Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Leena Lehtolainen; Viattomuuden loppu (Maria Kallio #14)


 Maria Kallio-sarjan kirja. 

Pikkupoikien seksuaalisesta hyväksikäytöstä vankilassa ollut nainen murhataan samana päivänä, kun hän vapautui vankilasta. Onko syyllinen joku hänen uhreistaan tai uhrien omainen? Uhreista yksi on tehnyt itsemurhan, toinen asuu Espanjassa ja muilla näyttäisi olevan varsin hyvät alibit. Lähistöllä tunnetun laulajan ex-vaimo, joka oli toiminut pitkään perhepäivähoitajana, tekee itsemurhan. Onko näillä tapauksilla jotain yhteyttä keskenään?

 Kirja oli ihan kohtalainen, sen alkupuoli on hitaahko ja lopussa sitten vauhtia tuli ihan riittävästi. Kirjassa on useampia ihan tolkuttoman epätodennäköisiä sattumia, eikä kahden kuolemantapauksen yhdistämisessä toisiinsa ei ollut vähäisintäkään logiikkaa. Toinen on käyttänyt esimurrosikäisiä poikia hyväkseen, toinen on toiminut vuosia sitten perhepäivähoitajana, tietenkin viisas Maria Kallio heti keksii, että asiat saattavat liittyä toisiinsa. Hah hah. Myös se, että hyväksikäytetty poika ihan sattumalta sattuu netistä löytämään oman kuvansa pornosivustolta ja vielä hyvin nopeasti sen jälkeen, kun sinne oli ladattu, oli sen verran suuri sattuma, että oletin asian liittyvän jotenkin juoneen, mutta ei, tämä oli oikeastikin sattuma, mitäs siitä, että todennäköisyys olisi noin 1:100 miljoonaan. 

Maria Kallio ei jostain syystä ei myöskään näytä olevan perillä suomalaisesta kotietsintäluvista, eli siitä, että sellaista ei pääsääntöisesti tarvita. Ruumiinavauksia koskevissa asioissa ehkä olisi voinut konsultoida jotain asiasta tietävää: ei ruumiinavauksessa pysty näkemään aikaisempia abortteja ja veren hiilidioksidipitoisuuden määritys olisi hieman haasteellista, sillä myrkytyskuolemassa tukehtuminen ja hengityksen lamaantuminen on yleensä se viimekäden kuolinsyy ja hiilidioksidi koholla joka tapauksessa. 

Sinällään kyseessä oli kuitenkin ihan viihdyttävä kirja nopealukuinen, ainakin jos ei liikaa mieti asioita tai edellytä suurta loogisuutta tapahtumilta. 


Part of the series involves police inspector Maria Kallio, a female police who runs a police department specializing in serious crimes. This time, a female sexual abuser of young boys is strangled on the same day she was released from the prison. Was one of her victims responsible? They all seem to have had good alibis. Who even knew she was released? This is a fairly smoothly running book, though the first third was fairly slow. There were some irritating stupidities; for example, Maria Kallio seems to believe that the rules of search warrants in Finland are about the same as in the US.   


464 pp. 


Saturday, October 10, 2020

Robin Hobb: Kuninkaan salamurhaaja (The Farseer Trilogy #2)


The second part of the trilogy. After the events at the end of the first part, Fitz, the bastard assassin, is barely alive. It takes a long time to recuperate, and even then everything seems to go in a worse direction. The king is ailing, the prince is second in line to the throne; he seems to be plotting to steal the crown, and the pirate attacks and outbreaks of zombie-like creatures are spreading. And then things go worse. And then even worse.

The book is about as good as the first part. The writing is good, but pretty loose and the story could have been told at least as well in a thinner book. But Fitz was left in such a tight spot at the end, that reading the next book (fairly soon) is pretty compulsory.



Toinen osa Robin Hobbin tunnettua trilogiaa. Äpärä, salamurhaaja, Fitz selvisi edellisestä kirjasta hengissä vain nipin napin. Hänen toipumiseensa kuluu aikaa ja hän palaa linnaan väsyneenä ja katkerana. Linnassa sillä aikaa kuninkaan vointi on heikentynyt ja silloin kun hän suostuu ja jaksaa Fitzin tapaamaan, hän on uupunut ja poissaoleva - ja kruununtavoittelija Vallan kätyrit ovat aina lähellä. Kun zombiemaiset ahjotut lisäävät hyökkäyksiään, kruununprinssi Totuus lähtee epätoivoiselle matkalle etsimään apua. Tänä aikana prinssi Valta lisää valtaansa, väittää linnan talouden olevan perikadossa ja myy ja siirtää pois kaiken liikenevän parhaita jalostusoreja ja huonekaluja myöten. Samalla hyökkäykset lähestyvät linnaa ja näyttää siltä, että varoitukset eivät tule perille niin kuin olisi tarkoitus…

Tarina jatkuu aika samantapaisena kuin aikaisemmassakin kirjassa. Fitzillä ei tässäkään kirjassa mene hyvin ja kirjan lopussa hän on jopa huonommassa kunnossa kuin edellisen kirjan lopussa. Kielellisesti kirja oli hyvin luettavaa, kohtalaisen vetävää, tekstiä, mutta sivumäärässä olisi kyllä ollut varaa hiukan supistaa ja tapahtumissa olisi ollut tiivistämisen varaa ihan reilusti. Eikä Fitz jotenkin ihan kaikkein fiksuimman sankarin vaikutelmaa kyllä anna.

Eiköhän se viimeinenkin osa tätä ensimmäistä trilogiaa pidä pikapuoliin kuitenkin lukea, sen verran ikävä tilanne Fitzille jäi, että on kiinnostavaa nähdä miten hän tästä tulee selviämään.

768 pp.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Jarkko Sipilä: Tappokäsky (Takamäki #2)


Äänikirjana automatkoilla kuunneltu teos. Toinen osa komisario Takamäestä, Helsingin kaupungin murharyhmän johtajasta, kertovasta sarjasta. Tällä kertaa huumejutun jäljillä olevat poliisit kuulevat puhelinkuuntelussa aivan selvän murhakäskyn. Valitettavasti vain ei ole kunnolla tiedossa kuka puhuu kenelle ja kuka on murhakäskyn kohde, kuuntelu kun pohjautuu puhelinnumeroon, jota tiedetään huumekaupassa käytetyn. Siitä, kenen se on, ole mitään tietoa. Ei kestä pitkään kun löytyy ei vain yksi, vaan kaksi ruumista, jotka on tapettu telotustyyliin. Kärsivällisen poliisityön pohjalta vähitellen poliisi saa selville kuka on välitön syyllinen ja kuka antoi tappokaskyn. 

Ehkä jonkin verran sujuvammin etenevä kirja kuin sarjan ensimmäinen osa. Tässä oli ehkä vähän vähemmän kirjailijan omia kommentteja poliisiin ja politiikkaan liittyen. Myös tämä osa oli kovin kliininen ja poliisien yksityiselämää ei juuri sivuttu, vaan pääpaino oli vahvasti tarkassa lähes dokumentaarisessa peruspoliisityön realistiselta vaikuttavassa kuvauksessa.  


The narcotic division of the Helsinki police hears a clear order of murder while listening to a phone line that is known to be used for trading drugs. Unfortunately, the police don’t know who is speaking to whom, and who is the person who is supposed to be murdered. So, there is little police can do, until not one, but two bodies are found. As both are shot execution-style, it seems like the bodies and the recorded conversation are connected. After a lot of police work, which is described almost in a documentary style, the culprits are caught. A nice book. The emphasis is on the description of how the police work rather than the quirky personalities of the officers.    


317 pp

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Seppo Jokinen: Piripolkka (Koskinen #7)


Tämä komisario Koskinen oli jäänyt jotenkin väliin - kaikki muut sarjan kirjan viimeisintä lukuun ottamatta olen lukenut. Kirja oli suhteellisen alkupään teoksia, eikä kyllä laadultaan ole myöhemmän tuotannon tasoista. Kirjassa nuorista koostuva huumejengi pahoinpitelee vanhuksen, varastaa tältä auton ja lopulta polttaa tämän auton. Porukka on siinä määrin pöhnässä, että auton sytyttäjä onnistuu polttamaan itsensä pahasti ja teholle. Muu sakki päätyy yöksi putkaan ja kuulustelun jälkeen päästettiin vapaalle jalalle. Koko tapausta ajateltiin aluksi tavanomaiseksi huumeporukan sekoiluksi, mutta sitten yksi porukkaan kuuluneista tytöistä löytyy kuoliaaksi puukotettuna. Tämä ehkä olisi ollut vielä sattuma, mutta kun toinenkin porukasta kuolee, alkaa näyttää siltä, että jotain tavallisuudesta poikkeavaa on menossa. 

Kirja ei ollut sarjansa parhaita. Kieliasullisesti se oli ehkä hieman kankeampaa kerrontaa kuin sarjan loppupää, eikä juonikaan sarjan huippuihin sijoittunut. Huumeporukan toiminta oli äärimmäisen kliseistä ja epäuskottavaa: kannabiksesta tulee satunnaiskäytöstä voimakkaat himot ja vieroitusoireet muutaman käyttökerran jälkeen, ja porttiteoria kannabiksesta injektioaineisiin toimii lähes väistämättömään tapaan muutamissa viikoissa. 

An older Inspector Koskinen book, where the detectives of the Tampere police are trying to find out why two teenagers who were members of a “gang” which was experimenting with drug use were murdered. Not as good as the later books. The book has a very cliched description of drugs where users get very dependent on weed after only a few times. The writing isn’t as fluent, either, as the later parts. 

330 pp. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang


 An excellent collection of wonderful stories. 


The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate • (2007) • Novelette by Ted Chiang

The story happens in Bagdad at the heyday of the Islamic caliphate. A trader encounters a market man who has exquisite items at his booth. He shows a portal he has designed which takes you to another time and tells two stories of who people have used the portal. He warns the merchant that the past is set, there is nothing you can do to change the present. But there is something the merchant really wants to explore at his past. An excellent story is written in poetic, wonderful “Arabian nights” style of language. *****-

Exhalation • (2008) • Short story by Ted Chiang

A species of apparently mechanical creatures live in a cave, where the ceiling is so high it cannot be seen. Everything is powered by pressurized argon, which is produced by vents at the cave. The pressurized gas is stored on aluminum “lungs” which are changed when needed. *****

The Lifecycle of Software Objects • (2010) • Novella by Ted Chiang

A story about AI pets which must be trained carefully (at least as carefully as “normal pets”). At first, they were a popular fad, but when the amount of training needed becomes obvious, most people gave up on them. But a few were so fond of their pets that they kept training them for years. Slowly, the pets got better and better - to at least some degree, but even the software environment on which they run has become so obsolete that it only exists on a private server. Updating the engine modern standards would cost too much for those few who still have “pets.” They get an offer from a company that could pay for the transfer, but that would compromise the principles of those who still spend most of their time with their virtual at least semi-intelligent pets. A well-written story, but then the ending is a lot worse than the beginning, a little sharper and faster ending might have worked better. ****+

Dacey's Patent Automatic Nanny • [Thackery T. Lambshead] • (2011) • Short story by Ted Chiang

An eccentric scientist creates a robotic nanny which could be trusted not to steal anything and take care of infants tirelessly. After an initial boom, they soon became unpopular. Later, his son tries to return his father’s reputation and raises his own son using only the device. The results are predictable though. A nice story which is written in the style of a historical article. ****-

The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling • (2013) • Novelette by Ted Chiang

People have been using life recording devices for a long time. It has been very hard to access them though. Now, a new program, which enables pretty comprehensive search faculties, is being introduced. A man is testing the software and examines his own memories - do they correspond with reality? A story of how technology shapes self-perception. Which is true - what really did happen or your conception and memory of the event? Interspaced with the modern (or future) story is a tale of how writing changed or almost changed tribal life in Africa. A good story, but at places, especially at the end, feels more like a pamphlet than a "real" story. ****-

The Great Silence • (2015) • Short story by Allora and Calzadilla and Ted Chiang [as by Ted Chiang]

How can we find extraterrestrial intelligences when we can’t find or recognize non-human intelligences at the Earth? A story (or pamphlet) about an intelligent parrot species. A very short story that could be considered to be more of an opinion piece than a story.  ***½

Omphalos • Novelette by Ted Chiang

The story happens in a world where there is irrefutable proof of creation: If you go back enough, you can find ancient trees where there are no growth rings, seashells have smooth contours until they start to show seasonal variation, and the oldest mummies, which can be found, have no navels and their skeletons show no sign of growth zones. All stars there are have been cataloged, no new ones have been found in centuries, even with better telescopes, and they are all alike. The existence of God is something no one doubts, and everyone knows that the world and humans are something God has planned. But then there is new research, which shows that everything everyone has always "known" isn’t exactly what it has been believed, and it might be that there is no such thing as a God's plan after all - at least not for the Earth and humans. The story is told by letters written by a young female archeologist. The writing was extremely good. There were no explanations offered: Apparently, did the world really function that way and it was created by a god? Or was it a computer simulation? *****

Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom • Novella by Ted Chiang

It is possible to buy a ”prismn,” which is a device that splits realities when it is activated. It enables you to change information, and even communicate through videos with your alternate self. As time goes on, the probabilities diverge, and changes cumulate. There is a limit to how much information can pass through before the prismn becomes useless. A con artist uses prismns for nefarious purposes with the help of a woman who has a troubled past. There is a prismn which they want, as it is a possibility for a great profit. The concept of the story is very interesting, and the story takes its time to evolve - it is done very well. The conclusion is moving and very well done. An excellent story, but I don't really see why you would want to discuss with your alternate self - what good would come from that? If you do worse than your ”alternate,” you feel bad, if you do better, you feel bad for your alternate version... So, whatever happens, you don’t feel good. *****-

352 pp.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Rogue Moon by Algis Budrys

A well-known book which I put on my reading list as it was mentioned in a positive way is the book edited by Jo Walton, An Informal History of the Hugos.

The premise of the book is fascinating: there is a strange artifact on the moon, which apparently is more than three-dimensional. It is hard to see and understand and going inside will kill you - at least if you don’t follow the exact protocol which can only be discovered by trial and error. And making an error always means death. Fortunately, a device for instantaneous travel can be used for making copies of people. For some strange and convenient reason, the memories of the dead copies are retained by the new body. Unfortunately, the act of dying makes everyone go crazy and even catatonic. The researchers find a daredevil who apparently has a death wish, and he commonly does stunts which might very well kill him at any time. It turns out that he is able to survive death. (Finding this man, before any real plot starts, takes about half of the book). The premise sounds very interesting, but the actual science fiction story takes about six pages of the book. Everything else is spent while very irritating characters discuss with each other, flirt and compete for attention. And all that in a very, very dated way. For example, according to a female character, one man is very strange as he treats women as humans. And apparently that isn’t all good. The book was a chore to read, so dull that I have rarely seen anything like that and it was really, really dated. One of the worst books I have read in a year or so.

188 pp.

 

Monday, September 14, 2020

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, September-October 2020Publication Record # 789770


 A fairly good issue, a bit above average, I believe. 


Mimsy Were the Borogoves • (1943) • novelette by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore [as by Lewis Padgett]

This is one of the all-time classics. I read this story before — decades ago — and I was surprised by how many details I remembered. Two kids find a crate sent from the distant future. It is filled with learning toys that begin to teach them a new kind of thinking that may evolve the children into something else. Even some 80 years later, it is still a good story. The only downside was a far-too-long lecture by a psychologist.  ****+

 Minerva Girls • novelette by James Van Pelt

Three girls have always been friends. One is very smart in theoretical science, one is brilliant at making stuff, and the third has access to a practically limitless cache of electric parts at her father’s junkyard. At least one of the girls will move after the summer and their friendship might end. What to do? Go to the Moon, of course. Together they manage to invent and build an inertia-less gravity drive. It's a fun story that was well written; it felt very much like a Heinlein juvenile (one of the good ones). The plausibility wasn’t very high, but considering the style of the story, that wasn’t a problem. **** 

City • short story by Joel Richards

A successful businessman lives in a city where anyone might shift to an alternate reality at any time. He has just shifted to an alternate reality where he finds himself even wealthier than before. He contacts former lovers and friends to see whether they know him. It is a nice background for the story, which is quite well told, but it's more a sequence of vignettes than an actual tale with a cohesive plot. ***+

Where There's Life • novelette by John Vester [as by John J. Vester]

Humans are studying Mars while the last Martian creatures are trying to find water from deep below ground. Water has been running out (I wonder where the deep water is going, as it isn’t prone to evaporate like surface water). A comet is going to hit Earth, which would leave the Martian colonists stranded and alone; some even consider returning to Earth (Why? To die there?). One human encounters the Martian creatures and brings them to "normal" pressure and temperature — surely that couldn't harm them! The story is based on huge coincidences and criminally stupid actions. Not very good. **

The Chrysalis Pool • short story by Sean McMullen 

 A young man who enjoys running alone sees a beautiful, naked water nymph in almost any body of water he runs beside. A psychologist tries to analyze what is going on with a portable EEG scanner (and the tech who built the apparatus installed a camera as well). Will the camera capture the nymph? OK story, but the details of the EEG don't make much sense. ***

 A Skyful of Wings • short story by Aimee Ogden

A seed ship is on its way to drop a carefully calculated selection of Earth species when it suffers a malfunction and cannot make the stop — but it can still drop the seedling pods (I'm not sure how it would work with speed differences). The crew has one chance: they must drop some species and travel hibernated in pods. Apparently, every animal species has just one pod (doesn’t make much sense from the redundancy point of view). An OK story, more than a bit hurried. ***-

 Going Small • short story by Jacob C. Cockcroft

Earth is going to be destroyed by a giant meteor. Humanity has built a very tiny ship with a powerful AI with robotic capacity containing human embryos and is going to send it to another solar system. The AI is a bit bored during the travel but the ship arrives safe and sound. The narrative is just a description of events, more or less — which doesn’t even really make sense. Why build just one ship? It is not as though there were not sufficient resources to build more than one — and after the ship design was proved to be viable, such ships could have been built by the hundreds. Also, why not turn down the “clock speed” of the AI for the duration of the travel? ***

 Casualties of the Quake • short story by Wang Yuan

A man travels back in time to before the earthquake that killed his son. Can he alter the events? If so, what are the consequences? It's an OK, bittersweet story. ***

 The Home of the King • short story by Dan Reade

A reporter interviews a famous boxer who has reskinned — that is, transferred his mind to a new, healthy body. The story examines his background, the reporter’s background, and dives deep into what reskinning means for sports in general and boxing in particular. It's a boring story that was written as though boxing were an honorable and admirable pursuit instead of a barbaric thing which should have been outlawed decades ago as something which normalizes violence. **½

 Seeding the Mountain • novelette by Maggie Clark [as by M. L. Clark]

Nanotech has malfunctioned at several places in the world and they are at least partly under quarantine. One place is a mountain in Guatemala. People living nearby are trying to survive even if some strange and dangerous things are happening. I didn’t get into this story; the writing was thick and hard to read, and the characters seemed to discuss things endlessly. It felt far too long. **+

The Writhing Tentacles of History • short story by Jay Werkheiser

 Future descendants of squids dig up strange fossils of a mammal that looks like it walked on two feet, which doesn’t make any sense to them. It's an interesting society with fascinating creatures. Surely there would be massive amounts of physical remains of humanity — glass and ceramics are very resilient. ***

The Boy Who Went to Mars • short story by Mary Soon Lee

The son of a billionaire has lived without any real contact with his father. The father is establishing a Mars colony and asks his son to join it. The son is good in science and engineering, and really wants to join, but he isn’t keen on being with his absentee father. Eventually — at his mother's urging — he relents and goes to Mars. It's a pretty good story, even though it is too short and gives only glimpses of what happens. ***½

The Treasure of the Lugar Morto • short story by Alan Dean Foster

The archeologists are after a fabulous treasure. The find in under the remains of an apparent shopping mall: an untouched seed bank full of seeds which are unmeasurable valuable in a post collapse world. An ok story. ***

I, Bigfoot • novelette by Sarina Dorie

A bigfoot whose name is Bigfoot is interested in humans and goes on a scavenger expedition to the suburbs. He is especially interested in National Geographic magazines featuring Jane Goodall. He helps a young runaway who is almost raped. The leader of his tribe is not happy about the contact with humans. It's a pretty nice warm-hearted story. However, the psychology of the bigfeet is practically exactly human, which felt pretty strange. ***½

Draiken Dies • [Draiken] • novella by Adam-Troy Castro

Continues (and finishes?) an earlier series of stories. A retired spy has been chasing the spy organization that had once used him. Now his female companion has arrived on a planet where the organization has its headquarters. The spy organization captures her, fills her with truth serums and monitoring equipment, and asks where her companion is. She tells them that she killed him. Why? What is her angle? She can’t lie, so she apparently really killed him — but why come to the planet where the risk of capture is extremely high? Like most of the rest of the series, it is a very good story, smoothly written and exciting.  ****-

 


Sunday, September 13, 2020

Reijo Mäki: Vares ja kaidan tien kulkijat (Vares #7)


Luin pitkästä aikaa Vares-sarjan kirjan. Ei ehkä olisi kannattanut, sillä tämä osa oli selvästi sarjan heikommasta päästä. Vares matkustaa Pohjanmaalle selvittelemän teinitytön murhaa. Tytöltä oli leikattu sydän rinnasta ja hänet oli haudattu matalaan hautaan kirkonkylän vanhalle, käytöstä poistetulle, hautausmaalle. Kuolintavassa on yhteneväisyyttä paikkakunnan noitalegendaan – onko tämä sattuma? Paikkakunnalta on lähtöisin uskonnollinen liike, joka käytännössä pitää kunnassa valtaa; oluen myynti on kielletty, moraalia vahditaan tarkoin ja poliisitkin ovat herätysliikkeen jäseniä. Vares ei tähän porukkaan ihan sulavasti solahda joukkoon ja päätyy lopulta jopa paikalliseen mielisairaalaan. Tapahtumat sinällään olivat ihan vetäviä, tosin äärimmäisen epäuskottavia monella tasolla (ei perusmielisairaalassa joskus 80-luvulla (?) mitään pikkulapsia hoidettu, eikä iso laitos ollut yhden tohtorin yksityistä temmellysaluetta). Kirja oli myös kielellisesti jotenkin paljon jäykempää kuin myöhemmät osat - Vareksesta itsestään puhumattakaan, hänessä ei oikein tuntunut olevan samanlaista sielua kuin myöhemmissä osissa. Hänen käyttäytymisensä oli monesti todella typerää ja ajattelematonta. Ei tule kiirettä seuraavan osan lukemisen kanssa.

The private detective from Turku is visiting a small, very religious community where a young woman has been murdered and her heart has been removed. After many colorful but hard to believe events, our private Dick (in two meanings of the word) of course solves the case, but only after being committed to a mental hospital almost killed a few times. An early installment in the series, not very well written, and even the main character is strangely soulless and very stupid and a private Dick lead by his dick. 

384 pp.