Thursday, March 6, 2014
A pretty good issue. The theme seems to be the future after the fall of the civilization.
Cryptids • shortstory by Alec Nevala-Lee
An expedition is trying to find the source of poison a certain bird has on its’ feathers. They make a stranger and more dangerous find they were expecting. The story starts very slowly and then gets faster and faster until it ends very abruptly. A pretty decent story in spite of the hurried ending. ***
All Human Things • novelette by Dave Creek
An artificial human must fight aliens with a hive mind and the human prejudices and face the horrors of his origin. An Ok story, not bad, but not unforgettable. Writing was nice and easy to read. ***
In Perpetuity • shortstory by Ellis Morning
Intrigue at a moon base. There is a finding of some rocks which should be where it was found. At the same time a member of the group seems to be behaving erratically. An overlong and talky story – not among my favorites. ***-
Bodies in Water • shortstory by Sarah Frost
A Young girl who lives in a post-apocalyptic world catches a mechanical fish. A story with little plot, aiming more for the mood. I am not sure when the story is supposed to be happening as on the other hand the fall of society seemed something which had happened on the lifetime of the parents, but the other hand it seemed something centuries old. Enjoyable read with nice, poetic language. ***½
Snapshots • shortstory by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Scenes where guns cause harm for generations of an American-African family. Finally one member of the family might have a solution. A story with an agenda, one I agree with, but there is little actual story there, more preaching. ***-
Repo • shortstory by Aaron Gallagher
A repo woman takes over a spaceship. She is bringing the ship back to her employers when she encounters a man with a similar agenda. Two extremely professional people end up in "friendly" or not so friendly combat over who will get whose target. A fairly nice and intriguing story. ***+
Another Man's Treasure • shortstory by Tom Greene
A down in her luck woman excavates an old landfill trying to find worthwhile items in a future where all raw materials are extremely scarce. She is facing thugs and corporate competition. Will she able to face her adversaries? Another story about a bleak future and another story with nice writing. ***+
Saturday, February 22, 2014
The lead novelette is pretty good and interesting – otherwise most stories were slightly past they due date.
The Tunnel Under the World • novelette by Frederik Pohl
A man has a strange dream: he feels like he is blown apart. His work day is pretty standard, except for some strangely irritating advertisements. The next day starts the same way, and it IS the same day, except some of the ads are even more irritating, but the protagonist doesn’t seem to have any memories of the former day. And there are some strange encounters. This night he happens to be trapped to his cellar by accident at the midnight. And this time when the same day starts he remembers. Groundhog Day meets Truman Show with some shades of Matrix. A pretty interesting story, which would be ready for a movie version – but with a slight rewrite of some of the characters, especially all the female ones. ****
The Vilbar Party • shortstory by Evelyn E. Smith
A grumpy professor from Saturn comes to earth as a part of an exchange program. He is sure that he will be hated and discriminated, but it turns out to be something else… A very stupid story on many levels aims for cute funniness, but mostly fails - at least from modern perspective. **
Perfect Control • novelette by Richard Stockham
A space ship arrives to earth after decades in space. It was aiming at a nearby solar system, but had an engine failure on the way. For some undescribed reason to has drifted back to earth (apparently the author had no knowledge whatsoever of orbital mechanics and how trajectories work in space). The crew members are very old, but they want to repair and refuel their ship and continue their voyage. But why? Cue to long stupid interviews of the crew members on radio by a psychologist. A pretty stupid story on many levels, some psychological thoughts are mildly interesting. **
When You're Smiling • novelette by Theodore Sturgeon
Two old friends meet and discuss their lives. One seems to be moderately successful, another somewhat down on his luck. One has a theory that there are people who superhuman, and sometimes kill people who are causing too much trouble those around them. An overlong story which consists practically only from discussion. The writing as such is ok, but there is nothing really surprising. **+
Brknk's Bounty • shortstory by Jerry Sohl
A long tailed invisible furry squirrel-like trans-dimensional being starts to channel writing through a newspaper reporter. Doesn’t sound too good and is even worse. Tries to be funny but isn’t. **
Squirrel Cage • [AAA Ace] • novelette by Robert Sheckley
The Interplanetary decontamination service gets a new job: they must get rid of an infestation of rodents which threats to consume all crops of a farm. When they arrive on site they notice a little catch: the vermin are invisible. A lighthearted well written story which manages to be amusing. ***+
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
A Chinese police must help an American policewoman who is picking up a wife of an important witness. The wife has disappeared and must be found as soon as possible. An intriguing book where the main emphasis is on life in China and its peculiarities – not the detective plot as itself.
Poliisiromaani, joka tapahtuu nykypäivän (tai paremminkin kirjoitusajankohdan) Kiinassa. Kiinalainen poliisipäällikkö saa tehtävän: hänen pitää avustaa USA:laista naispoliisia, joka on noutamassa USA:ssa todistajainsuojelussa ja laittomasta siirtolaisuudesta todistaneen kiinalaismiehen raskaana olevaa vaimoa. Yksinkertainen tehtävä osoittautuukin oletettua mutkikkaammaksi, kun vaimo katoaa juuri ennen kuin hänen piti poistua Kiinasta. Onko rikossyndikaatti siepannut hänet – vai onko hän paennut jotain?
Kirjassa varsinainen ”salapoliisi” juoni on suhteellisen vähäinen ja ylimalkainen. Pääosan kirjassa muodostaa kiinnostava ja autenttisen tuntuinen kuvailu elämästä kommunistisessa Kiinassa, jossa olosuhteet ovat varallisuuden kasvun myötä muuttumassa. Kiinalaisten tapojen ja kommunistisen kaaderibyrokratian piirteiden setviminen myös kuluttu sivuja runsaasti, ehkä hiukan liikaakin – jonkinasteinen pieni tiivistäminen olisi saattanut tehdä kirjalle hyvää.
Thursday, February 13, 2014
A pretty average issue.
A Thrust of Greatness • [Lifeboat Earth] • novelette by Stanley Schmidt
Another part of the series where alien move earth to save humanity from an explosion at the core of our galaxy. The man who has made contact with the aliens must have made the decision and the governments of the earth aren’t too happy about that, especially as the starting movement of the planet causes major disasters around the globe. But ultimately all choices are hard ones. A fairly good, somewhat too talky and long story. ***+
Brains Isn't Everything • shortstory by Christopher Anvil
The aliens come and the make an offer: Each nation may choose one thing for its’ citizens. Perfect health? Long life? Great mental development? Is there a catch? Will they demand extraordinary payment later? Of course, but the catch and the payment aren’t necessarily what could be expected. Nice, short story, but there is nothing really unusual. ***+
Side Effect • shortstory by Hayford Peirce
Just a stupid shaggy dog story about a National Geography –like magazine which offers lifetime subscriptions. *½
Longevity • shortstory by Scott W. Schumack
A centre has been in contact with an extraterrestrial civilization. There have been a few new inventions, but then the nothing seems to come out. Are they hiding something? A preventive strike might be in order? A standard “to powerful invention will cause our destruction” story. Not too good in its’ class, a little disorganized. **+
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
The first part of Stephen King’s major fantasy saga. I have read only a few of his books; probably the last one was the Firestarter about when it was published in Finnish a few decades ago. He has lot fans, but somehow I have never had an interest of his work. As this is a popular series I decided to give it a shot. The world where the book happens is fascinating and interesting. It is either a far future world after some kind of worldwide collapse or some sort of future alternative earth. A gunslinger chases an unnamed man in black, who is apparently evil, or at least he is some sort of representation of evil. The man in black seems to have some supernatural capabilities and can influence the minds of people he encounters. The gunslinger meets a few interesting charterers and tells to some of them parts of the backstory of what has happened to him earlier. By the end, we learn some version of what might be happening. The style is at places slightly confusing as at least once there was a story inside a story inside a story. The events were very surreal at places. The writing was pretty good, but this somehow this didn’t really appeal to me. I am not sure if this is fantasy or science fiction, but at least this first part felt slightly too fantasy like to my taste.
Sunday, January 26, 2014
A serial takes a lot of space. I haven’t yet decided if I am going to read the serial. I read a few first pages of the first instalment and it seemed to have a pretty strong YA vibe. I'll see if I am going to finish it. Otherwise pretty average issue.
A Fierce, Calming Presence • novelette by Jordan Jeffers
Some sort of ecological trouble solver is visiting a planet where an endogenous almost sentient species has suddenly started to behave violently against the members of a mining colony. Usually, they have behaved fairly peacefully. The alien species seem to be very little known even though there are apparently hundred thousand billion (!!) volumes of books published about the planet. That would correspond only well over 10000 different books for every single living people on earth at the moment. Really? There also some other strange sounding details: for example a false accusation of treason is apparently automatically punishable by death. I imagine there aren’t many whistleblowers around with those laws.. A pretty average “evil and greedy industrials” story which has been told countless times in one way or another. ***
Pollution • shortstory by Don Webb
A foreigner who works in Japan has some trouble with alienation, prejudice and zombie-like humans who are used for menial work. There some nice ideas in the story, but it is too far short to really examine them. ***
The Oracle Boca Raton • shortstory by Eric Baylis
A story which is pretty hard to understand . Seems to be some sort of inside joke or something. Ideas or souls or something of old sf authors are used in some way, or something. I didn’t really care. **
Wind Reaper • shortstory by Jon Hakes
A power of hurricanes is used as energy and harvested by planes which fly into the storms. A very short story. The technology feels extremely iffy, and the background is also poorly examined. A longer form might have been better? ***-
It's Not "The Lady or the Tiger?", It's "Which Tiger?" • shortstory by Ian Randal Strock
An entrepreneur who has failed several times has a discussion on a bar. What does he want from life: comfort or recognition? What if he actually had a choice? A fairly nice story of its length. ***+
Whaliens • shortstory by Lavie Tidhar
Aliens who look like giant floating whales appear over Washington. They want to convert to Mormonism. Or to Scientology. Or perhaps to Judaism. Or they will destroy the earth. A rare funny story that actually is pretty funny. A short but enjoyable short story with many science fiction in-jokes. ***½
The winner of last year’s Finlandia award, the most prestigious literary award of Finland. The book tells the story of a Russian born poet and her daughter at two time periods. The chapters which are told by the mother and happen in Czechoslovakia and the chapters which are told by the daughter and happen later in Russia late 30s and early 40s interspace. The writing is beautiful, but it is written in an extreme stream of consciousness style with sentences up to 30 lines long. Not really something I usually enjoy. One of least favorite winners of this award for me.
Tammikuuhuni on jo useamman vuoden kuulunut edellisen vuoden Finlandia-voittajan lukeminen. Tänä vuonna urakka tuntui nimenomaan urakalta, sen verran raskasta ja hidasta luettavaa uusin voittaja oli. Kirja kertoo kahdella aikatasolle venäläisen naisrunoilijan ja hänen tyttärensä tarinaa Tšekkoslovakian maaseudulla 20-luvun lopussa ja Venäjällä 30-luvun lopulla ja 40-luvun alussa. Varhaisemmissa katkelmissa ketojana toimii äiti, myöhemmissä suurimmassa osassa suurimmassa osassa tytär. Perhe on venäjällä syntynyt, elää köyhissä oloissa Tšekissä, josta he muuttavat Berliiniin. Ennen paluutaan Venäjälle he olivat asuneet pitkään Pariisissa, jossa tytär toimi Venäjän salaisen palvelun asiamiehenä vakoillen muita venäläisemigrantteja ja raportoiden heistä. Stalinin vainoissa sitten etenkin tytär saa kokea miten diktatuurit kätyreitään palkitsevat. Kirja on kirjoitettu erittäin, erittäin rasittavalla tajunnanvirtatekniikalla. Alkupuolella lukujen välillä tuntui olevan eroa siten, että tyttären ollessa kertojaäänenä teksti oli lähes luettavaa, mutta etenkin puolenvälin paikkeilla hänen ollessa raskaana ja rakastuneena 30 riviä pitkät virkkeet valtasivat hänenkin lukunsa ja lukeminen muuttui raskaaksi ja lukujen välillä ollut kirjoitustyylin ero katosi. Loppupuolella eroa lukujen välillä taas oli selvemmin havaittavissa. Kielellisesti teksti oli kaunista, mutta ei itsetarkoituksellinen kielellinen kikkailu saisi tarinankerronnan ohitse mennä, ainakin jos minulta kysytään. Ärsyttävän naivin vaikutelman naiset tekivät, etenkin kommunistipropagandan sokaisema emigranttitovereistaan KGB:lle raportoiva tytär. Olen tällä vuosisadalla jaetuista Finlandia-palkituista kirjoista lukenut kaksitoista neljästätoista. Tämä sijoittuu niistä häntäpäähän omalla arvosteluasteikollani, ihan suoraan en osaa sanoa oliko tämä Nenäpäivääkin huonompi, ehkäpä.
Sunday, January 19, 2014
A short and comparatively easy introduction to particle and quantum physics. Easy to read, almost easy to understand.
Lyhyt perehdytys hiukkas- ja kvanttifysiikan tuoreimpiin saavutuksiin. Yllättävän selkeä esitys siitä mitä mm. Bose-Einstein-kondensaatti, M-teoria ja todennäköisyysaallot tarkoittavat. Muutaman vuoden ikäisenä kaikki sisältö ei enää ole ihan ajantasaista, mm Higgsin bosonin olemassaolon todennäköinen varmistuminen aavistuksen kirjan sisältöön olisi voinut vaikuttaa. Kokonaisuutena mielenkiintoinen ja jopa helppolukuinen kirja, vaikka osa asioista fysiikasta kiinnostuneelle oli entuudestaan tuttuja. Ehkä Enqvist olisi voinut tylyttää vielä enemmän kvanttimystikkoja, joiden mielestä tietoisuus ja aivojen toiminta on kvanttitasoinen ilmiö: biologisesta katsantokannasta koko ajatus on vielä mielettömämpi kuin hiukkasfyysikon näkökulmasta katsottuna.