Sunday, 7 August 2011

Books Received | The BoSS for 07/08/11

In The BoSS this week: Glasgows and embargoes... Cowboys & Aliens... festivals in Edinburgh, wormholes by way of an imaginary archipelago, and a Hyddenworld rather more hidden in point of fact than I'd expected it to be. All that, and more!

So shall we? :)


The Islanders
by Christopher Priest

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 22/09/11
by Gollancz

Review Priority
5 (A Sure Thing)

The Blurb: A tale of murder, artistic rivalry and literary trickery; a chinese puzzle of a novel where nothing is quite what it seems; a narrator whose agenda is artful and subtle; a narrative that pulls you in and plays an elegant game with you.

The Dream Archipelago is a vast network of islands. The names of the islands are different depending on who you talk to, their very locations seem to twist and shift. Some islands have been sculpted into vast musical instruments, others are home to lethal creatures, others the playground for high society. Hot winds blow across the archipelago and a war fought between two distant continents is played out across its waters.

The Islanders serves both as an untrustworthy but enticing guide to the islands, an intriguing, multi-layered tale of a murder and the suspect legacy of its appealing but definitely untrustworthy narrator. It shows Christopher Priest at the height of his powers and illustrates why he has remained one of the country's most prized novelists.

My Thoughts: Why just the other week I was going on about how of all the books still to come this year - of all those books I know of, that is - The Islanders is right up there with only IQ84, the new novel by Haruki Murakami, in terms of the sheer excitement it inspires in me... and as if by magic, along comes an early review copy!

Well, I've never been one to look a gift-horse in the mouth, and today of all days is not the day to start, so. I've already begun my tour around the Dream Archipelago, and this faux travel guide has been an inimitable advocate of both the essential sights and the lesser-seen locales around and about these beautiful islands.

For the moment, I'll only say this about The Islanders: whatever you think it is, think again.

That is unless you think it's the first new novel by Christopher Priest in nine years. It is that. But also... so much more.

Boxer, Beetle
by Ned Beauman

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

Review Priority
4 (Pretty Bloody Likely)

The Blurb: This is a novel for people with breeding. 

Only people with the right genes and the wrong impulses will find its marriage of bold ideas and deplorable characters irresistible. It is a novel that engages the mind while satisfying those that crave the thrill of a chase. 

There are riots and sex. There is love and murder. There is Darwinism and Fascism, nightclubs, invented languages and the dangerous bravado of youth. And there are lots of beetles. 

It is clever. It is distinctive. It is entertaining. 

We hope you are too. 

My Thoughts: That blurb appeals so very much to me that it might as well be entitled "How to Sell Me On Your Book in 100 Words or Less." I positively can't wait to get started on Boxer, Beetle now, having heard that, where before I managed to miss this beauty entirely, when it was released back in March. But since it's come to my attention both because of a recommendation from a publicity chum entirely unrelated to the publicist pimping Boxer, Beetle - from another publisher entirely, in fact - and last but not least because I believe (though it seems I cannot confirm) that Ned Beauman is going to be sharing a stage with China Mieville at the Edinburgh International Book Festival later this month.

And this is homework I don't mind doing one whit, truth be told. Even if it turns out I needn't have! :)

Cowboys & Aliens
by Joan D. Vinge

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 04/08/11
by Tor

Review Priority
3 (We'll See)

The Blurb: 1875, New Mexico Territory. 

A stranger with no memory of his past stumbles into the hard desert town of Absolution. The only hint to his history is a mysterious shackle that encircles one wrist. What he discovers is that the people of Absolution don't welcome strangers, and nobody makes a move on its streets unless ordered to do so by the iron-fisted Colonel Dolarhyde. It's a town that lives in fear.

But Absolution is about to experience fear it can scarcely comprehend as the desolate city is attacked by marauders from the sky. Screaming down with breath-taking velocity and blinding lights to abduct the helpless one by one, these monsters challenge everything the residents have ever known.

Now, the stranger they rejected is their only hope for salvation. As this gunslinger slowly starts to remember who he is and where he's been, he realizes he holds a secret that could give the town a fighting chance against the alien force. With the help of the elusive traveller Ella, he pulls together a posse comprised of former opponents - townsfolk, Dolarhyde and his boys, outlaws and Apache warriors - all in danger of annihilation. United against a common enemy, they will prepare for an epic showdown for survival.

My Thoughts: Now here's a book that I've been wanting to talk about for weeks! In actual fact, I got my copy of Cowboys & Aliens near-enough a month ago, but it came with a notice asking that I not discuss it; that I avoid mentioning it in any way, shape or form, even - hence the late entry - till early August. So, my first embargo. And wasn't I a good puss about it?

Anyway, most of what I wanted to say about Cowboys & Aliens was that I wasn't to say anything about it, so with that said - finally! - what's left?

Well actually, not a bad looking book. In all honesty I'm more interested in the film than I am this novelisation thereof, but I've flicked through the first couple of chapters, and it seems very well written indeed -- rather a raising of the bar for tie-in novels, as I understand them. So maybe if I end up missing the movie at the cinema, and that's entirely likely, knowing me, I'll give Cowboys & Aliens a shot after all.

Final Days
by Gary Gibson

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 05/08/11
by Tor

Review Priority
4 (Pretty Bloody Likely)

The Blurb: It's 2235 and through the advent of wormhole technology more than a dozen interstellar colonies have been linked to Earth. But this new mode of transportation comes at a price... and there are risks. Saul Dumont knows this better than anyone. He's still trying to cope with the loss of the wormhole link to the Galileo system, which has stranded him on Earth far from his wife and child for the past several years. 

Only weeks away from the link with Galileo finally being re-established, he stumbles across a conspiracy to suppress the discovery of a second, alien network of wormholes which lead billions of years in the future. A covert expedition is sent to what is named Site 17 to investigate, but when an accident occurs and one of the expedition, Mitchell Stone, disappears – they realise that they are dealing with something far beyond their understanding.

When a second expedition travels via the wormholes to Earth in the near future of 2245 they discover a devastated, lifeless solar system - all except for one man, Mitchell Stone, recovered from an experimental cryogenics facility in the ruins of a lunar city.

Stone may be the only surviving witness to the coming destruction of the Earth. But why is he the only survivor - and once he's brought back to the present, is there any way he and Saul can prevent the destruction that's coming?

My Thoughts: It gives me no pleasure to admit this, but I came in too late to The Shoal Sequence for it to really mean much with me. However, I saw enough nice things written about it that with the publication of Final Days - the first in a new series from the same fella - now imminent, I'm practically gagging to get started on some Gary Gibson.

At long last I might add, especially in light of the fact that the author's a good Glasgae man when he's not writing sci-fi. And it simply would not do to fail to turn up to support the home team when I'm able, now would it?

by William Horwood

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 05/08/11
by Macmillan

Review Priority
2 (It Could Happen)

The Blurb: A series of extraordinary events mark the beginning of summer: earth tremors ravage the Hyddenworld; Jack and Katherine have a child, Judith; and a mysterious gem is found near Brum. That same night, after decades of sleep, the Emperor of the Hyddenworld awakens...

Jack, born of the Hyddenworld, knows that he has a foot in each world but doesn’t wholly belong to either. Is he human, or hydden? Judith too is a child of two worlds, with her human mother and hydden father. She knows who she is supposed to be – the Shield Maiden, bearer of the gems and helper of humankind – but somehow this destiny seems too much to accept.

The discovered gem puts Brum firmly in the path of the Empire – Jack must travel back to the Hyddenworld. He knows that the four gems need to be reunited soon and that the Shield Maiden must be ready to wield them.

If Judith does not embark on her own great journey soon, or the gems can’t be found, then both the hydden world and the human will be threatened with extinction.

My Thoughts: Hmm.

It's telling, I think, that Macmillan have opted to almost entirely drop the franchise branding from this second volume in the series, which I had been given to understand would have been called Hyddenworld: Summer, to follow in the seasonal footsteps of Hyddenworld: Spring. That first book didn't have too many fans, after all, did it?

But I wonder - I can be a curious cat, too - would I be missing out on much if I opted to shelve Awakening for the time being, in favour of a trip down memory lane with an old favourite, or a chance to read one of the bazillion books I've been meaning to, all these years? Anyone out there a lover of all things Hyddenworld, for instance? I'd be happy to hear another perspective as regards this series than the nonchalance towards it I seem to have inherited.

How did that happen, anyway? I was, as I recall, reasonably excited to read Hyddenworld: Spring when it made The BoSS in early 2010. I guess maybe the myriad blogs I follow do influence my opinions after all...


On which ever-so-slightly worrying note, it's time once again to bid The BoSS adieu for another week. Till next time, then!

If you need me, meanwhile, try looking somewhere in or around the Dream Archipelago, or perhaps investigating the carapace of an improbably enlarged beetle. Or I suppose I could be dallying about quite the thing in the far-flung future -- with this week's books received, who's to say?

How about you guys? Read anything awesome since the last time we talked?


  1. These books seems interesting specially the following three. The Islanders, Boxer Beetle and Cowboys & Aliens.

  2. It would be a shame to just shelve Hyddenworld Awakening because it's getting very good reviews. Fantasy Book Review has made it their book of the month and I've read it and think it's great. Much better than the first book, which you don't need to read to enjoy this one.