Saturday 30 April 2011

The Best Things In Life Are Free | A Weekend In Fairyland

Thanks to some canny negotiation on the part of TSS favourite Catherynne M. Valente, from this very minute through sometime on Monday evening, you can legitimately download a PDF of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making for free, true to its original crowd-sourced roots, by following the signposts here.

There's a precious little game involved, but take heed: use your heart before your head  *ahem* and you'll find the direct link to this fantastic time-limited freebie just fine.

Now unfortunately this complimentary e-book of Valente's small but perfectly formed novel lacks the beautiful illustrations commissioned for the forthcoming Feiwel & Friends edition, pictured - and due May 10th in the States - but for myself, that's reason enough to justify a purchase I'd have been making anyway, to be perfectly honest.

For those of you a little less certain of this author's unspeakable talent, go forth, I urge you: read The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making for absolutely nothing.

You can thank me later.

But I Digress | Hugo Who? and A Moment of Pride

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times...

So I've had a week. About which I should have a little more to share with you all sometime soon; it's going to mean a few changes to TSS, after all. But for now, I'm going to let Mr Dickens tell it.

Anyway, I spent a couple of hours yesterday catching up on all the blog posts I'd managed to miss while otherwise occupied, among which a one which seems to have set off something of an interesting discussion. That's this typically thoughtful interrogation of the contemporary relevance of the nominations for Best Fan Writer, as determined by the genrelit bigwigs behind the Hugo Awards. To which I'll say: the Hugos - not to mention the Clarkes and the Nebulas and the BFSAs... these awards are all institutions of a sort, and it is very much The Way of institutions to be leagues behind the rest of us; to be recalcitrant towards change, a thing so often sweeping one minute and then a nothing the next. But that doesn't mean they can't and won't change, just... on a timetable all of their own.

I mean, look at the Academy Awards. Of course most Best Picture winners are completely of a sort - such that some cinema can best be described as Oscar-bait - but it's the sort that the Academy originally set out to reward, and elevate, and there should be no shame in that. The Oscars have even evolved a little of late: with the pool of Best Picture candidates widened to accommodate ten films, now there's a way for the Academy to recognise the likes of Black Swan and The Kids Are Alright, comedy films and horror films and fantasy films (remember The Return of the King's belated triumph a decade ago?) very far in form from the organisation's traditional purview -  and where there's a way, there's a will. I'm going to be grateful for that precious little thing rather than begrudge that it isn't a bigger thing - and there are little things in the Hugo nominations this year, too, to be happy about. For instance joining a few usual suspects on the ballot for Best Novel, we have The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, which I really must read already, and Feed by Mira Grant: a political zombie thriller about bloggers!

That's not nothing.

But I digress. In fact I hadn't even intended to talk about the issues Aidan raised, so much as quote a little from his article, and proceed to grin stupidly. Here... is why:

"Don’t even get me started on the Best Fanzine and Best Fan Writer awards. Maybe I’m exposing my ignorance here, but beyond StarShipSofa, I haven’t heard of a damn one [nor I - ED], nor am I familiar with any of the writers. My beef, obviously, is the lack of presence of blogs, bloggers and online writers. Where’re the Nialls (Harrison and Alexander)? Where’s Abigail Nussbaum or Adam Whitehead? No nod for SF Signal? Really?"

To which I would add, and not just to be decent, where in the hell is A Dribble of Ink? Maybe Aidan wears a hat made of solid gold banknotes these days, and you totally can't trust him as far as you can throw him now he's working for - everyone, meet sarcasm - but whatever: if you aren't already following A Dribble of Ink, you damn well should be. Oh, and the blogs of all the other geniuses Aidan raises. Of course. Except maybe SF Signal.

(What? I'm not sorry... the ratio of content to noise has tipped, I think. Not to mention the advent of certain dubious reviewing practices. But what are we doing in brackets?)

There, that's better.

Now I expect it was mostly because of the curious poetry of talking about the two Nialls, but that Aidan thinks so highly of TSS as to even consider bringing it up among such illustrious company as Adam and Abigail... well, after a great gaping [redacted] of a week, that made me, for a moment, a fairly happy chap.

So you know. Ta. :)

Thursday 28 April 2011

Book Review | The Ritual by Adam Nevill

Buy this book from

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...


If you go down to the woods today, whatever you do, heed this one warning: don't take The Ritual with. It'll scare the sense of adventure right out of you.

Hot on the heels of last year's smash hit horror Apartment 16, rising star Adam Nevill returns to wreak havoc on your dreams once more - and on career-best form, for The Ritual is superb. It is from start to finish a far more ambitious book than its predecessor, for the larger part a substantially more effective one, and wreathed throughout with such wonderfully evocative exposition as to engender an atmosphere equal parts awful and exquisite.

But let's meet the gang.

Our main man, Luke, is in truth a bit of a layabout. Having bounced from job to job back home, and woman to woman - but of course - he looks back on his years at Uni, when he shared a Birmingham bedsit with Hutch and Dom and Phil, as "the best days of his life. Of all their lives, he liked to think." (p.45) But that was lifetime ago, and though he and Hutch have kept in touch, hiking together all their adult lives, Luke fears he's grown apart from Phil and Dom... or else them from him. He's right to be afraid.

One drunken night at a wedding reception, the former flatmates plot to renew their acquaintance. Six months later, they meet together in Sweden, to tramp and camp in the pristine wilderness of the North. All too soon, however, tensions begin to flare, and it becomes apparent that neither Phil nor Dom are fit enough to blaze the trail our dab hands had planned. A short-cut is negotiated, through a forest a ways away from the beaten track. The boys go "off piste," where "there are no trails." (p.9)

Bad move.

Because something is waiting for them in the woods. Something so horrific none of them can even begin to conceive of the harm it must mean. Something "from times before symbols and languages could depict such things that hunted and meant murder." (p.208)

The unremitting wilderness of sub-Arctic Sweden is of course a landscape far removed from the luxury London apartments of Adam Nevill's last effort, and it is a grand conjuration indeed; grand and quite, quite terrifying. Luke and his cronies of old quickly find themselves lost in a world stood still, utterly apart from all we can comprehend, and therein the unknowableness of the night, and the horrors it could hold, come front and centre.

Rather too front and centre, as it happens, for in the last act the evil is exposed and explained, and unmasked, the thing loses much of its darkly sparkling lustre. Come to that, the entire last third of The Ritual marks an abrupt about-turn in tenor and in tone so sustained that it serves to dispel the massing thunderheads of terror and tension Nevill so delicately evokes in the early-going. Without getting all spoilery, the aforementioned evil, as it happens, turns out to be "inevitable, relentless and predictable. Imaginative, he'd give it that much, but soulless." (p.341)

That said, the sense of place Nevill establishes in The Ritual is simply excellent; to a one, his characters are naturalistic, and easy to believe in; and the horror that haunts them, before it is so rudely revealed, is truly a chilling thing. Thus, The Ritual can only come highly recommended. It has its faults - foremost amongst them the profoundly unhelpful compulsion to explain what should by all rights be inexplicable and a few lamentably transparent attempts to instil in the reader a pre-existing sense of foreboding (see p.25) - yet these are familiar Achilles heels in horror, and it is in the final accounting tremendously easy to overlook the selfsame issues the genre's grandmasters still stumble upon in an author with such promise and talent and ambition as England's answer to Stephen King, Adam Nevill.


The Ritual
by Adam Nevill

UK Publication: May 2011, Pan

Buy this book from Book Depository

Recommended and Related Reading

Tuesday 26 April 2011

TV Review | Spartacus: Gods of the Arena

So. Spartacus, minus Spartacus. How did you think that was going to turn out?

If you answered in the negative, do not pass go, do not collect 200 Monopoly monies. Sit your arse back down and listen, because Gods of the Arena, the six-part prequel miniseries Starz made in lieu of definitive news on the health of rising star Andy Whitfield, is brilliant. How else to put it, other than bloody, fucking brilliant?

And I mean that quite literally. Sex and dismemberment is what Gods of the Arena has to offer, just as Spartacus: Blood and Sand before it. Not exactly a recipe for success by my accounting, and yet... I couldn't look away. Not for a single, solitary second, over six sumptuous and successively more satisfying hours.

Where Blood and Sand took two or three episodes to find its footing, setting up the larger narrative to come and establishing an identity in terms of form and tone, Gods of the Arena explodes onto our television sets fully formed, revelling in the very ingredients which near put me off the first season of Spartacus before it had properly begun. The showrunners know what they're about, now, and it shows. After a recap of Past Transgressions, Gods of the Arena begins exactly where it belongs: right in the shit, with the blood and the dirt, and the top of a gladiator's head, of late divorced sliced off his jaw.

There was a tendency for the violence in last year's Spartacus to come off as cartoonish; related lessons have been learned. Certain supporting characters seemed to bounce around for months without any particular purpose; not so now. Ultimately, however, the greatest failing of Blood and Sand was that it took far too long to penetrate through the gristle to the thick of it. One can only imagine how many viewers turned away from Blood and Sand in fits of impatience, and justifiably so, alas. But gluttons for punishment such as myself, who stuck it out, discovered to our surprise and utter delight a series of gleeful abandon, wherein anything could happen to anyone - short ol' Sparty himself - and indeed, it did.

Last time on Blood and Sand, John Hannah's fabulously filthy Batiatus finally got his, along with his wife Lucrezia, played to perfection by televisual fantasy's own Lucy Lawless, whom it must be practically impossible not to recall as Xena: Warrior Princess. Spartacus led a slave rebellion against the pair of them; them who had captured, oppressed and brutalised him and his gladiatorial kin. Thus they were stabbed rather a lot.

Now I understand Lucy Lawless is set to return for the second season of Spartacus proper, but by necessity, what with the death of her husband - a bitter, twisted, murderous ass of a man, on pitch-perfect form in Gods of the Arena  - much changed, so the notion of another six hours in their inimitable company struck me a gimme. And I'm pleased to report they've never been better... which is to say more awful or conniving or manipulative. The stakes are a little less apocalyptic this time out, what with the end of their story as we understand it written in the indelible ink of their own spilled innards, yet shifting from sterling supporting roles to front and centre of the action and the narrative, Hannah and Lawless, each the other's equal, ascend in Gods of the Arena to the hall of fame of television's best baddies.

Would that we could watch them go at it all over again...

There are other highlights, of course. No short of other lustrous fruits to pluck from this forbidden tree: the growth of the much-changed Manu Bennett as Spartacus' primary rival Crixus, the development of Peter Mensah's Oenomaus, the beginnings of the enmity between good Solonius and bad Batiatus, and the origins of a central character who could share Spartacus' burden in season two, with another actor in Andy Whitfield's place. There's sex and there's death and action and intrigue; as Batiatus and Lucrezia fight a war on two fronts - for a place in the games and a house free of interference - there's politics, Freud and just desserts aplenty. Firstly, however, and foremostly, Gods of the Arena is a rare chance for two of contemporary television's most memorable characters to shine a second time.

Everything in its right place, then. If you can keep it down, and sure enough, some stomachs will suffer at the thought, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena is simply magnificent.

Monday 25 April 2011

Screen Shot | Silent Hill Set Revelation

/Film have showcased some photography of a pivotal set from the upcoming film Silent Hill: Revelation 3D.

I'm a mite late on this, but what with all the fuss about A Game of Thrones on HBO, and then those dastardly pirates, I thought it could wait. The movie's not going to be done till next year anyway.

But that doesn't mean we can't ogle a few of the early sets, and wonder together whether this sequel to what is in my opinion the best video game to movie adaptation ever is going to end up gorgeous or garbage... or gorgeous garbage.

We can check off gorgeous, if these long-exposure shots by photographer Sara Collaton are anything to go by. Certainly they document a few rather impressive sets; impressive in a perfectly creepy kind of way, of course, as fairgrounds are wont to be after-hours - and growing up right next door to a big ol' park the carnies would hit every couple months, this thing I know for fact - and very auspicious they are. Moreover, they indicate the filmmakers mean to hold true to the movie's inspiration, which is to say Silent Hill 3.

That's the one with Heather in: Heather, the daughter of Harry Mason, the player character in the first Silent Hill. The first Silent Hill video game, I mean.

Anyhow, the cast is certainly promising. From the first film, Rahda Mitchell and Deborah Kara Unger are set to return alongside franchise newcomers Carrie-Anne Moss and Malcolm McDowell. And would you look at that! Why, it's only Sean bloody Bean again! Both as his character from the original, and also Harry?

Wait, what?

Don't look at me: I don't have a clue how that's going to work. Am I missing some pivotal thing, maybe?

But I digress. I'm much more concerned about the talent behind the camera than in front of it, in any event. With the decidedly dodgy horror of Deathwatch behind him, and late of the very genre void Solomon Kane was, Michael J. Bassett is both writing and directing this second Silent Hill film. And that... that doesn't exactly fill me with confidence, I fear.

So is Silent Hill: Revelation 3D going to be guff? Or does it stand to inherit the mantle of Best Video Game to Film Adaptation from its divisive predecessor?

Or would you perhaps take issue with my premise? I make no bones about it: as an absolute devotee of the video games, I utterly adored the first Silent Hill film. But I hear a lot of folks disagree...


Source: /Film

Sunday 24 April 2011

Books Received | The BoSS for 24/04/11

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.

Oh my God, it's another edition of The BoSS! Run for your lives! Run!

Or if you're man enough, hang about, I guess. Maybe you could even take to time to read a little about these here pretties before we have to fight to the death.


Among Thieves
by Douglas Hulick

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 01/04/11
by Tor

Review Priority
5 (A Sure Thing)

The Blurb: Drothe is a Nose, an informant who finds and takes care of trouble inside the criminal organization he’s a part of. He also smuggles imperial relics on the side.

When his boss sends him to Ten Ways to track down who’s been leaning on his organization’s people, Drothe discovers hints of a much bigger mystery. Someone is trying to stir up trouble between lower-level criminal organizations, including the one Drothe belongs to. And there’s a book rumored to contain imperial glimmer (or magic) that a lot of very dangerous people seem to be looking for - including two crime bosses known as the Gray Princes.

When Drothe discovers the book, he finds himself holding a bit of swag that can bring down emperors, shatter the criminal underworld, and unlock forbidden magic... that's if he can survive long enough to use it.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: Starting off strong, Among Thieves is another of 2011's fantasy debuts, and it seems to have gained a good amount of momentum since its release in early April. As aforementioned yesterday, I've a million things on my plate at the moment, so it may take longer than I'd otherwise like to find time for Douglas Hulick's winsome rogue, but it'll happen. 

I'll say this much, for the moment: I'm getting a real Scott Lynch vibe off of this, even as news of The Republic of Thieves continues to leave me cold. So. High hopes.

Blood Red Road
by Moira Young

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 02/06/11
by Marion Lloyd Books

Review Priority
3 (We'll See)

The Blurb: Every step of Saba's journey sizzles with danger... In a lawless land, where life is cheap and survival is hard, Saba has been brought up in isolated Silverlake. She never sees theangers of the destructive society outside. When her twin brother is snatched by mysterious black-robed riders, she sets out on an epic quest to rescue him. The story's searing pace, its spare style, the excitement of its fabulously damaged world, its unforgettably vivid characters, its violent action and glorious love story make this a truly sensatonal YA debut novel.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: Now this could well be a big deal. Of course it's too early to say, but going from the publicity materials, Marion Lloyd Books - a division of Scholastic, who you'll recall only just got through giving us The Hunger Games - are squarely behind Blood Red Road on the marketing front. And seeing what all the fuss is about is reason enough for me to take a good, hard look at Moira Young's book before it hits bookstore shelves in early June.

But then curiosity killed the cat, didn't it? Poor wee beastie... it only wanted to know.

And I can sympathise with that. :/

Black Halo
by Sam Sykes

Vital Statistics
Published in the US
on 22/03/11
by Pyr

Review Priority
3 (We'll See)

The Blurb: The Tome of the Undergates has been recovered...

...yet the gates of hell remain closed. Lenk and his five companions set sail to bring the accursed relic away from the demonic reach of Ulbecetonth, the Kraken Queen. But after weeks at sea, tensions amidst the adventurers are rising. Their troubles are only beginning when their ship crashes upon an island made of the bones left behind from a war long dead.

And it appears that bloodthirsty alien warrior women, fanatical beasts from the deep, and heretic-hunting wizards are the least of their concerns. Haunted by their pasts, plagued by their gods, tormented by their own people, and gripped by madness personal and peculiar, their greatest foes may yet be themselves.

The reach of Ulbecetonth is longer than hell can hold.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: Some among you might Sam Sykes practically taking over The Speculative Scotsman last year, when his debut, The Tome of the Undergates, first came out. But it seems he's too good for the likes of us, nowadays. He's been moving on up, and good for him! It's been lovely to see such down-to-earth and dare I say approachable new talent find the recognition he deserves.

However, woe betide us every one, I'm not sure I've got the time to tackle another tome as of this very minute, so it might be a bit before I have a proper review to show you all. But all good things.

The River of Shadows
by Robert V. S. Redick

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 21/04/11
by Gollancz

Review Priority
4 (Pretty Bloody Likely)

The Blurb: The latest novel in Robert V.S Redick's stunning and original fantasy epic is a taut race against time that takes the Chathrand across the seas in a desperate bid to stop the sorcerer Arunis unleashing the Swarm of Night. From the mysterious River of Shadows to the Infernal Forest, to the Island Wilderness Pazel and his companions face a phatasmogoric journey through altered relaities, a nightmare journey which offers glimpses of what might have been while taking them into the terror of what is to come. Will Arunis use the cursed Nilstone to end the world? This is a rich fantasy of nightmares and unexpected beauty and is proof positive that Redick is one of the most exciting new talents in fantasy.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: Speaking of tomes, in fact, I've just come off the mammoth second volume of The Chathrand Voyage, which is to say The Rats and the Ruling Sea - a much better book than its predecessor by my measure. Both of which volumes I'm hoping to put together reviews of in the not-too-distant. And when that's all taken care of, I'll be starting in on The River of Shadows, so.

Plans! :)

The Zombies Autopsies
by Steven C. Schlozman

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 14/04/10
by Bantam Press

Review Priority
3 (We'll See)

The Blurb: It seems that renowned zombie expert Dr Stanley Blum kept a detailed record of the vital work that he and his crack medical team conducted in their desperate bid to find a cure for the epidemic that is devastating the world. This is his notebook - and it doesn't make for comfortable reading.

Herein he documents the unique biology of zombie organisms for the first time. Notes taken during his dissection of immobilized but still functioning zombies include graphic depictions of the internal workings of these once-humans and reveal in grim detail the zombie anatomy, offering shocking insights into how these creatures function. This is not a book for the faint-hearted. And what soon becomes tragically clear is that Blum and his staff were caught up in a race against time... for they too start to succumb to the zombie plague.

We can only guess at the fate of Dr. Blum. But now that his notebook has been made available to the UN, the WHO and the wider world, we can only pray that Blum's scientific discoveries offer some hope for humankind on earth against the plague of the living dead.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: Heavily annotated and very meta, The Zombie Autopsies looks like it has designs on World War Z, and there's nothing wrong with aiming high, is there?

I've leafed through enough of this nicely-presented hardcover to know it stands a fighting chance of rivalling that definitive document, too. The Zombie Autopsies could be a bunch of fun. It's going to be my light reading of choice next time there's a silly sunny day to enjoy it on.


Well. That's it for this week, and this limited time only 2-for-1, 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-placeI'll see you then.

So you've got a fair idea of what I'll be reading, between now and next week. What about yourselves?

Saturday 23 April 2011

Books Received | The BoSS for 23/04/11

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.

Hella week! Hella, I tellya. :)

In fact, so much so I'm going to have to host a bit of a BOGOF with The BoSS on TSS this weekend, just to clear the decks. And I can already tell a few of these beauties are likely to get lost in the cracks, alas, so I'd be particularly interested to hear which of the ten recent arrivals you'd like to see reviewed the sooner.

I don't do at all well with decisions, so do tell!


On Stranger Tides
by Tim Powers

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 01/05/11
by Corvus

Review Priority
5 (A Sure Thing)

The Blurb: 1718. Puppeteer John Chandagnac has set sail for Jamaica to recover his stolen inheritance, when his ship is seized by pirates. Offered the choice to join the crew, or be killed where he stands, he decides that a pirate's life is better than none at all. Now known as Jack Shandy, this apprentice buccaneer soon learns to handle a mainsail and wield a cutlass - only to discover he is now a subject of a Caribbean pirate empire ruled by one Edward Thatch, better known as Blackbeard. A practitioner of voodoo, Blackbeard is building an army of the living and the dead, to voyage together to dreamlike lands where the Fountain of Youth awaits...

A Scotsman's Thoughts: Thar be the basis for the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film!

On Stranger's Tides has more than that dubious adaptation to recommend it, however. We had a couple of lovely sunny days hereabouts this past week, and seeking a solid Summer read, I gravitated to this Tim Powers reissue. What better than pirates and voodoo to pass the time while I try to turn this milky-ass skin of mine into something a mite more seaworthy?

An hour with On Stranger Tides turned into an afternoon turned into an evening, and the sun set, and I missed dinner, and I kept on reading. Boy did I enjoy this book. The review should be up within the next few days.

Wink Murder
by Ali Knight

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 14/04/11
by Hodder & Stoughton

Review Priority
3 (We'll See)

The Blurb: Kate Forman has an enviable life: a loving family and a perfect husband, Paul. But one night she finds Paul drunk and covered in blood, mumbling about having killed something - or someone. 

When a young and attractive woman who works for Paul is found murdered, Kate's suspicions about what he has really done send her on an increasingly desperate search for the truth that threatens to smash her carefully constructed life.

Doing the right thing should seem obvious, but as the lies multiply, the truth is not as straightforward as it seems; how well do you know the person you're married to?

A Scotsman's Thoughts: Now this... this doesn't immediately sound like my cup of tea, but it comes highly recommended from the publicist who turned me onto Tana French, so. At the very least I'll give Wink Murder an hour, see if it captures me.

Certainly the concept is novel enough. Reminds me of one of the quartet of long short stories from Full Dark, No Stars, in fact, and I'll be interested to see how long Ali Knight can keep up such a conceit without the narrative starting to drag.

Moon Over Soho
by Ben Aaronovitch

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 21/04/11
by Gollancz

Review Priority
4 (Pretty Bloody Likely)

The Blurb: I was my dad's vinyl-wallah: I changed his records while he lounged around drinking tea, and that's how I know my Argo from my Tempo. And it's why, when Dr Walid called me to the morgue to listen to a corpse, I recognised the tune it was playing. Something violently supernatural had happened to the victim, strong enough to leave its imprint like a wax cylinder recording. Cyrus Wilkinson, part-time jazz saxophonist and full-time accountant, had apparently dropped dead of a heart attack just after finishing a gig in a Soho jazz club. He wasn't the first.

No one was going to let me exhume corpses to see if they were playing my tune, so it was back to old-fashioned legwork, starting in Soho, the heart of the scene. I didn't trust the lovely Simone, Cyrus' ex-lover, professional jazz kitten and as inviting as a Rubens' portrait, but I needed her help: there were monsters stalking Soho, creatures feeding off that special gift that separates the great musician from someone who can raise a decent tune. What they take is beauty. What they leave behind is sickness, failure and broken lives.

And as I hunted them, my investigation got tangled up in another story: a brilliant trumpet player, Richard 'Lord' Grant - my father - who managed to destroy his own career, twice. That's the thing about policing: most of the time you're doing it to maintain public order. Occasionally you're doing it for justice. And maybe once in a career, you're doing it for revenge.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: Here we have the successor to Rivers of London, which you might recall I found quite delightful, and though I've a million things on my plate at this very moment, which Moon Over Soho can't quite compete with - through no fault of its own, you understand - it'd be a safe bet to wager your last ration that I'll be reading this sooner or later.

Sooner rather than later if I have my way, but then, I so rarely do. Life. Bah!

An Embarassment of Riches
by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Vital Statistics
Published in the US
on 01/03/11
by Tor

Review Priority
2 (It Could Happen)

The Blurb: The vampire Count finds himself a virtual prisoner in the Court of Kunigunde in Bohemia in the 1200s. Rakoczy Ferncsi, as Saint-Germain is known, passes his days making jewels to delight Queen Kunigunde and trying not to become involved in the Court's intrigues. In this, the vampire fails. Handsome, apparently wealthy, and obviously unmarried, he soon finds himself being sexually blackmailed by Rozsa, an ambitious lady-in-waiting. If he does not satisfy her, she will denounce him to the priests and he'll be burned at the stake, resulting in his True Death. Despite his care, the vampire makes more than one enemy at the Bohemian Court, and the Count can see only one road to freedom... through death.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: Wait, how many volumes? Twenty-odd, as per the Wiki!

You know, I have issues enough starting a series from book two or three, far less volume  twenty-effing-eight. And yet... Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's one of the many authors whose work I've always meant to dip my toes into, see how the temperature is, and the lay of the land. So I might just give An Embarrassment of Riches a shot; I might just...

The Thing on the Shore
by Tom Fletcher

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 31/03/11
by Quercus Publishing

Review Priority
4 (Pretty Bloody Likely)

The Blurb: When Artemis Black is assigned to manage a call-centre in Whitehaven - just a short hop from Sellafield along Cumbria's grim western coastline - on behalf of a mysterious multinational corporation called Interext, the isolation and remoteness of the place encourage him to implement a decidedly unhinged personal project, installing what purports to be cutting-edge AI technology, with a real, human' voice, on the automated answering systems. As a result of Artemis' actions, one of his employees, Arthur, becomes aware of an intangible landscape inside the labyrinthine systems of the call-centre - a landscape in which he can feel some kind of otherworldly consciousness stirring and in which, perhaps as a result of his father's increasingly alarming eccentricities, he feels that he could find his recently deceased mother. Arthur takes refuge in this belief as his father, his job, and his house slowly deteriorate around him. He begins to conflate the mysterious, interstitial region that exists down the phonelines with the sea, as that was where his mother drowned. In a way he is right - Artemis' meddlings have attracted something, it is just not as benevolent as he thinks...

A Scotsman's Thoughts: After the atmosphere and the ambiguity of The Leaping, which I was utterly taken in by almost a year ago to the day, The Thing on the Shore marks a return to characters I honestly hadn't though I'd be seeing again: for one, a bit-part player from Tom Fletcher's remarkable last novel in Artemis Black.

I'm not sure what exactly to make of The Thing on the Shore, but I'm intrigued enough to see what other dark magics this young author has up his sleeve that this is next up on the leaning tower of books marked TBR. So stay tuned.


Remember, there's going to be another edition of The BoSS tomorrow, so I'll see you again then! In the interim, in I may: which of the books amongst this lovely lot would you be particularly interested in reading reviews of?