Sunday, December 29, 2013

Asimov's Science Fiction, February 2014

An average or below average issue. Stories aim for literary quality but many fail as entertainment.

Schools of Clay • (2014) • novelette by Derek Künsken
Metallic, apparently artificial insectoid life forms live on asteroids mining volatiles and metals. They more or less follow the life cycle of insect colonies with periodic swarming where queens find new homes and workers are left behind to die. Radioactive isotopes turn ordinary worker more self-aware and smart. The workers are ruthlessly exploited and the start to plan a mutiny…A pretty good story. A lot happens and writing is fairly dense it took some time to understand the backstory. ***½
The Long Happy Death of Oxford Brown • (2014) • novelette by Jason K. Chapman
A man has died. His brain and consciousness has been uploaded to a digital afterlife. All he wants is to find is wife who died a few years earlier. But apparently she doesn’t want to be easily found. A pretty nice afterlife story. But why the main character always is never interested in the “operation manual” of the afterlife in this type of stories? I personally would take time to peruse it well. ***
Ball and Chain • (2014) • shortstory by Maggie Shen King
The new laws in China allow (or force) polyamorous relationships as there are too few women. The courting of a new husband to a group marriage may be kind of hard. An okay and readably short story. ***
The Transdimensional Horsemaster Rabbis of Mpumalanga Province • (2014) • shortstory by Sarah Pinsker
A widow of photographer visits a tribe of very strange people. Apparently descendants of very early Jews, who apparently ably to translocate in time and/or space. A nicely written story, probably could be classified mainly as some sort of metaphorical magical realism. The writing is good, but the story leaves more questions than it answers and feels like just a fragment. ***+
Last Day at the Ice Man Café • (2014) • shortstory by M. Bennardo
A frozen man from a stone is working on a café and has trouble adjusting to life. A stupid story on many levels. Stupid premise, extremely stupid “science”, stupid characters. **
Steppin' Razor • (2014) • novelette by Maurice Broaddus
A steampunk story involving airships, a cloned Haile Selassie, Rastafarian religion and Jamaica. I know little about last two, and not much more about the first. I had to google to find out that Haile Selassie really was/is a kind messiah for the Rastafarians, and really visited Jamaica in the sixties. As I knew nothing about the real background it hard to get into the story with imaginary background built on the real one and understand it. I found this hard to finish. **

The Humans: A Novel by Matt Haig

A mathematician has proofed the Riemann Hypothesis, which would unlock the mysteries of the prime numbers. Aliens from another galaxy (!) consider this is so threatening that they kill him and replace him with one of them, who is supposed to kill everyone who knows anything about the discovery. The alien slowly adjusts to life on earth and to what it is to be a human, and starts to value things he didn’t know even existed before. He learns to love his wife and son and to enjoy the good things in human life – many things the man his is replacing did not do.
Especially the first half of the book was very good and well written. Towards to the end the naïve philosophizing started to be pretty irritating. Once more the message from the aliens is “be nice and friendly and stop the wars”. Not to mention the incredible hypocrisy of the aliens: they supposedly abhor violence and consider even eating meat as an abomination, but are ready to execute several human with the slightest reasons. Also, the aliens seem pretty dense on many levels – if they were able to learn about the mathematical discovery as soon it was made, how are they were SO unfamiliar with earth and humans in every possible way? All in all, the book was an enjoyable read, but it doesn’t stand much logical scrutiny. Strange for a book where one of the main points is mathematics.

304 pp.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Panu Rajala: Unio mystica : Mika Waltarin elämä ja teokset

A very comprehensive biography of Finland’s most internationally known author, Mika Waltari. He had several books in the New York Time’s bestseller list in the 50s. He was more prolific with a wider body of works I had known and wrote his first books at his teens. A fascinating book and subject – I must probably pick up something he wrote.

Erittäin perinpohjainen elämänkerta Mika Waltarista, joka käsittää hänen koko elämänsä. Oli aika yllättävää saada tietää minkälainen ihmelapsi Waltari aikanaan oli ollut ja kuinka nuorena hän julkaisi ensimmäiset kirjansa: 17-vuotiaana ja läpimurtoteoksensa Suuren Illusionin 20-vuotiaana. Myös hänen laaja-alaisuutensa oli yllätys, en tiennyt että esimerkiksi Kulkurin valssi elokuva on Waltarin käsikirjoittama. Kirjan jaksoi hyvin lukea laajuudestaan huolimatta, koska kohdehenkilö vaikuttaa olleen varsin mielenkiintoinen ja kompleksi henkilö kaksisuuntaisine mielialahäiriöineen. Tätä diagnoosia ei suoraan kirjassa mainita, mutta Waltarin henkilöhistorian perusteella kyseisen sairauden olemassaolosta ei juuri epäilyksiä voi asettaa. Suurin kirjan ongelma oli se, että se ei ollut kokonaan kronologinen, vaan kertoi asioita enemmän kokonaisuuksien kannalta. Tämä lähestymistapa on hyvä, jos lukee kirjasta luvin sieltä, toisen täältä, mutta kirjaa järjestyksessä lukiessa tämäntyyppinen epälineaarisuus oli ajoittain häiritsevää. Jotain Waltarilta pitänee pikapuoleen kyllä lukea, mielenkiinto tästä kyllä heräsi.

992 s.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, March 2014

A pretty good issue, especially the lead novelette.

Life Flight • novelette by Brad R. Torgerson
A spaceship is on the way to a nearby solar system. It is manned on a rotation basis. Most of the colonists are on suspended animation while a few of them take care of the functions of the ship. The first shift is taken care of by two adults and four children, two girls and two boys. The adults are supposed to teach everything to the kids, who in turn are supposed to train their replacements before they go to the suspended animation. The story is told as a diary of one of the boys. It turns out that he has a rare condition which makes it impossible to go to the deep sleep. It seems he must spend his life awake as the journey will take ninety years. An excellent story in spite of some credibility issues. Ten to eleven years old who apparently have only a vague idea of how the children are made? Teenagers who spend years together with little to do and with only slack supervision (and knowing that they have birth control capsules) and never have any sexual experiments? ****
Rubik's Chromosomes • shortstory by Megan Chaudhuri
A Saudi couple comes to see a geneticist. They want to see what kind of modifications their child will have. There are some interesting ones. A pretty nice story, writing was nice, slightly short.***+
Not for Sissies • shortstory by Jerry Oltion
A man has been diagnosed with a prostate cancer. As he can’t tolerate at least ten years of life in uncertainty he naturally wants to kill himself. Everyone but his husband understands, and he is only one who really is sorry in the customarily farewell party, After that the widow is seriously twisted – he actually wants to live as long as possible and even tries to heal himself instead off swallowing the suicide pill at the first misfortune like all the sensible people. A pretty good story. I have always liked Oltion’s writing and this one of his better works. ****-
The Teacher's Gamble • shortstory by Stephen L. Burns
A space probe approaches earth at the beginning of the 20th century. Its’ goal is to guide human development, but when it is approaching it makes an important discovery. A very short but pretty good story, especially considering the slightly worn premise. ***
The Avalon Missions • shortstory by David Brin
Space probes are sent to a nearby solar system. However, as technology advance the new probes are much faster than the earlier ones. And there have been also some changes in the society. A very short story, okay for its length. ***-
We Who Are About to Watch You Die Salute You • shortstory by Maggie Clark
A Martian expedition which has been chosen by a reality show or by bribery has problems, there has been a radiation accident and or there are too few women around. Extremely confusing story, which is mainly told as segments from Tv-shows, articles and interviews. I didn’t get this at all. **

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Galaxy Science Fiction, April 1951

Not bad. A good issue for this time period.

Nice Girl with Five Husbands • shortstory by Fritz Leiber
A man travels to the future, meets a beautiful woman who would be ready to include him in her group marriage and then he returns to present. And that’s about everything what happened in this story. The writing as such was pretty good, but I really didn’t get the point of the story - if there was one. ***
Inside Earth • novelette by Poul Anderson
Earth has been invaded. There is a mutiny brewing, but one alien is sent to find what the mutineers are going to do – and to take care there WILL be a mutiny, but not too soon. The aliens believe that an outside threat could unificate humans and created a more cohesive and far better whole for the good of all species of the universe. A pretty good story with pretty nice writing, the only drawback was the slight overlong length. ***½
Betelgeuse Bridge • shortstory by William Tenn
A group of advanced aliens, who look just like giant slugs, arrive at earth. They are very condescendingly polite and give elaborate answers to all questions apologizing that humans don’t have enough knowledge and background to understand even the concepts. They let it slip that they have a machine that can cure all disease and rejuvenate body. Not surprisingly, humans want to buy that – at any cost. And it is for sale, but at a steep price. But there is a catch, of course. But there is a catch in the catch, of course. An old style average story with a fairly worn premise. ***
I, the Unspeakable • novelette by Walt Sheldon
Everyone who lives in a future totalitarian country has a designation with four letters and six numbers. After the designations have been re-evaluated one man gets an extremely rude designation. He must give up his work and finds that no one wants to have anything to do with him. He tries to find out if it is possible to change the designation. That isn’t going to be easy in a very bureaucratic state. ***-
Field Study • shortstory by Peter Phillips
A strange man is offering wonder cures. He doesn’t ask any money, but accepts it if someone gives. A some sort of criminal examiner goes to evaluate him and expects to expose a fraud. He finds that his sinusitis has healed. An overlong, overtalky and confusing story without any interesting point. **
The Marching Morons • novelette by C. M. Kornbluth
A man who has spent last centuries in suspended animation wakes up in a future where almost everyone is an idiot. A small smart aristocracy is running things and working themselves to death. This is the end result of stupid people getting more children while smarter people have less. The man from the past isn't a nice guy, though. And he has a final solution for the problem. One of the all time classics. There are some ideas which can be later seen in the Merchants of Venus: unscrupulous add men pushing for Venus colony. ****-

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Asimov's Science Fiction, January 2014

A nice issue, at least average.

Memorials • [Universe of Xuya] • novelette by Aliette de Bodard

A young woman sells recorded memories of ancestors to criminals who apparently strip them pieces and peddle them to entertainment industry. The background is somewhat sketchy, but apparently I am growing into this writer - this is a pretty good story. ***½
Primes • novelette by Ron Collins
Some strange events seem to happen around prime numbers and there is a strange murder or suicide. People are carrying neural interfaces. It is possible to influence people though them, but is it possible force them to commit acts they don’t want to do? An ok story which goes more for narrative style than coherent plot. ***-
Extracted Journal Notes for an Ethnography of Bnebene Nomad Culture • shortstory by Ian McHugh
A study report which is written by an anthropologist who is doing a field study of some aliens with really complicated genders. An odd story which I didn't completely get. First the aliens seemed to be aboriginals, but then they seemed to possess highly evolved technology. ***
The Carl Paradox • shortstory by Steve Rasnic Tem
A man gets a visitor: He himself drops from a future with a time machine invented by a friend. He has some advice. But wait, there is another version of himself from another future. Short, silly and surprisingly good. ***½
Static • shortstory by William Jablonsky
A strange space phenomenon arrives to earth. A young family with stressed out mother, an infant son and father are waiting if the world will end. There is lot of electronic disturbances and apparently they get short phone and text messages from past and future. A tight story which doesn't explain much, but works pretty well nevertheless. ***+
The Common Good • novelette by Nancy Kress
Aliens destroyed (or rather neatly vaporized all human constructions with everyone who happened to be around) all population centers of earth a few decades ago. A young man who has lived all his life in a forest with survivor style parents. The world has slowly being recovering, but the boy has lived very secluded life. After a serious quarrel with his parents, he runs away and eventually finds himself in a dome the aliens have created. There he first starts to learn the basic principles of science and later intuitive strategic thinking. A very good story. I wouldn’t be surprised to find this from nomination shortlists next year. But this is just the beginning of the real story. ****

Monday, November 25, 2013

Red Mars (Mars Trilogy) by Kim Stanley Robinson

The first book of the series which describes how Mars was settled and terraformed. This might be called political science fiction as the emphasis in this book is on the people involved and what kind of politics and agreements are needed in such a major project. The actual mechanics of the endeavor is more on the sidetrack, and that part of the book isn’t really well thought out. The author seems not to have even a small grasp of the basic laws of thermodynamics or of the conservation of energy. (Using windmills to heat a planet is so gigantically idiotic premise, that it is hard to believe no one caught it during proofreading).Also, everything seems to happen extremely easily, and living in the Mars seems far too easy – it seems it is trivial to establish clandestine “underground” independent settlements. Everything happens on a planet where temperatures are much worse than in Antarctica on a cold day and the atmosphere is practically vacuum from a human point of view. The writing was very descriptive and everything is told is in almost mind numbing detail with long discussions. The actual plot was pretty interesting with a different points of view about what should be done with an unused planet – should it be “spoiled” and turned something more habitable for man, or should it kept as a some kind of (most likely totally sterile) nature preserve, where the original Mars is saved as far as possible. The writing was rather too loose for my taste - perhaps not as overtly descriptive as in Hugo nominated 2312. On the other hand it will be interesting to see what will happen to the slightly communistic Martian revolution in the next book, but on the other hand I am not looking forward to reading 1200 more pages in this style of writing.

592 pp.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, September 1971

An ok issue with stories which are readable in spite of somewhat conservative attitudes at places. The editorial is in the same vein, telling among other things how horrible it is that environmentalists demand unleaded gasoline.

Wheels Within Wheels • [LaNague Federation] • novelette by F. Paul Wilson
The most of the story is told by a flashback: a man who had inherited a successful enterprise takes a sabbatical and journeys to little known planet. It is inhabited by hybrid humans who have a very fatalistic view of life. They are subjected to racial prejudice by fully human colonists who have arrived the planet centuries after the first colony, but due to their view of life, they really don’t care. The ex-businessman decides to make the situation better. He seems to be on the verge of succeeding when he is found dead. Apparently, the aboriginals have killed him, and they even admit it. They have never before been violent, but they have never lied about anything, either. When asked for a reason for the homicide the just answer “wheels within wheels” which is the catchphrase of their philosophy/religion. The daughter of the man arrives at the planet much later to find out what happened. A pretty good story, well written and interesting. The ending was perhaps too simple and straightforward. ***½
The Fine Print • novelette by John T. Phillifent
An alien ship from a planet who sells some extremely valuable medical supplies to humans makes a landing on a space station. Usually all trade between humans and that race of aliens is only by proxy. It turns out that the aliens have very interesting but dangerous pets. Animals, which look just like beautiful women. The bulk of the story is about a trial following an unfortunate incident. The premise is preposterous, but story works fairly well. The trial takes too much time, however. ***+
To Make a New Neanderthal • shortstory by W. Macfarlane
A secret group of people who want to spread pollution (as it increases brain activity) takes a group of environmentalists where they probably want: to a planet with no pollution, no other people, no hardwood and no metals. ***-
Knight Arrant • shortstory by Jack Wodhams
A very sedentary planet is invaded by space pirates who steal all valuables, demand for the return of a mythical item which probably doesn’t even exist and start to round the better looking women for slavery. The “space police” finally arrives and the bandits withdraw. Unfortunately, they can’t spare any troops or ships and can’t leave any forces to uphold the peace. But they can leave training materials for combat training…it was a ploy all along. Some interesting attitudes here, but otherwise readable story. ***

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, January-February 2014

A double issue with a varied bunch of stories.

Music to Me • [Floyd and Brittney] • novella by Richard A. Lovett
Another installment about Britney, an AI who was created more or accidently among lone space explorers. Now she has abandoned Floyd, her first partner and come to earth. In earth, she discovers that she isn't the only AI around. There is a secretive AI in the Internet, which wants Britney to join him. But the cost of that might be high - in many levels. A very good story as are the others in the series. The first quarter is the story might have tighter, but otherwise the story was very enjoyable. ****
Mousunderstanding • shortstory by Carl Frederick
A humorous story of a world with the abundance of gold, with a usual currency. A silly and stupid story. I wonder why gold would be so valuable when space travel (and probably asteroid mining) are commonplace. ***
This Is As I Wish to Be Restored • shortstory by Christie Yant
An employee of a cryonic faculty has stolen a frozen body of a young woman (who would have been disposed of). A story of strange love and/or obsession. The writing was ok, but a short story aiming for mood and style. Not much plot here. ***-
The Tansy Tree • novelette by Rob Chilson
A wife of some sort of lord has been sick for a long time, and not even the drugs from the leaves of the drug tree haven't been able to heal her. And then they are a lot of "poetic" discussion concerning different relations. Rarely have I hated the writing of any story as much I hated this. Every other sentenced ended with "heh, "eh", or "ha", many of them started with an "o". The names were flowery and overcomplicated. I didn't get the plot, but that was probably due to severe gritting of my teeth from the irritating filler words. The plot I did get felt very stupid. *
The Problem with Reproducible Bugs • shortstory by Marie DesJardin
A scientist is found with a severe concussion in his laboratory without any memory what has happened. Next week it happens again. A short ok story with slight, nice, irony. ***
Determined Spirits • novelette by Grey Rollins
A tech wakes up in a generation ship which is supposed to be traveling to another solar system. Something has gone wrong, and parts of the ship are empty of air and many of the suspended animation cocoons are empty. What has happened? The writing is ok, but there are some pretty simplistic sermons against over-patriotic nuts. I mainly agree with the author, but the lecturing was pretty irritating. There are also some very strange engineering solutions: you must be in the engineering part of the ship to be able to access the engineering computers. WTF? The designers don’t know how to network computers? And when people have been killed off in alphabetic order except a few, is it really wise to wake up one of those, who are surviving when all others around their names who have been killed. Could there be something going on and could there be a reason why those people have been saved? ***
Wine, Women, and Stars • shortstory by Thoraiya Dyer
A surgeon has lost the race to be the one who is chosen of the trip to Mars. She is operating the younger woman who got selected (all her internal organs are removed and replaced with nanotech.) and ponders her life and wonder if she should make a slight surgical error which would reverse the selection. I wonder who no one thought about the conflict of interests. Otherwise a pretty good and well written story. ***½
Just Like Grandma Used to Make • shortstory by Brenta Blevins
Printing food without proper licenses might be risky and extremely illegal. The writing was passable, but the premise as such wasn't too logical or believable. But ok as a satire. ***
Racing Prejudice • shortstory by John Frye, III
A sport story about an android who has transformed himself to human in order to be able to compete in the Olympics. Writing as such was ok and the story was tolerable as far as stories involving sports go. ***-
Technological Plateau • shortstory by Michael Turton
A pair of explorers are studying a planet which seems to be a paradise. No predators, a lot of fruit bearing plants, a lot of delicious animals which are easy to catch. There is a catch, of course. A short, but pretty nice story. ***
This Quiet Dust • shortstory by Karl Bunker
The explorers who have only a few days to evaluate a new planet find a planet which is covered with a dust with strange electrostatic properties. The particles of the dust seem able to form very complex compounds. Ok story apparently mainly to present an idea of a very peculiar life form. A good story as such. ***+

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Reijo Mäki: Sheriffi

This time Vares, the private detective from Turku is hired to find out who was behind a ritualistic double homicide. For some reason even the criminal elements of Turku wants to find out who was the murderer.

Vares on palkattu selvittelemään koko Turkua kohahduttaneen rituaalimurhaa. Jostain syystä myös alamaailmaa asia kiinnostaa ja Vares saa siitä suunnasta tarjouksen reippaasta bonuksesta, jos onnistuu selvittämään kuka erikoisen kaksoismurhan takana oikein on. Mutta miksi asia alamaailmaa kiinnostaa - uhreina kun olivat ”vain” psyykeongelmainen sairaslomalla ollut poliisi ja kirjanpitofirman omistajatar? Ja mistä rikollisen toiminnan kulissina toimivan baarin liepeillä pyörivä kaunis nainen oikein on entuudestaan tuttu? Tarinaltaan ehkä hiukan monimutkaisempi kuin moni muu sarjan teoksista, ja henkilöhahmojen ja sivujuonien suurehko määrä vaikutti välillä hiukan sekoittavalta ja ajoittain kovin pääjuoneen liittymättömältä. Uskolahkosivujuonikin nähtävästi vain katosi kesken kirjaa? Tavallista Vares-tasoa sinällään, ehkä keskitason yläpuolella sarjassaan.
412 s.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Matti Yrjänä Joensuu: Väkivallan virkamies

The first book of its series, the first book by the author. A constable of violent crime division of the Helsinki police takes part in a criminal investigation of a typical murder which involves down in his luck alcoholic. The main protagonist is very distressed and stressed about his work and spends a lot of time thinking about social implications of everything.

Ensimmäinen Harjunpää-kirjoista. Kuvittelin, että tätä en ollut koskaan lukenut, mutta tutulta tarina kyllä vaikutti. Kirjassa tutustumme Harjunpäähän, Helsingin poliisin väkivaltajaoksen konstaapeliin, joka on hiukan liian hermoheikko työhönsä. Työhönsä hän on päätynyt lähinnä sattumankauppaa, mikään haave poliisin ura ei hänellä koskaan ollut ollut. Yövuorot, vastuu ja hoidettavat keikat aiheuttavat hänelle painetta ja lähes pelkoa. Kirjassa on murhakin, siihen tosin päästään vasta kun noin kolmasosa kirjaa on kulunut. Kyseessä on tyypillinen kotimainen henkirikos, alkoholiin menevä mies on päätynyt hengettömäksi. Ihan täysin tavallinen ryyppyporukan tappelu silti kyseessä ei vaikuta olevan, vaan mukana on ryöstö.
Hitaahkosti etenevä, paljon yhteiskunnan ongelmien pohdiskelua sisältävä teos, joka on samalla kiinnostavaa ajankuvaa. Hämmästyttävää kuinka paljon kirjassa tupakoidaan! Laadullisesti kirja ei ole aivan samaa tasoa myöhempien osien kanssa, mutta laatutyötä joka tapauksessa.
269 s.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Astounding Science Fiction, January 1956

A pretty readable issue for its time. At least the writing was tolerable.

The Executioner • novelette by Algis Budrys
A judge of a future religious oligarchic society is going to have a trial. The accused is a young girl who has committed a serious crime. She has talked in public with her lover, a member of ruling family. Guilt seems to be clear and naturally the verdict is guilty. The accused of course has the privilege to hope for the god's reversal of the judgment. It has never happened - the bulled shot by the judge has always killed the stripped accused. But this time someone throws a gun for a girl, and she gets out one shot before she dies. The judge has been absolute in his believe of the god and on the right of the ruling families, but now he starts to think about the situation. Ultimately, he comes to a shocking, but logical conclusion. A pretty good, slightly overlong story with a moving and even surprising end. ***½
Indirection • shortstory by Everett B. Cole

A new and very successful fantasy writer has a secret. He allows his friend, who is a literary critic, to see his newest "story". It is in form of letters and testimonials of several kinds of aliens. They are all true, and the man is making the world ready of the reveal large interstellar civilization. I would imagine this was a very tired plot even in the 1950s.**
Won't You Walk— • novelette by Theodore Sturgeon (variant of "Won't You Walk...")
A man is desperate enough to be ready to kill himself. He tries to steal a car to drive it off a cliff, but the car happens to be a "trap" of a psychologist, who promises to change his life. The writing was ok, the plot wasn't anything really special - I saw the “surprise” ending straight away. ***-

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Elephants on Acid: and Other Bizarre Experiments by Alex Boese

A collection of short case studies of strange, unusual or just plain crazy scientific projects. Including "what happens if you give LSD to an elephant?" (It drops dead even when acid isn't really toxic for humans.) Or are soldiers able to function if they are sure they will die? Or what happens if you try to raise a chimpanzee just like a human child? A pretty interesting book, but not mostly really new - I was familiar with at least half of the “case studies” beforehand. Nice and light reading anyhow. Maybe some more depth might have been nice for some of the stories.
304 pp.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Asimov's Science Fiction, December 2013

A pretty decent and readable issue.

Pearl Rehabilitative Colony for Ungrateful Daughters • novelette by Henry Lien

A naive Chinese girl is at a ”boarding school”, which emphasis training on skates. Everything on school premises is covered by “pearl” which makes it possible to skate everywhere. The girls train for some sort of martial art/sport academy which accepts only the best. The protagonist is the best skater of bunch and knows it very well. Will she grow during the story? A slightly surprising answer: no, she doesn’t. A very well written story on very unusual surroundings. ****-
Dignity • shortstory by Jay O'Connell
A daughter of an extremely affluent man wants to keep her find: a shabby child. The father opposes as it would be too much trouble to get her conditioned to be a faithful servant. An okay, somewhat short story. ***+
The Fitter • shortstory by Timons Esaias
An alien gets work in a ladies' undergarment story and becomes the best salesman ever. The beginning was pretty good, but the story decayed by the end. ***-
Vox ex Machina • novelette by William Preston
A flight attendant finds a head from an airplane. For some strange reason he takes it with her. It turns out to be a head of an android which is modeled on a late science fiction author. The head is able to speak almost sensibly. She asks different sorts of questions and the head gives Delphic answers. The writing is once more nice, but I didn’t really understand the actions of the protagonist. Why would she steal such an object from the plane? Why would she take so seriously head's fairly pointless discussion? Why would I care? ***
Grainers • shortstory by R. Neube
The story is told from two points of view. One is a slightly alcoholic officer of a patrol ship, another is a swindler of a "grain ship" which is filled by refugees from earth who have lived on the ship for years. Both are tricking the other, both know for a degree that they are tricking and being tricked. A pretty nice story, but the background was slightly sketchy as I am not familiar with other stories with the same background - at least I assume there are other stories in the same series. ***+
Bloom • shortstory by Gregory Norman Bossert
A small group of people is trapped by a strange alien plant/animal/creature which consumes its victims instantly. They can’t escape, but they can discuss their situation. Good writing, but I didn’t really get into the story. ***
Frog Watch • shortstory by Nancy Kress
A recently bereaved young woman is spending her grieving time nearby a swamp counting frogs. There seems to be more and healthier frogs around than could be expected. She meets her neighbor who seems more than slightly strange. The writing was pretty nice and the story was pretty enjoyable, but it slightly too much just a fragment. ***½
Entangled • novelette by Ian R. MacLeod
A woman has some sort of neural enhancement which allows her to influence other people’s mind. She has a brain trauma, and she isn't able to join a sort of group mind everyone else is part of. She has some traumatic past which eventually must face. An ok story with perhaps too complicated setup for its length.***

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, December 2013

The serial which starts I this issue takes a lot of space. The stories aren’t too good in my opinion. Most of them don’t really tell a coherent, good story with a start, middle and end – they feel more like just short segments or scenes.

The Deer Girl Hitches a Ride • shortstory by Sarah Frost
A truck driver picks up from the road a girl who is half doe. There are apparently plagues which are apparently caused by out of control nanotech. Then there is a mishap and the doe-lady behaves in a surprising way. The writing was ok, but the story was short and had too sketchy background. It was more like just an episode rather than a proper story. ***-
The Chorus Line • novelette by Daniel Hatch
It is possible to record the past with a special apparatus, but the recording must happen in the exactly same place where the event took place. An extremely interesting, popular and strange recording has surfaced in the Internet. The recording has been done at a remote place and it takes some effort to find out if recording is a real, unaltered one. The writing is ok, but the story is overlong, without a real point and depends far too heavily on the (very stupid) last chapter reveal. **
Fear Response • shortstory by Lesley L. Smith
Showing fear is an ultimate taboo for an alien species. When they face a situation when there is no other possibility the result is bad even when there is one ”runt” who learnt that fear is not something to afraid of. Another very short, too short, story. The connection to Earth felt tacked on. ***
Oedipus at the Sperm Bank • shortstory by Joel Richards
The competing clones of an eccentric businessman who has left earth to evaluating his business prospects on other solar systems are managing his businesses in this solar system. At least one of them gets an interesting offer from his stepmother. Another short story without any real point. I don’t really understand what the fuzz about the frozen sperm of the “senior”. As there are two clones around there should be an unlimited supply of fresh 100% genuine stuff available anyway.***-
Ian, George, and George • novelette by Paul Levinson
Orson Welles apparently from an alternate reality travels back in time to meet himself. He has a proposition he already knows his younger self will accept. But the runner of the time travel agency has some farther reaching plans. A fairly competent story, but plot didn’t really work. There were events which happened, but there was really no coherent plot where events would have created a cohesive whole. ***-

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Eeva Joenpelto: Tuomari Müller, hieno mies

The winner of the Finlandia award in 1994. The book tells the story of a son of an alcohol bootlegger, who was an honest man and a judge, perhaps too honest for a small rural town. The writing is pretty good and story interesting. The book was clearly above average in its class.

Kirja, joka on voittanut Finlandia palkinnon vuonna 1994. Kirja kertoo eri aikatasoilla pirtukauppiaan pojasta, tuomariksi lukeneesta tunnontarkasta miehestä. Mies on kuollut kotikunnassaan hyljättynä ja sorrettuna, säntillisistä tilikirjoista oli turhaan jätetty huomautuksia, joka yhdistettynä rakkaan tyttären kuolemaan oli miehelle liikaa. Tai tämä ainakin on lesken käsitys. Leski on elellyt jo aikansa pääkaupungissa myytyään kaiken paitsi nummialueen, joka aikanaan ei kaupaksi mennyt. Nyt kunnalla on alueelle suuret suunnitelmat ja lesken luokse matkaa retkikunta kukkien kera toiveenaan lunastaa alue. Toisessa aikatasossa sitten seurataan tuomarin elää lapsesta alkaen jo ennalta tiedettyyn loppuun asti. Pikkukaupungista annetaan kovin sisäänlämpiävä kuva, tosin ei tuomari Müller kaikkein helpoimmin lähestyttävä ja lämpimin ihminen ole. Hän on tinkimättömän rehellinen ja lahjomaton kylläkin, liiankin sellainen pikkukunnan pankinjohtajaksi. Lopullisen murtumisen syyt ovat laajempia kuin lesken oma käsitys on, eikä lesken oma käytös ollut niistä vähäisimpiä. Ystäviä tuomarilla ei juuri muita ollut kuin naapurinpoika, josta varttui kaupungin puutarhuri ja joka oli ehkä jopa hiukan ihastunut ystäväänsä - ainakin siitä päätellen kuinka paljon tuomarin ensimmäinen seurustelusuhde vaikutti häntä ärsyttävän.
Kirja on sulavasti kirjoitettu, tosin ajankuva ja ajankulku on tuotu esiin aika huonosti, elämä vaikuttaa varsin tarkkaan samanlaiselta elettiin sitten 40-lukua tai 70-80-lukua. Yhdessä vaiheessa kuvittelin, että kirjassa eletään vielä 50-lukua, mutta sitten kirjan henkilöt viettivät iltoja TV-ohjelmia katsellen. Myös kunnanjohtajien suunnitelma maanalaisesta pysäköintilaitoksesta ilmeisimmin 50-luvun alussa vaikutti melkoiselta anakronismilta, kun koko maan ensimmäinen maanpäällinenkin pysäköintihalli rakennettiin vasta 70-luvulla. Kirjan loppua kohden sekä kielellinen että kirjallinen laatu tuntui putoavan, ehkä asiat muuttuivat liian henkilökohtaisiksi kirjailijalle. Kirjan syntyhistoriaan ainakin nettitietojen mukaan liittyy jokin paikallinen protestiliike, johon kirjailija otti osaa. Loppuratkaisu pysyi kuitenkin kohtuudella koossa, ja kirja oli Finlandia-voittajissa selvästi keskitason paremmalla puolella.

441 s.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, April 2005

A pretty average issue. Somehow the stories felt very aged.

Company Secrets • novelette by Kyle Kirkland

Practically all companies have been downsizes to one person. For some unexplained reason there are strict restrictions on co-operation between companies. The protagonist is a company who acquires business data. It first seems that someone trying to get him, later a shady partnership between two companies tries to draft his services. A story with an oldfashionalble feel in it. Writing was ok, but plotting wasn’t too good and felt dated. There were several times the protagonist used countermeasures which were total surprise not only for the reader (unfair) but for the other characters, also (who really should have known workings and practices of their world.) ***-
Her World Exploded • shortstory by David L. Burkhead
A rich and beautiful woman finds that her private vacation planet explodes just when her private ship arrives there. She narrowly escapes with the help of her self-aware ship mind. She finds that the insurance company isn’t going to pay for damages, as it isn’t responsible for accidents with unknown causes. I had to check several times, that I really was reading something which published in 2005 and not in fifties. The plot is very old fashionable, full of long descriptions of technology and the plot line was also straight from fifties. The writing was slightly better than would have been typical in 1955. ***
Reinventing Carl Hobbs • shortstory by James C. Glass
A famous actress receives threatening letters. She has a good reason to be afraid for her life, but she has the best possible robotic lifeguard. The writing was OK, but the story felt overlong with a fairly stupid twist at the end. ***-
Standards of Success • shortstory by John G. Hemry
A short and stupid story about the first human expedition to Mars and it is run by NASA. Using same methods they have used for robotic missions – like using several hours to climb down the ladder. Short and stupid. **-
Letters of Transit • shortstory by Brian Plante
A member of the first interstellar expedition exchanges letters with his young bride via a wormhole communication device. His bride is slightly too young, only sixteen, but the relativistic time dilation should take care of the age difference before he gets back to the earth. The communication method leads to some interesting time effects, though. Short, but pretty nice story. ***+

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Human Division by John Scalzi

Part of the “Old Man’s War” series.
The book continues the story from the Lost Colony. The Earth now knows that the Colonial Union has kept them in the dark about what is really going on the galaxy. The relations are strained, but there are diplomatic talks starting with Earth and CU. There are also some fledgling discussions between CU and the Conclave, a union of dozens, if not hundreds of alien races. And the Conclave is tempting Earth to join them and to abandon CU completely. But it starts to seem that some party doesn’t want that those discussions will come to something and is ready for extreme actions to sow distrust.
This book was originally published as a series of stories which could be bought separately as e-books. As the Amazon was charging horrible surcharge for non-US readers I had to wait for the real book publication. Was it worth of the wait? Well - yes and no.
The original format causes some problems. Especially in the beginning the chapters felt very separate and it was hard to find coherent plot line running through. As the book progressed that problem mostly went away as a fairly coherent plot emerged and it turned to something lot less fractured, even the writing felt better by the end of the book. However, the story doesn’t end here, it practically just begins…
432 pp.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, June 2001

A pretty good issue, clearly above the average.

Sunday Night Yams at Minnie and Earl's • novella by Adam-Troy Castro
A veteran of the early days of the building of the moon colony returns to the moon, already very urban and nothing like a frontier anymore. He tries to find an old couple the old generation of the works in the moon used to know and spend nice Sunday afternoons with. They had a nice little farm with a beautiful grassy lawn with a friendly dog. There is no record at all anywhere that they ever even existed. Was he out of his mind and imagined it all? A very good story which approaches fantasy. ****
Elsewhere • [Common Universe] • novelette by Pauline Ashwell
A some sort of future operation which is terraforming an alien planet uses time travel not only to speed up the terraforming, but to snatch people from the past to work on the project. A young and bright girl from some sort of Chinese scientific work camp from the 23rd or so century is drafted. After some adjusting, she takes up a project of own. A pretty good and well written story. ***½
A Star in the East • shortstory by Laurence M. Janifer
A man has hidden a bomb at a casino. The bomb will explode an hour after his heart stops beating. When he is dying at the age of 112, he asks a friend that the bomb would be made inactive. And in secret. Not so easy when the bomb is in the casino’s president’s office. A short, fairly simple story without much of a point. I didn’t really get it at all. Was it meant as a parody of something? **
Spaceships • shortstory by Michael A. Burstein
In a far far future humans have evolved beyond matter. One human (or some sort of energy being which used to be human millennia ago) has a collection of authentic space ships from the human history. Another former human comes to visit him – for the first time in eons. A pretty good and well written story. ***+

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, November 2013

An average or below average issue, nothing really memorable.

Bugs • shortstory by Ron Collins
Experimental nanomachines are used to treat an otherwise incurable heart disease. They work. Very, very, well. A pretty good and well written tale, which deserves to be the lead story of the issue. ***½
The Matthews Conundrum • [InterstellarNet] • novella by Edward M. Lerner
Earth is a part of an interstellar information sharing network. There are several inhabited words inside a radius of twenty something light years. As different words have different strengths trading with information has a boon for all of them. However, there is something strange: all the civilizations are on approximately on the same level of technological advancement. How likely is that? Not very. A guy who was going to publish that finding disappears after a bar night for a week. His reputation is hurt as everyone assumes that he has been boozing for the whole time. A slightly overlong story which probably will be continued as ending was pretty open. ***-
Copper Charley • shortstory by Joseph Weber
The manager of a coal mine has some trouble. The pesky lawyers are suing his company just because the slush from coal mining is causing cancer and ruining houses. A friend introduces him to a botanist, who has developed plants which are able to collect pure copper from the soil. He plants them over the coal mines and it seems his problems are solved. He runs into some trouble though: The plants use so much water that the groundwater of the whole state is depleted. The writing was ok, but the ending was very stupid: where would all that HUGE amount of water go? ***-
Make Hub, Not War • [The Hub Gates] • novelette by Christopher L. Bennett
One more story in the series about a young man who wishes to find how the hub (an interstellar transport system) works. This time they get to visit earth, someone is using spaceships for smuggling dangerous cargo in a novel way. A lot of idle talk and felt overlong. **½
Deceleration • shortstory by Bud Sparhawk
A strange and unusual light is seen on sky on rare intervals during several centuries. It is what you would expect. **½
Distant • shortstory by Michael Monson
An astronaut on top of a rocket has a lame spiritual moment. Yawn. **½
The Eagle Project • shortstory by Jack McDevitt
The nanoscale space drones have reached one more solar system. No one is really interested as none of the others have ever seen anything really interesting. This time there is a glimpse…Another very short story with a minor foreseeable twist. ***
Redskins of the Badlands • novelette by Paul Di Filippo
A lot of explaining of a technology which involves multipurpose, semi intelligent “skins” people wear and some sort of robotic drones. The is some sort of plot which involves the desecration of the limestone pillars build by carbon binding bacteria and some ridiculous plot involving dinosaur bones. A pretty stupid story which was probably meant to be funny. It didn’t really work for me. **½

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, August 1971

A pretty average issue, nothing really good but nothing really mediocre, either.

The Lion Game (Part 1 of 2) • [Telzey Amberdon • 2] • serial by James H. Schmitz

A Telsey story. I was reading this story from an e-pub version of the magazine. The story ended very suddenly, so suddenly that I had to dig up my real, authentic paper version of the magazine. "Part 1 of 2" . Oh, that explains it.
Telsey is once again kidnapped, this time by mind reading aliens living in a cave system. But as she is the most beautiful, the smartest and generally the bestest of them all with totally, completely irresistible psi-powers no one naturally has a slightest chance against her. ***-
Analog • novelette by Grant Callin [as by Grant D. Callin ]
The library of congress decides to develop a computer system for searching information from the published research articles. For some very strange reason´s they think that the best approach would be to copy a live human brain as detailed as possible. Not a single thought is given to the possible ethical implications. Finally, they succeed beyond the expectations: they are able to produce a functional human brain. A newborn one. A pretty stupid and dated story. **½
Letter from an Unknown Genius • shortstory by Colin Kapp
A mediocre scientist who is working for the military of a country with some expansion desires has gotten a letter detailing a new invention which seems to break the laws of physics. A weapon which has been developed using the details of invention has destroyed a wide area. The only survivor is hiding on a monastery. A famous scientist who widely is considered to be the best in the world comes meet him and turns out to be a woman, surprise, surprise. Americans and Russians have also lost research bases in catastrophic accidents. Is someone really brilliant pranking the major nations? A fairly well written story with some dated attitudes. ***+
A Little Knowledge • [Technic History] • novelette by Poul Anderson
A group of swindlers hire a spaceship from an alien, underdeveloped planet with a fairly slow (but FTL) spaceships for a passage to another solar system. The try to hijack it and are going to sell for an even less developed planet. However, the alien defeats moronic hijackers easily. A simple story with a far too long build up. ***-
Dummyblind • novelette by Douglas Fulthorpe
The best soldier of the army is on a mission. This would be the last one before he is transferred to training and PR duties. But he must survive the last mission first…The most part of the story contains an extremely detailed description of a guerilla mission to an enemy base. As they is no real backstory for the character, mission or even of the factions which are fighting I couldn’t have cared less. There is a slight twist at the end, but it was something which was easy to guess, (the soldier has just a personality transfer of the good fighter). **½
Ratman • [LaNague Federation] • shortstory by F. Paul Wilson
A ratman uses trained spacerat to root other spacerat infestations away. But he has a side job as a spy. Someone on a neutral planet seems to give information to rebels. Will his spacerats find the culprit? Ok story with a very juvenile feel in it. ***-

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Haruki Murakami: 1Q84. Osat 1 & 2

A wonderful, but strange book oozing with magical realism. The first third of so was very fast moving, but in spite of that it was very readable and engaging and got just more and more so.

Kirja seuraa alussa kahden eri henkilön elämää Tokiossa vuonna 1984. Aomame on nuori naispuolinen fysioterapeutti, joka sivutyönään tappaa naisia kaltoinkohdelleita miehiä. Tengo on nuori mies, joka työskentelee opettajana. Hänellä on myös haaveena kirjoittaa kirja ja tekee sivutyönä esilukua pienehkön kustantamon kustannustoimittajalle. Kustannustoimittaja pyytää korjaamaan 17-vuotiaan tytön kirjoittamaa käsikirjoitusta. Käsikirjoituksessa tarinan juoni ja varsinainen sisältö on poikkeuksellisen kiehtova, mutta se on kirjoitettu surkealla kielellä. Kustannustoimittaja ehdottaa, että Tengo korjaa kirjan kieliasun, ja että kirja lähetetään meneillään olevaan suureen kirjallisuuskilpailuun. Kustantaja arvioi, että korjattuna kirja todennäköisesti tulisi voittamaan kilpailun. Tengo ei ole erityisen innostunut tämäntapaiseen kirjalliseen petokseen, mutta luettuaan kirjan hän päätyy kirjoittamaan sen uudelleen. Kirja kertoo pikkuväestä, joka vaikuttaa jollain lailla maailman tapahtumiin, ja jonka taustoista ja motiiveista tarinassa kerrotaan hyvin vähän. Kirjassa mainitaan taivaalla olevan kaksi kuuta. Vähän myöhemmin sekä Aomame että Tengo näkevät taivaalla kaksi kuuta. Ovatko he jotenkin joutuneet kirjan maailmaan? Vai onko kirjan maailma totta jollain tasolla? Onko heillä jokin yhteys, jos on niin mikä ja miksi?

Mielenkiintoinen, hyvin luettava kirja (vaikka alkupuolella tapahtumien rytmi on äärimmäisen hidas) joka imaisee sisäänsä. Kielessä on pientä kankeutta, joka johtunee kaksinkertaisesta käännöksestä (japani-englanti-suomi), loppupuolella tämä ei enää kiusannut, joko kieli muuttui sujuvammaksi tai siihen tottui. Jotenkin kirjan visuaalinen vaikutelma on aika vahva, tapahtumat näki mielessään elokuvana, vaikka mitään yksityiskohtaista ympäristön kuvailua ei edes kirjassa ole, toisin kuin äskettäin lukemassani Kim Stanley Robinsonin 2312-kirjassa, jossa kaikki kuvattiin äärimmäisen tarkkaan ja yksityiskohtaisesti. Siinä paradoksaalisesti ei syntynyt oikeastaan mitään visuaalista vaikutelmaa mieleen, kuvailu tuntui lähinnä puuduttavalta. Loppua kohden kirjan tapahtumien vauhti ja outous lisääntyivät, eikä kirjaa enää juuri kädestään tehnyt mieli laskea. Kovin paljoa selityksiä tapahtumille ei saada näissä kahdessa ensimmäisessä osassa, saa nähdä saadaanko päätösosassa, jonka suomenkielinen versio ilmestynee lähiviikkoina. Ehkä ei, mutta jotenkin sillä ei ole edes merkitystä, kyseessä on kirja jossa matka on tärkeämpää kuin päämäärä.

782 s.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Galaxy Science Fiction, March 1951

An average issue for its time. The delRey’s story was badly overlong, otherwise the stories fair fairly readable.

The Wind Between the Worlds • novelette by Lester del Rey

The earth has joined an interstellar alliance of matter transfers network. There is an accident, and the matter transmitter starts to pump air at a very high pressure to another world. It seems impossible to stop the cascade. A badly overlong story about the value of cooperation and trust. **+
The Other Now • shortstory by Murray Leinster
A man has bereaved recently after his wife died in a freak traffic accident. He notices that there are fresh cigarette stumps on an ash tray the wife usually used. Also, her diary seems to get new entries – detailing the sorrow of a wife who has lost her husband. A fairly good story, but could have been longer with more details. ***+
Good Night, Mr. James • novelette by Clifford D. Simak
A man comes aware of himself on a yard. Slowly he starts to remember that he is trying to catch a dangerous alien animal. There are a few surprises in the story, none of them very surprising. Wouldn’t there be SOME sort of controls which kind of animals can be brought to Earth? A fairly dated tale. ***-
Socrates • shortstory by John Christopher
Man stops an owner from killing a misshapen puppy. He offers to buy it and owner agrees to keep it for a while. A few weeks later he comes to get the dog. The owner refuses to give the dog as it has turned out to be extremely intelligent and easily trained. He starts to use the dog as show dog on a theater circuit, and later starts to treat it really badly. But dogs tend to be loyal…A fair, but sad story, another one which was too short. ***

Friday, August 2, 2013

Asimov's Science Fiction, September 2013

A fair issue, at least average.

The Discovered Country • novelette by Ian R. MacLeod
The first love of a late super famous actress has been asked to join her in some sort of digital afterlife which usually is possible only for extremely rich. When alive he strictly opposed that kind of "heaven", but apparently he changed his mind. A well written, but perhaps slightly overlong story, where I didn't understand the motivations of some ( many) actions. ***½
What We Ourselves Are Not • shortstory by Leah Cypess
Chip which offer memories and facts significant to the culture of the wearer have become common. They must be implanted at late teens. A boy is facing a choice: will he get a chip or not. Another well written story, but I felt very uneasy about the world where people were placing so much weight at their own cultural heritage - it seems so related to unthinking patriotism which I consider to be one of the most evil things there are. ***+
The Unparallel'd Death-Defying Feats of Astoundio, Escape Artist Extraordinaire • novelette by Ian Creasey
An escape artist performs his most daring escape: he escapes from the inside of the black hole. A surprisingly good and complex story considering the fairly simple starting premise. The ending was perhaps the weakest point. ***½
As Yet Untitled • shortstory by James Sallis
A short short about a day in life of a character in a Wild West novel. The execution reminds me slightly of the novels by Jasper Fforde. **
A Stranger from a Foreign Ship • shortstory by Tom Purdom
A man who is able swap minds with anyone in close proximity encounters some criminals. A nice story which felt like a random chapter from a novel. Very readable and I would like to read other stories which involve the same character. ***
That Universe We Both Dreamed Of • shortstory by Jay O'Connell
The aliens have arrived. And they interview apparently randomly preselected people during a weekend. The interview is announced a few days beforehand. Most interviewed people won’t describe the interview very closely. One of thousand interviewed people disappears. One man interviewer is a nice looking very human looking female. The discussions were interesting and the story was fairly good, but somehow there was something missing, I am not sure what. ***+
A Hole in the Ether • novelette by Benjamin Crowell
A future where all intellectual property laws are controlled extremely strictly and copyright has extended to cover almost everything which is newer than Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Everything, including home security systems, monitor and report all copyright infringements. The major corporations have hoarded classics and won’t allow any copies to released in any way as they are afraid that prior publicity might harm possible TV or cinema adaptations. One of the main characters happens to inherit a decades old cell phone which includes a library of about eleven million books. Getting caught with such collection would extremely, extremely bad. An ok story, but the laws were a little too strict to be believable, especially when the writing was very straight without even a slightest eye wink of parody. ***+

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Richard Wiseman: Yliluonnollinen ilmiö totuus on jossain sisällämme (Paranormality: Why we see what isn't there)

An excellent and well written review of how people are scammed with paranormal claims. There is nothing really new for a hard core skeptic, but a book which is well worth reading.

Mielenkiintoinen katsaus siihen, miten ihmisiä huijataan ”yliluonnollisilla” ilmiöillä. Mitään kovin uutta ja erityistä ei piintyneelle skeptikolle kirjassa ollut, mutta mukava, helppolukuista ja ajoittain varsin hauskaa tiedeviihdettä kirja tarjosi. Kirjan antaa aika perusteelliset ohjeet siihen, miten voisi itse alkaa meedioksi tai selvänäkijäksi. Pitäisiköhän vaihtaa ammattia, ihmisten herkkäuskoisuudella ei tunnu rajoja olevan? Oikeastaan kirja oli nuorisolle lahjoitettavaksi tarkoitettu ja siihen käyttöön se on mitä parhain.

349 ss.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Frederik Pohl: Avaruuden portti (Gateway)

A classic I have read a few times, but it has been at least thirty years since the last time. The book was even better I remembered.

Siitä kun edellisen kerran luin tämän kirjan on kulunut varmasti kolmisenkymmentä vuotta. Kirja tuli vastaan Finnconin myyntitiskillä nykyään keräilykirjaksi luokiteltavalle kirjalle kohtuullisella hinnalla, joten piti ottaa talteen. Aikomuksenani ei ollut kirjaa heti lukea, mutta Illalla asunnolla yksin ollessa aloin kirjaa selailla ja melkein samoin tein tuli luettua ensimmäiset 70 sivua. Kirja oli jopa parempi kuin muistinkaan, ja aikaisemmin tylsähköiksi kokemani psykiatrijaksotkin tuntuivat toimivan nyt huomattavasti paremmin. Kirjahan kertoo takautumina Robinette Broadheadista, joka on rikastunut tuntemattomien alieneiden aluksella suorittamallaan tutkimusmatkalla. Matkalle hän on lähtenyt Tukikohdasta, joka sijaitsee ontoksi kaiverretulla asteroidilla, jonne on jäänyt tyhjien käytävien lisäksi runsas määrä toimintakykyisiä avaruusaluksia. Ongelmana vain on, että kukaan ei osa aluksia ohjata. Nappia painamalla aluksella pääsee jonnekin, ja jos on hyvä onni, nappia painamalla alus palaa takaisin. Jos on aivan erikoisen hyvä onni, aluksen määränä olleessa kohteessa on jotain arvokasta. Robinette on siis kuulunut näihin onnistuviin palaajiin, mutta jotain hänen viimeisellä retkellään on mennyt pieleen, sillä rikastuneena hän tarvitsee intensiivistä psykoterapiaa syyllisyydentunteidensa hallintaan. Kirjassa nämä tietokoneohjelman vetämät psykoterapiajaksot ja kertomus Tukikohdan tapahtumista vuorottelevat. Mukavana todentuntua antavana piirteenä kirjassa ovat satunnaiset, mm. tukikohdan elämään liittyvät irralliset raportit tai mainokset, joita tekstin lomassa on. Kirja on aikoinaan voittanut Hugo-palkinnon, ja on selvästi parhaimmistoa palkinnon voittajista.

336 s.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Reijo Mäki: Mustasiipi

Vares, a private detective from Turku who tends to drink too much and meet beautiful women often enough has a problem. Someone tried to kill him, but he has no recollection of what happened. Or why. A pretty good and very readably part of the series.

Vares-sarjan kirjat ovat aina olleet mukavaa kevyttä kesälukemista. Tämäkin osa toimi kyseisessä tarkoituksessa vallan mainiosti. Kirjan alussa Vares asustelee eristyneellä saarella selvittyään täpärästi tapon yrityksestä. Yritys oli ollut siinä määrin tehokas, että toipuminen sairaalassa oli kestänyt pitkään, eikä muistinsa menettäneellä Vareksella ole aavistustakaan siitä, kuka yrityksen takana on ollut. Vähemmästäkin tulee hieman vainoharhaiseksi, ja yksinäisellä saaristoelämällä oli yllättävästi vetovoimaa. Lopulta jo yksitoikkoiselta tuntuvaan piileskelyyn tulee virkistävä tauko, kun viereisen saaren huvilaan muuttaa viehättävä nainen...
Sujuvaa tekstiä kuten tavallista ja viihdyttävästi kirjoitettuna. Kyseessä on sarjansa parempaan päähän kuuluva kirja. Sattumalla on taas melkoinen osuus loppuratkaisussa, mutta sehän on Vareksissa enemmän perusominaisuus kuin varsinainen vika. Paha saa palkkansa ja Vares naisensa kuten asiaan kuuluu.

397 s.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, October 2013

Not bad, the best issue for some time.

Lune Bleue • novella by Janet Catherine Johnston
A radio telescope which is used for SETI research on the far side of the moon is manned only by three people: a couple who has fallen in love and a very strangely behaving man who has spent several consecutive shifts on the moon already. The political situation has meanwhile grown tense, and a war between Russia and China is expected to start at any moment. A well written but perhaps overlong story. The ending was weak and almost deus ex machina. Also, I wonder if the far side of the moon would be a good or logical place for activities of that kind. (a secret missile base) ***+
Sixteen Million Leagues from Versailles • novelette by Allen M. Steele
A valuable vase from Versailles has been on an exhibition on Mars. The shuttle carrying it has dropped on a gorge. A small expedition is launched to retrieve it. A pretty standard run of the mill Analog style of story. A fair amount of exposition and not a lot happens. The writing was competent, clear and easy to read. ***+
Following Jules • novelette by Ron Collins
Two stupid and irritating female college roommates almost live in a virtual world and dream of uploading themselves (or at least one of them) to the computer world. Writing was good, but the characters were unbelievably irritating and stupid which made me really, really, really hate them. ***-
Putting Down Roots • shortstory by Stephen R. Wilk
A short “bar room discussion” about the evolution of intelligence and what influence some surprising factors might have had. A simple “story” without real point. ***-
Things We Have in This House for No Reason • shortstory by Marissa K. Lingen
A list of unneeded things a teenager who lives on Mars has on his home. Nice writing which goes for subtext. I probability didn’t get everything. ***
At the Peephole Palace • shortstory by William R. Eakin
Peepshows have slightly different sorts of shows in this future. Writing ok, but I didn’t get why such shows would have been so strictly illegal. ***-
Fear of Heights in the Tower of Babel • shortstory by Carl Frederick
The elevators of a new building with the latest AI programming have kidnapped VIPs who were on route to the opening ceremony of the building. A computer expert is asked to negotiate. A short, fairly stupid story where the solution to the problem was something everyone with a half a brain would have done as the first action. ***-
Conscientious Objectors • shortstory by Jay Werkheiser
There has been a devastating was between China and USA. The relations are still really tense, but a Chinese neuroscientist has come to study the American veterans of the war who suffer from a strange condition which causes locked in style symptoms. A well-written story which was a bit too short and with a slightly too easy solution. The missing chapter breaks made the Kindle version hard to read. ***½

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Asimov's Science Fiction, August 201

Ok issue, average or above average. There was one major flaw, though. My copy, which was read from Zinio, was full of all sorts of typographical mistakes. There were extra space in the wo rds, there extra space before comma , there were letters crammed together. Someone forgot proofreading? Or some sort of problem in preparing the electronic copy?

The Ex-Corporal • shortstory by Leah Thomas
Father switches to another personality from an alternate reality during epileptic seizures. First he has even enjoyed “travels between dimensions” but then a very obnoxious personality seems to take over. This story could be classified as horror rather than science fiction or fantasy. Writing is pretty good, but perhaps the story was slightly too short. ***
Stone to Stone, Blood to Blood • novelette by Gwendolyn Clare
A half brother of the ruling regent get a body guard as present when he turns nine. The ruling family has a special gene which allows them to somehow tune with some rare mineral deposits on the planet or something. The bodyguard carries an implanted implementation or brainwashed orders which forces him to guard the prince at any cost. Their relation has turned to a deep friendship. The prince is facing a “brainwashing” himself. Well written, good story, but perhaps too short for the fairly complex background – or are there other stories in the same series? ***+
Arlington • novelette by Jack Skillingstead
A sixteen years old boy, who is lying his first long solo flight in a small airplane in 1981 lands on a remote little used airfield after being lost for a sort time in a strange cloud. The airfield seems to have surprisingly many planes from many eras. Parallel to these events the same person as a grown man with a strange untreatable disease is considering a life changing decision. A well written, very god story which feels like an episode of Twilight Zone, in a good way. ****-
Lost Wax • novelette by Gregory Norman Bossert
A story about some sort of "scientific golems" made from yeast orsomething. A pretty confusing and hard to follow story. I didn't get it. **
The Application of Hope • [Diving Universe] • novella by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Apparently a start for a new series. A fleet of human spaceships has traveled centuries is space encountering other cultures, trading, fighting and exploring. The ships use a "foldspace" for fTL travel. Sometimes ships disappear to foldspace and are never found again. The father of the main protagonist disappeared when she was a child. She becomes a foldspace expert who could for first time search thing from the fold space and later one of the most accomplished captains of the fleet. Another ship disappears, and its' captain was her close fried and lover. Fairly little happens in the story, mainly it is exposition. The exposition is done pretty well however, it didn't felt like massive infodump crammed to the brain of the reader. Not bad, bad long for actual plot. I might very well buy the book where this story is a few first chapters. ***+

Thursday, July 18, 2013

My Hugo votes 2013, part 4, novels

The novel category was pretty mediocre at best. All but one (Redshirts) can be considered a part of some sort of a series (although 2312 was somewhat separate from the Mars series, but it clearly happens in the same universe). There was a good book which belongs to a very long series (Captain Vorpatril), there was the third part of a series involving zombies in US with HUGE implausibilities, and a very mediocre first installment of a new fantasy series - a nomination which probably was one of the most baffling nomination choices this year considering all categories. And the book which is not a part of any sort of series was an intentional bad parody of a TV-series. I have read little of sf published last year, but really?
I was almost tempted to put “no award” to the first place, but my voting will most likely be in the following order:

1. Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)
2. 2312, Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit)
3. Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas, John Scalzi (Tor)
4. No award
5. Blackout, Mira Grant (Orbit)
6. Throne of the Crescent Moon, Saladin Ahmed (DAW)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

A fantasy novel by a new author and the last of this year’s Hugo nominees for me. The action happens refreshingly in a generic middle age Middle East instead of a generic middle age Europe. That’s about all which is unusual in this book. The plot and especially the characters are very generic and clichéd. There is an older ghoul hunter who feels too old for this shit, a young, overzealous holy warrior and an attractive very badly underused, very badly characterized, shapeshifting young girl who serves as a love interest for the youngster. Something very evil and powerful is rising, and it is up to our heroes to save the city, country and the world. The novel feels very generic in spite of the location. There are problems with the pacing, the writing feels pretty clumsy and especially the battle scenes feel transcripts of a role playing adventure. At times, it feels like the author threw dice and consulted random encounter tables, so random some encounters felt. The magic used in the book also felt to be very "D&D" stylishs with fireballs, spells glowing in the air and so on. I also would imagine that if magic really were so powerfull and common, the society and most functions of such world would be profoundly changed. That coudn't be seen in this book. I don’t see why this book was nominated and how it has so many so positive reviews in Amazon and Librarything. Will be on the last place in my voting.


Monday, July 15, 2013

My Hugo votes 2013, part 3, short stories

Short stories

There were only three short stories nominated this year as the votes from nomination spread too far. One story by Kij Johnson was nominated again just like in at least two previous years. I have never really understood any of her stories, but this year’s story is probably the worst of bunch. This will be on the last place and below “no award”. Ken Liu’s story was very moving and will earn the first place. Immersion took rereading before I really understood it, but it was probably the best thing I have ever read by Bodard and it was a very satisfying tale after all.

“Mantis Wives”, Kij Johnson
A very short “story” (I am not sure if this is “a story” by any definition) about the mating habits of the praying mantis. No plot, no real story or plot anywhere. 100% pure unadulterated metaphors, not even very interesting or good metaphors and nothing else.

“Immersion”, Aliette de Bodard
A story of “a developing” planet where the inhabitants of Chinese descent are using some sort of portable brain interface which helps them serve tourists better giving them insights of customs and language of the visitors. The story is told from two viewpoints – from a point of a poor girl whose family owns a restaurant, and from a point of a wife of a rich man who is hopelessly addicted and grown into the brain interface. A very good story after I got the shifting viewpoints. One small nitpick: the author doesn’t seem to understand the complexity of technology. No amateur tinkered could never, ever, reverse engineer even current high technology, it is totally ridiculous that someone would even try to do for future tech.

“Mono no Aware”, Ken Liu
A giant asteroid has hit Earth (and splinters hit Mars and Moon – talk about co-incidences!). The last humans are on a generation ship. The last Japanese got to the ship through his father’s good relations. A very well and poetically written, very sad and melancholy story with a tear producing end. A very good story in spite of a few logical inconsistencies.

Voting order:

1. “Mono no Aware”, Ken Liu
2. “Immersion”, Aliette de Bodard
3. No award
4. “Mantis Wives”, Kij Johnson

Sunday, July 14, 2013

My Hugo votes 2013, part 2, novellettes

There was no clear winner in the novelette category. None of the stories was really exceptionally good, but neither any of them was really bad, in fact they were at least moderately good. Only two of the stories were science fiction and one of them only barely so. As I much prefer sf to fantasy that was a slight letdown. The first story I read was Heuvelt’s piece. I was pretty sure that I would eventually like something more than that, but I will probably put it to the first place.

“In Sea-Salt Tears”, Seanan McGuire

A fantasy story about women, who are able to turn seals by wearing a magic robe which is inherited from an older family member. A group of teenager is anxiously waiting for their own turn. One of them makes friends with a strange woman who first only visit when it is time for the ceremony where someone gets her robe. Later they become more than friends. A very bittersweet love story. Pretty good writing, but didn’t really get into the mood of the story.

“Fade To White”, Catherynne M. Valente
The story happens in an alternative world where Japan retaliated the nuclear attacks by nuclear bombardment of Seattle and other west coast US cities. The war is being fought against Japan and Russia on American soil. A significant degree of people has become infertile due to radiation, and there is a shortage of men as they needed on the battle lines. Meanwhile the life is following a rigid "American lifestyle" with father, mother and kids in a nuclear family. The father takes care of several families, though on alternative weeks. A very good story which is partly told as a memo of a propaganda commercial. The lifestyle which is being imitated is a fifties lifestyle, which isn't entirely logical if war had stretched out from what really happened.

“The Boy Who Cast No Shadow”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt
A boy who doesn’t cast a shadow befriends a boy who is made of glass and is extremely fragile. The glass boy has lived a sheltered life as the slightest hit might shatter him, but he has a dream of seeing an ocean. Together they escape from home and travel through half Europe to the coast of Portugal. The story has nothing to do with science fiction, more with magical realism and allegory. Nice writing, but somewhat too short.

“The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi”, Pat Cadigan
Most of the humans who live around Jupiter have changed themselves to look like crustaceans. A girl who has still been “two legged” decides to “go for sushi”, in other word turn herself to the sea animal look. There are several discussions and considerations before that, and there are some ulterior motives for some actions on some characters. A lot of back story for a story of this length. Enjoyable tale, but not the best possible.

“Rat-Catcher”, Seanan McGuire
The story happens apparently in the same fantasy universe as “In Sea-Salt Tears” by the same author. This time the protagonists are cats who can turn to humans. The main hero is the prince of the cat kingdom who enjoys watching theatre in the middle age London. His overbearing father summons him and has a task for him. The prince learns something which could change everything. A well-written story which was one of my favorites.

My voting order will most likely be:
1. “The Boy Who Cast No Shadow”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt
2. “Rat-Catcher”, Seanan McGuire
3. “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi”, Pat Cadigan
4. “Fade To White”, Catherynne M. Valente
5. “In Sea-Salt Tears”, Seanan McGuire

Monday, July 8, 2013

My Hugo votes 2013, part 1, novellas

The novella category was the first I have finished this year. The quality of stories was fairly nice for the most part, but not exceptional and there was only one story which I considered to be really good and well worth of the award. The order of the other stories wasn’t very easy to determine (except for the last place) as most of them were at least moderately good but had all some clear faults. None was so bad that I would use the “no award” category, though.

“The Stars Do Not Lie”, Jay Lake (Asimov’s, Oct-Nov 2012)
A scientist finds from stars something which shakes the official doctrine of an alternative earth (or a colony planet which has been named as earth and a nearby planet has been named as "Mars". He tries to announce his findings at a scientific conference, but he is apprehended before he has a chance to do that. And there are pirates in airships, some plotting and so on. There are some good parts, but the background has somewhat unclear and the narrative was fragmentary. A readable story. But not my favorite.

The Emperor’s Soul, Brandon Sanderson (Tachyon Publications)
A wizard has been imprisoned by an empire which despises magic and even publicly denies it really works even if they use some forms of it commonly. She faces execution, but she is given a vast task: she should rebuild the personality of the emperor who barely has survived an assassination attempt. The attempt left his mind empty. By carefully studying the life of the emperor the magician might be able to succeed in that task. An excellent story with a very fascinating and interesting method of magic: By studying the material, object or people understanding them truly it is possible to rewrite their history and change them, eq. make a worn table to turn to a fine and beautiful antique piece. When the magician learns about the emperor she also leans to understand him better than anyone ever.

After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, Nancy Kress (Tachyon Publications)
A rucksack group of survivors of a major catastrophe which has rendered earth uninhabitable is kidnapping children from the present time with some sort of time machine which has been provided by strange creatures – possibly aliens or robots. A pregnant policewoman is studying the kidnappings which happen in partly predictable temporal and geographical pattern. At the same time, strange mutations are apparently spontaneously springing up in plant at different places of the world. A pretty good story, which was slightly overlong. The writing was interesting and engaging. Pity about the ending, though, it was far too deus ex machine - practically a literal deus ex machine - for me, not mention being overtly preachy.

On a Red Station, Drifting, Aliette de Bodard (Immersion Press)
The story is a part of a series where China was the most dominant nation and future spacefaring civilization follows very strict rules concerning ancestors, propriety and customs. The ancestors are not only highly revered, the carried around as some sort of brain implants which are highly valued. An apparent refugee from a planet with some rebel action has come to a space station where some distant relatives live. She isn’t exactly welcomed, but she gets a place to stay. She is a relative, after all. Then there are some plotting, intrigues and poems which were horribly offensive for some reason. The story doesn’t really work alone without knowing more about the background of the world. The writing was pretty slow to read and didn’t manage to make me care about any of the characters at all – they could all have died horrible deaths without me caring even the slightest. And I really am not interested in knowing more about that horrible nepotic and tyrannical world, if the main plot between the stories isn’t about how the rebels will completely destroy the current system of “government” and custom. Somehow I think that the series won’t be about that, but I certainly am rooting for the rebels.

San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats, Mira Grant (Orbit)
A novella which is a part of author’s zombie series. Tells the story how the zombies took over the San Diego Comic Con and slaughtered thousands of genre fans. Moderately entertaining and better than the books from the series, but seem to be written for the self-gratification of the fandom telling how valiantly different fan groups fought against the horde of zombies. The writing was ok and the story was better than the novels from the series, but Hugo worthy – perhaps not.

My votes will be in this order:

1. The Emperor’s Soul
2. The Stars Do Not Lie
3. After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall
4. San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats
5. On a Red Station, Drifting, Aliette de Bodard

Friday, July 5, 2013

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, September 2013

A pretty average mix of stories.

A lone explorer is in a trapped under the ice of Europa, a moon of Jupiter. She has captured a body of an alien, which apparently died at the moment light from the vessel hit it. She has some strange dreams of her father. The body of the alien then releases a great amount of metallic compound which is badly needed to repair the radio transmitter. A pretty confusing story, which starts in the middle of a story and ends in the middle of a story. It almost felt like everything which happened was just a hallucination of the protagonist, but just almost. If the story wasn’t a hallucination, then the alien is pretty strange and is apparently capable of transmutating elements with no radiation whatsoever. ***
The first civilian expedition of mars has ended with a death of the leader of the expedition. But there seems to be evidence, which proves that the death was intentional. The expedition wasn’t apparently very expertly leaded, but who would have committed murder and why? And is the ex-girlfriend of the first officer who took part of the ill-fated expedition somehow involved? The story consists mainly from the eyewitness accounts of what happened. An ok story, perhaps slightly overlong. ***+
THE ORACLE, Lavie Tidhar
A story about an emerging all powerful godlike artificial intelligence. A very fragmentary, at places very confusing and unclear story. This didn’t work for me at all. **-
Working for interplanetary veterinary corps can be very demanding – especially when your working partner is a (almost) yellow submarine with an AI with some interesting characteristic. A light hearted story in the best James White style. An enjoyable read – nothing deep, but the story wasn’t meant to be something deep. ***+
Extending copyright by suspended animation may work, but there are some things which are hard to escape – like debtors. Another story in a light vein. It was probably overlong to some degree– might have worked best as a shorter Probability Zero story. ***-
THE WHALE GOD, Alec Nevala-Lee
A whale beaches in a war time Vietnam. The US army personnel tries to rescue it. Some of them see some strange shapes at a corner of their eyes, and they have strange feelings. A pretty nice story – but it is not exactly science fiction at all. By a remarkable coincidence, I read about the exact phenomenon which is described in the story just a few days before I read the tale. Pretty good and even moving story. ***+

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

The next of the Hugo-nominees. I don’t think I have read any of Kim Stanley Robinson’s books before (The Mars trilogy has been in my reading queue for a long time). This book apparently happens at the same universe somewhat later. The solar system is widely inhabited and “balkanized”, Mars has already been terraformed, Venus is undergoing terraforming and there are many habitats some of which have been built from asteroids, some are on the moons of the giant planets, all are independent more or less. The lifespan is long; the most people are hermaphrodites with both male and female genitalia. The book is more of a travelogue of the future solar system than a real novel with a real plot. There is a kind of plot, which is even somewhat interesting, but for most part it seems pretty extraneous in comparison with extremely detailed and wordy descriptions of the wonders of the solar system. The plot revolves around a terrorist attack against a giant city which moved endlessly around Mercury on tracks following the twilight zone. There are some interesting sidelines of the plot, like the more or less forced “terraforming” of Earth, which has been devastated by rising sea levels and widespread extinction of the most animal species. The plot could have been presented in half of the pages the book actually has. The characters take several sidetracks which don’t serve the main story in the slightest, but serve only in showcasing still more details of the solar system in mind numbing detail. Most of those sidetracks don’t even serve the evolving love story of the two main protagonists. Also, especially in the beginning the characters seem to be mainly bystanders with no relation to those few events which actually are happening. Maybe the book would have been more accessible for me I had read the earlier books about the same universe and would have been interested for a look into this phase of the development of our solar system. This isn’t going to be my top choices in the Hugo ballot.
561 pp.