Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

An inn in a small village has had a new keeper for a while. He seems somewhat strange, a detached but friendly man. He seems to know a lot of things, but tries not to attract any attention. Tension has been rising for some reason -– the highway robbers are more common than before, there are tales of something strange going on and strange creatures have attacked villagers. A scribe arrives at the inn. He seems to recognize the innkeeper. He apparently is the greatest hero there ever has been, Kvothe, and the scribe wants him to tell his story. And he does –- starting from his childhood. He was born into a traveling actors' troupe, but his parents and everyone he knew were killed by a strange man with a group of soldiers who disappeared into thin air. After much hardship, he joins a magic university, where he learns about magic and about what passes for science in his world.
The beginning of the book was excellent: well written, smooth and tight. Unfortunately, the writing and plot went badly downhill at about the point when Kvothe got to the university / magic school. People weren’t behaving very logically, and Kvothe was often extremely stupid for someone who apparently was supposed to be very bright. There were all the tropes of a magical school: teachers who inexplicably hate the hero, other teachers who are sympathetic, good friends and bad bullies, who torment the protagonist apparently just because they are bad people. The end of the book seemed to go in a better direction, and there is hope that the next one might be better. At least it seems likely that not all of it will take place in that damn school any more. And perhaps more space will be devoted to the tensions which are raised in the framing story itself. That story seems more interesting than the story inside a story (and often there is a story inside a story inside a story, as when Kvothe is telling his story, he is often telling stories of other people telling their stories).

722 pp.

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Seppo Jokinen: Koskinen ja kreikkalainen kolmio

Inspector Koskinen solves a crime while vacationing in Greece. He and his friend almost get arrested after they find a drowned woman. As the Greek police doesn’t seem able to find the murderer, they must start their own investigations. Some pretty irritating dialogue which was meant to be funny and at place fairly disjointed plot makes this book below average for the series.

Komisario Koskinen seikkailee tällä kertaa Kreikassa Tampereen asemasta. Koskinen on poliisiystävänsä kanssa purjehdusretkellä Kreikan saaristossa. He löytävät merestä naisen ruumiin. Nostettuaan sen merestä he kuljettavat sen lähimmälle saarelle. Kun paljastuu, että kuollut nainen oli suomalainen, he huomaavat olevansa pääepäiltyjä ja vain täpärästä välttävät joutumisen pidätetyksi. Kun Kreikan poliisin tutkimukset etenevät kovin huonosti kaverukset alkavat selvittelemään rikosta omin nokkinensa ja asiat alkava järjestyä – mutta suunnitellulle lennolle ehtiminen ei kyllä onnistu.
Toisaalta oli virkistävääkin tavata päähenkilö vähän poikkeavassa ympäristössä. Kirjan alkuosa oli varsin hyvä ja vetävä, mutta mitä pitemmälle kirja eteni, sitä enemmän juoni tuntui hajoavan. Paikoitellen henkilöhahmot käyttäytyivät erittäin ärsyttävän juntisti, eikä hauskaksi tarkoitettu sanailu ja puolihyväntahtoinen riitely oikein kunnolla asettunut henkilöiden suuhun ja luonteeseen. Kirja jää sarjassaan selvästi keskitason alapuolelle.
304 s.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Astounding Science Fiction, November 1959

Pretty silly stories, especially from today’s perspective.

Panic Button • shortstory by Eric Frank Russell
Aliens find an uninhabited planet. They send scouts to discover whether any Terrans are to be found there, as there is an understanding that the first finder gets the planet. They find one man in one hut — no garrisons or any other permanent habitation. Is he someone who has survived a shipwreck? Or what is going on? Is his presence known, or is it possible that he might "disappear" and no one would notice it? Not a bad example of John Campbell's editorial style, where humans are always the smartest ones. ***½
The Unnecessary Man • novelette by Randall Garrett
A hereditary monarch of an interplanetary federation seems to have taken control of the prime minister, who seems to have taken a very stupid and dangerous action. A young man seeks help for a retired officer to expose the plot. But things are not what they seem. OK story, but a perfect, totally altruistic leader with absolute power is kind of hard to believe. ***
A Filbert Is a Nut • shortstory by Rick Raphael
An inhabitant of a mental asylum makes an atomic bomb out of clay. His therapist gives him praise for showing imagination. But the next night, the art therapy faculty (which, luckily, was a few miles away from the sleeping arrangements) blows up under a mushroom cloud. Certainly the atomic bomb could not have been functional? Short, pretty stupid story. **-
I Was a Teen-Age Secret Weapon • novelette by Richard Sabia
A young 18-year-old boy seems to cause accidents where ever he is. He doesn’t do anything, but thing go horribly wrong around him, and people get hurt. The US military gets a fine idea: they send him to war, and wait until he is taken prisoner. Things also go horribly wrong for the Chinese and Russians. This is an overlong story that dwells far too long on his military training, but it's otherwise OK. ***
Certainty • shortstory by Robert Silverberg
An alien ship lands on a remote outpost guarded by a small garrison. As the ship has no permission to land, the captain of the outpost sends a strict warning. The aliens announce that they are going to stay a few weeks for stellar observations. Thy captain sends an envoy, who is supposed to give a strict warning. The envoy returns and reports that he gave aliens permission to be on the planet, as he was supposed to. An OK story; strange for its time, as humans are the ones who are played upon. ***

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Analog Science Fiction -> Science Fact, October 1967

Weyr Search • [Dragonriders of Pern short fiction] • novella by Anne McCaffrey
A young woman is drafted by Dragonriders to bond with a dragon for life. At first, she has another agenda, but she turns out to be smart, confident and scheming. However, she doesn’t really know what is in store for her. A fantasy story in the guise of science fiction - that is usually a style I am not a great fan of. It takes its time to get going - I almost abandoned it, when little seemed to happen and what happened was hard to understand, but the latter half was slightly better. Not really Hugo material though, if you ask me. ***-
Toys • shortstory by Tom Purdom
A group of children has taken hostages. The have high technology security devices they are using to help them in that endeavor. There is a two person team, that tries to unravel the situation. A pretty stupid story – I didn't get it at all. There might be some sort point somewhere - this might be a parody of something or reference something I am not aware of, but I really didn’t get it. A stupid and pointless story. **-
The Judas Bug • novelette by C. C. MacApp [as by Carroll M. Capps ]
A helicopter has fallen down on a planet that is still being explored. Both pilots are found dead outside the helicopter and power cells of the helicopter are depleted, despite being added just a few weeks ago. The mechanic who checked the cell is accused of negligence. There are several strange things: why did the men leave the safety of the helicopter? The mechanic is sure he didn't make the mistake. A bad, overly long mystery where ending comes too fast after a long setup; the reader doesn’t have much of a chance to find out what is going on. The technology is somewhat strange. Apparently there is no way whatsoever to find out the charge of the power cells, and the mechanic is punished on fairly flimsy evidence. The writing is ok for its time. ***
Free Vacation • [Prodromals] • shortstory by W. Macfarlane
A man has broken the law and gets a choice: a psychological treatment or being sent to a new world. He chooses the space service. He then has some strange adventures in quick succession with a peculiar company. Short story that might reference something I don’t get. **-
Pontius Pirates • novelette by J. T. McIntosh
Some sort of spy arrives to a planet with some sort of semi-socialistic government. He is supposed to find out if some sort of buccaneers who have being raiding space ways are using the planet as a base. A beautiful young girl attaches herself to him. As a seasoned spy, he recognizes straight away that the girl is a government "mole" who is supposed to keep watch on him. Is he going to able to accomplish his mission anyway? A pretty nice story; the writing was OK, and this was the most enjoyable tale in the issue. The characterization of the girl was pretty bad, though. Some of the politics were kind of strange, also. ***+

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Seppo Jokinen: Koskinen ja siimamies

The first of inspector Koskinen series. A police procedural from my home town. A young woman is found strangled with a fishing line. Soon there are more similar attacks, and the police has pressure to find the culprit as soon as possible. A pretty good book with nice local color – not as good as the later parts of the series.

Ensimmäinen komisario Koskinen-sarjan kirja. Oma lukujärjestykseni on ollut melkoisesti sarjan sisäisestä järjestyksestä poikkeava ja tämän sarjan ensimmäisen luin nyt sitten vasta tässä vaiheessa.
Nuori tyttö on tapettu siimalla kuristamalla. Lisäksi on tapahtunut kioskimurtoja, joiden yhteydessä on pahoinpidelty kioskien henkilökuntaa. Välillä poliisit miettivät onko molempien takana sama tekijä, mutta tutkimukset erkanevat pian toisistaan. Kun samantapaisia nuorten naisten kimppuun hyökkäyksiä sattuu lisää, ovat Tampereen tapahtumat ykkösaihe iltalehtien lööpeissä ja poliisilla on paineita löytää syyllinen ja pian.

Kirja on hyvä, mutta haeskelee paikoitellen ehkä hieman vielä tyyliään ja myöhempien sarjan osien sujuvuutta. Pientä hajanaisuutta kirjassa myös on kun tutkitaan kahta tapausta ja Koskisen yksityiselämääkin kuvataan aika paljon. Henkilöhahmot eivät vielä ehkä aivan ole kehittyneet samankaltaisiksi, mitä ne muissa, myöhemmissä osissa kuvataan, etenkin yhden naishahmon käyttäytyminen verrattuna myöhempiin osiin vaikutti hieman omalaatuiselta. Lupaava aloitus kuitenkin sarjalle joka on tuntunut koko ajan parantavan tasoaan, mutta pääsääntöisesti tuntuu siltä, että mitä uudempi sarjan osa, sitä parempi.

245 s.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Speculative Fiction 2014: The Year's Best Online Reviews, Essays and Commentary: Volume 3 by The Book Smugglers

A collection of essays on science fiction which were published last year somewhere on Internet. The subject matters are very varied and include option pieces, critical evaluations and more ordinary reviews. Some were pretty interesting eq. "A Guide to Fanfiction" and N. K Jemisin’s Guest of Honor speech from Wiscon. Some were less interesting like a pages and pages long analysis of Captain America – The Winter Soldier. It was an OK movie, but I not so much into the Marvel universe that I would have such an interest on it. Also some reviews of things I hadn’t even heard of were something I mostly skimmed. As a whole an interesting collection, which did get my nomination for a Hugo.

340 pp.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Robert Galbraith: Pahan polku (Career of Evil)

The latest Cormorran Strike by Robert Galbraith / J. K. Rowling. Another very good book in spite of some very disturbing events and people in it. The description of the main characters is top notch as usual, and a lot happens in the book some of it very disturbing but captivating nevertheless.

Uusin osa Cormoran Strike sarjasta. Tällä kertaa Cormorran joutuu selvittelemään rikosta, jossa hän itse vaikuttaa olevan kiusan kohteena. Ja mistään vaatimattomasta kiusasta ei kyse ole, vaan kyseessä on murhaaja, jolla näyttää olevan jokin yhteys Cormoraniin. Kirja alkaa kun Cormoranin sihteeri ja/tai työtoveri (se kummasta on kyse, on yksi kirjan teemoista ja etenkin Robinia kovasti mietityttävä asia) Robin saa paketissa irtonaisen jalan. Miksi murhaaja näyttää ahdistelevan pientä, huonosti pärjäävää etsivätoimistoa? Cormoranin taustasta löytyy useampi tyyppi, jotka olisivat voineet syyllistyä tällaisiin tekoihin. Murhaaja on vasta päässyt alkuun, ja hänellä näyttää olevan vähemmän miellyttävät suunnitelmat etenkin Robinia kohtaan. Löytääkö etsiväkaksikko syyllisen ennen kuin heille itselleen käy huonosti? Ja miten Robinin kihlauksen kanssa käy - hääpäivä on lähestymässä, mutta hänellä on epäilyjä siitä onko hän menossa oikean ihmisen kanssa naimisiin oikeista syistä?
Kirjassa tapahtuu todella paljon todella erilaisia asioita, sekä dekkarijuonen että henkilöiden välisten suhteiden alueella. Kirjassa saamme tietää aika paljon lisää molempien päähenkilöiden aikaisemmasta elämästä. Kummallakin on omat luurankonsa kaapeissa.
Erittäin vetävää tekstiä hienoilla henkilökuvauksilla kuten muutkin sarjan kirjat, vaikka sisältö sarjamurhaajineen, pedofiileinen ja naisten hakkaajineen olikin varsin puistattavaa paikoitellen. Kolmesta kirjasta tämä taitaa olla paremmuusjärjestyksessä keskimmäinen ja jättää siinä määrin asioita päähenkilöiden välisissä suhteissa auki, että seuraavaa osaa odottelee ihan innolla.
429 s.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, May 2016

Pretty average issue all in all.

Two stories are told in alternating chapters. One tells about a day in the life of a scientist who is examining rodents in an African rainforest. Another about far future sentient beings who have evolved on Earth after humans have disappeared. They have found the said journal in an archive people left on the Moon. They translate and ponder if the journal is important. A pretty good story about how "aliens" don't always come from space. Probably the best story in the issue. ***½
Florists develop flowers with themes, according to old Victorian "language of flowers" rules. They add pheromones which cause actual feelings for the theme. Then someone asks for a flower corresponding to racism for a funeral of a "peculiar" uncle. It works pretty well, but some of his friends are offended, as they think he was a patriot. They ask for a flower which would correspond to that feeling. They get what they are asking for, but pheromones causing patriotic feelings might have some drawbacks... A pretty fun little story. ***+
Three people are using a robot as a "surrogate" for their minds, all for different reasons. A very short but good story.***
An asteroid which is inhabited gets visitors, who remotely take control of all computer systems. When the ship docks, the visitors claim that they have come to inspect if the children are treated well and they have papers from the UN to prove that claim. But their guns seem slightly suspicious... An OK story with several pretty unbelievable plot points. ***
PROMISED LAND, Bethany Gilton
A man is awake alone in a generation ship. He was supposed to have some company, but someone who awoke before him used up stores more than he was supposed, as he woke several women from the deep sleep to entertain him. And now there isn't enough food to keep more than one person awake at one time. A pretty stupid story: the women he woke up were apparently mindless morons and had no way to stop that stupid activity. ***-
MOUNTAIN, Andy P. Smith
A story that starts with little background given. A woman's son has apparently died in some sort of post-apocalyptic world. Apparently there has been an alien artifact which has produced limitless electric power until it stopped working. There are some sort of cargo cult style religions, which try to restore power (apparently including suicides). The writing was OK, but the story was too short with little background and little resolution. Another typical story for analog during current editor: just a fragment of the real story. ***
A man is being tried for a shooting he did 60 years ago (the victim survived, but died as an old man due the late complications - there are several problems with that: how it can be said with certainty that the problem causing death was due to ancient gun shot? And aren't there any statutes of limitations in shooting which was not even premeditated? ) And it turns out that the victim is still alive as an uploaded personality in an android body. A decent story but the ending is pretty weak and the story just fizzles out. ***
A researcher uses an experimental treatment to turn bonobos sentient. It seems to work very well. One monkey especially seems to be very smart and develops an obsession towards an ancient lost play and wants to recreate it. His mental state seems to deteriorate and the ending isn't too happy. A bit dense story, a little longer format with more background might have made it better. ***

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