Sunday, 1 July 2012

Books Received | For One Week Only... The BoSS Is Back!

Wait, what's this? The BoSS is back?

Yes indeed, dear readers. And in case you were wondering why, well basically... because you demanded it!

As luck would have it, it just so happens that several of the books I've been most excited to see this year arrived all at once, right around the same time I decided to temporarily resurrect the blog's books received feature. Amongst the highlights of this triumphant return, then, we have cosmic horror, unhinged science fiction, wolves in the walls, a visit to Sempere & Sons, and last but not least, fun with fantasy fencing.

So shall we get to it? :)

by K. J. Parker

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 05/07/12
by Orbit

Review Priority
5 (A Sure Thing)

The Blurb: For the first time in nearly forty years, an uneasy truce has been called between two neighbouring kingdoms. The war has been long and brutal, fought over the usual things: resources, land, money...

Now, there is a chance for peace. Diplomatic talks have begun — and with them, the games. Two teams of fencers represent their nations at this pivotal moment.

When the future of the world lies balanced on the point of a rapier, one misstep could mean ruin for all. Human nature being what it is, does peace really have a chance?

My Thoughts: Oh, go on: give peace a chance!

And while you're at it, give K. J. Parker one as well — long the unsung hero of smart fantasy fiction.

I've been banging on about how incredibly talented Parker is practically since I started The Speculative Scotsman, but it was last year's The Hammer that wholly sold me on the insidiously intellectual fare she (or he) has made his (or her) name with. In Top of the Scots, I went so far as to declare The Hammer my favourite new novel of 2011, and according to the characteristically cracking Pornokitsch review, Sharps is even better, and markedly - apparently - more accessible.

So. Could this be the year K. J. Parker finally breaks into the mainstream? It pains me to say it, but no. Probably not. If it was going to happen it would have already, I expect. But here's hoping I'm wrong.

One way or the other, I can hardly wait to sink my teeth into Sharps. And speaking of teeth...

Lord of Slaughter
by M. D. Lachlan

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 28/06/2012
by Gollancz

Review Priority
4 (Pretty Bloody Likely)

The Blurb: On a battlefield strewn with corpses, a ragged figure, dressed in wolfskin and intent on death, slips past the guards into the tent of the Emperor and draws his sword.

The terrified citizens of Constantinople are plagued by mysterious sorcery. The wolves outside the city are howling. A young boy had traded the lives of his family for power. And a Christian scholar, fleeing with his pregnant wife from her enraged father, must track down the magic threatening his world.

All paths lead to the squalid and filthy prison deep below the city, where a man who believes he is a wolf lies chained, and the spirits of the dead are waking.

The Norsemen camped outside the city have their own legends, of the wolf who will kill the gods, but no true Christian could believe such a thing. And yet it is clear to Loys that Ragnarok is coming. Will he be prepared to sacrifice his life, his position, his wife and his unborn child for a god he doesn't believe in?

And deep in the earth, the wolfman howls...

My Thoughts: First, there was Wolfsangel. Then came Fenrir. Now, for the third installment in this macabre fantasy saga, M. D. Lachlan takes us on a tour of 10th century Constantinople.

I'll grant you, this series isn't especially easy to read - it's dense and desperately intense - but the challenge the books of The Craw represent is dwarfed by the cerebral reward they offer. Word is that Lord of Slaughter is the concluding volume, which I wasn't expecting, but never mind — I'm all for things ending when the time is right, rather than rinsing and repeating into infinity. That said, if this truly is the end, here's hoping Lachlan ties off his trilogy with one last hurrah, fit to send off the vengeful gods themselves!

The Teleportation Accident
by Ned Beauman

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 19/07/12
by Sceptre

Review Priority
3 (We'll See)

The Blurb: When you haven't had sex in a long time, it feels like the worst thing that could ever happen to anyone.

If you're living in Germany in the 1930s, it probably isn't.

But that's no consolation to Egon Loeser, whose carnal misfortunes will push him from the experimental theatres of Berlin to the absinthe bars of Paris to the physics laboratories of Los Angeles, trying all the while to solve two mysteries: whether it was really a deal with Satan that claimed the life of his hero, the great Renaissance stage designer Adriano Lavicini; and why a handsome, clever, charming, modest guy like him can't, just once in a while, get himself laid.

From the author of the acclaimed Boxer, Beetle comes a historical novel that doesn't know what year it is; a noir novel that turns all the lights on; a romance novel that arrives drunk to dinner; a science fiction novel that can't remember what 'isotope' means; a stunningly inventive, exceptionally funny, dangerously unsteady and (largely) coherent novel about sex, violence, space, time, and how the best way to deal with history is to ignore it.

My Thoughts: Boxer, Beetle was pretty brilliant. Not just for a debut, but for fiction, full stop. Be you intrigued, you can read my review of this promising new author's first novel here on TSS. For the moment, suffice it to say that, like Lachlan's, the work of Ned Beauman won't be to everyone's tastes. Boxer, Beetle was a relatively simply story made remarkable - or maddening, depending on your perspective - by the particular way in which it was told, and if it missed the mark ever so slightly, then The Teleportation Accident stands to remedy its issues.

Truth be told, though, its blurb is no less loony than Boxer, Beetle's, so we'll see about that last. Certainly The Teleportation Accident sounds ostensibly more speculative than its predecessor - a plus from my point of view, and presumably yours - and perhaps Beauman has pared away the more outlandish aspects of his prose. The masses might like that. But would I? I wonder.

Anyway, while we're on the topic of outlandish prose...

The Prisoner of Heaven
by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 21/06/12
by Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Review Priority
5 (A Sure Thing)

The Blurb: The third in the cycle of novels that began with The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game, The Prisoner of Heaven returns to the world of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and the Sempere & Sons bookshop.

It begins just before Christmas in Barcelona in 1957, one year after Daniel and Bea from The Shadow of the Wind have married. They now have a son, Julian, and are living with Daniel's father at Sempere & Sons. Fermin still works with them and is busy preparing for his wedding to Bernarda in the New Year. However something appears to be bothering him. Daniel is alone in the shop one morning when a mysterious figure with a pronounced limp enters. He spots one of their most precious volumes that is kept locked in a glass cabinet, a beautiful and unique illustrated edition of The Count of Monte Cristo. Despite the fact that the stranger seems to care little for books, he wants to buy this expensive edition. Then, to Daniel's surprise, the man inscribes the book with the words 'To Fermin Romero de Torres, who came back from the dead and who holds the key to the future'. This visit leads back to a story of imprisonment, betrayal and the return of a deadly rival.

My Thoughts: Once upon a time, if you had asked after my foremost favourite books, The Shadow of the Wind would have been right up there. Fantastic characters and a stunning setting paired with an unforgettable premise and finely honed, albeit rather purplish prose made a keen admirer out of me, most certainly. But then The Angel's Game came along.

Unlike most folks, I actually enjoyed The Angel's Game - if not nearly as much as The Shadow of the Wind, then nevertheless not insignificantly - though in retrospect, I suppose it served to suggest something of a downturn in the great expectations I had of Carlos Ruiz Zafon. An impression only compounded by the dull young adult novels that have hit since, of which I read and reviewed the first, and read, but could not bring myself to review, the second.

By all accounts, however, The Prisoner of Heaven is intended as a return to the hallowed territory occupied by Zafon's meta masterwork, so I've high hopes, and a plan to reread The Shadow of the Wind as soon as I can find the time, the better to segue straight into this second venture into the depths of Sempere & Sons.

The Croning
by Laird Barron

Vital Statistics
Published in the US
on 01/05/12
by Night Shade Books

Review Priority
4 (Pretty Bloody Likely)

The Blurb: Strange things exist on the periphery of our existence, haunting us from the darkness looming beyond our firelight. Black magic, weird cults and worse things loom in the shadows. The Children of Old Leech have been with us from time immemorial. And they love us.

Donald Miller, geologist and academic, has walked along the edge of a chasm for most of his nearly eighty years, leading a charmed life between endearing absent-mindedness and sanity-shattering realization. Now, all things must converge. Donald will discover the dark secrets along the edges, unearthing savage truths about his wife Michelle, their adult twins, and all he knows and trusts. For Donald is about to stumble on the secret... of The Croning.

From Laird Barron, Shirley Jackson Award-winning author of The Imago Sequence and Occultation, comes The Croning, a debut novel of cosmic horror.

My Thoughts: I'm due to review this horror novel for Strange Horizons, in advance of which article I trawled through a couple of collections - amongst them the Lovecraft anthology Black Wings - looking to brush up on my Laird Barron. I came away from my endeavor exceedingly impressed - particularly with "The Broadsword" - and full of dark dreams about the cosmic contents of The Croning.

Saying that, though, Justin didn't love it, so I could go either way as regards The Croning. We'll just have to wait and see.


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

Until next time, then... whenever that may be!


  1. I have Sharps on pre-order;) Can't wait for that one!

  2. Yay! BoSS is back :-D looks like an awesome haul and here's hoping the BoSS will be back sooner rather than later!

  3. Keep bringing the BoSS! Always interesting to see your hauls and your thoughts on the books therein. I too have Sharps and Lord of Slaughter on pre-order and really looking forward to seeing them arrive in the post :-)

  4. Oh and that Ned Beauman book does sound delightfully loony indeed. Intriguing

  5. Glad to hear it's made a few folks happy! I do intend to get The BoSS back on track sometime this summer - solely because you guys kept asking after it - though I expect it'll be a bit before the blog's books received feature settles down into anything approaching a regular schedule, if ever it does again.

    So good news, everyone! :)

  6. Yaj! Good that the BoSS is back :)

  7. I am salivating at the thought of the new Parker. Despite my mixed feelings on The Hammer, he/she is one of my favorite authors now writing, and the fact that I started fencing this year certainly shouldn't hurt my enjoyment of the book. As for Barron, I've been hearing good things for a long time and finally got a collection of his (The Imago Sequence), though I haven't gotten to dive into it yet...