Sunday, 3 October 2010

The BoSS for 03/10/10

Oh, it's a good week to be an avid book-muncher. Such a strong week, at least in terms of the proofs and review copies I've received in that time, that it's difficult to pick out my highlights, as I usually do when kicking editions of The BoSS off. But let's say... Red Plenty, Scott Westerfeld's Behemoth and Lights Out In Wonderland are the three books from the diverse selection recollected below I'm most looking forward to.

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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Red Plenty
by Francis Spufford


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

Review Priority:
5 (Immediate)

Plot Synopsis: "Strange as it may seem, the grey, oppressive USSR was founded on a fairytale. It was built on the 20th-century magic called ‘the planned economy’, which was going to gush forth an abundance of good things that the lands of capitalism could never match. And just for a little while, in the heady years of the late 1950s, the magic seemed to be working.

"Red Plenty is about that moment in history, and how it came, and how it went away; about the brief era when, under the rash leadership of Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet Union looked forward to a future of rich communists and envious capitalists, when Moscow would out-glitter Manhattan, and every Lada would be better engineered than a Porsche. It’s about the scientists who did their genuinely brilliant best to make the dream come true, to give the tyranny its happy ending. It’s history, it’s fiction. It’s a comedy of ideas, and a novel about the cost of ideas."

Commentary: Between the review on The Guardian and Adam Roberts' magnificent piece for Strange Horizons, I was sold on Red Plenty within minutes of learning of its existence. Add to that I recall reading and reveling in The Child That Books Built by Francis Spufford a few years ago... that I'll read this chronicle of Russia (which presupposes things had turned out differently for the Motherland) is a foregone conclusion. That my enjoyment of it will match my anticipation for it? We'll have to see. Here's hoping it's not all alternate-history academia.


City of Dreams and Nightmare
by Ian Whates


Release Details:
Published in the UK on
04/03/10 by Angry Robot

Review Priority:
4 (Very High)

Plot Synopsis: "The first in a series of novels set in one of the most extraordinary fantasy settings since Gormenghast - the vertical city of Thaiburley. From its towering palatial heights to the dregs who dwell in The City Below, it's an incredible creation. When Tom, a teenage street thief from the depths, ventures into the uppermost levels to impress a girl, the last thing he expects to do is witness a murder. Accused of the crime, he must use all of his knowledge of the ancient city to flee certain death."

Commentary: I'm having trouble picturing a vertical city. Aren't most cities pretty vertical these days? Or is Whates "extraordinary fantasy setting" more akin to the cloud-bound Rapture of Bioshock Infinite? I suppose I'll see soon enough: City of Dreams and Nightmare has won pride of place on the old stack. Every Angry Robot Book I've read - not nearly enough of them, by all accounts - has been great, and so I've high hopes for this baby, too. The Gormenghast comparison doesn't hurt its chances, either.


Shiver
by Maggie Steifvater

 

Release Details:
Published in the UK on
05/10/09 by Scholastic

Review Priority:
3 (Moderate)

Plot Synopsis: "Grace is fascinated by the wolves in the woods behind her house; one yellow-eyed wolf in particular. Every winter, she watches him - every summer, he disappears.

"Sam leads two lives. In winter he stays in the frozen woods, with the protection of the pack. In summer, he has a few precious months to be human, until the cold makes him shift back again.

"When Grace and Sam finally meet they realise they can't bear to be apart. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human - or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever..."

Commentary: I loved The Hunger Games. My issues with Suzanne Collins' sequels aside, it's left me that much more amenable to bit of YA from time to time - not that, I hasten to add, I wasn't to a certain extent before - so perhaps it's time to give Scholastic's other big YA success story a while. That said, it sounds rather a lot like paranormal romance, doesn't it? Nevertheless, in time for Halloween, I hope to have given Shiver a whirl, and in the (admittedly somewhat unlikely) event it does it for me, well... I've got the sequel, Linger, too.


The Djinn
by Graham Masterton


Release Details:
Published in the UK on
01/09/10 by Telos

Review Priority:
3 (Moderate)

Plot Synopsis: "Anna is mysterious and beautiful, so much so that clairvoyant, Harry Erskine, breaks propriety and asks her out to lunch at his Godfather's wake. When his Godmother, Marjorie Greaves, reveals the strange behaviour of her recently deceased husband, Max, Harry and Anna offer to investigate the strange jar that has been locked away in the turret. Harry soon learns that Anna is not all that she seems, and little can prepare him for the power of the Forty Thieves, the most potent genie in the history of Persia.

"Racing against time, Harry, Anna and Professor Qualt must work together to prevent an unexpected enemy from opening the jar and unleashing the ancient and prevailing djinn on an unsuspecting world."

Commentary: A old classic from an old master of the horror genre. The Djinn sounds pretty trifling by today's standards, but I'm up for a bit of a throwback - for all the time it'll take me: this reissued 70s alternatake on the concepts of The Arabian Nights is a hundred pages at the outermost. Sounds like a fine evening's read to me.


Lights Out In Wonderland
by DBC Pierre


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

Review Priority:
4 (Very High)

Plot Synopsis: "Gabriel Brockwell, aesthete, poet, philosopher, disaffected twenty-something decadent, is thinking terminal. His philosophical enquiries, the abstractions he indulges, and how these relate to a life lived, all point in the same direction. His destination is Wonderland. The nature and style of the journey is all that's to be decided.

"Taking in London, Tokyo, Berlin and the Galapagos Islands, Lights Out In Wonderland documents Gabriel Brockwell's remarkable global odyssey. Committed to the pursuit of pleasure and in search of the Bacchanal to obliterate all previous parties, Gabriel's adventure takes in a spell in rehab, a near-death experience with fugu ovaries, a sexual encounter with an octopus, and finally an orgiastic feast in the bowels of Berlin's majestic Tempelhof Airport. Along the way we see a character disintegrate and re-shape before our eyes.

"Lights Out In Wonderland carries you through its many corridors of delight and horror on the back of Gabriel's voice, which is at once skeptical, idealistic, broken and optimistic. An allegorical banquet and a sly commentary on these End Times and the march towards insensate banality, DBC Pierre's third novel completes a loose trilogy of fictions, each of which stands alone as a joyful expression of the human spirit."

Commentary: Loved Vernon God Little - loved it - though I'm ashamed to say I seem to have taken a pass on Ludmilla's Broken English (though never consciously), presumably as a result of the mixed critical reaction which met its highly anticipated release. The stakes for Lights Out In Wonderland seem to be significantly lower after that perceived disappointment, which can only be a good thing, and this sounds more to my tastes than either of DBC Pierre's past novels did in their day - if similarly lurid.

Speaking of which, here's to debauchery! :D


The End of the Line
edited by Jonathan Oliver


Release Details:
Published in the UK on
01/11/10 by Solaris

Review Priority:
3 (Moderate)

Plot Synopsis: "An anthology of Underground horror. In deep tunnels something stirs, borne on a warm breath of wind, reeking of diesel and blood. The spaces between stations hold secrets too terrible for the upper world to comprehend and the steel lines sing with the songs of the dead. Jonathan Oliver has collected together some of the very best in new horror writing in a themed anthology of stories set on, and around, the Underground, the Metro and other places deep below."

Commentary: Coming from the EIC of Solaris and Abaddon Books entire, and the author of Twilight of Kerberos - which, forgive me, I'll admit to sniffing at - The End of the Line sounds superb. It's Jonathan Oliver's first anthology as editor, but he's certainly come up with a neat theme for his collection of original horror fiction to revolve around. Being of Scottish inclination, and thus as cheap some wicked Dickensian mistress, I haven't spent terribly much time on the Underground (such as it is in Glasgow), but on those rare occasions I have ridden the tube, it's seemed to me the perfect place - dark, isolated and dangerous - to set a good creepy story. Or indeed, nineteen of them.


Behemoth
by Scott Westerfeld


Release Details:
Published in the UK on 01/10/10
by Simon & Schuster Children's

Review Priority:
4 (Very High)

Plot Synopsis: "The Leviathan arrives in Constantinople, a city where Clanker culture and Darwinst principles intersect in the most intriguing ways. Dr Barlow and Deryn deliver their precious cargo to the Sultan, but their peace-keeping mission goes unexpectedly - and disastrously - awry. Now the only way to save themselves in this hostile, politically-charged city is for Dr Barlow to offer up the thing that matters most: the air ship. Alek escapes from his prison camp and goes on the run with his men and the loris while Count Volger stays behind to fend-off the pursuit, forcing Alek to take on new responsibilities. Meanwhile a secret mission lands Deryn in serious danger...and leads both teens to re-evaluate their precarious situations in the world."

Commentary: A year since the release of Leviathan brought steampunk to young adults - next up, fans of erotic fiction (though I've heard tell of a certain... steamypunk) - the sequel from "YA's hippest author" happens along, and doesn't it look swell? Behemoth is a sure-fire read for me. I still have to put pen to paper - fingers to keyboard, I should say - to my review of the first book in the series, but this is as fine a reason to recollect my time with Leviathan as any, I'd say.

And it is beautiful, isn't it? At least it is here in the UK... the poor souls stuck with the ugly-ass US edition must be practically nauseous with envy. Good show, Simon & Schuster!

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