James Nicoll Reviews

Home > Reviews > By Project

Reviews in Project: Special Requests (444)

Can You See

Fallen  (Firstborn, Lastborn, volume 2)

By Melissa Scott  

16 Jan, 2024

Special Requests


Melissa Scott’s 2023 Fallen is the second book in her Firstborn, Lastborn space opera series. It shares no characters with the first book, Finders, and is set in a different period. More on that second detail later.

The invention of nigh-godlike AIs provided the Ancestors with everything they could have wanted… until they found themselves at war with the AIs. Civilization collapsed. Centuries later, civilization has recovered, although at a lower tech level than the Ancestors enjoyed.

Luckily for the revived civilization, space is littered with Ancestor relics. A few of these relics aren’t existential threats.

Read more ➤

Really Can’t Stay

Fallen Angels

By Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle & Michael F. Flynn  

11 Jan, 2024

Special Requests


Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Michael F. Flynn’s 1991 Fallen Angels is a near-future science fiction novel.

The future! A cabal of feminists, greens, Evangelicals, Luddites, mystics, and Wisconsin dairy farmers has taken control of America, enforcing stringent environmental laws. Without the protective layer of air pollution, Earth rapidly cools. A new ice age dooms most of Canada and the northern US.

The only surviving remnant of American technological prowess is Space Station Freedom. Together with the Russian space station, the stations have declared independence. The habitats cling to life thanks to a small lunar facility and precious nitrogen skimmed from the upper atmosphere.

Having pestered his way into piloting one final skimming mission, Alex MacLeod repays the trust that the community has placed in him by getting himself, the irreplaceable scoopship Piranha, and fellow astronaut Gordon Tanne shot down. Alex manages to land Piranha safely … but the ship will never fly again. What is to become of the two castaways?

Read more ➤

Because I Was Paid

The Cross-Time Engineer  (Adventures of Conrad Stargard, volume 1)

By Leo Frankowski  

12 Dec, 2023

Special Requests


1986’s The Cross-Time Engineer is the volume that launched Leo Frankowski’s increasingly dire Adventures of Conrad Stargard, a Morganade1 adventure series on a long-suffering world.

Hungover, Conrad Schwartz sets out on an ill-fated hike. One temporal mishap later and the American-trained Polish engineer found himself somewhere he only knew from text-books.

Or rather, somewhen.

Read more ➤

Thorn In My Side

The Death I Gave Him

By Em X. Liu  

16 Nov, 2023

Special Requests


Em X. Liu’s 2023 The Death I Gave Him is a vengeance-filled SF novel of revenge.

Hayden Lichfield returns to his father’s laboratory where he finds a corpse and a mystery. In the brief time that Hayden was gone, someone murdered his father Graham and erased the Elsinore Labs security camera footage. While direct evidence is now lost, the list of people with the necessary access is not long.

In fact, it would not even fully populate a hamlet.

Read more ➤

Big Girls Don’t Cry

Locklands  (Founders, volume 3)

By Robert Jackson Bennett  

26 Oct, 2023

Special Requests


2022’s Locklands is the third and final volume in Robert Jackson Bennett’s Founders Trilogy.

Thief turned revolutionary Sancia Grado, girlfriend Berenice, and her friend Clef have triumphed over the merchant house of Tevanne!

Also their actions facilitated the rise to power of something predatory, inhuman, inhumane, and expansionist, compared to which the merchants were but a minor threat. Having doomed the world to worse than slavery, Sancia and company search for a way to undo their new foe.

Read more ➤

No Angels Above


By J. G. Ballard  

17 Oct, 2023

Special Requests


J. G. Ballard’s 1975 High-Rise is a thrilling tale of modern lifestyles.

Recently divorced doctor and lecturer Robert Laing is persuaded by his sister to sell his Chelsea home and move into a very modern tower block. Forty floors tall, the edifice offers the inhabitants of its thousand apartments every amenity a late-20th century British person could want. If humans could build a modern-day urban Eden, it would look like Laing’s new home.

This modern-day Eden goes as well as the mythological Eden.

[Pet lovers may want to stop reading at this point.]

Read more ➤

Fairy Tale Ending

The Hazel Wood  (Hazel Wood, volume 1)

By Melissa Albert  

12 Oct, 2023

Special Requests


2018’s The Hazel Wood is the first volume in Melissa Albert’s Hazel Wood young-adult fantasy series.

Plagued by bad luck, Alice and her mother Ella have spent years moving from temporary home to temporary home. Then a letter informs Ella that her mother, reclusive cult fantasy author Althea Proserpine, has died. A relieved Ella believes that this mean the end of bad luck.

Ella is very wrong.

Read more ➤

Dear Liza

Hole in the Middle

By Kendra Fortmeyer  

10 Oct, 2023

Special Requests


Kendra Fortmeyer’s 2019 Hole in the Middle is a coming-of-age magical realist novel.

Seventeen-year-old Morgan Stone always wears bulky, concealing clothes and avoids social interactions that could require showing skin. This isn’t because Morgan is a modern-day puritan. It is because Morgan was born with a hole through her lower torso and she does not care to find out how others will react to this oddity.

Read more ➤