Thursday, October 17, 2019

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai



Tom Barren lives in a ”Jetsons” world, where there are flying cars, abundant energy, unparalleled wealth, and equality between the sexes and the races. All that changed in 1965, when professor Lionel Goettreider discovered the secret of limitless free energy. He and all who observed the experiment died soon afterwards because of the radiation produced by the “Gottreider engine.” The radiation problem was easily fixed, and as Gottrieder gave up his invention to the public domain in his will, everything was changed everywhere. Tom Barren’s father is an inventor who is working on the time machine, is very focused on his work, and is not very interested in Tom. His mother was killed in an air-car accident. Tom is pretty neurotic and hasn’t really accomplished anything in his life. As he has little to do in his life, his father hires him to be part of the time-travel experiment. Due to some unfortunate circumstances and chance happenings, Tom is the one who travels back in time. As apparently everyone in the project is a moron, the destination of the first journey is the most important event in history: the test drive of the Gottreider engine. It was supposed to be impossible to influence past events, but it turns out that it is indeed possible. And the future is changed to our own very dystopian (in comparison) present. But not everything is bad: his mother is still alive and a happier person than she ever was; his father is nice and not an egomaniac; and he has a little sister who is smart and fun. Until that point, he himself has been something of a prick, though – but now he surprises his family by showing compassion towards them. And the woman he loves is still alive in this timestream and is also a better version of herself.

At first the book seemed irritating and slow-moving – it really took its time to really start. And there was a lot of repetition, even short chapters which were only a condensed version of what had happened until that point. There was some sort of very poor explanation for that, but it was unneeded and irritating anyway. Talking about irritating, the main character was very passive at the beginning of the story, irritating and even lethargic. After the time travel, he seemed to change; apparently, he was some sort of amalgamation of the personality traits of the person he was in the disappeared reality and the person he was in our reality, and he got the best parts of both of them. The end was a bit hurried, especially when compared to the first third of the book. A bit more detailed examination might have been a good idea. On the whole, it was a fairly good book.

400 pp.


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

John Carter - Marsin Jumalat (The Gods of Mars) by Edgar Rice Burroughs,


Sattui kirjakaupassa vastaan tämä lapsuuden suosikki puoli-ilmaiseksi, enkä vastustanut kiusausta. Ensimmäisen osa aikanaan olen lukenut monta kertaa, tämän toisen osan kirjastosaatavuuden vuoksi hiukan harvemmin. Etukäteen en muistanut juuri mitään, mutta tuttuja asioita kyllä tuli lukiessa mieleen. John Carter, kirjan päähenkilö on ollut vuosia palanneena maapallolle. Kirjan alussa hän siirtyy takaisin Marsiin, mutta kuinka ollakaan hyvin tukalaan tilanteeseen. Tämän jälkeen juoni etenee taistelusta taisteluun, joissa yleensä John Carter taistelee urheasti, kunnes ylivoiman edessä tulee vangituksi. Vankeudesta hän sitten pakenee joutuen seuraavaan taisteluun (ja seuraavaan vankilaan). Ihan vauhdikasta menoa, joka upposi 12-vuotiaaseen. Scifin kanssahan tällä ei kyllä ole yhtään mitään tekemistä, siinä määrin fantastista ”tekniikka” Barsomissa on. Kielellisesti kirja on hiukan simppeli nykynäkökulmasta. Käännös oli sama vanha, jota ainakaan lapsena luin - jotenkin kuvittelin, että tässä uudessa laitoksessa olisi ollut päivitetty versio, mutta ei. Taisi olla vain Tarzaneita, joita tuli pari uutta käännöstä? Tuskin alan lukemaan sarjan loppuja noin kymmentä osaa.

A re-read of a childhood favorite. John Carter gets back to Barsoom, Mars of the legends and has an adventure and a sword fight. After the sword fight, he gets himself imprisoned several times until he escapes with his bravery, cunning, and unparalleled strength. The book is pretty much the definition of pulp science fantasy. It's an entertaining book, but simple and one dimensional, as can be expected. Most likely, I am not going to read the rest of the series.


226 pp.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Minna Lindgren: Kaukorakkaus



Kauko Koskinen on eläkkeelle jäänyt ATK-päällikkö, jolla elämä on järjestyksessä, paperit mapeissa ja uusikin tekniikka vähintään kohtuullisessa järjestyksessä. Poika ja pojan poika asustelevat omakotitalon alakerrassa e-urheilijoina ja vaimo on hoitokodissa vaikeasti dementoituneena. Elämä menee latuaan vaimon luona käydessä ja jälkikasvulle ruokaa laittaessa ja huushollin siistinä pitämisessä. Mutta kun Kauko epäonnisen sattuman vuoksi menettää ajokorttinsa ja byrokraattisen hoitolaitoksen vuoksi oikeuden hoitaa puolisoaan, niin asiat mutkistuvat. Mutta onpa sentään muistoissa ensirakkaus (ja parin syrjähypyn kohde) josta uneksia. Löytyisiköhän tämä nainen vielä elossa ja mieluiten leskenä? Kohtalaisen hyvillä ATK-taidoilla naisen löytämisen pitäisi olla helppoa.
En ole esim. Ehtookoto-kirjoja lukenut, eikä tämän perusteella kovaa hinkua tullut (tosin yksi ostettuna, joten ehkä joskus tulee testattua). Tämä kirja oli aika naiivi, vaikka mukana oli vanhustenhoitoon kohdistuvaa vähän liian ilmeistä arvostelua. Henkilöhahmot olivat kaikki karikatyyrejä, eivätkä onnistuneita. Yksikään henkilö kirjassa ei ollut oikeasti sympaattinen vaan lähinnä hyvin ärsyttäviä. Kirjan loppu oli hiukan kumma, loppui kuin seinään tilanteeseen, jossa jäi miettimään, vedettiinkö matto lukijan jalkojen alta. Kirja näyttää saaneen blogeissa hämmästyttävän hyviä arvioita - tosin muutama arvio keskittyy hyvin vahvasti sisällön kuvailuun ilman, että omaa mielipidettä ei oikein ilmoiteta ollenkaan (onko niin, että ilmaiseksi saatua kirjaa ei voi kritisoida?), Goodreadissa kirja saa paljon realistisemman alle kolmen tähden keskiarvon.

A light book of a retired technical director responsible for computers who tries to find his first love with whom he had a couple of affairs during his marriage. His wife is now dying from dementia, and his son and grandson spend all of their time on “e-sports” (or at least so they claim). An extremely light and simple book with not a single sympathetic character, even though it is apparently meant to be a “funny” book. Not something I would recommend.


233 pp.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, September-October 2019



Perhaps a bit below-average issue.

The Gorilla in a Tutu Principle or, Pecan Pie at Minnie and Earl's • novella by Adam-Troy Castro
A man who works on the moon sees Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel in space suits, enacting one of their sketches. A little while later he sees them again. What's going on? He asks help from Minnie and Earl, a very strange, possibly alien, couple living in a picket-fenced nice and cozy house in the middle of the lunar soil. A nice story which doesn’t make much logical sense, but is very good in spite of that. ***½
Awakening in the Anteroom of Heaven • short story by Brenda Kalt
Aliens have been defeated by humans during a war. A lot of damage has been caused in the alien homeworld. The aliens rescue some statues and bring them to a holy place where no humans all allowed, according to the peace treaty they have agreed on. There is something secret inside the statues. An okay story which would have been better with some back story. Who were the “bad guys” in the war? Who actually were the aggressors? Why did the war even happen? ***+
On Her Shoulders • novelette by Martin L. Shoemaker
An anomalous object is discovered near Jupiter and it eventually turns out to be an alien spaceship. The story loosely follows the woman who discovered it and her former mentor. Apparently, sending our own spacecraft to meet the aliens doesn’t interest the US government (or ANY other government at all, for that matters – a bit of an unrealistic scenario). An excellent take on “The Man who Sold the Moon”. The body of the story is good, but it might have needed a little more meat. Plus, the most interesting part is happening after the end of the story and between the scenes we were shown. ***½
Paradise Unbound • [Paradise (Edward M. Lerner)] • short story by Edward M. Lerner
Continues an earlier story, but takes place years or decades later. The ancient mother ship didn’t crash on the planet, but offered plenty of information about technology and there was a technological renaissance. Now, though, a giant asteroid is going to hit the planet and the technology level is not good enough to do anything about it. Then there is an unknown spaceship in orbit... The story is not as good as the earlier parts. The arrival of the spaceship just in time is, if anything, a huge coincidence. ***+
The Swarm • short story by Mario Milosevic
Microprobes are sent to a closest star (using a light sail powered by lasers, which are apparently located on the Earth’s surface – a lunatic idea, most likely impossible), but it will take decades to get a few pictures. One of the group goes into suspended animation to see the results. Was it worth it? A very short story with an open end. ***
The Waters of a New World • short story by Jennifer R. Povey
A spaceship has escaped a dying Earth. The water on a new planet has a strange contaminant which seems to be totally impossible to get rid off. It survives anything (even boiling and distilling? That wasn’t mentioned) and dissolves anything. A short story where the problem was solved “slightly” too conveniently (Martian soil kills the nanobacteria and they just happen to have several tons of it onboard). ***
News from an Alien World • short story by Sean Vivier
Something has happened in the USA (and apparently in the rest of the world, except Japan). A man, who works for a Japanese space agency, tries to live his American dream as his workgroup translates alien TV signals (which just happen to be from the end of their civilization - a million to one chance, surely?). A nice story which contrasts two civilizations. ***
A Family Rendezvous • short story by Brendan DuBois
A space shuttle containing tourists is on its way to an orbital hotel. Something goes wrong, but luckily there is a man on board who believes he can help. A problem-solving story with a seemingly contrived emergency and solution. ***
From So Complex a Beginning • short story by Julie Novakova
A technician is summoned to a planet where life has evolved very quickly, so quickly that it hints to artificial intelligence. When she is studying the animals on the planet, there is a glitch in the data, as if someone is censoring something. Who and why? Or is she just paranoid? An okay story, but the plot was a bit simplistic in some points and motivations were left unclear. ***
A Square of Flesh, A Cube of Steel • short story by Phoebe Barton
A girl doesn’t want to leave her home with her mother but is she ready to stay alone? Another story I didn’t get into at all and I didn’t relate with the character, who seemed to behave pretty erratically. ***-
I Dreamed You Were a Spaceship • short story by Ron Collins
An old man, a hero, muses over his past, his present and a new generation with new sorts of interests and lifestyle. A shortish bittersweet “story”. ***-
Astroboy and Wind • short story by J. M. McDermott [as by Joe M. McDermott]
There is an accident among construction crew members on another planet that makes the rest of group wonder what they will be doing in the future. A slice of life story, pretty good for that style which I usually am not a fan of. ***
Conventional Powers • [Troubleshooters] • novelette by Christopher L. Bennett
At a convention on superheroes there is some discord about what is a “real” superhero. A faction tries to hijack the convention and run the prestigious competition in such a way that the most powerful superheroes won’t have the edge they usually have. An average story with a stupid plotting. A very important invention is left at an unsafe place? The motivation of the “bad guys” is beyond strange: all that happens just to win a competition whose prize seems to be the only prestige? Why? However, I am not sure if I am over-analyzing it, but was there some “slight” commentary about the rabid/sad puppies affair in here somewhere? ***
The Singing City • short story by Michael F. Flynn
The son of an astronaut will command a mission into deep space. The astronaut muses over that. A bit of a boring story I didn’t get into. ***-
Molecular Rage • short story by Marie Bilodeau
A time scheduler of matter transportation beams is late for work. Again. He also goes back home late and it's not even the first time. In fact, it is so common that his wife leaves him. He is sacked from work too. He starts to look for what could be causing the delays. An "okay" story, a bit too much is spent on the intricacies of matter transportation beams. I wonder where and when the story is supposed to be happening: time is measured by seconds and minutes and the main character uses caffeine? He is an 'insect' and there are no humans in the world at all? ***
Trespass • novelette by Tony Ballantyne
A mercenary is asked to help on a sector which sticks to tradition and only uses things that work according to traditional physics which can be replicated by humans. They are considered to be backwards, as most people are used to alien tech (including FTL travel). Nevertheless, a man has discovered some unknown alien tech from a distant planet is lose on the sector, and he must be removed as soon as possible. It turns out that the human tech is pretty advanced too, but inertia-less travel is a bit more high-tech than it is common there... a very good and intriguing story about an interesting world. ***½
Road Veterinarian • novelette by Guy Stewart
A veterinarian is chosen to help on a top-secret project (I wonder why the army doesn’t even have a single capable vet of its own?). A bio-engineered highway has been started to walk to Canada which, in this future, is a hostile nation. A pretty stupid story, and flirting between the main characters doesn’t make it any better. ***-

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Agatha Christie: Idän pikajunan arvoitus (Murder on the Orient Express)



Tämäkin on äänikirjana automatkoilla kuunneltu kirja. Taattua Agatha Christie laatu, yksi hänen parhaista kirjoistaan ja muutenkin genrensä suuria klassikoita. Mies murhataan junassa, joka on juuttunut lumimyrskyn vuoksi keskelle ei-mitään. Murhaajan on pakko olla samasta junanvaunusta, mutta jokaisella matkustajalla näyttää olevan vuorenvarma alibi eikä kenelläkään mitään motiivia. Miten ja miksi murha oikein tehtiin? Olin aavistuksen spoilautunut kirja lopputuloksesta, mutta hyvin viihdyttävä ja kuunneltava kirja oli silti. Hercule Poirotin harmaat aivosolut saivat työskennellä täysillä, ennen kuin asia ratkesi ja selvisi kuinka murha tapahtui.


This is one of the classics of the detective fiction, the ultimate locked-room mystery on a train. A man has been killed, the murderer must come from the same train wagon, and everyone seems to have an iron-clad alibi. The book was partly spoiled for me, but it's intriguing nevertheless.

214 pp.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Halki puolen maailman (Shattered Sea #2) by Joe Abercrombie


Toinen osa sarjaa, joka on olevinaan fantasiaa, mutta jossa ei oikeastaan tässäkään osassa tapahdu mitään selkeän yliluonnollista. Edellisen kirjan loppumisesta on kulunut useampia vuosia ja sen kirjan päähenkilöt ovat tässä kirjassa enemmän taustalla sivuhenkilöinä. Kirjan varsinaisina päähenkilöinä ovat kaksi nuorta, Thorn, tyttö, joka harjoittelee uutterasti päästäkseen soturiksi ja Brand, toinen armeijan kokelas, jolla taas on kaksijakoinen suhtautuminen sotaisaan uraan: toisaalta rikastuminen kiinnostaisi, mutta tappaminen ja tapetuksi tulemisen uhka eivät kumpikaan ole erityisen kiehtovia. Harjoituksissa Thorn tappaa vahingossa toisen kokelaan ja olisi tullut tuomituksi kuolemaan, mikäli Brand ei olisi puhunut hänen puolestaan. Molemmat joutuvat kuitenkin epäsuosioon, eivätkä tule valituksi sotaretkelle mukaan.
Edellisen kirjan päähenkilö Yarvi on nyt pappi, joka suunnittelee retkeä yli puolen maailman saadakseen liittolaisia todennäköisesti tulossa olevan sodan varalta. Yarvi värvää molemmat nuoret tälle matkalle mukaan.
Kirja oli heikompi kuin edellinen, johtuen jonkin verran pitkitetystä pituudesta ja kahden alusta alkaen ilmiselvästi yhteen päätyvän päähenkilön aika rasittavasta teinisäädöstä. Ihan viihdyttävä lukemista kuitenkin, mutta en tätä osaa fantasiaksi luokitella. Jopa siinä yhdessä ainoassa kohdassa, jossa kirjan henkilöiden mukaan tapahtui taikuutta, oli mukana lähes rautalangasta väännetyt vihjeet siitä, että kyseessä on unohdettu tekniikka. Viimeinen osa pitänee oikeastaan jo ihan tämän vuoksi lukea, on kiinnostavaa nähdä onko tätä osaa juonta kuinka kehitetty.

A second part of a trilogy. The main characters of the first part were mostly on background in this installment. The writing was pretty engaging, but the book felt overlong, and the long-winded teen romance was pretty irritating. I am going to read the last part anyway; in spite of its faults, it isn’t a bad way to spend one’s time, and it will be interesting to see if the hints of forgotten technology pan out or not. The book is classified as fantasy, but so far, I haven’t seen any sign of any sort of magic or supernatural happenings. Hints of technology, yes.

514 pp.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Revenant Gun (The Machineries of Empire #3) by Yoon Ha Lee


The last part of the trilogy, "Shuos Jedao" (whose mind of the “main character” in the earlier books), awakens in his own adult body but doesn’t remember anything that has happened after he was a cadet at a military academy. He is more than a little surprised to hear that he became the best military leader of all time who finally turned traitor and slaughtered his own troops. What is going on?
It has been nine years after the events of the second part, where the “high calendar” system and brutal autocracy was broken. But there is a force who aims to return to the old “calendar” and uses the genius Jedao to achieve that aim.
The book was better than the second part of the series, even though the number of characters and the nonlinear style of events make it sometimes a bit demanding to follow. Would it be so horribly hard to indicate when and where the events are happening, especially if there are flashbacks and two points of view at the same time?


427 pp.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Thomas Mann: Taikavuori (The Magic Mountain)


A classic where a person is visiting his cousin at a tuberculosis sanatorium and ends up staying seven years. There he meets many people and discusses the prevalent philosophies and ways of thinking at the beginning of the 20th century. An interesting book, but it felt like the author wanted it to be overlong and added superfluous parts, like synopses of a couple of operas, for apparently no reason.


Klassikko, joka on luettu kirjapiirin kirjana.
Päähenkilö, Hans Castorp, menee tapaamaan vuoristoparantolassa tuberkuloosihoidossa olevaa serkkuaan. Tapaamisen oli tarkoitus kestää pari viikkoa, mutta kun hänellä itsellään todetaan tuberkuloosi (johon diagnoosiin myöhemmin kyllä kohdistuu epäilyjä) vierailun kesto muodostuu lopulta seitsemäksi vuodeksi. Seitsemän vuoden aikana elämä asettuu vahvasti urilleen ja päähenkilö “laitostuu” tasaiseen parantolan elämään muutamassa viikossa. Parantalossa on laaja valikoima hyvin erilaisia ja omaperäisiä henkilöitä ja suuri osa kirjasta koostuu keskusteluista heidän kanssaan.

Paikoitellen tuntui siltä, että kirjailija keinotekoisesti pitkitti kirjaa: mukana oli muutaman sivun selvitys solubiologiasta kirjoittamisajan näkökulmasta ja muutamia sivuja käytettiin mm. parin oopperan juonitiivistelmään. Päähenkilön musiikki-innostus kokonaisuudessaan oli kyllä hiukan irrallisen tuntuinen Olikos kirjoittaja lukenut jonkin yleistajuisen esityksen tai sattunut käymään oopperassa ja vuodatti nämä sitten kirjaansa?

Kirjan hahmot olivat mielenkiintoisia ja edustivat aikansa eri aate/filosofisia suuntauksia, ehkä päähenkilöä lukuun ottamatta. Hän oli hiukan naiivi, joka uskollisesti kuunteli milloin kenenkäkin esitelmiä heidän tavastaan ajatella. Naiivius tuli esiin myös hänen kovin ”soveliaassa” rakastumisessaan ja kovin innokkaana innostumisena aina vuoron perään eri asioihin.

Kirja ei ehkä niitä mukaansatempaavimpia teoksia ollut, mutta siinä piili ihan yllättävääkin humoristisuutta paikoitellen, mm. ironisen kertojaäänen päästessä ääneen. Pituudeltaan paikoitellen kirja tuntui kyllä paisutellulta, saman asian ajattelutapojen esittelyn olisi kyllä tiiviimminkin voinut esittää.

725 s.