Sunday, September 12, 2021

Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse

The next Hugo nominee. The book happens in a world partly based on pre-Columbian Central/South American civilizations.

The beginning of the book was partly confusing, as there were several plot lines happening at different times. At least it was clearly stated when any chapter was taking place. A young man has been blinded as a child by his mother to be a vessel of an emerging god. He gets special training while he is growing up, and he seems to already have some supernatural powers. He can control crows and use them as flying eyes.

A young woman whose roots are from a poor part of a town has gotten an important position in another god’s priesthood. There is an attempt against her life, apparently by another sect, but the evidence seems a bit TOO obvious. Her position as a leader/figurehead seems threatened.

A young woman (who might not be exactly human) who has worked at odd jobs at boats, drank a lot of booze, and had a lot of sex is asked to deliver something at a very tight time frame through a dangerous and difficult sea journey.

Those stories start at different timepoints but ultimately converge, or most likely some will really converge in the next part of the series.

The world was fascinating and the writing was pretty well executed. The plot was interesting and certainly fantastic enough, and the characters felt well-created and complex. The downside is that this book was just the beginning of the story, and it was mostly set up for the real plot and characterization of the major characters. In spite of that, this book was vastly better than the author’s earlier Hugo-nominee Trail of Lightning, with a more creative storyline and more interesting and less clichéd characters. 

454 pp.

Monday, September 6, 2021

Jari Salonen: Jahti

The next part about the investigations of Inspector Zetterman, an elderly and introverted police inspector. This time he is supposed to make a show of investigating why a boat owned by a shady businessman was sunk. As the undercover police investigation concerning him is almost ready, Zetterman was supposed to just drag things a little and take the crook's attention away from what the other policemen were doing. It seems that the sinking wasn’t insurance fraud, but who did it and why? When a body is found from the boat, the investigations turn out to be more important than first believed. At the same time, Zetterman is trying to find a young female student who is missing and to find out who is sending threats to a manager of a small bank.

A smoothly written book with an interesting main character – a bit different from the heroes usually seen in the book. There were perhaps a few too many side plots and some of the plots converged in a very unlikely way, but a very enjoyable read nevertheless. 


Eläkeikää uhkaavasti lähestyvän komisario Zettermanin tutkimukset jatkuvat. Viime kirjan onnistumisen jälkeen hän on saanut ainakin väliaikaista höllennystä rangaistusluonteiseen komennukseensa, jossa hänen piti tutkia pitkin maata paikallispoliisin apuna pikkujuttuja. 

Tunnetun talousrikollisen loistovene on upotettu. Häntä koskevat tutkimukset vakavista rikoksista ovat loppusuoralla. Zetterman määrätään tutkimaan veneenupotusta, ja hiukan “hämmentämään vettä”, jotta rikollinen ei huomasi taustalla tapahtuvia itseensä kohdistuvia rikostutkimuksia. Näyttää siltä, että vaikka konna onkin aika konna, niin oman veneensä upottamiseen ja vakuutuspetokseen hän on mitä ilmeisimmin syytön. Kuka veneen upotti? Erityisen kiinnostavaksi kysymykseksi tämä muuttuu, kun upotetusta veneestä löytyy ruumis. Hiukan sivutoimenaan muiden tutkimuksien ohella Zetterman etsii kadonnutta opiskelijatyttöä. 

Mukiin menevää kerrontaa, joka kielellisesti tuntui hiukan kehittyneen ensimmäiseen kirjaan verrattuna. Poliisikirjan lisäksi kirja oli samalla suhteellisen perinteisen tuntuinen arvoitusdekkari, jossa palapelin paloja annettiin aika hyvin, sen verran hyvin, että itse taas keksin pääsyyllisen noin puolivälissä kirjaa, motiivi tekoihin kyllä jäi auki. Sivujuonia oli taas niin paljon, että hiukan karsimisen varaa niissä ehkä olisi ollut, mutta ne tarjosivat samalla täydennystä Zettermanin persoonaan ja tapahtumamaailmaan. 

Eri juonikuvioiden punoutuminen yhteen oli aika epäuskottava sattuma ja muutama sivujuoni ja ainakin yhden rikoksen motiivi jäi aika avoimeksi ja huonosti perustelluksi. Sen verran mielenkiintoinen tämä osa oli ja sen verran kiehtova persoonallisuus Zetterman oli siitä huolimatta, että seuraava kirja on jo äänikirjana automatkoilla kuuntelussa. 

382 pp. 

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Ilari Aalto: Matkaopas keskiajan Suomeen


A guidebook for traveling in Finland during the Middle Ages. Insights on where to eat, where to stay, how to behave, and what to see. A delightful, informative, and easy to read book about real life in the country, and not about kings and politics like the usual history books. Almost keeps its guidebook format for the whole book, but breaks format at times to explain more unfamiliar customs to the modern reader. An interesting and fun book to read.


Mielenkiintoinen tutkimusmatka keskiajan elämään. Historiassa liian usein tilan vievät kuninkaat, ruhtinaat, aateliset sekä sota ja politiikka. Tämä kirjan tarjoaa hyvän esittelyn siitä, mitä tavallisen kansan elämä oli keskiajan Suomessa. Kirja on pääosin matkaoppaan muotoon kirjoitettu, joskin tyylilajissa on paikoitellen lievää sallittavaa lipsumista. Kielellisesti selkeää, helposti luettavaa ja kiinnostavaa tekstiä. Pitäisi varmaa lisääkin lukea historiaa, hyllyssä on muutama kirja odottamassa, jos ovat yhtä mielenkiintoisia kuin tämä, niin turhaan ovat lukemattomia.

256 pp.



Thursday, September 2, 2021

My Hugo award votes 2021 part 3: Novellas

I found that the novellas were worse than last year. The central theme of all of them was very “woke”, which isn’t a bad thing at all, but when it isn’t easy to find any cis-person in any of the stories it might have gone a bit far. That doesn’t matter much but it IS a minor irritant. None of the stories were nearly as good as Ted Chiang’s story from the last year. On the other hand, all were better than my two least favorite stories from 2020. None of the stories was a clear winner, but as Seanan McGuire’s series has been constantly pretty good I decided to put it in the first place. Sarah Gailey’s and Nghi Vo’s stories were both fairly good, but they seemed to lack the most interesting parts of their backstories and worlds. In spite of that, I will put Gailey’s story in second place.

The last place was hard to decide, as all the rest of the stories were about as good. None were excellent but none were bad, either. After some thought, Nghi Vo’s story went into the last place as it really wasn’t fantasy at all.


Upright Women Wanted, Sarah Gailey (Tor.com)

The story happens in a future where an apparently totalitarian government rules most of the USA. All entertainment and even factual books and films must be pre-approved with strict censorship rules and patriotic statements added to everything. The state of technology is somewhere very early 20th-century level, but the military has some modern tech. Some states, most importantly, Utah, are insurrectionist and don’t belong to a totalitarian government. There are ”librarians”, women, who transport approved materials from village to village. A young girl escapes her village and hides on the wagon of the librarians. Her girlfriend has been hanged for having unapproved materials. It slowly turns out that they were more than friends, and that the librarians aren’t just innocently transferring propaganda from one village to another. A fairly good story, where the main emphasis is on character development and interpersonal relations. That part is good, but the world felt very interesting but very underdeveloped. How have things got this way? Where is the war being waged? What is happening in other countries? How does the system work? Those very interesting questions remain completely unanswered - personally, those would have been more interesting than the anguish of interpersonal relationships.


Riot Baby, Tochi Onyebuchi (Tor.com)

A tale of two black siblings. The brother was born during riots and encounters racial hatred, discrimination, and brutality. The sister has extraordinary powers, she can see the future, especially the bad things, and she can travel in time and space, and has powerful destructive powers that she barely keeps in check. The brother apparently has some powers of his own. He spends much of the novel in prison for attempted burglary. Eventually, the brother is released from the prison to some sort of utopic controlled environment where his biological responses are monitored and controlled. The storytelling is fairly fragmentary and consists mostly of separate scenes. The world isn’t ours: it is some sort of an alternate reality with bionic limbs and implanted devices. I am not sure why that story device was needed. I felt that the story was ok, but a slightly shorter and stricter form would have made it better.  


The Empress of Salt and Fortune, Nghi Vo (Tor.com)

A story that happens apparently in some sort of alternate (?) historic China. A pair of a cleric and a talking bird come to an old historic site, which turns out not to be as abandoned as it was thought to be. There is an old woman living there, and she has a story to tell. She was a peasant who was sent to the imperial court as part payment of taxes. She worked as a cleaning maid and more or less by chance befriended a new empress who was sent to court to mend relationships between kings and to produce an heir. After she did that she was exiled to the small manor where the old woman is now living. As an exile, she can’t do much or she will lose her life. Or will she? Apparently, she was able to do something, as she is the current empress and the founder of a new dynasty. A fairly good story that is written in a flowery, slightly fairytale-ish language. There is little fantasy in it, though. The aforementioned talking bird and a mention of ghosts (which might very well have been allegorical), that’s all I noticed. I really would be hard-pressed to classify it as fantasy. The story is beautiful and well told, but I wouldn’t give a speculation fiction prize (or nomination), which is spe-fi, only because it happens in an imaginary version of a real country.  


Finna, Nino Cipri (Tor.com)

A young woman is working in an Ikea-like store. She has just broken up with her partner who is trans, and apparently wants the pronoun “they” to be used when speaking of “them”. That is always extremely irritating especially for a foreign reader - why not use some other, NON-PRONOUN, non-confusing word for that purpose - it shouldn’t be so hard to make one up. Luckily my native language (a non-gendered one) does not have that problem. The work at the store is boring and the company is greedy. One shopper drops to an alternate reality. That apparently has happened before, so often that the company has a training video for that eventuality. Two employees must go through the portal and get the lost customer. As they are the newest employees, the former partners are forced to do that. There is no choice in the matter or they would face termination. After that, there are travels through a few extremely unlikely alternate realities. If the realities would have been something other than unlikely surreal scenarios, the story would have been so much better. Now the story went a little bit everywhere, there was irony, surrealism, romance, action, and general weirdness. The writing was ok, but the content itself was also just ok, not great.  


 Ring Shout, P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com)

The story happens in an alternate reality, where the movie The Birth of a Nation worked as some sort of spell, which turned some of the Ku Klux Klan members into zombie-like totally evil creatures called Ku Kluxes. When the story starts a new release of that movie is coming close, and the blacks who have been fighting against Ku Kluxes are afraid that a new, even worse manifestation of those devils is imminent. It turns out that the supernatural creatures who infest the Ku Kluxes are feeding on hate. But there is something which is more powerful and pure hate than that fed by ignorance and prejudice…. A pretty good and well-written story, but there were some slower parts that might have been tightened a bit. The end was pretty intense, but with a shade of deus ex machina.    


Come Tumbling Down, Seanan McGuire (Tor.com)

Continues “Wayward Children” series, where all major installments have received nominations earlier. The stories have not been published in chronological order and this story more or less continues the storyline which was started in the second part, “Down Among the Sticks and Bones”. Jack and Jill are identical twins whose “world” has been reminiscent of early horror films. Jill has been living at the manor of a vampire and dreams of becoming a vampire herself. Jack has lived in the mansion of a mad scientist and is able to harness the power of lighting to reanimate dead people and more. Jack and Jill are not on friendly terms after events in the earlier story. Jill has managed to change bodies with Jack and Jack really, really wants her own body back. And she’ll get help from other wayward children - and from some inhabitants of her own world who don’t like that the balance of power is disturbed. An excellent and well-written story like its predecessors.



My voting order will be:

1. Come Tumbling Down, Seanan McGuire (Tor.com)

2. Upright Women Wanted, Sarah Gailey (Tor.com)

3. Riot Baby, Tochi Onyebuchi (Tor.com)

4. Ring Shout, P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com)

5. Finna, Nino Cipri (Tor.com)

6. The Empress of Salt and Fortune, Nghi Vo (Tor.com)


Sunday, August 22, 2021

Leena Lehtolainen: Jälkikaiku (Maria Kallio #15)


Uusin Maria Kallio -romaani. Maria työskentelee nyt yksikössä, joka selvittelee etenkin lapsiin ja nuoriin kohdistuneita rikoksia. 

Nuori maahanmuuttaja löytyy kuolleena, häntä on lyöty voimakkaasti päähän jollain tylpällä esineellä. Nuori näyttää aluksi pojalta, mutta ruumiinavauksessa paljastuu, että kyseessä on tytön ruumis. Kyseessä on ollut transseksuaali, jolla sukupuolen vaihdos on ollut kesken - hormonihoidot on aloitettu, mutta mitään leikkauksia ei oltu ehditty tehdä. Onko kyseessä viharikos maahanmuuttajia tai transseksuaaleja kohtaan? Vai ovatko nuoren omat sukulaiset tai maanmiehet loukkaantuneet vahvasti kulttuurin normeja rikkovasta käyttäytymisestä?

Osapuilleen normaalia tasoa sarjalleen, ei ainakaan keskitason yläpuolella. Kieli on keskinkertaista, juoni on ihan vetävä, mutta ehkä turhahkoja sivujuonia hiukan liikaa mukana, sivumäärässä ja kerronnassa olisi ollut napakoittamisen varaa. Kevyttä, nopeaa kesälukemista, ei sen enempää tai vähempää. Taas kerran kirjassa oli muutamia täysin typeriä yhteensattumia, jotka kiusasivat. Ihan sattumalta kissa sattui löytämään perusjuoneen liittyvän irtokorvan ja pudottamaan sen juuri Marian keittiöön? Blääh. Eikä tämä varsinaisesti ainoa  juonen kannalta tärkeä “sattuma” ollut - kyseessä on aika laiskaa kirjoittamista.   


The next book in Maria Kallio series. She is a policewoman who at the moment leads a special task group about crimes against children and adolescents. A young refugee is found beaten to death. The victim, who at first looks like an adolescent boy, turns out to be a transexual female to male with no corrective surgeries done yet. Who killed him? Someone hating refugees? Someone hating transsexuals? Someone from his own family circle who wasn’t happy with his behavior breaking cultural norms?  Light, but entertaining whodunnit style of book, the writing isn’t perhaps the best, but it was easy to read and enjoy between more demanding books.

396 pp. 

Saturday, August 21, 2021

The Relentless Moon (Lady Astronaut Universe #3) by Mary Robinette Kowal

Continues the story which was started in two earlier parts. Earth was hit by a meteor in the early fifties. It is calculated to cause severe climate change in a few decades and space exploration, with the ultimate goal of establishing colonies on the Moon and Mars, is hurriedly started. This book happens at about the same time as the second part of the series, The Fated Sky (which strangely was not nominated for the Hugo - and is my favorite installment so far). While The Fated Sky tells what happens on the Mars expedition, The Relentless Moon tells what happens at the lunar colony at the same time. The main character is obviously different. Nicole Wargin has been one of the original astronauts. She had worked in intelligence during the second WW and is the wife of a US senator. There has been some terrorist activity that wants to prevent space exploration, as they want the money spent on Earth, and as everyone can’t escape the Earth, why should anyone? After some problems, the new flight to the Moon starts, but there are some accidents, both during the flight and on the base, and it becomes obvious there is a saboteur on board. Who is he/she and what is his/her goal? And is there more than one?

A pretty good book, but it is not as good as the second part. It took some time to get used to the new main character. At first, she felt less irritating with fewer neuroses than Emma York, the main character of the two other books, but it turned out that Nicole has her own set of problems. In spite of those, she is very capable and by the end of the book ends up with a fair share of responsibility.    

The book was better than the first part but not as good as the second part. In places, everything seemed to happen very slowly and the whodunit plot didn’t felt enough. The characters were well drawn and interesting and the writing was good and at the same time clear and enjoyable to read. As a whole, the series is so interesting that I will most likely pick up the next part even if it isn’t nominated.  


544 pp.


Friday, July 30, 2021

Kazuo Ishiguro: Pitkän päivän ilta (The Remains of the Day)

 

A butler who has worked at an English manor for years gets to take some time off and goes to visit a former female co-worker. There has never been anything public between them, but a lot had been going on below the surface. The butler ponders on past things and what he considers the most important thing in his life, dignity. Apparently, keeping that dignity has cost him a lot, and he doesn’t even realize it at a conscious level. On the other hand, all events are represented as the memories of the main character and they are clearly unreliable.  

An extremely good, bittersweet book that prompts a lot of thinking. It would demand a second reading to fully understand the themes it represents. One of the best books I have ever read.


Vuosikausia samassa talossa toiminut hovimestari on siirtynyt talon mukana uudelle omistajalle. Tämä on jenkki, joka ei kaikkea aikaansa kartanossa vietä ja talon henkilökunta on supistettu aivan minimiin, jolla selviäminen on lähes mahdotonta, jäljellä on enää vain neljä työntekijää.

Kun uusi isäntä palaa USA:han, hän ehdottaa hovimestarille jotain aivan omituista: tämä voisi pitää lyhyen loman. Hovimestari päättää lähteä autoajelulle tapaamaan naista, joka työskenteli aikaisemmin kartanoissa ajatellen pyytää häntä takaisin työhön. Matkan aikana hovimestari muistelee vuosien varrella tapahtuneita asioita ja omaa suhdettaan tähän naiseen, suhdetta, joka aina - ainakin hänen puoleltaan, ainakin pinnallisesti - oli ollut hyvin ammatillinen. Pinnan alla oli sitten kyllä kytenyt jotain muuta, mutta hovimestarille oli aina ollut aseman vaatima arvokkuus tärkeintä mitä on, eikä se arvokkuus sallinut edes ainakaan tietoisia ajatuksia suhteesta toisen työtekijän kanssa. Etenkin kirjan alkupuolella suuri osa kirjasta kuluu hovimestarin pohdintaan mitä tämä arvokkuus tarkoittaa ja kuinka hän on sitä kyennyt ansiokkaasti osoittamaan, mm. kykenemällä tarjoamaan ensiluokkaista palvelua isännälleen samalla kun hänen oma isänsä oli kuolinvuoteellaan. Tosin tuolloin jokainen palveltava kysyi hovimestarilta, onko tällä mahdollisesti jotain pielessä, jonka tämä luonnollisesti kaikille kielsi. Kirjan minäkertoja on monesti muulloinkin ristiriitainen ja epäluotettava, se mitä hän kertoo ajatelleensa ja se mitä hän kertoo tapahtuneen, eivät aina ihan sovi toisiinsa. Mukana vaikuttaa olevan sekä torjuntaa, että muistojen tahattomampaa kaunistelua.

Kirjan kieli on hovimestarin kieltä, erittäin korrektia, tunnetasolla ehkä pinnallisesti kylmää, mutta samalla kaunista. Pinnan alla tapahtuu sitten taas hyvin paljon. Tämän kirjan ehkä voisi hotkaista nopeasti ajattelematta, mutta jos/kun sitä pysähtyy ajattelemaan, niin perustason alapuolella tosiaan on todella paljon kaikkea, joista osan ehkä huomaisi vasta toisella lukemisella, kun tapahtumien (oikeastaanhan kovin paljoa ei loppuen lopuksi kirjassa varsinaisesti tapahdu) kokonaiskuva on selvillä. Hovimestarin elämä on ehkä pinnalta ollut tyydyttävää, mutta tämän takaa hohtaa pettyminen moneen asiaan, jopa hänen isäntänsä, jota hovimestari rakasti oikeastaan koiran uskollisella rakkaudella, ja joka lopulta sai kuolla unohdettuna ja vihattuna 30-luvun natsisympatioidensa vuoksi. Näitä hovimestari aikanaan osittain - ainakin muistikuviensa mukaan hieman kyseenalaisti - mutta uskollisuus isännälle ja usko tämän täydelliseen erehtymättömyyteen oli kuitenkin tärkeintä. 

Kyseessä on syvällinen, liikuttava, monitasoinen ja erittäin hyvä kirja, ehkä yksi parhaista lukemistani kirjoista,  joka on täynnä haikeutta elämättömästä elämästä.    

283 pp. 

Jari Salonen: Kuokkavieraat

Autokuuntelussa vaihtelun vuoksi uusi sarja. Mahtihäissä ylimääräisenä ohjelmanumerona on morsiamenryöstö. Paikalle ilmaantuu joukko merirosvoiksi pukeutuneita miehiä, jotka sieppaavat morsiamen maastoautoon ja ajavat tiehensä. Juhlaväki alkaa huolestua, kun morsian ei palaa, ja viimeistään siinä vaiheessa, kun morsiamen miljonääri-isälle tulee lunnasvaatimus poliisi alkaa tutkia asiaa. Komisario Jukka Zetterman on ollut keskusrikospoliisista lähes hyllytettynä sen jälkeen, kun hän kuulustelussa iski ylimieliseltä nuorisorikolliselta hampaat kurkkuun. Hän on komennettu avustamaan tutkimuksissa paikallispoliisia pikkujutuissa aina sinne missä on tarvittu. Nyt hän on ollut Lauttalan pikkukaupungissa tutkimassa murtosarjaa. Paikkakunnalta löytyy poltettuna kidnappauksessa poltettu auto ja myöhemmin pikkutielle pysäköidystä traktorista löytyy kaksi kuoliaaksi ammuttua ja yksi hengenvaarallisesti loukkaantunut. Zetterman tutkii tapauksia uutterasti, vaikka hänet lopulta hyllytetään koko tapauksesta. 

Mielenkiintoinen aloitusosa sarjalla. Zetterman on jo iäkkäämpi mies, jolla selkä pyrkii pettämään ja avioliitto on käytännössä jo pettänyt kun vaimo on muuttanut Osloon eikä yhteyttä pahemmin ole pitänyt. Mies on pääosin hyväntahtoinen, mutta osaa piruilla tarvittaessa, eikä oikein siedä saamatonta ylimielisyyttä. 

Juoni on pääosin hyvin punottu, mutta se ei ollut mitenkään erityisen vaikeasti arvattavissa ja pääpiirteet siitä itse keksin suhteellisen varhaisessa vaiheessa. Tämä ei kuuntelunautintoa pahemmin kuitenkaan haitannut. Pientä tiivistystä ehkä paikoitellen kirjaan ja juoneen olisi voinut tehdä, jonkin veran rönsyjä ja tarpeetonta jaarittelua tuntui paikoitellen olevan. Kyseessä oli kumminkin ihan mukava aloitus uudelle sarjalla ja Zetterman itse vaivoineen on piristävä poikkeus toimintasankarina toimivien päähenkilöiden asemasta. 


The first part of a new series. The man character is an oldish policeman who works for the National Bureau of Investigation. He is currently working as a “special liaison for local police” which actually means that he must work on whatever mundane job he is given, anywhere in the country. The command for that job happened after he lost his temper during an interrogation and the suspect lost a few of his teeth.  

A bride has been kidnapped during the wedding reception. At first, the guests thought that the kidnapping was just a wedding prank, but when she didn’t return, they got worried. When her millionaire father got a ransom note, it was obvious something more than a prank was going on. 

A  nice first novel with an interesting main character who is already close to retirement age.  The plot was reasonably interesting even though I pretty much guessed what was going on at an early stage. The writing was satisfactory, even though the story could have been a little tighter, and there were some unneeded asides.  Anyway, I have already bought the next part in the series.

368 pp.