal service and saw him leave his hometown from shame. Attempts to establish himself as a bodyguard have failed, because nobody wants to be protected by a man who is too socially timid to make eye contact.

Masa is retrieved from starvation by carefree Yaichi.

Read more ➤

Strange Eventful History

The Productions of Time

By John Brunner  

25 Jul, 2023

Shockwave Reader


John Brunner’s 1967 The Productions of Time is a stand-alone contemporary science fiction novel.

A broken marriage and alcoholism destroyed Murray Douglas’ once-promising acting career. With great effort, Murray dried out. Now he is ready for a comeback. But few companies seem interested in hiring a prematurely aged former wunderkind.

Enter famed avant-garde director Delgado. Murray Douglas suits Delgado’s purposes very nicely. If Douglas accepts, the pay will be very welcome indeed. There is one small catch. Delgado’s productions are infamously cursed, leaving a trail of dead and deranged actors in Delgado’s wake. Only a very desperate actor would say yes to Delgado.

Read more ➤

Girl in the Forest

Abeni’s Song  (Abeni’s Song, volume 1)

By P. Djèlí Clark  

24 Jul, 2023

Doing the WFC's Homework


2023’s Abeni’s Song is the first volume in P. Djèlí Clark’s Abeni’s Song fantasy series.

Young Abeni’s village lies deep in the forest. News about the outside world is intermittent and as far as the villagers are concerned, irrelevant. Disturbing dreams and warnings from the local wise woman can therefore be ignored.

They are wrong. Their next Harvest Festival will be the last.

Read more ➤

Tooth and Claw

The Hot-Blooded Dinosaurs: A Revolution in Paleontology

By Adrian J. Desmond  

23 Jul, 2023

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


Adrian J. Desmond’s 1975 The Hot-Blooded Dinosaurs: A Revolution in Paleontology is a non-fiction account of a revolution in paleontology. Keen-eyed readers may be able to work out for themselves which particular subfield of paleontology was being revolutionized.

Dinosaurs! Relics of a pre-Noachian era? Dimly aware, clumsily lumbering outsized lizards? Or something else entirely?

Desmond advocates for something else entirely.”

Read more ➤

Til every battle’s won

Station Six

By S. J. Klapecki  

20 Jul, 2023

Miscellaneous Reviews

1 comment

S. J. Klapecki’s 2023 Station Six is a near future science fiction novella.

Lunar Module Construction — LMC — offers the army of workers on Station Six the opportunity to work hard enriching CEO Maximilian Ashe and LMC shareholders. In return they get almost enough money to sustain worker life. Life is tenuous at best. It’s about to get even worse. Impending automation will render most of the workforce redundant.

The workforce will probably be moved to another LMC station. The next location could very easily be worse. What are powerless workers to do?


Read more ➤

Waiting For A Better Day

Blade Runner the Roleplaying Game Core Rules

By Tomas Härenstam, Joe LeFavi, Nils Karlén & Gareth Mugridge  

19 Jul, 2023

Roleplaying Games

1 comment

2022’s Blade Runner the Roleplaying Game Core Rules is an alternate-near-future/science-fiction/police-procedural roleplaying game. Tomas Härenstam was lead designer, Joe LeFavi was lead setting writer, with additional writing by Nils Karlén and Gareth Mugridge1.

As one might expect from the title, this is an adaptation of the film Blade Runner … from a certain point of view. It is put out by Swedish game company Fria Ligan (Free League).

Read more ➤

Demons in Your Mind

The Bone Doll’s Twin  (Tamír Triad, volume 1)

By Lynn Flewelling  

18 Jul, 2023

Special Requests

1 comment

2001’s The Bone Doll’s Twin is the first volume of Lynn Flewelling’s secondary universe fantasy, Tamír Triad.

Prophecy decrees that the kingdom of Skala must be led by women, lest misfortune befall Skala. However, prophecy does not guarantee that any given queen will be able. Thus, the reign of Mad Queen Agnalain. When Agnalain died, her sole daughter was only seven years old. Agnalain’s son Erius graciously stepped up to usurp the throne, on the grounds that the prophecy no longer applied. His reign has been uneventful save for plague, assorted disasters, and occasional wars … so perhaps he was correct.

Erius welcomes criticism. More accurately, he welcomes the right of all critics and potential critics to be hunted down and executed as enemies of the state. This has consequences for his relatives. The most serious potential threat to Erius’ rule comes from his own family.

Read more ➤