Monday, 1 August 2011

Books Received | The BoSS for 01/08/11

What with the work I've been doing this past week to inject a little modern genre into the embarrassingly age-worn English curriculum - which you can expect more talk of just as soon as what's done is actually done - I haven't exactly been able to delve into any of the books and proofs that've come through for review on The Speculative Scotsman while I was AFK.

Wait, do the kids still say that? Never mind.

In any event, on first glance, this week's arrivals seem pretty disparate to me, with steampunk SF, once-free fantasy for young adults, crime courtesy of Sweden, an epic aside and Spanish time-travelling leading the charge.

Behold the mad bag of speculative swag! :)


Terminal World
by Alastair Reynolds

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 09/06/11
by Gollancz

Review Priority
4 (Pretty Bloody Likely)

The Blurb: Spearpoint, the last human city, is an atmosphere-piercing spire of vast size. Clinging to its skin are the zones, a series of semi-autonomous city-states, each of which enjoys a different - and rigidly enforced - level of technology. Horsetown is pre-industrial, whereas in Neon Heights they have television and electric trains.

Following an infiltration mission that went tragically wrong, Quillon has been living incognito, working as a pathologist in the district morgue. But when a near-dead angel drops onto his dissecting table, Quillon's world is wrenched apart one more time, for the angel is a winged posthuman from Spearpoint's Celestial Levels - and with the dying body comes bad news. If Quillon is to save his life, he must leave his home and journey into the cold and hostile lands beyond Spearpoint's base, starting an exile that will take him further than he could ever imagine.

But there is far more at stake than just Quillon's own survival, for the limiting technologies of the zones are determined not by governments or police, but by the very nature of reality - and reality itself is showing worrying signs of instability...

My Thoughts: If I'm understand this correctly, Terminal World is essentially hard science fiction with a sweet steampunk twist, and though some reviewers have heralded it as Alastair Reynolds' best, having never read the fellow before, I have to wonder: is this really where I should start?

Any better suggestions, or should I just get the hell on with it? I guess I'm keen enough as is. For one thing, that cover art really is something else...

Crack'd Pot Trail
by Steven Erikson

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

Review Priority
3 (We'll See)

The Blurb: It is an undeniable truth: give evil a name and everyone’s happy.  Give it two names and... why, they’re even happier!

Intrepid necromancers Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, scourges of civilization, raisers of the dead, reapers of the souls of the living, devourers of hope, betrayers of faith, slayers of the innocent, and modest personifications of evil, have a lot to answer for and answer they will. Known as the Nehemoth, they are pursued by countless self-professed defenders of decency, sanity, and civilization. After all, since when does evil thrive unchallenged? Well, often—but not this time.

Hot on their heels are the Nehemothanai, avowed hunters of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach. In the company of a gaggle of artists and pilgrims, stalwart Mortal Sword Tulgord Vise, pious Well Knight Arpo Relent, stern Huntsman Steck Marynd, and three of the redoubtable Chanter brothers (and their lone sister) find themselves faced with the cruelest of choices. The legendary Crack’d Pot Trail, a stretch of harsh wasteland between the Gates of Nowhere and the Shrine of the Indifferent God, has become a tortured path of deprivation.

Will honor, moral probity, and virtue prove champions in the face of brutal necessity? No, of course not. Don’t be silly.

My Thoughts: Well doesn't this one sound like fun? It's certainly a ways away from what I've come to expect from a Steven Erikson novel; much as I adored Gardens of the Moon, it was hardly - as I expect even the most stalwart series devotees would admit - a riot.

So perhaps Crack'd Pot Trail is the kick in the rear I need to get going on The Malazan Book of the Fallen again. But to get into this, I'd have to read the first collected Tales Of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, wouldn't I? And I don't know that I'd be comfortable doing that till I've finally encountered these larger-than-life necromancers in the series proper.

Christ, but time is not on my side...

The Girl Who Circumnavigated
Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
by Catherynne M. Valente

Vital Statistics
Published in the US
on 10/05/11
by Feiwel & Friends

Review Priority
5 (A Sure Thing)

The Blurb: Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t... then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday. 

With exquisite illustrations by acclaimed artist Ana Juan, Fairyland lives up to the sensation it created when the author first posted it online. For readers of all ages who love the charm of Alice in Wonderland and the soul of The Golden Compass, here is a reading experience unto itself: unforgettable, and so very beautiful.

My Thoughts: What a lovely book this is! Beautifully illustrated by Ana Juan, and with a blurb that could bring a smile to the cracked thin lips of even the wickedest wicked witch... I'll even admit it doesn't hurt that The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is by the author of my very favourite book of last year: Catherynne M. Valente, of course. Frankly I cannot wait to read this thing.

Nor indeed shall I. :)

The Map of Time
by Felix J. Palma

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 09/06/11
by HarperCollins

Review Priority
4 (Pretty Bloody Likely)

The Blurb: An epic, ambitious and page-turning mystery that will appeal to fans of The Shadow of the Wind, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and The Time Traveller’s Wife.

London, 1896. Andrew Harrington is young, wealthy and heartbroken. His lover Marie Kelly was murdered by Jack the Ripper and he longs to turn back the clock and save her.

Meanwhile, Claire Haggerty rails against the position of women in Victorian society. Forever being matched with men her family consider suitable, she yearns for a time when she can be free to love whom she chooses.

But hidden in the attic of popular author – and noted scientific speculator – H.G. Wells is a machine that will change everything.

As their quests converge, it becomes clear that time is the problem – to escape it, to change it, might offer them the hope they need...

My Thoughts: Well, I'm a fan of The Shadow of the Wind, certainly... check one. And I loved Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, way back when, so there's two out of three. (Whatever happened to Susanna Clarke anyway?) As to The Time Traveller's Wife... if I'd only read it, I bet I would be an admirer, yeah.

So The Map of Time should be right up my street, if that cheery collective of comparisons holds true. Robert Thompson of Fantasy Book Critic certainly came away impressed. As for me... we shall see. And I stress, we shall.

Midwinter Sacrifice
by Mons Kallentoft

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 27/10/11
by Hodder & Stoughton

Review Priority
3 (We'll See)

The Blurb: The snow covered all the tracks, as the killer knew it would. But it couldn't hide the victim, the man who now hung naked from a lonely tree on a frozen plain.

Malin Fors is first on the scene. A thirty-one-year-old single mother, Malin is the most talented and ambitious detective on the Linkoping police force, but also the most unpredictable. She must lead the investigation while keeping her fractured life on the rails.

No one knows the identity of the dead man. Or perhaps no one ever wanted to know. When all the voices of the investigation have fallen silent, Malin can rely only on herself and her own instincts. And as she follows in the frigid wake of the killer, Malin begins to discover just how far the people in this small town are willing to go to keep their secrets buried.

My Thoughts: The English-language debut of popular Swedish author Mons Kallentoft, Midwinter Sacrifice isn't actually due out till October, yet already there's a certain sense of momentum behind it.

I've long since learned to take assertions that this book or that will turn out to be a Millennium Trilogy-killer with an almighty pinch of salt, but with all the advance praise Midwinter Sacrifice has attracted, not to mention a few wholesale raves, I'm erring on the excited side with respect to this translation of Kallentoft's first novel.

Needless to say, it's nice to want things - see Cynical Jazz for Beginners (Vol. 1) - but fingers crossed there's something to all the hubbub over this one. Not to speak ill of the dead, or speak ill at all, but I for one am good and ready to wave goodbye to little Lisbeth Salander. If this is how it happens, then so much the better.


With which, it's time once again to wave goodbye to The BoSS! That is, till next week...

So what all from this lot do you fancy seeing reviews of sooner rather than later, folks? You can take more talk of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and The Map of Time as given, I think, but beyond that... hmm.

For myself, I'm gravitating towards Terminal World. Sounds to me like a good week's worth of reading right there, given everything else I have on my plate at the moment -- but as ever, I'm all ears if there's something you think I'm missing?


  1. Looks like you've got a couple of good ones there! Very nice! I got a copy of the Fairyland one when there was that "get a copy of this e-book free" thing going on a while back, but I have yet to actually read it. I'm hoping it's as good as everyone says it is!

  2. What a fantastic haul you've got there, Niall. As for Terminal World, it's a truly fantastic book, one of Reynolds' two or three best, and he's probably my favorite SF author.

  3. Niall - Crack'd Pot Trail.... you don't really need to read the other Bauchelain and Korbal Broach stories before reading this as it is entirely different to those earlier novellas. In fact, to be slightly spoileriffic, B & KB don't hardly feature in those one at all. That being said it's a good little tale and one worth reading.

    I enjoyed the other B & KB novellas a lot more myself, but this one is good for the sheer guts it took for SE to write the thing and get it out there. Given how quickly you seem to read, definitely give it a shot as it won't take up too much of your time and I think you won't be sorry.

  4. sorry - my previous comment meant to read that B & KB don't hardly feature in THIS one ie Crack'd Pot Trail. Of course they feature very heavily in the earlier novellas, which is the main reason I like them so much!

  5. @Bibiotropic - I've got my fingers crossed for Fairyland too, Ria!

    As I recall, that free eBook I posted about way back when doesn't have the illustrations by Ana Juan, does it? And those, looking at them now, are just... oh, just lovely! They really help to set the whole thing off.

    @Nathaniel - I hear you loud and clear. Terminal World be my next stop. :)

  6. @Marduk - How quickly I seem to read is in all honesty a dirty great lie I'm only too pleased to perpetuate. :)

    In fact I read about a page per minute; it's only that some nights, I read instead of sleeping! Who was it said that again? That "Sleep is for the weak," or some such thing? Whomsoever it may have been -- agreed. Though there are days I wish I were a weakling in that regard.

    Anyway, I'm coming around to thinking that with Gardens of the Moon finally behind me, my next stop Malazan-wise will be the first collected tales of B&KB. I've heard good things -- from yourself and a few other folks, Marduk. And the lighter the better at this moment in time.

    These novellas are lighter than the Malazan books proper, aren't they?

  7. About the reading speed, that's interesting. I actually read just as fast, which almost always makes people I know in person stare in awe and seems unremarkable to a lot of ye e-people.

    About the actual books, I'll admit I'm not a B+K fan, though I love the main series. I'm a bit in the minority there, though, and haven't actually read the crack'd newest.

  8. Having read both The Map of Time and The Shadow of the Wind, I feel the need to mention that the only thing the two have in common is that their authors are Spanish, the novels are vaguely SFF-nal, and they both did well in Spain before being translated for the English market. It is a strange comparison, perhaps one only established because of the surface similarities above. When it comes to style, I would say the book has far more in common with The Count of Monte Cristo, a fellow melodrama.

    The Map of Time was enjoyable in a popcorn sort of way, pure delicious entertainment, but it falls far short of the The Shadow of the Wind's quality.