Sunday, 15 August 2010

The Boss for 15/08/10

Week in, week out, if you look closely enough, there's almost always a theme to each installment of The BoSS. Last time around it was Arthur Conan Doyle. This week, weirdly, the world seems to want to get me caught up with a few classics! There's a reissue of Ursula K. LeGuin's The Word for World is Forest, to begin with, a copy of Never Let Me Go so that I can review the book before the movie comes out, and - would you believe it - an anniversary edition of To Kill a Mockingbird come all the way from the great States.

And why not? It'll be good, I think, to get reacquainted with a few old books in the face of the constant stream of new fiction that comes through the door for review. I know a few bloggers have complained that we could do with looking backwards from time to time rather than forward, always forward. With that in mind, let me dedicate this week's edition of The BoSS to a certain literary squirrel-monger.

Course, I'm sure he'd rather a choice few nuts to feed the discriminating beast-legions with, but what can you do? Start a nut review blog and wait for the manufacturers to get in touch, of course!

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 sneak peek 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.

***

Never Let Me Go
by Kazuo Ishiguro


Release Details:
Published in the UK on
25/02/10 by Faber & Faber

Review Priority:
4 (Very High)

Plot Synopsis: "In one of the strangest and most acclaimed novels of recent years, Kazuo Ishiguro imagines the lives of a group of students growing up in a darkly skewered version of contemporary England. Narrated by Kathy, now 31, Never Let Me Go hauntingly dramatises her attempts to come to terms with her childhood at the seemingly idyllic Hailsham School, and with the fate that has always awaited her and her closest friends in the wider world. A story of love, friendship and memory, Never Let Me Go is charged throughout with a sense of the fragility of life."

Commentary: It's being touted as this year's Children of Men, though only, I suspect, by people who haven't read the book. Mark Romanek's film looks, nevertheless, to be an outstanding adaptation of prize-winner Never Let Me Go, and I'm hoping to go back to the source in advance of the movie's wide release. I've read this before, but it's been long enough and I'm coming now from such a different place that I fully expect my returning experience of Kazuo Ishiguro's literary science fiction to be quite distinct from my original opinions.


Discord's Apple
by Carrie Vaughn


Release Details:
Published in the US on
06/07/10 by Tor

Review Priority:
3 (Moderate)

Plot Synopsis: "When Evie Walker goes home to spend time with her dying father, she discovers that his creaky old house in Hope’s Fort, Colorado, is not the only legacy she stands to inherit. Hidden behind the old basement door is a secret and magical storeroom, a place where wondrous treasures from myth and legend are kept safe until they are needed again. The magic of the storeroom prevents access to any who are not intended to use the items. But just because it has never been done does not mean it cannot be done.

"And there are certainly those who will give anything to find a way in.


"Evie must guard the storeroom against ancient and malicious forces, protecting the past and the future even as the present unravels around them. Old heroes and notorious villains alike will rise to fight on her side or to undermine her most desperate gambits. At stake is the fate of the world, and the prevention of nothing less than the apocalypse."

Commentary: Now I've never read Carrie Vaughn before, but I'm given to understand that the lady in question's made quite the name for herself with the Kitty Norville, Werewolf Talk-Show Host books (of which, incidentally, there's another, the eighth in the series, in fact, coming out alongside this). They strike me as a bit urban fantasy for my tastes, so I've left them well enough alone, but Discord's Apple is a whole other thing - sounds to me like Buffy the Vampire Slayer season one with a faerie twist - and Tor certainly believes in it, so. Safe to expect a review, I think.


To Kill A Mockingbird
by Harper Lee

 

Release Details:
Published in the US on
11/05/10 by Harper Perrenial

Review Priority:
3 (Moderate)

Plot Synopsis: "A lawyer's advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee's classic novel—a black man charged with the rape of a white girl: 'Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.'

"Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with rich humor and unswerving honesty the irrationality of adult attitudes toward race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence, and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina and quiet heroism of one man's struggle for justice—but the weight of history will only tolerate so much.

"One of the best-loved classics of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird has earned many dis-tinctions since its original publication in 1960. It has won the Pulitzer Prize, been translated into more than forty languages, sold more than forty million copies worldwide, and been made into an enormously popular movie. It was also named the best novel of the twentieth century by librarians across the country. HarperCollins is proud to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the book's publication with this special hardcover edition."

Commentary: How can I never have read this classic? I've seen an old movie adaptation, in English class at high school I think, and I know the story blow-by-blow - it's virtually impossible not to given this book's legendary status. But finally, thanks to the wave of publicity that's greeted the 50th anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird's publication, I can remedy what must be one of my more outrageous literary failings. And I shall. It mightn't be high fantasy, thus hardly within the purview of The Speculative Scotsman, but to hell with restricting myself to stuff what has elves in. (NB: No offense to either elves and or elf-aficionados intended.)


As She Climbed Across the Table
by Jonathan Lethem


Release Details:
Published in the UK on
06/01/05 by Faber & Faber

Review Priority:
3 (Moderate)

Plot Synopsis: "What if your lover left you for nothing? Literally Nothing? From the author of Motherless Brooklyn, this is a strange, hilarious love story about a man, a woman, and the space between them. Physicist Alice Coombs has made a great discovery - a hole in the universe, a true nothingness she and her colleagues call 'Lack'. Professor Philip Engstrand has made his own breakthrough - he realises how much he loves Alice. Trouble is, Lack is a void with a personality - a void that utterly obsesses Philip's beloved. She's fallen out of love with Philip and in love with Lack."

Commentary: A few weeks ago, I heard that David Cronenberg would be adapting this baby for his next film. Now you're going to need a little history lesson here: I wrote my Honours dissertation on David Cronenberg. On Videodrome, in particular. He was one of my favourite directors in those days, and though the experience of studying his work left me none too keen to revisit old favourites, news of new Cronenberg always reignites the old passion. Thus, here we have As She Climbed Across the Table, which has to have perhaps the creepiest title of any book I've heard of.  No surprises here: I haven't read Lethem before, though I have occasionally investigated the possibility on Amazon. What better reason to take the bull by the horns is there than to get a heads-up on what Cronenberg's doing next?

Well, I suppose I can think of a few. But that's what brought me here, like it or lump it.


The Word for World is Forest
by Ursula K. LeGuin


Release Details:
Published in the US on
06/07/10 Tor

Review Priority:
4 (Very High)

Plot Synopsis: "When the inhabitants of a peaceful world are conquered by the bloodthirsty Yumens, their existence is irrevocably altered. Forced into servitude, the Athsheans find themselves at the mercy of their brutal masters.

"Desperation causes the Athsheans, led by Selver, to retailiate against their captors, abandoning their strictures against violence. But in defending their lives, they have endangered the very foundations of their society. For every blow against the invaders is a blow to the humanity of the Athsheans. And once the killing starts, there is no turning back."

Commentary: Umm... Avatar much? But I shouldn't. Though, well, I tend to suspect The Word for World is Forest is being reissued for precisely that reason: to capture the renewed interest in an old classic that was a by-product of the furor over that film's apparently rather striking similarities. (Gosh, that wasn't a good sentence --- ED) Was it a furor, anyway? One way or another, I've heard great things about this one, and I'm looking forward to sitting down with it of an evening to see if The Word for World is Forest really is all that, or just a thinly-veiled environmental parable. What with Ursula LeGuin's pedigree, I tend to suspect the former.


The Strain
by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan


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

Review Priority:
2 (Fair)

Plot Synopsis: "A plane lands at JFK and mysteriously goes dark, stopping in the middle of the runway for no apparent reason, all lights off, all doors sealed. The pilots cannot be raised. When the hatch above the wing finally clicks open, it soon becomes clear that everyone on board is dead - although there is no sign of any trauma or struggle. Ephraim Goodweather and his team from the Center for Disease Control must work quickly to establish the cause of this strange occurrence before panic spreads. The first thing they discover is that four of the victims are actually still alive. But that's the only good news. And when all two hundred corpses disappear from various morgues around the city on the same night, things very rapidly get worse. Soon Eph and a small band of helpers will find themselves battling to protect not only their own loved ones, but the whole city, against an ancient threat to humanity."

Commentary: Now I didn't actually get this for review - hence the low priority. I was in town last week and the typically swinging-in-the-wind pursuit of window-shopping charity outlets netted me The Strain. Which is kind of handy really, given that the sequel, The Fall, is coming out in September. I love me some Guillermo del Toro - excepting the Hellboy movies, of course (that is a given, right?) - so I'll get caught up for the sequel, I think. Though... I wonder, how much did del Toro actually have to do with these books? I would wager he had a story idea and sold it to Chuck Hogan - no doubt The Strain sold like gangbusters versus how it would have had del Toro's name not been featured so prominently. But I digress.


The King's Bastard
by Rowena Cory Daniels


Release Details:
Published in the UK
on 05/07/10 by Solaris

Review Priority:
4 (Very High)

Plot Synopsis: "Only seven minutes younger than Rolencia's heir, Byren has never hungered for the throne. He laughs when a seer predicts that he will kill his twin. But the royal heir resents Byren's growing popularity. Across the land the untamed magic of the gods wells up out of the earth's heart. It sends exotic creatures to stalk the wintry nights and it twists men's minds, granting them terrible visions. Those so touched are sent to the Abbey to control their gift, or die. At King Rolen's court enemies plot to take his throne, even as secrets within his own household threaten to tear his family apart. Political intrigue and magic combine in this explosive first book in an exciting new fantasy trilogy."

Commentary: Now this, this I approve of. The King's Bastard is book one of King Rolen's Kin, a trilogy in the vein of Robin Hobb on a dark day - I hear - from the Aussie author behind The Last T'En trilogy being released by Solaris over three consecutive months. I've never heard of her before, but the appeal of gobbling up a complete trilogy in such a short time does rather appeal, I'll admit it. The sequel, The Uncrowned King, is already out, and the finale, The Usurper, is just weeks away. Actually, thinking of things that way, I guess I better damn well get on with it!

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