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.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Galaxy Science Fiction, February 1955

A really bad issue with really badly dated stories. Plots were very ridiculous and in a bad way.

Helpfully Yours • novelette by Evelyn E. Smith
The first female of an alien species which has contacted earth has arrived. She goes to work on a newspaper which contains a help column for aliens who are baffled by earth customs. A very strange story with strange characterization. Extremely old fashionable attitudes, especially female ones. The alien looks like a bird, and behaves like a stupid "chick"; she is for example very flattered when her boss is hitting on her. Apparently, the aliens who come to earth know nothing about earth customs and human apparently have almost no interest at all for the aliens or they customs. I even thought if the story was meant as some sort of clever parody, but the writing was so bad, that it is hard believe that the author would have been able to try something so complex. **
The Cave of Night • shortstory by James E. Gunn
Americans have launched the first space ship in secret. It comes to public knowledge after the lone astronaut sends a distress signal - there has been an accident and he can't return to earth. There is a widespread sympathy around the world and a scramble to build a new ship for the rescue effort, which eventually turns out to be futile. The ship is left back as a tomb and mausoleum. Eventually space exploration gains huge popularity and it is truly international effort, which combines nations and eventually leads to world peace. An optimistic story, the end reveal could be seen for miles away, though (it was a scam, just a recording on a ship). ***+
Dead Man's Planet • shortstory by William Morrison
A widower and his son land on an alien planet. They are trying to find animals for a zoo and try to cope with the loss of wife/mother. They find a wild dog on a planet no human is supposed to have visited. The dog seems to be very wild, but the son would like to have it as a pet. A nice, melancholy story, with a small bitter sweet twist. (The dog is immortal, hundreds of years old and has lost all his memories of living with humans, guarding the grave of his master.)***
Open House • shortstory by J. T. McIntosh
Aliens come and bring gifts. No one can really remember what they look like, but things they give were pretty fabulous devices which give limitless energy, dresses which are durable, always warm and comfortable and nicely see through. And a fabulous reading device which can store two million words. (that’s not so impressive today…) But there is a hidden agenda. But as humans are _special_ as almost always in the 50s science fiction, they are able to show to the aliens who is the boss. Moderately readable story, probably made more so by all the stinkers in the issue. ***-
Pythias • shortstory by Frederik Pohl
A secret service agent has killed a man in cold blood, a man who was an old friend of the agent. He is waiting for a trial and almost sure execution. There was a good reason for what he did - the murdered man had made a discovery too powerful to exist. A well-written food story, however, if what the man did were so easy it would have been discovered centuries ago. ***
Blind Spot • shortstory by Bascom Jones, Jr.
Earth has colonized Mars and has established some sort of racist apartheid culture. All dissidents are sent to penal colonies from the slightest offense. A man how works for an office which purpose is namely to increase co-operation but apparently is to mainly keep up the status qua, is dating a beautiful girl. He goes to meet her father, but somehow doesn't notice his is an alien and goes to a forbidden zone and gets punished. Silly and stupid story. I wonder why Martian men would be so enthralled by freakish looking human women with only two eyes? **
Rich Living • novelette by Michael Cathal
A small group of rich people goes to a little planet which reverses aging. You just have to live there for a few weeks, and you are young again. Guess what, as everything is extremely poorly planned they have an accident and are marooned. And they grow younger and younger...another so stupid and badly written story, that it hard to believe. Really rotten plot and almost as bad writing. *½

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Steven Hall: Haiteksti (The Raw Shark Texts)

A story about a man chased by a conceptual shark, which eats memories. A surreal, but fun book, which offers many possible ways to interpret what happens. Not a book you should think too much while reading, that would just cause headache. Just jump in the boat and enjoy.

Mies herää kotoaan muistamatta mitään entisestä elämästään. Hän löytää kirjeen, jossa kehotetaan soittamaan tiettyyn numeroon. Numeroon vastaa psykiatri, joka kertoo, että mies on menettänyt muistinsa jo useampaan kertaan ja nyt sama näyttää tapahtuneen jälleen. Taustalla on traumaattinen tapaus, jossa miehen tyttöystävä menehtyi lomamatkan aikana. Kotoa löytyy myös kirje, jonka mukaan psykiatria ei pidä uskoa ja häneen ei tule luottaa, eikä hänelle missään nimessä saa kertoa tulevista kirjeistä. Myöhemmin päivittäin kotiin tulee kirjeitä, joita mies on nähtävästi itse kirjoittanut. Heti hän ei niitä lue, mutta kun lopulta niihin perehtyy paljastuu, että hän on kontekstuaalisen hain uhri. Hai ahdistelee ihmisiä ja syö heidän muistonsa. Ja kun hain uhriksi on kerran joutunut, ei enää pakoon pääse. Hai lopulta ui jopa kirjan sivuille, kirjaimellisesti.
Hyvin erikoinen kirja, jonka voi lukea monella eri tasolla, dekkarina, fantasiana tai kirjallisuusteoreettisena metafiktiona. Kaiken kaikkiaan kyseessä on hyvin surrealistinen teos, jota ei lukiessa liikaa kannata miettiä, tulee vain pää kipeäksi. Parasta on hypätä vauhtiin mukaan ja antaa mennä ja näin luettuna kyseessä on hieno ja kiinnostava lukukokemus, joka tuntuu paranevan metatekstuaalista loppuaan kohden. Mikä mahtaa olla hainmetsästyksen kultturaalinen idiomi nykyään? Tappajahai-elokuva tietenkin, jota kirjan loppu kopio/varioi hyvin yksityiskohtaisesti. Nopeasti luettava, ajatuksia herättävä kirja.

518 s.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, April 2004

A pretty good issue with entertaining stories.

Tea with Vicky • novelette by Pete D. Manison

A female scientist uses without permission a transdimensional device to have discussions with her daughter, who never was born in this reality. They get along pretty well, until the daughter learns that in the mother’s dimension she was aborted. In the daughter’s reality, an abortion is punishable by death. (I believe that for a such major differences between the realities, everything should be SO different, that it would be impossible for the daughter's counterpoint to exists. Also, a death penalty for an abortion? Not very consistent.) Eventually, the scientist runs into a trouble as her clandestine use of the machine is discovered. But there is more than one way to play this game... A fairly nice story in spite of some antiabortionist tendencies and some logical faults. (if one country would gain an absolute, overpowering technological superiority, how would that lead to a nuclear holocaust?) ***½
In Spare • [Harrison Chuff and Florenzia Higgins] • novelette by J. Brian Clarke
Very much a rip off of the MIB franchise. An agent of an agency which handles Earth's extraterrestrial affairs has started to suspect that his boss is an alien. He turns out to be right, and his boss (who appears to be a fat middle-aged woman) turns out to be a small rat-like creature driving a “meat-suit". He soon finds himself as a part of events involving two alien species. A pretty fun and lighthearted story in spite of less than original premise.***½
Dibs • shortstory by Brian Plante
A man gets an email. There is a second hit for his tissue type by people who are on the organ transplant list. If there is a third hit, he will be broken to parts, as his life would save at least three other lives. Using his government contacts he finds out who the people waiting for transplants are, fully expecting to kill those greedy bastards, who are graving for his organs. But the reality is something else...a far-fetched premise, but nice story.***+
The Liberators • shortstory by Scott William Carter
Earth's military forces are fighting a war against vicious enemy. With a new very advanced full body military suit, it has been lately massively successful and enemy's efforts have been pitiful. Then at one battle one soldier takes his helmet off against the strict regulations. Next day he is found to be a traitor and he is executed. Would he really be working for the resistance, a fringe group which is working against the war? A pretty good story. Maybe slightly too huge conspiracy to be really believable. ***+
The Aztec Supremacist • shortfiction by Sheralyn Schofield Belyeu
Time travelling Aztecs try to influence Columbus that he wouldn’t start his journey to America. Another group tries to undo the damage. Seems to continue an earlier story, but there does not appear to be any precursor for this. Not bad, but starts from nowhere and ends to nowhere. **½
Misunderstanding Twelve • shortstory by Carl Frederick
Trade negotiations with an alien race can be hard, especially when the only translator available works by using another alien language as an intermediator language. A pair of business emissaries have a tough time and manage to get a psychiatric evaluation as the aliens assume that they just HAVE to be crazy to behave like that. A humorous story, not bad at all in its' class.***+

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tommi Kinnunen: Neljäntienristeys

An excellently written novel about the life of one family spanning over hundred years by a first time author. The story of the family is told by short glimpses from pivotal moments, or often just before the pivotal moment. The writing is excellent and the book was one of the best reads this year.

Runsaasti positiivista huomiota saanut esikoiskirja, joka myös tuntuu ansaitsevan saaneensa huomion. Kirja kertoo yhden perheen elämästä useiden perheenjäsenten näkökulmasta, kattaen pitkän ajan, noin 100 vuotta. Luvut kirjassa ovat lyhyitä, ja monet niistä loppuvat juuri siihen vaiheeseen, kun dramaattiset tapahtumat varsinaisesti alkaisivat, ja kertovat enemmän siitä miten tilanteeseen päädyttiin. Perheenjäsenillä on salaisuuksia ja kaikki eivät tule toimeen keskenään kunnolla, mutta eri henkilöillä on eri näkökulmat asioihin ja jokaisen näkökulma on aina ymmärreltävä ainakin jossain määrin. Tärkeä osa kirjaa ovat ihmisten väliset suhteet, se kuinka ihmiset eivät saa kunnolla yhteyttä toisiinsa, vaikka asuvat samassa talossa. Kirjan ehkä merkittävin henkilö on kunnan kätilö, joka aloittaa työnsä 1800-luvun puolella pienessä maalaiskunnassa, ja joutuu ansaitsemaan itse kunnioituksensa seudulla, jossa naiset saavat runsaasti lapsia uskonnon kieltäessä senkin vähän perhesuunnittelun, mikä tuohon aikaan mahdollista olisi ollut. Kätilö saa aviottoman lapsen, ja kantaa ylpeänä ja ympäristöstä piittaamatta vastuunsa. Aikanaan aikuistuttuaan tämä lapsi alkaa myös odottaa lasta ennen avioliittoa. Hänellä taas on miehen löytäminen tärkeää, ja sellainen löytyykin, mies, jolle vieraskin lapsi on äärimmäisen arvokas. Yhteinenkin lapsi parille myöhemmin syntyy. Parin yhteiselo, eikä myöskään taloon myöhemmin tulevan miniän ja anopin toimeen tuleminen ei mitään ruusuilla tanssimista sitten myöhemmin ole.
Kirja oli mukavaa luettavaa ja se oli kirjoitettu nautittavalla ja hienolla, mutta silti helppolukuisella kirjoitustyylillä. Yksi parhaista kirjoista mitä vähään aikaan olen lukenut. Hämmästyttävää, jos kirja ei ole Finlandia-palkintoehdokkaina tänä vuonna, hyvin suositeltava lukuelämys.

335 s.