Sunday, 9 January 2011

Books Received | The BoSS for 09/01/11

Did you all meet the new BoSS earlier today? If you missed him, no stress. He's not a great deal changed in any event.

In sum, as I said, less is more... more or less. From here on out the BoSS isn't going to be an attempt to talk about every review copy that comes through the door with designs on a write-up here on the blog. It's going to be shorter, yes - but surely succinctness is no ill thing - yet I also mean for it also to bear a closer relation to those reviews and discussions that do filter through to the front page of The Speculative Scotsman.

I for one am pretty pleased with how things are shaping up. And with the BoSS on hiatus since mid-December, the pickings aren't exactly slim: I've got a good lot of books to run down  in this first edition of the new and (hopefully) improved Bag o' Speculative Swag.

So let's get to it!


Songs of the Dying Earth
ed. Gardner Dozois & George R. R. Martin

Vital Statistics
Published in the US
on 07/12/10
by Tor / Forge

Review Priority
4 (Very High)

The Blurb: To honour the magnificent career of Jack Vance, one unparalleled in achievement and impact, George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, with the full cooperation of Vance, his family, and his agents, have created a Jack Vance tribute anthology: Songs of the Dying Earth. The best of today's fantasy writers to return to the unique and evocative milieu of The Dying Earth, from which they and so many others have drawn so much inspiration, to create their own brand-new adventures in the world of Jack Vance’s greatest novel.

Half a century ago, Jack Vance created the world of the Dying Earth, and fantasy has never been the same. Now, for the first time ever, Jack has agreed to open this bizarre and darkly beautiful world to other fantasists, to play in as their very own. To say that other fantasy writers are excited by this prospect is a gross understatement; one has told us that he'd crawl through broken glass for the chance to write for the anthology, another that he'd gladly give up his right arm for the privilege. That's the kind of regard in which Jack Vance and The Dying Earth are held by generations of his peers.

This book contains original stories from George R. R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Dan Simmons, Elizabeth Moon, Tanith Lee, Tad Williams,  Kage Baker, and Robert Silverberg, along with fifteen others, and an introduction by Dean Koontz.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: Oh, glory be! I've had a copy of the UK edition of Songs on the Dying Earth in pride of place on my bookshelves since it came out hereabouts, sat right next to my copy of the Fantasy Masterworks edition of Tales of the Dying Earth.

...I've read neither.

Criminal, I know. But if I ever needed a kick in the arse, a review copy of Tor's new US edition of Songs of the Dying Earth is it. Now featuring an original novella by one of my favourite authors, he of Hyperion and The Terror, Dan "The Man" Simmons. And that's on top of all the other genre greats featured in this lavish anthology. Give me a wee while to find my footing with the original Jack Vance novels - believe me, I've tried (and invariably failed) to read a few of these stories without that grounding - and sure enough I'll be ploughing on through this baby.

The Horns of Ruin
by Tim Akers

Vital Statistics
Published in the US
on 30/11/10
by Pyr

Review Priority
3 (Fair)

The Blurb: Eva Forge is the last paladin of a dead God. Morgan, God of battle and champion of the Fraterdom, was assassinated by his jealous brother, Amon. Over time, the Cult of Morgan has been surpassed by other gods, his blessings ignored in favour of brighter technologies and more mechanical miracles. Eva was the last child dedicated to the Cult of Morgan, forsaken by her parents and forgotten by her family. Now she watches as her new family, her Cult, crumbles all around her.

When a series of kidnappings and murders makes it clear that someone is trying to hasten the death of the Cult of Morgan, Eva must seek out unexpected allies and unwelcome answers in the city of Ash. But will she be able to save the city from a growing conspiracy, one that reaches back to her childhood, even back to the murder of her god?

A Scotsman's Thoughts: I don't know that I've ever truly loved steampunk. Certainly the aesthetic lends itself to fantastic imagery and fascinating invention, but the stories so often told in novels with a steampunky twist to them leave me cold as often as not. See The Bookman, by Lavie Tidhar, whose first novel I'd expected to adore. Alas.

So why am I considering reading The Horns of Ruin? Well, there's a first time for everything, isn't there? And I know, as per the review on the Amazon listing, that the Mad Hatter liked it. That's recommendation enough for me.

The Hammer
by K. J. Parker

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 20/01/11
by Orbit

Review Priority
5 (Immediate)

The Blurb: The colony was founded seventy years ago. The plan was originally to mine silver, but there turned out not to be any. Now an uneasy peace exists on the island, between the colonists and the once-noble met'Oc, a family in exile on a remote stronghold for their role in a vaguely remembered civil war. The met'Oc are tolerated, in spite of occasional cattle stealing raids, since they alone possess the weapons considered necessary protection in the event of the island's savages becoming hostile. Intelligent, resourceful, and determined, Gignomai is the youngest brother in the current generation of met'Oc. He is about to realise exactly what is expected of him; and what it means to defy his family.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: The highlight of the week's haul, without a doubt. The Hammer caught me quite by surprise. It doesn't seem so long ago I powered through The Folding Knife to find one of the most surprising, non-traditional fantasies of 2010. Immediately after finished that novel I started plotting a free week to have a go at K. J. Parker's Engineer trilogy... and then The Hammer plopped through the letterbox.

Wherever did the intervening months go, I wonder?

Well, wherever they disappeared off to, the bastards, the new K. J. Parker has jumped straight to the top of the TBR. Expect a full review in advance of The Hammer's release date.

The Heir of Night
by Helen Lowe

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 03/03/11
by Gollancz

Review Priority
3 (Fair)

The Blurb: The violence of an age-old war casts a long shadow. It falls on a world where mercy is weakness and conflict is a way of life. Young Malian is being trained to rule. Her people garrison the mountain range known as the Wall of Night against an ancient enemy, keeping a tide of shadow from the rest of their world.

Malian is expected to uphold this tradition, yet she's known little of real danger until the enemy launches a direct attack upon her fortress home. In the darkest part of the night, the Keep of Winds becomes a bloodbath. Women and children, warriors and priests, are slain by creatures with twisted magic flowing in their veins. And as the castle wakes to chaos, Malian flees deep into the Old Keep, her life at stake. Then when the danger is greatest, her own hidden magic flares into life.

But this untapped potential is a two-edged blade. If she accepts its power, she must prepare to pay the price...

A Scotsman's Thoughts: "A richly told tale of strange magic, dark treachery and conflicting loyalties, set in a well realized world," blurbs Robin Hobb. For whatever that's worth; I haven't read any Robin Hobb. But his (hers?) is a name I respect, and coming from a publisher I trust, a publisher I have to thank for some of 2010's best speculative fiction, I'm keen to give The Heir of Night a chance.

Passion Play
by Beth Bernovich

Vital Statistics
Published in the US
on 12/10/10
by Tor / Forge

Review Priority
2 (We'll See)

The Blurb: Ilse Zhalina is the daughter of one of Melnek’s more prominent merchants. She has lived most of her life surrounded by the trappings of wealth and privilege.  Many would consider hers a happy lot. But there are dark secrets, especially in the best of families. Ilse has learned that for a young woman of her beauty and social station, to be passive and silent is the best way to survive.

When Ilse finally meets the older man she is to marry, she realizes he is far crueler and more deadly than her father could ever be. Ilse chooses to run. This choice will change her life forever.

And it will lead her to Raul Kosenmark,  master of one of the land’s most notorious pleasure houses.. and who is, as Ilse discovers, a puppetmaster of a different sort altogether.  Ilse discovers a world where every pleasure has a price and there are levels of magic and intrigue she once thought unimaginable. She also finds the other half of her heart.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: The week's wildcard. Passion Play has borne several comparisons to Jacqueline Carey's well-received Kushiel novels, and Liviu Suciu of Fantasy Book Critic  absolutely adored it.

Then again he and I have been at odds in our judgement of many things, not least The Left Hand of God - that vile specimen of a fantasy novel (forgive me) - and going off of the synopsis, this book sounds entirely outside of my usual comfort zone. So we'll see. I mean to give it the old once-over in any event.


That's it for this week. But never fear: the nearly-new and probably only moderately improved BoSS will be back at the same bat-time next week, in the same bat-place. See you then!

Now, to get a start on The HammerGignomai, did you say?


  1. Forget Koontz and forget his book “What the Night Knows” (a ghost vengeance story, been there, done that), instead read a book that’s been BANNED like “America Deceived II” by E.A. Blayre III.
    Last link (before Google Books bans it also]:

  2. I read (and reviewed) Passion Play last year and I really liked it! It wasn't flawless, but it kept me turning pages :)