James Nicoll Reviews

Home > Reviews > By Project

Reviews in Project: Special Requests (342)

A Fistful of Steel

Swastika Night

By Katharin Burdekin  

10 Jun, 2021

Special Requests


Katharine Burdekin’s 1937 Swastika Night is a novel about a fascist dystopia. It was originally published under the pen name Murray Constantine (Some editions still are).

The Twenty Years War ended with Nazi Germany’s utter victory over the other nations of Europe and Africa. Seven centuries later, the Nazi Empire is rivaled only by the Japanese Empire. The pious Germans who dominate Nazi Europe believe with all their hearts in pride, in courage, in violence, in brutality, in bloodshed, in ruthlessness, and all other soldierly and heroic virtues.” For most Germans, to do otherwise is literally unthinkable.

Hermann is one such German. His reassuringly inflexible world view will be upended when his old chum Alfred re-enters his life. 

Read more ➤

There Before You Know It

The Fall of Doc Future

By W. Dow Rieder  

3 Jun, 2021

Special Requests


The Fall of Doc Future by W. Dow Rieder is an online superhero novel. It was serialized between 2012 and 2013.

Those closest to Doc Future can tell something is wrong with the super-genius. Never one to share his problems with the intellectually inferior — and as far as Doc can tell, everyone is his intellectual inferior — Doc is unwilling to publicly acknowledge the toll that his prophetic nightmares are taking on him. Ridding himself of them would deny him the means to foresee world-threatening crises before they happen, so he must find some way to live with them. 

As it happens, while Doc is a bright guy, self analysis is tricky. Doc does not fully understand his own problems.

Read more ➤

Do What You Gotta Do

Red Noise

By John P. Murphy  

1 Jun, 2021

Special Requests


John P. Murphy’s 2020 Red Noise is a deep-space spaghetti Western. It is his debut novel.

The Miner (who has gone to great trouble to conceal her true name) arrives at Station 35 with a load of nickel-iron. Her plan is simple: sell the metal, restock, renew her asteroid claim, and head back out into space where she can be alone with her books and plants.

She soon discovers that Station 35’s central ethos is not customer satisfaction. 

Read more ➤

In a True Migrating

The Turning Place: Stories of a Future Past

By Jean E. Karl  

20 May, 2021

Special Requests


Jean E. Karl’s 1976 The Turning Place: Stories of a Future Past is a collection focused on the aftermath a disaster: the Clordian Sweep. 

Humanity ventures out into interstellar space and discovers that the stars they covet are already claimed. The Clordians, who are slightly more technologically advanced than humans, have had starflight for some time and have used their head start to build a nice little empire. But it’s only a head start and the humans might catch up. The Clordians decide to be proactive and exterminate the human race. 

Read more ➤

Gold Cage

Return of the Thief  (Queen’s Thief, book 6)

By Megan Whalen Turner  

18 May, 2021

Special Requests


2020’s Return of the Thief is the sixth and final volume in Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series. 

Born lame and mute, by custom Pheris should have been exposed or smothered at birth. His mother spares him, a ploy to spite his grasping, malevolent grandfather Baron Erondites. The powerful baron has a misshapen grandson and heir, ha ha ha! The baron has good reason to have him killed. Pheris survives only because he seems completely meek and inoffensive. But he has a secret: he’s actually extremely intelligent and adept at manipulating others. His doting nurse coaches him in concealment. 

Eventually Pheris is sent off to serve at court, as is customary for aristocratic heirs. He becomes an attendant to High King Eugenides. 

There’s little doubt that the baron will have his disgraceful grandson murdered once Pheris has served his purpose [1]. Death may come at any moment … until then, Pheris is experiencing court life at an interesting moment in history of the Peninsula. 

Read more ➤

A Friend in Me

Black Sun Rising  (Coldfire, book 1)

By C. S. Friedman  

4 May, 2021

Special Requests


C. S. Friedman’s 1991 Black Sun Rising is the first volume of her Coldfire trilogy. 

The Terrans who discovered Erna initially deferred settlement due to concerns about the planet’s seismic activity. Ultimately, the world was too promising not to colonize, a decision to which their descendants might well object. The incessant quakes are annoying … but they’re not the biggest problem. What is? The Fae.

The eldritch force called the Fae transforms human will into tangible consequence. The result is indistinguishable from magic. If that were not challenge enough, simple human expectations alter the world around them. Consequently, science and technology, reliable elsewhere, aren’t reliable on Erna.

Centuries after settlement, visionaries like Damien Vryce, priest of the Church of Human Unification, are still trying to come to terms with the implications of the Fae. Damien is not all work, however. He is courting Adept Ciani, which is why he is very upset when she is killed and her shop is levelled in a Fae-related mishap. 

Matters are not as they seem. They are much worse.

Read more ➤

Birds in the Sky

Saffron Alley  (Sword Dance, book 2)

By A. J. Demas  

20 Apr, 2021

Special Requests


2021’s Saffron Alley is the second novel in A. J. Demas’ Sword Dance secondary universe series.

Having survived an incompetent foray into terrorism mounted by students of Eurydemos, ex-soldier Damiskos returned, at least for the moment, to bureaucratic duties in the city-state of Pheme. His new lover Varazda returned to his household in Boukos. Now it is time for what may be Damiskos’ most dangerous mission ever: venturing to Boukos to meet Varazda’s family.

Read more ➤

The Other Side of the Sky

Emilie and the Sky World  (Emilie, book 2)

By Martha Wells  

8 Apr, 2021

Special Requests


2014’s Emilie and the Sky World is the second in Martha Wells’ secondary-universe gas-lamp-fantasy Emilie series. 

After the stupendous adventures of the first volume, Emilie finally reaches her studious cousin Karthea. Emilie scarcely has time to relate her adventures to Karthea when two complications present themselves. The first is her domineering Uncle Yeric, determined to bring his scandalous niece to heel. The second is a mysterious object in the sky, whose nature is entirely unclear.

Read more ➤

These Vile Shackles

Fireborne  (Aurelian Cycle, book 1)

By Rosaria Munda  

7 Apr, 2021

Special Requests


2019’s Fireborne is the first book in Rosaria Munda’s Aurelian Cycle. 

First Protector Atreus had a grand vision of what Callipolis could become under his guidance. The serfs would be freed, the masses would be educated, and people would be given positions according to merit, not accident of birth. For that to happen, however, the aristocratic dragonlords had to die, root and branch; mature dragons had to go as well. The dragons could be poisoned, but the massacring the aristocrats was left to mobs angry over famine and systemic abuse.

Repelled by the violence that he himself set in motion, Atreus spares the life of young Leo Stormscourge, sole survivor of his family. The boy is consigned to a state orphanage. Having matters of state to occupy him, Atreus forgets all about Leo. 

Almost a decade passes.

Read more ➤