Sunday, 12 June 2011

Books Received | The BoSS for 12/06/11

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.

Superheroes, super-volcanoes, super-Scots and super zombie bloggers make for an altogether super week of books received.

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Queen of Kings
by Maria Dahvana Headley


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

Review Priority
5 (A Sure Thing)

The Blurb: What if Cleopatra didn’t die in 30 BC alongside her beloved Mark Antony? What if she couldn’t die? What if she became immortal? Queen of Kings is the first instalment in an epic, epoch-spanning story of one woman’s clash with the Roman Empire and the gods of Egypt in a quest to save everything she holds dear.

As Octavian Caesar (later Augustus) and his legions march into Alexandria, Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, summons Sekhmet, the goddess of Death and Destruction, in a desperate attempt to resurrect her husband, who has died by his own hand, and save her kingdom. But this deity demands something in return: Cleopatra's soul. Against her will, Egypt's queen becomes a blood-craving, shape-shifting immortal: a not-quite-human manifestation of a goddess who seeks to destroy the world. Battling to preserve something of her humanity, Cleopatra pursues Octavian back to Rome - she desires revenge, she yearns for her children - and she craves blood...

It is a dangerous journey she must make. She will confront witches, mythic monsters, the gods of ancient Greece and Rome, and her own, warring nature. She will kill but she will also find mercy. She will raise an extraordinary army to fight her enemies, and she will see her beloved Antony again. But to save him from the endless torment of Hades, she must make a devastating sacrifice.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: I'm sorry, I couldn't help myself - BoSS or no BoSS, I've started in on Queen of Kings already. A three-headed hybrid of historical fiction, dark fantasy and romance, it's not my usual sort of novel at all. So why couldn't I resist it?

Well, Neil Gaiman is why - mostly. As I understand it, he rarely blurbs a book, so whenever he does, I sit up to take note.

...also, the pretty lady on the front cover was looking at me.

But let's say Neil Gaiman was the reason for the season and leave it at that. :)


Deadline
by Mira Grant


Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 02/06/11
by Orbit

Review Priority
4 (Pretty Bloody Likely)

The Blurb: Shaun Mason is a man without a mission. Not even running the news organisation he built with his sister has the same urgency as it used to. Playing with dead things just doesn't seem as fun when you've lost as much as he has. But when a researcher from the Centre for Disease Control fakes her own death and appears on his doorstep with a ravenous pack of zombies in tow, Shaun's relieved to find a new purpose in life. Because this researcher comes bearing news: the monster who attacked them may be destroyed, but the conspiracy is far from dead. Now, Shaun hits the road to find what truth can be found at the end of a shotgun.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: For a book about bloggers and zombies on the campaign trail, Feed made for damned compelling and very relevant reading - to my and much of the community's surprise, it seems. In fact so much so that there was something of an outcry from those readers who had overlooked it based on appearances when Feed was nominated for a series of awards.

So... what? All genres are equal, except some genres are more equal than others, is it?

But I digress. I had a whale of a time with Feed in any event - my review went up just a few days ago - and without giving too much away, the shocking events of its last chapters left me wondering how the story could possibly go on. From the sounds of Deadline's blurb, much changed is how. I can hardly wait to see how it all pans out, so next time there's a nice day - where did all the nice days go, anyway? - this is the book I'm taking out into the garden with me.


After the Golden Age
by Carrie Vaughn


Vital Statistics
Published in the US
on 12/04/11
by Tor

Review Priority
3 (We'll See)

The Blurb: Can an accountant defeat a supervillain? Celia West, only daughter of the heroic leaders of the superpowered Olympiad, has spent the past few years estranged from her parents and their high-powered lifestyle. She’s had enough of masks and heroics, and wants only to live her own quiet life out from under the shadow of West Plaza and her rich and famous parents.

Then she is called into her boss’ office and told that as the city’s top forensic accountant, Celia is the best chance the prosecution has to catch notorious supervillain the Destructor for tax fraud. In the course of the trial, Celia’s troubled past comes to light and family secrets are revealed as the rift between Celia and her parents grows deeper. Cut off from friends and family, Celia must come to terms with the fact that she might just be Commerce City’s only hope.

This all-new and moving story of love, family, and sacrifice is an homage to Golden Age comics that no fan will want to miss.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: If the weather holds for long enough, After the Golden Age is the next novel I'll be sharing a sun-chair with, after Deadline. For various reasons I opted not to get involved in the Kitty Norville novels, but I'd certainly like to see if Carrie Vaughn's work is to my tastes, so this standalone could be the ideal opportunity for me to wet the ol' whistle.

That said, though I don't mean to let them sway me, the comments on Amazon page - including such gems as "serviceable," "mediocre" and "not so incredible" -  don't bode terribly well for After the Golden Age.

But hey, it has superheroes! What could possibly go wrong? :P


The Echo Chamber
by Luke Williams



Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 05/05/11
by Hamish Hamilton

Review Priority
4 (Pretty Bloody Likely)

The Blurb: Enter the world of Evie Steppman, born into the dying days of the British Empire in Nigeria. It’s loud and cacophonous. Why? Because Evie can hear things no one else can. Although she’s too young to understand all the sounds she takes in, she hoards them in a vast internal sonic archive.

Today, alone in an attic in Scotland, Evie’s powers of hearing are starting to fade, and she must write her story before it disintegrates into a meaningless din. But the attic itself is not as quiet as she hoped. The scratching of mice, the hum of traffic, the tic-toc of a pocket watch and countless other sounds merge with the noises of Evie’s past: her time in the womb, her childhood in Nigeria, her travels across America with her lover...

A Scotsman's Thoughts: Warning! Scottish novel alert! Warning! Scottish novel alert!

Though you know, The Echo Chamber sounds superb irrespective of its country of origin. Perhaps deeply literary fiction such as this Luke Williams makes for an... an odd counterpoint to the likes of Deadline and Queen of Kings, but what can I say? I don't discriminate. I imagine The Echo Chamber will be a challenging read; with a little luck, it'll be rewarding in equal measure. Fingers crossed for that.


All the Lives He Led
by Frederik Pohl


Vital Statistics
Published in the US
on 12/04/11
by Tor

Review Priority
3 (We'll See)

The Blurb: When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. it gave so little warning that Pompeiians were caught unawares, and many bodies were preserved in volcanic ash. Two thousand years later, in 2079, Pompeii is a popular theme park eagerly anticipating Il Giubeleo, the Jubilee celebration of the great anniversary. But Vesuvius is still capable of erupting, and even more threatening are terrorists who want to use the occasion to draw attention to their cause by creating a huge disaster. As the fateful day draws near, people from all over the world - workers, tourists, terrorists - caught in the shadow of the volcano will grapple with upheaval both natural and political.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: You might recall from the other week that I really rather enjoyed Man Plus. Sure, it was silly Mars SF, and I don't know that it entirely deserves its status as a classic, but if profundity was beyond its reach, fun certainly was not, and we need be careful, I think - as per my digression on Deadline earlier - not to undervalue fun.

However, the muted response with which All the Lives He Led has met leaves me a little dubious about the latest Frederik Pohl. At the very least it'll be interesting, after reading Man Plus and this in such quick succession, to see how Pohl has - or has not - grown as an author in the space of--- what? Nearly 40 years?

***

Now then. Back to vampire Cleopatra!

Thereafter, well... it all depends, curiously enough, on the weather. See, if the sun cares to put his hat on, Deadline will be next up, but if the skies stay grey, I'm thinking to spend some quality time with The Echo Chamber.

How about you guys? Do you ever find your reading patterns influenced by Mother Nature and her damned contrary ways?

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