Sunday, 17 October 2010

The BoSS for 17/10/10

It's all about the horror in The BoSS this week - and what perfect timing, too. It's almost like somebody, somewhere... planned it or something!

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.

***

Full Dark, No Stars
by Stephen King


Release Details:
Published in the UK on
09/11/10 by Hodder

Review Priority:
5 (Immediate)

Plot Synopsis: "'I believe there is another man inside every man, a stranger...' writes Wilfred Leland James in the early pages of the riveting confession that makes up '1922', the first in this pitch-black quartet of mesmerising tales from Stephen King, linked by the theme of retribution. For James, that stranger is awakened when his wife Arlette proposes selling off the family homestead and moving to Omaha, setting in motion a gruesome train of murder and madness.

"In 'Big Driver', a cozy-mystery writer named Tess encounters the stranger is along a back road in Massachusetts when she takes a shortcut home after a book-club engagement. Violated and left for dead, Tess plots a revenge that will bring her face to face with another stranger: the one inside herself.

"'Fair Extension', the shortest of these tales, is perhaps the nastiest and certainly the funniest. Making a deal with the devil not only saves Harry Streeter from a fatal cancer but provides rich recompense for a lifetime of resentment.

"When her husband of more than twenty years is away on one of his business trips, Darcy Anderson looks for batteries in the garage. Her toe knocks up against a box under a worktable and she discovers the stranger inside her husband. It’s a horrifying discovery, rendered with bristling intensity, and it definitively ends 'A Good Marriage'.

"Like Different Seasons and Four Past Midnight, which generated such enduring hit films as The Shawshank Redemption and Stand by Me, Full Dark, No Stars proves Stephen King a master of the long story form."

Commentary: As if it needed proving again...

I was left a little cold by this year's Blockade Billy - see the TSS review for more here - but Full Dark, No Stars easily hopscotches any notion of disappointment with four novella-length beezers from the undisputed master of horror in literature. I won't be publishing my review till release, and I wouldn't want to spoil it here, so let me just say that I haven't been so entertained by anything Stephen King has released since Duma Key. This is a goodie, guys and gals.


Epitaph
by Shawn Hutson


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

Review Priority:
3 (Moderate)

Plot Synopsis: "He sucked in a deep breath full of that strange smell he couldn't identify. He trailed his hands across the satin beneath him and to both sides of him and, when he raised his hands, above him too. He knew why it was so dark. He understood why he could see nothing. He realized why he was lying down. He was in a coffin. A distraught couple thinks you've killed their daughter and they want a confession. If you say you did it, they'll kill you. If you say you didn't, they'll leave you to die. It seems hopeless but there is one way out...

"What would you do?"

Commentary: Hmm. From the undisputed master of horror to a guy who evidently wishes he were. I had an ex who read very little except Shaun Hutson, oddly, and I'll be frank: what little I read of the man, in the interests of shared enthusiasm, I found to be shlocky, low-brow Saw-esque nonsense. The high concept behind Epitaph at least sounds interesting. And it's nearly Halloween, the perfect time for this sort of fiction... so we'll see. Maybe I'll give Hutson another shot. Maybe he'll surprise me.


The Pan Book of Horror Stories
edited by Herbert Van Thal 

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

Review Priority:
3 (Moderate)

Plot Synopsis: "Fifty years ago Pan launched a series of books that were to delight and disgust - sometimes even on the same page – readers for thirty years. From classics in the genre to scraping-the-barrel nastiness, the Pan Books of Horror had them all and they continue to be a major influence in published anthologies to the present day.

"We're delighted, therefore, to announce the reissue of the very first Pan Book of Horror. Specially selected for Pan, here are 22 terrifying tales of horror by such famous authors as Peter Fleming, C. S. Forester, Bram Stoker, Angus Wilson, Noel Langley, Jack Finney and L. P. Hartley. Stories of the uncanny jostle with tales of the macabre. Stories of subtle beastliness - like Rasberry Jam; of sickening horror - like The Fly or His Beautiful Hands; and of utter chilling terror - like The Horror of the Museum!

"The perfect bedside book - for those with nerves of steel!"

Commentary: That sounds like a challenge to me. Well, I accept! Stay tuned for more on this lovingly retro reissue of the first Pan Book of Horror Stories a little closer to All Hallow's.


Corvus
by Paul Kearney


Release Details:
Published in the UK on
28/10/10 by Solaris

Review Priority:
3 (Moderate)

Plot Synopsis: "It is twenty-three years since a Macht army fought its way home from the heart of the Asurian Empire. The man who came to lead that army, Rictus, is now a hard-bitten mercenary captain, middle-aged and tired. He wants nothing more than to lay down his spear and become the farmer that his father was. But fate has different ideas. A young war-leader has risen to challenge the order of things in the very heartlands of the Macht. A solider of genius, he takes city after city, and reigns over them as king. What is more, he has heard of the legendary leader of The Ten Thousand. His name is Corvus, and the rumours say that he is not even fully human. He means to make himself absolute ruler of all the Macht. And he wants Rictus to help him."

Commentary: Damn it. That's me two for two on the Paul Kearney books I've been sent for review this past month. First the second Monarchies of God omnibus arrived, and now Corvus, the sequel to Kearney's last original novel, The Ten Thousand, has shown up.

Ah well... I don't suppose I'm short reading material to tide me over till I get my grubby Scottish paws on copies of the first volumes of each of these series - which I will. If it's the last thing I do! I've heard such good things, on both counts.


Dead Rising 2
dev. Blue Castle Games


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

Review Priority:
4 (Very High)

Plot Synopsis: "Several years have passed since the Wilamette incident, and while Frank West was able to save America from a zombie apocalypse, the cause of zombification was not completely contained. This led to continued zombie outbreaks throughout the United States.

"Dead Rising 2 shifts the action from the everyday world of mid-West America to the glitz and glamour of Fortune City, America's latest and greatest entertainment playground. People flock to Fortune City from around the globe to escape from reality and the chance to win big.

"Enter former national Motocross champion, Chuck Greene. Before he hit the big time with a team and sponsorship behind him Chuck was forced to repair his own bikes, leaving him incredibly resourceful; a real handyman. A single father, Chuck dotes on his daughter Katey who, since the loss of her mother, he will do anything for.

"With hundreds of zombies on screen at any one time, the original Dead Rising forced gamers to turn the everyday objects they found in the Mall into improvised weapons capable of fending off attacks. Dead Rising 2 promises to increase the carnage with even more zombies intent on feasting on human flesh and countless new objects with which Chuck can make the undead dead."

Commentary: Oh yeah! :D

Couldn't have been happier than when I received, much to my surprise, review code for Dead Rising 2, marking something of a first for TSS - and my Xbox 360 copy arrived with a vial of Zombrex, too, so I'm good for at least 24 hours after the inevitable outbreak.

I'd have reviewed this already - certainly I've beaten story mode a couple of times through, played some co-op and checked out the minigame-focused multiplayer - but I'm determined to save every survivor and see the 'A' ending before I write this baby up. But be sure, in advance of the eventual article: I love me my Dead Rising 2. What's better than a bingo ball cage and a battery? Why, a Duck-taped together electric Tesla ball to toss into the horde! Funs, funs, funs, oh the funs.


The Spirit Thief
by Rachel Aaron


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

Review Priority:
2 (Fair)

Plot Synopsis: "Eli Monpress is talented. He's charming. And he's a thief. But not just any thief. He's the greatest thief of the age - and he's also a wizard. And with the help of his partners - a swordsman with the most powerful magic sword in the world but no magical ability of his own, and a demonseed who can step through shadows and punch through walls - he's going to put his plan into effect. The first step is to increase the size of the bounty on his head, so he'll need to steal some big things. But he'll start small for now. He'll just steal something that no one will miss - at least for a while...

"Like a king!"

Commentary: Sounds a bit Locke Lamora - and I dug me my Lock Lamora (at least in The Lies of) - but I can't say The Spirit Thief has me similarly excited. There's something about the blurb... the blurb and the insipid tagline ("What he gets away with is criminal"), that puts me right off. Is this, by any chance, covert paranormal romance?

I'll give it a chapter one way or another; wouldn't want my utterly unfounded preconceptions making my decisions for me, now would we?


Classic Collection
by H. G. Wells


Release Details:
Published in the UK on
21/10/10 by Gollancz

Review Priority:
3 (Moderate)

Plot Synopsis: "This collection includes The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The War of the Worlds, The First Men in the Moon and The Invisible Man, all collected in a stunning leather-bound omnibus. Five of the best science fiction novels by the Grandfather of Science Fiction: unsurpassed in their timeless capacity to thrill and transfix, these are tales that reach to the heart of human ambition, fear, intelligence and hope."

Commentary: And what a pleasant surprise this came as! I didn't, I'll confess, even realise Gollancz were putting an as-good-as complete H. G. Wells bible out, but here it is in spite of my ignorance, and it is a pretty thing. All those scrappy old editions of The Time Machine and The Island of Doctor Moreau I have? Away with you all --- off to the charity shop!

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