Sunday, 3 April 2011

Books Received | The BoSS for 03/04/11

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? Excellent. Let's get on with it, then.

After last week's high, the good stuff just keeps on coming. We're looking at at least two sure things this week: The Company Man and Fenrir - both the sophomore efforts of authors returning from sterling debuts I just so happened to read right around this time last year - and add to that an interesting new series the trend-setters at Gollancz are boldly proclaiming "The Best Debut Fantasy of 2011."

We're in for a fun one, I imagine. :)


The Company Man
by Robert Jackson Bennett

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 07/04/11
by Orbit

Review Priority
5 (A Sure Thing)

The Blurb: A trolley car pulls into the station with eleven dead bodies inside. Four minutes before, the factory workers were seen boarding at the previous station. Now, all are dead. And all of them are union.

The year is 1919. The McNaughton Corporation is the pinnacle of American industry. They built airships that crossed the seas. Guns that won the Great War. And above all, they built Evesden: the city of tomorrow, dominated by the immense McNaughton Tower.

But something is rotten at the heart of Evesden, and one man must uncover its dark secret before it all goes up in flames. Caught between the union and the company, between the police and the victims, McNaughton investigator Cyril Hayes must find the truth behind the city of the future. Because if he doesn't... he's history.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: No one debut impressed me more last year than Mr Shivers - in Top of the Scots I went so far as to name it the second-best book of 2010 - and though Robert Jackson Bennett seems to be busy shuffling and muttering on his blog about babies and his next novel after this, my attention is quite fixed upon the prospect of The Company Man. I had a word with Robert about this book after its announcement, in fact, which if this new release sounds at all up your street you should totally go ogle.

Meantime, I'll be reading this. And what more could a guy ask?

The Loner
by Quintin Jardine

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 31/03/11
by Headline

Review Priority
3 (We'll See)

The Blurb: Xavi Aislado is a gentle giant, half Spanish, half Scot, brought up in Edinburgh by his grandmother, Paloma Puig, a ferocious old lady whose grim brand of care sees him into his teens, until his father moves back to Spain, leaving him to grow up fast. His emergence into manhood is colourful, and eventful. After a short career as a professional footballer, he turns to journalism, and has a bloody introduction to the trade, as his first assignment ends in violent death. Inevitably, remorselessly, as his autobiography unfolds, Xavi’s life and his love become entwined with his work, and he is immersed in tragedy, loss and betrayal, going halfway round the world in search of a truth that may destroy him.

Quintin Jardine’s evocation of Xavi’s fated world, of the towering being that is Grandma Paloma, and of his love, the beautiful, wilful and hypnotic Grace Starshine, is an unforgettable story of a man riding a one-way train to oblivion. Will he escape, before it hits the buffers, full-speed?

A Scotsman's Thoughts: Is it utterly shameful that before now I didn't realise Quentin Jardine was a Scottish author? Perhaps. Well, very probably. In fact I'd probably have gone on with my head in the clouds had I not spotted the proclamation on the press sheet that The Loner is a standalone thriller. I'd have dismissed this out of hand otherwise, I'm ashamed to say.

As is, I might just give it a wee go; I'm all about rooting for the local talent. Though in fairness I don't know that Quintin Jardine really needs my support.

by M. D. Lachlan

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 21/07/11
by Gollancz

Review Priority
4 (Pretty Bloody Likely)

The Blurb: The Vikings are laying siege to Paris. As the houses on the banks of the Seine burn a debate rages in the Cathedral on the walled island of the city proper. The situation is hopeless. The Vikings want the Count's sister; in return they will spare the rest of the city. Can the Count really have ambitions to be Emperor of the Franks if he doesn't do everything he can to save his people? Can he call himself a man if he doesn't do everything he can to save his sister?

His conscience demands one thing, the demands of state another. The Count and the church are relying on the living saint, the blind and crippled Jehan of St Germain, to enlist the aid of God and resolve the situation for them. But the Vikings have their own gods. And outside their camp a terrifying brother and sister, priests of Odin, have their own agenda. An agenda of darkness and madness.

And in the shadows... a wolfman lurks.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: M. D. Lachlan, on the other hand, will be getting my support whether he likes it or not. Wolfsangel made for dense and often difficult reading, yet its cerebral mad God narrative has remained with me in a way few in truth do, so that I'll read and review Fenrir is pretty much a gimme.

For those of you who overlooked Wolfsangel, as I recall this sequel of sorts skips ahead several hundred years from the events chronicled therein -- so even if you missed Mr Lachlan's estimable first fantasy, there's no reason not to give Fenrir a fair shake. In fact I'd go so far as to recommend you do just that.

Contra Alliance: Shadows of the Past
by Tom Kolega

Vital Statistics
Published in the US
on 09/10/10
by State of the Art

Review Priority
3 (We'll See)

The Blurb: Amid spreading global unrest, a mysterious organization called The Revolution threatens international security. In response, NATO creates a secret strike force to track and destroy the rogue group. Since the mission is counter-revolutionary, the unit’s code name is CONTRA. Exposing The Revolution’s concealed origins, CONTRA uncovers stunning truths about the universe that will plunge the world into great, unknown dread.

Troy McBride - the CIA’s top Special Operations officer - reels from a controversial decommission as an improbable foe emerges, thrusting humanity into peril. Troy journeys from despair to reinstatement—and discovers along the way that his astounding heritage is Earth’s final hope. 

A Scotsman's Thoughts: Don't look so surprised!

No, I'll admit, you don't often see this sort of thing talked up hereabouts, but this is the result of another unsolicited enquiry for possible coverage on the blog -- done right.  From someone who'd done their homework, no less; perhaps even a reader. Who could say? Anyway, it behooves me to do my own double-checking... so. Know that book one of Contra Alliance has nothing at all to do with the old vidja games. Instead, it's the first instalment of "American's newest transmedia franchise," and "a testament to new book publishing models."

All this culled from the website, which I'd invite you to visit if Shadows of the Past looks like it might be your sort of thing. I don't know that it's mine, if I'm honest, but the review copy I have here is certainly beautifully produced and presented. Could be a bit of fun. Who knows?

Songs of the Earth
by Elspeth Cooper

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 16/06/11
by Gollancz

Review Priority
4 (Pretty Bloody Likely)

The Blurb: Gair is under a death sentence. He can hear music - music with power - and in the Holy City that means only one thing: he's a witch, and he's going to be burnt at the stake. Even if he could escape, the Church Knights and their witchfinder would be hot on his heels while his burgeoning power threatesn to tear him apart from within. There is no hope... none, but a secretive order, themselves persecuted almost to destruction. If Gair can escape, if he can master his own growing, dangerous abilities, if he can find the Guardians of the Veil, then maybe he will be safe. Or perhaps he'll discover that his fight has only just begun.

Songs of the Earth is the most compelling debut fantasy novel since Patrick Rothfuss first hit the shelves four years ago, with the stunning The Name of the Wind. Combining superb characterisation with an epic story, it is beautifully told and engaging from the very first word.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: Big words for book one of The Wild Hunt, which if you'd asked me a moment ago I'd have insisted was a fantasy series I'd been sent before. But apparently not!

If I'm honest, I'm more than a little skeptical of Songs of the Earth. There must be something to the ecstatic copy on the cover of the ARC I received, which proclaims a great many things, as above... and I've got good reason to trust in Gollancz - particularly in the editor who brought us The Name of the Wind - thus the thought is I'll give Songs of the Earth a shot, and see for myself. Certainly Wert thought it was alright: derivative but decently done, in the end. So.

Note that I'm saying nothing about that abysmal artwork.

Least, I'm really trying not to...


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!

On my plate during the week to come. Well, a bunch of stuff. It hardly bears saying I'll be gobbling up The Company Man immediately. Thereafter, I'm thinking either Fenrir or Songs of the Earth -- though it's a fair while before either's actually out. Perhaps I'll take this opportunity to make a dent in the TBR tower instead...

And what will you be reading, good sirs and sirresses? :)


  1. Ooh, there are some nice ones in there. Songs of the Earth looks particularly interesting to me, being the fantasy nerd that I am!

    Myself, I'm currently reading my way through Cory Doctorow's "For the Win" and K J Parker's "The Hammer." Good books, both of them!

  2. Oh, I adored The Hammer. Got to be one of my favourite books of the year so far. For the Win, on the other hand... it's been a surprise, how little I've heard of it after all the fuss over Little Brother.

    I'd love to hear your thoughts on the Cory Doctorow as soon as you're done with it, Ria.

  3. I have been disappointed by The Unremembered and that has an impact on my book choices. I'm indecisive whether to give Songs of the Earth a try or not. I wait for reviews ....

    I'm currently reading
    - First Rider's Call by Kristen Britain
    - Thirteen Years Later by Jasper Kent
    - Shameless Wonders by A P Stephens
    - A Game of Thrones by George R R Martin (reread)

    All these books have been published before 2011.

  4. I'm right there with you as regards The Unremembered, Edi: twice I tried to get into it. I gave up on the first occasion 50 pages in, and on the second after almost 200. Peter seems a lovely bloke, and there's certainly potential, but I really struggle to see why The Unremembered is being positioned as such an important fantasy novel. Did you get any farther through than I? Does it get any better? I mean, they say the third time's the charm...

    I might just join you on that reread of A Game of Thrones, too! :)

  5. I am not surprised about The Unremembered. There was nothing about it that made me think it'd be anything more than standard-fare fantasy (though it did have lovely cover art).

    Mr. Shivers was a great book, so I am looking forward to The Company Man.

    And, I just accepted the offered Contra Alliance book after a few weeks of the inquiry sitting in my inbox.

  6. Niall, to be honest if a book can't convince me within maximum 100 pages the first time I read it then I don't try it again. I'm not willing to waste my time with tons of unread books on my shelf.

    I'm really interested in your opinion about Songs of the Earth.