Sunday, 4 April 2010

The BoSS for 04/04/10

This week in The BoSS, communists and Nazis run rampant in the Russian underground of the future, epic space opera now conveniently collected in a single volume, baby's first Trudi Canavan (always hard to resist the urge to write Caravan), and a wolf. Who owns an angel. A Wolfsangel, you might say.

All that, and much more besides!

Click through to read Meet the BoSS for an introduction and an explanation as to why you should care about the Bag o' Speculative Swag.

Read on for a quick look-see at some of the books - past, present and future - you can expect to see coverage of here on The Speculative Scotsman in the coming weeks and months.

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Metro 2033
by Dmitry Glukhovsky


Release Details:
Published in the UK on
18/03/10 by Gollancz

Review Priority:
3 (Moderate)

Plot Synopsis: The year is 2033. The world has been reduced to rubble. Humanity is nearly extinct. The half-destroyed cities have become uninhabitable through radiation. Beyond their boundaries, they say, lie endless burned-out deserts and the remains of splintered forests. Survivors still remember the past greatness of humankind. But the last remains of civilisation have already become a distant memory, the stuff of myth and legend.

"More than 20 years have passed since the last plane took off from the earth. Rusted railways lead into emptiness. The ether is void and the airwaves echo to a soulless howling where previously the frequencies were full of news from Tokyo, New York, Buenos Aires. Man has handed over stewardship of the earth to new life-forms. Mutated by radiation, they are better adapted to the new world. Man's time is over.

"A few score thousand survivors live on, not knowing whether they are the only ones left on earth. They live in the Moscow Metro - the biggest air-raid shelter ever built. It is humanity's last refuge. Stations have become mini-statelets, their people uniting around ideas, religions, water-filters - or the simple need to repulse an enemy incursion. It is a world without a tomorrow, with no room for dreams, plans, hopes. Feelings have given way to instinct - the most important of which is survival. Survival at any price. VDNKh is the northernmost inhabited station on its line. It was one of the Metro's best stations and still remains secure.

"But now a new and terrible threat has appeared. Artyom, a young man living in VDNKh, is given the task of penetrating to the heart of the Metro, to the legendary Polis, to alert everyone to the awful danger and to get help. He holds the future of his native station in his hands, the whole Metro - and maybe the whole of humanity."

Commentary: Isn't that a hell of a blurb? Well, that mouthful aside - not to mention my disappointment in Shadow Prowler, another Russian export - I'm hopeful about Metro 2033. In a lot of way, it sounds a lot like Fallout the novel... with Nazis... and for good measure, communists too! Speaking of Fallout, Dmitry Glukhovsy's novel has also been adapted into video-game form, which opens the doors to a potentially very interesting experience: I'll be playing the game in parallel to reading the book. Missed the boat on that little experiment with Dante's Inferno a few months ago and I've sworn the Scotsman's oath to make up for it with Metro 2033. We'll see what comes of all that cross-media jazz shortly.

 
Xeelee: An Omnibus
by Stephen Baxter


Release Details:
Published in the UK on
18/03/10 by Gollancz

Review Priority:
2 (Fair)

Plot Synopsis: "Stephen Baxter's epic sequence of Xeelee novels was introduced to a new generation of readers with his highly successful quartet, Destiny's Children, published by Gollancz between 2003 and 2006. But the sequence of novels began with Raft in 1991. From there it built into perhaps the most ambitious fictitious universe ever created. Beginning with the rise and fall of sub-quantum civilisations in the first nano-seconds after the Big Bang and ending with the heat death of the universe billions of years from now the series charts the story of mankind's epic war against the ancient and unknowable alien race the Xeelee. Along the way it examines questions of physics, the nature of reality, the evolution of mankind and its possible future. It looks not just at the morality of war but at the morality of survival and our place in the universe. This is a landmark in SF."

Commentary: Good on Gollancz for bringing all the Xeelee novels (short of the Vacuum Diagrams collection) together into a single, seriously hefty volume, as the prolific Orion imprint did for Steph Swainston's Castle series - the better for dopes like myself who hadn't a clue where to start with the series before. Sci-fi landmark here I come! Just from the sheer size of the Xeelee omnibus, I expect it'll be slow going, but I mean to review each novel it comprises individually, so there's every chance you'll see something on Raft this month.


The Magician's Apprentice
by Trudi Canavan


Release Details:
Published in the UK on
01/04/10 by Orbit

Review Priority:
3 (Moderate)

Plot Synopsis: "In the remote village of Mandryn, Tessia serves as assistant to her father, the village Healer - much to the frustration of her mother, who would rather she found a husband. But her life is about to take a very unexpected turn. When treating a patient at the residence of the local magician, Lord Dakon, Tessia is forced to fight off the advances of a visiting Sachakan mage - and instinctively uses magic. She now finds herself facing an entirely different future as Lord Dakon's apprentice. But along with the excitement and privilege, Tessia is about to discover that her magical gifts bring with them a great deal of responsibility. Events are brewing that will lead nations into war, rival magicians into conflict, and spark an act of sorcery so brutal that its effects will be felt for centuries..."

Commentary: For some reason, Amazon readers despise this book - the winner of the prestigious Aurealis Award for best fantasy novel, no less. Which goes to show, I suppose, the pitfalls of Amazon reviews, nearly all of which decry it for being somehow... less than the trilogies it bookends. But I haven't read the trilogies! In fact, this will be my first Trudi Canavan, and I think, at the very least, reading through this mammoth fantasy prequel will be a worthwhile endeavour to see what impressions my utterly inexperienced perspective on this novel might be.

Wolfsangel
by M. D. Lachlan


Release Details:
Published in the UK on
20/05/10 by Gollancz

Review Priority:
4 (Very High)

Plot Synopsis: "The Viking King Authun leads his men on a raid against an Anglo-Saxon village. Men and women are killed indiscriminately but Authun demands that no child be touched. He is acting on prophecy. A prophecy that tells him that the Saxons have stolen a child from the Gods. If Authun, in turn, takes the child and raises him as an heir, the child will lead his people to glory. But Authun discovers not one child, but twin baby boys. Ensuring that his faithful warriors, witnesses to what has happened, die during the raid, Authun takes the children and their mother home, back to the witches who live on the troll wall. And he places his destiny in their hands.

"So begins a stunning multi-volume fantasy epic that will take a werewolf from his beginnings as the heir to a brutal Viking king, down through the ages. It is a journey that will see him hunt for his lost love through centuries and lives, and see the endless battle between the wolf, Odin and Loki - the eternal trickster - spill over into countless bloody conflicts from our history, and over into our lives."

Commentary: From what little I can glean from a few emails and the occasional chats we've had through the holy Twitter, Mark seems like a lovely chap. I'll admit it: I think Wolfsangel is a bit of a silly title, but saying that, every inch of buzz I've been downwind of as regards this fantasy debut has been hugely promising. Would that I had a little less on my plate - I can hardly wait to get started on this one.

New Model Army
by Adam Roberts


Release Details:
Published in the UK on
15/04/10 by Gollancz

Review Priority:
5 (Immediate)

Plot Synopsis: "A terrifying vision of a near future war - a civil war that tears the UK apart as new technologies allow the worlds first truly democratic army to take on the British army and wrest control from the powers that be. Taking advances in modern communication and the new eagerness for power from the bottom upwards, Adam Roberts has produced a novel that is at once an exciting war novel and a philosophical examination of war and democracy. It shows one of the UK's most exciting and innovative literary voices working at the height of his powers and investing SF with the literary significance that is its due."

Commentary: So many new authors and so little time. Well, new authors to me: I'm ashamed to say I missed Adam's BSFA award-nominated Yellow Blue Tibia. Saying that, the gent's next novel sounds equally intriguing. In fact, I've been given strict instructions from a certain someone to put down everything else I have on the stack and give this my immediate attention. And hell, if for no other reasons than that recommendation and the misbegotten strapline Adam mentioned on his occasional blog - "If Nabokov had written Bravo Two Zero" - there's every chance I'll just do that.


Of Bees and Mist
by Erick Setiawan


Release Details:
Published in the UK on
24/12/09 by Headline

Review Priority:
2 (Fair)

Plot Synopsis: "Up in the house that sits on the hill, a strange spell is brewing...

"To Meridia, growing up with her father Gabriel, who vanishes daily in clouds of mist, and her bewitching mother Ravenna, the outside world is a refuge. So when as a young woman her true love Daniel offers her marriage, it seems an escape to a more straightforward existence.

"Yet behind the welcoming fa├žade of her new home lies a life of drudgery and a story even stranger than that she left behind. Aged retainers lurk in the background; swarms of bees appear at will, and of course, there’s her indomitable mother-in-law, Eva, hiding secrets that it will take Meridia years to unravel. Surrounded by seemingly unfathomable mysteries, can Meridia unlock the intrigues of the past, and thus protect her own family’s future?"

Commentary: I've had my eye on this one for a while, and though I was sadly unable to attend the Headline blogger party - which you can read about here and here - thanks to a lovely bag of goodies that arrived a few days later, much to my surprise and delight, I'll finally have the chance to get caught up. Sounds like a brilliant modern-day fable, right up my alley - and were I not to have so many more pressing April releases ready and waiting for my attention this month, the review priority for Of Bees and Mist would be considerably higher.


For the Win
by Cory Doctorow


Release Details:
Published in the UK on
12/05/10 by Voyager

Review Priority:
4 (Very High)

Plot Synopsis: "In the twenty-first century, it's not just capital that's globalized: labour is too. Workers in special economic zones are trapped in lives of poverty with no trade unions to represent their rights. But a group of teenagers from across the world are set to fight this injustice using the most surprising of tools - their online video games. In Industrial South China Matthew and his friends labour day and night as gold-farmers, amassing virtual wealth that's sold on to rich Western players, while in the slums of Mumbai 'General Robotwallah' Mala marshals her team of online thugs on behalf of the local gang-boss, who in turn works for the game-owners.

"They're all being exploited, as their friend Wei-Dong, all the way over in LA, knows, but can do little about. Until they begin to realize that their similarities outweigh their differences, and agree to work together to claim their rights to fair working conditions. Under the noses of the ruling elites in China and the rest of Asia, they fight their bosses, the owners of the games and rich speculators, outsmarting them all with their unbeatable gaming skills. But soon the battle will spill over from the virtual world to the real one, leaving Mala, Matthew and even Wei-Dong fighting not just for their rights, but for their lives!"

Commentary: I loved Little Brother - but then, who didn't? Here in the UK, a very similar cover art treatment shows that Voyager are clearly positioning For the Win as a successor to that multiple award-winning novel, and I don't doubt that mastermind of the Boing Boing phenomenon and veritable Warren Ellis-alike Cory Doctorow is up to the task of equaling that all-ages take on the horrors of the modern day. His subject matter here - a crisis that besets kids the world over who eke out a living farming fake gold in MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft - is certainly as arresting as the notiong of geo-caching that set the events of Little Brother in motion. Don't tell anyone, but I have a sneaking suspicion that you'll be reading something about For the Win very soon indeed...

4 comments:

  1. Looks like an interesting bag! Looking forward to hearing more about New Model Army in particular, though they all sound pretty interesting.

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  2. I wish you would post the US release dates to. : (

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  3. I think you'd be surprised at the size of the anti-Little Brother faction.

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