Saturday, 19 March 2011

Books Received | The BoSS for 19/03/11

Met the old BoSS? Well, let me introduce you to the new BoSS - same as the old BoSS, more or less... except less is more. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

All caught up? Good. Let's get on with it, then.

As I said last week, I've managed to get a bit behind with the whole books received thing, so this'll be the first of a two part edition of The BoSS, with another batch of five books to run down tomorrow. Given which, I don't have much time just now to spend messing about writing intros and the like...

...which certainly isn't to say that the recent arrivals recounted above and below are slouches of any sort. Just going from today's array, The Kings of Eternity sounds absolutely terrific, and I'm determined to give Jesse Bullington a go now that a copy of his second novel has come through. That's two sure things already!


The Enterprise of Death
by Jesse Bullington

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 03/03/11
by Orbit

Review Priority
5 (A Sure Thing)

The Blurb: As the witch-pyres of the Spanish Inquisition blanket Renaissance Europe in a moral haze, a young African slave is unwillingly apprenticed to an ancient necromancer. Her tormentor has bound her with a curse forged from blood and spirit. But salvation could lie in arcane writings her tutor has hidden on the war-torn continent...

A Scotsman's Thoughts: Though I'm afraid to say I never did get around to The Brothers Grossbart, nor would it be true in the strictest sense to say I haven't read Jesse Bullington. Only last month, in fact, I read his short story "The Adventures of Ernst, Who Began a Man, Became a Cyclops, and Finished a Hero," largely on the basis of its fabulous title. You can find it for free here, if you're so inclined.

Alas, I did not love it. I'd hope to name it the second subject of Short Fiction Corner, and though it was a bit of fun, I found myself with little more to say about it beyond... huh.

Nevertheless, the novel form is a whole other ball-game, and with The Enterprise of Death of interest (I imagine) to many of you, and so little coverage of it elsewhere, I'm determined to give Bullington a second shot. So.

by Caragh O'Brien

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 28/04/11
by Simon & Schuster

Review Priority
3 (We'll See)

The Blurb: In the future, in a world baked dry by the harsh sun, there are those who live inside the walled Enclave and those, like sixteen-year-old Gaia Stone, who live outside. Following in her mother's footsteps Gaia has become a midwife, delivering babies in the world outside the wall and handing a quota over to be "advanced" into the privileged society of the Enclave. Gaia has always believed this is her duty, until the night her mother and father are arrested by the very people they so loyally serve. Now Gaia is forced to question everything she has been taught, but her choice is simple: enter the world of the Enclave to rescue her parents, or die trying.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: Who here has forgotten The Hunger Games already?

Well, not I - though from the hour I spent with Birthmarked, I bet Caragh O'Brien wishes I had. With this she seems to be riffing off of Suzanne Collins' storied dystopia, and though there are differences between O'Brien's efforts and The Hunger Games, you do have to be looking pretty closely to spot 'em.

That said, I might just give Birthmarked another go-around. There's clunkiness in the composition, and overfamiliarity shot through the premise... but it's far from awful YA.

The Kings of Eternity
by Eric Brown

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 01/04/11
by Solaris

Review Priority
5 (A Sure Thing)

The Blurb: 1999, on the threshold of a new millennium, the novelist Daniel Langham lives a reclusive life on an idyllic Greek island, hiding away from humanity and the events of the past. All that changes, however, when he meets artist Caroline Platt and finds himself falling in love. But what is his secret, and what are the horrors that haunt him?

1935. Writers Jonathon Langham and Edward Vaughan are summoned from London by their editor friend Jasper Carnegie to help investigate strange goings on in Hopton Wood. What they discover there – no less than a strange creature from another world – will change their lives forever. What they become, and their link to the novelist of the future, is the subject of Eric Brown’s most ambitious novel to date. Almost ten years in the writing, The Kings of Eternity is a novel of vast scope and depth, full of the staple tropes of the genre and yet imbued with humanity and characters you’ll come to love.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: Why yes, please, I will have some more Eric Brown!

The Kings of Eternity is the third Eric Brown novel Solaris have put out in the last twelve months, and from everything the author has said, it seems to be the one he's most proud of. And as well, because despite my admiration of Enginemanthe dystopian derivations of Guardians of the Phoenix rather tested my patience.

But fingers crossed, his latest could be truly great. I'll be starting in on The Kings of Eternity just as soon as is humanly possible. Do stay tuned for the full review.

No Way Down: Life and Death on K2
by Graham Bowley

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 20/01/11
by Penguin

Review Priority
3 (We'll See)

The Blurb: The summit of K2, 1 August 2008.

An exhausted band of climbers pump their fists into the clear blue sky – joining the elite who have conquered the world’s most lethal mountain. But as they celebrate, far below them an ice shelf collapses and sweeps away their ropes. They don’t know it yet, but they will be forced to descend into the blackness with no lines. Of the thirty who set out, eleven will never make it back.

No Way Down weaves a tale of human courage, folly, survival and devastating loss. The stories are heart-wrenching: the young married couple whose rope was torn apart by an avalanche, sending the husband to his death; the 61-year-old Frenchman who called his family from near the summit to say he wouldn’t make it home. So what drove them to try to conquer this elusive peak? And what went wrong that fateful day?

A Scotsman's Thoughts: Said to be one of the best mountain disaster narratives since Into Thin Air, which I confess, I haven't read - what a turn up for the books! - so that's a yardstick a yard or two beyond my measuring tendencies. But I did utterly adore Into the Void - first the film and then the eyewitness account it was based on. This could thus be right up my alley; particularly considering all the time I spent clambering up cliffs while on me hols late last month.

The Eyre Affair
by Jasper Fforde

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 19/07/01
by Hodder

Review Priority
4 (Pretty Bloody Likely)

The Blurb: There is another 1985, somewhere in the could-have-been, where the Crimean war still rages, dodos are regenerated in home-cloning kits and everyone is deeply disappointed by the ending of Jane Eyre. In this world there are no jet-liners or computers, but there are policemen who can travel across time, a Welsh republic, a great interest in all things literary - and a woman called Thursday Next. 

In this utterly original and wonderfully funny first novel, Fforde has created a fiesty, loveable heroine and a plot of such richness and ingenuity that it will take your breath away.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: Not so very long ago at all, a discussion was had, here in the comments to an instalment of The BoSS, wherein I was crestfallen to find Jasper Fforde's latest - One of Our Thursdays is Missing - was in fact book six in an ongoing series of which, predictably, I knew nothing.

Well, it looks like some kind soul heard my pleas! For lo, copies of the first four books of the Thursday Next series winged their way to me, to be digested at my leisure. Which they resolutely will be. I simply adored Shades of Grey, as those of you who read the review there will know. So be sure there's sure to be more Fforde-inspired fun here on TSS in the future.

On a side note, is this the oldest book I've ever received for review? I think it might be...


That's it for this week. But never fear: the nearly-new and probably only moderately improved BoSS will be back at the same bat-time next week, in the same bat-place. See you then!

Ah, but wait: because no, it won't. In fact the BoSS will be back for more books received goodness tomorrow. Be sure to check back in!


  1. I've not read 'No Way Down' but 'One Mountain, Thousand Summits' by Frederick Wilkinson deals with the same events but was said to be a better book in 'Climb' magazine by the rather excellent mountaineer and journalist Ed Douglas. I'd suggest thinking about taking a look at that one instead. Wilkinson is a climber and mountaineer himself and so brings an understanding to the material that Bowley couldn't. It is quite a complicated story though, much more so than 'Into Thin Air' (which has been heavily criticised for it's demonisation of climber Anatoli Bouekereev) or 'Touching the Void'. For a really intense book in the 'Touching the Void' mold I'd suggest 'Beyond the Mountain' by Steve House. Sorry to waffle on - very much enjoy your blog!

  2. No apologies necessary, David - I appreciate you taking the time. You mention a couple of books I think I'll have to look into, in fact.

    And you raise an interesting question. When it comes to specialist non-fiction like this, I wonder: better than an established author narrates the mountaineering story in question, or a bona fide mountaineer with little experience as a storyteller?

    Not that that's the case with Frederick Wilkinson, so far as I can see. Something of a quandary all the same.

  3. I read an ARC of No Way Down and reviewed it for Amazon. I've included some of mu comments from that post below:

    Overall, I really enjoyed this book but one can't help comparing it to 'Into Thin Air', Jon Krakauer's account of similar events that occurred on Everest ten years earlier. While Krakauer was an experienced climber who actually participated in the events he chronicled, Bowley tells us up front that he is not a climber and has difficulty understanding why anybody would want to be. As a result, his narration of the events on K2 and not nearly as robust as Krakauer's and one occasionally gets the impression that his grasp of the technical aspects of climbing is tenuous at best.

    What Bowley does do well is his description of the climbers' thoughts and actions when the worst happens and life hangs in the balance. While he does exercise some literary license by describing what's going on in the heads of climbers who clearly never had the opportunity to tell anyone what they were thinking, Bowley still presents us with a chronicle that keeps the reader hooked and still manages to honor the memories of those who perished.