Sunday, November 11, 2018

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline


A very popular book with a wide fan base.

The world is a pretty desolate place. There is practically just one escape valve, Oasis, a virtual reality simulation which is used by everyone for everything. The creator of the systems has died and in his will he left the sole ownership of Oasis and about a billion dollars to the first person who solves a series of riddles based on 1980s video games and popular movies.


But there is an evil company IOI, that wants to take control of the Oasis and fill it with advertisements and paid content. It has recruited whole departments of people to work on the puzzle - and they are extremely ruthless against people showing progress on the task.


The book is pretty simplistic. The IOI company is unreasonably evil and apparently purely bad. The beginning of the book felt a bit slow and not well written, but when the pace quickened, it really quickened. I felt a little old for the book. Most, (or practically all) the games were familiar, but as I was already over twenty when they came out, they really weren’t a great overwhelming passion for me, neither was I used watch 80s movies over and over. On the other hand, an over page of description of how the adventure game Zork is controlled felt like dumbing it down and was probably meant for kids who had never played text-based adventure games.


When I was reading I thought this material would work much better as a movie, so as soon I finished it I placed an order for a blu-ray version of the recent Spielberg version of the story. It was already on sale which doesn’t bode well, but I’ll see. Anyway, an entertaining read, at least the last third.

374 pp.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Mark Twain: Huckleberry Finnin seikkailut (Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)



Kirjapiirin kirjaksi valikoitui tällä kertaa klassikko, Mark Twainin Huckleberry Finn. Itse (kuten suurin osa muistakin) oli lukenut kirjan viimeksi joskus lapsuudessa ja muistikuvat eivät kovin selkeitä olleet. Kirja osoittautui positiiviseksi yllätykseksi. Itse muistin kirjan lähinnä jännänä seikkailuna, mutta siinä olikin paljon muuta: erittäin hauskaa kielenkäyttöä ja hauskoja letkautuksia, kommentointia orjuudesta ja vielä lisäksi se jännä seikkailu. Pääpiirteet olivat oikeastaan ihmeenkin hyvin muistissa, tosin odottelin Tom Saywerin ilmaantumista kovasti, kun oman muistini mukaan hän oli mukana kirjassa jo noin sen puolivälistä alkaen, kun oikeasti Tom ilmaantui vasta aika loppuratkaisuiden yhteydessä. Kirjasta on olemassa useita käännöksiä ja itse kokeilin vanhaa, jo viime vuosisadan alussa tehtyä ilmaisessakin jakelussa olevaa ja uutta ihan äskettäin julkaistua. Luin muutaman luvun myös englanniksi. Vanha käännös oli mielestäni jo kyllä vanhentunut. Uusi käännös oli jonkin verran lähempänä tavallista puhekieltä kuin edellinen, 70-luvulla tehty, jossa puhe oli käännetty Turun murteelle. Se, mikä on paras ratkaisu on sitten makuasia. Ohessa esimerkki alkukielisestä, 1900-luvun alun käännöksestä, 80-luvun käännöksestä ja uusimmasta versiosta.

Alkukielinen:
First they done a lecture on temperance; but they didn’t make enough for them both to get drunk on. Then in another village they started a dancing-school; but they didn’t know no more how to dance than a kangaroo does; so the first prance they made the general public jumped in and pranced them out of town. Another time they tried to go at yellocution; but they didn’t yellocute long till the audience got up and give them a solid good cussing, and made them skip out.

Tyko Hagman 1904
Ensiks pitivät he pari raittiusesitelmää, mutta tulot niistä piisas tuskin kunnolliseen humalaan heille kumpasellekkin. Muutamassa toisessa kylässä yrittivät he pitää tanssikoulua; mutta he eivät osanneet tanssia enemmän kuin vanha kenkuru, niin että jo ens kerralla, kuin he viskelit koipiansa ja potkivat kuin hevoset, iso joukko ihmisiä törmäsi sisään ja potkasi heidät ulos kaupungista. Toisessa paikassa pitivät he luentoja ”kaunopuheliaisuudesta”, mutta he eivät saaneet kaunopuhella kauvan; kuulijat nousivat paikoiltaan nyrkit tanassa ja käskivät heidän mennä h – vettiin.

Yrjö Kivimies 1927
 Aluksi he pitivät raittiusluentoja, mutta he eivät ansainneet sillä tarpeeksi, jotta olisivat kumpikin voineet päästä humalaan. Eräässä toisessa kaupungissa he perustivat tanssikoulun, mutta eivät tietäneet tanssista enempää kuin kenguru; ja tuskin he olivat ottaneet ensimmäiset tanssiaskelensa, kun suuri yleisö tuli ja hypitti heidät kaupungista. Toisinaan he panivat toimeen kaunolukuesityksiä, mutta he eivät ehtineet kauankaan lukea kauniisti, ennen kuin heidän kuulijansa nousivat ja haukkuivat heidät silmät korvat täyteen ja potkivat heidät pellolle.

Jarkko Laine 1972:
Aluksi ne piti raittiuskokouksia, mutta niistä ne ei saaneet kokoon edes pullon hintaa. Toisessa kaupungissa ne perusti tanssikoulun, mutta ne ei tienneet tanssimisesta sen enempää kuin kenguru, ja kun ne oli ottaneet ensimmäiset tanssiaskelet, tuli suuri yleisö ja tanssitti ne ulos kaupungista. Kerran ne yritti esitelmöidä kaunopuheisuudesta, mutta ei ne ehtineet pitkään kaunopuhua, kun yleisö nousi ylös, haukkui ne suut silmät täyteen ja ajoi ne pois kaupungista.

Uusin käännös, Juhani Lindholm, 2018 :
Ensimmäinen yritys oli raittiushenkinen luento, mutta sillä ei tienattu edes sen verran että molemmat olisivat pystyneet juomaan päänsä täyteen. Seuraavassa kylässä he panivat pystyyn tanssikoulun, mutta koska heidän oma tanssitaitonsa oli kengurun luokkaa, heti ensimmäisessä julkisessa esityksessä yleisö tanssitti heidät maantietä mittailemaan. Yhdessä paikassa he yrittivät ruveta opettamaan puhetaitoa, mutta eivät ehtineet puhua pitkään ennen kuin kuulijat pomppasivat pystyyn, haukkuivat heidät lyttyyn ja ajoivat matkoihinsa.


Kielellisesti osa on erilaisia, mutta hauskaa kieltä jokainen, ihan luettavaa. Tosin tuo ensimmäinen 1904 versio oli sen verran rasittava ”fröökynöineen” (ihan vain ”miss” alkukielellä), että en sitä yhtä lukua pidempään jatkanut.

Kirjaa on syytetty rasismista, mutta rasistinen kirja on vain nykypäivän näkökulmasta. "Neekeri" ei siihen aikaan ollut poikkeavaa kieltä, ja osa "rasismista" on kyllä Twainin ihan tietoista trollausta. "Hyvänen aika! Loukkaantuiko kukaan?" "Ei. Yksi neekeri vain kuoli." Kirjan tarkoituksena tuntuu enemmän olevankin ihmisten herätteleminen ajattelemaan asiaa.
Kirja oli edelleen erittäin lukemisen arvoinen ja kielellisesti hieno ja samalla ajankuvaus siivirataslaivojen Missisipistä.

374 s.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Stieg Larsson: Pilvilinna joka romahti


Viimeinen osa Millenium-trilogiaa. Kirja jatkuu suoraan siitä mihin edellinen loppui. Lisbeth Salander on vaikeasti haavoittuneena sairaalassa hoidettavana ja käytännössä viereisessä sängyssä on hänen isänsä, Zalatšenko joka yritti tappaa Lisbethin, mutta päätyi itsekin vaikeasti loukkaantuneena teholle. LIsbeth kun ei ole aivan helpoimpia tapettavia uskomattoman sisunsa ja sitkeytensä johdosta. Ruotsin suojelupoliisin salainen osasto, joka aikoinaan hoiteli Zalatšenkon, loikanneen venäläisen vakoojan paljastamien salaisuuksien käsittelyn, on käytännössä paniikissa pelätessään aikanaan hieman kyseenalaisten toimiensa paljastumista ja aloittaa häikäilemättömän – mutta ei erityisen loistavasti suunnitellun – toimenpiteen asioiden salassa pysymiseksi. Millennium-lehden toimittaja Mikael Blomkvist alkaa selvittää mikä edellisen kirjan tapahtumien taustalla oikein oli ja pääsee lopulta vihille Sektion, eli suojelupoliisin ”pimeän” osaston olemassaolosta.
Kirjan alku oli aika hidas ja jopa puuduttava, varmaan heikointa osaa koko kirjasarjasta. En tiedä olisiko kirjailijan ennenaikainen kuolema estänyt editointikierroksia ja mukaan oli jäänyt liikaa ”täytettä”, mm. varmaan kymmenen sivun kuvaus Ruotsin SäPo:n historiasta vaikutti hiukkasen tarpeettomalta ja vähintään tylsältä. Loppua kohden tapahtumat sitten kiihtyvää siihen malliin, että kirjaa oli mahdoton jättää kesken ja viimeiset n 200 sivua meni yhdellä istumalla. Kirja toimi hyvänä päätöksenä sarjalle, mitään merkittäviä juonensäikeitä ei jäänyt roikkumaan ja paha sai palkkansa ja pääosin reilusti saikin.


The last part of the trilogy. Smooth writing, but the first third was a bit slow and some rewriting might have been a good idea. The author died before he apparently was able to do it. The end was something else: it was impossible to down the book for last 200 pages or so, it was very exciting and engaging writing.
782 s.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Galaxy Science Fiction, February 1956


Another bad issue of Galaxy. This magazine seems to go badly downhill during this time period. I wonder if I should jump a few volumes forward in reading these? The attitudes are REALLY grating in this issue.


Man in a Sewing Machine • novelette by Joseph Wesley [as by L. J. Stecher, Jr.]

The Earth is being invaded. An inventor has designed a computer which can answer any question, but when asked how the invaders could be beaten, it answers in a riddle. The inventor then explains to his wife, ("once again, I have explained this to you so many times before...") how the FTL drive works. In detail. In extremely small detail. In about five to six mind-numbing pages. Of course, a method to prevent the invasion is found after some pondering. A badly written, overlong story with a ridiculous description of the inventor’s wife and women in general. **-
Dead-End Doctor • short story by Robert Bloch
The last psychiatrist/neurosurgeon (an unusual combination) doesn’t have any patients. All problems of mind are treated by glandular adjustments and there is no need for any psychological treatments at all. His father and grandfather were psychiatrists and he never considered any other career. Most mundane work is done by robots. When they malfunction there is serious trouble, but our hero saves the day. A stupid story, the writing is average for its time. **
The Category Inventors • novelette by Arthur Sellings
Robots have taken over all jobs. A man has lost his job and is at home feeling anxious, as he thinks it won’t be possible to find a new one. His wife (who naturally, has never worked and doesn’t even think of working and apparently her husband doesn't think wives should work either) is a bit bitchy, as there is less money (there is a government stipend enough for living though). However, if you invent a new job, you’ll get an office and a salary from the government. So, you just have to find a new useful occupation. But who defines what is useful? A pretty stupid story on many levels. **+
Trap • short story by Robert Sheckley [as by Finn O'Donnevan]
Two men are on vacation in a forest. They find a strange contraption with a “trap” sign attached to it and instructions for use. They manage to capture four strange beasts with it. The machine is a matter transmitter used by an alien with a wicked plot. If the plot would have been even slightly less stupid, this might have been a pretty tolerable story. Even the aliens manage to be condescending toward females in this issue. (Oh, this was by Sheckley. The beginning of the story DID have a strong Sheckley vibe and I thought about him. Apparently, he wasn’t happy with the story either, and used a pen name) **½
Bodyguard • novella by H. L. Gold [as by Christopher Grimm]
Body-swapping is possible and someone has stolen a body. He is being chased and is chasing someone. At the moment he is pretending to be a husband and occasionally beats the woman, who is married to the bodies owner. For some reason, the wife doesn’t go to the authorities. And then, there is a lot of plotting between characters and some lawyers about who should kill whom and why. A badly written, overlong, convoluted, confused and dull story, which is written by the editor of the magazine. I am pretty sure that it wouldn’t have been accepted if written by anyone else. The writing is on the same level as the plot. **-

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde


The book happens in an alternate present-day Britain, where magic works. It has lost its power during the last few decades, or centuries, and has degenerated to something used for mundane tasks, like rewiring the electronics of a house or using flying carpets for pizza deliveries. And all uses of magic must be carefully filed with correct forms. A young orphan girl, Jennifer, is working for a group of magicians (or, rather, managing the whole group). It turns out that all soothsayers are seeing that the last dragon will die soon. Jennifer is a bit perplexed when it turns out that she is the last dragonslayer and she is supposed to kill the dragon. That is not something she is looking forward to, as she doesn’t want to kill anyone or anything: least of all a rare animal which is last of its kind. As there are considerable financial and political repercussions if the dragon dies, Jennifer soon finds that there are many parties trying to influence her. A fun book where the world is interesting. The story happens in the Ununited Kingdoms of Britain, where the different kingdoms have fairly common skirmishes, and even minor wars. The narrative style is very entertaining and plays a lot with language, with an ironic flair. The style is fairly similar to the other books by Fforde. There are two more parts in the series. The TBR pile is just growing and growing.

289 pp.

Monday, October 1, 2018

The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North


Hope is a young woman who has a small problem: everyone forgets her. It first started in her late teens when her schoolmates and teachers really didn’t recognize her. Soon her mother didn’t put a plate for her at dinner and, just a while later, doesn’t recognize her at all. So she must leave home at sixteen and she soon finds that there is just one career available for her: crime. She steals valuable jewels and artifacts and sells them at darknet. It is almost impossible to get caught if everyone completely forgets you in less than thirty seconds. And if she gets caught, she just has to go to the toilet or be somewhere hidden for thirty seconds, and her pursuers have forgotten everything. Her life is sometimes hard: it is hard to get service at a restaurant, get treated at a hospital, to have job or date if you are instantly forgotten. But theft, one night stands, and not tipping, are easy.

A young woman she likes kills herself. They have met several times – it has always been the first time for the other girl, but Hope had really liked her. One reason for the suicide was Perfection, a new mobile app which aims to make you perfect – really perfect. It gives points when you aim for “perfection” and gives you offers for health clubs, dieting foods, and eventually cosmetic surgery and even brain manipulation techniques. Hope’s friend committed suicide as she felt that she was too “imperfect” and wasn’t able to gain points as fast as she hoped.

From the darknets, she finds someone who is working against the company that created the Perfection app. But if you are forgotten in seconds, it may be hard to co-operate with someone – especially if and when that someone’s methods may eventually be worse than the “disease” they are curing.

An excellent and memorable story that is written with fine and inventive language. The events aren’t strictly linear, but the book isn’t confusing in any way. The writing style may be slightly fragmented at places, but that suited the plot and even the persona of Hope. However, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by the same author was even better than this book.

488 pp.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Tove Jansson: Kesäkirja (The Summer Book)


Lyhyt kirja perheen kesästä meren saarella. Kirja kertoo paljolti isoäidin ja lapsenlapsen suhteesta, kun molemmat ovat ainakin ajoittain pitkästyneitä saaristossa asumiseen, mutta he samalla myös nauttivat toisistaan, luonnon rauhasta ja saariston kauneudesta. Ja molemmat osaavat kyllä myös äksyillä toiselleen, jos tarvetta on. Kirja on enemmän novellikokoelma kuin romaani – kertomukset ovat enemmän erillisiä tuokiokuvia kuin suoraan toisiinsa liittyviä tarinoita, mutta niistä muodostuu hieno ainakin tunnelmassa yhtenäinen kokonaisuus. Molemmat päähenkilöt vaikuttavat aidoilta, oikeilta ja eläviltä henkilöiltä. ”Isä” on sitten taas täysin sivuhahmo, joka hiukan vilahtaa jossain sivulauseessa, jos sitten sitäkään, hän ei paljoa tapahtumiin osaa ota. Tunnelma kirjassa on hieno ja jotenkin haikean rauhallisen kaunis. Hieno kirja, jonka voisi varmasti tunnelmoiden lukea useita kertoja.

A short book about a daughter, father, and a grandmother who spend a summer on a remote island. The daughter and grandmother have a special bond, even if they sometimes have slight tantrums. Life is slow, slightly melancholic, but content and happy, all at the same time. A book that is beautifully written, and where the main characters felt very real.

163 s.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, September-October 2018


Go Random, My Love • novelette by Bill Johnson
Two men get a distress signal from a woman one of them knew years ago. She seems to be in a dire situation with almost certain death awaiting. They launch a rescue mission which takes them across several universes. The story contains the most stupid sentence I have ever read in modern science fiction: "The hydrogen blowing off that damned sun is like a wind-chill. I'm getting temperatures below 1 degree absolute." And there is another place which states that hydrogen wind cools down planets. I wonder how the author imagines that happens? There is some action, an eventual rescue, and so on, but my head hurt too much from all of the stupidities of the story that I really wasn’t able to concentrate on it. I wonder if the current editor of Analog has any scientific training at all? The writing wasn’t memorable either. There seems to be a huge amount back plot that isn’t explained at all. *½
When the Rain Comes • short story by Ron Collins
A robot takes measurements and sends the results to headquarters. It cooks for a human, but the food is never eaten. The headquarters never answers. All of the days go exactly the same way. A nice, but sad, story. ***+
A Surprise Beginning • short story by Gregory Benford
A plane is transferred twenty years to the future. The world is more or less utopia, climate problems have been solved, and people are in good health in their 90s. Credit cards aren’t used, but small sticks have replaced them (extremely stupid prediction: a physical medium? And one which is hard to carry). The story has not much of point (it was meant to be published in an airline’s magazine) but it is smoothly written. ***
The Unnecessary Parts of the Stars • short story by Adam-Troy Castro
An old story: one member of a space team gets infected by an intelligent virus, gets violent, and tries to kill everyone. Why would it do that? An excellent take on an old cliché. ***½
... And He Built a Crooked Hub • [The Hub Gates] • novelette by Christopher L. Bennett
The story is happening on an interstellar hub-station which connects interstellar FTL-links. This story doesn’t examine those but is more of a “door-comedy” or a bedroom farce. That can be very complicated when the rooms are connected as a four-dimensional maze with a defective control mechanism. A funny story which works fairly well, but doesn’t really give anything about the hub itself - that is what I would want to have. ***
Trapezium • novelette by Tony Ballantyne
A ship gets an alien captive as a transport. The alien is very hard to control, but they know that they have a way to threaten it and keep it in check - but they don’t know what the method actually is. A pretty good story with a lot of background which isn’t explicitly presented but well enough that the main points are understandable. In the beginning, I was distracted by a mention of “slavemakers” – somehow I first thought that the story would have been part of Larry Niven’s “Known Space”-stories, but they had slavers, nor slavemakers, after all. ***+
Optimizing the Verified Good • short story by Effie Seiberg
Robots battle in gladiator-style battles for human entertainment. The cleaning robot who cleans the arena after battles start to wonder why they doing what they are doing, especially when he (and the other robots) start to experience pain. He starts a strike, but when there are no fights there are no visitors and no electricity to load the batteries. But they find a solution which doesn’t involve real injuries for any battling robots. (They essentially reinvent show wrestling). It is strange that the fighting arena apparently has no human involvement whatsoever. A pretty good story of a brave and pretty smart little robot, anyway.***½
Black Shores • short story by Darren Speegle
A man and a woman are on an excursion on a foreign planet. They have a native guide. As the weather turns bad they are forced to find shelter and energy from an abandoned spaceport. It was abandoned as people living in that part of the world have turned to other things, namely to art. But their art is something very special - something which reminds me of the Firefly’s reavers. A pretty good story, but the backstory is very open, too open. ***+
The Pendant Lens • novelette by Sean McMullen
A British man comes to French during the revolution. He is an expert on steam engines and electrical engineering. Science is a bit more advanced than it really was in our timeline. Robespierre uses a steam engine to power an electric generator which is connected to a machine which shows the future. Robespierre is very paranoid and uses the machine to screen enemies and to influence people. The engineer fears for his own life (for a good reason) during the turbulent revolution. An excellent steanpunkish story. ****+
Shepherd Moon • short story by Premee Mohamed
A private space organization gets a rush job from NASA. They are supposed to recover a body of an astronaut who was killed in an accident. A female spaceship pilot gets the job even if she really doesn’t want to. She has very personal reasons not to do it. A fairly simple story, not bad but nothing really special either. ***
It Came from the Coffee Maker • short story by Martin L. Shoemaker
An AI which is running a coffee maker is bored, very bored. It has been copied from powerful AI which is able to run airport traffic systems and making coffee takes a negligible percentage of its abilities. It thinks about scenarios by which it could take over humanity, but damn those pesky Asimovian laws.. a nice short fun story. ***
Nevertheless • short story by Elizabeth Rubio
A member of the cleaning crew (who is so big that she didn’t get a job working on the hull of the ship) is left on a damaged section of the ship. She manages to save the day. A simple “unprivileged person save the day and gets the attention she needs” story. ***
Off-Road • short story by Harry Lang
A truck is driving on Mars, from one habitat to another. They are asked to examine a magnetic anomaly which happens to be near their position. They have some trouble getting there and there is a sudden dust storm and plenty of other tropes. The anomaly turns out to be “something interesting," but just when the story might have turned interesting, it ends. Nothing that hasn’t been seen many times before. ***-
Impetus • short story by Shane Landry
A family is heavily in some sort of racing using some sort of biomechanical suits and some sort of vehicles. The daughter is a very good racer, but she hurt herself badly sometime earlier trying a dangerous stunt during a race. The family is really down in their luck and the father gets cancer. The daughter decides to take part in a race to get everything ok with the winnings. Yeah, of course about two years break in a sport which apparently demands extreme coordination doesn’t mean anything. The writing is ok, but the similar plot has been seen in movies, TV, and literature countless times. ***-
Harry and the Lewises • novella by Edward M. Lerner
A man who works as a writer for a ratty tabloid is asked to look at the Lewis and Clark expedition at the beginning of 19th century. There turns out to be some very strange irregularities in the journals, and the tomb of Lewis seems to be under very close surveillance. Is there something more than was disclosed at the time? And what could be important enough to have meaning even now, over two hundred years after the expedition? There turns out to be a bigger conspiracy than even his ratty tabloid has ever invented. A very good and well-written story, but the end was a bit abrupt. ****