Sunday, 20 March 2011

Books Received | The BoSS for 20/03/11

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.

And let's pretend The BoSS is back so soon by popular demand, rather than because I'd managed to get myself hopelessly behind... again.

No messing about today, anyway. If you thought some of yesterday's books were exciting, just take a look at the encore assortment I have for you all today...


The Fallen Blade
by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 03/02/11
by Orbit

Review Priority
4 (Pretty Bloody Likely)

The Blurb: Venice, 1407. The city is at the height of its powers. In theory, Duke Marco commands, but Marco is a simpleton so his aunt and uncle rule in his stead. They seem all powerful, yet live in fear of assassins better than their own. On the night their world changes, Marco's young cousin prays in the family chapel for deliverance from a forced marriage. It is her misfortune to be alone when Mamluk pirates break in to abduct her - an act that will ultimately trigger war.

Elsewhere Atilo, the Duke's chief assassin, cuts a man's throat. Hearing a noise, he turns back to find a boy drinking from the victim's wound. The speed with which the angel-faced boy dodges his dagger and scales a wall stuns Atilo. He knows then he must hunt him. Not to kill him, but because he's finally found what he thought was impossible - someone fit to be his apprentice.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: I'm reading The Fallen Blade right now. Well, not right now... you know what I mean.

I'll be honest: this book didn't immediately appeal to me. In fact, for its first hundred pages I was questioning certain supposed wisdom, because the only reason former SF author Jon Courtney Grimwood's first fantasy novel got a look-in on the TBR tower was a glowing review on Pornokitsch.

Turns out Jared had a point. I should have known, really. After a deeply distracted start, suddenly, mercilesslyThe Fallen Blade got good. The plan, as it stands, is to report back on my progress with it within the week.

Theta Head
by Greg Dawe

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 07/06/10
by Caffeine Nights

Review Priority
3 (We'll See)

The Blurb: Stark naked consciousness is exposed like a raw nerve as Georgia's search for her missing boyfriend, Ben, takes her from London through Asia. On route she discovers that Ben has been using a neuroscience technology - one that offers the potential of complete liberation to anyone who uses it

It is a technology Georgia must embrace if she is to find Ben, but one that is such an intimate catalyst for change Georgia isn't sure she can handle the side of herself it uncovers. Only her desire to find Ben drives her on; a force which leads her to the Theta Heads and a choice: continue using the technology to hack away at her layers of mental static and find the real reason he disappeared, or let go and face a future without him.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: Every couple of days, a form letter arrives in my inbox. "Dear [Sir/Madam]," it says. "Would you care to review my book on your website [The Speculative Scotsman]?"

I don't often take up the offers of books that come through the wire that way; more often  than not I'm so insulted whoever-it-is hasn't bothered to more than glance at the blog, the notion begins and ends there. But Theta Head sounded interesting - sounds interesting - and though the formatting in the copy that came through the mail this week leaves something to be desired, a quick skim of the first chapter still hasn't dissuaded me.

Which just goes to show, small press publishers: take a little time to tailor your enquiries to my interests, and my audience's, and you stand as much a chance as anything from Tor or Orbit.

Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy 2
edited by William K. Schafer

Vital Statistics
Published in the US
on 30/04/11
by Subterranean Press

Review Priority

The Blurb: Published in 2008 to widespread critical and popular acclaim, Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy provided a unique showcase for some of our finest practitioners of dark, disturbing fiction. This much anticipated second volume more than meets the standards set by its predecessor, offering a diverse assortment of stories guaranteed to delight, unsettle, and enthrall. Volume two proper is a full 20,000 words longer than the first installment in the series.

This stellar collection leads off with Joe Hill's dazzling "Wolverton Station," in which a predatory businessman travels to England, and to a primal confrontation he could never have imagined. Elsewhere, a number of contributors revisit familiar, well-established themes and settings. Glen Cook's "Smelling Danger" gives us a brand new chapter in the long-running annals of The Black Company. "The Passion of Mother Vajpai" is a story of exotic and erotic initiation set against the backdrop of Jay Lake's novel Green. Kelley Armstrong re-enters the Otherworld with "Chivalrous," the account of a devious and long-delayed act of revenge.

And there's more, much more, including a hallucinatory portrait of guilt, angst, and drug-fueled violence by Caitlin R. Kiernan, and an affecting reflection on love, death, and acceptance by Steven R. Boyett. These stories, together with first-rate work by the likes of K. J. Parker and Norman Partridge, offer provocative, sometimes visceral entertainment. As this rich, rewarding volume amply demonstrates, the tale of dark fantasy is alive and thriving, and continues to develop in new and unexpected ways.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: Kelley Armstrong I could take or leave. Jay Lake and Glen Cook I have so little experience that their inclusion in Subterranean Tales of Dark Fantasy 2 hardly moves me one way or the other. Joe Hill, however... I'm all about the Joe Hill.

And that isn't even to mention K. J. Parker, whose short fiction lately astonished me in the form of "A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong" - Short Fiction Cornered here - nor Caitlin R. Kiernan, whose work I've been an admirer of since Silk made such an impression on me in my years as an angsty sprog.

In any event, I'll be reviewing the second iteration of Subterranean Tales of Dark Fantasy for Strange Horizons, at some point. I only mention it here because from what I've read, having dipped in and out, it's wonderful enough I could well cajole a couple more Short Fiction Corners from it for TSS, too.

by A. D. Miller

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 01/01/11
by Atlantic Books

Review Priority
3 (We'll See)

The Blurb: A. D. Miller's Snowdrops is an intensely riveting psychological drama that unfolds over the course of one Moscow winter, as a young Englishman's moral compass is spun by the seductive opportunities revealed to him by a new Russia: a land of hedonism and desperation, corruption and kindness, magical dachas and debauched nightclubs; a place where secrets - and corpses - come to light only when the deep snows start to thaw - Snowdrops is a chilling story of love and moral freefall: of the corruption, by a corrupt society, of a corruptible young man. It is taut, intense and has a momentum as irresistible to the reader as the moral danger that first enchants, then threatens to overwhelm, its narrator.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: This elegant volume caught my eye during a rare trip to an Actual Bookstore (!) a few months ago, as I recall, so the review copy Atlantic sent along was a right treat. Snowdrops sounds like a fantastically atmospheric thriller, and I'm hoping to get to it just as soon as I've fried a few bigger fish.

Speaking of which...

The Wise Man's Fear
by Patrick Rothfuss

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

Review Priority
4 (Pretty Bloody Likely)

The Blurb: My name is Kvothe.

I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

You may have heard of me.

So begins the tale of a hero told from his own point of view - a story unequalled in fantasy literature. In The Wise Man's Fear, Kvothe takes his first steps on the path of the hero and learns how difficult life can be when a man becomes a legend in his own time.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: You must be wondering why in the world The Wise Man's Fear is all the way down here -- and with a review priority anything less than immediate, at that. Well. I'm a little late to the party, aren't I? Most everyone else has already had their say about the much ballyhooed-about follow-up to The Name of the Wind, and when that sort of blogger blitz happens, I like to take a moment... let the fuss die down some, while my preconceptions and expectations diminish with a little distance... and then come to the thing in question on my own terms.

Thus, be sure I'll publish a something about The Wise Man's Fear, at some point, for though much about the first third of The Name of the Wind struck me as rather amateurish, by the final curtain call I was well and truly won over -- as indeed every Pat Rothfuss reader  I've heard of was. Just don't expect a review for a while yet, is what I'm saying.


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!

Well then. That's that. Two bags of awe-inspiring speculative swag in two days, and I've such a fine bunch of books to choose from I can't say with any real certainty what I'll be selecting from amongst them to read next. First, to power through the second half of The Fallen Blade, and then... probably The Kings of Eternity, or The Enterprise of Death? We'll see soon enough.

But what are you all reading at the moment? Am I to take it everyone's still occupied with a certain Kingkiller?


  1. Like you, I'm saving Rothfuss for later, after the inital blitz has died down.
    Currently devouring Alan Campbell's SEA OF GHOSTS - which, I have to say, I'm absolutely loving. Didn't read his Deepgate Codex, but this is wonderfully written in my opinion.

  2. I've got a copy of The Fallen Blade that I'm looking forward to starting, as it seems interesting and I've heard some good things about it. I'm looking forward also to reading Wise Man's Fear, but I've got to finally read Name of the Wind first!

  3. Sea of Ghosts is certainly Campbell's greatest achievement to date, and so much fun - enjoy, Stefan!

    Ria: you've certainly got your work cut out for you. But it's good, hearty work. For all of 400 pages or so I couldn't see what all the fuss about Rothfuss was about, when I first sat down with The Name of the Wind. Then I did. :)