Thursday, November 26, 2015

Astounding Science Fiction, August 1959

Stories in this issue were fairly well written, but the attitudes were extremely strange from a modern viewpoint. By the way, I'll give away this issue. Ask for it in comments and I'll mail it to anywhere in Earth. If there are more than one asking for it after a week, the winner will be selected in random. (the copy in question is tattered – strictly a reading copy only)

The Aliens • novelette by Murray Leinster

A human spacecraft encounters an alien ship for the first time. The humans behave extremely paranoid and eventually fire torpedoes at another ship on the flimsiest of excuses. The aliens respond extremely violently—they deflect the torpedoes back to the human ship. The humans, at least, consider this a very violent and aggressive response....Luckily the self-destruct mechanism of the torpedoes still works. Somehow the two ships collide and fuse together. It turns out that the ship is built from brass and pure metallic sodium and potassium and it is inhabited by chlorine breathers. (Somehow that particular chemical combination doesn't sound most likely...) In spite of rampant paranoia and xenophobia among some of the human crew (apparently there is no psychological evaluation for members of the space navy), humans and aliens finally manage to work together. It is pretty strange when the aliens feel less alien than the humans...and I get the feeling that it wasn't meant to be like that. The writing was OK, but the attitudes were really, really strange. ***
Dead Giveaway • novelette by Randall Garrett
A man returns from a long journey. Several messages from his friend are waiting. The first few are pretty frantic and hint at a significant discovery, but the last one takes everything back, though not very convincingly. And the friend can't be reached. Is there some sort of fool’s play going on? A giant alien city which was found years before seems to be involved somehow; a city which was built for an unknown purpose. It was an overlong story, where the "payback" was pretty poor and everything was just explained as a lecture by the disappeared person, after he was not-so-surprisingly found. **½
The Outsiders • novelette by A. Bertram Chandler
The crew of a spaceship gets a salvage reward and decides to buy a spaceship for themselves. On the first voyage, one newly-drafted member of the crew is a drunkard, who is very afraid of going towards the less-explored regions. He hints that he has experienced something horrible there. Soon he drinks himself to death. The rest of the crew ponders whether they should try to find out what was so strange. They first decide against it, but years later, when there is a slow spell in the business, they still remember... It's a very long setup for a fairly small payoff. (The secret is an alien device that tests if visitors are psychologically worthy. If they pass the test, there is a technological bounty to be had.) The writing was OK for its time, but the story could have drastically shortened. ***
Familiar Pattern • novelette by A. Bertram Chandler [as by George Whitley ]
A ship on sea encounters a spaceship, which has landed on water for minor repairs. The captains befriend one another and start trading things. The aliens are willing to trade only luxury items; they won’t even talk about space drives or any serious scientific inventions. The aliens eventually establish a trading mission, but soon things go badly, when an alien church is looted for being far too open-minded (they preach that all earthly pleasures should be enjoyed as much as possible) and things go then very, very badly. It was an okay story, but the set-up is very slow and then the end comes very suddenly in a few paragraphs. ***+
Day of Succession • shortstory by Theodore L. Thomas
An alien spaceship lands. A general orders that as soon as the hatch on it is opened, all possible firepower is to be turned on it. The ship is completely destroyed. Then a second one lands and the same happens again. When the third ship lands, the president prevents the attack. Not so surprisingly the third ship attacks everything nearby - which naturally “proves” that the aliens were hostile to begin with. And as the president slightly hesitates at the launch of an all-out nuclear strike against the ship, (which would destroy a significant part of the country) the general must take leadership to his own hands. A jaw-droppingly strange story. Apparently it is meant as it is, not as parody or irony. **
A Matter of Proportion • shortstory by Anne Walker
A war is going on, apparently against aliens. During a mission a commander notices that one of his rookies is performing very well—in fact, suspiciously well. It turns out that he is a famous war hero, who was paralyzed in action. His brain was transplanted to a new body and now he was able to fight again. The rest of story is the soldier telling his story. A surprisingly dull and longwinded story. I had trouble finishing it and I retain no memories of it even though I tried to read it twice. It was a pretty bad story with not-so-good writing. **-

Proofreading by

Monday, November 23, 2015

Reijo Mäki - Siivellä eläjä (Reijo Mäen novellikirjailija Luusalmi)

A really rotten book, where a failed idiot author talks about stupidities with various people - mostly with his own delusions. Avoid at any cost. One of worst books I have ever read.

Wares- kirjojen sivuhenkilö novellikirjailija Luusalmi pääsee oman kirjansa kertojahahmoksi. Jostain käsittämättömästä syystä kustantaja on värvännyt hänet kirjoittamaan parisuhdekirjan.
Asia ei oikein etene pariin vuoteen, mutta mitäs siitä, pseudofilosofisia tyhjänpäiväisiä heittoja sentään voi raapustella.
Kuvittelin että kirja olisi ollut dekkari, vähän toisesta näkökulmasta kuin yleensä Wares kirjat ja odotin kirjalta aika paljon. Petyin pahasti. Kirja oli yhdenpäivästä turhaa lätinää, jossa varsin vastenmielinen minä-hahmo kävi typeriä keskusteluja eri ihmisten tyhjänpäiväisistä asioista, tosin paljolti kyseiset keskustelut tapahtuvat päähenkilön omien juoppohulluus harhojen kanssa. Ylivoimaisesti huonoin kirja mitä olen pitkään aikaan, ehkä muutamaan vuoteen lukenut. On typerää markkinoida tallaista kuonaa Vareksen ja tunnetun kirjailijan nimellä, tuli vastenmielisyys edes lukea Reijo Mäen kirjoja, vaikka niitä pari on hankittuna odottamassa. Tosin kirja laatu on niin surkea, että Reijo Mäen väitteet siitä, että kirjan on kirjoittanut joku muu vaikuttavat uskotavilta. Tosin ei kukaan täysijärkinen tätä kuonaa varmasti vapaaehtoisesti myöntäisikään tuottaneensa. Missään nimessä tätä ei kannata hankkia eikä edes ilmaiseksi lukea, elämä on liian lyhyt.

191 s.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The End of All Things (Old Man's War) by John Scalzi

This is the sixth part of an ongoing series. The earlier books have been fairly separate and have worked alone to at least some degree, but this continues the story pretty much from the last one and probably would be very confusing for a random reader. Humans have divided to two main factions: the colony worlds are ruled by a military colonial union, CU, and the Earth itself is governed by nation states more or less similar to today. The relations of the CU and Earth have gone very bad since apparently CU destroyed a space station in Earth’s orbit. At the same time, the Colonial Union is facing unrest on its’ own turf as several colonies are straining for independence. Also, a vast consortium of alien races, The Conclave, has gained influence and is trying to form a union of several different species, many of which have been bitter enemies and competitors. The relations between the Conclave and CU have never been very warm, but they are getting worse as they apparently attack each other’s ships. However, it turns out (or turned out in the last book) that there is a third group, a very secret organization called Equilibrium, with an unknown agenda that is working behind the scenes. At first, little is known about what its’ aims are, but by a fortuitous event, there is a chance to learn at least something. Is there time to prevent what Equilibrium is trying to do? Is it possible that former enemies are able to forget their differences and do the unthinkable – to trust each other?

It is a pretty good book, even better than the previous part.
There were a lot of shades of grey in most of the factions in the book– with the exception of the main villain, Equilibrium. Its’ motivations were left pretty unclear. It has always been refreshing to read military science fiction, where humans aren’t clearly the good guys, or at least not the only good guys. In this book and series, the single group with most identifiable agenda has been the alien Conclave, but now even the CU was less of a “bad guy” than in some of the earlier books. An enjoyable read and I am looking forward to next instalment – if there will be any. There weren’t any major cliffhangers left at the end of this book.

384 pp.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Ursula K. Le Guin: Osattomien planeetta (The Dispossessed)

A good book even after over forty years. There are some problems, like the apparent lack of any social or technological change whatsoever in either of societies during two hundred years and some fairly caricature like characters. The writing was good and gradual “greying” of both societies from the initial idealized starting point was well done.

Edellisestä tämän kirjan liukukerrasta on kulunut varmastikin noin yli 30 vuotta. Muistikuvat olivat hyvästä, mutta paikoitellen hitaasta kirjasta. Jossain määrin muistikuvat pitivät paikkansa, tosin vähemmän hitaalta kirja vaikutti nyt kuin teininä. Toisaalta viat ja epäloogisuudet huomasi nyt selvemmin.
Urras on planeetta, jolla asuvat käytännössä täysin ihmisen kaltaiset asukkaat. (LeGuinin kirjoissa sama rotu on asuttanut tunnetut asuin kelpoiset planeetat kaukaisessa menneisyydessä, ja geneettisestä ajautumisesta huolimatta asukkaat ovat vielä hyvin toistensa kaltaisia). Noin kaksisataa vuotta sitten ryhmä anarkisteja perusti siirtokunnan Anarrekseen, Urraksen kuuhun. Siellä he ovat luoneet yhteiskunnan jossa ei ole lakeja, ei johtajia eikä omaisuutta. Yllättävästi systeemi toimii, tosin nälänhädät eivät huonon satovuoden sattuessa ole tuntemattomia, ja uusien, poikkeavien ajatuksien esittäjiä ei välttämättä aina kohdella erityisen hyvin ja suvaitsevasti. Urraksessa taas on vallalla lähinnä kapitalis-feodalistinen järjestelmä, ainakin siinä osassa mitä kirjassa nähdään. Muitakin valtioita planeetalla on erilaisine järjestelmineen, mukana nähtävästi myös perinteisemmin keskusjohtoisen totalitaarisen kommunismin tyylinen maa. Kirjan alussa Anarreksestä syntyisin oleva matemaatikko, joka on kehittänyt uusia, fysiikan perusteita järisyttäviä metodeja, matkustaa Urrakseen ensimmäisenä ihmisenä siirtokunnan perustamisen jälkeen. Päällisin puolin siellä on ylenpalttista kaikessa köyhään anarkistimaailmaan verrattuna, mutta vähitellen kääntöpuoli paljastuu. Lomittain Urraksen tapahtumien kanssa seurataan miehen aikaisempaa elämää Anarreksella ja kuvaillaan elämää anarkistisessa ”utopiassa”.
Kirja on erittäin hyvä, vaikka siinä joitain kummia puolia onkin. Osa henkilöistä on melkoisen karikatyyrimäisiä. Myös se, että kahteensataan vuoteen ei näytä kummallakaan planeetalla tapahtuneen käytännössä minkäänlaista yhteiskunnallista, teknologista tai sosiaalista kehitystä tai muutosta mihinkään suuntaan vaikuttaa enemmän kuin kummalliselta, normaalisti noin pitkän ajan kuluessa yhteiskunta kuin yhteiskunta muuttuu jo suuressa määrin. Luonnollisesti kirjan vastakkainasettelu ei olisi ollut yhtä vahva, jos asetelma olisi ollut vähemmän mustavalkoinen. Toisaalta mustavalkoisuus on aika kaukana kirjasta, vaan molempien maailmojen käsittelyssä löytyy runsaasti harmaan sävyjä, Urraksen luksuselämän takaa paljastuu sortoa, kun Anarreksen teoreettinen täydellinen yksilönvapaus ei aivan täyttä ja kaikkea koskevaa lopulta olekaan. Kirja on pysynyt varsin hyvin tuoreena, vaikka kirjoittamisesta on kulunut jo yli 40 vuotta, ja on Hugo-palkituista puolenvälin paremmalla puolella.

413 s.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, December 2015

A fairly nice issue, above average.

Builders of Leaf Houses • novella by Catherine Wells

A pair of humans are studying a kind of little known ”reservation” on an alien planet. After one of them breaks her leg, a young sentient alien takes them home as a “pet”. Her parent at first doesn’t even believe that the strange creatures are sentient, but slowly they are able to establish a connection. A pretty good story, but there is a lot going on, and even novella length might have been too short – or something, like the problems aliens were having, could have been left out. ***½
The Museum of Modern Warfare • shortstory by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
A veteran of a bitter war who now serves as an ambassador visits an alien war memorial with unique qualities. It is rumoured that the exhibition is horribly offensive towards humans. Is it? A pretty good story which aims for emotions. ****-
Footprints in the Snow • shortstory by Bud Sparhawk
A lonely and fairly bitter male widow gets new neighbors: a family of refugee aliens. There is a fair share of resentment in the beginning, but slowly things change. A kind of science-fiction retelling of the Grand Torino movie. There are more than a few implausibilities and illogicalities, but the story aims more for emotion and succeeds pretty well. ***½
Paris, 1835 • shortstory by Bill Johnson
A time-travel story where a group time-travellers try to force history to a similar mold as their original timeline. It feels like a chapter from a larger story, and little backstory is given at first. The writing is ok, but is typicalof so many Analog stories of late – it is just a fragment. **½
The Master's Voice • shortstory by Brendan DuBois
A young boy who lives in Mars has an initiation to adulthood. A story which is a sort of tribute to Heinlein and almost makes him a god-like figure. A pretty blatant story as such. Nothing really new. **+
A Case of Identity • novelette by Edward M. Lerner
An artificial intelligence gets a new, strange case. Another AI has disappeared after a row with his fiancée, an extremely rich heiress. The server the AI was living doesn’t show any activity. What has happened? Has the AI been murdered? There has been more than a little offence after the relation had become public. But how could the murder have happened? Or was it a suicide? A pretty nice story, but I guessed what was going on about half way. ***+

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Seppo Jokinen: Vihan sukua

Another police procedural from Tampere. This time it seems the terrorists have arrived to a smallish and peaceful town in the middle of Finland. A house beside the railroad was destroyed in a huge explosion and the train going past was derailed killing several people. The national security police takes over the investigation even when the local police starts to suspect that the reasons for events might be slightly less alarming, after all. A very good book, one of the best of the series.

Taas Komisario Koskinen kirja. Nyt mittakaava on suurempi kuin missään aikaisemmassa sarja kirjoista. Tampereella on tapahtunut terroriteko – tai ainakin siltä se näyttää. Junaradan viereinen talo on tuhoutunut räjähdyksessä täysin suistaen samalla raiteiltaan ohikulkeneen junan, jolloin useita matkustajia sai surmansa. Junassa matkusti kansanedustaja, jonka rasismin vastaiset mielipiteet olivat herättäneet Tampereella toimivan äärioikeistolaisen liikkeen vihan. Kun vielä naapuritalon asukkaat löytyvät kotoaan kurkku auki leikattuina, on Koskisella kaikkien aikojen tapaus selvitettävänä. Tai olisi, jos SuPo:n innokkaat tutkijat eivät olisi ottaneet vastuuta tekojen selvittelyistä – ja he ovat aivan varmoja, että taustalla on jokin suurempi suunnitelma. Mutta ovatko todella terroristit saapuneet Tampereelle? Vai onko takana kumminkin jotain muuta kuin suuri salaliitto ja järjestelmällinen terrorismi?
Kirja on paremmasta päästä sarjaa. Jännittävä ja paljon monenlaista ajateltavaa tarjoava teos. Oikeastaan ainoita heikkoja puolia oli se vanha poliisisarjojen klisee, jonka mukaan lähimmät johtajat ja/tai kilpailevan poliisiyksikön tutkijat ovat aina taitamattomia toopeja, jotka eivät käytännön poliisityöstä mitään tajua, vaikka kirjan loppupuolella pieniä käytännönjärjen liikkeitä näissäkin tahoissa on havaittavissa. Sen verran epäjärjestyksessä olen näitä lukenut, että poliisilaitoksen henkilökunnan yksityiselämän kaikissa koukeroissa on ollut vaikea pysyä mukana, mutta kyllä tärkeimmät kiemurat selviävät, vaikka jokin kirja olisi välistä lukematta jäänytkin.

340 s.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Andy Weir: Yksin Marsissa (The Martian)

An extremely entertaining survival tale about a man who was left behind on a Mars mission. A surprising fun and even funny book in spite of escalating emergencies.

Mars-retkikunta joutuu keskeyttämään tutkimusmatkansa jo alkuvaiheessa. Evakuoinnin aikana yksi astronauteista loukkaantuu ja koska hänen biomonitorointilaitteensa rikkoutuvat. Retkikunnan muut jäsenet olettavat että hän on kuollut ja pakenevat planeetalta. Kun mies myöhemmin tulee tajuihinsa, hän on yksinäisin ihminen maailmanhistoriassa, ainoana kokonaisella planeetalla. Mitä tehdä? Hänellä on käytössä retkikunnan varusteet melkein koskemattomina, mutta tulisi kulumaan vuosia ennen kuin avun saaminen olisi edes teoriassa mahdollista. Kunnon tiedemiehenä ja insinöörinä niin pitkään kuin on elämää, on mahdollista ainakin yrittää käyttää älykkyyttä, soveltamiskykyä ja tieteellistä koulutusta selviämisen pitkittämiseen. Kun saa lisää aikaa, saa lisää mahdollisuuksia kehittää ratkaisuja joilla saa lisää aikaa.
Kirja on kekseliäisyyden ja tieteellisen soveltamisen ylistystä – ja hyvin viihdyttävää sellaista. Paikoitellen tosin laskelmista tuli pientä yliannostusta, mutta minä-muotoinen yllättävän vitsikäs kerronta oli sen verran vangitsevaa, että tämä ei suuri ongelma ollut. Nopeasti luettava ja kiinnostava kirja, joka houkuttaa kirjasta tehdyn elokuvan menemään katsomaan. Suosittelen ehdottomasti, ainakin jos Mars-tutkimus ja Nasa yhtään tuntuvat kiinnostavilta. Virheitäkään en juuri huomannut, ainoa hiukan ärsyttävä oli väite siitä, että pakkanen tappaa bakteerit. Tämähän ei paikkaansa, jos pitäisi, niin pakastaminen olisi varsin kätevä keino ruuan steriloimiseen -mutta mitäs pienistä.

392 s.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, June 2005

A pretty nice issue, above average. Mostly lighter stories.

Working on Borrowed Time • [Tom and Jeannie] • novelette by John G. Hemry
A some sort of contractor who travels in time and (usually) sets things right after other time travelers have changed something notices something strange. Apparently, London was destroyed by an asteroid at the beginning of the century. That causes some not so slight changes in the time traveler’s present. He must go back in time and try to set things right. A pretty good story with light writing style in spite of the subject matter (evil evils trying to destroy London and world). ****
This Little World • shortstory by Carl Frederick
A movie studio is using a space station for a movie shoot. They have built a miniature planet where they film ants with miniature cars. And there are some far-fetched problems with locks and irritating caricature characters with irritatative banter which tries to be funny. A pretty stupid story where the humor doesn’t work. **
The Policeman's Daughter • novella by Wil McCarthy
Matter transmission is commonplace. All travel is done by it the same technology is used to create backups of people and even copies which perform duties the original doesn't have time for, ( the experiences can' be combined so that the consciousness is essentially saved for both copies. A lawyer gets an unusual case. His school time friend has created a copy from old achieve backup. And that copy doesn't want to be assimilated as the personalities have grown too different. Do both of them have a right to live? A nice and inventive story. The protagonist makes a few stupid mistakes a person used to technology in question should never have done, but a well written and enjoyable story. ****-
Improbable Times • [Bill, Greg and the Couch] • shortstory by E. Mark Mitchell
A man finds a living fish inside his suitcase instead of the presentation he was supposed to give. And then things turn really weird – almost like reality would be changing. A fun small story in the vein of Hitchhiker’s Guide – and almost manages to work. ***+
NetPuppets • novelette by Richard A. Lovett and Mark Niemann-Ross
A couple of nerds stumble upon a very detailed computer simulation, which apparently simulates people in everyday life situations. They invent a couple with a streak of bad luck and start to try reverse the situation. It turns out that the program is more complex - it finds actual people as close to expectations as possible and actually manipulates their life. A very good story, well written. ***½
How Bears Survived the Change • shortstory by Uncle River
Aliens happen to take some bears and people for a joyride on their flying saucer and accidentally journey a few hundred years to the future when all larger animals and most of the people are dead after a stupid disaster. And now there are bears in world again! A very stupid and badly written story. **-