James Nicoll Reviews

Home > Reviews

Reviews

The Ur-Space Colony Popularization

Islands in Space: The Challenge of the Planetoids

By Dandridge M. Cole & Donald W Cox 

21 Dec, 2014

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

0 comments

In memoriam: Roy Scarfo, whose art appears in this work, died of pancreatic cancer on December 8th of this year.

1964’s Islands in Space: The Challenge of the Planetoids, by Dandridge M. Cole and Donald W. Cox, does not seem to have had many editions; I can only find references to two. However, even if you never saw a copy of Islands , if you were ever a space colonization fan you are very likely to have read books by people who were strongly influenced by Cole and Cox’s work. 

Read more ➤

Jane Austen meets Genghis Khan

Jaran  (The Novels of the Jaran, book 1)

By Kate Elliott 

18 Dec, 2014

Special Requests

0 comments

I picked up 1992’s Jaran in 1992 and what with one thing and another only just now got around to finishing this anthropological romance (as mandated by this very commissioned review). I have read the Crossroads series so I am not unfamiliar with Elliott’s fiction; it’s just this one I didn’t read at the time. Why? It tickled a peculiar and no doubt shameful prejudice of mine, of which more later0.

Read more ➤

Eliminate human tyranny! The world belongs to Trisolaris!”

The Three-Body Problem  (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, book 1)

By Cixin Liu (Translated by Ken Liu)

17 Dec, 2014

Translation

0 comments

First published in China almost a decade ago under the title 三体, Cixin Liu’s Three-Body Problem has finally been brought to audiences in l’anglosphere (at least the l’Amérique du Nord part). This is due to the efforts of translator Ken Liu, publisher Tor Books, and the China Educational Publications Import & Export Corporation. In this novel, Liu grapples with a classic SFnal question — how might contact between two civilizations of vastly different technological ability go? — and the answer is, rather unsurprisingly for anyone familiar with terrestrial history, very poorly for the less advanced civilization.

Read more ➤

The Universe is Antagonist Enough

Deadly Litter

By James White 

15 Dec, 2014

Special Requests

0 comments

I freely admit that this review of 1964’s Deadly Litter is a placeholder review. It buys me time until I can toddle over to Dana Porter Arts Library’s Rare Books room, where I hope to read and review their copy of Escape Orbit. I own a lot of White books but not, as it happens, that one. Deadly Litter won out over all of the other James White novels that I could have reread because I could not remember reading it at any point since the 1970s. Also, it was at the top of my stack of James White novels and if I picked any other book, the stack would have fallen over. 

I have to say, that method handed me a better book than have many of my more intellectual approaches.

Read more ➤

Poindexters, Pointy-haired bosses, Villainous Third Worlders, and Dastardly Feminists.

Captain Empirical  (An Analog Book, book 2)

By Sam Nicholson 

14 Dec, 2014

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

0 comments

According to ISFDB, Sam Nicholson was a pen name for Shirley Nikolaisen, about whom information is pretty scarce (Googling her name led me back to one of my own comments, which was not very helpful).What I can safely assert is that of the twenty Nicholson short works, twelve appeared in 1977, 1978, and 19791. Also, while her debut was in Jim Baen’s Galaxy, most of her short work appeared in an Analog then under the editorship of Ben Bova (ten stories) and Bova’s successor, Stanley Schmidt (seven stories). 

Today’s book under review, 1979’s Captain Empirical, is a result of the Bova connection. It was published in Ace’s An Analog Book series2, edited by Ben Bova. 

Either Nicholson held views that appealed to Bova and his successor, or she adopted those views in her stories out of a keen appreciation of what Bova (and later his replacement) would buy. Bova was a lot friendlier to female writers than his predecessor had been; over the course of his tenure the frequency of women in the table of contents went from 6% to 18%3. It probably didn’t hurt Nicholson that her Captain Schuster stories steadfastly took the side of the embattled white senior employee, who is menaced on all sides by Poindexters, pointy-haired bosses, villainous Third Worlders, and dastardly feminists. 

Read more ➤

An ecological SF novel

Slow River

By Nicola Griffith 

13 Dec, 2014

Special Requests

0 comments

1995’s Slow River was Griffith’s second science fiction novel. It was also (at least as of this date) her final SF novel. Where Ammonite used an interstellar setting, Slow River is down to Earth, so down that it is positively subterranean in spots. Garnering both the Lambda and the Nebula, it is one of very few near-future hard SF novels that is focused on bio-remediation (this is to the best of my knowledge; feel free to comment). 

Read more ➤

Imperial collapse, as seen from the bottom 

Star Rangers  (Central Control, book 1)

By Andre Norton 

12 Dec, 2014

50 Nortons in 50 Weeks

0 comments

1953’s The Star Rangers takes us to a First Galactic Empire three thousand years old, just past the point where slow decline becomes rapid collapse. Central Control is no longer so central or so in control but the Patrol remains loyal to its former master. This makes the Patrol an impediment to Imperial functionaries trying to transition from regional bureaucrat to local warlord and so the Vegan registry Patrol ship Starfire finds itself ordered to chart uncharted worlds, a long term exploration mission whose real purpose is to keep the men of the Starfire occupied long enough to be killed in the course of their duties. 

Read more ➤

The evil that men do lives after them

Collected Editorials from Analog

By John W. Campbell 

11 Dec, 2014

Miscellaneous Reviews

0 comments

Reading this collection won’t make your life better; on Facebook I compared it to eating a whole box of bon-bons, if said bon-bons were not in fact candy but deceptively-shaped pieces of dog-shit. What it will do is give you a pretty good idea what sort of person John W. Campbell, Jr. was — terrible — and if you’re an SF fan that matters because Mr. Campbell, he was influential within the world of science fiction. Very influential. 

Read more ➤