Saturday, 16 July 2011

Books Received | The BoSS for 16/07/11

Bad BoSS! Naughty BoSS! Wicked, terrible, three-weeks-behind BoSS!

By way of setting the record straight, this weekend we're going to have a buy one get one free on books received. A loss leader, you might say... but for the fact that The BoSS has nothing to lose.

What am I talking about? I honestly haven't the foggiest. Let's just do this thing, before the rest of my marbles go missing...


Raising Stony Mayhall
by Daryl Gregory

Vital Statistics
Published in the US
on 28/06/11
by Del Rey

Review Priority
5 (A Sure Thing)

The Blurb: In 1968, after the first zombie outbreak, Wanda Mayhall and her three young daughters discover the body of a teenage mother during a snowstorm. Wrapped in the woman’s arms is a baby, stone-cold, not breathing, and without a pulse. But then his eyes open and look up at Wanda - and he begins to move.

The family hides the child - whom they name Stony - rather than turn him over to authorities that would destroy him. Against all scientific reason, the undead boy begins to grow. For years his adoptive mother and sisters manage to keep his existence a secret... until one terrifying night Stony is forced to run, whereupon he learns he is not the only living dead boy left in the world.

My Thoughts: If you've been reading for any length of time, you'll know I have a real soft spot for horror. So much so that, quite by accident, four of my five favourite books of last year turned out to be thus. How embarrassing for me! But I digress.

Nevertheless, it is, I'll admit, something of an oddity that I've not yet read any Daryl Gregory. Between Pandemonium and The Devil's Alphabet, the fellow's carved out quite a name for himself... so I come to his latest, Raising Stony Mayhall, with great expectations. A zombie book with a heart of gold - as much a comedy as horror, I'm given to understand - it's been getting some glowing reviews. Here's hoping they're on the money, because Raising Stony Mayhall is next up on my tower of books to be consumed, and after a few distinctly mediocre reads (names will be named in good time) I could really do with a nice, meaty treat.


by Connie Willis

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 01/06/11
by Gollancz

Review Priority
3 (We'll See)

The Blurb: The opening movement of a vast, absorbing two-volume novel that may well prove to be Connie Willis' masterpiece, Blackout marries the intricate mechanics of time travel to the gritty - and dangerous - realities of human history.

In Oxford, England in 2060, a trio of time traveling scholars prepares to depart for various corners of the Second World War. Their mission: to observe, from a safe vantage point, the day-to-day nature of life during this critical historical moment. As the action ranges from the evacuation of Dunkirk to the manor houses of rural England to the quotidian horrors of London during the Blitz, the objective nature of their roles gradually changes. Cut off from the safety net of the future and caught up in the chaotic events that make up history, they are forced to participate, in unexpected ways, in the defining events of the era. 

Blackout is an ingeniously constructed time travel novel and a grand entertainment. More than that, it is a moving, exquisitely detailed portrait of a world under siege, a world dominated by chaos, uncertainty, and the threat of imminent extinction. It is the rare sort of book that transcends the limits of genre, offering pleasure, insight, and illumination on virtually every page.

My Thoughts: Or is it? I really had hoped, but...

What with all the award nominations lavished upon Blackout and its companion novel All Clear since its publication in the States last year, I imagined that I'd gobble this baby right up when it finally hit hereabouts. However, virtually every review I've read of it since - most recently this piece by Adam Whitehead of The Wertzone - has cast the latest from Connie Willis as meandering and insubstantial, with glimmers (only ever glimmers) of greatness. And I'm left wondering if all the critical fervour is testament not so much to the strengths of this one book as it is a means of championing the author's impressive back-catalogue.

In any event, I hear Blackout ends at practically an arbitrary point - that it and All Clear are essentially one behemoth of a novel chopped into two - so I should wait till I have the second part on hand before starting in on the first.

Saying that, October seems a dreadful way away, and sometimes my curiosity knows no bounds...

Down the Mysterly River
by Bill Willingham

Vital Statistics
Published in the US
on 13/09/11
by Starscape

Review Priority
4 (Pretty Bloody Likely)

The Blurb: Complete with illustrations by Fables artist Mark Buckingham, Down the Mysterly River is the children’s book debut of Bill Willingham, creator of the #1 New York Times bestselling graphic novel series. It is a spirited, highly original tale of adventure, suspense, and everlasting friendship.

Max the Wolf is a top notch Boy Scout, an expert at orienteering and a master of being prepared. So it is a little odd that he suddenly finds himself, with no recollection of his immediate past, lost in an unfamiliar wood. Even odder still, he encounters a badger named Banderbrock, a black bear named Walden, and McTavish the Monster (who might also be an old barn cat) - all of whom talk - and who are as clueless as Max.

Before long, Max and his friends are on the run from a relentless group of hunters and their deadly hounds. Armed with powerful blue swords and known as the Blue Cutters, these hunters capture and change the very essence of their prey. For what purpose, Max can’t guess. But unless he can solve the mystery of the strange forested world he’s landed in, Max may find himself and his friends changed beyond recognition, lost in a lost world. 

My Thoughts: Now while Blackout by Connie Willis has me running circles around myself, wondering if and when and why, the idea of a nice, easy-going, uncomplicated summer read like Down the Mysterly River sounds just the ticket. Odds on that this'll be the book I take into the back garden with me the next time there's a nice sunny day and I have a couple hours to spare.

Plus, it could be the very thing to reignite my enthusiasm to get caught up on Fables...

Waking the Witch
by Kelley Armstrong

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 27/07/11
by Orbit

Review Priority
2 (It Could Happen)

The Blurb: Columbus is a small, fading town, untouched by the twenty-first century. But when three young women are found dead - victims of what appear to be ritual murders - things start to get very dark, and very dangerous...

Private investigator Savannah Levine can handle dark and dangerous. As the daughter of a black witch, she has a lot of power running through her veins, and she's not afraid to use it. But her arrival in Columbus has not gone unnoticed. Savannah may think she's tracking down a murderer, but could she be the killer's next target? Of course she could always ask her old friend (and half-demon) Adam Vasic for back up. But Savannah has her own - very personal - reasons for keeping Adam well away from Columbus. In any case, she can rely on her own powers.

Can't she?
My Thoughts: If you've been keeping up with my occasional adventures abroad, you might recall from my review of Subterranean Tales of Dark Fantasy 2 for Strange Horizons that I really rather enjoyed Kelley Armstrong's contribution to that anthology. If not - and I don't suppose I'd blame you - here's a quick refresher: "A twisty tale of two star-cross'd wolves and their respective packs, Armstrong's contemporary revenge fantasy condenses the exhausting hither and thither of so much paranormal romance into something with high stakes and a bona fide climax."

In fact Chivalrous proved such an unexpectedly pleasant surprise that I swore to myself I'd try at least one Kelley Armstrong novel before I shuffle off this mortal coil. But now I wonder: is the eleventh book of Women of Otherworld really such a great place for me to see what the series is all about?

If any of you guys and gals have read her work, I'd be keen to hear your thoughts. Is Waking the Witch half as standalone as is sounds? Or would I be better off beginning with another of the Otherworld novels?

Dead Water
by Simon Ings

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 15/08/11
by Corvus

Review Priority
5 (A Sure Thing)

The Blurb: Off the coast of Sri Lanka, a tramp steamer is seized by pirates. The captain has his wife and son aboard and knows that their survival depends on giving the pirates exactly what they want. But what can they possibly want with his worn-out ship and its cargo of junk?

On the island of Bali a tsunami washes up a rusting container. Inside, the mummified remains of a shipping magnate missing for 30 years and a hand-written journal of his last days locked within his aluminium tomb.

Through the dusty industrial towns of India's Great Trunk Road, a disgraced female detective tracks a criminal syndicate. Her life has been ruined, but she will have her revenge.

In a backstreet Mayfair office, an automated distress signal is picked up on a private satellite network. A ship is missing. A Dead Water ship.

Dead Water is the key to everything... a code name for a covert operation initiated during World War Two. But why is it unravelling now, and what will the consequences be?

My Thoughts: Oh, hell yes. This sounds tremendous.

Plus it's a genre novel come from Corvus, and if that isn't practically a guarantee of quality, I don't know what is. Expect a full review of Dead Water before this ship has sailed! :)


Well, that's the lot for today, but remember to stay tuned for another run-down of books received on The Speculative Scotsman tomorrow.

In fact, why don't we save the usual closing chit-chat till then?


  1. I think you'll enjoy the Daryl Gregory. I can't vouch for Raising Stony Mayhall, (yet), but I enjoyed both Pandemonium and Devil's Alphabet.

  2. Dead Water looks really interesting to me. I'm glad you mentioned it here or I would have never really noticed it. I'm excited to read your review.

  3. Try to resist reading Black Out until you have at least verified that All Clear is available from the local library. You will regret it if you finish Black Out and don't have a copy of All Clear at hand.

  4. But I should read it, Unkletom?

    I'm thinking I should. But then my eyes, as established, are far bigger than my belly. Though that's coming along nicely too. :)