Wednesday, October 15, 2014

One of Our Thursdays Is Missing: A Thursday Next Novel by Jasper Fforde

Next in Thursday Next series. This time the protagonist in the book isn’t the actual, original, “real” Thursday Next, but her correspondent from the Thursday Next books. The nice and empathetic one, not the arrogant one from those books which were written with added sex and action to please the readers. Most of the book happens in the bookworld, where the Thursday Next’s literary correspondent tries to find out what has happened to the real Thursday Next, while an understudy takes care of those few readers who are actually reading the book series. The real Thursday was supposed to mediate the peace talks between racy novel and women’s fiction, two genres with a long history of bad relations. At the same time an unknown book has destructed itself over the bookworld and spawn stray phonemes everywhere. As the real Thursday Next isn’t available, the written one must try to find out what is going on. She encounters many strange and surprising threats, like a dangerous mimefield filled with ruthless mimes. And she also gets a change to visit the real world and is astounded by the level of the detail. Even those things which aren’t described exist there!
Another really fun book from a fun series. This instalment was perhaps slightly less manic than some of the previous instalments, but it was a very inventive book filled with loads of fun literary and culture references. Very likely I missed many of them, but there was more than enough for a few chuckles for almost every page. Enjoyable, inventive and entertaining.
384 pp.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, September 2001

An average issue. Somehow felt at least thirty years older than it actually was.

The King Who Wasn't • [Interplanetary Relations Bureau] • novella by Lloyd Biggle, Jr.
An agent on Interplanetary Relation Bureau is on a planet which apparently has a democracy on several city states. But something seems to be wrong - the democracy seems to work unusually poorly and the newly elected officials are always worse than the previous ones. But the there is an apparent revolt, the latest elected officials are stoned and king is selected apparently more or less randomly. And the agent who was supposed to be as unnoticeable as possible finds himself as a vice-king. Sociopolitical science fiction. Not bad but somehow has pretty old fashionable feel in it and felt slightly overlong. ***½
Lost Dogs • shortstory by Christopher McKitterick
A probe returns to find humans after 80000 years. It seeks them from many different places and finally finds them. Overlong and overcomplicated story with a lot of long winded descriptions with a lot of numbers. Hard to follow and pretty boring. **+
The Upgrade • novelette by Brian Plante
A man is trying to manage in his job. His brain implant is fairly old, and his customers and employer is demanding more as well as his wife who tries to live rich life at a country club with rich friends. But the upgrade is very expensive and it will have some other drawbacks, also. Irritating and unrealistic characters and a sudden change from a fairly light tone to tragedy. Haven't they heard about divorce? ***-
A Moment of Integrity • shortstory by Jeffery D. Kooistra
A forth Mars mission makes an astounding discovery: a wreckage of a German spacecraft from the Second World War era. Which was powered by Diesel engines. WTF? Not very plausible but ok story, somehow slightly clumsy. It could have been the first part of a longer story. ***+

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Camilla Läckberg: Majakanvartija

A murder mystery, where the police and an author – the wife of one of the policemen – try to find who killed a very unremarkable civil servant. Due to many subplots (not all resolved) and a really huge array of characters the book is sometimes hard to follow. The police makes a few stupid mistakes which are very convenient plot wise. Ok, entertaining book but I wasn’t overtly impressed.

Nainen pakenee yksinäiselle majakkasaarelle poikansa kanssa. Ystävysryhmä on toipumassa vakavasta onnettomuudesta. Nuhteettomalta vaikuttanut kunnallisvirkamies löytyy kotoaan ammuttuna. Toistasataa vuotta sitten palvelijatyttö muuttaa samalle majakkasaarelle sulhasensa ja tämän työtoverin kanssa. Kirjan alku on hyvin hajanainen ja henkilöiden määrä – etenkin kun samalta kirjailijalta ei ole aikaisemmin mitään lukenut ja kaikki päähenkilötkin ovat outoja - tuntuu melkein tyrmäävältä. Vähitellen kirjaan pääse sisään ja eri tarinoiden väille vähitellen muodostuvat ainakin melko loogiset yhteydet. Jonkinasteinen hajanaisuus kirjaa vaivaa loppuun asti ja osa ehkä hiukan irrallisista juonista jää ilman varsinaista päätöstä. Kovin suuria yllätyksiä kirja ei tarjonnut, itse arvasin murhaajan noin puolenvälin seudussa. Kielellisesti kirja oli aika hyvin kirjoitettu, monipuolista ja luettavaa kieltä, mutta kovin lyhyet tv-sarjamaiset usein jonkinasteiseen cliffhangeriin päättyvät kappaleet olivat paikoitellen ärsyttäviä. Aikamoisia sählääjiä ja ammattitaidottomia ruotsalaiset poliisit tämän kirjan perusteella kyllä ovat: useampia emämokia saivat aikaan. Hupsista vain, laitoinpas tärkeän todisteen epähuomiossa taskuuni ja unohdin sen moneksi päiväksi… Kovin suurta intoa ei ainakaan heti syntynyt kirjailijan muihin teoksiin tutustumiseen.

515 s.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Rupetta by N.A. Sulway

Rupertta is a clockwork woman, who was built by an inventive woman hundreds of years ago. Her heart must be “wound” be a human and the two are closely attached after that. During centuries, she has many different wounders, with different approaches and aims. The story is told from two different viewpoints; from a point of Rupertta herself and from the perspective of a young scholar who examines Ruperta’s life in the “present day” of the story. A strange intolerant religion has risen on the perverted philosophy of the worse winders which doesn’t think twice on destroying “heretics”. But what has happened to Ruperta herself?
The writing is excellent, and the story is fascinating cross between fantasy and steampunk. The ending was by far the weakest part of the story; it was too long and slightly confusing. The first few chapters were some of the best -written things I have read and the story might have worked better as a longish novella rather than a complete novel.
352 pp.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, November 2014

Average issue, there is nothing really memorable.

Flow • novella by Arlan Andrews [as by Arlan Andrews, Sr. ]
Continues an earlier story, which happens apparently on a post apocalyptic earth or on another planet. A man who earlier sold ice goes to visit a larger city with slightly higher level of civilization. The story consists mainly from sightseeing and how the “hero” is trying to find things to steal. There is practically no actual plot at all. The world as itself is fairly interesting, but a good story should be some kind of real plot going on. Little happens here other than descriptions of the world. I didn’t like the first installment and I didn’t like this one. **
Persephone Descending • novelette by Derek Künsken
How to survive on Venus after there has been an attempt against your life and you are stranded in sulfuric acid atmosphere. A very detailed story about survival. The background and possible aftermaths seemed interesting, but there was too little about them and too many details on different ways to use Venusian floating plants. And oxygen tanks with hand pumps as standard? Really? (The given examination seemed stupid, as no pumps are usually used to transfer gases from lager containers to small ones) ***-
Mercy, Killer • shortstory by Auston Habershaw
An AI is on trial on the murder of several other AIs. It seems clear that he/it is guilty. An attorney is supposed to be on the defense team, but his job seems impossible. He meets the Ai and has a discussion. There are motives of course but not really interesting or surprising ones. The writing was ok but somehow pretty lackluster plot. ***-
An Exercise in Motivation • shortstory by Ian Creasey
An invention makes it possible that autists can change their interest, for example from remembering train tables to analyzing stock market information. ***
Habeas Corpus Callosum • shortstory by Jay Werkheiser
A man is in prison for life for a murder. But immortality treatments have been invented. Should he be released after one lifetime? There are pressure groups advocating the both sides and one case is used for the legal precedent. Nice writing, but I really don’t understand the vindictive process concerning more on revenge that possible rehabilitation. ***
Conquest • shortstory by Bud Sparhawk
Short humorous story about invasion which is slightly delayed. The mighty imperial warship encounters very efficient and powerful immigration bureaucracy. There is only one solution available. A very short fairly amusing story. ***
Elysia, Elysium • shortstory by V. G. Campen
There have been several famines in the world and food is very scarce. A young man inherits a trade route from an older man, who is dying from melanoma. He is supposed to transport some pills to another village. There is a secret which might change the world. A pretty nice but slight too short story, I would have liked to learn more of the world and characters.***+

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Green Mars (Mars Trilogy) by Kim Stanley Robinson

The second part of the Mars trilogy. The first Martian revolution failed in the previous book. People are picking up the pieces, both the rebellious colonists and the giant transnational corporations of Earth. But who will control the future Mars – greedy corporations or people who live there? And how Mars will be terraformed, will there be any areas with original geography left – there are some very bitter disagreements about that even among the colonists. Slowly, Mars turns more hospitable, and slowly the secret organizations of the colonists gain more supporters and more power. But how could they win the giant, all powerful and rich corporations with large private armies? Will the new rebellion end as badly as the first one?
The book has fairly little actual plot. It mainly describes the changes, which happen on the planet - and boy - it describes them in detail, in mind numbing detail. Different characters move around the planet, apparently for no other reason than enabling the author to describe the different features of Martian landscape and terraforming methods very carefully. Omitting the descriptions the page count could have been cut by something like 85-90%. The writing as such was pretty good, but at places it was more than a little dull. The events there were, happened in kind of bursts, followed by a hundred pages of sightseeing trips around the planet. The Martians itself are fascinating – how living on another planet changes people? Are there other ways of organizing society as the traditional free market capitalism while giving wide personal freedom? Those were the interesting parts of the book, not the details of the planet.
The scientific knowledge of Kim Stanley Robinson was slightly suspect, again. According to him the Martian work crews use dowsing to find water on Mars. Really? Why not astrology as well? The prior book had devices which worked against the laws of thermodynamics – this is about as stupid mistake.

I have now read 92% of all novels which have won the Hugo award.

784 pp

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Astounding Science Fiction, December 1958

Pretty old fashionable stories, especially the attitudes of some were “slightly” odd.

Ministry of Disturbance • [Federation] • novelette by H. Beam Piper
A king of an interstellar empire might be threatened by a coup. His childhood friend who is the leader of military forces seems to get troops to places and is gaining influence and power. Then a riot starts for apparently fairly small reason and it seems something fishy is going on. It turns out that there is a coup, but not the obvious one. A talky, slightly overlong story which has quite a few unneeded side-plots. ***
Triggerman • shortstory by J. F. Bone
A lone man sits alone in a room with a red button. He is in charge of an ultimate decision: whether to launch nuclear missiles or not when the country is attacked or seems to be attacked. It seems a lone missile is closing to the Capitol. The antimissile attacks all fail, as the invader moves far too fast. Should the counterattack be launched? It is pretty clear from the start what the “attack” really is. In reality there would have been no question of even an attempt of counter measures – meteors move too fast for any of them. Not bad story, one of the better ones in the issue. ***+
Pieces of the Game • shortstory by Mack Reynolds
Russia has invaded most of Europe. A diplomat goes to Vienna for a cover mission. As Russian allow only very old, very fat or very weak attachés to arrive at their territory a weak man is faced quit a task. A standard James Bond style adventure story. Writing ok and plot adequate but nothing really unique. ***-
The Queen Bee • novelette by Randall Garrett
A small spaceship crash-lands on a new unknown and uncharted planet. Apparently, the space ships are extremely unreliable (or I wonder if they are purposefully rigged?) as there are set rules of conduct for such situations. Every man is supposed to get a child, preferably two children, a boy and a girl, with every woman surviving to ensure as much genetic variation as possible. This expedition has seven members, three women and four men. One of the men is an older doctor who for “obvious reasons” isn’t included in the eugenic plan (if you go by the disturbing logic of the story, that’s totally inexcusable. They are losing one seventh of the genetic variability, which is extremely limited to begin with. There is no set upper limit for male fertility – as he is the oldest and most likely to die first, he should have been the first one to get his chance with the women.) The women are horrible caricatures, one is a young nice girl from an agricultural planet who can sew and cook, one is a neurotic, who is scared of sex and getting children and only after some beating and light raping comes to her senses, and the third one is an extremely rich heiress who has always gotten everything she wants and is used to men following her every wish. And who is very narcissistic or even psychotic person. But what can’t be cured with some prefrontal lobotomy? Just as unbelievable story it sounds. The writing itself is about average for its’ time, but the attitudes and events are EXTREMELY creepy and uncomfortable. *½
Seller's Market • [The War with the Outs • 2] • shortstory by Christopher Anvil
Attack to an alien base through snow. A lot of description of journey and fighting, a few small plot twists. (the aliens are able to influence minds, but apparently not very efficiently) but nothing really special. A longer form with more actual details and not just action might have worked better. **+

Monday, August 11, 2014

Anne Holt: Julkkismurhat

A police procedural about a serial murderer killing celebrities. The beginning of the book was a little disjointed and had far too many hard to keep track characters, but it got much better by the end. A nice summer read.

Tunnettu TV-julkkis kuolee kotonaan omituisella, ritualistisia piirteitä omaavalla tavalla. Parin viikon kuluttua kuolee toinen julkisuuden henkilö ja jälleen murhassa on mukana erikoisia piirteitä. liikkeellä vaikuttaa olevan sarjamurhaaja. Poliisipariskunta on juuri saanut lapsen, ja Inger Johanne Vik on äitiyslomalla. Hänen miehensä on yksi murhaketjun päätutkijoista, ja lomalla ollessaankin Inger hän alkaa selvittää murhia. Koska selvää motiivia ei vaikuta olevan, näyttää siltä, että tutkimuksesta tulee pitkä ja hankala. Ja niin tapahtuukin.
kirjan alku vaikutti hiukan liian löysältä ja henkilömäärä suurelta. (Miksi kirjoissa ei aina voi olla henkilöluetteloa, helpottaisi onnettoman nimimuistin omaavan lukijan lukemista huomattavasti). Loppua kohden kirja jäntevöityi ja ylineuroottisen lapsenhoidon vatvominen vähentyi ja tarina oli kovinkin mukaansatempaava. Viihdyttävää kesälukemista. Yhden mielenkiintoisen faktan neurologi kirjasta oppi: MS-tauti ei kuulemma vaikuta aivojen toimintaan. Mihinköhän sitten?

419 s.