Monday, August 30, 2010

Analog Science Fiction and Fact October 2010

Fairly average issues. None of the stories were really bad, but none was exceptionally good, either.

The Rift • novella by John G. Hemry
Aliens which were supposedly non-violent have slaughtered almost all members of a research station, and wipe out a military force which was sent for help. What made the aliens to turn against humans so suddenly? Why there are not attacking the few survivors?
A fairly good story, some condensing from dialogue heavy middle part might have made it better. There are a few minor quips: The concept of laughing before battle/death is new and incomprehensible to the scientists – haven't any of them ever read any war stories or watched any movies involving battles? ***+
Midwife Crisis • novelette by Dave Creek
A woman who has been enhanced to be comfortable in aquatic environment helps a gigantic whale like sentient sea creature which has fallen ill. She travels through the vascular system of the “leviathan” to protect an embryo from the disease the adult has. The comparative sizes seem strange, on the other hand the woman easily moves through veins, on the other hand she is able to irritate whale's bladder and help the giant child inside a giant womb. Also, there seem to very large spaces inside the creature – especially a sea-creature wouldn't have empty air filled areas inside it. Also, they are using ANTIcoagulant to stop bleeding?! The characters weren't too engaging and the writing wasn't among the best in this issue. **
Never Saw it Coming • shortstory by Jerry Oltion
An amateur astronomic finds a new comet on a near earth orbit. The media blows that out of proportion speculating about a nearly sure end of the world. Lightly told very nice story with a warm ending (in spite of the subject matter). ***½
The Great Galactic Ghoul • novelette by Allen M. Steele
A story of an accident in space, and how it happened. The events are described in past tense as a kind story inside a story, and there are perhaps too many details which have nothing to do with the main plot. A different approach might have worked better. Now you didn't really care for the characters, told in some other way this could have a really moving tale. ***-
The Alien at the Alamo • shortstory by Arlan Andrews
An alien abductee is interviewed by an alien – voluntary for a change – and gets a change to ask some questions from the alien. As I am a fairly amusical person, I probably missed some of the references here. The alien tests for emotional responses to music, and they are apparently trying to “uplift” humanity by some special musical pieces. Apparently there are not succeeding as well they are hoping (Not surprising, as about the only thing I understand about music is this: the newer music, the worse it is). ***-
The Whole Truth Witness • shortstory by Kenneth Schneyer
It maybe very hard to be lawyer is there is a treatment which makes it impossible to lie. Why – that is something I really don't get. If the cause is just (as it seems in this case) shouldn't a witness who speaks always the truth be a good thing? And is the fairly complicated treatment really so common that the law office is having so many problems? Writing was ok. ***-

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Best Food Writing 2005 by Holly Hughes

A collection essays involving food, cooking and restaurants which are collected from several sources. The tone and quality varies a lot. Some of the stories are interesting, some informative, some funny, and a few plain dull – fortunately not too many of those. A few recipes which would be nice to try out.

325 pp.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Asimov's Science Fiction, July 2010

Fairly average issue, a slight disappointment considering the authors involved. Read as an e-book during lunch hours and waiting for different appointments. That might have hurt a few stories, as some of them were fairly fragmentary and not too easy to follow.

The Other Graces • shortstory by Alice Sola Kim
A Korean girl is struggling with everyday life. Sat tests, finding the real and good collage, everyday racism and family life. She starts to hear voices which promise to help her on the Sat tests. Not much is explained, maybe too little is explained.  Writing is pretty good, though. ***½
Haggle Chips • novelette by Tom Purdom
A trader gets kidnapped and used as a pawn in a power struggle. He is treated very well, and even finds a companion, but as time goes on he really wants to get out. The kidnappers are pretty sympathetic and have a worthwhile agenda, and he has some qualms escaping. Pretty good and entertaining story. ***½
Eddie's Ants • shortstory by D. T. Mitenko
How to kill an intelligent ant colony who has stolen your girlfriend? Nice, light story. ***+
The Jaguar House, in Shadow • novelette by Aliette de Bodard
An alternative history where America is ruled by Indians. There is apparently some sort of competition. A hard story to follow up, especially when you are reading it from an Iphone during several lunch hours. I didn't really get it, but the fault is probably mostly in me. **
Amelia Pillar's Etiquette for the Space Traveler • shortstory by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Just what the title says. Fun little piece about to be a space tourist of interstellar cruise ship. A lighthearted nice piece. ***-
A History of Terraforming • novella by Robert Reed
Segments from a life of one man, who is closely involved in terraforming, its early failures and later successes. Short episodes, showing different sides of things. A bit too fragmented, not among my favorite Reed stories. A longer form might have been better? ***-

Cormac McCarthy: Tie (The Road)

Finnish translation of Road. Excellent but depressing book, one of the best books I have read this year. Translation was very good.

Mies ja poika vaeltavat pimenevässä tuhkan täyttämässä maailmassa tietä pitkin kohteena meri ja etelä. Lähes kaikki muut ovat kuollut, ja viimeiset ihmiset taistelevat sivilisaation jäänteistä. Ruokana ovat vain talojen raunioista pengotut vanhat säilykepurkit.

Kielellisesti kirja on omaperäinen, tyylikästä, hyvin lyhyistä, mutta paljonpuhuvista lauseista koostuvaa, etäännyttävää, ulkopuolelta tapahtuvaa kuvausta, mutta samalla se onnistuu olemaan tunteita herättävää. Henkilöiden nimiä ei missään vaiheessa paljasteta, mutta tämä pikemminkin tekee kuvauksesta henkilökohtaisemman tuntuista.

Tarina on osapuilleen niin synkkä kuin voi olettaa. Toivottomuus ja ahdistus ovat vahvasti mukana koko ajan ja toivonpilkahdukset ja mukavat hetket jäävät vähäisiksi.

Katastrofia ei tarkkaan kuvailla, mutta jokin on tappanut kaikki vihreät kasvit, ja tämän vuoksi myös kaikki eläimet ovat kadonneet. Lisäksi ilmasto vaikuttaa olevan jäähtymässä, aurinkoa ei juuri näy. Miksi ja miten jäävät avoimiksi kysymyksiksi.

Muutama asia katastrofissa jäi kyllä mietityttämään: Jos vähintään noin 98% ihmisistä on kuollut, niin miten ihmeessä saattoi olla niin kova puute kengistä? Kyllähän niitä olisi pitänyt löytyä taloista ja vähän joka puolelta enemmän kuin tarpeeksi.

239 s.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Analog Science Fiction and Fact January 2000

Pretty average issue. Hal Clement's novella was overlong and boring, but Brin'r novellette on the other hand was pretty exellent.

Under • novella by Hal Clement
A direct continuation to Hal Clement’s Mission Of Gravity stories. The same setting, the same characters, but unfortunately not same quality. The Mesklinites build a balloon. Not much happens very slowly. I wonder why most authors turn so long winded in their writing on their later years? I must admit I gave up in about 75% to the story. *½
Time Out of Joint • shortstory by Pauline Ashwell
A time traveler deals with antiques. Guaranteed to be genuine. When a 100% exact copy of a Greek vase turns up, the dealer has some explaining to do. An average story, part of a series? ***-
Greenhouse Chill • shortstory by Ben Bova
Post apocalyptic story. Sea levels have risen decades ago and old style life has almost been forgotten. But there is a new, even more catastrophic climate change coming. Have people learned anything? A pretty good story, might have been somewhat longer. ***+
Loki • shortstory by Larry Niven
A space ship functions as “black monolith” for generations upon generations of aliens. Very short story, not bad. ***+
The Cost of Having a Kid • shortstory by Brian C. Coad
It is possible to plan children beforehand by a computer simulation by analyzing the genomes of sperm cells and ovules, and making composites until you get the exactly right mix. Unfortunately it is very expensive to go to the real child from a simulation. Earning enough money is trouble in itself, especially if you and your wife don't agree on which would be the right child. ***
Tethys Deep • shortstory by Pete D. Manison
A family is diving on Saturn's moon Tethys, and the deep water station they are going to has disappeared. And their father was on board, and everyone must surely be dead – but are they? A bit mushy story, might have been better on slightly longer form. ***-
Pow'r • novelette by James E. Gunn 
Continues an earlier story. The humanity has gotten the secrets for unlimited power and for interstellar flight from an alien transmission. The secret of free energy has been taken to wide spread use. But nobody seems to be interested in space travel (everything in earth is supposed to be SO perfect, that no-one wants to leave earth. Yeah, sure. But in secret one group is preparing for spaceflight..Pretty loose story with some strange assumptions. Worse than the first part of the series. **½
Soapbox Cop Blues • novelette by Stephen L. Burns
A government cyber-crime unit works against hackers and restores net-sites which have been hacked. Most of the hacked sites are more deserving of being hacked, as most of them are racist or far right/left. Restore such sites is really getting on the nerves of a new worker. But the members of the unit have some nice free time activities... Pretty good and entertaining story. ***½
Stones of Significance • (1998) • novelette by David Brin
Singularity has passed, and near paradise has arrived for those who were ready merge with computers. Everyone has practically unlimited intelligence and wealth. One group of intelligences would like to grant citizenship rights to constructs made from fictional characters. Another wants to counter that proposition. Their representative finds a novel approach to find the best strategy to prevent that. Very good story, which was easily the best in the issue. ****

Sunday, August 15, 2010

On Basilisk Station by David Weber

I read this book as a free download from Baen free library.

The first book in an apparently pretty popular series about Honor Harrington, a spaceship captain in the Navy of the kingdom of Manticore. The popularity of the series is fairly hard to understand, as at least the first part wasn't too good. The book was really slow moving. Never, ever have I seen so much exposition in any book. There are literally pages and pages describing the background of the world in mind-numbing detail. And that is given as info-dumps of pages-long techno babble. Sometimes, in middle of a battle, there might be a description of the history and mechanism of space torpedoes covering a few pages. Another irritating and unusual feature of the book is the usage of internal monologue. It feels that most of the book is narrated through people speaking to themselves in their minds. Sometimes the character's viewpoint seemed to change pretty suddenly, and it wasn’t always easy to keep track of who was ”speaking.” The book starts when Honor Harrington gets her first command post. As the Manticore’s Navy is apparently run by idiots, her ship is crippled by a new weapons system that functions well only in very special circumstances. When it functions as expected (that is, doesn’t work at all) during exercises, she and her ship are banished to the most important junction point of the Manticore kingdom. As the kingdom and the Navy ARE run by complete idiots, that is somewhere where the most incompetent captains and ships are sent. At the same time, an enemy empire is plotting against Manticore. In the end, Honor naturally saves the day after a few fairly boring and long-winded space battles. (A few of the space battles in this book seem to employ surprisingly two-dimensional tactics, considering this is supposed to happen in space, not at sea.) Even if the Manticore kingdom really seems to be something worth complete destruction, with its nepotism and idiotic leadership, I strongly suspect that I won’t be reading the next dozen or so parts of this series.

464 pp.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Pat Cadigan: Mielenpeli (Mindplayers)

A translation of Mindplayers. As I read this book in Finnish, I am going to write the main review in Finnish. Let's just say that the book was ok, but I wasn't a great fan of cyberpunk before reading this book, and I am not a fan of that genre after reading this book. There were some slight problems with the translation, especially with the name of main protagonist.

En ole cyberpunkin erityinen ystävä. En kyllä kovin montaa tämän alagenren kirjaa ole edes lukenut. Tämä kirja oli ihan kohtuullinen, mutta ei minään erityisesti houkutellut lukemaan lisää saman tyylisiä teoksia. Kirja kertoo Alliesta, joka kaverinsa houkuttelemana kokeilee kahjohattua, joka tekee hulluksi. Hulluuden piti kadota, mutta toisin käy, ja Allie joutuu hakeutumaan hoitoon, jääden samalla kiinni laittoman laitteen käytöstä. Allie joutuu valinnan eteen, hän joko joutuu vankilaan, tai hänen on kouluttauduttava mielenhallinnan ammattilaiseksi. Valinta ei kovin vaikea ole. Kirja on varsin hajanainen, eikä siinä ole kovin selkeää juonta. Paikoitellen kirjan teksti on liian kikkailevaa, ja juoni viettää aivan liian pitkiä aikoja milloin kenenkin henkilön mielen sisällä, jolloin tarinankerronta on varsin sekavaa ja rasittavaa. Vähän johdonmukaisempi juoni, ja vähemmän erikoisilla, huonosti kuvatuilla termeillä kikkailua, olisi ollut paremmin minun makuuni. Käännös oli muuten kohtalainen, mutta Allien ”työnimi”, Salamieli Allie ei mielestäni ollut kovin onnistunut tulkinta alkuperäisestä Deadpan Alliesta. Vasta kuin sain tietää alkuperäisen nimen, tajusin kunnolla kirjassa esiintyneet kuittailut Allien nimestä. Muutenkin ammatti- ja muut termit tuntuivat enemmän kuin hiukan vaikeasti ymmärrettäviltä, mutta en tiedä olisinko niitä paremmin englanniksi ymmärtänyt (no, ainakin pathosfinder on selvästi tajuttavampi termi kuin ”lauhduttaja”). Ihan kohtalainen, keskitasoinen, ”kolmen tähden” kirja kyseessä oli.

352 s.

Analog Science Fiction and Fact September 2010

A very good issue – the best a long time. Most stories were excellent.

That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made • novelette by Eric James Stone
A Mormon missionary is working to convert aliens who live on the sun and are made from plasma. He has made some converts, but then a one of them has bad conscience about a sexual act.
A well written and good story, in spite of having a totally despicable main protagonist, who is trying to brainwash aliens to totally alien (to them) ideology. That point isn’t really discussed in the story; apparently the author doesn’t recognize the ethical problems. Personally, I think that all missionary work has some very racist connotations: OUR religion is so much better than YOUR religion. ****-

Pupa • novelette by David D. Levine
A story which is told from an alien viewpoint.
An alien child’s father is murdered just, when he was going to uncover an alien conspiracy. It is up to our hero to prevent that, and to take care of his siblings. Too bad, that he is in a larval stage, and has no rights what so ever and all other adult aliens totally ignore him, and are even ready to kill him. And the time to go to pupa is approaching. Another good story. ****-

Spludge • shortstory by Richard A. Lovett
Little green men come to earth on an April Fools Day. And they behave in a pretty strange way… An experienced prankster starts to have some suspicions… and starts to plan a prank of his own. A fun little story. ***½

Red Letter Day • shortstory by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
At fifty years of age, everyone gets to send a letter back in time for their younger counterpart. Some people get encouraging letters, some get letters that warn the recipient about something, but a few get no letter at all. A very good and though provoking story. ****+

Flotsam • shortstory by K.C. Ball
A problem solving story. How to back to earth after an accident on orbit? Ok effort for a new author (?), but fairly ordinary story. At places felt a little disorganized. ***-

The View from the Top • shortstory by Jerry Oltion
A scientist on ISS starts to have some emotional problems. They are getting so bad, that he is ready to ground himself. But might there be some other solution. A smooth, fairly good story. Average for Oltion. ***

Sandbagging • shortstory by Kyle Kirkland
Everything is controlled by a self-aware, giant computer in the name of functionality. The computer has apparently decided that there are about 50% too many people around. Is there anything that could be done to prevent that? A better than average story, but somehow felt somewhat disjointed. A longer form might have served better. ***+

Eight Miles • novelette by Sean McMullen
A steampunk story in Analog? Is this a first? A balloonist gets an interesting offer from a nobleman in 19th century Britain. The nobleman has found a strange woman, who is very lethargic and passive, and clearly is not a human. He assumes that she comes from the highlands of Tibet, and uses the balloon to get higher up to thinner air. Another very good story in an excellent issue. ****