Sunday, 30 October 2011

Books Received | The BoSS for 30/10/11

In this loosely themed Halloween (we shan't say spectacular) edition of The BoSS:

The good, the bad and the Weird... a picturesque love letter from a beast 20,000 leagues deep... stories from the city and stories from the sea, care of Alan Garner... a nocturnal circus... and one of the most monstrous characters in all of The Walking Dead, given his own goddamn novel.

Let the spooky books commence?


ed. by Anne & Jeff Vandermeer

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 31/10/11
by Corvus

Review Priority
5 (A Sure Thing)

The Blurb: From Lovecraft to Borges to Gaiman, a century of intrepid literary experimentation has created a corpus of dark and strange stories that transcend all known genre boundaries. Together these stories form The Weird and amongst its practitioners number some of the greatest names in twentieth and twenty-first century literature. 

Weird features an all star cast of authors, from classics to international bestsellers to Booker prize winners. Here are Ben Okri, George R.R. Martin and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Angela Carter and Kelly Link, Franz Kafka and China Miéville, Clive Barker and Haruki Murakami, M.R. James and Neil Gaiman, Mervyn Peake and Michael Chabon. 

Exotic and esoteric, Weird plunges you into dark domains and brings you face to face with surreal monstrosities; you won’t find any elves or wizards here. These are the boldest and most downright peculiar stories from the last hundred years bound: the biggest collection of the weird ever assembled.

My Thoughts: I could hardly believe my eyes when I tore open the post the other afternoon to find this... this bible. I've been looking forward to it all year long, and though it's a little late, what with the sheer quantity and I don't doubt quality of work brought together in this beautiful 1200+ page assembly of all things weird, it's not like I was going to be able to read it in time for a review over Halloween week anyway; as if any length of review would be equipped to touch on what Weird is, which is to say my evening reading for the rest of the year, and very likely beyond. Can't. Bloody well. Wait.

I need not add that I have plans for this beauty... but they are especially grand plans, as this is an especially grand anthology, deserving of especially grand treatment. So it shall be.

The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor
by Robert Kirkman & Jay Bonansinga

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 21/10/11
by Tor

Review Priority
3 (We'll See)

The Blurb: Philip Blake's life has been turned upside down. In less than seventy-two hours an inexplicable event has resulted in people... turning. The world has gone to hell and the walking dead roam the streets massacring the living. it seems that nowhere is safe. Escaping their small town, Philip has just one focus in life - to protect his young daughter Penny. And he'll do whatever it takes to ensure she survives.
With his two old high-school friends and his brother Brian, Philip decides to aim for the city of Atlanta where it's said there are refugee centres being set up. But between them and safety lie hundreds of the walking dead - and the survivors' path to salvation lies straight through the middle of them.

My Thoughts: Talk about timely! Not only is Rise of the Governor coming out just in time for Halloween - though zombies are of course welcome all year round - its arrival also dovetails nicely with the premiere of the second season of The Walking Dead on AMC. Speaking of which, what have you all thought of it so far? I've been pretty effing impressed, I don't mind saying, and you might remember I had a real problem with where season one went.

Anyway, Rise of the Governor is the first of three prose novels ostensibly co-written by thriller man Jay Bonansinga and the creator of The Walking Dead himself, Robert Kirkman. Early reports are surprisingly positive - Graeme seemed to really dig it, but for the middle section - and that's really all the recommendation I need to check this slight specimen out.

The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 15/09/11
by Harvill Secker

Review Priority
5 (A Sure Thing)

The Blurb: In 1886, a mysterious traveling circus becomes an international sensation. Open only at night, constructed entirely in black and white, Le Cirque des Rêves delights all who wander its circular paths and warm themselves at its bonfire. 

Although there are acrobats, fortune-tellers and contortionists, the Circus of Dreams is no conventional spectacle. Some tents contain clouds, some ice. The circus seems almost to cast a spell over its aficionados, who call themselves the rêveurs - the dreamers. At the heart of the story is the tangled relationship between two young magicians, Celia, the enchanter's daughter, and Marco, the sorcerer's apprentice. At the behest of their shadowy masters, they find themselves locked in a deadly contest, forced to test the very limits of the imagination, and of their love...

A fabulous, fin-de-siècle feast for the senses and a life-affirming love story, The Night Circus is a captivating novel that will make the real world seem fantastical and a fantasy world real.

My Thoughts: September you say? Hoo boy am I late to the party with this one!

But better late than never, and I'd have hated - just hated - to miss The Night Circus. I mean, it's beautiful, and I've read enough of Erin Morgenstern's dreamy debut to be able to say with some certainty that it's a beautiful thing inside and out. As I recall even Larry of the OF Blog liked it... or am I making that up? I hope not.

In any case, this is as sure a thing as sure things go, but don't expect a review in the immediate future; since I've missed the release window, I'm going my sweet time with this one, and try to enjoy a book on its own terms for once. Maybe come Christmas I'll have something to show you folks.

Oh. My. God. Did I just mention Christmas? In October? Put me out of my misery now, world! :)

Dear Creature
by Jonathan Case

Vital Statistics
Published in the US
on 11/10/11
by Tor

Review Priority
3 (We'll See)

The Blurb: Deep beneath the waves, a creature named Grue broods. He no longer wants to eat lusty beachgoers, no matter how their hormones call to him. A chorus of crabs urges him to reconsider. After all, people are delicious! But this monster has changed. Grue found Shakespeare's plays in cola bottles and, through them, a new heart. Now he yearns to join the world above.

When his first attempt ends... poorly, Grue searches for the person who cast the plays into the sea. What he finds is love in the arms of Giulietta—a woman trapped in her own world. When she and Grue meet, Giulietta believes her prayers are answered. But people have gone missing and Giulietta's nephew is the prime suspect. With his past catching up to him, Grue must decide if becoming a new man means ignoring the monster he was.

Rising from a brine of drive-in pulp and gentle poetry, Jonathan Case's debut graphic novel Dear Creature is the love story you never imagined!

My Thoughts: Bit of a wildcard, is Dear Creature. I haven't ever gotten a whole lot of graphic novels for review, and the only review of this on is so positive it could be a plant. Or else... could it be brilliant?

Well of course it could be. In fact, odds on: for one thing, its central character is a sea monster, the two-tone art looks lovely and last but not least, Tor's publishing it. And they don't publish just any old graphic novel, do they?

Seriously, do they? I confess I do not know.

Collected Folk Tales
by Alan Garner

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 27/10/11
by Harper Collins

Review Priority
4 (Pretty Bloody Likely)

The Blurb: The definitive collection of traditional British folk tales, selected and retold by the renowned Alan Garner.

Following on from the 50th anniversary of Alan Garner’s seminal fantasy classic, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, this beautifully produced hardback collects all of Alan’s folk tales, told with his unique storytelling skill and inimitably clear voice. Essential reading for young and old alike, and a book to be treasured.

My Thoughts: You can't tell how pretty this from the picture there. In person, the paper stock is lovely, and the cover is all gold leaf and purple cloth, to match the green and gold of the 50th anniversary edition of The Weirdstone of Brisingamen Harper Collins published late last year. Which I just so happened to very much approve of.

I don't know that I'm quite as excited about this as I was to revisit one of my childhood fantasy favourites, but don't mind me splitting hairs: I've never known Alan Garner to be anything less than a masterful storyteller, so I'll be intrigued at the very least to see what old folk tales he has in store for me this winter.

Yes, this winter. It's coming, don't you know!


So what will I be reading this week?

Well, I don't doubt I'll at least dip into Weird, but it's definitely a dipping book rather than one to immerse yourself in for extended periods of time - you'd die before you ever saw the light of day again! - so what beyond that? The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor?

I wonder...

I've more than enough to keep me busy in any event. In fact, be warned: the reviews of spooky books and movies are going to keep right on coming for the rest of the week. Once I pop, it ain't so easy for me to stop!


  1. Yes, I did enjoy the Night Circus; it's one of my favorite debuts this year as well (I'll write more about it later this year). Glad you received a copy of The Weird, although it'll be a while still before my print copy arrives, alas.

  2. I've been awaiting Weird's release; it looks like it'll be one entertaining read!

  3. I have not yet written my review for The Night Circus (I am dreadfully behind on reviews, at the moment), but it was one of my favorite books (and debuts, for that matter) of the year. The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht ranks first on both accounts. The Night Circus takes second.

  4. I was sure I hadn't just pulled the idea that you'd liked The Night Circus out of the ether, but thanks for setting my mind at ease, Larry. I'll be looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the Erin Morgenstern whenever you turn them into words, good sir - and yours too, James.

    Have just bought a copy of The Tiger's Wife, incidentally, after your recommendation and seeing it on Larry's Best of 2011 longlist.

    And that's just scratching the surface of all the stuff I've got to catch up on before the year's out. In fact, while I have you guys here, what else do you think I'm missing? Needless to say your opinions count for a great deal. Say the equivalent of those of ten mere mortals? ;)

  5. Though they were not all released this year (most were actually released last year), some of the books I have thought highly of this year:

    The House of Discarded Dreams - Ekaterina Sedia

    The Narrator - Michael Cisco (Not for everyone, this one. While I adore the prose and find Cisco one of the best prose stylists I have ever encountered, it is likely to turn others off or leave them cold/confused--my fiancee managed to get through it, but found, upon finishing, that she had no idea what she had just read and ended up relying on me to tell her what had actually happened.)

    The Devil All the Time - Donald Ray Pollock (Not SFF, but I know you read outside the genre. To be honest, I do not find myself thinking about this book often and I sometimes forget that I read it at all, but I thought it was pretty damn good when I read it a few months back. Pollock knows how to craft a thriller and set a blazing fast pace. Impressive, especially considering it was his first novel.

    Aloha From Hell - Richard Kadrey (Urban Fantasy worth giving the time of day. There is a lot of fun to be found in this series, of which this is the third volume.

    The Last Werewolf - Glen Duncan (While I thought the end was cliche bullshit, I have to admit that the rest of the book was pretty damn good and that it sets the standard to which I will be holding all Werewolf novels.)

  6. @James - You sir just cost me quite a lot of money: got the Sedia, The Last Werewolf, and the first of the Sandman Slim books. The Narrator I'll aim to try before I buy, I think.

    Much obliged to you for the recommendations, mate. Least, I am so far!