Friday, 26 February 2010

The Curious Case of the Books in the Bag

I'm not, by nature, a terribly organised individual. I'll often leave things to the last minute and then waste valuable days in a mad panic because I haven't gotten to them sooner. Be it a matter of work or health or blogging, I'm altogether shambolic.

Not so with holidays - nor, indeed, the books I take on holiday with me. Quite the opposite, in fact.

I've spoken often over the last week about my plans to adventure my merry way on up to a lovely cottage by the seaside in the highlands of Scotland. Well, weather permitting - though as of today the weather is nothing of the sort - I'll be leaving on Monday. Today, in case you didn't realise, is Friday. I don't have a stitch of clothing looked out for the trip, nor any essential electricals or even toiletries. But I've already packed a bag full of books.

The vast majority of those books are, wouldn't you know it, speculative fiction of one sort or another, so I thought I'd share with you, readers, the contents of that bag, and a few of my thoughts and expectations thereof.

First and foremost, we have the runaway winner and the first runner-up of the recent Holiday Reading poll:

That's some substantial reading right there. I'll admit to being a little skeptical of the first volume of The Malazan Book of the Fallen - although perhaps I should say, rather than skeptical, that I'm rather intimidated by the prospect of beginning such an expansive series. I'm sure it'll be great, but the last massive saga I read straight through - The Dark Tower books by Stephen King - was a real disappointment in the end. Then again, the end of anything by Stephen King tends to be a letdown, so I shouldn't allow that experience to dissuade me.

As for Scar Night, this is a book I've begun several times in the past, and without fail put down each time. I can't put my finger on precisely why. Nothing about the start of Alan Campbell's first novel was anything less than promising. For whatever reason, it just... didn't grab me. In any case, I'll be doing my damndest to make it through this time, and in spite of my brief past experience of Scar Night, I have high hopes.

Given that there's obviously interest in coverage of the two aforementioned novels, they'll be my top priorities, but certainly they don't represent the extent of the fiction I've packed for my week away. In no particular order, then, here are the rest of the books I hope to get stuck into during the next week:

There have been mixed reports of the first novel in the Hyddenworld quintet, but I've never read William Horwood before, and I understand his previous work is something of a touchstone in the genre, so here's hoping.

As for Veteran, the proofs that have come in over the last wee while - one of which, needless to say, I was pleased to receive - have left some very excited bloggers in their wake, and though I'm not usually taken by hard sci-fi, Gollancz man Simon Spanton's note accentuates the action more than anything else - not to mention the Dundee setting. Dundee, everyone! That's within arm's reach of me, which doesn't happen often in speculative fiction. Whether or not I get to it in the coming week, this is a sure-fire read.

From what I've read of it, A Dark Matter hasn't really grabbed me yet - it's been a fairly difficult experience so far - but I'll see it through. Really, I'm not one to give up in the middle of anything, and there's every chance things start to look up: Peter Straub has spun some fine tales in the past, and I fear I may be judging this one too soon.

Shadow Prowler, meanwhile, is very exciting. The English-language debut of Russia's bestselling fantasy writer, he's seen no shortage of comparisons to Sergei Lukyanenko - the author of the four Night Watch novels - and I had a great time with those, so... fingers crossed.

I've said before that Dark Life puts me in mind of Bioshock, and in lieu of playing the recent sequel to that incredible video game, this tasty morsel of YA fantasy should satiate my appetite for underwater adventure. I'm hopeful.

Talk about saving the best for last, eh? I can hardly wait to get stuck into The Prince of Mist. The trouble is, once I've read it, I've read it, and who knows how long it'll be before there's more Carlos Ruiz Zafon to look forward to. That said, there's just no way this stays in my bag for the whole week.

And there you have it. The eight novels I'm taking on holiday with me. Knowing me, I won't likely manage to read any more than half of them, but hey, a book in two days is hardly bad going. I should probably see some of the sights, after all. I'm not on holiday every day...

But here's to the days I will be! Can't. Bloody. Wait.


  1. You are living the dream my friend. That sounds like the best possible vacation imaginable, good books, great sites, no worries.

    Have fun!

  2. Lots of good stuff there, look forward to your reviews. Enjoy your holiday!