Tuesday, November 26, 2013
A nice issue, at least average.
Memorials • [Universe of Xuya] • novelette by Aliette de Bodard
A young woman sells recorded memories of ancestors to criminals who apparently strip them pieces and peddle them to entertainment industry. The background is somewhat sketchy, but apparently I am growing into this writer - this is a pretty good story. ***½
Primes • novelette by Ron Collins
Some strange events seem to happen around prime numbers and there is a strange murder or suicide. People are carrying neural interfaces. It is possible to influence people though them, but is it possible force them to commit acts they don’t want to do? An ok story which goes more for narrative style than coherent plot. ***-
Extracted Journal Notes for an Ethnography of Bnebene Nomad Culture • shortstory by Ian McHugh
A study report which is written by an anthropologist who is doing a field study of some aliens with really complicated genders. An odd story which I didn't completely get. First the aliens seemed to be aboriginals, but then they seemed to possess highly evolved technology. ***
The Carl Paradox • shortstory by Steve Rasnic Tem
A man gets a visitor: He himself drops from a future with a time machine invented by a friend. He has some advice. But wait, there is another version of himself from another future. Short, silly and surprisingly good. ***½
Static • shortstory by William Jablonsky
A strange space phenomenon arrives to earth. A young family with stressed out mother, an infant son and father are waiting if the world will end. There is lot of electronic disturbances and apparently they get short phone and text messages from past and future. A tight story which doesn't explain much, but works pretty well nevertheless. ***+
The Common Good • novelette by Nancy Kress
Aliens destroyed (or rather neatly vaporized all human constructions with everyone who happened to be around) all population centers of earth a few decades ago. A young man who has lived all his life in a forest with survivor style parents. The world has slowly being recovering, but the boy has lived very secluded life. After a serious quarrel with his parents, he runs away and eventually finds himself in a dome the aliens have created. There he first starts to learn the basic principles of science and later intuitive strategic thinking. A very good story. I wouldn’t be surprised to find this from nomination shortlists next year. But this is just the beginning of the real story. ****
Monday, November 25, 2013
The first book of the series which describes how Mars was settled and terraformed. This might be called political science fiction as the emphasis in this book is on the people involved and what kind of politics and agreements are needed in such a major project. The actual mechanics of the endeavor is more on the sidetrack, and that part of the book isn’t really well thought out. The author seems not to have even a small grasp of the basic laws of thermodynamics or of the conservation of energy. (Using windmills to heat a planet is so gigantically idiotic premise, that it is hard to believe no one caught it during proofreading).Also, everything seems to happen extremely easily, and living in the Mars seems far too easy – it seems it is trivial to establish clandestine “underground” independent settlements. Everything happens on a planet where temperatures are much worse than in Antarctica on a cold day and the atmosphere is practically vacuum from a human point of view. The writing was very descriptive and everything is told is in almost mind numbing detail with long discussions. The actual plot was pretty interesting with a different points of view about what should be done with an unused planet – should it be “spoiled” and turned something more habitable for man, or should it kept as a some kind of (most likely totally sterile) nature preserve, where the original Mars is saved as far as possible. The writing was rather too loose for my taste - perhaps not as overtly descriptive as in Hugo nominated 2312. On the other hand it will be interesting to see what will happen to the slightly communistic Martian revolution in the next book, but on the other hand I am not looking forward to reading 1200 more pages in this style of writing.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
An ok issue with stories which are readable in spite of somewhat conservative attitudes at places. The editorial is in the same vein, telling among other things how horrible it is that environmentalists demand unleaded gasoline.
Wheels Within Wheels • [LaNague Federation] • novelette by F. Paul Wilson
The most of the story is told by a flashback: a man who had inherited a successful enterprise takes a sabbatical and journeys to little known planet. It is inhabited by hybrid humans who have a very fatalistic view of life. They are subjected to racial prejudice by fully human colonists who have arrived the planet centuries after the first colony, but due to their view of life, they really don’t care. The ex-businessman decides to make the situation better. He seems to be on the verge of succeeding when he is found dead. Apparently, the aboriginals have killed him, and they even admit it. They have never before been violent, but they have never lied about anything, either. When asked for a reason for the homicide the just answer “wheels within wheels” which is the catchphrase of their philosophy/religion. The daughter of the man arrives at the planet much later to find out what happened. A pretty good story, well written and interesting. The ending was perhaps too simple and straightforward. ***½
The Fine Print • novelette by John T. Phillifent
An alien ship from a planet who sells some extremely valuable medical supplies to humans makes a landing on a space station. Usually all trade between humans and that race of aliens is only by proxy. It turns out that the aliens have very interesting but dangerous pets. Animals, which look just like beautiful women. The bulk of the story is about a trial following an unfortunate incident. The premise is preposterous, but story works fairly well. The trial takes too much time, however. ***+
To Make a New Neanderthal • shortstory by W. Macfarlane
A secret group of people who want to spread pollution (as it increases brain activity) takes a group of environmentalists where they probably want: to a planet with no pollution, no other people, no hardwood and no metals. ***-
Knight Arrant • shortstory by Jack Wodhams
A very sedentary planet is invaded by space pirates who steal all valuables, demand for the return of a mythical item which probably doesn’t even exist and start to round the better looking women for slavery. The “space police” finally arrives and the bandits withdraw. Unfortunately, they can’t spare any troops or ships and can’t leave any forces to uphold the peace. But they can leave training materials for combat training…it was a ploy all along. Some interesting attitudes here, but otherwise readable story. ***
Thursday, November 14, 2013
A double issue with a varied bunch of stories.
Music to Me • [Floyd and Brittney] • novella by Richard A. Lovett
Another installment about Britney, an AI who was created more or accidently among lone space explorers. Now she has abandoned Floyd, her first partner and come to earth. In earth, she discovers that she isn't the only AI around. There is a secretive AI in the Internet, which wants Britney to join him. But the cost of that might be high - in many levels. A very good story as are the others in the series. The first quarter is the story might have tighter, but otherwise the story was very enjoyable. ****
Mousunderstanding • shortstory by Carl Frederick
A humorous story of a world with the abundance of gold, with a usual currency. A silly and stupid story. I wonder why gold would be so valuable when space travel (and probably asteroid mining) are commonplace. ***
This Is As I Wish to Be Restored • shortstory by Christie Yant
An employee of a cryonic faculty has stolen a frozen body of a young woman (who would have been disposed of). A story of strange love and/or obsession. The writing was ok, but a short story aiming for mood and style. Not much plot here. ***-
The Tansy Tree • novelette by Rob Chilson
A wife of some sort of lord has been sick for a long time, and not even the drugs from the leaves of the drug tree haven't been able to heal her. And then they are a lot of "poetic" discussion concerning different relations. Rarely have I hated the writing of any story as much I hated this. Every other sentenced ended with "heh, "eh", or "ha", many of them started with an "o". The names were flowery and overcomplicated. I didn't get the plot, but that was probably due to severe gritting of my teeth from the irritating filler words. The plot I did get felt very stupid. *
The Problem with Reproducible Bugs • shortstory by Marie DesJardin
A scientist is found with a severe concussion in his laboratory without any memory what has happened. Next week it happens again. A short ok story with slight, nice, irony. ***
Determined Spirits • novelette by Grey Rollins
A tech wakes up in a generation ship which is supposed to be traveling to another solar system. Something has gone wrong, and parts of the ship are empty of air and many of the suspended animation cocoons are empty. What has happened? The writing is ok, but there are some pretty simplistic sermons against over-patriotic nuts. I mainly agree with the author, but the lecturing was pretty irritating. There are also some very strange engineering solutions: you must be in the engineering part of the ship to be able to access the engineering computers. WTF? The designers don’t know how to network computers? And when people have been killed off in alphabetic order except a few, is it really wise to wake up one of those, who are surviving when all others around their names who have been killed. Could there be something going on and could there be a reason why those people have been saved? ***
Wine, Women, and Stars • shortstory by Thoraiya Dyer
A surgeon has lost the race to be the one who is chosen of the trip to Mars. She is operating the younger woman who got selected (all her internal organs are removed and replaced with nanotech.) and ponders her life and wonder if she should make a slight surgical error which would reverse the selection. I wonder who no one thought about the conflict of interests. Otherwise a pretty good and well written story. ***½
Just Like Grandma Used to Make • shortstory by Brenta Blevins
Printing food without proper licenses might be risky and extremely illegal. The writing was passable, but the premise as such wasn't too logical or believable. But ok as a satire. ***
Racing Prejudice • shortstory by John Frye, III
A sport story about an android who has transformed himself to human in order to be able to compete in the Olympics. Writing as such was ok and the story was tolerable as far as stories involving sports go. ***-
Technological Plateau • shortstory by Michael Turton
A pair of explorers are studying a planet which seems to be a paradise. No predators, a lot of fruit bearing plants, a lot of delicious animals which are easy to catch. There is a catch, of course. A short, but pretty nice story. ***
This Quiet Dust • shortstory by Karl Bunker
The explorers who have only a few days to evaluate a new planet find a planet which is covered with a dust with strange electrostatic properties. The particles of the dust seem able to form very complex compounds. Ok story apparently mainly to present an idea of a very peculiar life form. A good story as such. ***+
Saturday, November 2, 2013
This time Vares, the private detective from Turku is hired to find out who was behind a ritualistic double homicide. For some reason even the criminal elements of Turku wants to find out who was the murderer.
Vares on palkattu selvittelemään koko Turkua kohahduttaneen rituaalimurhaa. Jostain syystä myös alamaailmaa asia kiinnostaa ja Vares saa siitä suunnasta tarjouksen reippaasta bonuksesta, jos onnistuu selvittämään kuka erikoisen kaksoismurhan takana oikein on. Mutta miksi asia alamaailmaa kiinnostaa - uhreina kun olivat ”vain” psyykeongelmainen sairaslomalla ollut poliisi ja kirjanpitofirman omistajatar? Ja mistä rikollisen toiminnan kulissina toimivan baarin liepeillä pyörivä kaunis nainen oikein on entuudestaan tuttu? Tarinaltaan ehkä hiukan monimutkaisempi kuin moni muu sarjan teoksista, ja henkilöhahmojen ja sivujuonien suurehko määrä vaikutti välillä hiukan sekoittavalta ja ajoittain kovin pääjuoneen liittymättömältä. Uskolahkosivujuonikin nähtävästi vain katosi kesken kirjaa? Tavallista Vares-tasoa sinällään, ehkä keskitason yläpuolella sarjassaan.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
The first book of its series, the first book by the author. A constable of violent crime division of the Helsinki police takes part in a criminal investigation of a typical murder which involves down in his luck alcoholic. The main protagonist is very distressed and stressed about his work and spends a lot of time thinking about social implications of everything.
Ensimmäinen Harjunpää-kirjoista. Kuvittelin, että tätä en ollut koskaan lukenut, mutta tutulta tarina kyllä vaikutti. Kirjassa tutustumme Harjunpäähän, Helsingin poliisin väkivaltajaoksen konstaapeliin, joka on hiukan liian hermoheikko työhönsä. Työhönsä hän on päätynyt lähinnä sattumankauppaa, mikään haave poliisin ura ei hänellä koskaan ollut ollut. Yövuorot, vastuu ja hoidettavat keikat aiheuttavat hänelle painetta ja lähes pelkoa. Kirjassa on murhakin, siihen tosin päästään vasta kun noin kolmasosa kirjaa on kulunut. Kyseessä on tyypillinen kotimainen henkirikos, alkoholiin menevä mies on päätynyt hengettömäksi. Ihan täysin tavallinen ryyppyporukan tappelu silti kyseessä ei vaikuta olevan, vaan mukana on ryöstö.
Hitaahkosti etenevä, paljon yhteiskunnan ongelmien pohdiskelua sisältävä teos, joka on samalla kiinnostavaa ajankuvaa. Hämmästyttävää kuinka paljon kirjassa tupakoidaan! Laadullisesti kirja ei ole aivan samaa tasoa myöhempien osien kanssa, mutta laatutyötä joka tapauksessa.
Friday, October 25, 2013
A pretty readable issue for its time. At least the writing was tolerable.
The Executioner • novelette by Algis Budrys
A judge of a future religious oligarchic society is going to have a trial. The accused is a young girl who has committed a serious crime. She has talked in public with her lover, a member of ruling family. Guilt seems to be clear and naturally the verdict is guilty. The accused of course has the privilege to hope for the god's reversal of the judgment. It has never happened - the bulled shot by the judge has always killed the stripped accused. But this time someone throws a gun for a girl, and she gets out one shot before she dies. The judge has been absolute in his believe of the god and on the right of the ruling families, but now he starts to think about the situation. Ultimately, he comes to a shocking, but logical conclusion. A pretty good, slightly overlong story with a moving and even surprising end. ***½
Indirection • shortstory by Everett B. Cole
A new and very successful fantasy writer has a secret. He allows his friend, who is a literary critic, to see his newest "story". It is in form of letters and testimonials of several kinds of aliens. They are all true, and the man is making the world ready of the reveal large interstellar civilization. I would imagine this was a very tired plot even in the 1950s.**
Won't You Walk— • novelette by Theodore Sturgeon (variant of "Won't You Walk...")
A man is desperate enough to be ready to kill himself. He tries to steal a car to drive it off a cliff, but the car happens to be a "trap" of a psychologist, who promises to change his life. The writing was ok, the plot wasn't anything really special - I saw the “surprise” ending straight away. ***-
Thursday, October 24, 2013
A collection of short case studies of strange, unusual or just plain crazy scientific projects. Including "what happens if you give LSD to an elephant?" (It drops dead even when acid isn't really toxic for humans.) Or are soldiers able to function if they are sure they will die? Or what happens if you try to raise a chimpanzee just like a human child? A pretty interesting book, but not mostly really new - I was familiar with at least half of the “case studies” beforehand. Nice and light reading anyhow. Maybe some more depth might have been nice for some of the stories.