Sunday, 27 March 2011

Books Received | The BoSS for 27/03/11

Met the old BoSS? Well, let me introduce you to the new BoSS - same as the old BoSS, more or less... except less is more. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

All caught up? Good. Let's get on with it, then.

Could this week's lovelies make up the best bag of speculative swag ever? If you're asking me... I think they might just.


by China Mieville

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 06/05/11
by Macmillan

Review Priority
5 (A Sure Thing)

The Blurb: Embassytown: a city of contradictions on the outskirts of the universe.

Avice is an immerser, a traveller on the immer, the sea of space and time below the everyday, now returned to her birth planet. Here on Arieka, humans are not the only intelligent life, and Avice has a rare bond with the natives, the enigmatic Hosts - who cannot lie.

Only a tiny cadre of unique human Ambassadors can speak Language, and connect the two communities. But an unimaginable new arrival has come to Embassytown. And when this Ambassador speaks, everything changes.

Catastrophe looms. Avice knows the only hope is for her to speak directly to the alien Hosts.

And that is impossible.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: Indeed. :)

This is the book I've been cagey about mentioning for the last little while. I've had my copy since the beginning of March, in fact, and though I was sworn to secrecy about it, under pain of quantum disintegration, we're only six weeks from release now, and no-one made me promise not to read Embassytown the second I got my grubby paws on it.

Long-time readers of TSS will know how much new China Mieville means to me. Me, and many, many others, of course. So I came to Embassytown with only my usual great expectations. Whether or not Mieville's first out-and-out sci-fi novel met them, or even exceeded them... why, we'll have a word as to that later this very week.

by Ian McDonald

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 10/03/11
by Gollancz

Review Priority
4 (Pretty Bloody Likely)

The Blurb: In the Los Angeles ghetto of Necroville, the yearly celebration of the Night of the Dead - where the dead are resurrected through the miracle of nanotechnology and live their second lives as non-citizens - becomes a journey of discovery and revelation for five individuals on the run from their pasts. With his customary flair for making the bizarre both credible and fascinating, McDonald tosses aside the line of demarcation between living and dead in a story that confronts the central quandary of human existence: the essence of non-being.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: As if brand spanking new China Mieville wasn't enough to get my speculative panties in a bunch, along comes a novel by the great Ian McDonald... a novel I'd heard almost nothing about, oddly. Wondering why Necroville had met with so little fanfare, I asked the great Google, who pointed me towards the wondrous Wiki -- and it seems this isn't new Ian McDonald at all. Just a reissue of a 1994 novel.

Which isn't at all discouraging, in truth. I've been meaning to talk Ian McDonald since I started this blog, and though I was as stunned by The Dervish House as every other science-fiction fan, by the time I tried to set pen to paper (read: fingertips to wireless keyboard) to note down my thoughts, I was already too distant from the text to even approach the incredible reviews I'd seen elsewhere.

Not so with Necroville. About which I'll get a thing for TSS, hand to God.

The Death of Bunny Munroe
by Nick Cave

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 03/09/09
by Canongate

Review Priority
3 (We'll See)

The Blurb: Following the suicide of his wife, Bunny, a door-to-door salesman and lothario, takes his son on a trip along the south coast of England. He is about to discover that his days are numbered.

With a daring hellride of a plot, The Death of Bunny Munro is also a modern morality tale of sorts, a stylish, furious, funny, truthful and tender account of one man's descent and judgement. Full of the linguistic verve that has made Cave one of the world's most respected lyricists, it is his first novel since the publication of his critically acclaimed debut And the Ass Saw the Angel twenty years ago.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: Now this has been an idle curiosity of mine for years. Apparently "Cave writes novels like he does lyrics, with strokes of blood and sulphur and lightning," and as a long-standing Nick Cave fan - of his music with The Bad Seeds, and equally the wonderful scripts he's written for film, which if The Death of Bunny Munro (to which critical reaction has been divisive to put it politely) even approaches, I'll be pleased.

Not a review copy, incidentally; a gift from my other half for my birthday earlier in March. I'd have told you guys at the time, but you'd only have gone and made a fuss, and the older I get, the more I feel like the less fuss, the better.

The Ritual
by Adam Nevill

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 06/05/11
by Pan

Review Priority
5 (A Sure Thing)

The Blurb: And on the third day things did not get better. The rain fell hard and cold, the white sun never broke through the low grey cloud, and they were lost. But it was the dead thing they found hanging from a tree that changed the trip beyond recognition.

When four old University friends set off into the Scandinavian wilderness of the Arctic Circle, they aim to briefly escape the problems of their lives and reconnect with one another. But when Luke, the only man still single and living a precarious existence, finds he has little left in common with his well-heeled friends, tensions rise.

With limited fitness and experience between them, a shortcut meant to ease their hike turns into a nightmare scenario that could cost them their lives. Lost, hungry, and surrounded by forest untouched for millennia, Luke figures things couldn’t possibly get any worse.

But then they stumble across an old habitation. Ancient artefacts decorate the walls and there are bones scattered upon the dry floors. The residue of old rites and pagan sacrifice for something that still exists in the forest. Something responsible for the bestial presence that follows their every step. And as the four friends stagger in the direction of salvation, they learn that death doesn’t come easy among these ancient trees...

A Scotsman's Thoughts: Did someone mention the Arctic?

Well, I'm in then. From the author who showed us round Apartment 16, along comes The Ritual, which sounds right up my alley: Dark Matter meets The Blair Witch Project, which the haters can hate if it helps them sleep at night, somehow -- it's still among my very favourite films.

On the other hand, though I enjoyed Apartment 16 (see here) I did find some of it a touch distracted, and the end rather a dampener on things. Nonetheless, I'm really looking forward to finding some time for The Ritual in the not-too-distant.

by Veronica Roth

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 28/04/11
by HarperCollins Children's

Review Priority
2 (It Could Happen)

The Blurb: In sixteen-year-old Beatrice Prior’s world, society is divided into five factions – Abnegation (the selfless), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent) – each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue, in the attempt to form a “perfect society.” At the age of sixteen, teens must choose the faction to which they will devote their lives.

On her Choosing Day, Beatrice renames herself Tris, rejects her family’s group, and chooses another faction. After surviving a brutal initiation, Tris finds romance with a super-hot boy, but also discovers unrest and growing conflict in their seemingly perfect society. To survive and save those they love, they must use their strengths to uncover the truths about their identities, their families, and the order of their society itself.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: And so, to the only one of this week's books I don't want to put everything down and read immediately.

It could happen, I guess - but if I'm honest, probably not. Because I'm afraid you don't get to mention a "super-hot boy" in your story synopsis and expect anyone to take you seriously. Ah well; otherwise, Divergent might have been a half-decent rip-off of The Hunger Games. Certainly I'd have been intrigued to hear where Veronica Roth takes the five factions from the blurb.

I wonder: do you think the amount of people put off by the mention of said "super-hot boy" is larger or smaller than the folks who'll read Divergent precisely because of it?


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!

What will I be reading next, then? Well, since I'm down with Embassytown already... Necroville or The Ritual, at a guess. I'll toss a coin. Not Divergent; that's a pinky-swear you can expect me to keep. :P

But what books do you have on your bedside table at the moment, if I might ask?

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