Sunday 28 November 2010

The BoSS for 28/11/10

Another week, another edition of The BoSS, and I'm getting to thinking I might change up the formula of these posts come the new year. Plenty of other sites make do with a galley of images each week, if even that, and to be honest the amount of work that goes into putting a single one of these books received run-downs together makes a fine argument in favour of my finding an alternative method.

Would anyone be sad to see it go, were I to call a halt on The BoSS?

For the moment, though, the show must go on...

Click through to Meet the BoSS for an introduction and an explanation as to why you should care about the Bag o' Speculative Swag, if you haven't met already, or else read on for a sneak peek at some of the books - past, present and future - you can expect to see coverage of here on The Speculative Scotsman in the coming weeks and months.


Guardians of the Phoenix
by Eric Brown

Release Details:
Published in the UK on
16/12/10 by Solaris

Review Priority:
4 (Very High)

Plot Synopsis: "Global warming has taken its terrible toll. The seas have dried up and deserts cover much of the Earth's surface. Humankind has been annihilated by drought and the nuclear and biological conflicts following the Great Breakdown. Desperate bands of humans still survive. Some live far underground, away from the searing temperatures and ongoing conflicts on the surface; others scrape a living in the remains of shattered cities above ground. In Paris, Pierre lives like an animal among the sand-drifted ruins of the once great city. Near death, he faces a choice: join the strangers heading south in search of water, or remain in the city and perish. Guardians of the Phoenix tells the story of the last survivors on planet Earth, their desperate fight for survival and their last hope to save the world."

Commentary: Thanks to Solaris' heavily revised reissue a few months ago, I enjoyed baby's first Eric Brown, Engineman, very much, and it was more than a decade old already. Guardians of the Phoenix, on the other hand, is new Eric Brown, and I'm hugely excited to see how his fiction has evolved in the interim.

Sounds very different, mind you. Not that that's a negative at all...

This. And soon, I hope.

Betrayer of Worlds
by Larry Niven & Edward M. Lerner

Release Details:
Published in the US on
12/10/09 by Tor / Forge

Review Priority:
3 (Moderate)

Plot Synopsis: "Fleeing the supernova chain reaction at the galactic core, the cowardly Puppeteers of the Fleet of Worlds have - just barely - survived. They’ve stumbled from one crisis to the next: The rebellion of their human slaves. The relentless questing of the species of Known Space. The spectacular rise of the starfish-like Gw’oth. The onslaught of the genocidal Pak. Catastrophe looms again as past crises return - and converge. Who can possibly save the Fleet of Worlds from its greatest peril yet?

"Louis Wu? Trapped in the Wunderland civil war, all he wants is to go home - but the only possible escape will plunge him into unknowable danger. Ol’t’ro? The Gw’oth ensemble mind fled across the stars to establish a colony world free from tyranny. But some problems cannot be left behind, and other problems - like the Fleet of Worlds itself - are racing straight at them. Achilles? Despite past disgrace, the charismatic Puppeteer politician knows he is destined for greatness. He will do anything to seize power - and to take his revenge on everyone who ever stood in his way. Nessus? The insane Puppeteer scout is out of ideas, out of resources, with only desperation left to guide him.

"Their hopes and fears, dreams and ambitions are about to collide. And the winner takes... worlds."

Commentary: Oh god. Yet another of the embarrassing holes in my knowledge of classic genre fiction comes to light: I've never read Ringworld. I have it - a couple of the sequels, too - but alas, it's remained on the bookshelf, untouched, since whatever it was moved me to purchase it... oh, a decade ago?

Anyway, this prequel, co-written by Ed Lerner, could be the perfect place for me to start. Betrayer of Worlds seems to be the first volume of a prequel trilogy, only indirectly (as yet) related to the actual Ringworld.

Though it sounds somewhat intimidating. Maybe the Ringworld story would be better served if I dug out my copy of the first novel proper and start in on the series where everyone else did... thoughts?

Stormlord Rising
by Glenda Larke

Release Details:
Published in the UK on
04/11/11 by Orbit

Review Priority:
3 (Moderate)

Plot Synopsis: "The last Stormlord is dead - and war has arrived. The nomadic Reduners have put the Quartern's rainlords to the sword, leaving their cities without water or hope. Shale still lives, despite being betrayed, drugged and sold to his greatest enemy. Yet Shale needs his adversary more than his freedom, as thousands will die if they don't channel the rains together. For Shale isn't a Stormlord in his own right - at least, not yet. Only Terelle could help him now, but she's a prisoner herself and far from home. And a new force is rising in the desert. While kept as a Reduner whore, Rainlord Ryka Feldspar witnesses a power that can move the sands themselves. The Reduners are hailing this power as god-given, and its impact could transform a world."

Commentary: Right on the cusp of my blogging days, I was lucky enough to win a signed copy of The Last Stormlord - volume one of this (presumed) trilogy. For one reason or another I never quite found the time to get to it, but the reception of Glenda Larke's latest has been superlative, and if I had all the time in the world at my command, I'd dig into Stormlord Rising right quick. As is... we'll have to see, I suppose. I have the best of intentions - though what all know where a road of those leads!

The Diviner's Tale
by Bradford Morrow

Release Details:
Published in the UK on
01/01/11 by Corvus

Review Priority:
5 (Immediate)

Plot Synopsis: "Cassandra Brooks is a single mother-of-two, schoolteacher and water diviner. Deep in the woods as she dowses the land for a property developer, she is confronted by the body of a young girl, swinging from a tree, hanged. When she returns with the authorities, the body has vanished. Already regarded as an eccentric, her story is disbelieved- until a girl turns up in the woods, alive, mute and identical to the girl in Cassandra's vision. In the days that follow, Cassandra's visions become darker and more frequent as they begin to take on a tangible form. Forced to confront a past she has tried to forget, Cassandra finds herself locked in a game of cat-and-mouse with a real life killer who has haunted her for longer than she can remember. At once an ingeniously plotted mystery and a magical love story, The Diviner's Tale will pull you helplessly down into Cassandra's luminous world."

Commentary: Hey-o! Another gorgeous Corvid, and you know, going by the track record of this sumptuous new publishing house, that's just about all I need to get excited about The Diviner's Tale. Add to that this beautiful-looking new novel - and the picture doesn't even do it justice (think red gilded pages) - comes from the founding editor of Conjunctions magazine... well. I expect great things.

To be read and reviewed very soon, no doubt about it.

Out of the Dark
by David Weber

Release Details:
Published in the US on
27/07/04 by Tor / Forge

Review Priority:
3 (Moderate)

Plot Synopsis: "The Galactic Hegemony has been around a long time, and it likes stability - the kind of stability that member species like the aggressive, carnivorous Shongairi tend to disturb. So when the Hegemony Survey Force encountered a world whose so-called "sentients" - humans, they called themselves - were almost as bad as the Shongairi themselves, it seemed reasonable to use the Shongairi to neutralize them before they could become a second threat to galactic peace. And if the Shongairi took a few knocks in the process, all the better.

"Now, Earth is conquered. The Shongairi have arrived in force, and humanity’s cities lie in radioactive ruins. In mere minutes, more than half the human race has died.

"Master Sergeant Stephen Buchevsky, who thought he was being rotated home from his latest tour in Afghanistan, finds himself instead prowling the back country of the Balkans, dodging alien patrols and trying to organize scattered survivors without getting killed. And in the southeastern US, firearms instructor and former Marine Dave Dvorak finds himself at the center of a growing network of resistance—putting his extended family at lethal risk, but what else can you do?

"On the face of it, Buchevsky’s and Dvorak’s chances look bleak, as do prospects for the rest of the surviving human race. But it may well be that Shongairi and the Hegemony alike have underestimated the inhabitants of that strange planet called Earth..."

Commentary: Huh. Dog aliens and vampires... a novel, the first in a trilogy of them (of course), grown out of a short in Warriors, the GRRM and Gardner Dozois anthology... from an esteemed, Big Name science-fiction author. Sounds pretty fine, right?

Well you'd think, but people seem to hate Out of the Dark! Rarely do you come across such overwhelming negativity in regards to a new release. On the other hand, the Yeti what stomps reviewed this a few weeks ago, and - with reservations, admittedly - liked it almost despite himself, calling Out of the Dark, with the utmost cunning, "a popcorn novel that refuses to play in the shadows."

Considering all of which, I'm not at all sure what to think of Out of the Dark. So I suppose we'll see, won't we?

The Best of Tomes of the Dead
by Various Authors

Release Details:
Published in the UK on
09/11/10 by Abbadon

Review Priority:
2 (Fair)

Plot Synopsis: "Tomes of The Dead: tales of the hungry dead, roaming the earth, bringing a charnel plague to humanity. Tomes of The Dead: where graveyards yawn and zombies push up through worm-ridden soil as undeath wakes rigor mortis stiffened limbs. Tomes of The Dead: the very best in zombie fiction from some of the finest talents working in horror today.

"Volume 1 in this series collects together The Words of Their Roaring, I Zombie and Anno Mortis."Commentary: Another omnibus from Abaddon. Three writers from 2000AD, from what I gather, turn their talents towards the omniscient zombie horde. In all honesty I've several more immediately interesting zombie books still to get to, and this omnibus doesn't threaten their position in the life-threateningly large TBR stack in the least. Let's call The Best of Tomes of the Dead a neat little stocking filler and leave it at that.


  1. I appreciate these posts as a heads up to what is coming out but overall solid recommendations and reviews are more important to me. Either way though great blog - thanks for all your efforts!

  2. Yes, I would regret losing this feature of the site. I like the reviews a lot as well, but I also like a seeing what new books you get and reading your commentary. I appreciate that this takes quite a bit of work, but for me it's one of the highlights of the blog. Mad Hatter ( Booktionary) does something similar with his last procurements posts, he posts photos of his received stack and then a short comment. Love that.

  3. It's nice as a heads up, but I think your time would be better spent on pieces that allow you to display the wit and humor that we've come to expect from TSS.

  4. You mean... like fart jokes and mean-spiritedness? Always a pleasure to oblige, Kris! :D

    I like that people like these posts, I do, but time is getting shorter and shorter. There's got to be a better way of communicating what's come through the mail and why you're more likely to see me reading and reviewing some of those books than others, you know?

  5. For my money, these are the reason I come to the blog. Then I check out the rest of the um, awesomeness. But these are what get me here. Hate to see them go or change. Time's short, but seems to me you could cut it in other places. These is the highlight. Ha.

  6. I'm a big fan of the BoSS. When I first started coming to you blog, it gave me a good sense of your reading tastes...(you passed that test) And it gives me a head's up as to what to expect in terms of books you'll be reviewing soon, which keeps me coming back to read your reviews.

    All in all, your BoSS is the best "look at what books I got for free" post of all the SFF blogs out there. It shows that you aren't just showing off all the free stuff you get, but actually putting thought into what you'll be producing in terms of blog content, and I appreciate that.

  7. The BoSS is hands down my favorite sff blog post. I look forward to it each week and would hate to see it change to the standard list of books received, which I actually think add little value.

  8. Wow. More than a little surprised to see such an outpouring of support for The BoSS. Perhaps I'm going to have to rethink rethinking things after all...

    We shall see. Squirreling away at the next few weeks of these things as we speak, so you'll all get your medicine through the new year at least! :P

  9. I'm of big fan of the BoSS too, and look forward to it every week.