James Nicoll Reviews

Home > Reviews > By Project

Reviews in Project: Miscellaneous Reviews (282)

The last of Aud?

Always  (Aud Torvingen, book 3)

By Nicola Griffith  

20 Jul, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

0 comments

2007’s Always is the third (and as-of-this-date final) volume in Nicola Griffith’s Aud Torvingen [1] mystery series. The book opens with Aud far from Atlanta (where she makes her home), visiting Seattle to meet her mother’s new husband. She also plans to deal with an investment that isn’t doing as well as it should be.

Aud is a very straightforward person, brusque to the point that she may seem to have a social disability. She does not hesitate to bring the metaphoric hammer down on her local property manager, Karenna Beauchamps Corning, blaming her for the way Aud’s property is under-performing. As Aud soon discovers, there’s more to the story than one lax property manager: someone is going to a lot of trouble to sabotage the businesses that lease Aud’s property


Read more ➤

Tenochtitlan Mystery

Servant of the Underworld  (Obsidian and Blood, book 1)

By Aliette de Bodard  

18 Jul, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

0 comments

Aliette De Bodard’s 2010 novel, Servant of the Underworld, is the first of her Acatl novels. For some reason I had the impression these were straight-up mysteries set in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. There’s definitely a strong mystery element; her protagonist, Acatl, would certainly find much in common with Benny Cooperman, Philip Marlowe, and Hercule Poirot. The main difference would be that none of those famous detectives ever had to deal with a living god. For Acatl, High Priest of Mictlantecuhtli, dealing with the gods is a daily reality. 

A mysterious summons draws Acatl, priest to the god of the dead, out of his own temple and into the House of Tears, a school for girls. There he learns that the priestess Eleuia has been abducted. Her room is splashed with enough blood to cast her survival into doubt. Not only that … it is clear that she has been carried off by some occult means. 

Another thing is clear; the list of possible suspects is very short and the man at the top of that short list is Acatl’s own older brother, the warrior Neutemoc. 


Read more ➤

The cat lives

The Lives of Tao  (Tao, book 1)

By Wesley Chu  

15 Jul, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

0 comments

Wesley Chu’s 2013 debut novel The Lives of Tao appears to be warmly regarded, if one can judge by its 3.77 stars on Goodreads and 4 stars on Amazon. Once again I find myself out of step with the majority of readers. Welcome to yet another installment in Nobody Cares Why You Hate Shakespeare, Leo,” with me playing the starring role of Leo Tolstoy. 

Betrayed by a fellow agent, Edward Blair does what he can to salvage the situation by leaping from the top of an office building to certain death below. This is rather hard on Blair, but it frees Tao, Blair’s alien symbiont, to seek a new host who isn’t about to be captured by the enemy. Tao must find that host quickly, before Earth’s hostile atmosphere kills him. Alas for Tao, the only possible human host close enough is an out of shape, self-loathing programmer named Roan Tan. 

It was mere luck that Tan was close to where Blair went splut. Bad luck, because thanks to it Tan finds himself drafted into a covert civil war raging across the Earth.

Read more ➤

In Honour of Today’s Encounter with Pluto

The Secret of the Ninth Planet  (Winston Science Fiction, book 32)

By Donald A. Wollheim  

14 Jul, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

0 comments

I could have decided to reread and review Donald Wollheim’s 1959 novel The Secret of the Ninth Planetas part of an epic reread of the entire SF series published by Winston … but I didn’t. I decided to reread and review this book because it happens to be one of the few books which fall in the intersection of the following sets: 1) books in which Pluto plays a significant role, and 2) books of which I actually have a copy [1]. Today is, of course, the day when the American space probe New Horizons had its close encounter with Pluto, turning what was a dot on a photgraphic plate into this:


Go, applied science! And now, back to Pluto as it was imagined in 1959.

The years since Sputnik have seen great strides in manned [2] rocket travel to near space and the Moon, and in unmanned space travel to other worlds. As far as young Burl Denning knows, manned flight to other planets will have to wait until something better than the current primitive rockets comes along. What Burl doesn’t know is that the necessary advances in propulsion have already been made. Just not by humans. 

Humans are not the first or most advanced civilization to develop space travel. One of humanity’s neighbors is working on a scheme that will doom life across the Solar System!

Read more ➤

Band of Sisters

The Way into Magic  (The Great Way, book 2)

By Harry Connolly  

8 Jul, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

0 comments

When last we saw our heroes, monsters from another dimension had swarmed out of an inter-dimensional gateway to overwhelm the Morning City and then the Peradaini empire (of which the Morning City had been the capital). As the cast of characters dwindled rapidly (in a way that those of us with crappy memories appreciate) the survivors have gained a realistic understanding of their situation. 

The empire is dead, although parts of it remain unconquered by the invaders. But it gets worse. 


Read more ➤

Dresediel Lex Spring

Last First Snow  (Craft Sequence, book 4)

By Max Gladstone  

7 Jul, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

0 comments

The thing to bear in mind about Gladstone’s Craft series is that while it has an internal order, that’s not the order in which Gladstone is publishing them. The titles suggest an internal chronology, but the title of 2015’s Last First Snow is a bit ambiguous on that point. 

It is forty years after the God Wars, when craft-wielding mages overthrew the gods. The city of Dresediel Lex is a well-ordered oasis in the middle of a vast desert. It is a city freed from the superstitions of the past and from the oppression of chattel slavery, a vibrant community whose economy is growing quite nicely. At least that’s the point of view of the King in Red, the skeletal autocrat who runs the city. If you cannot trust your dictator, whom can you trust? 

The one sore point in the King in Red’s otherwise satisfactory eldritch post-life 


Read more ➤

Not saving these for a rainy day

White Trash Zombie Apocalypse  (White Trash Zombie, book 3)

By Diana Rowland  

6 Jul, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

0 comments

I hadn’t actually planned to write a review today, because I knew I would be spending Saturday [1] moving enough wood to fuel the campfires for an upcoming camping weekend. Turned out that three determined people can move a lot of dead trees very quickly. Fortunately, I had packed a paperback just in case [2].

White Trash Zombie Apocalypse picks up a few months after the conclusion of Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues. Angel Crawford is still working at the parish Coroner’s Office and as far as she knows, the biggest crisis facing her is her looming GED test. It’s just too bad for Angel that while the parasite responsible for zombification confers on its hosts a number of useful abilities, a facility for studying isn’t one of them. 

Even the zombies shuffling around town don’t alarm Angel much, because they’re just extras from a horror film being filmed in Tucker Point, Louisiana. 

Or so Angel believes. 


Read more ➤

Not Exactly Queen of the Undead

My Life as a White Trash Zombie  (White Trash Zombie, book 1)

By Diana Rowland  

30 Jun, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

0 comments

2011’s My Life as a White Trash Zombie begins with a scene with which readers will be familiar from scores of movies and books: protagonist Angel Crawford wakes in a hospital bed with no idea how she got there. The news that she barely survived an OD is believable given her drug habit. What is inexplicable, thanks to the giant hole in Angel’s memory, is why she was found wandering naked on a back road miles from anywhere. More mysteries: is her appearance on that back road related to a murder that had taken place nearby? Which mysterious benefactor left her a supply of unfamiliar tasting but nummy slushies, along with a letter explaining how to conduct herself over the next month in order to avoid jail and inevitable death? 

Angel’s amnesia erased hours from her life [1] but at least (unlike many characters in her position) she knows who she is. What she doesn’t know is what she is.


Read more ➤

Canadian Content

Better to Have Loved: The Life of Judith Merril

By Judith Merril & Emily Pohl-Weary  

29 Jun, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

0 comments

2002’s Hugo-nominated Better to Have Loved: The Life of Judith Merril is the posthumous autobiography of noted writer/editor Judith Merril. Merril having passed away in 1997, the work of turning Merril’s notes into a book fell to her granddaughter Emily Pohl-Weary. Better to Have Loved is also a forthright and frank reply to a few sanitized histories of science fiction published in recent years.

Read more ➤