Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, October 2016



A pretty good issue mostly; better than average.

Progenesis – Novelette by J. L. Forrest
A biotech company is doing really far fetching research on human genetic modification. Religious fanatics, both from the Near East and Bible Belt are trying to destroy everything connected to the company and its main scientists. The company withdraws to "citadel", where they finish their research - which goes really far. A pretty good story, but bit too short. There would have been material for a novel - or for a pretty good movie. ***½
Angles of Incidence – Short Story by Nancy Fulda
A pretty strange alien race demands that the shadows of a series of sculptures must be "assimilated " before an important agreement can be done. In fact, they insist on it, right now. And if the negotiators don't succeed they will be eaten, as is the custom. A pretty nice story, a bit on a short side. ***+
The Blue Lady of Entanglement Camber 1 – Short Story by Ron Collins
The first pilot of a ftl-system, which uses quantum entanglement, has died in an accident. Something went wrong; it isn't really clear what. The system is in widespread use without any problems. But sometimes, the dead woman's ghost seems to roam in the laboratory. Is her quantum presence still around? A sort of detective story,. The writing was ok; the plot didn't really work for me. ***-
Mon in the Moon – Short Story by Muri McCage
This story seems to continue an earlier one. I am not aware of the first part; at least it hasn’t been published in Analog. It happens in a world with several moons. A mother has apparently gone to one of them by accident. A grandfather and a daughter go to the mountain to get a yearly radio connection to Mother. I wonder why the connection has happened on a mountain, why only once a year, and how in hell the mother ended up going to the moon by accident. The grandfather and the daughter aren’t completely honest when they talk with the mother. The writing was pretty good, but plot wise, there were the above mentioned problems and a lot of lack of continuation. Also, how does a dust cloud can “suck away all water” from an entire planet? Wouldn’t the dust rather work as a condensation point and lead to heavy waterfalls? **½
Revenge of the Invisible Man – Novelette by Robert R. Chase
A some sort of secret agent, who apparently works for some sort private clandestine agency, is hired to find out how an invisible man has been able to attempt murders of key personnel of a firm that screwed him over. It is pretty baffling, as he has been imprisoned for weeks under pretty constant surveillance. A pretty good and entertaining story. ***½
The Soul Behind the Face – Novella by Adam-Troy Castro
A secret agent is on a mission. He hires a woman to be his wife – the woman uses mental conditioning and cosmetic surgery to really BE the imagined spouse. He has a mission which seems pretty nonsensical, but he is succeeding in it, and getting through the security checks – or at least it seems like it. A pretty good story, where the emphasis is on the person and in his relationship with the proxy wife rather than the plot. It continues a story which was published in Analog about a year ago, but works pretty well by itself. The story will most likely continue. Hopefully. ****

Proofreading by eangel.me.

Riikka Pulkkinen: Totta



A story about an old woman who is dying from cancer and her family. Interspaced with the events happening “now” are events from 50 years ago when the husband had an affair with a young woman who was hired as a nanny. A good book about family relations and secrets.

Kirja on kuunneltu äänikirjana automatkoilla.

Eläkkeellä oleva psykologian tutkija on sairastunut parantumattomaan syöpään. Hänen pitkäaikainen puolisonsa, kohtalaisen kuuluisa taiteilija, heidän lääkärityttärensä ja tämän lapset hoitavat sairasta naista kotona viimeisinä kuukausina. Nykyhetken tapahtumien lomassa kuvataan noin viisikymmentä vuotta sitten tapahtunutta. Tuolloin perheen isä ja nuori perheessä lastenhoitajana työskennellyt yliopisto-opiskelija rakastuivat toisiinsa. Kirjassa kuvataan vuorotellen nykyhetken tapahtumia ja menneisyyttä. Nykyhetkessä tytär muistaa pitkästä aikaa hoitajansa, ja vähitellen muistikuvat selkiytyvät. Toisin kaikki muistot eivät lapsuudesta ole ihan sellaisia mitä tapahtumat todellisuudessa olivat.

Hyvin kirjoitettu ja liikuttava kertomus perheestä, ihmissuhteesta ja salaisuuksista. Henkilöt ovat aidon ja uskottavan tuntuisesti kuvattuja, ja kaukana mustavalkoisista. Ei oikein ollut yhtä totuutta, kaikilla oli oma ymmärrettävä ja oikean näkökulmansa. Kohtalaisen kliinistä kerronta oli siinä mielessä, että juuri mitään kevennyksiä tai humoristisuutta ei kirjasta löytynyt. Kielellisesti sujuvaa kieltä, jota oli hyvä kuunnella. Ongelma äänikirjassa tosin oli aikatasojen hyppiminen; joskus oli vaikea tietää kuka on äänessä ja missä ajassa. Ehkä hiukan pidempi tauko lukijalta olisi ollut paikallaan näissä vaihdoksissa.

332 s.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

John Williams: Stoner


An excellent novel about the life a literature professor in the beginning of the 20th century. The story is told in very clinical, clear language which somehow paradoxically brings his life closer to the reader. A very good and memorable book.

Romaani yhden miehen elämästä, ei sen enempää eikä vähempää. Kyseessä ei ole mikään suurmies vaan aika tavallinen ja tavanomainen kirjallisuuden professori aika vähäpätöisessä yliopistossa tämän vuosisadan alkupuoliskolla. Hän syntyy maatalon poikana, lähtee yliopistoon opiskelemaan agrologiaa, mutta opintoihin sisältyneen kirjallisuuden kurssin jälkeen vaihtaa opintoalaa, väittelee lopulta kirjallisuudesta ja jää samaan yliopistoon työhön eläkeikäänsä asti. Hänen elämänsä on tasaista, ei mitään kovin onnellista, ilmeisesti kaksisuuntaista mielialahäiriötä sairastavan, emotionaalisesti kylmän ja seksuaalisesti estyneen vaimon kanssa, joka kanssa osa elämästä on oikeastaan kylmää, joskus aika kuumaakin, sotaa. Tunteita Stonerilla ei juuri ole, tai ainakaan niitä ei kuvailla, paitsi sen yhden lyhyen hetken ajan, kun hänellä, oikeastaan vihoviimeisellä ihmisellä josta tätä voisi kuvitella, on rakastajatar, nainen joka on älykäs, kaunis ja seksikäs. Mutta yhteisön paineet ovat liian kovat suhteen jatkumiselle. Tämän jälkeen Stoner kuroutuu kuoreensa entistäkin enemmän, hoitaa työnsä niin hyvin kuin jaksaa ja pystyy; elää vähäeleistä elämäänsä, saa maineen campuksella originellina persoonana ja lopulta kuolee yhtä vähäeleisesti kuin on elänytkin, kuitenkin tyytyväisenä siihen, että on saanut tehdä sitä mitä on halunnut: opettaa.
Koko Stonerin elämä kuvataan erittäin selkeällä, kylmän kliinisellä kielellä, joka paradoksaalisesti tuo hänen elämänsä ja tunteensa jotenkin hyvin lähelle, paljon lähemmäs kuin mikään runollinen ja monisanainen kuvailu ikinä olisi voinut tuoda. Erittäin vaikuttava kirja, jossa oikeastaan ei paljoa tapahdu, ei sen enempää ja kummallisempaa kuin todellisessa elämässä voi tapahtua. Ja sen takia kirja on todella vaikuttava ja mieleenpainuva – paikoitellen ahdistavakin – sen verran surkeaa Stonerin elämä ajoittain oli, etenkin kuvaus kuinka vaimo ”varastaa” Stonerin rakkaan tyttären ja käytännössä tuhoaa hänen[kin] elämänsä.

306 s.

Galaxy Science Fiction, August 1955



An above average issue. A combining theme on many of the stories seemed to be humor.

The Flat-Eyed Monster • novelette by William Tenn
A professor is kidnapped by aliens with a one-way matter transfer beam. The alien abhor the flat eyed monster who doesn't even communicate. They don't know that even when the professor can't send thoughts, he receives them very well and understands what the aliens are saying to themselves. And soon the flat eyed monster is on loose and rampaging through a peaceful city. A pretty fun subversion of a trope. Especially the ending was pretty surprising and refreshing. ****-
Whiskabroom • shortstory by Alan Arkin
A young man rents a room from an elderly couple. He tried to develop a time machine but actually manages to strip away the third dimension, not move in the fourth. A short amusing story, the humor doesn't work as well as in the first story. ***+
Country Estate • novelette by Daniel F. Galouye
Humans arrive on an alien planet. They try to civilize the natives who are beautiful people who live naked in the forest. Getting the natives to wear clothes is for some strange reason one of the most important priorities. It doesn't work well, not even at gunpoint. And aliens don't seem to eat at all. And they heal almost instantly. Maybe they aren't so undeveloped after all. The plot wasn't so bad, but the writing felt worse than average and some of the plot points were pretty strange. **+
A Gift from Earth • shortstory by Manly Banister
Humans arrive on an alien planet. This time, they sell first metallic kettles at a low price, pushing the clay pots away from the market. And then they bring in some new innovations like radios, roads, cars and debt. With an interest of course. It's hard to say if this story was meant as humorous or as a very dark one. It falls pretty much in the uncanny valley between those two. It is too depressing to be really fun and too light to be really dystopic. ***-
Twink • shortstory by Theodore Sturgeon
A telepath is facing a task: he must deal with Twink. He has a lot of trepidation and is at least partly afraid of what must be done. Slowly it is revealed what the actual task is: he must help his telepathic child – Twink -to be born. The writing was ok, but the story depends pretty much on the slow reveal of what is going on. ***

Monday, August 22, 2016

Suzanne Collins: Matkijanärhi (Mockingjay)



The last part of the trilogy. The mutiny against capitol is growing. Most of districts have joined the battle lead by the 13th district. Katnis is needed as a poster girl for the propaganda effort and she is styled just like before the Hunger games in the earlier books…A very cynical and dark final part of the series. An unbelievable dark story for a YA-book. The writing isn’t among the best, but the plotting was very engaging.


Edellinen osa jäi niin kutkuttavaan tilanteeseen, että päätösosa piti lukea nyt hetimiten. Alue 12 on tuhottu. Katnis ja harvat muut alue 12 henkiinjääneet asuvat alueella 13 salaisissa luolissa. Alue 13 on käynnistämässä laajaa kapinaa Capitolia vastaan. Ja Katnissia tarvitaan kapinan keulakuvana luomaan yhteishenkeä eri alueiden välille. Pian häntä ehostetaan, vaatetetaan ja stailataan ihan samaan malliin kuin ennen nälkäpelejä tapahtui aikaisemmissa kirjoissa. Onko oikeastaan mikään muuttunut? Ja ovatko alue 13 asukkaat; ja etenkään sen johto; niin pyyteettömästi taistelemassa Capitolia vastaan kuin antavat ymmärtää? Joka tapauksessa kapina on vauhdissa ja taistelut lähestyvät pääkaupunkia….mutta pääseekö Katnissia ottamaan osaa niihin? Vai olisiko marttyyri alue 13 sodanjohdon kannalta kuitenkin hyödyllisempi, kuin aika epäluotettava, omapäinen ja arvaamaton hengissä oleva keulakuva?
Kirja oli yllättävän synkkä ja kyyninen nuortenkirjaksi. Tässä kirjassa ei ollut mitään helppoja ratkaisuita, ei puhtaasti hyviä henkilöhahmoja, ei mitään mukavan onnellista parisuhteiden miettimistä, vaan tylytystä ja ne harvat jotka hengissä selviävät arpeutuvat loppuiäkseen. Ja kaikki eivät selviä, muutama kuolema tuli kyllä niin yllättäen ja järkyttävinä, että GRRM pian häviää kisan tärkeiden hahmojen teurastamisessa. Juonellisesti vetävää kirjoittamista, kieliasullisesti ihan tukevaa keskitasoa, ei mitään unohtumattomia lauserakenteita, mutta eipä niitä kirjalta, joka kuitenkin on nuorisolle tarkoitettu niin odotakaan. Tosin vieläkään en oikein usko kirjassa kuvatun maailman taloudellis/poliittis/tekniseen toimivuuteen.

362 s.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, September 2016


An uneven issue. Something pretty good, something pretty bad.

Progress Report • novella by Rajnar Vajra

Some sorts of animals slowly learn things day by day. Apparently, the food it eats gives it new information and even new memories. Memories of a strange alien creature, a human. And learning is interspaced by tests of character. Why is he getting alien memories and what are the tests for? An excellent story with interesting characters. ****
Detroit Hammersmith, Zero-Gravity Toilet Repairman (Retired) • novelette by Suzanne Palmer
An important diplomatic meeting is coming up on a space station and the toilets are clogging with strange frog-like creatures. What is going on? And what is most important, how can it be stopped so that the talks will not fail? Okay, humorous story, but it is nothing really exceptional and doesn’t really work for me. **½
Deep Waters Call Out to What is Deeper Still • shortstory by Sarah Frost
Fish in an aquarium are being taken care of in a virtual sea environment. A caretaker also somehow mends with their mind to evaluate if everything is going well. Then she is supposed to go into the mind of an octopus which is not adjusting. More of a scene than a real story. I would have liked more background and more details. I didn’t really care much for it. **½
Silhouettes • shortstory by Dave Creek
The old man is alone, observing strange animals on a planet with heavy winds. His health is failing and he ponders his life. It's a short bittersweet story. Apparently its the end of a character who has been in at least one earlier story by the same author. ***-
Dreams of the Rocket Men • novelette by C. Stuart Hardwick
A young man befriends an elderly man who builds and designs rockets. Together they design novel hobbyist rocket models and slowly that leads to a career for the young man. He eventually is part of a group who makes some real progress on a rocket design. A very good story which could have been longer. ****-
Nesting Dolls • novelette by Jacob A. Boyd
A slower than light generation ship is on its way to another galaxy (!!? A the author apparently doesn't have the slightest idea about distances between galaxies). For some strange reason the ship is built from concentric levels, so the oldest technology is used inside. When more advanced tech was designed on the Earth, a new ship was overtaken. The older and then the new level have been built over the old ship. (Hard to imagine the senseless and stupid approach). A child is kidnapped by inhabitants of a deeper level. Some stupid shit happens then and in the end the ship stops on different planets looking for a habitable one. Between galaxies? Usually the stories in Analog make some technological sense - I wonder if the current editor has any science education? The writing is slightly better than the plot and background, but it certainly couldn't have been worse. **-

Proofreading by eangel.me.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Shades of Grey (Shades of Grey #1) by Jasper Fforde




Something has happened. The world has changed. People see only one color, and most often, even that isn’t perfect. (The color vision is a bit strange — people can usually see just one color, but there are “simulations” of other colors, which apparently can be seen by everyone). There is a strict social structure: some colors are more important than others, and inside a color group, the color percentage you are able to see determines your standing. The bottom class is “greys”, who don’t see any colors at all. Their obligation is to do most of the work everywhere. Colors also affect marriages — the good combinations are sought on eugenic principles, and there is one severe and unbreakable taboo: the complementary colors cannot marry. That is totally unthinkable and very perverted. The life follows a set of very precise rules. Some of them are practical, like normal laws, and forbid usual crimes. Some of them are nonsensical, like prohibition of making new spoons. The old ones can be used, and spoons are very sought-after and are family heirlooms. The rules are listed in a book, and are very precise, so it is often possible find loopholes in them to circumvent their actual meaning.

A young red, Eddie Russett, is being punished after he plays a practical joke for a higher color. He is supposed to make an inventory of all chairs on a remote village. His father is a healer (healing happens by showing different colors to the patients) who also goes to the village, as the village’s own healer has succumbed in mysterious circumstances. Some of the color cards the old healer had have disappeared. That is a potentially serious matter, as certain colors can be intoxicating or even dangerous. Eddie is looking forward to a very sensible and lucrative marriage with an “old blood” red, but then he meets a mysterious and very sassy grey who seems to be very interesting (and dangerous).

This is a very strange book about a very strange world. I am not sure what these creatures are, but they aren’t normal humans — the limited color vision is just a small facet of everything that is strange about them. They seem pretty breakable: a torn ear or an almost-detached finger are not much to talk about, a broken tight bone is a serious matter, and it may take up to two weeks to heal properly. I had some different possibilities in my mind: Androids? Uplifted humanoid dogs? (There is something doglike in pretty blind obedience of a set rules and in the personalities of some characters — and obviously, the color blindness angle itself.) Everything and everyone is a computer simulation? I really don’t know, but something funny is going on. The book doesn’t explain anything — all strange customs are encountered at their own pace, and mostly they are not explained. Not even the characters really know why the rules are what they are, and they know practically nothing about what happened to the earlier world. And the technological advancement is going backwards — in a planned way. Periodically, some inventions are restricted, and are not allowed to be used anymore. The book was pretty much an uphill battle in the beginning, but after some of the basic functions of the world become clear, the reading become easier. But there were new strange details, which took some pondering on almost every page. This is a very strange but extremely original and good book.

436 pp.

Proofreading by eangel.me.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, July-August 2016


A few pretty nice stories – and a few pretty average ones.

No Strangers Any More • novelette by Ian Creasey

Aliens have arrived. They want to purchase the moon. Why? They are not telling and there is a lot of mistrust towards them. The princess of Great Britain befriends one of the aliens (a referendum of continuation of the Monarchy is closing and voting will be tight). They go together to art shows and so on and tabloids are having fun at their relationship. What is the agenda of the aliens? Somehow this story feels too short and too long at the same time. It is a bit sketch-like and fairly little happens, but at the same time it feels like there would be many interesting plots that could be told from this background. It wasn’t bad, but not something really exceptional, either. ***+
The Metal Demimonde • novelette by Nick Wolven
Highly sophisticated robots have taken over almost all jobs. A young woman manages an amusement park with robotic rides. She meets a young man who has a rare and at almost illegal non-self-driving car. But he has a secret agenda. Overly long story with too much irritating and boring teen romance. Writing, in and of itself, was pretty good. ***
Pleistocene Brains • shortstory by Christina De La Rocha
A professor gives a demonstration on making Stone Age flint tools. At the same times she speculates about human and Neanderthal genetics. And apparently she and at least some of the students are Neanderthals. Ok, but not really a story with a real plot. ***
A Violent Wind • shortstory by Andrew Barton
A research space ship is falling into a gas giant. The crew is abandoning the ship, but the captain is reluctant to leave. The writing was ok, but the background was very sketchy and the emotional involvement in characters wasn’t very deep.***
Story Night at the Stronghold • shortstory by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
The survivors of a global catastrophe discuss what happened to them. Would never have been published if written by unknown authors. Possibly there is a point somewhere. **-
Mandalas on the 405 • shortstory by Elisabeth R. Adams
Remote-controlled cars start to form patterns. Perhaps the computer controlling them tries to communicate or something. Short and silly. ***-
The Battle of Ceres • novelette by Karl Bunker
The asteroid miners fall victim to the “low grade” war the mining companies are fighting with each other. One woman whose partner dies decides to do something. A pretty good story. The best so far in this issue. ***½
Fall • novella by Arlan Andrews [as by Arlan Andrews, Sr. ]
Continues an earlier story. A young adventurer has escaped with superconductive cloth. He meets new people and has new adventures. He draws attention from a spunky princess, who drafts him to fight in some sort of game with an important reward. Clearly better than a few earlier parts of the series –there is a bit more plot and not only sightseeing. ***½
Fallacious • shortstory by Sean Vivier
A man uses brain surgery to remove cognitive biases from his thought processes. It doesn’t end well. Another short and stupid story. **+
Death of a Starship Poet • shortstory by James Van Pelt
A poet on a spaceship has been killed. By whom? And why? Sshe doesn’t stay dead as her uploaded memory can’t be run on a computer. Unfortunately, she has been pretty lax and her last recording isn’t very recent. As she hasn’t made any notes, her last poems have apparently been lost. A pretty nice story but a bit too short; the ending was too impossible to guess due to insufficient data. ***
Cory for Coriolis • novelette by John Shirley
Cory wants to fly inside a hurricane in a near future where hurricanes are very common. His father is also a hurricane flier. An overly long story with not very believable plot points. ***-
Purytans • novella by Brad R. Torgersen
A member of social group “marriage” between future androgynous humans has gone missing. She is assumed to be dead, but then she is found on a protected planet that isn’t part of the “federation” which has stabilized practically all conflicts in human-inhabited space. The protected planets are kept separated from the rest of space and are considered technologically and socially backward. It turns out their friend has changed: she has been transformed to be physiologically female and horror of horrors, she is pregnant and living with a single man. Has she gone mad? A pretty good and well-written story in spite of some oldish attitudes. ****-

Proofreading by eangel.me.