Sunday, September 27, 2009

Johanna Sinisalo: Linnunaivot

Non sf -book by author known for her extremely good speculative fiction works. A couple goes for a hiking trek in Tasmania..

Nuori mies, Jyrki, ja nuori nainen, Heidi, lähtevät varsin lyhyen tuntemisajan jälkeen patikkamatkalle Australiaan ja Uuteen Seelentiin. Parin helpomman ja lyhyemmän patikoinnin jälkeen he pitkän ja vaativan patikoinnin Tasmanian eteläkärjessä. Jyrki on kokeneempi retkeilijä, ja suhtautuu patikointiin hyvin pitkälle suorituksena, haasteena, ja on varustautunut viimeistä tekniikkaa olevilla välineillä ja on laskenut kaiken grammalleen ilman mitään ylimääräistä kannettava – aina riskinottoon asti. Heidi on irtisanoutunut työstään matkalle lähteäkseen osaksi kapinana hallitsevaa isäänsä kohtaan, osana yrityksenä löytää elämälleen sisältöä, tarkoitusta. Matka alkaa melko normaalilla tavalla, mutta vähitellen ilmaantuu vaikeuksia, tavaroita katoaa ja säät eivät suosi. Retkivauhti on koko ajan kova, Jyrkille tärkeintä on suoriutuminen, ei todellinen luonnon kokeminen ja muutamankin tunnin pysähtyminen on lähes sietämätöntä kun ylikiireessä aikataulussa ei pysytä. Maisemia hän ei ehdi ihailemaan, vaikka hän on muuten luonnonsuojelun ja säilyttämisen puolella jopa neuroottisuuteen asti. Kolmantena kertojaäänenä on nimeämätön, pahansuopa hahmo. Kirja on hyvin sujuvasti kirjoitettu ja nopealukuinen. Henkilöhahmoista etenkin Jyrki on varsin ärsyttävä ja ristiriitainen hahmo joka tuntuu ottavan kokeneeksi retkeilijäksi hämmästyttäviä riskejä vain jotta kaikki olisi mahdollisimman etukäteen laskelmoitavissa olevaa. Kirja loppuu mielestäni ehkä hiukan liian nopeasti ilman, että tapahtumat ovat eskaloituneet niin paljoa kuin olisi voinut odottaa, ja käteen jää sinällään mielenkiintoinen retkeilykuvaus kohtalaisen mielenkiintoisista henkilöistä.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm

A Hugo-award winning novel. In the beginning of the book all imaginable disasters happen at the same time: pollution, climate change, plagues, radiation fallout, financial depression and universal infertility. One rich extended family has been prepared, and they move on a large area owned by the family, which has a modern research faculty. They ultimately develop a solution for infertility – cloning. But the clones aren't exactly similar than the normal people. They gradually lose all individuality and creativity, and they are practically incapable of tolerating loneliness even in slightest, to degree than being in a forest is almost intolerable. Will the mankind survive at all?
Very well written, very good book. The characterization isn't perfect, but that was probably intentional, as many of the characters are clones after all. The main irritant (well, not to badly) was very shitty science. I don't really understand, why it was necessary to have all imaginable disasters occur at the same time, and some of them with no really good reason. The infertility (which is one of the disasters which appears for no reason) also behaves pretty strangely among clones. The behavior patterns of clones are also pretty illogical as they are genetically full humans, after all. And the climate patterns change far too fast, only in a few decades. Those irritations are fairly minor points, and they weren't very import for the impact of the real story. Well deserved Hugo win.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Analog Science Fiction and Fact June 1999

Ok issue, a serial takes a large part of space.
The Trees of Verità • novella by Wolf Read
A sister follows another sister to colony planet light years from earth. The planet has a forest of apparently immortal giant trees. Pretty good and well written story. An important part of the story is the relationship between the sisters, it might even take a bit too large part as the problems between them area bit clichéd. ****-
Uncertainly Yours • shortstory by Bill Johnson
Uncertainty principle in energy production is, well, uncertain. Short, humorous story bordering a Probability Zero story. ***+
At the Zoo • novelette by Rick Shelley
The first zoo specializing only extraterrestrial animals is having some trouble soon after their newest acquisition. Computers are used without permission and so on. The solution the puzzle is just what you think it would be. In spite of that this is pretty good story. The only bad part was a very disconnected subplot involving advertising agency the zoo is hiring for marketing. Like a zoo with extraterrestrial animals would need any advertising? ***½
Time Lines • shortstory by F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre
Murdering Hitler using a time machine isn't usually very straightforward. Not in this story either. Fairly short comedic story, not too unusual or special. **½

Monday, September 14, 2009

Analog Science Fiction and Fact November 2009

Large part of the issue is taken by a serial, which I haven't read yet. Fairly nice issue overall.

Amabit Sapiens • novelette by Craig DeLancey
Continues an earlier story about people who have been genetically modified to plan on longer term. There apparently has been a really long term plan to sabotage an oil well. But how that would help humanity, and will the sabotage suspect be tortured to death? Good, exiting story. I liked earlier story set in the same world, but this was even better. ****
Foreign Exchange • shortstory by Jerry Oltion
The first Mars expedition is about halfway, when the return capsule which was sent earlier to collect propellant from Martian atmosphere returns by itself. When it lands there is an alien inside. What? Who? How? Why? Not very plausible story with some problems with biochemistry, but nice light yarn. ***½
Thanksgiving Day • shortstory by Jay Werkheiser
Expedition which landed to a planet on an another solar systems is failing. They can't grow food, and they aren't able to eat local plants. When food is running out a schism between scientist and workers of the colony is growing. Ok, but the story some troubles with science. I didn't notice any real, good, reason why earth plants could not be grown. And the solution presented – I don't exactly get it, one way it is far too easy in in another far too hard. **½
Joan • novelette by John G. Hemry
A young woman is extremely fascinated with Joan of Arc. When she happens to get access to a time machine, she straight away travels back in time to save Joan from burning. As expected, she is not what could be expected. Fairly nice story, marred with extremely stupid main character with ridiculous puppy love for half-mythological historical character. She is supposed to be over twenty, but behaves like a half-wit 15 year old. ***+

Analog Science Fiction and Fact July 1978

At best average issue, nothing really special, a few pretty bad ones.

To Bring in the Steel • novelette by Donald Kingsbury
A important leader of an asteroid mining colony wants to bring his daughter to the colony after his ex-wife dies. The people of the colony don't consider him as good enough father, and demand that he'll get someone else to take care of her. For some pretty poorly defined reason he hires a paris hilton type of girl, beautiful and famous courtesan. Some pretty inevitable things happen and everyone finds joy. Overlong story which takes a lot of time to careful explain background and objects which aren't even related to the plot in anyway. It is pretty funny when two or three paragraphs are used to explain how a typewriter of the future works when the said typewriter isn't even used in any way later. ***+
What Really Caused the Energy Crisis • shortstory by Paul J. Nahin
Tall tale about the reason of the energy crisis of 70s. Fairly stupid. **1/2
Kinsman to Lizards • novelette by Jack Williamson
Another part of Jack Williamson's novel (?) he apparently wasn't able to sell in thirties :-) and dumped to Analog in seventies. Pretty bad writing, really feels like something written in 1933. I honestly tried for a few pages, but I had to give up. *
In the Wilderness • shortstory by Jack L. Chalker
A previously unknown alien species is destroying whole planets while saving others from environmental catastrophes. A galactic federation of sorts tries to find out why. Feels like a segment. Motivation of the said species is pretty poorly defined.
Bounded in a Nutshell • shortstory by Charles Sheffield
One company succeeds just too well in auctions. It is almost like they could read minds. Or possibly they might have a some sort of new technology. Ok story, but some details or implications seem to be very similar to Kate Wilhelm's writings .***+
The Paradigmatic Dragon-Slayers • shortstory by James O. Farlow
Dragon slaying and time travel. Dragons are what you probably suspect. Nothing very surprising. **½
Viewpoint Critical • shortstory by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
Clueless ursine historians debate if the strange bipedal creatures were ancestors of real ursinoid civilization, and if they really had any civilization of their own worth mentioning. Ok, nothing especially special. ***-
The Man Who Drove to Work • shortstory by Arsen Darnay
Midlife crises, robot, economic planning? I honestly didn't understand this story at all. Strange writing, not my taste. *+

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Star Mill by Emil Petaja

A science fiction novel based on Finnish nation epic, Kalevala. Pretty strange mixture - something which is essentially fantasy is retold as science fiction. It does not quite work, and the result is a book which starts as relatively straightforward science fiction and ends as pretty pure fantasy. The writing is really, really bad. It reminds me of Spindard's “Iron Dream”, but I somehow suspect that this time overblown pomposity was not intentional. The book contains a lot of Finnish words, but most of them are misspelled more or less. I honestly do not see any reason why they would have modified intentionally, probably Petaja just thought that he can spell Finnish, and was too lazy to check the correct spelling. The plot revolves around the Sampo, a mythical machine which can make everything. It was destroyed in Kalevala, but now it has been repaired. Unfortunately, it works in reverse and is spilling destruction everywhere. It is up to our hero to prevent the destruction of the whole universe.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Analog Science Fiction and Fact May 1999

Major part is this issue is taken by a serial, The Quantum Rose by Catherine Asaro. I haven't read it yet, but it is Nebula winner, so I probably will at least look if it is something I would like. (after reading some reviews from librarything: doesn't look like my cup of tea, but I will try anyway. If I will read it, I will review it in another post. ) Only three stories, none exceptional.

Smoking Gun • shortstory by Mark Rich
A professor is found in his room lying in a pool of blood with a gun beside him. Just a moment later he disappears. What happened? It is a pity that what really happened is something fairly stupid and hard to believe. And if the guy had
invented what he did, why in earth make it in form of a gun? Yeah, there is an explanation. But it is extremely bad and stupid one. **
The Vaults of Permian Love • novelette by Bill Johnson
An scientist experiments on herself and alters some of her DNA with surprising results. Fairly good story, but depends on several extremely unlikely coincidences. ***
Red Sky at Morning • novella by Ben Bova
Second story of second Mars expedition. Not much happens – a storm is rising, but that is noticed after about half of the pages have been used mainly for doing nothing special. Pretty boring story, I lost my interest after about 15 pages, but I read the whole thing, anyway. Would have better with some condensing. **

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer

Soon to be a major TV-series! I must admit that was the reason I selected just this book from my TBR-pile.
The central idea is very interesting: Everyone on earth sees a short glimpse of what happens in future about twenty years later. After falldown of the event is sorted out (during the vision everyone passes out – tough luck for anyone driving a car, standing on the top of staircases, or on an airplane making a landing at that time.) the world naturally isn't the same anymore. First it isn't clear if the future is changeable or not, but soon it turns out that it is possible to make changes to the future which was seen in the visions.
The first third of the book is pretty good. The last part is a lot less so. Especially the chase which is supposed to be one of the culminating scenes, happening along the ring of Large Hadron Collider was pretty laughable and managed to very boring and anticlimactic. The supposed surprise murderer was obvious at least for me early on, and slight misdirection for the probable culprit didn't work at all. And the final ending which crossed to metaphysics was really, really bad. Writing wasn't best I have seen, and the characters seemed to be fairly stupid and not very realistic, especially as they were supposed to be Nobel-level scientists. Another irritant was the emphasis of Canada. When the events mainly happen in CERN, why all things Canadian must be so prevalent in the novel?
As conclusion: the idea of the book is excellent, but the execution was much less so.