Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, November-December 2017

A little worse issue than the previous, but there were a few pretty nice stories.

Hybrid, Blue, by Firelight • novelette by Bill Johnson
Time travelers from different time periods and alternative futures hang together. Sometimes someone might disappear when his future turns out to be impossible. There is a lot of scheming and discussing. I didn't look into the story - just I didn't get into any previous installments of this series. **
Keepsakes • novelette by Kenneth Schneyer
People can make copies of their mind which represents the way they think at that moment. As people change when they get older, it is often interesting to go back and see how one thought when he/she was younger. One woman talks with a simulation of her five-year-old self. The little girl version says that her father killed her mother. The adult version doesn’t remember anything like that. Was the memory repressed? Can the copy be trusted? Can what the copy says be used on a trial as a testimony? An interesting story, but it was partly spoiled by totally unnecessary love subplot of two people investigating the alleged crime. There was more than enough plot without it. ***+
Laminated Moose Zombies and Other Road Maintenance Problems • short story by Michael F. Flynn and Dennis M. Flynn
A fungal infection turns everything dead into zombies. They aren’t very dangerous, though, as they move extremely slowly and clumsily and they invade only dead bodies. Or do they? There are strict and very bureaucratic rules how they should be dealt with. Why is the bureaucracy so bad? Not bad, writing is nice but very short, so there isn’t enough plot. ***
Downsized • short story by Bud Sparhawk
A who lives on a luxurious retirement home on a space station gets a notion that he must move to a smaller apartment as his wife died and so he isn’t allocated to have so much space anymore. He tries to appeal to the authorities of the station, but they are not very sympathetic. The old apartment is filled with memories, should he let them go? A good well written and moving story. ***½
New Teeth • short story by James Sallis
A man hunts changed people. Some kind of presence invades humans and takes over their mind. Or so he at least believes. There was little backstory and fairly little real plot and the story goes for the mood. I didn't get it, and it was too scene like for my taste. **½
Luscinia • short story by Robert Reed
The world richest woman lives in an alley pushing old child carriage (filled with the best automatic safety gear money can buy). She doesn't really need anything, but her smart money accumulates itself. A short story (or a political statement) which was ok. ***-
Fermi's Slime • short story by Tom Jolly
An expedition to another solar system finds only planets filled with slime. It appears to have very stable DNA, and the mutation rate is negligible, so there hasn't been any evolution. Are all other worlds in the universe filled with single cellular slime colonies? A short but okay story. ***+
Quirks • short story by Marie Vibbert
Skills can be easily transferred to other people. That has led to heavy unionizing, where unions protect their knowledge. But as there is always some "leaking" of talent to the public domain, it is becoming harder and harder to get jobs with a decent pay. A man gets an offer for his skills. A bit too short, but a decent story. ***
Time Travel Is Only for the Poor • short story by S. L. Huang
Poor people are offered an investment. They are supposed to make a small monetary investment, even cents, and then they put in suspended animation until that investment is grown by compounded interest to a real fortune. And that isn't exactly a voluntary practice. One man fights back and he is supported by a lawyer working pro bono. A pretty good but depressing story. ***+
Papoose Lake • short story by Richard A. Lovett
A man has a friend who is heavily on conspiracy theories. So much that he is very irritating company. He has another friend who is an expert on experimental neurology. Would it be possible to influence thought patterns? A bit short, but good story. ***½
Hot Air • short story by Igor Teper
A scientist has come to China. She meets an old friend, who worked on a similar defense project on the Chinese side. They have a common past and share a secret. A good non-linear story. ***½
Kindle No Flame • short story by Stephen R. Loftus-Mercer
A researcher goes to Oxford library, soon after American newspapers have encountered strange problems with paper. Nicely written story, but I wonder what would have been motivation for such bug. ***+
Two Hours at Frontier • short story by Sean McMullen
Four people wake up in android bodies. They were on a way to study a strange artifact on the fringes of the solar system. It turns out five thousand years have gone and the Earth is silent on all bands. And they then spend two hours arguing about extremely stupid things, like the inability of getting children if you are an android. Like that would be the most important thing in that situation? A fairly stupid story which discusses all the non-interesting points of the setting and glosses over the more relevant things. A nice twist at the end makes the story slightly better. ***
Reentry • short story by Brendan DuBois
A three-man mission has been sent to an asteroid. An accident happens which kills two of three member and damages the ship. The return will take well over thousand days. It is a long time to be alone. The survivor is recuperating in a hospital. The company which sent him on the mission is taking care of him- but not out of kindness. A good story even if the company was unreasonably evil. ***
Weaponized • short story by Jay O'Connell
A man and a woman have dated for a while, they are falling in love. Every time they have sex, she checks something from her phone. A pretty nice, but short story. ***
Housekeeping 100 XP • short story by Brenta Blevins
A technician who repairs the malfunctions of smart houses, has to take her grandmother with her to work. There is a bit of a generation gap and the job in question is hard. A pretty average story. ***-
And Then They Were Gone • short story by Ian Creasey
The rich and famous parents of an eighteen years old girl, tell her that they are going to upload their minds to the virtual world. The girl has mostly been neglected by the parents and she has issues. Will her scars ever heal? An excellent story which could have been longer. ****-
How Val Finally Escaped from the Basement • novelette by Scott Edelman
A man inherits a house from his uncle. He finds an imprisoned alien in its cellar. The alien gives humanity all the technological and medical secrets anyone could have hoped. The man becomes hated and despised as his uncle apparently delayed the revelations. A bitter man whose father was killed a little before the revelations, imprisons him ( I didn't get that point at all - why anyone would blame him? It doesn't make any sense). But then there is a twist. A good, well written and enjoyable story. ****-
Native Seeds • novella by Catherine Wells
There has been a catastrophe – first there has been widespread famine, and then vast flooding and almost everything has been destroyed. Two groups have survived: a group which is descendants of scientist who have lived inside a mountain, and a group which is apparently descendants of Native Americans. Both are small, and just surviving. They encounter. Should the “wilds” move to the mountain? Could they even be supported? Do they even want to move? And both groups are almost too small to survive from the genetic point of view. A very good story, there are nice possibilities for both prequels and sequels. ****-

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Arundhati Roy: Äärimmäisen onnen ministeriö (The Ministry of Utmost Happiness)

This is a fairly chaotic novel about India and about the conflict in Kashmir. There was little actual plot, but the book followed lives of several people. At the beginning of the book the intersex boy/girl was promising, but then the plot spread like a network, following far too many sub-characters in a non-coherent way. The book is filled with violence, rape, and injustice, and is not light reading.

Kirja, joka oli kulttuurillisesti niin outo, että alkupuolella sitä piti lukea ”science fiction” -moodi päällä – harva scifi romaani kuvaa vieraampaa ja kummallisempaa maailmaa. Juonellisesti kirja on kuin Intia, runsas, vaihteleva ja kaoottinen. Kirjassa ei ole varsinaista yhtä yksittäistä juonta, vaan se muodostaa enemmänkin toisiaan sivuavien toisistaan polveilevien juonien verkoston, joka tuntuu laajentuvan koko ajan.
Kirja alkaa hermafrodiitin, Anjumin tarinalla. Hän muuttaa 15-vuotiaana hijrojen taloon. Hijrat ovat ”kolmatta sukupuolta” perinteisesti edustava ala”kasti” Intiassa. (Tämä piti googlata, ja näin tosiaan on, kyseessä ovat etenkin miehet mutta ilmeisesti myös naiset, jotka kokevat olevansa normaalin sukupuolensa ”ulkopuolella”. Heillä on oma asemansa Intian elämässä ja rituaaleissa). Vietettyään vuosia hijrojen talossa ja koettuaan sekä hyviä, että huonoja aikoja hän muuttaa hökkeliin hautausmaalle. Sinne kerääntyy muita kohtalon koettelemia ihmisiä ja osittain näiden ihmisten kokemaan kirjan tapahtumat perustuvat – tosin poimuillen runsaasti eri henkilöiden välillä. Kovin merkittävää ja selkeää yhtenäistä juonta kirjassa ei oikeastaan ollut.
Asiat joita kirja kuvaa ovat pääosin järkyttäviä ja ahdistavia, eivätkä todellakaan saa aikaan mitään mielihalua matkustaa Intiaan. Pistää ihmettelemään minkälainen valta uskonnolla ja kansallistunteella (jotka ovat pitkälti oikeastaan samaa asiaa tai ainakin saman asian kahta eri puolta) oikein on. En oikein ymmärrä logiikkaa, miksi jotain yksittäisen maan osaa – vaikkapa siis Kashmirin Intiassa ei anneta erota emämaasta, jos pääosa sen väestöstä sitä haluaa. Mihin ihmeeseen Intia sitä muka tarvitsi? Miksi sen takia pitää sotia ja sortaa? Mutta tätä kumminkin tapahtuu ja tämän älyttömyyden julkituomissa kirja on tärkeä. Mikään varsinainen lukunautinto se ei ollut, enkä edes pidä sitä erityisen hyvin tai kauniilla kielellä kirjoitettuna, vaikka omat hyvät kohtansa siinä onkin. Tosin sen arvioiminen, onko tässä kyse käännöksestä vai alkuperäistekstistä ei ole helppoa. Suosittelen kirjaa luettavaksi, jos on ihan liian pirteällä ja optimistisella tuulella ja ajattelee, että maailma on kaikkialla hyvä paikka.

478 s.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Liza Marklund: Ajojahti

Second to last of the Annika Bengtzon series. A businessman is tortured almost to his death and his wife is missing. There is nothing in their past (at first glance) which could be the reason for those things. And Annika's boss is in trouble as the TV-documentary he made about twenty years ago is suspected to be false. (Like anyone would really care so much). A lot better than some of the former books – Annika is less irritating and there less dwelling on her personal life.

Annika Bengtzon -sarjan viimeistä edellinen osa. Solsidanin eliittilähiöstä löytyy kotoaan lähes kuoliaaksi kidutettu liikemies. Hän on aikaisemmin ollut mukana politiikassa äärikonservatiivissa puolueessa, mutta on joutunut eromaan yrityksiensä taloudellisten epäselvyyksien vuoksi. Myös liikemiehen vaimo on kadonnut. Samaan aikaan lehden päätoimittaja, Anders Schyman on vaikeuksissa, kun hänen vuosia sitten tekemäänsä TV-dokumenttia on alettu epäillä valheelliseksi, ja tuntematon blogikirjoittaja arvostelee häntä siitä kovin sanoin. Liikemiehen kidutusta tutkii muiden poliisin mukana edellisistä kirjoista tuttu poliisi, Nina Hoffman, joka on saanut uuden työpaikan rikospoliisista. Annikalla itsellään on sopeutumisia uuden avopuolisonsa ja etenkin hänen lastensa kanssa elämiseen. Kirjassa seurataan osajuonia aika tasapuolisesti ja mielenkiintoisesti ja Annikan oman elämän kuviot eivät saa suhteetonta osaa, kuten joissain aikaisemmissa kirjoissa. Hän myös vaikuttaa selvästi vähemmän ärsyttävältä kuin joskus aikaisemmin. Nina Hoffman on hyvä uusi lisä päähenkilöiden joukossa ja hänen osuutensa ovat lähestulkoon kiinnostavimpia koko kirjassa. Tapahtumat etenevät hyvää vauhtia ja seuraavaa, sarjan päättävää osaa, jää odottamaan ihan hyvällä mielellä. Ainoita hiukan häiritseviä osuuksia olivat Anders Schymania koskevat jaksot – oikeastiko joku olisi niin kiinnostunut yksittäisestä parikymmentä vuotta sitten julkaistusta TV-dokumentista, että välittäisi vähääkään, saati sitten, että asiaa koskeva blogi keräsi suunnattoman suosion ja tiedotusvälineet parveilisivat asian tiimoilla niin innostuneina?

382 s.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Markus Bennemann: Himokas härkäsammakko ja muita eläinkunnan seksipetoja

A book which examines many different strategies animals have for procreation. Some very interesting stories.

Mielenkiintoinen tietokirja, joka esittelee eläinkunnan erikoisimpia lisääntymistapoja kattaen osapuilleen kaikki eliöryhmät paperiveneistä hyönteisten (sieltä niitä erikoisuuksia todella paljon löytyykin) kautta nisäkkäisiin. Kaikennäköiset mahdolliset erikoisuudet prostituutiosta erilaisiaan petostyyleihin asti kyllä löytyy. Esimerkkinä vaikkapa kalalaji, jossa urokset ja naaraat ovat erinäköisiä, ja uros puolustaa haaremiaan raivokkaasti. Mutta osa uroksista näyttääkin naaralta ja tässä valeasussa pääsee livahtamaan naaraiden seuraan.

338 s.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Glen Cook: Varjot pitenevät (The Black Company -Shadows Linger)

The second part of the adventures of the Black Company and the work of a mystical and evil woman named Lady. This time, they try to prevent the resuscitation of her husband, who is even more evil than his wife. A pretty dark fantasy book, which looks at things from their evil side, however, this time it was from the side of lesser evil. The best part was the first half, which was more of setup, with a smaller cast than the end, when the war got really hot. I'm looking forward to the next part. (Read in Finnish, reviewed mostly in Finnish.)

Toinen osa sarjaa, joka seuraa Mustan Komppanian seikkailuja. Musta Komppania on palkkasoturi joukko, joka viimeisimmät vuodet on taistellut Ladyn puolesta. Lady on yliluonnolliset kyvyt omaava mystisen paha olento. Osaa palkkasotureista on ajoittain hiukan kiusannut pahan puolella taisteleminen, mutta pääosalle sotilaista säännöllinen palkan maksaminen on ollut kylliksi, siitä viis kenen puolella ollaan. Nyt joukko on komennettu maailmaan ääriin pikkukaupunkiin, jossa Ladyn kuollut puoliso, Alistaja, on heräämässä henkiin. Tämä sitten onkin sellainen kaveri, että Lady häneen verrattuna on hyvin leppoinen ja hyväntahtoinen tuttavuus.

Kirjan alussa viime kirjan lopussa joukosta eronnut Korppi ja hänen suojattinsa Kullanmuru asuvat sattumalta juuri siinä kaupungissa, jonka liepeillä kohoaa musta linnake. Se kerää kuolleiden ruumiita kasvaakseen ja saattaakseen loppuun Alistajan henkiin herättämiseen tarvittavan taian. Kun Mustan Komppanian etuvartio saapuu paikalle, Korppi ja Kullanmuru - joka ilmeisesti on ennustuksen mainitsema neito, ainoa joka saattaa Ladyn voittokulun katkaista, pakenevat kaupungista. Tietysti, jos Alistaja herää henkiin, ennuksella ei ole paljoa merkitystä, kun hän hoitelee sekä Ladyn ja käytännössä koko maailman päiviltä.

Kyseessä oli varsin vetävä kirja, joka oli selvästi parempi kuin ensimmäinen osa. Kirja paras oli sen alku, joka tapahtui suppeammassa ja mystisemmässä mittakaavassa kuin lopun rymistelevämpi osuus, jossa henkilöiden suuri määrä, etenkin huomioiden heidän erittäin huonosti muistettavissa olevat nimet saivat kirjan tuntumaan hieman sekavalta. Mielenkiinnolla odotan seuraavaa osaa, joka ilmeisesti punoo kasaan tämän juonikokonaisuuden. Tässä kirjassa sitten ilmeisesti siirrytään hiukan enemmän ”hyvien” puolelle, joskin kirjankertojahenkilöllä on varsin kyyninen asenne heidän mahdolliseen ”hyvyyteensä” – tosin hänellä on kohtuullisen kyyninen asenne melkein kaikkeen.

303 s

Saturday, October 21, 2017

We Are Legion (We Are Bob) (Bobiverse #1) by Dennis E. Taylor

A young man has just sold his software company for a good amount of money. He used a part of his wealth to buy a deal for cryogenic preservation after his death. Very soon after that, while he is returning from a science fiction convention, he is run over by a car. He wakes in a future which is ruled by a theocratic dictature. The cold war between other current nations is on a brick of becoming hot. All his assets have been confiscated and, according to the current laws, he has no rights at all. He is offered a choice: he could be used as intelligence, used to run a project which needs high-class AI, or he could be terminated. Not much of a choice. It turns out that the job in question was running a Von Neumann probe which will be sent to the stars to find habitable planets. (there were supposed to be several probes, but due to budget constraints and political infighting, only one will be built - I wonder what would have been the point in building several _self-replicating_ probes anyway.) After a few problems, he is headed to space and starts to replicate after he arrives at another star. His copies are not exactly the same as the original, but mostly pretty close in personality to the original Bob.

A book which I read from my mobile phone during lunch breaks and occasional commutes in a bus. It was very suitable for such use - it was easy to read with straightforward language and an engaging and fun plot. It wasn’t any great literature, but sometimes it is fun to read something which doesn’t try to be anything but entertainment and is a kind of nerdish wish-fulfillment fantasy - being almost all powerful and exploring space and finding new planets and even lifeforms.

304 pp.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Kjell Westö: Rikinkeltainen taivas

A story of a lower middle-class boy who befriends another same age boy, whose summerhouse is nearby, and who belongs to a family with “old money”. The book follows them until they are middle-aged and explores the stormy love-story between the fairly poor boy and the sister of the rich kid. The book dwells far too long on the adolescence of the characters but gets better when they become adults. The ending is extremely quick and seems forced, though. The writing was good, but the plot felt a bit clichéd and didn’t really engage me.

Luettu lukupiirin kirjana.
Kirja kertoo alemman keskiluokan pojan tarinan. Hän tutustuu mökkinaapuruuden kautta ruotsinsuomalaisen suursuvun saman ikäiseen poikaan, Alexiin. He ystävystyvät ja päähenkilö oppii tuntemaan koko perheen. Poikien välinen suhde säilyy vuosikymmenten läpi ollen välillä lämpimämpi ja välillä viileämpi. Yhteiskuntaluokalla ja rahalla on aina jonkinasteista erottavaa tekijää heidän välillään, eikä vuosikausia tai vuosikymmeniä jatkunut on/off seurustelusuhde Alexin siskoon, Stellaan, välttämättä aina välejä ainakaan lämmittänyt. Pienen ystäväpiirin elämää seurataan lapsuudesta myöhäiskeski-ikään asti. Tarinan yksi kantava voima on kertojan ajoittain myrskyinen, lopulta keskinäiseksi ystävyydeksi muuttuva suhde Stellaan.

Kirja oli kirjoitettu sujuvalla kielellä, mutta olisi voinut kyllä lyhentää sellaiset 50–100 sivua - etenkin sitä alkupuolen teinisäätöä olisi voinut kyllä rajusti leikata ja siinä vaiheessa kirjan lukeminen oli kaikkein raskainta. Ilmeisen tarkoituksellisen ärsyttävät päähenkilöt kävivät välillä hermoon. Loppupuolella kirjassa nopeasti käväisevä Arabi-hahmo oli kliseinen ja tarpeeton ja tuntui ajankohtaisuuden vuoksi kirjaan lisätyltä - kuten kyllä muutama kirjan kohtauksistakin. Loppua kohden kirja parani selvästi, kun hahmot ja heidän suhteensa tuntuivat lopultakin kypsyvän, mutta viimeiset 40 sivua olivat hyvin hätäiset. Vaikutti melkein siltä, kuin kustantaja olisi ilmoittanut kirjailijalle kesken kirjoittamisen, että kirjan PITÄÄ olla viikon kuluttua valmis ja piti nopeasti kyhätä jonkinlainen lopetus. Myös arabihahmon uusi ilmaantuminen kirjan lopussa oli tarpeeton ja ”tyhjästä tullut”. Monissa arvioissa on kehuttu kirjan antamaa tunnelmaa paikallisuudesta ja hyvästä paikallisväristä. Itsellä paikat ja kadut olivat pääosin täysin outoja, eivätkä ulkopaikkakuntalaiselle aiheuttaneet minkäänmoisia tuntemuksia tai väristyksiä.

Kirjapiirissä useimpien mielipiteet olivat samansuuntaisia; kukaan ei erityisesti ihastunut kirjaan ja tarinankuljetusta pidettiin hiukan löysänä ja juonikuviota jopa kulahtaneina. Joku mietti sitäkin, että jos kirjassa käydään jossain eurooppalaisessa kaupungissa, niin miksi sen pitää aina olla Berliini? Ja toinen lukupiiriläinen oli sitä mieltä, että tämä kirjan paransi hänet tarpeesta lukea Westöön uudet kirjat jatkossa.

459 s.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Long List Anthology: More Stories From the Hugo Award Nomination List by David Steffen (Editor)

A collection of stories that just missed a Hugo nomination in 2015. A varied bunch of tales, some very good, some a little less good.

The Breath of War • [Universe of Xuya] • (2014) • short story by Aliette de Bodard
The women of the world apparently sculpt a some kind of golem out of stone and, with a breath, turn it alive. When a woman gives birth to a child, the stone being must breathe on the newborn or it will die. A woman, whose Stoneman was left behind in the jungle and is heavily pregnant, tries to find it before her labor started. It turns out that she had sculpted a spaceship, which is alive.
The writing was very good but the story didn't make any sense whatsoever. Even fantasy should have some degree of believability and internal consistency. I can't imagine how the method of conception that was described could evolve, or what the benefits would be. If it is an artificial construct, why would anyone create such dependency? And waking up a stone statue is a pretty common trope. It is even harder to believe that you could sculpt a spaceship out of stone and then wake it up and end with a self-conscious, actually flight capable, vehicle. ***+
When It Ends, He Catches Her • (2014) • short story by Eugie Foster
A former professional dancer met her former dance partner, after the fall of civilization. He is a zombie (though, this word is not mentioned) but dancing restores his mind. They will have one last dance. A well written, bittersweet story. ***½
Toad Words • (2014) • short story by Ursula Vernon [as by T. Kingfisher ]
A man is cursed. Everything that he says comes out of his mouth as toads or frogs. When he learns that amphibians are dying out, he finds a way to capitalize on his curse. A fun little story. ***½
Makeisha in Time • (2014) • short story by Rachael K. Jones
A woman is pulled into the past and lives whole lifetimes there. She returns to the present when she dies in these lifetimes and no time has passed for anyone she was with before her time travel. As it has been decades for her, she tends to be slightly disorganized and has problems with her relationships. She is distressed, as her work in the past seems to disappear and is sometimes attributed to men. The end is slightly confusing but it was otherwise a pretty good story. I also wonder why she valued her life so much in the "present" that she was willing to commit suicide repeatedly in the other lifetimes. She apparently was able to have fully satisfying relationships in other times, the problems were only relationships in the present. ***½
Covenant • (2014) • short story by Elizabeth Bear
A psychopath is given a choice: he may go to prison or be cured. As he believes that his mind is strong enough to resist any tampering, he takes that choice. But more than his mind is changed; and soon to hunter becomes prey. A pretty good story, especially and beginning and end, the middle was a little less successful. ***½
The Truth About Owls • (2014) • short story by Amal El-Mohtar
A Lebanese girl has moved to Britain. She takes an interest to an owl that lives at a local owl sanctuary. She seems to have some sort of psychic powers that she can’t completely control, which she uses when she feels threatened. Nice writing but bit too vague for me. ***+
A Kiss with Teeth • (2014) • short story by Max Gladstone
A vampire pretends to be a husband who takes care of his family. His wife is aware of what he is and helps him. But it is very hard for him to pretend to be clumsy and slow like humans. His son has problems in school, so he starts to work with his teacher. But will he be able to control his urges? A pretty good story. ***+
The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family • (2014) • short story by Usman T. Malik
The terrorism and desperate lives of people in Pakistan is compared to different states of matter. A woman who has lost a lot tries to find her brother after years of separation. The writing was pretty good, but the story felt fairly disjointed and very hard to follow. ***
This Chance Planet • (2014) • short story by Elizabeth Bear
A woman works herself almost to death as a waitress, as her boyfriend is about to make a break in the music business. The problem is that he has been "about to" for a very long time already. He even suggests that she should volunteer to raise spare organs inside of her body to get more money, so that it would be easier for him to start touring. One day, on the way to her job, she encounters a stray, very pregnant, dog and eventually makes a connection with her. An excellent and well written story, with some magic realism happening in the fairly near future. ****-
Goodnight Stars • (2014) • short story by Annie Bellet
Something has hit the moon and it has shattered into pieces. The pieces are falling down and causing widespread destruction. A young woman, whose mother was on the moon working on a telescope station (and is most likely dead), journeys to her father's home. A pretty good, very well written, and moving story. But I didn't really believe the premise – just like I didn’t buy the premise of the Hugo nominated novel, Seveneves. ***½
We Are the Cloud • (2014) • novelette by Sam J. Miller
A young gay man lives on a world where poor people rent out their brains for computing, risking severe brain damage in the process. Some nice ideas, but they are a side note, while the emphasis is on relationships. I didn’t really get into the story, it was ok, but nothing really special. ***
The Magician and Laplace's Demon • (2014) • novelette by Tom Crosshill
An artificial intelligence that has appeared spontaneously encounters magic. Magicians are able to bend the probabilities but only when no one sees them do so and if the situation is such that the magic can't be proved. The AI starts hunting the magicians, as they are the only ones able to limit its powers. Centuries later, the AI is chasing the last one, who is extremely powerful. A very good and well written story with an interesting brand of magic. ***½
Spring Festival: Happiness, Anger, Love, Sorrow, Joy • (2014) • novelette by Xia Jia
Episodes of life in China, with heavy touches of magic realism. Intriguing fragments of life that open a window to another culture. To really get the stories, one probably should have some familiarity with the Chinese culture. ***
The Husband Stitch • (2014) • novelette by Carmen Maria Machado
A young woman meets a young man who she wants to marry. She seduces him, submits to all of the sex he ever wanted and more, but she refuses to take a ribbon off of her neck, not even when her husband and, later her son, asks her to. A well written, allegorical story with a really stupid ending. ***
The Bonedrake's Penance • (2014) • novelette by Yoon Ha Lee
A human has been raised by an alien queen, who is revered by people who serve her and bring occasional gifts. There are secrets and choices which must be made. A very good and entertaining story. I would love to read other stories set in the same world. ****-
The Devil in America • (2014) • novelette by Kai Ashante Wilson
A story of a young black girl from the 19th century who can ask for help from "angels." However, they aren't so easy to control as she thinks. But there is always a possibility of making a deal with a demon... and white people are hunting blacks. At places, the story was hard to follow and pretty slow moving. I didn't get into it at all, but I don't usually like this kind of magical realism. ***
The Litany of Earth • (2014) • novelette by Ruthanna Emrys
Apparently, this story continues some of the classic Chulthu-stories. Inhabitants/survivors of a town that was invaded by the “old ones” have lived in camps for years. As I am not a fan of these stories (nor am I familiar with them), I didn’t get into the story at all. As a matter of fact after, a few days, I'm having a lot of trouble recalling anything about it. **
A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai'i • (2014) • novelette by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Vampires have conquered humanity. The remaining humans are practically raised as cattle, in kind of concentration camps, and are used as a workforce and bled to sustain the vampires. A few select ones get special treatment, and there is a competition for who will be the most favored one. Less dark of a story than one might imagine from the subject matter; an excellent and well-written tale. ****
A Year and a Day in Old Theradane • (2014) • novelette by Scott Lynch
A gang of rascals is blackmailed to perform an impossible heist: they are supposed to steal an entire city street. A lot of banter, which was possibly meant to be funny, but I didn’t get into this story at all, and it was a struggle to read through. All of that banter felt mostly stupid and silly. The story was very boring to me, possibly because it is connected to a series I am totally unfamiliar with. **½
The Regular • (2014) • novella by Ken Liu
A hooker is killed and her eyes are dug out. The police blame gangs. The hooker’s mother hires a private detective, who has some bionic augmentations and still has issues with the death of her own daughter. Her ex-husband works for the police and they combine forces. An extremely well-written and interesting story, but it is more of a detective story than science fiction. ****
Grand Jeté (The Great Leap) • (2014) • novella by Rachel Swirsky
A young girl is dying from cancer, only a little while after her mother died, also from cancer. Her distraught father uses a new technology to create an android that looks like his daughter and has all of her memories. The story is told in three chapters, from three different viewpoints. The basic plot and writing are pretty good, but far too much of the storyline is spent on Jewish habits. ***½

498 pp.