Books by Malcolm Bosse

TUSK AND STONE by Malcolm Bosse
Released: Sept. 15, 1995

An adventure novel about the ups and downs of the life of Arjun, 14, a Brahman in seventh-century India who is tricked and sold into the army. His rise through the ranks—from lowly foot soldier to the king's elite elephant corps—is a success story that takes up three-quarters of the telling. In the remainder of the book, Arjun achieves another type of success, as a stonecutter, who experiences a Siddhartha-esque spiritual awakening as an artist. Throughout, Arjun devotes himself to finding his lost sister; in the end, he resigns himself to carving her image in a temple wall. A motley narrative is packed with adjectives, proper names, and colorful descriptions, like a dish with every available spice thrown in; it's full of digressions into Indian philosophy, mythology, and religions, cooking, elephants, military strategy, rock-carving techniques, even a detailed explanation of yoga postures. The sprawling plot brings together many figures, but all of them are unfinished—characters without personalities, or personalities without characters. Bosse (The Examination, 1994, etc.) wanders from topic to topic—sometimes investing in Arjun, sometimes using him merely as a lens through which to view his surroundings. For all that, the thematic construction of the novel is skillful and surprisingly tasteful. (Fiction. 11+) Read full book review >
THE EXAMINATION by Malcolm Bosse
Released: Oct. 1, 1994

Bosse (Deep Dream of the Rain Forest, 1993, etc.) continues his series of vivid works of historical fiction in this story of two brothers traveling across Ming Dynasty China to pursue their destinies. Lao Chen is a young Confucian scholar headed for the ultimate glory of the palace examination and top-level civil service; Lao Hong, loyal and worldly younger brother, is determined to escort Chen to Beijing and the highest honors. Through his cunning, Hong acquires enough money to get the two brothers to Chengdu for the provincial examination, which Chen passes easily. From there they must travel the long and treacherous road to Beijing—over the Yellow River, through drought- plagued provinces—for the next stage of the test. In addition, each brother is carrying a secret missive—Chen's from his teacher for an ostracized inventor, and Hong's from one member of the subversive White Lotus society to another. The brothers are separated when their junk is captured by pirates, who discover Hong's letter and torture him to discover its meaning, but Hong escapes, finds Chen, and the brothers continue on their way. When Chen passes the municipal and then the palace examination, his future is secure, and Hong is finally free to seek his own fortune through a career in the military. Bosse renders a graphic picture of 16th-century China- -its violence, ceremony, scholarship, and strict class order—in this stimulating and timeless story. (Fiction. YA) Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 18, 1993

In a story straight out of the Kipling/H. Rider Haggard tradition, a British teenager learns that the world is wider than he ever imagined when he's kidnapped and taken deep into the jungles of Borneo. To the tribal Iban, dreams have great significance, and good or evil omens are pervasive; impelled by a vision, young Bayang leaves his village, taking Tambong—an outcast known as ``Duck Foot'' for her deformity—as a guide. When the two encounter Harry Windsor, a 15-year-old orphaned in WW I, they snatch him away, convinced that he can help them achieve the insights their dreams promise. The Iban ``Bejelai,'' or ``Dream Walk,'' becomes a journey of discovery for Harry, too, as his mettle is tested by his captors and by the jungle's dangers (including a party of headhunters); by the end, he has indeed helped both Bayang and Tambong, while they've shown him the narrowness of his racist, White Man's Burden views. Bosse's characters are strong and admirable, his writing precise and evocative; and the jungle—``where time was always now, and the vast ocean of greenery washed over [Harry] like an endless dream''- -is a strong presence holding both terrors and wonders in its depths. As in he did in Ganesh (1981) and in the brutal Captives of Time (1987), this gifted storyteller stirs hearts and minds while teaching readers to value the wisdom of distant cultures. (Fiction. 12-15) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1992

In a departure from the Asian and apocalyptic milieus of The Warlord (1983) and Mister Touch (1991), Bosse here re-creates Henry Fielding's London—and the gout-ridden father of the novel himself- -in a slightly convoluted but touching romantic saga. Young shepherd Ned Carleton arrives in the city to seek his fortune, finding a position with the imperious Lord Sandwich that he promptly loses when falsely accused of theft. Adding injury to insult, Ned burns a hand badly in an unsuccessful attempt to rescue a woman from a fire, and is thereby rendered unfit for any work save the illegal kind, which 18th-century London offers in abundance. He finds his niche in the fashionable West End as the fearsome Dog Cull, a sobriquet derived from his companion, a talented sheepdog turned herder of men ripe for the plucking. He also finds sweet love, however, with a prostitute who returns his affections as innocently as he offers them, and so he decides to blackmail the mighty Sandwich in order to gain the wherewithal for a fresh start for himself and Clare. Having deduced that his lordship is linked to a young woman who claimed she was abducted by a gypsy, Ned also connects the two to a former monastery that serves as the bawdy house for a group of blasphemous noblemen, who celebrate satanic rites using the living altar of a naked woman. Before he can profit from his knowledge, however, Ned is captured and sentenced to hang for murder—and only the timely arrival of Fielding, who has taken an interest in the case and who soon becomes smitten by Clare, can save him.... A masterful blend of history and fiction, marred only by the portrayal of Fielding, who appears aloof in his own narration of events. Even so, a vivid, engaging yarn. Read full book review >

Yet another sprawling Asian novel from Bosse (The Warlord, 1983; Fire in Heaven, 1986), but this slow-moving tale of love and revolution in Indonesia is sadly lacking in flair and originality. It's Indonesia 1965, most definitely a year of living dangerously for Maggie Gardner and her husband Vern. Maggie's a young anthropologist, Vern a tough-minded construction engineer who has built hotels and bridges all over Asia. The two met and married within two weeks at a romantic vacation spot, but now things are falling apart a bit. Maggie is appalled by the suffering she sees on the streets of Jakarta, while Vern is insensible to it. While Vern is off building yet another hotel, Maggie takes a short vacation in a more pleasant part of the country, and thus meets and falls in love with a handsome, rather mystical Indonesian named Ki-Dalang Gitosuwoko, a famous puppeteer (or "dalang"). In extremely complicated parallel developments, generals disloyal to the government of Sukarno stage a coup that fails; the Communist party (or PKI) is blamed, and much bloodshed and chaos ensue. Ultimately, Gitosuwoko is killed for his communist ties; and having now known true love, Maggie leaves poor Vern for good. One must slog one's way through Bosse's complicated Indonesian intrigue (far less graceful than the plots and counterplots in his China novels), and Vern and Maggie are unappealing and rather dull. A disappointment. Read full book review >