Sunday, May 19, 2013
A novel which was published as a serial in four issues of the Analog magazine. There are spoilers in the review!
A gamma ray burst has been detected. It will soon arrive to the solar system and sterilize everything. (for some strange reason it apparently isn’t obvious to some of the characters in the story that such an event would be by necessity something affecting the whole solar system and not just earth - apparently total idiot ignoramuses are allowed to come to space) Luckily, the first starship which uses space drive which is able to harness the vacuum energy is running test runs. Hurriedly (and secretly) a four member crew “steals” (to prevent a wide spread panic) embryos and artificial wombs and shoots for the stars. A cold sleep system which usually is used only in medical emergencies has also been developed and crew uses that for a space journey which lasts decades. Apparently, the system is able to take care of the muscle tone also, and no tissue wasting or any other delirious effects happen during the years in cold sleep. Thanks to an extremely conveniently located cosmic string, they are able to travel faster than light to a solar system with a cool, almost habitable, atmosphere. They land to the planet, move in, start to terraform it, and eventually start to raise children. And then one of the crew members turns evil and powerhungry just for the fun of it, and another one becomes her patsy just for an occasional fuck now and then. The motivations of those characters weren’t really believable. Also, apparently no one of the others has ever read even basic high school level texts of psychology of childhood and child rearing and they let the crazy take care of the children alone. The very ending comes pretty much from nowhere and is extremely unlikely making room for a sequel. In spite of many flaws in the plot and the very unrealistic and stupid characters, the story was pretty readable and entertaining and fast to read.
App. 80 000 words, 320 pp.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Pretty average or below average issue.
Acts of Conscience • [First Impressions] • novelette by Shane Tourtellotte
Another part of the series where a group of scientist have discovered a way how the behavioral though patterns can be evaluated, recorded and implanted to other people. So far the technology has mostly been used for prisoners and people with psychiatric conditions, but an actress seeks help from the researchers as she would like to get a more liberal mind set as she believes that would help her to get better roles. The most of the story consists of ethical ponderations of the situation and power struggles of the group. Pretty overlong. ***-
Alphabet Angels • [Jessie and Gus] • shortstory by Ekaterina Sedia and David Bartell
Woman finds from an obscure pet shop a very strange school of fish. They have alphabets on them, and they appear to spell words. The owner of the pet shop is also very cute, and even a confirmed bachelorette gets interested… A light fun story (mostly) with sympathetic characters. ***½
Dark Peril • shortstory by James C. Glass
There is an expedition to study a strange phenomenon. It turns out to be an extremely large black hole. Apparently, the detection capabilities of the future space explorers are pretty poor as they were unable to measure the radiation and gravity effect before the practically dropped into the event horizon. The first part of the story was mainly exposition and background – it felt like a novel worth of backstory was explained on a few pages. And the story was then written just to illustrate a “fun” way to escape from the grip of singularity. Not too special story. **+
General Tso's Chicken • shortstory by Carl Frederick
Schoolboys steal a dedication plaque from a Chinese space station they are visiting. There are some exchange of threats, diplomatic communicates and pranks as aftermath. Meant as a humorous story, won’t really work – at least not for me. ***-
Friday, May 10, 2013
An average or even above average issue for its’ time. An impressive array of authors.
A Pail of Air • shortstory by Fritz Leiber
A dark star has pushed earth away from the sun. Atmosphere has frozen. One family still manages to survive by mining oxygen from outside and melting it for air. Not to original, but not too bad. The writing wasn't nearly as good as his later works, but was competent and readable. ***+
World Without Children • novella by Damon Knight
Humans have been near immortal for hundreds of years. The youngest people alive are in their hundreds, and it has been illegal to bear children since that. A scientist makes a discovery: the fertility is going down, and if there won't be new children in a few years or decades it will soon be impossible to reproduce at all. The government tries to suppress that discovery, and a group of scientists go undercover. The idea itself isn't bad. It is a pity that the story isn't too good. The most of the story is spent discussing how to get underground and how to start getting children again. Little actually happened before the more or less deus ex machina ending. **
With These Hands • novelette by C. M. Kornbluth
Art isn't popular any more, as everyone can create beautiful pictures and sculptures by a machine, Estheticon. Is there a place of artists any more anywhere? A slightly disordered story with some interesting viewpoints. ***-
Winner Lose All • shortstory by Jack Vance
A ship has landed to a planet which was supposed to be entirely barren. On the top of the richest uranium deposit grows a very strange looking plant which has roots which seem to bore into the ore. A scientist dies trying to study it. What is the plant and from where it has appeared? ***-
Not a Creature Was Stirring • shortstory by Dean Evans
A man has been digging gold in his very deep gold mine for weeks. When he comes up, everyone is frozen in place and dead. Apparently there has been a Russian attack by a secret weapon. He drinks, performs a little bit of vandalisms, gambles on casino and so on. That is about it. The ending is apparently meant to be moving, but it is mainly boring. ***
Pillar to Post • novelette by John Wyndham
An idiot who has been confined to a mental institution since his birth suddenly has started to speak and co-operate. He claims to be another person, and the story is a letter which tells how his mind was transferred to an “empty” body. He has been an invalid with the amputations of both feet with severe pains. His mind has been transferred to the body of a scientist from the far future. An ok story. I don’t entirely see why the framing story was needed. ***+
Sunday, May 5, 2013
A collection of stories which have been published in a Finnish science fiction magazine Portti during several years. The first stories could be called Chulthu fanfiction, where the Great Old Ones spread their tentacles to Finland. The later novellas could be called bibliophilic detective stories with a slight supernatural twist.
Kokoelma Portti-lehdessä useiden vuosien aikana julkaistuja novelleja. Päähenkilöinä ovat eläkkeelle jäänyt antikvariaatin pitäjä ja hänen liikkeensä nykyinen omistaja. Vanhimmat tarinat ovat Chulthu pastisseja, joissa suuret muinaiset ulottavat lonkeroitaan Suomenkin maaperälle, kun taas uudemmat ovat enemmänkin bibliofiilisiä dekkaritarinoita jonkin yleensä hiukan esoteerisen teoksen metsästämisestä, joihin on liimaamalla liimattu vähäisiä spefi-sävyjä. Kirjan tarinat on kirjoitettu vanhahtavalla tyylillä, joka etenkin alkupään juttuihin sopi varsin hyvin, alkupään novellit olivat omasta mielestäni viihdyttävämpiä, vaikka mikään kauhujuttujen fani ole olekaan, enkä esimerkiksi alkuperäisiä Lovecraftin tarinoita ole tainnut lukea ensimmäistäkään. Loppupuolen novelleissa erittäin laaja-alinen bibliografinen briljeeraus oli toisaalta kiinnostavaa mutta toisaalta hiukan rasittavaa. Lähes kaikki kertomukset olin aikaisemmin lukenut. Jossain määrin aika oli muistoja kullannut, mutta ihan lukemisen arvoinen kirja kyseessä oli.
Sunday, April 21, 2013
Some good, some less good stories. A pretty average issue.
The Fountain • novelette by G. David Nordley
A far future story where an alien emissary from a race with a hive mind comes to meet the immortal empress of the Earth with a request. A pretty good story with intriguing characters. ***½
Skylight • novelette by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
An orphan has been trained as an assassin by a guild which specializes in the assassinations of criminals, former dictators and others who deserve death. She fails her last test when she doesn't make what she was supposed to do in a VR simulation. An excellent "origin" story. I look forward to other possible stories in this series. ****-
Hypervigilant • shortstory by Eric Del Carlo
A series of terror attacks with neurochemical toxins have produced “amokers”, people who tend to go berserk at public places and kill as many people they can. However, the same toxins have produced empaths who are able to feel if someone is going to start a rampage. They are stationed at public places. One day one empath who sits in a waiting room of a hospital feels a woman with a mind full of fury entering. But then the fury disappears – did he make an error? A pretty good story with an interesting background. ***½
A Love Song Concerning His Vineyard • shortstory by Megan Arkenberg
A story about wine, dysfunctional family and Mars. A story which is going more for a mood than plot. Very short and somewhat sketchy. **½
Precious Mental • [The Great Ship Universe] • novella by Robert Reed
Apparently a part of a series. A far future story. There are immortal and powerful races in the galaxy and some people are apparently also immortal. All races share a similar basis for immortality: a bioceramic practically indestructible brain module. Some people are trying to repair a very old and very efficient space ship engine. I didn't get into this story at all – probably because I am not familiar with the other parts of the series. Everything felt very confusing and disjointed. **½
Sunday, April 14, 2013
The next book in Thursday Next series. Thursday returns from the book world with her son and Hamlet from Shakespeare’s plays to the real world. She has been away for two years and finds that a character from fiction, Yorrick Kaine is a prime minister and is taking the country towards dictatorship and no one sees anything really wrong with that. The Goliath Company is remodeling itself as a religion for some reason and the best assassin has taken a contract for Thursday. And her husband is still eradicated and no one knows that he has even existed. And there is a prophecy which states that if a local team wins the Croquet match the Goliath Company is defeated and Yorrick Kaine loses his power. If the team loses, the world will end. And there are more than a few subplots in addition… A lot happens in this book and with great pace. There are several jaw dropping moments, when the events are deliciously abrupt and absurd. However, this part was a slight letdown compared with the previous part of the series. The real world – even the very strange real world of this series is a slight letdown after the bookworld and metafictional wordgames which may happen there. This book gives a closure for the series and most of the plot points left hanging in earlier parts are resolved. Of, course there are sequels… I wonder what happens in them.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
Is Analog changing? This issue had a few stories which were somewhat different than those usually from this magazine, with more emphasis on writing. Alas, at the same time those stories seemed to have little emphasis on the plot.
A Cup of Dirt • novelette by Mark Niemann-Ross
A project to grow “dirt-grown” tomatoes in a space ship get started first in secret, later more and more publicly. Ok story, but making dirt shouldn’t have been so hard. Googling with terms mentioned in the story which were supposed NOT to give any hits about making dirt produced a lot of web pages involving composting. Also, the author seems to imagine that compost need worms to work - not so as a really well running compost is far too warm for worms or any critters to survive. That said with a 15 years of experience of running a compost pile. A pretty standard story of its type.***+
In the Green • shortstory by K. S. Patterson
An autistic boy who communicates only by Bliss language or by some cruder picture signs has a small adventure on an alien planet. The writing has quite high literary aspirations and an overdose of sentimentality, but little really happened in the story. **+
Hydroponics 101 • shortstory by Maggie Clark
Criminals are punished by confining them with some sort of nanites which react to the thought patterns of the prisoners. Usually, they end up torturing themselves, but then one seems to have overcome his past and grown as a person. This is another story where the writing felt overwritten and the plot was lacking. I didn’t really grasp what was the objective of the prison. Torture or rehabilitation?***-
Wavefronts of History and Memory • shortstory by David D. Levine
An archeologist studies ancient radio waves broadcast from 2nd World War Japan. He discovers other, more personal transmissions. A lot of literary descriptions and musings of personal things. The idea itself nice but it was used enough.***
Out in the Dark • [Zeke Choy] • shortstory by Linda Nagata
A cop investigates how a woman appeared to a commercial settlement on a remote asteroid without any previous credentials. Is she illegal copy ( the technology for making clone bodies and copying consciousness is well established, but it is extremely illegal to have more than one copy of an individual at the same time) and was the police who let her in corrupt? A pretty nice, but too short police procedural. A little too detailed description of tech involved. ***+
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
A double issue with pretty nice and readable stories.
Seventy-Five Years • shortstory by Michael A. Burstein
An ex-wife comes to meet senator who has aspirations to run for presidency. She has a simple request: the senator should not push for legislation which would prolong the release of 75 year old census information. There is a good reason for that, of course. Nice, short story. ***+
A Few Good Men • novella by Richard A. Lovett
Two female friends frequent a cafe where students often read to their exams. They notice that several students stop appearing. One time one of the friends notice a pair strangely dresses women who appear to follow one male student who isn’t seen after that anymore. It turns out that the future is stealing all decent men from the present. The time travelers captures one of the female friends by accident, who them starts work in a waystation outside of time straight away, without much batting her eyelash and without giving much thought to her surroundings.. The plot itself is tolerable, but the characters aren’t too believable and the writing is fairly clumsy. ***
Mars Opposition • novelette by David Brin
The Martians land. They have a list of names and they are seeking people from that list – and they are ready to pay handsomely of the information. If they find someone, who is mentioned on the list he is coolly and efficiently killed. Soon it is discovered that the name list is from a Mars probe. All attempts to fight the Martians are completely futile. A pretty nice story about aliens with really alien thought patterns, which ends with some nice moral ambiguity. ****-
Rough Draft • shortstory by Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta
A "one hit wonder" sf author whose only book won both Nebula and Hugo awards has never written other books as he believes everything would be just going downhill from his first success, get a copy of his counterpart from an alternative reality has written. What is he going to do with it? A pretty good story with nice resolution. ***½
The Supersonic Zeppelin • novelette by Ben Bova
A story about rise and fall of supersonic zeppelin. Starts as an irony of government run ventures and committee run engineering projects, but ends up as pretty confusing mess where everyone is an idiot, more or less. **½
Uncreated Night and Strange Shadows • [The Gift from the Stars] • novella by James E. Gunn [as by James Gunn ]
Continues an earlier story. An eccentric and more than half-mad inventor has decoded plans for limitless power and FTL space ship from a broadcast sent from a star far away. In this story, a FTL space ship arrives to a planet from where the transmission originated. They find an empty looking planet and a lot of strange looking space on different orbits. The most partly metaphysical secrets are then revealed in seemingly endless expositionary speech which lasts for pages and pages. The law of diminishing returns works once again. The first story of the series was pretty decent, but this one sucks big time. **-
Nova Terra • shortstory by Jeffery D. Kooistra
An engineer gets a letter from his deceased childhood friend. The letter includes a draft of an engine which could not possibly work. Men in black suits arrive the retrieve the letter, but they miss the draft. The engineer decides to build the engine as a tribute to his friend. A pretty good and well written story. ***½