Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel by Neil Gaiman

A man returns to his childhood home town for a funeral. He apparently goes by change to visit an old neighbor house and starts to remember what happened during a summer years ago...The neighbors might have been something else or more than humans. And they might have been somewhat older than they seem to be. And there might be some other forces and beings with less than pleasant aims. The book is somewhat similar in style as Coraline, but it feels perhaps slightly more adult. The events are seen by the eyes of a child, but they are told by an adult. The happenings are wonderous and fairytale like, very mystical and not well explained, but even that doesn’t harm the book. Somehow I also felt that I was “reading” a film by Hayao Miyazaki as the slow, magical and poetic “feel” is very similar. The writing was excellent, smooth and poetic, but easy to read at the same time. Something which isn’t always true, very often when the author aims for this style of writing the end result is pretty incomprehensive. Very enjoyable and good book, and extremely likely award nominee (and winner).

192 pp.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, January-February 2004

Some readable but often contrived stories in this large double-issue.

Inherit the Vortex • [Ray and Rokey] • novelette by Ramona Louise Wheeler
A space ship is running away from some sorts of foes. A convenient deus ex machina takes care of the enemies. A pair of adventurers/space truck drivers/scientist for hire/whatever get a job from a seedy businessman. By a remarkable co-incidence the object of the job turns out to have a huge meaning for one of the men. And it might be very dangerous for many people. But wait – there was a deus ex machina at the beginning of the story, maybe it could be used to end the story as well? Yes, that works. The End. Very contrived and stupid story, the writing as such was ok. ***
Private Eyes • novelette by Grey Rollins
A private detective who has died once and now lives in a cloned body is hired to find out why a woman with a severe disease who is offered a similar choice isn’t taking it. An average story. ***
Caged • novelette by Kyle Kirkland
A grandfather starts to find out why his granddaughter who has breached all relations (with a good cause) with the rest of her family is accused of a severe crime. Could she have done it? At least the evidence seems to suggest it, but surely she hasn’t done such a deed? Some pretty forced situations, but fairly intriguing and readable story. ***½
Swings • shortstory by Marie Ming
Starts in the middle of the story. There are students who apparently studying premedical studies, there is a dog like alien who is imprinted to a female student, and she is suffering from some sort of manic depressive disease. Another student is making a genetic profile of her to find out why she is so depressed, but that is apparently very unethical. And all ends well and story seems to continue to somewhere. A strange story which feels like a middle chapter from a below average YA- novel. **
Short Line Loco • novelette by Stephen L. Burns
A female midget who runs a supply train in the moon must take a special delivery: a military agent must get in time to another colony or a terrorist plot might mean the end of all moon habitats. At first it seemed like a close thing, but when the timeline changes it seems there is no change at all about making it in time. At least by any conventional means..A pretty entertaining and smoothly running Analog style of story. ****-
Weapon of Mass Distraction • novelette by Richard A. Lovett
Computer systems analyze _everything_ to find out suspicious behavior to prevent terrorism. It is just too bad that there is a lot of collateral damage as many people may behave suspiciously by accident. And that is something the real terrorists might use to terrorize the nation… A well written, good and even thought provoking story. ***½
Shed Skin • (2002) • shortstory by Robert J. Sawyer
A man has loaded his personality and memories at an android body. That is the “official” person. The “leftover”, the meat body (with intact personality and memories) is supposed to live the rest of his life in a resort style closed area. But he isn’t happy of the sedentary life and makes a desperate act to get his old life back. A fairly contrived background, pretty stupid ending, but smoothly readable story otherwise. ***+
Decisions • shortstory by Michael A. Burstein
An astronaut has returned from his journey and has been imprisoned as soon as he landed. It turns out he landed before he left. There is a change that the information from the future would cause a paradox which might lead to catastrophic consequences. With no regard to that, he escapes and acts very stupidly. It turns out that something else is going on. Extremely stupidly behaving characters and aliens, and the end is something from the worst Campbellian style stories: The humans are _special_ .**+
Annual Annular Annals • shortstory by F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre
A time police goes to New Year ’s Eve 1999 and finds that everyone is turned to a skeleton and all food has disappeared from everywhere. An extremely stupid story with many stupid puns and with a “shaggy dog” ending. **-
Deletion • novelette by Steven Bratman
A young woman is meeting her therapist: she has discovered that her genome lacks a few genes. Maybe that explains why she has always had a felling she is lacking something. The therapist discovers that everyone lacks them, but change to human genome has apparently happened in about year 2000. What has happened after that which could be explained by that change: surely not the disappearance of family ties, countries and loyalties to sport teams and all sorts of organizations? Could such a minor change be genetic? A pretty good and though provoking story. An interesting and well described alternative future. ****-
Inversus • novelette by Alec Nevala-Lee
A man has a psychotic break - the furniture starts to attack him. He escapes to a subway station where a corkscrew kills a man who approaches. The moving things are real! A manhunt ensues. Why several people with situs inversion are dead? An extremely implausible story with some very stupid details. The writing is average. ***-

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde

The story of Thursday Next continues. It has been several years since the events of the last book. Her life has pretty much settled down. She works at a carpet shop and takes care of her family: her un-eradicated husband and her son and two daughters. But there are some slight problems, though. Her son seems to be just a slacker teenager and isn’t at all interested in the career in the time police. That is pretty strange and worrying, as he himself told that he was the keenest and the recruit the time police had ever had and was the leader of the branch of police at early age. And why one of her daughters seems always to be spending time by a friend? And the end of the world is apparently coming. However, there still at least two or three days before the end, so there is no hurry whatsoever to do anything for it. And as the new government has been extremely functional and sensible, the nation’s stupidity (which hasn’t been used on anything) is really starting to pile up, and government might be forced to make some really stupid decisions very soon. And as Thursday still secretly working for Jurisfiction, the “police” of Bookworld, she has to take care of two really irritating new trainees. Both are different – very different- versions of her, who both originate from books which have been written about her earlier adventures.
This book wasn’t perhaps as manically overflowing ideas as some of the earlier books, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, there were more than enough fun ideas and fun and sometimes familiar character to make these extremely funny and enjoyable read. It just too bad that Harry Potter couldn’t make an appearance in the book as he had some copyright problems and wasn’t able to arrive.

416 pp.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, May 2014

A pretty good issue. The theme seems to be the future after the fall of the civilization.

Cryptids • shortstory by Alec Nevala-Lee

An expedition is trying to find the source of poison a certain bird has on its’ feathers. They make a stranger and more dangerous find they were expecting. The story starts very slowly and then gets faster and faster until it ends very abruptly. A pretty decent story in spite of the hurried ending. ***
All Human Things • novelette by Dave Creek
An artificial human must fight aliens with a hive mind and the human prejudices and face the horrors of his origin. An Ok story, not bad, but not unforgettable. Writing was nice and easy to read. ***
In Perpetuity • shortstory by Ellis Morning
Intrigue at a moon base. There is a finding of some rocks which should be where it was found. At the same time a member of the group seems to be behaving erratically. An overlong and talky story – not among my favorites. ***-
Bodies in Water • shortstory by Sarah Frost
A Young girl who lives in a post-apocalyptic world catches a mechanical fish. A story with little plot, aiming more for the mood. I am not sure when the story is supposed to be happening as on the other hand the fall of society seemed something which had happened on the lifetime of the parents, but the other hand it seemed something centuries old. Enjoyable read with nice, poetic language. ***½
Snapshots • shortstory by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Scenes where guns cause harm for generations of an American-African family. Finally one member of the family might have a solution. A story with an agenda, one I agree with, but there is little actual story there, more preaching. ***-
Repo • shortstory by Aaron Gallagher
A repo woman takes over a spaceship. She is bringing the ship back to her employers when she encounters a man with a similar agenda. Two extremely professional people end up in "friendly" or not so friendly combat over who will get whose target. A fairly nice and intriguing story. ***+
Another Man's Treasure • shortstory by Tom Greene
A down in her luck woman excavates an old landfill trying to find worthwhile items in a future where all raw materials are extremely scarce. She is facing thugs and corporate competition. Will she able to face her adversaries? Another story about a bleak future and another story with nice writing. ***+