Sunday, 14 November 2010

The BoSS for 14/11/10

A care package from the British arm of Tor dominates this week, and boy oh boy was it bursting full of good stuff. Best of the lot? Excepting the surprise awaiting me in the paperback edition of Kraken we're going to kick things off with? A very early proof of Sea of Ghosts, the new book from Alan Cambell, which, uh... I've already reviewed.

Yes indeed. :)

Oh! And getting its toe through the door right at the last minute, another big 'un: Dreadnought by Cherie Priest. What a week.

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.


by China Mieville

Release Details:
Published in the UK on
05/11/10 by Tor / Macmillan

Review Priority:

Plot Synopsis: "Deep in the research wing of the Natural History Museum is a prize specimen, something that comes along much less often than once in a lifetime: a perfect, and perfectly preserved, giant squid. But what does it mean when the creature suddenly and impossibly disappears?

"For curator Billy Harrow it's the start of a headlong pitch into a London of warring cults, surreal magic, apostates and assassins. It might just be that the creature he's been preserving is more than a biological rarity: there are those who are sure it's a god.

"A god that someone is hoping will end the world..."

Commentary: I'll be writing something more substantial than a bit of commentary in The BoSS about my experiences with and without Kraken soon - 's already on the drawing board, folks - but forgive me, I'm of the mind that one little tidbit could do with foregrounding sooner rather than later...

Folks, I got a pull-quote!

Back in the distant past I called Kraken "poetic, demented, surprisingly approachable and seething with intelligence" - not to mention "a cracking good read" (har har indeed) - and the next thing I know, the paperback's out and the folks at Tor have decided to pilfer a paragraph from the piece and slap it right next to excerpts from The Guardian and Speculative Horizons.

Have I arrived, or have I arrived? :D

The paperback edition of China Mieville's latest was released on (remember remember) the 5th of November. I will be buying several copies. You also should - at least the one, alright? - if'n you haven't already.

The Flock
by James Robert Smith

Release Details:
Published in the US on
09/11/09 by Tor / Forge

Review Priority:
3 (Moderate)

Plot Synopsis: "A remote Florida swamp has been targeted for theme-park development, and the swamp’s inhabitants are none too happy. It doesn’t help that the residents are a colony of intelligent, prehistoric, dinosaur-like birds. This flock of beasts has escaped the mass extinction that killed off the dinosaurs, relying on stealth, cunning, and killer instinct. The creatures have been living in secret, just outside our developed world.

"As the developers push to have the recently-discovered animals exterminated, a billionaire rogue environmentalist step in to protect these rare, predatory creatures. A naïve young Fish and Wildlife officer finds himself caught in between these two incredibly powerful forces, and may find out the hard way that man is the most dangerous predator of them all..."

Commentary: For whatever reason I'm possessed by the conviction that The Flock is comic-book-dude Bob Gale's first novel. Because he's called Bob, for one. And because The Flock, in its original (now out of print) iteration, was published by Gale / Five Star books. But whatever. It's very likely I'm crossing my wires. This is, in any case, a fun sounding eco-thriller, worth the old once-over at the very least. I only wish nature would fight back in life as so often it tends to in art and literature...

Sea of Ghosts
by Alan Campbell

Release Details:
Published in the UK on
01/04/11 by Tor / Macmillan

Review Priority:

Plot Synopsis: "When the last of the Gravediggers, an elite imperial infiltration unit, are disbanded and hunted down by the emperor they once served, munitions expert Colonel Thomas Granger takes refuge in the unlikeliest of places. He becomes a jailer in Ethugra – a prison city of poison-flooded streets and gaols in which a million enemies of the empire are held captive. But when Granger takes possession of two new prisoners, he realises that he can’t escape his past so readily.

"Ianthe is a young girl with an extraordinary psychic talent. A gift that makes her unique in a world held to ransom by the powerful Haurstaf – the sisterhood of telepaths who are all that stand between the Empire and the threat of the Unmer, the powerful civilization of entropic sorcerers and dragon-mounted warriors. In this war-torn land, she promises to make Granger an extremely wealthy man, if he can only keep her safe from harm.

"This is what Granger is best at. But when other factions learn about Ianthe's unique ability, even Granger's skills of warfare are tested to their limits. While, Ianthe struggles to control the powers that are growing in ways no-one thought were possible. Another threat is surfacing: out there, beyond the bitter seas, an old and familiar enemy is rising – one who, if not stopped, will drown the world and all of humanity with it..."

Commentary: As if a pull-quote inside Kraken wasn't enough of a treat, Tor also included a proof copy of the forthcoming novel from Adam Campbell - he of The Deepgate Codex fame. As a Scotsman, a gamer and a graduate, there's nothing about Campbell's mini-bio I don't adore. "Born in Falkirk and went to Edinburgh University [Alan Campbell] worked as a designer/coder on the hugely successful Grand Theft Auto video games before deciding to pursue a career in writing and photography. He now lives in Lanarkshire."

Right? ;)

Anyhow, Sea of Ghosts isn't due out till April next year, and though I'm sure it's not final the cover still has a Big Daddy on, but the hell with it: I latched onto this baby just as soon as it got here, and you can read the resulting review via the link above.

On the Many Deaths of Amanda Palmer
edited by Rohan Kriwaczek

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

Review Priority:
4 (Very High)

Plot Synopsis: "Following the death of indie pop-star Amanda Palmer her fans and followers began posting anonymous texts on internet blogs and in chat-rooms, taking the form of stories, poems, essays, stream-of-consciousness explorations, each attempting in their own way to attribute her death with some meaning through art. Over time these writings, and the responses they generated, began to exhibit specific shared qualities that marked them out as a unique genre in their own right that, a genre that has come to be known as the Palmeresque.

"This book originally set out to be the first major study of the Palmeresque, however shortly after initial publication all copies of the book were seized by the Boston Police Department due to the incriminating content of Text Number Nine. The following investigation revealed a complex web of deceit, manipulation and literary fraud that once again raised the questions: who did kill Amanda Palmer; who were the real authors of the texts; who is Tobias James? Finally, and under strict restrictions, permission has been given for this amended edition to published, together with an extensive appendix exploring these and other issues."

Commentary: What?

No, but seriously... what the hell?

On the Many Deaths of Amanda Palmer is an utter oddity, no doubt about it; I had to check Amanda's blog to be sure it wasn't a very meta riff on contemporary culture as postulated by someone with an eye on the woman, formerly a musician I rather enjoyed, who's come to be known as The Woman Who Nearly Spoiled Neil Gaiman. Apparently not. In fact, from what little I could find about this book, it could be a bit of post-Dresden Doll propaganda for all I know...

Nevertheless, I'm taken. Somewhat perversely fascinated by this book, come to that. Thus, at some point, expect... a something.

Heart's Blood
by Juliet Marillier

Release Details:
Published in the UK on
05/11/10 by Tor / Macmillan

Review Priority:
2 (Fair)

Plot Synopsis: "Whistling Tor is a place of secrets, a mysterious, wooded hill housing the crumbling fortress of a chieftain whose name is spoken throughout the district in tones of revulsion and bitterness. A curse lies over Anluan’s family and his people; those woods hold a perilous force whose every whisper threatens doom.

"For young scribe Caitrin it is a safe haven. This place where nobody else is prepared to go seems exactly what she needs, for Caitrin is fleeing her own demons. As Caitrin comes to know Anluan and his home in more depth she realizes that it is only through her love and determination that the curse can be broken and Anluan and his people set free."

Commentary: Call me a superficial creep, but... the photo on the cover of Heart's Blood just horrifies me. Nevertheless, the reviews from this novel's hardcover release late last year are all but uniformly positive. Whatever my reservations - and I know the art means nothing, in the end - I'll have to take a look at this one, I think, see for myself.

I hear it's something of a fairy tale, and I have been known to enjoy a nice fairy tale.

The Zombie Survival Guide
by Max Brooks

Release Details:
Published in the UK on
27/07/04 by Duckworth

Review Priority:
3 (Moderate)

Plot Synopsis: "Drawing from reams of historical data, laboratory experiments, field research, and eyewitness accounts, this comprehensive and illustrated guide is the only book you'll need to face the greatest challenge mankind has ever encountered. Granted, you probably already know that skills such as wilderness survival, leadership, and basic first aid are important when fighting off hordes of the undead. But The Zombie Survival Guide doesn't stop there, teaching you how to: Identify cases of infection by the zombie virus, Solanum, and recognize the hourly progression of symptoms: 'Hour 8: Numbing Of Extremities And Infected Area, Increased Fever [103-106 Degrees], Increased Dementia, Loss Of Muscular Coordination'; choose the right weapon: 'A Section Of Lead Pipe Will Work For A Single Encounter But Is Too Heavy For Those On The Move'; defend your home: 'A Ten-Foot Cinder-Block Wall, Reinforced Wih Steel Rods And Filled With Concrete, Is The Safest Barrier In Both Class 1 And Class 2 Outbreaks'; and much more.

"Filled with helpful illustrations and a sample 'Outbreak Journal' that should be kept on your person at all times, The Zombie Survival Guide is the only guide you will need to survive a most certain pandemic. 'Ignorance is the undead's strongest ally, knowledge their deadliest enemy,' Brooks writes. 'Personal choice, the will to live, must be paramount when the dead begin to rise. The choice is up to you.'"

Commentary: Further to World War Z in last week's edition of The BoSS, the lovely sorts at Gerald Duckworth were kind enough to send along a copy of this companion piece of a sort too - though it's worth noting The Zombie Survival Guide was written well before the book I believe made Max Brooks' name. Seems I'm going back and back and back! Does anyone even remember 2004?

Would you credit it, I also have a copy of the companion piece to the companion piece: Recorded Attacks, which is, if I'm understanding it correctly, an abbreviated graphic novel-form adaptation of the latter chapters of The Zombie Survival Guide.

Will have to read World War Z before I get to either of these, mind you. Not that I'm complaining! Oh, what a wealth of lovely, lovely zombie books...

by Cherie Priest

Release Details:
Published in the US on
28/09/10 by Tor / Forge

Review Priority:
5 (Immediate)

Plot Synopsis: "Nurse Mercy Lynch is elbows deep in bloody laundry at a war hospital in Richmond, Virginia, when Clara Barton comes bearing bad news: Mercy’s husband has died in a POW camp. On top of that, a telegram from the west coast declares that her estranged father is gravely injured, and he wishes to see her. Mercy sets out toward the Mississippi River. Once there, she’ll catch a train over the Rockies and — if the telegram can be believed — be greeted in Washington Territory by the sheriff, who will take her to see her father in Seattle.

"Reaching the Mississippi is a harrowing adventure by dirigible and rail through war-torn border states. When Mercy finally arrives in St. Louis, the only Tacoma-bound train is pulled by a terrifying Union-operated steam engine called the Dreadnought. Reluctantly, Mercy buys a ticket and climbs aboard.

"What ought to be a quiet trip turns deadly when the train is beset by bushwhackers, then vigorously attacked by a band of Rebel soldiers. The train is moving away from battle lines into the vast, unincorporated west, so Mercy can’t imagine why they’re so interested. Perhaps the mysterious cargo secreted in the second and last train cars has something to do with it?

"Mercy is just a frustrated nurse who wants to see her father before he dies. But she’ll have to survive both Union intrigue and Confederate opposition if she wants to make it off the Dreadnought alive."

Commentary: Gobbling this one up as we speak. I had high hopes, too. Though I didn't adore Boneshaker the way many did, I did have a bit of fun with it - particularly with the last act - and Dreadnought seems to be shaping up much the same in my estimation: after a load of faffing about, the train's finally full steam ahead, and though the ride's been bumpy so far, it's looking like it'll pick up in short order.

I think it's fair to say you can expect a review of Cherie Priest's latest within the week.

Promises promises, eh?

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