Monday, 30 August 2010

The Boss for 30/08/10

Corvus come out in force in this week's edition of the BoSS - and with a trio of releases you might not expect from them going from the two Corvus books I've reviewed here on the blog: Finch and The Holy Machine. This week, the publishing house is all about the other side of the genre coin. Crime fiction - up to and including a spy thriller in The Nearest Exit, the "Scandinavian phenomenon" that is Anne Holt's 1222, and a ghost story from Fay Weldon. Who has, umm... also written crime? But we'll talk about that later.

For the moment, click through to Meet the BoSS for an introduction and an explanation as to why you should care about the Bag o' Speculative Swag, or 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.

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The Nearest Exit
by Olen Steinhauer


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

Review Priority:
3 (Moderate)

Plot Synopsis: "'The first rule of Tourism is not to let it ruin you. Because it can. Easily.' The Department of Tourism is an ultra-secret black-ops branch rumoured to carry out the CIA's dirtiest and deadliest work. Most agents don't even believe it exists. Milo Weaver knows otherwise. Trained to kill cleanly and keep moving, he is a Tourist that understands the rules. Don't ask questions. Don't form attachments. Don't look back. But Milo is the only Tourist with a daughter. When he is told to assassinate a teenage girl, his commitment to the cause starts to crumble - and for the first time, he disobeys his orders. The consequences pull him down into a complex world of clandestine government warfare, but Milo's own battle is with his conscience. When a security breach threatens the very existence of Tourism, will he choose to save his job, his family, or himself?"

Commentary: In case you can't read the quote on the cover picture up there, have it in text form. Stephen King says The Nearest Exit is "the best spy novel I've ever read that wasn't written by John Le Carre," and I can't help but wondering... does he mean to damn Steinhauer's novel with faint praise, or is Le Carre really all that? I wouldn't know. Come on, guys, you don't expect me to have read a book, do you know? You should know better by now!

In all seriousness, though, The Nearest Exit could be great. I'll admit I'm that much more likely to get to it given that Stephen King's blurbed it; what can I say? I'm easy. And it does sound like a ride, doesn't it? Let's say that unless a Bourne movie appears out of nowhere to satiate my occasional hunger for clandestine intrigue, I'll be giving The Nearest Exit a good going-over.


Ancestor
by Scott Sigler


Release Details:
Published in the UK on
19/08/10 by Hodder

Review Priority:
3 (Moderate)

Plot Synopsis: "On a remote island in the Great Lakes, an unusual group of scientists are using extinct DNA to create the perfect organ donor. It could save millions of lives and win Dr Claus Rhumkorrf the Nobel Prize he craves.


"The donor animal is genetically the ancestor of all species on the planet – but Nature wiped it out two hundred million years ago.


"Rhumkorrf and his team are about to find out why."

Commentary: So, umm... Jurassic Lake?

I'm finding it somewhat difficult to write about Ancestor with a straight face, but you know what? I loved Jurassic Park. I haven't seen or read it in a decade or more, nor do I mean to for fear it turns out to be utter rubbish as with so many of my other youthful favourites, but there's one thing I can be quite sure: I had loads of fun with that story. I don't know how soon I'll be able to get to Ancestor, but eventually I will, and I fully expect to have a whale of a time. Perhaps even a Megalodon of a time... :P


Kehua!
by Fay Weldon

 

Release Details:
Published in the UK on
01/08/10 by Corvus

Review Priority:
5 (Immediate)

Plot Synopsis: "A kehua is a Maori ghost - the wandering dead searching for their ancestral home. Without the proper rituals to send them on their way, kehua are forced to remain on Earth to haunt their relatives. They're not dangerous, and they even try to help the living, though it's wise not to listen to them. They tend to get things wrong...In the wake of murder and suicide, a young woman flees New Zealand, hoping to escape the past and find a new life. But the unshriven spirits of the recently departed can't rest peacefully, and are forced to emigrate with her, crossing oceans to finally settle in - of all places - Muswell Hill, London. Here their shadowy flutterings and murmured advice haunts the young woman and her female bloodline across the decades, across the generations. 'Run!' the Kehua whisper. 'Run, run, run!'"

Commentary: Embarrassingly, I don't seem to have a clue who Fay Weldon is. I thought I did; for sure curious reason I thought Weldon was a contemporary crime writer. But Wiki says no. Nevertheless, though I haven't read Fay Weldon in the past, and I appear to have rather misunderstood her genre of choice, I have made a habit of catching up on her contributions to newspapers, and this is an author who knows how to put the words together, yessir.

In any event, I'm very much looking forward to Kehua! Not least because of the absolutely bloody gorgeous cover, which shares much with the design of that hallucinatory beauty adorning the dustjacket of Corvus' UK release of Jeff VanderMeer's Finch. Now that I'm back from my little jaunt, expect to see a review within the week.


The Museum of Innocence
by Orhan Pamuk


Release Details:
Published in the UK on
02/09/10 by Faber & Faber

Review Priority:
3 (Moderate)

Plot Synopsis: "The Museum of Innocence - set in Istanbul between 1975 and today - tells the story of Kemal, the son of one of Istanbul's richest families, and of his obsessive love for a poor and distant relation, the beautiful Fusun, who is a shop-girl in a small boutique. The novel depicts a panoramic view of life in Istanbul as it chronicles this long, obsessive, love affair between Kemal and Fusun; and Pamuk beautifully captures the identity crisis esperienced by Istanbul's upper classes who find themselves caught between traditional and westernised ways of being."

Commentary: Now this one came rather out of nowhere. I have a few of Orhan Pamuk's books in my library: My Name is Red, which I've read - thanks to a rather misleading Paul Auster comparison - and Snow, which I haven't. The Paul Auster connection was helpful insofar as it got me to read a book I otherwise wouldn't have, but though I admire the Turkish author hugely, My Name is Red left me mostly cold. No dragons, you know? Not even a chosen one!

Ah, I kid of course. I'm sure The Museum of Innocence will broaden my perspective when I do sit down with it [done! - ED], but it's a beast of a book, and mostly old news at this point - except to say "out now in paperback" - so don't expect anything more on it till I've cleared some of the stack.


1222
by Anne Holt


Release Details:
Published in the UK on
01/12/09 by Corvus

Review Priority:
4 (Very High)

Plot Synopsis: "1222 metres above sea level, train 601 from Oslo to Bergen careens off iced-over tracks as the worst snowstorm in Norwegian history gathers force around it. Marooned in the high mountains with night falling and the temperature plummeting, its 269 passengers are forced to abandon their snowbound train and decamp to a centuries-old mountain hotel. They ought to be safe from the storm here, but as dawn breaks one of them will be found dead, murdered. With the storm showing no sign of abating, retired police inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen is asked to investigate. But Hanne has no wish to get involved. She has learned the hard way that truth comes at a price and sometimes that price just isn't worth paying. Her pursuit of truth and justice has cost her the love of her life, her career in the Oslo Police Department and her mobility: she is paralysed from the waist down by a bullet lodged in her spine. Trapped in a wheelchair, trapped by the killer within, trapped by the deadly storm outside, Hanne's growing unease is shared by everyone in the hotel. Should she investigate, or should she just wait for help to arrive? And all the time rumours swirl about a secret cargo carried by train 601. Why was the last carriage sealed? Why is the top floor of the hotel locked down? Who or what is being concealed? And, of course, what if the killer strikes again?"

Commentary: "The Scandinavian phenomenon" finally comes to the UK, and Corvus are certainly pitching 1222 pretty hard. They're a discerning lot, I think, and the exciting synopsis goes some way to reassuring anyone out there who might doubt as much; we could be looking at something pretty special here. As with The Museum of Innocence, however, it's likely to be a while before you see a review of Anne Holt's English-language debut here on TSS. Not due to any lack of desire on my part, you understand, but 1222 isn't out till December, so I'll be doing the decent thing and waiting a while before publishing anything more on it.


Lavinia
by Ursula K. LeGuin


Release Details:
Published in the UK
on 21/05/09 by Gollancz

Review Priority:
3 (Moderate)

Plot Synopsis: "'Like Spartan Helen, I caused a war. She caused hers by letting men who wanted her take her. I caused mine because I wouldn't be given, wouldn't be taken, but chose my man and my fate. The man was famous, the fate obscure; not a bad balance.'

"Lavinia is the daughter of the King of Latium, a victorious warrior who loves peace; she is her father's closest companion. Now of an age to wed, Lavinia's mother favours her own kinsman, King Turnus of Rutulia, handsome, heroic, everything a young girl should want. Instead, Lavinia dreams of mighty Aeneas, a man she has heard of only from a ghost of a poet, who comes to her in the gods' holy place and tells her of her future, and Aeneas' past...

"If she refuses to wed Turnus, Lavinia knows she will start a war - but her fate was set the moment the poet appeared to her in a dream and told her of the adventurer who fled fallen Troy, holding his son's hand and carrying his father on his back.

Commentary: More old news, I suppose, and I didn't get Lavinia for review, either - would you believe it: I bought a book! - but I had to mention it. If only to tip the hat to Victoria for the recommendation she made over on The Speculative Book Review, which rather won me over. Very much looking forward to this; it puts me in mind of Tigana, and that's high praise indeed from me.


Catching Fire
by Suzanne Collins


Release Details:
Published in the UK
on 07/09/09 by Scholastic

Review Priority:
3 (Moderate)

Plot Synopsis: "After winning the brutal Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen returns to her district, hoping for a peaceful future. But Katniss starts to hear rumours of a deadly rebellion against the Capitol. A rebellion that she and Peeta have helped to create. As Katniss and Peeta are forced to visit the districts on the Capitol's cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. Unless Katniss and Peeta can convince the world that they are still lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying... The terrifying sequel to The Hunger Games."

Commentary: Oh my god, spoilers! Well, damn, I guess I know how The Hunger Games ends now. Sorry - no more researching Catching Fire for the BoSS in case I ruin any more of The Hunger Games for myself, but know that at the time of this writing [at least two weeks ago - ED] I'm reading and adoring book one, and the plan, as it stands, is to have reviews of all three volumes of Suzanne Collins' YA zeitgeist-grabber up shortly. Maybe I'll even arrange a special crossword for you all to play with too!

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