James Nicoll Reviews

Home > Reviews > By Project

Reviews in Project: Special Requests (433)

Rise Up Singing

Lincoln in the Bardo

By George Saunders  

14 Sep, 2023

Special Requests


George Saunders’s 2017 Lincoln in the Bardo is a short supernatural/historical novel.

Assured by doctors that their son Willie would recover, President Abraham Lincoln and First Lady Mary proceed with a lavish party. Willie spends his last hours before dying of typhoid listening to the sound of revels elsewhere in the White House.

Neither the President nor the First Lady take the loss well. Abraham Lincoln’s actions have consequences for the boy’s afterlife.

Read more ➤

The Executioner’s Face

Shorefall  (Founders, volume 2)

By Robert Jackson Bennett  

24 Aug, 2023

Special Requests


2020’s Shorefall is the second volume in Robert Jackson Bennett’s secondary-universe industrial-fantasy Founders trilogy. Volume One was reviewed here.

Would-be social revolutionaries Sancia, Berenice, Orso, and Gregor have a plan to block the greed of the established merchant houses in the city of Tevanne. They have founded their own, upstart, merchant house, Foundryside. It’s merely the first step on their ambitious plan to bring social justice to the city.

But reforming Tevanne must soon be set aside in favour of simple survival. Gregor’s mother, Ofelia Dandolo of the Dandolo merchant house, is just as determined as the quartet to bring justice to an unjust world. Her methods are significantly more apocalyptic.

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 ➤

Taste of Betrayal

A Thousand Recipes for Revenge  (Chefs of the Five Gods, volume 1)

By Beth Cato  

29 Jun, 2023

Special Requests

1 comment

A Thousand Recipes for Revenge is the first volume in Beth Cato’s Chefs of the Five Gods series.

Adamantine Ada” Garland seems to be an unremarkable employee of an unremarkable inn. She is a wanted deserter and a Chef with a god-touched tongue. The recent presence of gendarmes at the inn is a matter of great concern.

Far from Ada, Braiz’s Princess Solenn is preparing for her impending wedding to Verdanian Prince Rupert. Braizian-Verdanian relations, currently strained, depend on the match. Braiz being almost defenseless due to a recent calamity, Solenn bears the future of her nation on her shoulders.

Read more ➤

Praise for the Morning

Life Beyond Us: An Original Anthology of SF Stories and Science Essays

 Edited by Julie Nováková, Lucas K. Law & Susan Forest 

20 Jun, 2023

Special Requests


April 2023’s Life Beyond Us: An Original Anthology of SF Stories and Science Essays was edited by Julie Nováková, Lucas K. Law & Susan Forest. This anthology was sponsored by the European Astrobiology Institute, the European Science Foundation (ESF), and the Laksa Media Group. It comprises essays and stories by dozens of named authors, many of them well known as SF authors, and several unnamed authors.

Read more ➤

I’d Like To Be

The Mountain in the Sea

By Ray Nayler  

13 Jun, 2023

Special Requests


Ray Nayler’s 2022 The Mountain in the Sea is a stand-alone near-future tale of first contact.

In a triumph of human achievement, high ‑tech trawlers have scoured the oceans, transforming them from over-crowded seas full of thriving life to pristine deserts. As catches plummet, new ways are discovered and deployed to track down and catch the tiny remnant of a once-rich ecosystem.

While this is good news for consumers, it’s bad news for people like Eiko, kidnapped and enslaved on an automated fishing boat. Humans are slightly cheaper than new machinery.

It’s worse news for the entities living off Con Dao, for they are not human. This is a world in which humans are merely economic cogs while non-humans are simply food.

Read more ➤

Uncomfortably Me

The Meister of Decimen City

By Brenna Raney  

16 May, 2023

Special Requests

1 comment

Brenna Raney’s 2023 debut, The Meister of Decimen City, is a superhero novel. Although perhaps superhero is the wrong word.

Decimen City’s resident genius ditz (Rex) combines brilliance and good intentions with a lack of social skills and an inability to foresee complications. However, thanks in part to the never-ending efforts of her lawyer Flora and an AI named Aya to manage Rex’s reputation, Rex is popular or at least tolerated. It helps that one of her projects produced a cure for cancer.

Heretofore, her status as a lovable knucklehead and her adherence to certain agreements with the city has protected her from the legal consequences of her wacky hijinks. The rampaging cloned intelligence-amplified dinosaurs … that was one misstep too many. Now Rex has to deal with the Superbeings Oversight Contingencies organization.

Read more ➤

Dreaming of a Life of Ease

A Sleight of Shadows  (Unseen World, volume 2)

By Kat Howard  

11 May, 2023

Special Requests


2023’s A Sleight of Shadows is the second volume in Kat Howard’s Unseen World series. The first volume was An Unkindness of Magicians, whose review may be found here.

During the revolution called the Turning, Sydney sacrificed her magic to bring down the malevolent House of Shadows. Thanks to Sydney, the mages of the Unseen World can no longer draw their power from the slaves of the House of Shadows. They must draw on their own power. That’s painful.

Many sorcerers are unhappy with the new state of affairs. Spells may not work; using magic hurts. Ill-will is building. Can the Turning be reversed?

As it happens, the House of Shadows has begun reassembling itself without human intervention.

Read more ➤