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Reviews in Project: Special Requests (444)

A Canadian sports classic!

The Tim Tebow CFL Chronicles

By Jon Bois  

2 Mar, 2015

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When I accepted the commission to review The Tim Tebow CFL Chronicles, I assumed I was agreeing to read some sort of mundane Canadian sports history, which, while outside my usual haunts, is a genre with which I have experience [1]. I had a vague awareness that Tebow existed and that he played one of the lesser sports known south of the border. It made perfect sense that such a person might try to better themself by playing one of the many superior sports native to Canada — football, hockey, lacrosse, snow plow coup-counting — but it turns out I had totally misjudged the genre. This multimedia work, which can be experienced only on the web, belongs to another genre (but also one with which I am fairly familiar): absurdist sports fantasy. 

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Back to Russell’s Attic

Half Life  (Russell’s Attic, volume 2)

By S L Huang  

23 Feb, 2015

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2014’s Half Life returns the reader to the world of super-mercenary and mathematical genius Cas Russell. Rather to her own surprise, Cas is still friends with both detective Arthur Trestling and his hacker buddy Checker. Even more to her surprise, keeping Arthur happy matters a lot to Cas. In deference to Arthur, Cas has adopted all kinds of extreme restrictions on her behavior, like not killing people even when they get in her way. When the book opens, Cas has gone a whole sixty-three days without killing someone.

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A world of ancient magics

The March North  (Commonweal, volume 1)

By Graydon Saunders  

19 Feb, 2015

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Few now live who recall the great days of USENET newsgroups such as rec.arts.sf-lovers, rec.arts.sf.fandom, and soc.singles [1]. Long ago, in that time mortal folk called the nineteen nineties, these groups were vibrant and interesting; we strode like gods across the internet. Well, we had even more arguments than the deities, but a lot less incest, which I think balances it all out. Graydon Saunders was one of the regulars, whom we called, in our quaint argot, regulars.’ He became a writer of books. I became a reviewer of books. I am sure you can see where this is going. 

2014’s The March North is set in a world where the written word has been around for perhaps a hundred thousand years, or perhaps even longer. Where magic has incessantly shaped and reshaped the environment (geological and biological). Where you cannot understand this world without knowing of magic and its history; it would be like trying to make sense of our world while ignoring the existence of grasses. 

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Congress of Monsters

Zero Sum Game  (Russell’s Attic, volume 1)

By S L Huang  

17 Feb, 2015

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2014’s Zero Sum Game, the first volume in the Russell’s Attic series by S. L. Huang (1), is a superhero novel of sorts. If protagonist Cas Russell were a member of the classic-era Legion of Superheroes, her place at the table would have the placard super-math.” Except, to be honest, while her ability to carry out highly complex applied mathematical calculations is impressive enough to qualify as a bona fide superpower, the LSH would probably bar her from membership on the basis of the trail of bodies she leaves behind her. In fact, a neutral observer might be more inclined to classify Cas as something more along the lines of a supervillain. 

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A simple, daring plan which at practically every stage was packed with things that could go wrong

The Escape Orbit

By James White  

14 Feb, 2015

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I was very excited to be commissioned to review this novel. White is one of my favorite authors. Even his Sector General stories, which are not my thing, get points for having plots driven by something other than violence. Not only that, but this is one of the few James White novels that I had never read. What could go wrong?

Well, two things. First, 1965’s The Escape Orbit is as close to MilSF as White ever got. Second, there is one thing about White’s fiction that I often find troublesome. Unfortunately for me, that one thing is front and center in this novel. 

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Cobwebbed Solar System

Metaplanetary  (Metaplanetary, volume 1)

By Tony Daniel  

5 Feb, 2015

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Tony Daniel’s 2001 novel Metaplanetary was the first volume in a trilogy. It was followed in 2004 by Superluminal, which was followed in turn by … nothing. For some reason — not, as far as I can recall, for poor sales — Eos declined to publish the final volume in the series. Having read both novels in the existing series (in the wrong order, an approach I cannot recommend), I can authoritatively report that every strength and weakness in Metaplanetary was present in greater degree in Superluminal. Whether that means you should buy both books depends on how you feel about Daniel’s particular strengths and weaknesses. 

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I will speak in the bitterness of my soul

Job: A Comedy of Justice

By Robert A. Heinlein  

29 Jan, 2015

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I could tell, even before opening my mass market paperback of 1984’s Job: A Comedy of Justice, that it documented my increasing disenchantment with Heinlein, once one of my favourite authors. (You might not have guessed that from my recent reviews.) Rather than buying the book new, I had purchased a used copy from Mike’s Bookstore [1]. Whoever owned it before me had left it worn and dog-eared before selling it. That person must have liked it more than I did. I don’t think I have reread it once since that first time in the mid-1980s. It’s not that it’s the worst thing Heinlein ever wrote; it’s more of a funny once and by funny once I mean meh.” How the mighty are fallen. 

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Mischief up his sleeve 

The Magic Stone  (Magic Stone, volume 1)

By Leonie Kooiker  

28 Jan, 2015

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Leonie Kooiker’s 1974 children’s novel De Heksensteen, offered to Anglophone audiences in 1978 under the title The Magic Stone, makes an interesting palate-cleanser after this week’s snarkfest. I am not familiar with the body of Kooiker’s work and all information available about her seems to be in Dutch … so I would guess that, for some reason, this book and its sequel, Legacy of Magic, weren’t big hits in the English-reading world. Pity. 

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Frontiers of the Mind

Someone to Watch Over Me

By Tricia Sullivan  

27 Jan, 2015

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I find Tricia Sullivan’s work interesting (even if I do not always like it) and collect her books when I can. Unfortunately, only a few of her books have moved to e (and even then they can be difficult to purchase [1]). Her non‑e books aren’t easy to find [2], which is why it took me so long to get around to reviewing a second Sullivan. To my great pleasure, I recently came across a copy of 1997’s Someone To Watch Over Me, a book which had been on my possibles list for the next Sullivan review. So … After an all too long delay, my second Sullivan review. 

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