Sunday, January 31, 2010

Analog Science Fiction and Fact October 1999

Below average issue.

Late Lessons • novelette by Paul Levinson

Time travellers try to change key points in history to create a future which has space travel and doesn't have Soviet Union. Continues earlier stories, which I haven't read. It seems to be more of a character based story than an action piece. A bit hard to get into, as I didn't know the characters beforehand. **+
The Poisoned Feather • shortstory by Laurence M. Janifer
How to rescue a damsel from distress? Especially if the damsel is kidnapped by a notorious torturer. A very short story which depends on a trick done by magic tech. **+
Kinds of Strangers • novelette by Sarah Zettel
A space ship returning from an expedition to asteroid belt has suffered the failure of a light sail and will be unable to return to earth. The crew is unraveling and there has already been a suicide or two. Then they get a strange message...there might be a way out after all. Pretty good story, the only irritant is that the aliens never come out. (the other explanation for the signal (that it was faked by one of the crew) isn't very logical). ***
The Menace from Earth • novelette by Jerry Oltion
Another astral astronauts story. Earth is finding the “paradise”. Is there something that could prevent the destruction of paradise? Ok story, problems are solved a bit too easily. ***+
What Lurks in a Man's Mind • shortstory by Christopher McKitterick

Space marines mount a rescue mission to a planet surrounded by an almost impenetrable force field. Sounds much more interesting, but the story with “a guardian of a hiding civilization” turns out to be much less exiting as it sounds. **+
That Sleeper in the Heart • novelette by Ramona Louise Wheeler

A spaceship almost hits a derelict ship, and the guidance computers automatically come to a full stop orbiting the giant ship. (two really big stupidities - killing all the velocity to avoid a direct hit is very unnecessary. Then the smaller craft goes to an orbit around the larger craft. Even if the larger craft were as big as the Death Star from Star Wars, orbiting a space ship isn't really a practical possibility – it can't have enough mass for that. The writing is somewhat better that the author's grasp of orbital mechanics, but that doesn't really save the story, which is an over long ghost story about a haunted space ship. Ending is fairly stupid, and wasn't one key point left open? It might be that I just didn't care. At least the tone shift from horror to comedy was jarring. **

Friday, January 22, 2010

Galaxy October 1950

The first ever issue of Galaxy. Most of the stories are fairly mediocre.

Third from the Sun • shortstory by Richard Matheson
The giant war is starting. A couple of neighbors are planning to capture the only starship in existence, and escape to another planet. They succeed, and start their journey to the third planet. This MUST have been ages old story in 1950. The title of the story removes even the slightest uncertainty what the “end-twist” is.
The Stars Are the Styx • novelette by Theodore Sturgeon
People are leaving earth from a base near moon alone or in pairs. They are embarking on six thousand year trip, and almost half of them will be destroyed. After the six thousand years, their ships will establish a kind of net which makes FTL flight possible and the travelers are able to return to earth and no time has passed for them. The premise isn't established too well, but the main point of the story is the relationships of the people who are getting ready for the journey. Writing is fairly nice, but the behavior of most protagonists have a very fifties vibe. ***+
Later Than You Think • shortstory by Fritz Leiber
An explorer and a historian discuss a new, surprising, find the historian did, while the explorer was on a journey on the space. Not very surprising story, but there was however a little twist in a ending. It wasn't the remains of humans the squid civilization found, it was the remains of rats. **+
Contagion • novelette by Katherine MacLean
An expedition is starting the evaluation of a strange planet. To their surprise, they find a handsome man there. They are afraid of contagions, and invite him to their starship only after rigorous disinfection process. But all males of the ship start falling ill. Why only males? Fairly well told tale, some pretty bad medical inconsistencies, but considering the writing time nothing really bad. Probably the best story in the magazine. ***½
The Last Martian • shortstory by Fredric Brown
A drunk tells a strange story: he is from Mars. He noticed that everyone was seemingly dead, and there was a big button on a platform on the largest city on Mars. He pushed it, and found himself on Earth, in the body of an earthling. Fairly good story, with a little twist in the end. All Martians have escaped their dying planet, and are going to take the control of the earth. One poor mental defective, who has only about the same intelligence as a average earth man, was left behind by a mistake. ***½
Darwinian Pool Room • shortstory by Isaac Asimov
Mainly a discussion about evolution with a small (very small) twist in the end. One of the least impressive Asimov stories I have read. **

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson

Fantasy book with very archetypical plot. A Dane fighting for the resistance in the WW2 finds himself naked in a fantasy land, with a fine sword and a horse beside him. He must find out what is going on, and eventually most tropes of fantasy turn up at one time or another. Arthurian characters, battle between good and evil, fairyland, a beautiful spunky lady, trustful companions, trolls, fights against almost unbeatable enemies. Ok book, probably one of those books which started all those things which now seem to be cliches. Somewhat hard to read at places as some characters speak in “funny”language, and I had to “sound out” the words in my head to understand the dialogue, something I usually don't do while reading.

256 pp.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Analog Science Fiction and Fact December 2001

Fairly nice issue. Paint by a mouse to see spoilers.

Navajo Moon-Bird • novella by Fran Van Cleave
The grounds of an Indian reservation's is used for planned private moon exploration launch. Two girls get involved with plans, and even help out to prevent a terrorist attack against the rocket. Very well written. The story is more character based drama, less science fiction, and as such felt slightly overlong. ***½
The Rabbit Hole • novelette by James E. Gunn
Humanity's the first and (only) FTL-ship has entered an worm hole. The problem is that the time doesn't seem to pass at all, and the passengers seem to remember mainly future (and possible) events, but practically not at all of what really has happened. Is there way out? Very fragmented story, slightly hard to follow, but pretty good. ***+
Christmas at Ground Zero • shortstory by Linda J. Dunn
A giant meteor is about to hit earth. An old couple haven't left their home. They'll get some surprising visitors: timetravellers doing genealogical research. Well told, bitter sweet good story. ****-
The Great Miracle • shortstory by Michael A. Burstein
Very short story about humanity's fight against alien attackers- Humanity has been banished to another world, but then has returned to earth. Story told by a grandfather. Too short, too fable like. **½
Tower of Wings • novelette by Sean McMullen
A medieval lady has interest to flying, but that raises some suspicions of witchcraft, and she finds out that her castle is being sieged. Luckily of of the attackers has fallen in love with her, and has planned a demonstration to prove his worthiness: A glider launched by the catapult. ***-
First Contact National Monument • novelette by Rick Shelley
Aliens have visited earth. The left, and they have not returned – at least so far. The aftermath of the visitation somehow triggered an economic depression of all times, and everything has fallen down. There are a few buses, with spare part cannibalized from other buses, going from place to place on the highways which are falling apart. An anniversary of the alien's visit is approaching, and a man whose birthday coincides on the Day of First Contact is making a pilgrimage to the landing site. He meet a lone young woman on the way... Well written, nice story, easily best of magazine. There are a few slight problems – a gallon of fuel is said to cost more than a month's food. But it should be fairly easy to make more that a gallon worth of bio-fuels (alcohol or bio-diesel) from that amount of food. ****

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Anatomy of a Rose: The Secret Life of Flowers by Sharman Apt Russell

”Secret lives of flowers”. The deals with some lesser know facts of flowering plants, most of them dealing with reproduction – well, as that is the most important facet of the live of plants that is not surprising. Some very interesting things, some I didn't know before. I didn't like the writing style too much. I wonder who was the target group? The book had some fairly complex things in fairly complex language, but at many places it reads like a children's book with childish metaphors and figures of speech, and with very flowery descriptions of different aspects of the live of the plants.

320 pp.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Antti Hyry: Uuni

The winner of last year’s Finlandia award. The book tells about an old man making a brick oven. For variety’s sake he sometimes takes walks on forests and picks up some berries. Nothing much else happens. As you could guess, this is a very slow moving book, nicely written, however.

Viime vuoden Finlandia-palkinnon voittaja. Mies muuraa leivinuunin reilun vuoden aikana. Eikä kirjassa sitten juuri muuta tapahdukaan, mitä nyt välillä käydään marjoja poimimassa, pojan rakennuksella sähkötöitä tekemässä, ja kirjan puolivälissä ainakin sivumääräisesti pitkällä, painajaismaisella reissulla Pohjois-Ruotsin kirkkojen urkuja ihailemassa. Painajaismaisuudella tarkoitan lähinnä omalta kannaltani, itse en pahempaa juuri voisi kuvitella kuin olla bussimatkalla, jossa ollaan yhteismajoituksissa, lauleskellaan yhdessä kuorolauluja, kuunnellaan matkalla olijoiden “hauskoja” muisteluita bussin äänentoiston kautta, syödään yhdessä jossain parkkipaikalla aamupalaksi kaurapuuroa, ja kun oikein repäistään, mennään huoltoasemalle syömään merimiespihviä. Puistatuksia.
Kirja on pitkästyttävästä aiheestaan huolimatta kuitenkin ihan kiinnostava, teksti on kaunista, kuvailevaa, välillä liiankin, ainakin kun käsitellään pari sivua kerrallaan leivinuunin rakentamista aivan kuin suoraan jostain rakennusohjeesta repäistyllä yksityiskohtaisella tavalla. Parhaita kohtia ovat luontoon ja luonnossa liikkumiseen, tai muihin ihmisiin liittyvät tilanteet. Aika perinteinen, jopa häiritsevänkin perinteinen, perhesuhde kirjan minä-henkilöllä kyllä on. Mies tekee uunia, ja siinä vaimo ei auta, vaan pitää olla vieraita (miehiä) auttamassa tarvittaessa; muija tekee ruuan, eikä puutu asioihin. Mutta sellaista se taitaa monella yli seitsemänkymppisellä olla.
Suurin osa kirjasta on kirjoitettu yksikön kolmannessa persoonassa, ja välillä tuntui jopa hiukan puuduttavalta, kun “hän” teki koko ajan sitä tai tätä. Kirjan lopussa (en ole aivan varma oliko jo paikoitellen aikaisemmin) kerronta muuttuu “minä” muotoiseksi, ja on paljon sulavamman ja miellyttävämmän tuntuista luettavaa - ei sillä että se aikaisemmin olisi jotenkin hankalaa ollut. En tiedä mikä tarkoitus tällä muutoksella oli, se tapahtui lopullisesti uunin valmistumisen aikoihin, ehkä kyse oli jostain tähän liittyvästä symboliikasta. En kyllä ihan täysin ymmärrä kirjan palkitsemista. Tämä taisi olla seitsemäs lukemani Finlandia-voittaja, ja taitaa siinä porukassa jäädä hännille.
400 s.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Analog Science Fiction and Fact November 1996

Below average issue.

Fugue on a Sunken Continent • novella by G. David Nordley
A ”sightseeing” trip on an alien planet. Original inhabitants are planning an attack against humans, and a young woman and a middle-aged man find out it more less by accident. The plot seems to be very secondary to the description of the flora and fauna of the world. Some condensing might have been nice. **½
The Spectral Stardrive • shortstory by Jerry Oltion
Another part of the ”astral astronauts” series. Space travel as ghosts. The main characters are still getting used to their predicament. Pretty good story, best in issue, but that isn't saying much. ***+
Foggery • shortstory by Mark Rich
Invasion by plant beings with a hive mind. I wasn't impressed. **½
Voice of the People • novelette by John K. Gibbons
Election story. Two candidates compete with more and more dirty tactics, starting with computerized voting trend analysis, ending with stuffed election boxes. The events happen in a future world where there is a threat of crisis on middle east. (Surprise, surprise), and one candidate is supposed to be about only one who could solve it. The science fiction content is fairly low, and the story is fairly boring, and the main content is political intrigue. **+

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Analog Science Fiction and Fact March 2010

Writing is pretty good in the most stories in this issue, but several of the stories have severe problems in logic.
(Paint by mouse to see some spoilers)

Of One Mind • novella by Shane Tourtellotte
It is possible to reprogram someone's mind using a template which is recorded from a ”better” mind. The method has been used first for terrorists, later against dissidents, and slowly politicians are going to use it against anyone, who just disagrees with the leaders. One of the developers of the technology has to take part to the “treatments” more or less against her will. She tries covertly to make the adjustments a bit too blatant, and finally succeeds. But the new leaders might not be much better... Good story, best in series (at least of those I have read.). It is just a bit hard to adjust to the story where democrats are the bad guys, and republicans are the bastions of civil rights and freedom, at least considering what the latest republican president did to those values (water boarding and so on...) ****-
The Hub of the Matter • novelette by Christopher L. Bennett
A naive human comes to interstellar relay-point and plans to solve a problem which no one in the galaxy has been able to solve: To figure out the hub used for interstellar travel works? So far it has been possible to find worthwhile locations only by trial and error. The hub is poorly understood natural phenomena, and entering into it takes you to a random destination. Changing the speed and vector when entering to the hub, causes totally unpredictable change to your destination. But could young man solve the problem which has been unsolvable by all the scientists in the galaxy? Pretty good story, but the characterization of the most characters, especially the alien ones, was pretty simple and routine. The story could have been a bit longer. ***½
Dr. Skenner's Special Animals • shortstory by David A. Simons
A veterinarian treats “special” animals, which are results of genetic modification. It is apparently a fad among the rich people to own animals modeled to animals from the legends. Usually the results are less than perfect, and the animals end up as rejects. The vet has ended up with a quite a collection of them, and he has to fear federal inspectors as it strictly forbidden to raise such animals, and they would be killed if found. Not too good, I didn't really like the writing, and it is hard to understand the motivations of the veterinarian. If such animals really were in existence, and they were like described in the story, it certainly would be by far most humane to painlessly kill most of them. **
Encounter in a Yellow Wood • shortstory by Bud Sparhawk
A giant landfill from the 20th century has been forested. There are plans to mine the location for raw materials, but local inhabitants have used to the nice forest area and are using it for recreational purposes. That causes some friction between the characters. Fairly stupid story. A Canadian small town in middle of nowhere (“no any city worth the name within 800 km”), and the only nice forest area for recreation is the one over a former dump? Shouldn't there be more than enough forest everywhere? The romance subplot didn't work for me, either. **
Locked In • shortstory by Brad Aiken
The wealthy businessman gets a stroke, and finds himself in locked-in condition. He gets a wheelchair and a communication system which are controlled by a direct brain interface. It turns out to be very easily hackable, but someone with a direct computer access has some countermeasures..Fairly simple story. Somehow I suspect that hacking into a that kind of computer would be a bit harder. ***-
Narrow World • novelette by Carl Frederick
A juvenile, who is in a prison work gang for a minor drug offense, escapes and starts to walk along a highway center strip to Canada, his home. At the same time, some young boys decide to for a hike to the same strip. Unusual breeds of cats and rats have developed in the isolated area. It turns out that a strange disease has developed on that ecosystem, and rats are apparently carrying it, and a bite from (intelligent?) cat prevents it. The writing is fairly nice, but the story depends on several coincidences, extremely illogical actions of several characters (it certainly is smart to run from prison if you are serving only three month sentence, and try to run across border on foot, the traffic is so heavy on the highway, that it is impossible to cross even in nighttime, and at the same time no-one traveling in those thousands of cars bothers to call police if they see a suspicious character walking on the middle strip of highway in middle of nowhere) , and major illogicalities (yeah, it IS possible to diagnose a new disease, find out what is causing it, evaluate its vectors, decide what to do, and start sterilizing the middle strip of a highway hundreds of miles long in about a day, and a bite from a wonder cat makes you instantly immune for that disease) in plot. *+