Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, June 2016

A below-average issue, some of the stories have too little background.

The Journeyman: In the Great North Wood • [Journeyman] • novella by Michael F. Flynn
This continues a series I haven't been a great fan of. A pair of adventurers continue their adventures on a planet that apparently has been colonized centuries ago, and some high-tech artifacts can still be found. They are hired as bodyguards on an expedition that is trying to find such artifacts. They find a malfunctioning spaceship with badly-working AIs, and are ambushed by natives. More sightseeing and world description than plot — this is not my favorite style, and I had to struggle to get through this story. **+
When the Stone Eagle Flies • novelette by Bill Johnson
Time travelers in ancient Babylonia try to guide events towards the future they are coming from, which has been destroyed by events that have been changed in the past. But someone might notice that something strange is going on. A fairly nice story, but slightly too much of a fragment. Better than some other parts of the series, though. ***-
Hold the Moment • shortstory by Marie Vibbert
A woman who tried to invent a stasis machine manages the opposite: a machine that apparently makes everything outside of it “freeze” (sounds slightly implausible — the entire universe?). She also has some trust issues with her preteen daughter. The writing was OK, but somehow left a slightly unsatisfied feeling. ***+
The Anthropic War • shortstory by Jay Werkheiser
A strange changed region of space is spotted. Scientists find out that our universe is “contaminated” by another, and the contamination spreads as beings of the another universe make observations of ours. The only way to fight back is to make observations of the “contaminated” area, which causes it to revert back to the properties of our universe, with the budget of deep-space cosmology and exploration mushrooms. A short, fairly fun story. ***+
The Nult Factor • shortstory by J. T. Sharrah
A lazy man decides to market things that aren’t good for anything, which leads to a peculiar religious cult, which turns out to have (after a few stages) a major effect human and interstellar history. A fun little story.***
Murder on the Cislunar Railroad • novelette by Christopher L. Bennett
The story starts with an apparent murder: a woman is stranded in space with no chance of getting back to the space station. Who did it? And why? Had it something to do with AIs — or an organization that apparently “helps” AIs to run away from sometimes-abusive treatment by humans? This story feels like a third part of a series: background at first is very sketchy, and then there is a lot exposition. It is hard to form any emotional connection to the victim (or to anyone else) when you don’t know the characters at all. **½

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Monday, May 9, 2016

Reijo Mäki: Tulivuori

Vares, a private detective with healty interest for booze and women visit the Canary Islands. His former girlfriend has been murdered and no one does seem to have a motive for the killing. And someone really doesn’t want that the case is investigated, at least someone seems to have hired a hitman against Vares. A lot of smooth action and a light book which is a fast read.

Vares tutkii entisen tyttöystävänsä murhaa, tällä kertaa Teneriffalle. Tyttöystävä oli löytänyt uuden miehen, joka on menestyvä ravintoloitsija. Nainen löytyi kotoaan kuristettuna, ilman että mitään johtolankaa tai edes järkevää motiivia on tiedossa. Leski soitti Varekselle, koska tiesi tämän olevan yksityisetsivä ja että tällä oli ollut lämmin suhde naiseen aikanaan. Vares alkaa tutkia murhaa ja huomaa, että joku ei halua häntä saarelle – ei mistään hinnasta – ja on valmis aika äärimmäisiin tekoihin estääkseen murhan tutkimukset. Kirjan kuluessa syntyy useampikin ruumis, mutta syyllinen lopulta tietenkin selviää. Kirjan on vauhdikasta kerrontaa, kuten Varekset yleensäkin. Paikoitellen kirjassa oli ehkä hieman liikaa ”turistijunttiutta”, samaan tapaan kuin oli komisario Koskisenkin ulkomailla piipahtamisessa, jonka juuri äsken luin. Uskottavuus ei ole tässä kirjassa kovin korkealla, mutta eipä se sarjassa niin huippuluokka yleensä ole ollutkaan. Letkeää tarinankerrontaa, mutta mielestäni parempiakin osia sarjassa kyllä on. Kirja oli mukavaa matkaluettavaa, väsyneenä ja raskaan päivän jälkeen monimutkaisempaa tekstiä ei välttämättä oikein olisi jaksanut lukea.

445 s.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

An inn in a small village has had a new keeper for a while. He seems somewhat strange, a detached but friendly man. He seems to know a lot of things, but tries not to attract any attention. Tension has been rising for some reason -– the highway robbers are more common than before, there are tales of something strange going on and strange creatures have attacked villagers. A scribe arrives at the inn. He seems to recognize the innkeeper. He apparently is the greatest hero there ever has been, Kvothe, and the scribe wants him to tell his story. And he does –- starting from his childhood. He was born into a traveling actors' troupe, but his parents and everyone he knew were killed by a strange man with a group of soldiers who disappeared into thin air. After much hardship, he joins a magic university, where he learns about magic and about what passes for science in his world.
The beginning of the book was excellent: well written, smooth and tight. Unfortunately, the writing and plot went badly downhill at about the point when Kvothe got to the university / magic school. People weren’t behaving very logically, and Kvothe was often extremely stupid for someone who apparently was supposed to be very bright. There were all the tropes of a magical school: teachers who inexplicably hate the hero, other teachers who are sympathetic, good friends and bad bullies, who torment the protagonist apparently just because they are bad people. The end of the book seemed to go in a better direction, and there is hope that the next one might be better. At least it seems likely that not all of it will take place in that damn school any more. And perhaps more space will be devoted to the tensions which are raised in the framing story itself. That story seems more interesting than the story inside a story (and often there is a story inside a story inside a story, as when Kvothe is telling his story, he is often telling stories of other people telling their stories).

722 pp.

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Seppo Jokinen: Koskinen ja kreikkalainen kolmio

Inspector Koskinen solves a crime while vacationing in Greece. He and his friend almost get arrested after they find a drowned woman. As the Greek police doesn’t seem able to find the murderer, they must start their own investigations. Some pretty irritating dialogue which was meant to be funny and at place fairly disjointed plot makes this book below average for the series.

Komisario Koskinen seikkailee tällä kertaa Kreikassa Tampereen asemasta. Koskinen on poliisiystävänsä kanssa purjehdusretkellä Kreikan saaristossa. He löytävät merestä naisen ruumiin. Nostettuaan sen merestä he kuljettavat sen lähimmälle saarelle. Kun paljastuu, että kuollut nainen oli suomalainen, he huomaavat olevansa pääepäiltyjä ja vain täpärästä välttävät joutumisen pidätetyksi. Kun Kreikan poliisin tutkimukset etenevät kovin huonosti kaverukset alkavat selvittelemään rikosta omin nokkinensa ja asiat alkava järjestyä – mutta suunnitellulle lennolle ehtiminen ei kyllä onnistu.
Toisaalta oli virkistävääkin tavata päähenkilö vähän poikkeavassa ympäristössä. Kirjan alkuosa oli varsin hyvä ja vetävä, mutta mitä pitemmälle kirja eteni, sitä enemmän juoni tuntui hajoavan. Paikoitellen henkilöhahmot käyttäytyivät erittäin ärsyttävän juntisti, eikä hauskaksi tarkoitettu sanailu ja puolihyväntahtoinen riitely oikein kunnolla asettunut henkilöiden suuhun ja luonteeseen. Kirja jää sarjassaan selvästi keskitason alapuolelle.
304 s.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Astounding Science Fiction, November 1959

Pretty silly stories, especially from today’s perspective.

Panic Button • shortstory by Eric Frank Russell
Aliens find an uninhabited planet. They send scouts to discover whether any Terrans are to be found there, as there is an understanding that the first finder gets the planet. They find one man in one hut — no garrisons or any other permanent habitation. Is he someone who has survived a shipwreck? Or what is going on? Is his presence known, or is it possible that he might "disappear" and no one would notice it? Not a bad example of John Campbell's editorial style, where humans are always the smartest ones. ***½
The Unnecessary Man • novelette by Randall Garrett
A hereditary monarch of an interplanetary federation seems to have taken control of the prime minister, who seems to have taken a very stupid and dangerous action. A young man seeks help for a retired officer to expose the plot. But things are not what they seem. OK story, but a perfect, totally altruistic leader with absolute power is kind of hard to believe. ***
A Filbert Is a Nut • shortstory by Rick Raphael
An inhabitant of a mental asylum makes an atomic bomb out of clay. His therapist gives him praise for showing imagination. But the next night, the art therapy faculty (which, luckily, was a few miles away from the sleeping arrangements) blows up under a mushroom cloud. Certainly the atomic bomb could not have been functional? Short, pretty stupid story. **-
I Was a Teen-Age Secret Weapon • novelette by Richard Sabia
A young 18-year-old boy seems to cause accidents where ever he is. He doesn’t do anything, but thing go horribly wrong around him, and people get hurt. The US military gets a fine idea: they send him to war, and wait until he is taken prisoner. Things also go horribly wrong for the Chinese and Russians. This is an overlong story that dwells far too long on his military training, but it's otherwise OK. ***
Certainty • shortstory by Robert Silverberg
An alien ship lands on a remote outpost guarded by a small garrison. As the ship has no permission to land, the captain of the outpost sends a strict warning. The aliens announce that they are going to stay a few weeks for stellar observations. Thy captain sends an envoy, who is supposed to give a strict warning. The envoy returns and reports that he gave aliens permission to be on the planet, as he was supposed to. An OK story; strange for its time, as humans are the ones who are played upon. ***

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Analog Science Fiction -> Science Fact, October 1967

Weyr Search • [Dragonriders of Pern short fiction] • novella by Anne McCaffrey
A young woman is drafted by Dragonriders to bond with a dragon for life. At first, she has another agenda, but she turns out to be smart, confident and scheming. However, she doesn’t really know what is in store for her. A fantasy story in the guise of science fiction - that is usually a style I am not a great fan of. It takes its time to get going - I almost abandoned it, when little seemed to happen and what happened was hard to understand, but the latter half was slightly better. Not really Hugo material though, if you ask me. ***-
Toys • shortstory by Tom Purdom
A group of children has taken hostages. The have high technology security devices they are using to help them in that endeavor. There is a two person team, that tries to unravel the situation. A pretty stupid story – I didn't get it at all. There might be some sort point somewhere - this might be a parody of something or reference something I am not aware of, but I really didn’t get it. A stupid and pointless story. **-
The Judas Bug • novelette by C. C. MacApp [as by Carroll M. Capps ]
A helicopter has fallen down on a planet that is still being explored. Both pilots are found dead outside the helicopter and power cells of the helicopter are depleted, despite being added just a few weeks ago. The mechanic who checked the cell is accused of negligence. There are several strange things: why did the men leave the safety of the helicopter? The mechanic is sure he didn't make the mistake. A bad, overly long mystery where ending comes too fast after a long setup; the reader doesn’t have much of a chance to find out what is going on. The technology is somewhat strange. Apparently there is no way whatsoever to find out the charge of the power cells, and the mechanic is punished on fairly flimsy evidence. The writing is ok for its time. ***
Free Vacation • [Prodromals] • shortstory by W. Macfarlane
A man has broken the law and gets a choice: a psychological treatment or being sent to a new world. He chooses the space service. He then has some strange adventures in quick succession with a peculiar company. Short story that might reference something I don’t get. **-
Pontius Pirates • novelette by J. T. McIntosh
Some sort of spy arrives to a planet with some sort of semi-socialistic government. He is supposed to find out if some sort of buccaneers who have being raiding space ways are using the planet as a base. A beautiful young girl attaches herself to him. As a seasoned spy, he recognizes straight away that the girl is a government "mole" who is supposed to keep watch on him. Is he going to able to accomplish his mission anyway? A pretty nice story; the writing was OK, and this was the most enjoyable tale in the issue. The characterization of the girl was pretty bad, though. Some of the politics were kind of strange, also. ***+

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Seppo Jokinen: Koskinen ja siimamies

The first of inspector Koskinen series. A police procedural from my home town. A young woman is found strangled with a fishing line. Soon there are more similar attacks, and the police has pressure to find the culprit as soon as possible. A pretty good book with nice local color – not as good as the later parts of the series.

Ensimmäinen komisario Koskinen-sarjan kirja. Oma lukujärjestykseni on ollut melkoisesti sarjan sisäisestä järjestyksestä poikkeava ja tämän sarjan ensimmäisen luin nyt sitten vasta tässä vaiheessa.
Nuori tyttö on tapettu siimalla kuristamalla. Lisäksi on tapahtunut kioskimurtoja, joiden yhteydessä on pahoinpidelty kioskien henkilökuntaa. Välillä poliisit miettivät onko molempien takana sama tekijä, mutta tutkimukset erkanevat pian toisistaan. Kun samantapaisia nuorten naisten kimppuun hyökkäyksiä sattuu lisää, ovat Tampereen tapahtumat ykkösaihe iltalehtien lööpeissä ja poliisilla on paineita löytää syyllinen ja pian.

Kirja on hyvä, mutta haeskelee paikoitellen ehkä hieman vielä tyyliään ja myöhempien sarjan osien sujuvuutta. Pientä hajanaisuutta kirjassa myös on kun tutkitaan kahta tapausta ja Koskisen yksityiselämääkin kuvataan aika paljon. Henkilöhahmot eivät vielä ehkä aivan ole kehittyneet samankaltaisiksi, mitä ne muissa, myöhemmissä osissa kuvataan, etenkin yhden naishahmon käyttäytyminen verrattuna myöhempiin osiin vaikutti hieman omalaatuiselta. Lupaava aloitus kuitenkin sarjalle joka on tuntunut koko ajan parantavan tasoaan, mutta pääsääntöisesti tuntuu siltä, että mitä uudempi sarjan osa, sitä parempi.

245 s.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Speculative Fiction 2014: The Year's Best Online Reviews, Essays and Commentary: Volume 3 by The Book Smugglers

A collection of essays on science fiction which were published last year somewhere on Internet. The subject matters are very varied and include option pieces, critical evaluations and more ordinary reviews. Some were pretty interesting eq. "A Guide to Fanfiction" and N. K Jemisin’s Guest of Honor speech from Wiscon. Some were less interesting like a pages and pages long analysis of Captain America – The Winter Soldier. It was an OK movie, but I not so much into the Marvel universe that I would have such an interest on it. Also some reviews of things I hadn’t even heard of were something I mostly skimmed. As a whole an interesting collection, which did get my nomination for a Hugo.

340 pp.