Sunday, October 31, 2010
A below average issue where most stories are well past their time.
Category Phoenix • novella by Lyle G. Boyd and William C. Boyd
US ( or the whole earth?) is ruled by a dictator. All occupations are very strictly defined and it is illegal to study anything which isn't clearly useful. For some reason the dictator seems to have time to meddle with affairs of single people and sometimes grants "free choices" and the recipients can use them do something of their own choosing. A professor has invented a way to stop aging process. ( the method and theory are surprising valid: the author almost predicts telomers their function in the aging process, and a method of genetic modification with a viral vector). Writing is average. Some details are a bit funny: 25 years old woman is young, beautiful and very sexy. Her twin sister who is 35 (without the treatment) is an old and ugly hag, really past her prime. ***
Lost Memory • shortstory by Peter Phillips (1920-)
Robots find an unknown type of robot which apparently has fallen down from the sky. It seems to be hurt, and doesn't first answer to any hails. It has a very curios design, and finding the central processing unit isn't easy. And when it starts to communicate, all it transmits seems to be gibberish, and it is trying to forbid the opening its carapace. Fairly average mildly amusing story, the writing was somewhat below average. ***+
Lover When You're Near Me • novelette by Richard Matheson
A man is having a work shift on an alien planet. He is supposed to supervise a trading station. His shift is only for six months - usually the work shifts are much longer. He has a live-in alien housekeeper, and at first everything seems to work fine. But the housekeeper can read minds and might have some plans of her own. Writing was average, the attitudes old-fashionable - the worst imaginable thing for a man would be to be controlled by a female. And the solution for the troubles what all the the supervisors have had would be totally obvious - if the alien housemaids always cause so much trouble, why they must have one? ***-
Wheels Within • shortstory by Charles V. De Vet
A contractor starts to have severe headaches and hallucinations. They start to involve the psychiatrist who is treating him and a mystic who is supposed to be able to heal him. There are a few not too surprising and fairly stupid twists and turnabouts. Writing is below average. **-
Freudian Slip • shortstory by Franklin Abel
A psychiatrist starts to suspect he has gone mad, as the earth becomes transparent. Soon he finds himself in a strange place psychoanalyzing a being, who is supposed to to remember earth, and who is starting to have memory lapses. Pretty strange story where neither the writing or the plot didn't impress me. Strange end-twist. Why some a supernatural near-god would have that kind of neurosis? **-
Garden in the Void • novelette by Poul Anderson
A young couple is prospecting asteroids, when they run to one which seems to have splotches of vegetation. They also find a stranded space ship, and finally a sole survivor who has gone a bit savage. Pretty old fashionable story with fairly sub average writing. And it funny when they dig limestone from an asteroid without batting an eyelid. **+
Friday, October 29, 2010
A very good issue with some excellent stories.
Damned If You Do ... • novella by Stephen L. Gillett, Ph.D.
A ski trip to an off-point mountain hill leads to some strange happenings. The skier seems to have lost some time and some memories, and there is a lump of gold in his pocket. And soon he is chased by men in dark suits. Pretty good, nicely written story. Some action sequences which were somewhat too long and could have been slightly cut in length. The beginning of the story was clearly stronger and better written than the last third.
Bambi Steaks • novelette by Richard A. Lovett
In a divided US where states are "red" or "blue", young people exchange their minds to find out how the other half lives. A yuppie bartender gets to experience the life of a construction worker. Very good and entertaining story.
The Astronaut • shortstory by Brian Plante
A teenage boy, who has always been interested in space, helps a beautiful astronaut's wife in lawn mowing and other chores while her husband is on mission. Very well written very enjoyable and moving story.
A Higher Level of Misunderstanding • shortstory by Carl Frederick
Diplomatic mission has some problems with machine translation and social norms. Light and enjoyable story.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Some good, some not so good stories.
The Man From Downstream • novella by Shane Tourtellotte
A strange man appears on a farm near Rome. He seems to be loaded up with silver and he is soon making all sorts of new, strange inventions, like a printing press, a steam engine and so on. A pretty good time travel story. Could have been clearly longer, now at places felt a bit too much like an outline. ****-
The Hebras And The Demons And The Damned • shortstory by Brenda Cooper
A colony on another planet has serious trouble with the local fauna which very ferocious, and there hasn't been any species which shows any signs of possible domestication. Good, but pretty short story, mainly a few scenes of a possible larger story. ***+
Deca-Dad • shortstory by Ron Collins
A man meets his grand-grand -and so on- father who is a crew member on a space ship travelling on relativistic speeds. . He is supposed to be Finnish descent, and to have a Finnish name (which isn't spelled right :-). Matter transfer gates are surpassing the older means of space travel. A short, simple story, nothing surprising. **+
Happy Are The Bunyips • shortstory by Carl Frederick
A zoo with some financial problems gets two new animals due to some sort of mishap. The animals are pretty strange, as the head zookeeper who thought he would be able to identify all large animals there are, hasn't ever seem such creatures. A fairly good story, another one which could have been somewhat longer. ***+
A Placebo Effect • shortstory by Brian C. Coad
A retired patent attorney gets some notorious publicity when a patent agreement he crafted years earlier almost causes war between China and India. India is apparently producing medicines which are more inert than placebo as they contain ingredients which suppresses the placebo effect. Somehow that makes the drug so powerful that Chinese is spending so much money on them, that it is causing financial problems. A really, really, stupid story. It might have worked as a probability zero yarn, but as a proper short story it is very ridiculous. And the author seems to imagine that homeopathic “medicines” work because the contain trace amounts of medicines. First, they DON'T work, secondly they DON'T contain and trace amounts of effective ingredients (except perhaps one molecule for every solar system size volume). **-
Home Is Where The Hub Is • novella by Christopher L. Bennett
Another in the series about a young man who wishes to find how the hub (an interstellar transport system) works. No progress is made. Mainly light chatter during an adventure, the main story doesn't progress. Not especially good. **+
Primum Non Nocere • novella by H. G. Stratmann
A woman has been condemned to rehabilitation camp because of her behavior. She has been eating several donuts everyday, and has already passed the maximum BMI allowed. The beginning was pretty good, but the joke didn't carry on, and there were a few too many twists in the end. ***-
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
A novel written by one of the more popular authors in Finland. The first I have read. A story about political intrigues from the 70s, involving Finnish president, Sovient union, the Finnish communist party and an agent of national security agency, whose father was executed by the president when he was commanding an firing squad after Finnish civil war. Written from several viewpoints in sort of stream of consciousness style. Ok, but not really my cup of tea.
Ensimmäinen Jari Tervon kirjoittama romaani, jonka olen lukenut. Minulla ei ole mitään etukäteistietoa kirjasta, tai oikein kunnolla tietoa edes Tervon kirjoitustyylistä. Satuin löytämään tämän pokkarin kirpputorilta, ja ajattelinpa testata tämänkin suositun kirjailijan kirjaa. Ihan kohtuullinen kokemus.
Kirja kertoo lähinnä nyt jo yli kolmenkymmenen vuoden takaisista poliittisista kuvioista sisä- ja ulkopolitiikan tiimoilta. Yksi päähenkilöistä on Kekkonen itse (jonka nimeä ei kertaakaan mainita), toinen päähenkilö on suojelupoliisissa työskentelevä väitöskirjaa tekevä poliisi, jonka isoisän Kekkonen on aikanaan sisällissodan aikana teloitettavana ampunut teloitusryhmää johtaessaan. Päähenkilön tavoitteena on todistaa Kekkosen olevan Neuvostoliiton vakooja, luikerrellen samalla hänen luottohenkilökseen. Kirjassa on useampi näkökulmahenkilö, ajoittain kerronta koostuu presidentin kirjoittamista päiväkirjamerkinnöistä, osansa saa myös päähenkilön sukulaisen muistelmat Siperian vankileirissä viettämästä ajasta.
Tietty hajanaisuus onkin sitten kirjan suurin ongelma. Kirjoitustyylikään ei ole ihan minun makuuni, ajoittain se on aivan liian tajunnanvirtaista löysää lätinää, jota olisi voinut reilusti tiivistää. Tämän kirjan perusteella en taida ihan heti toisiin Tervo kirjoihin tutustua, vaikka ei tämä missään nimessä mikään pettymys ollutkaan.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Fairly good issue, at least slightly above average.
Trucks • shortstory by Amy Bechtel
Mother is raising a “challenged” child who can't instantly calculate how many peas are dropped on the floor, and has strange trouble with calculus, even if he is already on second grade. On the other hand, he seems instinctively grasp facial expressions, something which is extremely hard and demands years and years learning them by heart. Very good “reversal” story. ****-
Misquoting the Moon • shortstory by David Bartell
A giant meteorite is about to hit earth. A few select humans will be able to emigrate to the moon. A man is hunting elephants (as there is no point in saving their lives as they are going to die out anyway). There is a fair amount of philosophical discussion. The writing is ok, but there are some bad anachronisms for a story which is supposed to be happening in mid to late 21st century. There are tube TVs, cars are using petrol and AIDS is certain death. Not to me to mention lax selection criteria for moon habitats and excruciatingly stupid behavior of the main character. **
Cool Neighbor • novelette by Jack McDevitt and Michael Shara
A gamma ray burst causes an emergency at a space station. One scientist who didn't survive was on track of major discovery and left some clues about it. A fairly good story, but bit disjointed, the beginning and end were somewhat separate, and probably was also a bit hurried. ***-
The Small Pond • novella by C. Sanford Lowe and G. David Nordley
Scenes from the life of a scientist and astronaut, who first finds an exoplanet and later emigrates to another solar system, has more than little trouble with authority figures (most of them more than deserving to have some trouble). The story consists of only loosely connected segments separated by several years, and didn't really form a cohesive entity. The writing was good, the characters were interesting, but somewhat less fragmentary storytelling style might have been nice. ***½
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
A below average issue. Ben Bova’s “novella” is the best story, but it is just an excerpt from a novel.
Escape Horizon • shortstory by Michael A. Burstein
A race around a black hole. A new contestant who has been the phenomenon of the season races against a seasoned veteran. Yawn. Partly a problem solving story, partly sports story. Not very interesting. **½
Enhancement, Incorporated • novelette by Rajnar Vajra
Murder investigation in a future world where most people have some sort of “virtual reality” embellishments. Not too well written and extremely irritating as the “mystery” is based on the details of imaginary technology, which is naturally unfamiliar for the reader. **-
The Suspended Fourth • shortstory by Paul Levinson
A colonist on a new planet which has a great number of birds, starts to suspect that the birds are able to warn about danger by changing their song after his wife is killed by lighting shortly after landing on the planet. Writing ok, but the conclusions made by the characters seem to be somewhat too easily drawn. ***+
The Eyes of Freedom • novelette by Ramona Louise Wheeler
Two friends have some trouble on a planet, and as a punishment they are ordered to transport a prisoner to another planet. A light, fairly nice story, a bit too long. ***+
Death on Venus • novella by Ben Bova
An excerpt of a novel. An expedition travels to Venus to rescue the body of a former explorer. Naturally there is some personal conflict and natural threats, also. Well written, and even entertaining, but the story is left completely open. Just an excerpt, I believe it shouldn’t have been published as such. ***-
Monday, October 11, 2010
Interplanetary intrigue ensues when ”Company” (a giant conglomerate which takes care of humanity's colonies on other solar systems and has been responsible for the exploration) and “Alliance” (an alliance of farther colonies which want to get out of the influence of the Company) are battling against each other. The Company fleet has been losing the war, and their ragtag fleet arrives at Pell, one of few places where there is a habitable world besides the giant space stations which are most commonly used for bases. Among the fleet there are a many refugees, and the life the space station is suddenly severely disrupted. End then there a few hundred pages of fairly boring intrigue among different factions, before the action again picks up for a few dozen last pages and some sort of resolution is reached, at least for a while. Not much happened, there were too many characters who were hard to distinguish from each other, and sometimes it wasn't easy to understand the motives of some characters. Why would an essentially mercenary Company fleet be so passionate about fighting and try to ignore the peace negotiations made by the company officers? The writing style was hard to follow. At places there were 70-80 word long sentences and it seemed clumsy in other ways,also. And the book starts with very long, very boring info-dump which wasn't exactly an engaging beginning. This book is not among my favorites Hugo award winner, but not worst, either, but somewhere well below average.
Monday, October 4, 2010
Pretty variable quality of stories in this issue. Some good, some not so good. I read this issue as en alectronic version, as I haven't gotten even October issue yet as my subscription copy.
Phantom Sense • novella by Richard A. Lovett and Mark Niemann-Ross
A former special forces agent has some trouble adjusting to civil life. He used to have control of a swarm of bio-engineered insects carrying surveillance equipment, but when he quit his job he lost his swarm. When one is used to aware of everything inside a radius of a few hundred meter and when one loses that suddenly it's like you would have lost one of your ordinary senses, and more. His marriage breaks, he loses connection to his daughter, and life generally suck. He follows his daughter's videoblog, where she is complaining about those irritating flies which follow her, especially when she is changing her clothes... A good story, maybe a bit too easy ending. ****-
Zoo Team • shortstory by Allen M. Steele
A team of astronauts are on a “practice run” before manned mars mission. Several different teams are being tested for how they manage the isolation for a long period. One team consists of practical jokers and people with authority problems. They find out that their group has been selected as a certain failure to make other groups look better. They decide to give the controllers something to really think about...Pretty funny and enjoyable story. ***½
Contamination • shortstory by Jay Werkheiser
A group of researchers lives nearby a planet which orbits another star. They only study it, they have not even landed on it yet, as their leader are afraid of contaminating the native life. Then, another ship from earth arrives, and they were expecting that the planet would have been habited by now, and they are going to land as soon as possible. And both sides are ready to fight for their goals – or at least their leaders are ready to sacrify other people for those ideals. Fairly good, but the motives of the “conservationists” could have been explained better. ***
Howl of the Seismologist • novelette by Carl Frederick
A seismologist happens to have a dog which is able to predict earthquakes. He has also taken notes of all howls the dog has made when there hasn't been any earthquake. Correlating that information he and his friend find out that particle colliders are causing earthquakes, especially when two are run at the same time. I didn't like writing, and there were some illogicalities. One would imagine that particle beam accelerators would have automatic shutdown systems to shut them down in case in earthquakes as one would imagine that any shaking would spoil the containment of the particle beams anyway. And it felt slightly forced when one character was described as having “dilated pupils and sweat-glistening forehead”; it wasn't hard to guess what was his problem. **
The Deadliest Moop • shortstory by Michael A. Armstrong
Most or the orbital satellites have been blown up. It isn't know who has done it, but there is a lot of rubbish on orbit which poses a danger for space ships. “A garbage collector” space craft encounter something strange. A fairly fragmentary story and a bit more backstory would have been nice. I didn't like the writing too much either, as it was a bit too colloquial for my taste. **+
Outbound • novelette by Brad R. Torgersen
Earth is destroyed in a war. A young paraplegic boy manages to survive fortuitously and an old couple who is traveling on an old space observatory picks him up. (Well, the husband has died years earlier, and lives as a computer simulation). They decide to head outwards to the oort cloud, where has been rumored to exist human habitats. A very good story, well written especially considering that this is apparently the first published story by this author. The only downside of the story was that it was somewhat too short and hurries at places. Maybe a novella or even novel form would have been better. ****-