Friday, November 27, 2009

Analog Science Fiction and Fact July-August 1999

Third double issue in this month!
The many of the longer works are pretty good, but the shorter ones aren't among the best ones.

The Astronaut from Wyoming • novella by Adam-Troy Castro and Jerry Oltion
A baby has a genetic defect: he resembles very much the classic ”grey” alien. The tabloids go wild, but he turns out to be normal, bright kid who just looks strange. His greatest ambition is to become astronaut. And that's tall order in the world where few people care more about science than latest gossip about celebs. But almost everything is possible if one tries enough and is good enough. Well written story. Not really much happens, but nice anyway. By the way, it is funny how computer and information technology feels very old fashionable in the ”future ”described in a story only about ten years old. ****
Emperor Penquins • novella by Joseph Manzione
Alien species has contacted earth. They seem to be very amicable and readily share technology. A divorced lawyer is offered very challenging and difficult task: one alien is getting divorced from his family group of four, and he is demanding custodial rights for children. That is something totally unheard and unprecedented. Nice story, but ending wasn't as good as the beginning. ***½
As Time Goes By • novelette by Amy Bechtel
Continues an earlier story about a vet whose friend has a few ”sea monsters” as pets. As they are animals unknown for science treating them is a challenge – and sometimes even physiological processes might not be so easy to recognize. Very good, well told tale. Not much really happens, but very enjoyable story anyway. ****-
Live Bait • novelette by Shane Tourtellotte
A police detective is evaluating if a sport where a diver passes through a large marine animal which uses a water jet for moving is harmful for them. Suddenly the investigation turns to murder investigation. Fairly good story, pretty black and white. (brave manly divers, sneaky envirimentalists who stop at nothing). ***-
E-Mage • novelette by Rajnar Vajra
Hacking using virtual reality gizmo. Fairly stupid and unbelievable story where a hacker hacks a computer system by fighting a dragon in a VR world. Also, if the gizmo is supposed to be super-secret and super powerful, why the hacker gives a detailed overview of it to a random couple whose personal information she is trying to dig up? **
Tempora Mutantur • shortstory by H. G. Stratmann
A man starts to see strange looking people, and the assumption is that they are time travelers. Why are they harassing that one poor guy, who is soon losing his mind? Not my taste, writing doesn't appeal, ending is pretty stupid. **+
Out of Warranty • shortstory by Gordon Gross
Why electronic equipments break down so easily – and why they don't break if you have spilled out for extended warranty? Probably the best of three short stories in this issue, but that is not saying much. Ending and last plot twist are beyond believability. ***
GCEA • shortstory by Laurence M. Janifer
Circus is used for spying, but there seems to be a spy spying on the spies. Boring, confusing and pretty stupid story. And if that kind of method would have been used for spying, their data security is lax beyond belief. **-

Monday, November 23, 2009

Galaxy April 1952

Some pretty old-style stories here..

Accidental Flight • novella by F. L. Wallace
Begins promisingly. A hospital planet has been established for "accidentals" or medical "freaks" who look so horrible that normal people can't stand seeing them. There is a glowing man with no arms, another with no lower body, a woman who grows so fast she must sit in a acid bath to shed extra mass and a beautiful young woman with symptoms which would nowadays called autistic. There might have been very good story there exploring the ethical implications of such segregative system. But this isn't unfortunately that story. Instead this is an adventure story, where our heroes capture a spaceship, learn to pilot it and travel to earth where they want to plead for a ship to travel to nearest star to get away from the people of earth. Pretty stupid story with very many illogicalities. E.g. the accidentals are practically immortal because "they bodies have struggled so much against extreme trauma". Not to mention extreme overall stupidity of that explanation somehow that somehow includes the autistic girl who has never had any trauma. The first few pages were promising, but as a whole very silly and old-fashionable story (even for fifties). **
Katahut Said No • shortstory by J. T. McIntosh
The central computer has decided that one community on Venus must be relocated to prevent a planet wide economic chaos. They decide to just say no. Fairly old-fashionable story, the society and gender norms seems to be from the 19th century. ***
The Moon Is Green • shortstory by Fritz Leiber

The atom war has ended, the last survivors are living in shelters. One woman is yearning to get outside. Then someone knocks on the lead-sheltered window from outside. Writing is nice, but the author has some pretty strange ideas of radio-activity. Of course, not entirely surprising when story is written in the beginning of the 50s. The plot isn't really special, either. ***
Martians Never Die • shortstory by Lucius Daniel
An inventor using a some sort of matter transport machine to journey to Mars didn't return when he was supposed to to. His wife, and especially her lover, were already hoping that he wouldn't return at all. He returns with a strange looking pet, which seems to guard him very carefully. The wife's lover decides to kill the pet off, so that it would be easier to finish off the husband later. But Martian pets have some unusual qualities. Fairly good story, but writing is probably not among the best. ***½
She Who Laughs • shortstory by Peter Phillips
Ghosts (or at least extracorporeal beings) and time travel are a bit unusual mix. Starts fairly well, but ending is pretty bad. **½
Ticket to Anywhere • novelette by Damon Knight
A man escapes from earth to Mars. There is an ancient portal to another worlds. Only trouble is that travel is totally random, and it is highly likely that there will be no return. As the earth has turned on to very stagnant place, due to system that oversees all actions, he takes his chances anyway. Fairly nice idea, but execution wasn't as good. Writing was so-and-so, and the plot felt like an outline for a novel. **+

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Analog Science Fiction and Fact January-February 2010

Fairly average issue, Rusch's novella was fine, but I was expecting something even better.

"Neptune's Treasure", Richard A. Lovett

Continues an earlier story involving a space tug owner and his self-conscious AI implant. They are around Neptune, and have some life changing events. Well written, good story, but somehow I was expecting even more. The ending was very bittersweet, I wonder if story ends here or not? ***½
"Shame", Mike Resnick & Lezli Robyn
A story about a strange looking alien living on a remote village (on sparsely inhabited planet) and prejudice he'll encounter. Typical Resnick story: well written, but very heavy handed parables. ***½
"On Rickety Thistlewaite", Michael F. Flynn
A pair of spies, a man and a woman, are trying find the mother of the woman spy. They have traveled to a planet ruled by an emperor who seems to have power over everything happening on the planet. The story felt somehow disconnected, like a part from a larger story. As a small dose I didn't really get into it – the adjective laden prose felt a bit heavy. ***-
"Rejigging the Thingamajig", Eric James Stone

A galaxy wide teleport networks breaks down – and only one uplifted tyrannosaurus rex who was by chance alone on a remote interconnection, located on very untamed planet, is able to repair it. The planet is so untamed, that it is very dangerous even for tyrannosauruses to venture outside. Too bad that the part needed for repair has fallen miles away to the top of dormant volcano. Humorous little story, ending wasn't on par with the first part of the story. ***+
"A War of Stars", David L. Clements
A galaxy wide war is nearing end. An uploaded mind with a human body is nearing the enemy target, and he has a normal human body as a ”backup”. When his fighter is damaged, he is forced to ”download” to the body. But what the fight is about? Ok, nothing really surprising, ending is far too esay and fast. ***-
"Simple Gifts", Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff
A planet contains very valuable alloy (having extremely unlikely – irritatingly unlikely- properties). The main deposit is near a village of aliens. All that remains before its' exploitation is a impartial agreement between the mining company and the aliens. And that's not so easy when the alien's language haven't yet been deciphered, and all their trading is based on barter. And the company is very anxious to get best deal possible, even on cost of any ”fairness”. Well written, good story, but nothing really surprising, ****-
"Thus Spake the Aliens", H.G. Stratmann
Continues a story from December issue. Aliens have terraformed Mars. Two explorers, a young man and a woman, Katherine, were given practically unlimited powers by the aliens as a test. They failed the test, and now earth is facing destruction. Is there something which could prevent that? The main protagonists are at least as irritating and childish as before. At one point Katherine even stomps her feet. And the man compares everything, and I mean everything, to science fiction stories and movies. It begins to be very tiresome fairly soon. A large bulk of the story is taken by totally unnecessary sightseeing tour in the alien artifact and to the earth's past. The actual resolution takes place in the last few pages. A lot of condensing would have nice. **+
"The Possession of Paavo Deshin", Kristine Kathryn Rusch
A retrieval artist story. Paavo (very Finnish name – however no reason why he has a Finnish forename is given in the story – no one else has anything resembling Finnish names) is a troubled but extremely bright young boy who has seen two ”ghosts” for all his life. One day those ghost appear in physical form to his school yard and try to make contact with him. Turns out they are ”disappeared” people who have had to go underground due to ”crimes” against an alien species. Why have they come out of the hiding, and why are they harassing a young boy? Very good story, perhaps not one of the best of the series, but good anyway. It also nice that there are shades of gray in storytelling, practically no one is purely bad or purely good. ****-

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Asimov's Science Fiction October-November 2009

Fairly good issue, nowhere as excellent as the September issue, but pretty good.

Blood Dauber • novelette by Michael Poore and Ted Kosmatka
A poor zookeeper is working on a poor zoo. He has a lot of personal troubles with his wife, and a chronic shortage of money. He finds a strange looking insect which he doesn't recognize, and puts it in a terrarium and has more than a few surprises while watching it grow and reproduce. He also befriends a strange man who is working on community service for the zoo. Well written story, fairly low in science fiction and main emphasis is on "normal" drama. ***1/2
Where the Time Goes • shortstory by Heather Lindsley
A team travels in time and captures people's surplus time to sell it to highest bidder. Naturally something seems to go wrong. Very disjointed and fragmentary story. Probably meant as humorous but doesn't work for me, at least. **1/2
Wife-Stealing Time • novelette by R. Garcia y Robertson
Adventures in Barsoom. Heroic action, beautiful women, furious beasts. The story seems to be a wish fulfillment fantasy. I wasn't entirely sure if the story was Burroughs fanfic or if it happens in some future terraformed planet which is named after Mars novels. Well - the difference between those is very slight anyway. Not something for my taste. **
Flowers of Asphodel • novelette by Damien Broderick
Far future story, a bit confusing, as at least I didn't completely grasp the background. A man is woken from hibernation before he is supposed to, as his wife is trying to destroying the universe - or something. Writing is ok, but somehow I got feeling that there should be more back-story than it was given in the flashbacks. ***-
Erosion • shortstory by Ian Creasey
A man who has been enhanced before leaving earth and will be traveling to a new colony world has one last weekend on earth and travels to coast to see the sea for one last time. Well written, moving and bittersweet story. Extreme stupidity of the main protagonist in one act is irritation, though. ***½
Flotsam • novelette by Elissa Malcohn
A woman finds as a child a "sea baby" - apparently something which has inspired tales of mermaids. That affects her in many ways. Overlong and very preachy about pollution, a far amount of condensing of a bit over-literary writing would have made the storytelling easier to follow and more enjoyable. **1/2
Before My Last Breath • shortstory by Robert Reed
A cemetery of aliens is found on a coal mine. There are thousands of them, those who are buried deeper are physically healthier and have much more technologically advanced things with them. It appears that they are from a colony or ship wreck and slowly died out during thousands of years. Told by several viewpoints - the last being one of the later aliens before they all died out. Very well written and good story. There seems to be something lacking however, the story goes for the mood, not so much for the plot. There are some small plot-holes: if the aliens have so different biochemistry that they don't decompose well, they shouldn't have been able to eat anything from earth. And if their dying out took 60000 years they'd should have evolved to withstand earth's atmosphere and climate a bit better. ****-
The Ghost Hunter's Beautiful Daughter • novelette by Christopher Barzak
A father and a daughter hunt ghosts. The daughter can see them and make them visible for her father, who then captures them into a photograph. The first ghost they captured was the girls' mother. Unknown to the father the captured ghosts are still "living" inside the photos. Well told and fascinating story. A bit too pure fantasy to be exactly for my taste, but something I enjoyed reading. Ending is perhaps a bit too open. ****-
Deadly Sins • shortstory by Nancy Kress

An assistant has apparently killed an important scientist in cold blood. But why? Well written story, but a bit too short, might well be a first chapter of a longer story. ****-
The Sea of Dreams • novella by William Barton
A man who has made himself rich by using technology from an alien spaceship he found, stumbles to another alien spaceship. When he investigates it with a beautiful "avatar" of female biological AI, they are transported to another time and space. So begins an adventure involving lilliputian, flying saucers, ray guns, alternative worlds and so on. The beginning is very good, but ending is a bit too pulpy. A few ideas less might have made better story - not that this is a bad one as such. ***1/2

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Mycenaeans by Louise Schofield

Very through examination of the Mycenaean culture. Pretty interesting at places, especially as I have personally visited Mycenae twice. Text is more than a bit dry, very no-nonsense. A bit lighter approach might have been a good idea - but this book is issued by the British Museum. Writing easily readable, light books is probably forbidden in their charter, or something. :-) But nevertheless very informative, good book.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ellen Kushner: Thomas Riiminiekka / Thomas the Rhymer

Pretty good, very well written fantasy. Translation was very well done. Plot wasn't too surprising, but the intricacies of the plot was not the main point of this story. As I read this book in Finnish, the main review is in Finnish.

Vanhaan balladiin (tosin ainakin itselleni tuntemattomaan) pohjautuva fantasiaromaani.
Kiertelevä soittoniekka, Thomas, ystävystyy vanhan pariskunnan kanssa, asuu heidän luonaan jonkin aikaa ja tutustuu naapurin kauniiseen neitokaiseen. Tutustuminen on johtamassa läheisempääkin kanssakäymisen, kun Thomas päätyy palvelemaan keijukaisten kuningatarta sekä musiikin, että ruumiin kielellä seitsemäksi vuodeksi. Palveluajan päätyttyä hän ei enää ole sama mies kuin aikaisemmin, ja hän on saanut siunauksekseen ja kirouksekseen kyvyn ja pakon puhua aina totta ja tietää aina vastauksen kaikkiin kysymyksiin. Kirja jakautuu erillisiin osiin, joissa kertojahahmo vaihtuu. Ensimmäisessä osassa kertojana on Thomasin ”adoptoineen” parin mies, toisessa osassa joka tapahtuu haltijoiden maassa kertojana on Thomas itse, kolmannessa osassa aikaisemmin mainitun parin muori, ja viimeisessä kertojana on Thomasin puoliso. Kirjan kieli on todella kaunista ja sujuvaa. Käännös on onnistunut mainiosti. Tarina itsessään ei ole mitenkään yllättävää, mutta ei sitä sellaiseksi ole tarkoitettukaan, vaan kyseessä on sadunomainen miellyttävä lukukokemus, jossa henkilöt ovat hyvin kuvattuja ja koskettavia. Etukäteen ajatellen kirjan kansi ei vaikuttanut kovin houkuttelevalta, mutta lukemisen jälkeen se tuntuu kyllä hyvin kirjan sisällölle sopivalta. Mikään kovin kaupallinen ratkaisu tämän kansikuvan käyttö ei kyllä ole ollut, sillä ainakin itsellä etukäteen kansi kyllä pikemminkin lykkäsi lukemista kuin toimi houkutuksena.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Analog Science Fiction and Fact November 1998

Very good issue with nice stories, no real stinkers.

Duel For a Dracowolf • novelette by Wolf Read
A pair of youngsters try to stop the hunt of half mysterious rare beast, dracowolf. But are they interfering with the customs of local natives? Ok story, but a bit too much sightseeing compared to real content, some condensing might have been nice. ***
Kissing Cousins • shortstory by Jerry Oltion
Continues the series about "ghost"astronauts (made incorporeal by a freak accident ) They land on an archipelago planet and find naked, gorgeous and very friendly race of humans. Nice place to visit, but not much other content aside of wish fulfillment fantasy. ***-
Waltzing My Tilde • shortstory by F. Alexander Brejcha
Alien visitors are offended by a stray remark on web. The author probably hadn't much used the internet before writing this story, as the error described is pretty stupid. Who would type long webaddresses by hand to get to discussions instead of using hyperlinks or bookmarks? **
Wrench and Claw • novella by S. D. Howe
There is a lot of room in earth's past for civilizations which might have disappeared without any trace. What if dinosaurs would have had an advanced culture? The story is split between a dig for dinosaur bones, and a moon base encountering probable end of the world – at least the world which is inhabited by intelligent lizards. Good story, exiting and well written. ****
The Dream of Nations • shortstory by Wil McCarthy

A future where every house is an independent state using very efficient recycling technology. Unfortunately the technology isn't perfect and slowly more uncommon elements are running out. For some reason (probably mainly for plot reasons :-) ) any digging is strictly forbidden so replenishing stores is very hard. And all prepared elements pellets are horribly expensive. (pretty unlogical, because with recycling with that sophistication demand should be fairly low, and supposedly no-one has much “hard” currency. So supply and demand should drive the prices very down very soon). Pretty fine story anyway aside those mentioned stupidities. ****-
Aggravated Vehicular Genocide • novelette by Christopher L. Bennett
A human colony ship using ramjet technology destroys an alien ship by accident, killing thousands. There must be justice, and the aliens put the humans on trial. Very nice and readable story. ****+

Analog Science Fiction and Fact September 1999

Average issue, Gunn's novelette was pretty good.

McAndrew and the Fifth Commandment • novelette by Charles Sheffield

McAndrew meets his mother, and finds out a few things about his father he hadn't known. He turns out to have been at least as brilliant physicist. Pretty nice story, might have been a bit longer. ***½
The Giftie • novelette by James E. Gunn
An aerospace engineer finds from a small bookshop a book about aliens. The book seems to be a bit less loony than usual, and attached to are some schematics about a seemingly feasible space ship.
He tries to find out who has written and published that book with the owner of the book shop. Next night the book shop burns and is destroyed. Very good and exiting story. The ending is a bit too abrupt and not entirely logical, otherwise really excellent. ****+
Ruinborn • shortstory by Leslie Fish
The entire evolution of oxygen producing and using life on earth is caused by lifeforms using hydrogen sulfide, first trying to poison the planet to prevent its' use as a base on an interstellar war. Anything they try to do just makes the evolution of these strange and dangerous oxygen using monsters to move faster. Pretty good story. The description of the evolution on the earth is bit too detailed and takes too much space, some slight condensing might made the story even better. ***½
Holding the Key • novella by Shane Tourtellotte
Continuation to earlier story. Arrogant aliens lease a trip to a planet where an another species of aliens lives with very hard musical language. For some reason I don't find the characters to be very interesting or sympathetic, the story felt overlong. **
Rustle of Spring • shortstory by Laurence M. Janifer
How to find one cow among hundreds or thousand who look exactly alike. Problem solving story, fairly interesting, the solution wasn't too innovating. ***
TCoB • shortstory by Kandis Elliot
A biochemistry lab seems to have very good solutions for most medical related problems in the world – but it has some secrets. A bit too irritatingly paranoid story.**+