Sunday, 19 September 2010

The BoSS for 19/09/10

What do I have for you today? Well, a cadre of classics, to start with: among them The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Complete Lyonesse, both of which look fantastic - and one of which (you'll have to read on to find out exactly which) I've already read... though, admittedly, that was decades ago.

Oh, and Ship Breaker. Did I not mention Ship Breaker? Well, Ship Breaker. Hells yeah! :D

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.


Cold Magic
by Kate Elliott

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

Review Priority:
3 (Moderate)

Plot Synopsis: "As they approach adulthood, Cat Barahal and her cousin Bee think they understand the society they live in and their place within it. At a select academy they study new airship technologies and the dawning Industrial Revolution, but magical forces still rule. And the cousins are about to discover the full ruthlessness of this rule. Drawn into a labyrinth of politics involving blood and old feuds, Cat is betrayed by her family and forced to marry a powerful Cold Mage. As she is carried away to live a new life, fresh dangers threaten her every move and secrets form a language she cannot read. At least, not yet. But both cousins carry their own hidden gifts and these will shape great changes to come. For in the depths of this treacherous world, the Wild Hunt stirs in darkness and dragons are waking from their sleep."

Commentary: You know what I love on the covers of my fantasy fiction? Pictures of pretty ladies. Yup. The prettier the lady the better. That's all it takes!

You can smell my sarcasm, I'm sure; really, I should behave myself. Cold Magic could be brilliant, for all I know - though what I read of Traitor's Gate... well. Wasn't. This, however, is the start of a new trilogy (I presume) and you never know: Kate Elliott could have grown up an author, enough to do her otherwise promising narratives justice. One can only hope.

I'll give Cold Magic a look, at least.

Ship Breaker
by Paulo Bacigalupi

Release Details:
Published in the US on
01/05/10 by Little, Brown

Review Priority:
5 (Immediate)

Plot Synopsis: "In America's Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts, Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota - and hopefully live to see another day. But when, by luck or chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life: strip the ship for all it's worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life."

Commentary: This, on the other hand... this is more like it. I've been looking forward to Ship Breaker since The Windup Girl wowed me late last year, and thanks to the sweethearts over at Orbit, who are handling the UK distribution of this Stateside-only release, I can finally see how Paulo Bacigalupi, master speculator, handles the young adult demographic.

Saying that, is Ship Breaker speculative fiction in the least? Not to suggest I wouldn't be just as excited for this one if it isn't, but there's nothing in the plot synopsis to indicate as much. And I was under the impression, you know?

The Complete Lyonesse
by Jack Vance


Release Details:
Published in the UK on
26/08/10 by Gollancz

Review Priority:
4 (Very High)

Plot Synopsis: "The Elder Isles - an ancient land where chivalry and the realm of fairie exist side by side. A land of mystery, strange beauty, high adventure and arcane magic. Kings are at war, opposing magicians devise ever more cunning stratagems. It is a land where princesses and changelings both can become embroiled in political rivalries and the quest for the grail."

Commentary: One of Gollanz's Black Books - joining The Complete Chronicles of Conan and a collection of H. P. Lovecraft's best weird fiction - The Complete Lyonesse is a sumptuous, leatherbound-looking repackaging of Suldrun's Garden, The Green Pearl and Madouc, the lattermost of which won Jack Vance the World Fantasy Award.

And this from the author of The Dying Earth, one of THE most influential works of speculative fiction. Ever.

So I'm going to read this beast. Yes indeed. But give me a couple of months. The Complete Lyonesse clocks in at more than 1000 pages, and the font throughout is... shall we say eensy-weensy? That said, I'm sure it'll be worth every second I invest in it.

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen
by Alan Garner

Release Details:
Published in the UK on 30/09/10
by HarperCollins Children's Books

Review Priority:
4 (Very High)

Plot Synopsis: "When Colin and Susan are pursued by eerie creatures across Alderley Edge, they are saved by the Wizard. He takes them into the caves of Fundindelve, where he watches over the enchanted sleep of one hundred and forty knights.

"But the heart of the magic that binds them – Firefrost, also known as the Weirdstone of Brisingamen – has been lost. The Wizard has been searching for the stone for more than 100 years, but the forces of evil are closing in, determined to possess and destroy its special power.

"Colin and Susan realise at last that they are the key to the Weirdstone’s return. But how can two children defeat the Morrigan and her deadly brood?"

Commentary: Go HarperCollins for republishing this seminal fantasy masterpiece in such a lavish edition! In celebration of the 50th anniversary of its publication, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen is back in print, featuring a gorgeous new design and a foreword by Alan Garner himself, who many, I tend to suspect, will recall for The Owl Service rather than this. But it was The Weirdstone of Brisingamen that won me over to Alan Garner's corner, way back when, and alongside the likes of Redwall and The Never-ending Story, it proved a formative experience for me, in retrospect.

It'll be interesting, no doubt, to go back to one of the very classics that set me on the path I walk today, which I will do just as soon as the opportunity to presents itself. Not only that: The Weirdstone of Brisingamen was succeeded by The Moons of Gomrath, which book's existence came as no small surprise to me. And lucky sod that I am, I have a copy of that, too!

Shades of Milk and Honey
by Mary Robinette Kowal

Release Details:
Published in the US on
03/08/09 by Tor

Review Priority:
4 (Very High)

Plot Synopsis: "Jane and her sister Melody vie for the attentions of eligible men, and while Jane’s skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face. When Jane realizes that one of Melody’s suitors is set on taking advantage of her sister for the sake of her dowry, she pushes her skills to the limit of what her body can withstand in order to set things right - and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own."

Commentary: Another book I've been hearing about for what feels like forever - despite it only coming out last month (damn you advance reviews!) - Shades of Milk and Honey has been painted, even according to its own blurb, as a novel very much in the vein of Suzanna Clarke's classic fantasy tome. Speaking of whom, hurry up with the next 'un, Suzanna! Anyway. Shades of Milk and Honey looks, sounds, and for all intents and purposes is, great. I can hardly wait to have Mary Robinette Kowal usher me around a simpler time - and mercifully, her novel is perhaps only a third the length of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. Mercifully insofar as I only have so much time, and this is a book I dearly want to devote myself to.

Black Swan Rising
by Lee Carroll

Release Details:
Published in the US
on 03/08/10 by Tor

Review Priority:
3 (Moderate)

Plot Synopsis: "When New York City jewelry designer Garet James stumbles into a strange antiques shop in her neighborhood, her life is about to be turned upside down. John Dee, the enigmatic shopkeeper, commissions her to open a vintage silver box for a generous sum of money. Oddly, the symbol of a swan on the box exactly matches the ring given to her by her deceased mother. Garet can’t believe her luck and this eerie coincidence until she opens the box and otherworldly things start happening...

"That evening, the precious silver box is stolen. When Garet begins to investigate, she learns that she has been pulled into a prophecy that is hundreds of years old, and opening the box has unleashed an evil force onto the streets of Manhattan and the world at large. Gradually, Garet pieces together her true identity—one that her deceased mother desperately tried to protect her from. Generations of women in Garet’s family, including her beloved mother, suffered and died at the hands of this prevailing evil. Does Garet possess the power to reclaim the box and defeat this devastating force?

"On her journey, she will meet the fey folk who walk unnoticed among humans and a sexy vampire who also happens to be a hedge fund manager that she can’t stop thinking about. But the fairies reveal a desire to overpower mere humans and the seductive vampire has the power to steal the life from her body. Whom can Garet trust to guide her? Using her newfound powers and sharp wit, Garet will muster everything she’s got to shut down the evil taking over her friends, family, New York City, and the world."

Commentary: Oh no! Did someone say "sexy vampire"?

I'll pretend I didn't hear that. Because honestly, in every other respect, Black Swan Rising sounds like it could be great. From the brooding cover to the neat title, to the esteem erstwhile Gothic author Carol Goodman (writing here under a pseudonym with her hubby, the poet Lee Slominsky) is held in, Black Swan Rising is very probably paranormal romance, yes, but - though a choice few rants might have convinced you otherwise - I'm not averse to the idea of good paranormal romance... only the tripe so often published under that banner.

We'll surely see about this one. Oddly, perhaps, I have hopes.

Gardens of the Sun
by Paul McAuley

Release Details:
Published in the UK
on 26/08/09 by Gollancz

Review Priority:
3 (Moderate)

Plot Synopsis: "The Quiet War is over. The city states of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn have fallen to the Three Powers Alliance of Greater Brazil, the European Union and the Pacific Community. A century of enlightenment, rational utopianism and exploration of new ways of being human has fallen dark. Outers are herded into prison camps and forced to collaborate in the systematic plundering of their great archives of scientific and technical knowledge, while Earth's forces loot their cities, settlements and ships, and plan a final solution to the 'Outer problem'. But Earth's victory is fragile, and riven by vicious internal politics. While seeking out and trying to anatomise the strange gardens abandoned in place by Avernus, the Outers' greatest genius, the gene wizard Sri Hong-Owen is embroiled in the plots and counterplots of the family that employs her. The diplomat Loc Ifrahim soon discovers that profiting from victory isn't as easy as he thought. And in Greater Brazil, the Outers' democratic traditions have infected a population eager to escape the tyranny of the great families who rule them. After a conflict fought to contain the expansionist, posthuman ambitions of the Outers, the future is as uncertain as ever. Only one thing is clear. No one can escape the consequences of war - especially the victors."

Commentary: You mustn't misunderstand the middling review priority I've assigned to Gardens of the Moon: it's so low only because I'm going to have to read The Quiet War before I can start in on this, the second book of Paul McAuley's hugely acclaimed duology, and so it'll be a while yet, I fear, before I can come back to you all with my thoughts on it. I expect it to be at least the equal of Peter F. Hamilton's mind-bogglingly ambitious Void trilogy (which, don't you know, I'm enjoying very much, thanks for asking).


  1. OMG! Weirdstone! I read and re-read my childhood copy until it literally fell apart. Must. Buy. Reprint( that cover is beautiful)

    Though I don't think I'll read it. For the same reasons I won't re-read my beloved Something Wicked This Way Comes. I don't want to spoil my chidhood memories of it.

  2. Did you go straight to Traitor's Gate or read the other books in the trilogy beforehand? Because I don't recall you mentioning them previously (I may have skipped over some posts though).

    Cold magic was actually my first book of hers that I read. I liked it muchly, enough to give the rest of her works a go. She said she wrote to hopefully attract new readers, and if you listen to Liviu from FBC (who also disliked the Crossroads trilogy) he thought it was excellent.

    I'd like to see your take on it. Would be interesting to see the perspective of someone else, particularly of whose reviews I usually enjoy reading.

    Then again, this whole edition of BoSS has plenty of books I'd like to see you review. I suspect you probably wouldn't have the time though to cover everything :p

  3. Wow, there are some great books listed here. Now I need to go hit up my library to see if any are in.

  4. Oh man, Alan Garner...I read a good few of those when I was younger...I should ring my parents and see if they still have my copies in the loft. Mind you...the reissue does look tasty too.

    I've not read any Jack Vance . . . I have a paperback of Lyonesse that I got cheaply; saw the bumper edition that you have there. Wondering if I should invest in it (the time and the money...)