Sunday, 21 August 2011

Books Received | The BoSS for 21/08/11

In The BoSS this week: creepy comedy... skinned knees and science fiction... vampires do Russia -- fingers crossed the third time's the charm... there's some obligatory burbling about Bioshock, because I get 5% every time I mention it.. and Dan 'divisive' Simmons strikes again!

Now let us do this thing.


by Dan Simmons

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 07/07/11
by Quercus

Review Priority
5 (A Sure Thing)

The Blurb: America, 2036: a wasteland in economic ruin. Terrorism and ultra-violence plague a once powerful society, whose only escape is to numb itself on flashback - a euphoric yet cripplingly addictive drug that allows its users to re-visit their happier, past experiences. 

Ex-cop Nick Bottom is about to receive a proposition. Flashback dependency has taken his badge, his reputation, and the love of his son. All he has left are the flash-induced memories of his beloved wife, Dara, taken from him in a tragic car accident. 

Now powerful magnate Hiroshi Nakamura needs Bottom's services, and, in particular, his memories. As head of the original investigation into the murder of Nakamura's son - an unsolved and seemingly impossible mystery - Bottom's flashbacks now, six years later, hold the key to solving what was the toughest case of his career. 

But as Nick delves deeper, the harder it becomes to trust those around him. And when he uncovers a connection to Dara's death, it is not only Hiroshi Nakamura who wants answers.

My Thoughts: Dan Simmons!

I am a Dan Simmons fan. Unashamedly -- though going by the early reaction to Flashback on Amazon there are at least two people who've made a hobby of systematically bashing the old soul. Well, the hell with 'em. I loved The Terror, kind of dug Drood, and that's not even to speak of any of Simmons' awesome genre books from way back when. I missed Black Hills though; no idea how that happened. Must have been busy, mustn't I? :P

Anyway, Flashback sounds like pure action sf - Richard Morgan-esque even - so absolutely the stuff of a review on The Speculative Scotsman. Thus, there will be one.

666 Charing Cross Road
by Paul Magrs

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 27/10/11
by Headline Review

Review Priority
4 (Pretty Bloody Likely)

The Blurb: From olde London Town to the juicy heart of the Big Apple, something is waiting to bite...

In a Manhattan gallery, a strange, undead woman, who's been lost for centuries, is found in a basement and becomes the centrepiece of Shelley's new museum show. Nicknamed Bessie, the Scottish Bride, she becomes an overnight celebrity as Christmas approaches. 
From the dusty vaults beneath the famed bookshops in Charing Cross Road, Shelley's bibliophile aunt Liza receives crumbling volumes by post, while her friend Jack prefers brand-new books and his brand-new lover. When a small leather-bound book of spells arrives, Liza finds it repellent. But its arcane magic brings Bessie to life, and enthrals Shelley's posh boyfriend Daniel - literally. It contains the quintessence of evil in the form of a dark bloodstain marking several pages: vampire blood.

As Daniel's power grows, everyone's lives are infected. Soon the vicious vampire infestation rife in NYC threatens to spread to London - and only the Scottish Bride and her new friends can stop it.

My Thoughts: Hmm. Now here's an author I've heard a bunch about - dude seems to have a lot of fans around and about the genre blogosphere, at least - and never yet read... surprise surprise.

Well, I can certainly do something about that; with such a long time between now and the release of 666 Charing Cross Road, just in time for All Hallow's in fact - though I'm sure it'll have come and gone in the blink of an eye, as ever - I expect my curiosity about Mr. Magrs will finally get the better of me this year.

But I wonder... am I entirely off-base, expecting something vaguely Neil Gaiman-y?

The Third Section
by Jasper Kent
Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 18/08/11
by Bantam Press

Review Priority
3 (We'll See)

The Blurb: Russia, 1855.

After forty years of peace in Europe, war rages. In the Crimea, the city of Sevastopol is besieged. In the north, Saint Petersburg is blockaded. But in Moscow there is one who needs only to sit and wait – wait for the death of an aging tsar, and for the curse upon his blood to be passed to a new generation.

As their country grows weaker, a man and a woman - unaware of the hidden ties that bind them - must come to terms with their shared legacy. In Moscow, Tamara Valentinovna Komarova uncovers a brutal murder and discovers that it not the first in a sequence of similar crimes, merely the latest, carried out by a killer who has stalked the city since 1812.

And in Sevastopol, Dmitry Alekseevich Danilov faces not only the guns of the combined armies of Britain and France, but must also make a stand against creatures that his father had thought buried beneath the earth, thirty years before..

My Thoughts: You know, I enjoyed Twelve and Thirteen Years Later alright - my reviews are here and here, respectively - but I didn't really love either novel. I kept getting the sense that the best of this series was yet to come; that it was constantly building and climbing and rising but never really going anywhere I cared to accompany it. And alas, Ser Robert Thompson of Fantasy Book Critic found The Third Section to be the weakest of the three books of Jasper Kent's projected quintet so far.

I'll probably still give it a look, though, when I've a little more time on my hands. I mean, I've come this far, haven't I?

Which raises an interesting question: how far does such inertia tend to carry you all?

Me, if I start something, I'll very likely finish it, even if I'm not enjoying it one whit. It's a rare occasion to catch me giving up the ghost on anything. Much though I often wish it were otherwise...

By Light Alone
by Adam Roberts

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 18/08/11
by Gollancz

Review Priority
4 (Pretty Bloody Likely)

The Blurb: In a world where we have been genetically engineered so that we can photosynthesise sunlight with our hair hunger is a thing of the past, food an indulgence. The poor grow their hair, the rich affect baldness and flaunt their wealth by still eating. But other hungers remain...

The young daughter of an affluent New York family is kidnapped. The ransom demands are refused. Years later a young women arrives at the family home claiming to be their long lost daughter. She has changed so much, she has lived on light, can anyone be sure that she has come home?

Adam Roberts' new novel is yet another amazing melding of startling ideas and beautiful prose. Set in a New York of the future it nevertheless has echoes of a Fitzgeraldesque affluence and art-deco style. It charts his further progress as one of the most important writers of his generation.

My Thoughts: The first thing that drew me to By Light Alone - beyond the name on the front cover, and that's as much as it would have taken otherwise - was that cover art. Beautiful, no? I saw it last year, immediately thought of the propaganda posters from Bioshock, and from then on in, I was in.

Reading over the synopsis now... if anything my enthusiasm for By Light Alone has been redoubled. Sounds a quieter, simpler affair than my time with New Model Army had led me to expect -- so that's nice. Then again, with Adam Roberts, as per my rather limited experience of his work, you never really know...

by T. C. McCarthy

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

Review Priority
3 (We'll See)

The Blurb: A hundred years from now, Russia and the USA are at odds again. This time, the cold war has gone hot. Heavily armoured soldiers battle genetically engineered troops hundreds of meters below the icy, mineral rich mountains of Kazakhstan. War is Oscar Wendell's ticket to greatness. A reporter for the Stars and Stripes, he has the only one way ticket to the front lines. The front smells of blood and fire and death - it smells like a Pulitzer. But Kaz changes people and the chaos of war feels a bit too much like home. Hooked on a dangerous cocktail of drugs and adrenaline, Oscar starts down a dark road that he won't be able to turn back from.

My Thoughts: Now that sounds alright - you know, not necessarily all that, but alright - but I've heard next to nothing about Germline, and I'll be honest... that's bit of a silly name for a science fiction novel, isn't it?

But what do I know? Hell, maybe Germline is something far edgier than an ever-so-slight misspelling of the stuff my mum used to make me rub on my shins after a day's courageous adventuring on my wee BMX. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it probably is. So, uh... fingers crossed.


On which note, the show's over for this week, folks -- sorry!

But don't anybody fret terribly. In fact, there might even be reason for you BoSS die-hards to celebrate, because next weekend I'm thinking we'll have to do an edition a day to get ahead of all these lovely books and proofs.

Meantime, who's been reading what?

I do want to know, you know. I get that I ask every week, pretty much, but I really, truly do. Every week, pretty much! :)


  1. Your post catches me exactly in one of those rare, rare moments - between books - and that delightful question of what to read next. Do I obey duty (and therefore one of the ARCs I've received from various publishers) or do I obey mood and go for something swift and fun? Anyhoo, just come to the end of The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale and, as I said by email, I really want you to read this book :-)

  2. Between books... imagine!

    I do distantly recall how pleasant a feeling that once was, but these days I seem to ever be in the middle of multiple books, largely so that there's something for me to read whatever my mood from one night to another... and I rarely come to the end of them all at the same time. But what a happy thought! :)

    I think you should read what you please, Amanda. Just this once. My habit has been to alternate between those books I feel obliged to cover, in order of urgency and/or interest, and then those I've been eyeballing from afar, often for far too long. But then, things rarely pan out that way, do they?

    Speaking of things panning out, I did actually lay hands on a copy of the Benjamin Hale this week, though it won't make The BoSS for a bit yet; I'm so behind it's silly. I give you my solemn vow, Amanda: I will read it! I've rarely gone wrong on your recommendations, after all.

    It could be my bit of fun once I'm done with Flashback, perhaps...

  3. Am currently plowing through ADWD after a reread of the previous 4 novels. Haven't read them since AFFC was released back in 2005 and am really enjoying it - loved the re-read and am about 20% through the massive tome that ADWD is... but I do like em big, I do ;-)

  4. Actually I had heard that about you, Marduk! ;)

    Been really keen to spend a couple of weeks with Mr Martin's series since A Game of Thrones began on HBO months ago, but no dice so far. It's just incredibly hard to beg off for long enough to give them the attention I don't doubt that they deserve; they, and of course the Malazan books too.

    One day, though... least I dearly hope so.

  5. Mate, if you find the time for both/either series, then I doubt you will be disappointed. Me, I prefer the Malazan series but both excel at what they do

  6. OK - I'll keep my fingers crossed too. :)