Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Extremely loosely written book about a group of friends who used to play live action role plays when there were together in the high school. More than twenty years later a mysterious stranger starts to haunt them with riddles and ultimately violence. Extremely loose writing. Endless discussions concerning twenty years old relationships which have no connection at all to the plot of the book. The ending is a letdown. Boring car ride around the Helsinki region, and the identity of the perpetrator would have been found out by the police in an about a day.
Lukioikäisenä toisensa kiinteästi tuntenutta porukkaa alkaa reilun parinkymmenen vuoden jälkeen ahdistella salaperäinen vainoaja. Ryhmä on aikanaan harrastanut yhdessä larppausta, ennen kuin koko asiaa oikeastaan Suomessa tunnettiin. Kirjan voisi luokitella oikeastaan Da Vinci-koodi tyyppiseksi dekkariksi. Kirja onnistuu lähes mahdottomassa olemalla vielä huonompi kuin esikuvansa. Iso osa kirjan haastetta on vainoajan jättämien vihjeiden tulkitseminen. Samalla pitäisi selvittää, kuka vainoaja oikein on, tästä tosin ei vihjeitä kyllä juuri jaella.
Kirja on äärimmäisen löysästi kirjoitettu, sisältää sivutolkulla ihmessuhdelätinää siitä kuka silloin lukiossa tykkäsi kenestäkin, ja ketkä seurustelivat ja ketkä eivät, höpötystä jolla kirjan varsinaisen juonen kannalta ei ollut oikeastaan yhtään mitään merkitystä. Miten ihmeessä henkilöt itse edes muistavat asiansa noin tarkasti - itsellä on lukioajoista osapuileen sama aika, ja muistikuvat ovat kyllä jo aika hämärtyneitä. Ehkä tämä sivukaupalla jatkuva ihmissuhdeläpinä oli se varsinainen juoni, ja ahdistelutarina oli vain kulissi johon tämä tyhjäpäiväisyys oli saatu ripustettua. Ja muutakin turhaa täytettä kyllä löytyy, tilaa on kokonaisten kappaleiden käyttämiseen marjapensaiden tuottoisuuden pohtimiseen jne. Konnan paljastumien on aikamoinen antiklimaksi, juuri mitään kunnon vihjeitä henkilöllisyydestä ei oltu annettu, joten mitään "ahaa-elämystä" ei päässyt muodostumaan. Ja todellisessa elämässä poliisi olisi syyllisen löytänyt noin kahdessa päivässä sen jälkeen kun pahimmat ja väkivaltaisimmat teot oli tehty. Voisikohan mahdollisesti olla kyseessä joku, joka tuntee läheisesti jonkun porukan jäsenen? Olisikohan mitenkään mahdollista, että poliisi melkoisen pikaisesti kuulustelisi lähipiirin? Olisikohan kyseinen henkilö ollut välittömästi poliisin tapaamisen jälkeen nalkissa? Ei tietenkään [ironiaa]. Ja ilmeisesti parin vuoden larppaaminen kaksikymmentä vuotta sitten antaa täydellisen hallinnan kaikkeen maailman mytologiaan, sen verran helposti äärimmäisen sekavien ja kaukaa haettujen vihjeiden tulkinta porukalta onnistui. En ehkä ollut ihan kohderyhmää. Kirjan luin, koska jostain olin saanut sen käsityksen, että siinä on fantasiapiirteitä - ne jäivät aika viitteellisiksi.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
This book is more a detective story than science fiction or fantasy, at most could be described as magical realism. The main “fantastical element” is setting, a vaguely eastern European city which consists of two separate cities occupying the same locale, and inhabitants of both cities living on the same streets but ignoring each other. Noticing the other city or anything which happens there is about the worst thing one can do, and if that happens a mysterious agency, “breach” arrives to get the offenders. Usually, no one sees them ever again.
When a murdered young woman is found on one of the cities, and it is found out that she is a foreigner, and was working on an archeological dig in the other city, a very usual co-operation between the police forces of both cities is needed.
Very fascinating (but not very logical) concept, very well written book. There are perhaps somewhat too little in the book about the history of the cities, and why the inhabitants are still grasping SO much to the concept of two separate cities, and those few “unificationists” who would like to combine the cities are largely considered like loonies. Even considering the effect of “breach” authority that isn’t really logical. Anyway, the description of locales and people is very much alive and fascinating.
After reading four out of six novels nominated for Hugo award this year, this is by far my favorite.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Some pretty good stories, some fairly well written, but pretty stupid ones.
The Ice Dragon's Song • novella by Bud Sparhawk
A survival tale in Jupiter’s moon, Europa. A young boy has to get some help after an accident destroys his family’s habitat and his mother is badly hurt. A fairly good story, but the characterization of the young hero didn’t feel exactly right as his behavior seemed to be a bit older than the stated age. ***+
A Life on Mars • novelette by G. David Nordley
What to do when your former wife and the mother of your child needs sudden help in Mars. Use experimental spacecraft with a new propulsion system, of course. A bit too long story with not very believable characters. ***-
Slow Drowning • novella by Daniel Hatch
The ice sheet over Antarctica is moving, and sea level will rise 200 feet (or something). A rich man with a lot of means of influence is planning forward in long term and preparing for the catastrophe. And the young generation might have some plans for the future, also. And tey might also need someone to blame for ruining the world. Very good, well written and good story. ****
Moon-Calf • shortstory by Stephen Baxter
A science fiction author, an ex-astronaut is on a book signing tour in a small English town. The stones of the village church look very strange, not at all typical for the area. He also discovers a local old tale about a flight to the moon. Well written, interesting, not too plausible story. ***½
The Long Way Home • novelette by Shane Tourtellotte
The first interstellar spaceship is leaving from Alpha Centauri. For their surprise an another, much faster ship, arrives from earth. It seems that they will not be the first interstellar travelers who will arrive to earth. And that would be horrible, so horrible that they are planning to jury-rig their engines in the best ridiculous Star Trek style. Yeah, of course a few astronauts can make improvements to engines which are developed by an army of scientists. Stupid, irritating and bad story, with ridiculous ending. *½
In Space, No One Can Hear • novelette by Michael A. Burstein
One brother is a space shuttle pilot on a passenger line, another brother who always would have liked to be a pilot is deaf, and didn’t get a change to do it. The deaf one gets a change take part on space trip, but the terrorist upload a virus to the ships very badly designed computer system. (There apparently are no backup systems, and rebooting the computer “would turn of life support” (the life support is designed so poorly, that it can’t function at all without constant control - apparently airlocks would open or some other catastrophic thing would happen immediately without computer controlling the system)) The knowledge of sign language then saves the day. Some pretty stupid aspects, and a saccharine sweet ending makes one fairly annoying story. **
Monday, May 17, 2010
A book which cover very many different subjects, probably too many. A lot of space is given for different memory techniques. Other main subjects are hypnosis, unconscious communication and pseudo-science. Some of the subjects are pretty interesting, especially those involving cold-reading and pseudo-science, nothing really new, though. (Bad Science by Ben Goldcare handled those things much better and with more detail) The parts about memory (and partly that involving hypnosis) seem to be partly padded, and several pages are used extremely detailed memory techniques or hypnosis directions, which were “a bit“ boring. A fair amount of condensing might have made these book more interesting.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Another early and pretty bad issue of Galaxy. Most of the stories aren't very good.
Second Night of Summer • novelette by James H. Schmitz
An unknown alien race attacks and destroys human worlds. The attacks happen by set intervals of decades. This time careful analysis has revealed the planet where the attack will occur, and the defense is ready... Sound good, but unbelievably boring and baffling story. Exposition, exposition, not much happening. Very strange method of defense, at least so it seemed as when the extremely anticlimactic attack happened I honestly didn't care anymore. **-
Judas Ram • shortstory by Sam Merwin, Jr.
A man and a few women have been kidnapped by aliens for breeding and possibly other purposes. Another story where intriguing premise is ruined by poor execution. There are telepathy, telekinesis and other psi-powers in the mix, and the plot line seems to be very confusing and uninteresting. Was this written for Astounding and rejected? **-
Jaywalker • shortstory by Ross Rocklynne
A woman goes to a passenger space ship using wrong identifications, as she has not passed compulsory health inspection. The space travels has some pretty serious health risks... The protagonist is so unbelievably stupid and childish silly woman, that by any rights she should have kicked out from the airlock. And there are about as stupid security arrangements in the space port. (Her husband is the spaceship captain, she is pregnant, and has jealous suspicions of her husband, and wants to tell him about the pregnancy. And she apparently KNOWS that extraordinary measures risking the life of everyone on board must be taken so she and the baby will survive the trip. **
A Stone and a Spear • novelette by Raymond F. Jones
A brilliant bio scientist who would be valuable for the war effort is raising tomatoes on the countryside. Has he gone mad? And on the other hand, is the war effort going too far as more and more dangerous chemical and biological agents are being developed? Time travelers from postapocalytic future are trying to influence their past and are trying to prevent wide-scale war. There are using vegetables which make brain function more peaceful. Idea ok, more than a bit too long. **½
The Waker Dreams • shortstory by Richard Matheson
A war is going on, and some kind of monsters, rustons, are attacking and destroying equipments. Those must be fighted against by any cost. Written in the second person past tense, and not very well. Stupid idea (there are no monsters, the fights are just against rust and other sorts of decay). **
Saturday, May 8, 2010
A biography of Alice B Sheldon, or James Tiptree Jr.
She seem to have been a person with very unusual life. Born to rich parents who took her to expeditions to darkest Africa when she was just a small child, later artist, a volunteer in female army corps during the second world war, intelligence analyzer for CIA, and for a short time she and her husband run a chicken hatchery, and later a scientist with a doctorate in psychology. And then she started to write science fiction using a pen name "James Tiptree Jr.", and had very active correspondence with several sf authors who all believed her to be a male. The book is very interestingly written, and gives a good picture of Sheldon and her very confused gender identity, but at many place was very depressing book. She never found herself at home in a very restrictive role the women had in US for most of 20th century, and had to copy with severe depression and misuse of drugs, mainly amphetamines, for most of her life. (I wonder if she had something what would nowadays be called an ADHD spectrum disease, that might in part explain why she had so many, so different “careers” in her life, had so much difficulties coping with “regular life” and why she found amphetamine-type drugs so “good” for her).
One thing I would have wanted to see in the book would have some examples of the paintings Alice Sheldon made in the 30's, when she was on her artist phase. She had some exhibitions, and was able to sell several paintings, but there are no pictures of them in the book. Otherwise, this very comprehensive work, and makes one want to reread some of Tiptree's works.
Monday, May 3, 2010
SF collection containing sf stories which are about sf. For most part pretty interesting collection.
A Galaxy Called Rome • (1975) • novelette by Barry N. Malzberg
Comments about a science fiction story, and what kind of plot points would be possible. Ok, fairly nice, not necesserely in my taste. ***½
Who's Cribbing? • (1953) • shortstory by Jack Lewis
Every story an author is trying to submit turns out to be a copy of an older one. Not very original. ***-
The Merchant of Stratford • (1979) • shortstory by Frank Ramirez
A time traveller goes to meet Shakespeare. He is nothing like expected, of course. ****
One Rejection Too Many • (1978) • shortstory by Patricia Nurse
A time traveller tries to get a story published in IASFM. Without having too much of success. OK, average story. ***
The Pinch Hitters • (1979) • shortstory by George Alec Effinger
A few sf authors find themselves in the bodies of 50' baseball players. Ok, nothing really special. ***-
Mute Inglorious Tam • (1974) • shortstory by Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth
A serf in early middle-ages dreams of some science fictional stuff. Not much room for imagination at that era, however. ***?
The Curse of Mhondoro Nkabele • (1978) • novelette by Eric Norden
A native Senegalese read 30's and 40's pulp stories when he was growing up. When he moves to US, he writes more of that kind of stuff. First he hasn't too much succes with editors, but he has some unusual means of persuation...Very good story. ****-
The Pro • (1964) • shortstory by Edmond Hamilton
Science fiction author's son is on the first moon expedition. Melancholic, nice story. ***+
The Reunion at the Mile-High • (1989) • shortstory by Frederik Pohl
Alternative world where nuclear weapons were not developed at all, but biological research has advanced a lot, and science fiction authors are highly respected. Good one. ***½
The World Science Fiction Convention of 2080 • (1980) • shortstory by Ian Watson
SF-con in postapoacalyptis world. OK very short story, ***
His Award-Winning Science Fiction Story • (1988) • shortstory by Mike Resnick
Characters of a story comment the quality and style of writing. Ok, nothing really special. ***-
The Monkey's Finger • (1953) • shortstory by Isaac Asimov
Science fiction author tries to prove him can write more creative stories than a monkey connected to a computer. Ok, average Asimov. ***+
Hapgood's Hoax • (1990) • shortstory by Allen Steele
Science fiction author sets up a ufology cult and gets rich. Very good story. ****
Waterspider • (1964) • novelette by Philip K. Dick
Timetravellers from the future kidnap Poul Anderson from a con in 50's. Pretty good and fun story, probabply best in the collection. ****
Hark! Was That the Squeal of an Angry Thoat? • shortstory by Avram Davidson
I didn't get this one at all. Totally baffled. *
Corridors • (1982) • shortstory by Barry N. Malzberg
Malzberg whining about who horrible it is write science fiction is, why it ruins marriages and turns writers to alcoholismn while they are attending conventions. Similar charade his presented in his book, Breakfast in the Ruins. Typical attitude for alcoholic loser: the fault is always somewhere else. No one pours alcohols down from the author throat, and I believe that few male author have been raped on conventions by beautiful female fans.Prety well written piece, however. ***½
Saturday, May 1, 2010
Fairly nice issue. A lot of space is taken by a serial
The Telzey Toy • [Telzey Amberdon] • novelette by James H. Schmitz
A kind of retreat of the Island of Dr Moreau. A rich man has an island where he creates artificial lifeforms for his nefarious purposes. These lifeforms are based on biological androids which are commonly used for stage plays, who have not been really capable or independent though before the refinements made by the inventor. Then he catches a young beautiful female telepath, who has more or less by accident gotten some inkling of his secrets. He makes a perfect copy of her including all her memories, brings the original and the copy together, and doesn't tell which is which. Pretty good story. The main problem is that by the end the telepathic abilities of heroine seem to grow to deus ex machina like level, and seem able to do almost anything. ****-
Homage • shortstory by Stephen Robinett [as by Tak Hallus ]
A man who has lived most of his live on a colony planet is coming for a visit to earth. However, it seems that he won't have any immunity against earth diseases. Nicely written with bittersweet tone. Immunology in the story is totally ridiculous, but a good story anyway. ***½
The Enemy • shortstory by M. R. Anver
A member until recently hostile of alien race is the only survivor of very strange accident on an alien planet. Can he be trusted? And what caused the violent death of several humans? Pretty average story, nothing really surprising. ***-
Sprog • novelette by Jack Wodhams
A man learns to make ”scientific horoscopes” which are 100% accurate. He has some problems to get anyone, even the defense ministry to be interested in his invention. Then he attracts the attention of a man who is heavily into horse racing and betting. Things are naturally not so easy...Far too much space is used for uninteresting details of horse racing and betting systems – cutting much of that clutter would have made a better story. **½
A steampunk novel with zombies, that's something new for me.
A city of Seattle has walled over after an accident involving a burrowing machine invented by a mad scientist. When he lost control of the machine during a test run, he destroyed most of the banks of the town and at the same time released toxic gas to the city. The gas is heavier than air, and kill everything it touches. Except those people it turns to zombies.
A young mother lives outside the walls with her teenage son. Her grandfather was a hero, who at the cost of his own life saved the captives from the local brig. Her husband was the scientist who is suspected of destroying the city. They have live more or less isolated life but are treated with more than a little suspicions by most people. Then the son decides that he wants to clear his fathers name goes to inside the walled city to find proof for his innocence. Not particularly good idea when the city is full of highly poisonous gas and ravenous zombies.
All events of the book happen during a fairly short time span, during just a couple of days. The plot follows for the most part alternating between the boy trying to find his parents' old house and his mother who goes for a rescue mission. Inside the city they'll meet several characters, a few malevolent, a few not, as there are still people living there in air proofed cellars.
The beginning of the book where the world was described was very interesting. However, the ending of the book seemed a bit too easy and fast.
I gave some heavy criticism of scientific accuracy of the Windup Girl. This time...well let's say that it is hard to use phrases “scientific accuracy” and “zombies” in the same sentence. Anyway, this was a very entertaining book.