Sunday, 29 July 2012

Books Received | The BoSS Is Back Again... And So Soon!

"For one week only," I wrote about the return of the blog's books received feature a month ago.

Well, far be it from me to step on my own toes, but as of this afternoon, self-evidently, The BoSS is back again, and with a grab bag of truly brilliant-looking books!

Don't, whatever you do, take this as some sort of suggestion of a regular schedule. In future, I think, I'll run occasional editions as and when I have an interesting enough assortment of new books to talk about. Nearly three years into this thing, you and I both know what I'm likely to read, and what, in all probability, I'm not... so there's no sense in burbling about all the nonsense any longer, is there?

With that, let's dig in to this week's excellent selection.


The Twelve
by Justin Cronin

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 25/10/12
by Orion

Review Priority
5 (A Sure Thing)

The Blurb: The Twelve. Death-row prisoners with nightmare pasts and no future, until they were selected for a secret experiment to create something more than human.
Now they are the future, and humanity's worst nightmare has begun. The Twelve.

My Thoughts: Though it was (to put it politely) divisive in some circles, The Passage was one of the best and most memorable books I read during the first year of The Speculative Scotsman, in 2010. The Twelve, then, has been quite a while coming, but given its sheer size - which is neither as vast as its predecessor, nor massively less long - that was only to be expected.

Come this Halloween, in any event, the wait will be over.

I full well expect The Twelve to be darkly fantastic, and given the three months (!) between now and its release in October, I mean to take my sweet time reading it. Because there's nothing quite as likely to ruin a good book than the need to rush through it, is there?

The Dirty Streets of Heaven
by Tad Williams

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 13/09/2012
by Hodder & Stoughton

Review Priority
4 (Pretty Bloody Likely)

The Blurb: Bobby Dollar isn't your average angel.

Sure, he takes the occasional trip to Heaven, but his job as an advocate - arguing the fate of the recently deceased - keeps him pretty busy on Earth, and he's more than happy to spend the rest of his time propping up the bar with his fellow immortals.

Until the day a soul goes missing, presumed stolen by 'the other side'.

A new chapter in the war between heaven and hell is about to open. And Bobby is right in the middle of it, with only a desirable but deadly demon to aid him.

My Thoughts: In my younger years, the Otherland saga was one of the first epic speculative series I read from start to finish, so I suppose I have a certain attachment to Tad Williams. Not enough of one to guarantee that I'll read everything he writes - I never did get around to Shadowmarch, for instance, although I still intend to, one day - but The Dirty Streets of Heaven is a much more manageable volume than most of the doorstoppers this author has composed, and it's the first in a new trilogy to boot — so I'm in, I think.

That said, The Dirty Streets of Heaven is outwardly urban fantasy; not exactly a bold new direction for Mr. Williams to take, yet certainly something different. To wit, I'm intrigued to see what, if anything, the talent behind some of the finest science fiction and fantasy in recent memory can bring to a genre I admit I've almost no interest in.

Jack Glass
by Adam Roberts

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 26/07/12
by Gollancz

Review Priority
5 (A Sure Thing)

The Blurb: Jack Glass is the murderer. That, at least, is quite transparent.

He has sliced a lethal swathe through known space. He is without pity or scruple. He is a killer.

Were the authorities ever to discover that it was actually Jack Glass that they had detained on a remote prison asteroid they would return and kill him immediately. And they will discover it. The murderer will have to escape. And that, of course, is impossible.

From a tiny asteroid in the far reaches of space, to a comfortable country house, to a sealed orbital habitat, Adam Roberts takes us on a spellbinding journey through a future that challenges all our notions of crime, punishment and freedom.

We know whodunnit. Now we must learn how... and why.

My Thoughts: I've only been reading Adam Roberts since Yellow Blue Tibia, I'm afraid - the time has never been quite right to dig in to his expansive back catalogue - but even by that standard, his last novel, By Light Alone, was absolutely remarkable. His latest, Jack Glass, is (according to the afterword) a contemporary interpretation of golden age detective fiction staged in a similarly period-appropriate sf setting.

And looking back from the halfway mark, it could be as brilliant as anything Roberts has written.

Jack Glass is three cunningly connected novellas, of which I've finished the first and started in on the second already. I'll be attending to the third as soon as humanly possible, because so far, Jack Glass has been great: if not as literary as most of Roberts' novels, then more immediately, and sometimes shockingly, rewarding. I'm to review this book for, so stay tuned for the final word on this speculative mass murder mystery... soon.

by Jay Kristoff

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 13/09/12
by Tor

Review Priority
3 (We'll See)

The Blurb: Griffins are supposed to be extinct, so when Yukiko and her warrior father are sent to capture one for the Shōgun, they fear that their lives are over. Everyone knows what happens to those who fail him.
But the mission proves less impossible and more deadly than anyone expects. Soon Yukiko finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in her country's last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled griffin for company. Although she can hear his thoughts, and saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her. Yet trapped together in the forest, Yukiko and Buruu form a surprising and powerful bond.
Meanwhile, the country verges on collapse. A toxic fuel is choking the land, the machine-powered Lotus Guild is publicly burning those they deem Impure, and the Shōgun cares for nothing but his own dominion. Authority has always made Yukiko uneasy, but her world changes when she meets Kin, a young man with secrets, and the rebel Kagé cabal. She learns the horrifying extent of the Shōgun’s crimes, both against her country and her family. Returning to the city, Yukiko and Buruu are determined to make the Shōgun pay – but what can one girl and a flightless griffin do against the might of an empire?

My Thoughts: Strangely, though Stormdancer is the first first novel in this edition of The BoSS, it's the second of this week's books - after The Dirty Streets of Heaven - to bear a blurb by Patrick Rothfuss. Which is sure to shift a few units, and set certain expectations.

Looking past that, Stormdancer sounds uniquely interesting. Japanese steampunk, anyone? And if not, why not? Even if this is all that sets Jay Kristoff's debut apart, it might just be enough for me — I'll admit, I'm already intrigued.

Forge of Darkness
by Steven Erikson

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 31/07/12
by Bantam Press

Review Priority
4 (Pretty Bloody Likely)

The Blurb: Now is the time to tell the story of an ancient realm, a tragic tale that sets the stage for all the tales yet to come and all those already told...

It's a conflicted time in Kurald Galain, the realm of Darkness, where Mother Dark reigns. But this ancient land was once home to many a power. and even death is not quite eternal. The commoners' great hero, Vatha Urusander, is being promoted by his followers to take Mother Dark's hand in marriage, but her Consort, Lord Draconus, stands in the way of such ambitions. The impending clash sends fissures throughout the realm, and as the rumors of civil war burn through the masses, an ancient power emerges from the long dead seas. Caught in the middle of it all are the First Sons of Darkness, Anomander, Andarist, and Silchas Ruin of the Purake Hold...

Steven Erikson entered the pantheon of great fantasy writers with his debut Gardens of the Moon. Now he returns with the first novel in a trilogy that takes place millennia before the events of the Malazan Book of the Fallen and introduces readers to Kurald Galain, the warren of Darkness. It is the epic story of a realm whose fate plays a crucial role in shaping the world of the Malazan Empire.

My Thoughts: Well, well, well. A prequel trilogy, is it? To an epic fantasy saga that, if I maintain my current pace, I could be reading for the rest of my life?

That... sounds almost exactly like what the doctor ordered. :)

Forge of Darkness would be a sure thing, if it weren't for the fact that I'm afraid it stands to spoil what of the Malazan Book of the Fallen I haven't yet read, which is to say - to my eternal shame - most of the series. If someone out there could assure me that that won't happen, I'll jump right into this.

This week also brought a review copy of the unconnected Steven Erikson collection, The Devil Delivered, which I'll be reading in installments between bigger books. Talk about an embarrassment of riches — an embarrassment I'll suffer gladly!


And with that, The BoSS comes to a close once more. Who's pleased to see it again?

Until next time, then... wherever that may be, and when.


  1. Glad to see it back! This is always a good place to pick up a few more titles to read...

    Maybe my wallet isn't so glad, though...

    1. Apologies about your wallet, sir! How about, to make up for all these books you'll have to buy, I blog about something awesome you can read for free?

      Let Maps to Others, anyone? :)

  2. Niall,

    Very happy to see the BoSS back - would love to see it every week, but whenever you can be bothered is good. I am jealous that you have "The Twelve" already! I loved "The Passage" so I can't wait to read this one.

    To sort-of answer your other question: I am a huge Malazan fan and have read all the main sequence of MBotF. I wholeheartedly recommend you do that, and ASAP! I am really looking forward to getting my copy of "Forge.." in the post. According to Steve Erikson himself this novel is a fine place for new readers to enter the series so frmo that and other reviewers comments I think it is fine if you dive right into this one now and it shouldn't spoil the main sequence.

    Have you read the Bauchelain and Korbal Broach novellas?? They are absolutely brilliant and you should read them immediately! Each one will only take you a couple of hours tops and are some of SE's best work IMHO.


    1. I confess I have failed in that endeavour, Marduk. But you'll be happy to hear I'm now 250 pages into Forge of Darkness, having overcome what I have to imagine will be a barrier to entry into this prequel series for new readers - a staggeringly vast array of perspectives, one after the other after the other - and I'm officially loving every minute of it. And by the Abyss, it looks like there are plenty more minutes to come!

      Next up: The Twelve. I'm in the mood for massive, apparently. :)