Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, January-February 2017

Usually the double issues have been pretty good, but not this tile. As a whole, this was a pretty disappointing issue.

The Proving Ground • novella by Alec Nevala-Lee

People who live at a remote island start to build large wind turbines so that they can be self-sustained in a world where sea levels are rising. For some reason, birds start to behave strangely. They start to attack people and eventually manage to kill someone. What is happening and why? A fairly good story, but there were some problems with plausibility. The story has some similarities to technophobic ramblings of the populistic and near racist "tru-finns" party in Finland, which is kind of amusing. ***+
Twilight's Captives • [Only Superhuman Universe] • novelette by Christopher L. Bennett
A diplomat is solving a crisis between humans and aliens on a remote planet. Apparently, the aliens have kidnapped human children. But they apparently have a good reason for that and a plausible plan to diminish future schism between the species. Not bad, but slightly overlong story. ***
Orbit of Fire, Orbit of Ice • shortstory by Andrew Barton
A spaceship might be able to prevent a serious collision between space junk and a space station, but most likely at the cost of the life of the entire crew. Should they do it? A lot of discussion and I found the ending a bit unsatisfying. ***-
Long Haul • shortstory by Marie DesJardin
A pilot gets an alien pet and gets very attached to it during his long solitary trips. It seems to have some empathic powers. On one planet, some custom officials overstep some boundaries, which leads to a tragic outcome. But the pilot gets a new, human friend. A story which is sad, and somehow comforting at the same time. ***+
Catching Zeus • shortstory by Tom Jolly
An expedition is trying to find mineral which would function as a room temperature superconductor. They have a good reason to suspect that it exist in Labrador as a 3D satellite magnetic mapping has produced results which can't really be explained otherwise. The Chinese and the Russians are also trying to find the deposit. And they are not afraid of some rough action. As a story, it was pretty nice, but scientifically it was totally implausible on many levels. ***
Drifting Like Leaves, Falling Like Acorns • shortstory by Marissa Lingen
A remote military base isn't a very nice place. Luckily, they have frogs, which exert psychoactive drug that gives a feeling of wellbeing. There are some apparently modified people who live in trees. The military is considering using them to carry bombs. More of a scene than a story - due to scant backstory it was hard to get into. **½
Dall's Last Message • shortstory by Antha Ann Adkins
Aliens who live in an ocean (on another planet?) transcribe a last message when they die. One alien goes too high and is chased by a predator but is able to make an important discovery. Will he be able to leave the last message? OK story, but bit short for the backstory. ***
The Last Mayan Aristocrat • shortstory by Guy Stewart
The last Mayan princess is spending her days waiting for the return of her father, who is imprisoned by the conquistadors. She is a god of her people, but they are abandoning her more and more by leaving the city and going to the jungle. Then she learns that another "real" god wants her audience. The god is dying, and has a request. A pretty good story about an apparent alien living with ancient Mayans. ***
The Shallowest Waves • novelette by Thoraiya Dyer and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro
A scientist is about to send a probe to Europe. A separate story follows a man who is diving in the seas of Europe. Both behave pretty erratically, and there are long internal monologues in the middle of limited action. There was an irritating and careless mistake: if the heart rate is 350 (hardly even possible), there is no way that the blood pressure could ever be 230/120. Such a fast heart rate would cause the collapse of blood pressure, as the heart would have no time to be filled by blood. The writing as such was OK, but the characters were extremely irritating and mostly behaved endlessly illogical way, so I didn't much like the story. **+
Necessary Illusions • shortstory by Tom Greene
A planet has been colonized centuries ago and has apparently been largely forgotten. Now the representatives of a new empire/federation of planets have arrived and want an audience with the leader. They have an ultimatum of sorts. A fairly well good story, but it starts with too scant a background - it wasn't easy to figure out what was going on. ***-
Paradise Regained • shortstory by Edward M. Lerner
A man lives alone. He is observing a flag his father raises every day. If the flag doesn't change daily, something has happened to his father. He goes to find out what has happened and finds his father dead in a derelict spaceship, where they had lived together until the man had reached puberty, when they were no longer able to tolerate their scents. There are humans on the planet, but they live far from others, like hermits – anything else would be unthinkable. A very good story, probably the best in the issue. ****
Briz • shortstory by Jay Werkheiser
A colony ship is approaching the sun. There is a problem, but they might be able to slingshot to another star farther away. The solar system has some strange energy signatures very near the sun, in the hot, inhospitable zone where water might exist as steam, or even as highly-corrosive liquid. The story is a bit too short and scene-like, though it is not bad overall. ***
Split Signal • shortstory by Joel Richards
An author who has been uploaded to a computer asks help from a private detective: apparently, a copy of him has been stolen and used to write books in his style. Is that even illegal? Partly a detective story, and partly a courtroom drama. A fairly good story, which at times felt a bit too straightforward, with things arranging themselves too neatly. Still one of the better stories in the issue. ***½
After the Harvest, Before the Fall • novelette by Scott Edelman
Children are “harvested” and they reach adolescence in a day or so. After that, they wait to be “harvested” once again – their brain is destroyed, and their bodies used as surrogate bodies for rich people. I had some problems with the story: I first thought that it must happen in some sort of virtual world: there couldn’t be any other possible explanation for how the children would grow at least tenfold in a single day. Is it virtual reality or magic? Or poor writing? The story had some thematic similarities with Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. It was not as good - but what would be? ***+
Whending My Way Back Home • [Martin & Artie] • novelette by Bill Johnson
Time travelers from different realities live in past. They are trying to influence things so that the future timeline would be changed. For some of the travelers, the timeline they come from has disappeared, and if their reality changes too far, they themselves might disappear. A woman (who comes from the future) gets sick, and a group of others help her. A discussion-heavy and overlong story – I didn’t get into it, just as I haven’t been very keen on the other instalments of this series. **½

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two by J. K. Rowling

This is the continuation of the story of Harry Potter in form of a play. It happens about twenty years later than the “real” books. The children of people who became famous after the earlier events have problems with the high expectations that their parents, teachers, and even they themselves have set upon them. Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy are underachieving children who rebel against their parents. They are best friends in spite of the hatred their fathers felt for each other years ago. They hatch a plan how they might gain some attention, but it backfires very badly as reality itself is changed and everything is under dire threat.
The play was pretty good after one got used to the unusual format. At first, there seemed to be some problems with the characterization, but twenty years and hard life experiences would most likely leave some marks, which might explain the uncharacteristic behavior some of the characters seemed to have.
I must wonder, though, how the play has been produced. There are so many scene changes, flashbacks, and consecutive scenes that happen in different places that it is hard to imagine how that has been managed. It certainly would be nice to see the play, but apparently it has been sold out for a decade or something.

352 pp.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Seppo Jokinen: Rahtari

The latest in the Inspector Koskinen series. An unconscious retiree is found in the forest. Nearby, a young man, who apparently had been hiding under a truck, is accidentally run over. He appears to have very similar head wounds to the old man (who later dies at the hospital). The young man’s father is found dead in his car – he apparently ran out onto the road for no good reason. Are those deaths related? A pretty good book where the mystery plot and the ongoing plot about the relationships of all protagonists intertwine very well.

Uusin Komisario Koskinen-sarjan kirja. Hervannan lenkkimetsästä löytyy tajuttomaksi lyöty eläkeläismies. Vain muutamaa tuntia myöhemmin löytyy läheiseltä rekkaterminaalilta rekan yliajama nuori mies. Pian paljastuu, että miehellä oli melko samanlainen päävamma kuin eläkeläisellä ja mies on ilmeisesti ollut jostain syytä rekan alla piilossa. Onko asioilla yhteys? Ilmenee myös, että rekan alle jääneen miehen isä, Teknisen Korkeakoulun professori on ajanut ilman ilmeistä syytä Lapissa ulos tieltä ja kuollut. Asioilla on pakko olla jokin yhteys, mutta mikä?
Sujuva ja hyvin kirjoitettu kirja, jossa sekä mysteerijuoni, että vähintään yhtä tärkeä henkilöiden keskinäisistä suhteita kertova, kirja kirjalta kehittyvä juoni, toimivat hyvin paitsi itsenäisinä niin myös saumatta keskenään.
Hiukan pihalla kirjailija tuntui olevan susien käyttäytymisestä ja susitietous muutenkin oli aika säälittävää. Kirjoittaja kuvittele, että Lapissa on susia pyydystettäväksi asti – oikeastihan poromiehet ovat lahdanneet ne käytännössä kaikki. Huomioiden, että tamperelaisen kirjailijan todennäköinen pääasiallinen tietolähde on tietoisesti susia syvästi vihaava Aamulehti, ei ole vaikea arvata mistä varsin vihamieliset asenteet ja ”tiedot” ovat peräisin. Pientä pehmennystä lopussa sentään ”verenhimoisten petojen” kohteluun tapahtuu. Tätä muutenkin hyvin epäuskottavaa loppuepisodia lukuun ottamatta ihan kelpo kirja, joka on keskitason yläpuolella sarjassaan.

375 s.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Michael Quinion: Totta ja tarua englannin sanoista (Port Out, Starboard Home: And Other Language Myths)

The etymology of several English idioms explained – or not. In most cases, a “folk tale” of the meaning was first presented and then proved to be false. And in most cases, the actual background of the saying was found to be unknown. Short and nice anecdotes, anyway. But the examples partly translated to Finnish looked kind of strange.

Kokoelma selityksiä englanninkielen sanojen etymologiasta. Sinällään ihan kiinnostava, mutta lähes kaikkien sanojen kohdalla selityksen formaatti oli aivan sama: ensin muutama jo lähtökohtaisesti ihan älyttömän ”kansanuskomus” siitä mistä sanonta johtuu, sitten hiukan historiaan sanonnan käytöstä ja lopputuloksena, että kenelläkään ei ole aavistustakaan siitä mistä kyseinen sanonta juontuu. Esimerkkilauseet, jotka oli käännetty, mutta jätetty yksi, käsiteltävänä oleva, idiomi kääntämättä olivat aika hassun näköisiä. Vaikka kirjasta aika löytyi oikeita selityksiä sanontojen taustoista, olivat osa niistä keksityistä ja kumotuista tarinoista ihan hauskoja ja kirja oli lyhyine kappaleineen kevyttä välipala luettavaa.

325 s

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Hannu Luntiala: Ihmissyöjän päiväkirja

An absurd and surrealistic tale of a body louse, which comes to Finland on clothes of members of Finnish parliament who were visiting Kosovo. The louse then jumps from a person to person and observes the strangeness of everyday human life.

Kertomus vaatetäistä joka hyppää Kosovossa vierailevan suomalaisen kansanedustaja ryhmän mukaan ja saapuu Suomeen, jossa sitten kokee monenlaista hyppiessään vaatteesta ja taskusta toiseen. Varsinaista jatkuvaa klassista juonta on melko niukasti, enemmänkin kirjassa ihmetellään ja ironisoidaan erilaisia nykypäivän ilmiöitä ja varsinainen referointi ei ole ihan helppoa.
Absurdin surrealistinen tarina, jossa on monta, ehkä liiankin monta kertojaa. Useamman ihmisnäkökulman lisäksi tapahtumia seurataan täin näkökulmasta ja myös täiden elämästä kirjan kirjoittaneen näkökulmasta. Vilahtaapa henkilöiden joukossa Jumalakin, ainakin täiden jumala(?). Monennäköistä tapahtumaa ja ajattelua yksinkertainen vaatetäi reissuillaan kohtaa. Mielenkiintoisen kummallinen kertomus, jossa tosin hajanaisuus ja hypähtely hiukan haittasivat. Hyppiminen tietysti kirppumaiseen elämään sopii luonnollisella tavalla, joten eipä tuo niin iso ongelma ollut.

235 s.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Mauri Sariola: Minä Olavi Susikoski

Inspector Susikoski investigates a murder of a country doctor who was found shot behind locked doors. At first it seems like a suicide, but soon it is apparent that it was a set-up, and the doctor was murdered. But how, and why? He didn’t have any apparent enemies. A pretty nice police procedural with quaint details of the past: smoking everywhere, and lobster as lunch on airplanes.

Susikoski on jänismetsällä paikallisen nimismiehen kanssa, kun nimismiestä tullaan noutamaan. Jo aika iäkäs, taidoiltaan ihan pätevä mutta käytöksensä vuoksi ei mitenkään kovin pidetty kunnanlääkäri on ampunut itsensä. Paikallinen hammaskipuinen nuori isäntä oli ollut aamutuimaan kolkuttelemassa kunnanlääkärin ovia ja kuuli talon sisältä laukauksen. Kaikki talon ovet olivat lukittuja ja kun kotiapulainen saapuu paikalle avaimien kanssa kunnanlääkäri löytyy sisältä päähän ammuttuna. Nimismies pitää tilannetta selvänä itsemurhana, mutta Susikoski huomaa heti, että kyseessä on kömpelö lavastus. Mutta kuka on tappanut vanhan miehen ja miksi? Ja miten? Asiaa selviteltäessä löytyy toinenkin hämärä kuolema: hyvän uimataidon omaava kirkkoherra oli hukkunut kalareissulla pieneen ja matalaan lampeen. Seuraavana päivänä hänen oli ollut tarkoitus tavata joku seurakuntalainen jokin vakavan asian vuoksi.
Vaikka alku näyttää vaikealta asiat ratkeavat vähitellen, osittain aika onnekkaasti, mutta sitä ennen Susikoski joutuu matkustamaan Espanjaan asti.
Kirja toimi ihan vetävänä salapoliisikertomuksena, mutta myös mielenkiintoisena ajankuvana, jossa tupakoitiin kaikkialla lentokonetta myöten. Ja siellä lentokoneessa ilmeisestikin ihan turistiluokassa syötiin maittava hummeripäivällinen viehättävien lentoemäntien tarjoamana kauniin kanssamatkustajan seurassa. Ei mitään suurta kirjallisuutta, mutta oikein viihdyttävää bussilukemista (kirjan valitsin, kun kännykässä ei sattunut olemaan luettavaa ja tämä oli ohut ja kevyt – ja nopealukuinen. Edestakaisin keskustaan ja yli 80 sivua jo siinä).

220 s.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Leena Lehtolainen: Surunpotku

The latest book about Maria Kallio, a female head of a police department which was founded to solve unusual crimes. The department will soon be dissolved in spite of very good results, and Maria will soon be out of her job. But there is still one more crime to be solved. A dead body has been found in a very large pool of blood at a local church. It soon turns out that not all of the blood is human… A pretty nice, smoothly written book which is hard to put down - one of the better ones of the series.

Viimeisin Maria Kallio- kirja. Epätyypillisten rikoksien osastoa ollaan lopettamassa ja Marian työtilanne ei ole selkiytynyt. Hän uskoo jotain töitä löytävänsä, mutta varmuudella ei mitään vielä ole tiedossa. Mutta ainakin yksi rikos on vielä selvitettävänä. Espoon kirkosta on löytynyt kuoliaaksi puukotettu mies lasten vessasta. Verta on suunnaton määrä. Tarkemmissa tutkimuksissa osoittautuu pian, että kaikki ei ole ihmisverta. Murhattu on tunnettu jalokiviasiantuntija ja kansanedustajan puoliso. Liittyykö murhan miehen ammattiin ja onko häneltä ehkä ryöstetty jalokiviä? Vai onko murhalla poliittisia syitä? Vai onko kyseessä satunnainen, mieleltään järkkyneen henkilön tekemiä teko? Ja mistä ihmeestä ylimääräinen veri on tullut ja miksi?
Kirja oli vetävä, sujuva ja mukaansa tempaava – parhaasta päästä sarjaansa. Oikeataan sääli, että Maria Kallio-kirjoja ei ainakaan vielä ole enempää, ihan mielellään näitä lukisi. (Henkivartija-sarjan kirjoja taas en lukisi vaikka aseella uhattaisiin). Ainoita suurempia ongelmia kirjassa oli loppuratkaisu, jota lukijan oli kyllä aika lailla mahdotonta ennakoida tai mitenkään arvata syyllistä, sen verran puskasta tekijä ja hänen motiivinsa tulivat. Tavallisesti dekkarissa tämä on iso vika, mutta jotenkin tällä kertaa se ei haitannut, sillä sen verran sujuva ja mukavasti etenevä kirja oli eikä vaatinut klassisen arvoitusdekkarin rakennetta.

432 s.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Woman Who Died a Lot: Thursday Next Book 7 by Jasper Fforde

Thursday Next is becoming old. All the injuries she sustained in her earlier adventures are slowing her down. She is given a job as head librarian. She was hoping to be the leader of a new agency, but that went to someone younger and more fit. However, the library has a budget in the tens of millions of pounds and they store the most valuable manuscripts. Library workers have almost unlimited power including the use of lethal force to stop excessive noise in reading rooms or in retrieving unreturned library books. So perhaps that isn’t so bad a job after all. But she has many problems which complicate her life. The evil Goliath Company is trying to replace her with an android. Her son, who was destined to become the leader of the time travel agency is out of job as time travel was noticed to be impossible. That discovery caused the abolishment of the time travel agency retroactively. Everyone who was supposed to work at the time travel agency got two letters, one telling them what was supposed to happen and another telling what would happen in the new time line without time travel. According to the new time line, he will murder someone in just few weeks and will spend the next decades in prison. And God will be smiting her home town pretty soon. Her daughter is developing an anti-smiting shield, but she probably won’t be able to finish it in time. Her other daughter doesn’t actually exist, but is just a false memory caused by Aornis Hades, her arch enemy, who is able to control memories. These are only a few of the several plot lines the book has. The first half of the book was more of an avalanche of ideas and events which didn’t necessarily form a very coherent whole. Most of the ideas were intriguing and entertaining. Something which resembles a more traditional plot emerged slowly and the book came to a pretty satisfying conclusion. Even so, it was the weakest part of the series. I was missing the Bookworld, which wasn’t featured at all in this book. Hopefully the author doesn’t abandon that completely.

386 pp.