Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Galaxy Science Fiction October 1952




Uneven issue. The lead novella is excellent, other stories less so.

Baby Is Three • novella by Theodore Sturgeon
An adolescent boy comes to psychiatrist's office. He wants to remember what he has done and why. The main story is told in flashbacks. He turns out to belong to a very special group of very special children. They are a “gestalt” who is still growing up. Extremely good and well written story, which is basis for one of the best science fiction novels of all time, More Than Human. ****½
Zen • shortstory by Jerome Bixby
A research team finds a living alien from an asteroid. The asteroid is a remnant of the fifth plane which exploded thousands of years ago. The race is incredibly tough and is able to survive in the vacuum indefinitely. One surviving specimen - male - had been found earlier, and that one is traveling with the expedition. The newly discovered alien is a female. A pretty predictable outcome happens. ***-
Wait for Weight • shortstory by Jack McKenty
A research project is trying to find a perfect rocket fuel. There is a four dimensional answer. Pretty boring story, nothing really special in it. **+
Halo • novelette by Hal Clement
There are some sort of being living between the stars, who cultivate organic molecules on planet for food. A youngster has been responsible for taking care of solar systems, and has failed spectacularly: he managed to explode the fifth planet, and by doing that has created an obstacle that can not be passed. An average story that suffers from two dimensional thinking: if there is an asteroid belt in the plane of ecliptic, it should be extremely easy to approach from “up” or “down” direction. ***-
Tree, Spare That Woodman • shortstory by Dave Dryfoos
Extremely strange story. There are alien mind reading trees invading cabins on an alien planet. Not too well written and pretty confusing story. **+
Game for Blondes • shortstory by John D. MacDonald
An alcoholic has killed his wife by drunk driving. He continues to drink, but has some very strange delirious visions. Another confusing story with some time travel elements. **+
A Little Oil . . . • novelette by Eric Frank Russell 
The third extrasolar expedition is returning. The two earlier ones have disappeared without a trace. The third one has had some trouble, also. They have lost several crew members, and hardly have enough to run the ship on the way home. There are severe tensions among the crew when they are approaching the point they should be able to see the sun. Are they going to the right direction? And some of the crew are behaving pretty strangely...Ok story, nothing special, the end twist was fairly lame. (one crew member was a famous clown to keep the morale up). **½

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bring the Jubilee by Ward Moore




One of the best known alternate reality books of all time. The south has won the civil war, the former USA consists of northern states, and is poorly developed country which is exploited by the rich Confederacy and the European empires. The technical development has gone different route – there are no internal combustion engines (that was unlogical and poorly explainable – internat combustion engine was a mainly European invention, and the major invention leading to it were made only a few years after the civil war ended, so it is unlikely that any “ripple effects” of the different outcome of the war would have had any effect), there is no electric illumination and no heavier than air aircrafts. The most state of art technologies are rare steam powered cars owned by the very rich and dirigibles. Racism is norm, especially in northern states. Blacks are “encouraged” to move away, most of the Jews and Orientals have been killed in ethnic cleanings, and some of the survivors have moved to independent Indian territories.

A poor young man from countryside wants to study at university. Unfortunately, he won't be accepted to any, and anyway, the norther universities aren't worth much, there is no funding and even less interest. However, he is invited to a private “school” where intelligent people can study what they want. As the school is self sustained, the duties of most scholars include farm work. He becomes an expert in the history of civil war. At the same time, a bright but unstable female scientist has developed a time machine. The historian has some doubts about a few details of the battle where the victory for the southern states was determined, and he decides to go back in time to see how the battle really was fought. Accidentally he changes the outcome of the battle and creates our reality.

The book is written in a nice old fashionable writing style which is a pleasure to read. The writing style reminded me more than a little Julian Comstock, this year's Hugo award finalist. The book has many ideas, but too few of them were examined in detail, as the main protagonist spent most of the book first working on a bookshop, and later he was living secluded life on a isolated villa/school, and the outside world wasn't really seen at all. In spite of that the book was very fascinating and well worth of reading.

189 pp

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Leena Lehtolainen: Henkivartija



An extremely unbelievable book which isn't too well written. The author is one of the leading mystery writers of Finland, and her former books have been much, much better. A extremely stupid female bodyguard has some problems with Russian criminals, makes love with a handsome double or triple agent, and has some very hard to believe encounters with different people.


Tämä arvostelu tulee sisältämään runsaasti spoilereita. Jos et ole lukenut tätä kirjaa, suositellen että et lue arvosteluani. Tai tarkemmin ajatellen, ehkä kannattaa kuitenkin lukea tämä arvostelu mieluummin kuin kirja.

Yleensä olen pitänyt Leena Lehtolaisen kirjoista, ja olen lukenut varmaan ne kaikki. Ihan suurilla odotuksilla tätäkin sitten aloitin. Pettymys oli aika paha.

Kirja kertoo naispuolisesta henkivartijasta, Hilja Ilveskerosta, joka lapsellisen pikaistumisen vuoksi eroaa tehtävistään. Myöhemmin samana iltana kun hän yrittää sopua työnantajansa kanssa, hän onnistuu tulla huumatuksi. Ja liikenainen jonka vartijana hän toimi on kuollut, ammuttu. Ovatko hänen enemmän tai vähemmän hämäräperäiset liiketuttavansa syyllisiä tähän tekoon? Vai onko Hilja itse tappanut huumattuna entisen työnantajansa?

En ole ikinä lukenut yhtään Harlekiini-sarjan kirjaa. Tämä kirja on osapuilleen sellainen, jonkalaisia olen ajatellut Harlekiinit-romaanien olevan. Ei erityisen hyvin, varsin yksinkertaisella kielellä kirjoitettu, epäuskottava ja naurettava juoni, runsaasti romantiikkaa ja seksiä, joka sekin on enemmän tai vähemmän epäuskottavaa, ja onnellinen loppu, jossa sankaritar saa urhean alfa-uroksensa. Hilja on muka käynyt kovatasoisen henkivartijakoulun New Yorkissa. Mitään hän ei siellä näytä oppineen, muuta kuin ajoittain liiallisuuksiin menevän paranoidisuuden. Paitsi tietysti silloin, kun pitäisi olla vähän paranoidinen. Hän tekee koko ajan aivan tolkuttoman älyttömiä virheitä ja ratkaisuja. Erotaanpas kesken työtehtävää äkkipikaisesti viimekädessä älyttömän pienen syyn takia. Poistetaanpas viesti, joka voisi olla todistamassa ulkopuolisen murhaajan olemassa olosta. Rakastutaanpas noin vain ensisilmäyksellä mieheen, joka on todennäköisesti parhaimmillaan pahiksien vakooja, ja pahimmillaan tullut likvidoimaan Hiljan itsensä turhana todistajana ja silminnäkijänä.

Juonenkäänteet kirjassa ovat myös täydellisen naurettavia, ja vain pahenevat loppua kohden. Jotenkin Suomenlahden kaasuputki (joka vie kaasua Saksaan) pahentaa Suomen energiariippuvuutta Venäjästä. Ja pahis oligarkki, joka vastustaa putken rakentamista, saadakseen öljynsä varmemmin kaupaksi aikoo sabotoida hanketta radioaktiivista isotooppia mereen levittämällä. Logiikkaa tässä kyllä jää pahasti auki, mitäs haittaa sen isotoopin levittämisellä muka kaasuputken laskemiseen olisi? Uhkailukin tyyliin: ”Ostatte minulta öljyä tai tuhoan meren” ei ehkä ihan uskottavalta vaikuta. Enkä kyllä ole kuullut, että öljyn kaupaksi saamisessa ylivoimaisia vaikeuksia olisi ollut muutenkaan.
Hyvin erikoisia sattumia tapahtuu koko ajan parhaaseen deus-ex-machina tyyliin. Juuri kun Hilja on menossa vapauttamaan siepattua kansanedustajaa, niin sieppareiden huvilalle on sattumalta tilattu ilotyttö, joka sattumalta ajaa kolarin matkalla, ja sitten sattumalta Hiljaa luullaan kyseiseksi ilotytöksi, ja sattumalta ilotytön ”työasuun” kuuluu mm. lasso, jolla on helppo pääpahis sitoa, ja sattumalta huvilallle on jäänyt jonkin transvestin jäljiltä seksikkäät kengät, jotka ovat niin isot, että Hilja ase mahtuu niihin.
Muitakin virheitä kirjaan mahtuu, poistaapa Hilja yhdessä vaiheessa yksittäisiä valokuvia CD-ROM levyiltä. Mitähän se Read-Only-Memory mahtoikaan tarkoittaa?

Tekstikin on jotenkin paljon yksikertaisempaa, ja vähemmän nautittavaa kuin aikaisemmissa Leena Lehtolaisen kirjoissa. Mikä idea tässä romaanissa oikein oli? Joissain ammattiarvioissa taidettiin miettiä sitä onko kirja parodia. En tiedä tekeekö se, että hyvä kirjailija kirjoittaa huonon kirjan, kirjasta parodian.

355 s.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Analog Science Fiction and Fact June 2007



A fairly nice issue.

 The Sands of Titan • [Floyd and Brittney] • novella by Richard A. Lovett
A man and his AI crash-land on Titan. They encounter several obstacles, but manage to stay alive and solve all problems they are facing. At the same time, the AI is growing from a teenager to more adult behavior patterns. A good, entertaining and well written story. ****
Father Hagerman's Dog • shortstory by Scott William Carter
A young man is collecting money for his collage education by selling robot dogs. He is trying to make a sale for his former neighbor; a rich but eccentric old man. He doesn't seem to have too much luck first. Short, but fairly funny. Writing was ok, but there is a pretty strange electric car. Its' motor idles. ***½
On the Bubble • novelette by Rajnar Vajra
A retired man who lives on a nursing home takes part to his grandchild's trip to amusement park using virtual reality/remote sensing equipments of a sort. His daughter in law, the mother of his grandchild, is a police officer. There seems to be something suspicious going on, and it turns out that a band of criminals is planning an attack at that day. Another pretty good story. ***½
 A Zoo in the Jungle • shortstory by Carl Frederick
A moon explorer finds an alien device. Naturally he and his friend must try it out: of course you always start to push buttons on a totally unknown device. A totally stupid premise and the description of the effects of different buttons takes FAR too much space. **½

Friday, November 19, 2010

Hannu Luntiala: Petri Vallin toinen elämä




A mailman who is making a delivery finds a dead man. He decides to impersonate the late sexual therapeutic. A book which is written from several viewpoints. Everyone has secrets and hidden agendas. And everyone is trying to double-cross other characters. A well written book, a good read with a few surprises.

Postinkantaja toimittaa kirjettä joka vaatii vastaanottajan kuittauksen. Kukaan ei vastaa ovikelloon, mutta valot ovat päällä. Postinkantaja uskaltautuu sisään avatusta ovesta, ja löytää vastaanottajan menehtyneenä tietokoneensa edestä. Postimies muistuttaa sattumalta ruumiinrakenteeltaan hyvin paljon menehtynyttä miestä, ja hänellä on ollut yksityiselämässään vaikeuksia., joten hän saa ajatuksen: hän ”valtaa” kuolleen miehen elämän. Sopivasti mies on elänyt suhteellisen eristynyttä elämää, eikä pääsy hänen puhelimensa tietoihin, pankkiyhteyksiin ja sähköposteihin tuota ylipääsemättömiä vaikeuksia. Kuolleen miehen ammatin omaksuminen kestää vain hieman pidempään – seksuaaliterapeutti on pitänyt asiakkaistaan tarkkaa kirjanpitoa, ja siihen ja terapiasessioiden nauhoituksiin tutustuminen antaa hyvän pohjan työn jatkamiselle ja vähän muutakin kiihotusta.
Tästä kirja lähtee etenemään. Kertojaääniä on useampi, yhteistä kaikille on se, että totuudessa kukaan ei pysy, ja aivan kaikilla kirjan henkilöillä on jotain salattavaa, eikä yleensä ihan pientä salattavaa olekaan.
Usean kertojan käyttöä voi pitää hajanaisuutena, mutta itse yleensä pidän tämän tyyppisistä kerrontaratkaisuista, ja mielestäni se toimi hyvin. Tosin sivujuoni lentokentällä tapahtuneesta eko-intoilijoiden sabotoimasta taideteoksesta vaikutti aika irralliselta. Joka tapauksessa kyseessä on varsin mielenkiintoinen ja hyvin kirjoitettu kirja, jota voi suositella.

252 s.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Analog Science Fiction and Fact April 2000



A clearly below average issue.

Obsidian Harvest • novella by Rick Cook and Ernest Hogan
The story happens in an alternative world where the Indian empires in central and southern America were never conquered. There are also giant lizards, some of them intelligent and there is religious reverence towards them. There is a kidnapping and a killing of one lizard and both cases are being investigated. Little back-story was given, and it was fairly hard to get into the story. Writing was pretty good, but it really felt like a part of series. Maybe the story would have worked better with out one difference from the ”real” world. ***-
The Comeback • shortstory by James Van Pelt
A baseball story. Extremely boring. The story is full of baseball trivia and depends on some details of the game. Couldn't care less. *½
Pilgrimage to Overworld • shortstory by Pete D. Manison
Some people have apparently retired to live beneath the earth surface, another group has moved to the starts. Both have changed during eons, and have been unknown to each other. By a change there is a meeting. By far too short a story to handle so large a concept. The story tries to be a melancholic tale, but doesn't really deliver. **
A Matter of Pride • shortstory by Ron Collins
A really good AI ( or a really well designed computer virus) teams with a computer programmer. A short fairly amusing story. Not great, somewhat too easy solution. ***+
Maiden Flight • novelette by Michael F. Flynn
A new space cadet takes part to her first space flight. Naturally there are complications during the flight, which are naturally solved by the new cadet. There was a far too detailed and boring description of pre-flight checks and other boring details. Many people have very strange chauvinistic attitudes (I had some trouble understanding the motivations of some some people in an earlier part of this series, now I didn't get some of the attitudes), writing was ok, but some tightening might have been good. ***
The Virtual Congressional Caucus • novelette by Shane Tourtellotte
A congressional representative who uses remote representation (and is not working in Washington) tries to fight against a proposition which would give people direct voting rights, without representatives. Pretty boring story with a lot of political scheming and wrangling of the constitutional details. ***-

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Farnhams Freehold by Robert A Heinlein




A book by Heinlein I had never even heard before I got it from the bookmooch. No wonder this book is fairly unknown.
A fairly dysfunctional family has gathered for dinner. The father has built a state of art bomb shelter, as they live close to an army base. The evening is disturbed when the Soviets start a nuclear strike. The family, a friend of family's daughter and a black servant/handyman working for the family all retire to the bomb shelter. They survive the attack which involves an almost bull's eye hit, and emerge from the shelter. To their surprise all marks of civilization have disappeared, there are no radioactivity, no ruins or devastation. Surroundings are green and there is plenty of game around. They assume that the nuclear explosion has sent them to an alternate universe or something like that. They settle down, but soon they discover that they are not the only humans around. The black people rule, whites are mostly fairly well treated slaves who have been made docile by selective breeding, upbringing and castration. There are some slight racist undercurrents in the book :-) (but fewer than it might seem from the short description). As most things Heinlein has written this is a very readable book. If it is an enjoyable one, is a different matter. The characterization is pretty bad and one-dimensional. None of the characters is likeable, some are extremely irritating. Hugh's son is a sissy “mama's boy” to unbelievable degree. His daughter is “papa's girl” up to hinting that she is willing to have an incestuous relations with her father. The servant is “Uncle Tom” who later switches sides while still behaving in a totally uncritical way. A good thing was the plot which was very unpredictable, especially as I didn't know anything about the book beforehand.

318 pp.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Alastair Reynolds: Ilmestysten avaruus / Revelation Space




The first book I have read by this author. It was long, but fairly easy read. The writing wasn't the best ever (however, I can't be sure if the problem was in translation or in the original text), and in the beginning there were places where the plot was hard to follow. The first chapter was extremely good, though. It seems that it had been polished with great care and the later parts weren't rewritten so many times. The characterization was another problem: there were no really sympathetic characters in the book. Overall, a fairly good book, but it didn't make it necessary to read the other parts.

Arvostetun ja hyvämaineisen kirjailijan ensimmäinen teos. Aikaisemmin en ole tutustunut Reynoldsin tuotantoon. Tämäkin teos on ollut hyllyssä jo pitkään, mutta paksuuden ja osittain ennakkoluulojen vuoksi (pelkäsin tämän olevan hiukan liikaa ”Tähtivaeltaja-scifiä”) aloittaminen on venähtänyt melkoisen pitkään.
Kirjan alkupuoli on varsin sekava, tosin ensimmäinen luku on erittäin koukuttava ja sujuva, mutta sen jälkeen kirjassa oli pitkä jakso, jossa seurataan kolmea eri tapahtumapaikkaa, joilla ei ole mitään ilmeistä tekemistä keskenään samaan aikaan. Sitten vähitellen asiat selkeytyvät, ja juoni alkaa taas kunnolla vetämään ja asiat selkenevät. Kirja tapahtuu kaukaisessa tulevaisuudessa, jossa ihminen on levittäytynyt laajalle avaruuteen jo kauan sitten. Muita sivilisaatioita ei löytynyt, vain vanhoja raunioita. Uusimmatkin tunnetut rauniot, amaranttien planeetta, on satojatuhansia vuosia sitten tuhoutunut jonkin tuntemattoman katastrofin seurauksena. Dan Sylveste, jota ehkä eniten voi pitää kirjan päähenkilönä on amaranttien asiantuntija, ja on tutkinut raunioita. Sieltä hän on löytänyt vihjeitä siitä, että amarantit olivat kulttuurinsa loppuvaiheessa paljon pidemmälle kehittyneitä kuin aikaisemmin uskottiin. Samaan aikaan lähestyy suunnattoman suuri ja voimakas avaruusalus, Äärettömyyden Kaipuu, jonka miehistö toivoo Sylvesten voivan parantaa aluksen kapteeni, joka on sairastunut kummalliseen sairauteen. Kolmas juonilinja kertoo Ana Khourista, palkkamurhaajasta joka saa tehtäväkseen tappaa Sylveste hinnalla millä hyvänsä.

Kovin sujuvasti ja hyvin kirjoitettu kirja ei tunnu olevan. Vaikea sanoa kuinka suuri osa jonkinlaisesta kielellisestä jähmeydestä johtuu käännöksestä, kuinka suuri osa alkutekstistä. Hiukan tulee vaikutelmaksi alkutekstin puutteet, sillä jotenkin tuntuu siltä, että ensimmäisen luvun teksti on hiotumpaa ja sujuvampaa kuin pääosassa loppukirjaa, esikoisteoksessa siihen ja sen hiomiseen on varmasti käytetty runsaasti aikaa. Henkilöhahmot eivät tunnu täysin eläviltä, eikä kukaan nouse kunnolla päärooliin. Kukaan päähenkilöistä ei herätä juuri lainkaan sympatia, eikä tarjoa samaistumiselle kohdetta. Tarinankerronta on kohtuullisen löysää, minkä voi päätellä jo kirjan yli 700 sivun pituudesta. Pieni – tai vähän suurempikin – tiivistys ja hiominen olisi tehnyt hyvää. Ihan luettava kirja oli kaikista puutteistaan huolimatta, eikä mitään kovin suuria houkutusta kesken jättämiseen päässyt muodostumaan. Toisaalta kirjaa lukiessa ei kehittynyt mitään ehdotonta pakkoa jatko-osien lukemiseenkaan.

702 s.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Analog Science Fiction and Fact August 1974



A pretty good issue.

Enter a Pilgrim • [Shane Evert] • shortstory by Gordon R. Dickson
Thew earth has been invaded by ruthless aliens, who treat humans as cattle. A messenger who works for the overlords is torn when he contemplates action against the rulers. Very good story, apparently the first of a series. ****
The Ninth Circle • novelette by Robert B. Marcus, Jr.
An agent has been sent back in time. An opposing country has captured an important scientist (who has invented the time machine), and for some extremely strange reason has sent him back in time to stone age while reprogramming his mind so that he behaves like a real “caveman”. How to find out which member of the tribe is the scientist? Writing is fairly nice, but otherwise a pretty stupid story.
***
And Keep Us from Our Castles • novelette by Cynthia Bunn
Criminals (and dissidents) are punished by banishing them to wild empty areas between cities. Everyone lives in the cities, and only the banished and a few strays live on countryside. (I wonder from where the food comes?). The catch is that if the fugitive stays put for a certain time a ceiling appear on top him. In a short while walls and the floor appear, and ultimately the victim suffocates. A man is sentenced because he killed the man who murdered his wife. (or actually he is being punished from the murder of his wife, pretty much automatically, as husband is the most likely perpetrator anyway, so it isn't worth of trouble to investigate such things too much...). He meets a female scientist who is studying what kind of effects that kind of punishment has. A very well written story, but there are some problems with logic. Why so contrived method of capital punishment? ****-
Paleontology: An Experimental Science • shortstory by Robert R. Olsen
Series of scientific papers involving dinosaurs and how they are brought back from extinction. A fairly average story. **+