Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Jennifer Egan: Sydäntorni (The Keep)

A man has had to escape his old life for undefined reasons. He goes to work with his cousin, who has become very rich and has bought a castle in Europe. Their relationship in childhood ended with some very bad blood, but now past is past, and they are renewing their relationship. The events slowly turn almost surrealistic. At first, the book felt at best mediocre, but rarely has the ending of a book changed my conception of the book to such a degree.

Mies, joka on joutunut jonkinlaisiin tarkemmin kuvailemattomiin vaikeuksiin ja joutuu käytännössä pakenemaan, saa työtä rikkaalta serkultaan. Serkku on rikastunut osakevälityksellä ja on nyt nuorena eläkkeelle jäämisen jälkeen ostanut Euroopasta vanhan linnan. Hän on remontoimassa sitä kovan tason retriittihotelliksi. Serkukset olivat olleet lapsena kaverukset, kunnes välit rikkoutuvat osittain ryhmäpaineesta aiheutuneen aika rajun kiusaamisepisodin jälkeen. Mutta mennyt on mennyttä ja serkkujen suhde on lämpiämässä uudelleen. Tosin etäällä oleva linna, jonka alueella ei ole kännykkäverkkoa ja kaikki sähköiset laitteet toimivat heikosti, ei ole välttämättä kovin auvoisa paikka miehelle, joka on addiktoinut kännyköihin ja yhteydenpitoon. Linnan keskellä on vanha sydäntorni, jossa vielä asuu linnan omistajasuvun vanha jäsen, joka ei ole suostunut muuttamaan pois. Linnan aluetta kunnostamassa on melko sekalainen ryhmä ihmisiä, mukana myös kesätyössä olevia opiskelijoita. Pikkuhiljaa tapahtumat muuttuvat kummallisemmiksi ja melkein surrealistisiksi. Tämän kirjan päätarinan välissä on lukuja, jotka kertovat vankilassa olevan vangin kirjoitusharjoituksista ja hänen kehittyvästä suhteestaan vankilassa käyvään luovan kirjoituksen opettajaan.
Kirja vaikutti alussa melko kömpelösti kirjoitetulta sekä hiukan sekavalta ja epäloogiselta ja jotenkin ärsyttävältä. Loppuratkaisu oli kumminkin sen verran yllättävä ja hyvä, että nämä virheet voi antaa anteeksi (ja oikeastaan ne jopa selittyvät). Aika harvoin on alustava mielipide kirjasta muuttunut niin paljon niin nopeasti kuin nyt, kun matto vedettiin jalkojen alta siihen malliin, että sama kappale piti lukea muutamaan kertaan, jotta oikeasti ymmärsi mitä juuri tapahtui. Kirja melkein pitäisi lukea uudelleen, nyt kun tietää, mistä milloinkin on oikeasti kyse. Lopputuloksena kirja oli kuitenkin hyvin mielenkiintoinen lukuelämys.

347 s.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Salla Simukka: Valkea kuin lumi (As White as Snow)

A Finnish YA-book which has gotten some international fame. The main character of the series is spending some vacation time in Prague after the events in the first book. She is approached by a young woman who claims to be her sister. Could that be true? A smoothly going book with some hard to believe plot points, but it was nice light reading anyway for young spirited people of all ages.

Toinen osa kansainvälistä huomiota saaneesta suomalaisesta nuortenkirja-sarjasta. Kovien koettelemuksien jälkeen Lumikki on matkustanut Prahaan lomalle. Siellä hänelle aikaisemmin tuntematon nuori nainen lähestyy häntä ja kertoo olevansa hänen siskonsa. Puhuuko hän totta? Onko Lumikin perheessä salaisuus, josta ei ole puhuttu? Tämä ainakin jotenkin tuntuisi olevan totta, mutta onko Lumikin isä joskus yli kaksikymmentä vuotta sitten käynyt Tsekeissä, ainakaan ennen Lumikin matkaa asiasta ei ollut mitään puhetta. Lumikin siskoksi esittäytynyt nainen näyttää elävän osana kummallista uskonlahkoa. Lumikkia näyttää alkavan vainota joku, joka oikeasti haluaa tappaa hänet. Mitä ihmettä oikein on meneillään?
Sujuvasti kirjoitettu nuortenkirja; tosin joten vaikutti hiukan heikommalta kuin ensimmäinen osa. Kyseessä tietysti osaltaan voi olla trilogioiden toisen osan vaikeus – henkilöt ja tausta on esitelty, mutta loppuratkaisuja ei vielä päästä tekemään. Juonen uskottavuudessa oli jonkin verran epäuskottavuutta, mutta vetävästi kirjoitettu kirja oli, ja siinä jäi ihan mukavasti auki asioita päätösosaan. Eiköhän sekin jossain vaiheessa pidä lukea.

237 pp.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Dark Forest and Death's End (Remembrance of Earth's Past #2 and #3) by Liu Cixin

I read these two books back to back. I already have some trouble remembering what happened in which book, as they continue almost directly from the same story. Aliens are going to attack Earth. Luckily it is going to take a few centuries, so Earth will have time to prepare. Unfortunately, aliens have been able to prevent all high energy particle physics, so it is likely that humans will run against a technological barrier at some point. But as centuries pass, humans have built a huge space navy and are practically sure they will easily beat the invaders. But the science gap turns out to be vastly greater than almost anyone on Earth anticipated.
A lot happens in these novels – and I mean a LOT. The structure of one book is such that it leaps even centuries at a time, while the main characters spend their time in suspended animation. And then it is carefully explained what has happened; this book mostly tells things, doesn’t actually show them, except the most crucial moments. It is hard to give a very detailed plot description without spoilers, and because of the really vast scope the book covers.
There were some strange details, like smoking in a future restaurant (which had android waiters who looked completely human, but with such bad programming and pattern recognition that they are not able to recognize a removed table). And the behavior of some characters is incredibly stupid: after several failed murder attempts, one character casually orders drugs for very mundane reason, and almost takes them without a second thought.
Also, the strategies used by humans are completely insane. An unknown enemy probe with unknown capabilities arrives. Oh, let's arrange the whole human fleet in close proximity at STRAIGHT LINES very close to each others.
There were many problems with science; for example, interstellar dust is so dense that it slows spaceships which move at relativistic speeds by “drag” significantly? Electromagnetic pulse caused by a nuclear detonation causes such a heavy vibration of the space ship hull that it kills everyone inside?
The motives of many the characters are often very strange and hard to understand, and some actions even the nations took were very strange. There was no mention at all about opposition, which is active in all western countries; all political decisions were apparently unanimous with no one opposing sometimes very strange decisions, like classifying all attempts to build ships to escape the solar system and the coming invasion as “escapism” and extremely criminal – I didn’t get that at all (there was an explanation in book for that, but it was a ridiculously stupid one).
There is a lot of lecturing, explaining pretty basic scientific things, and if something isn't explained, there is a translator's note which explains it.
As a whole, the plot was interesting, but the writing style and behavior of many of the protagonists was pretty infuriating. However so much happened - sometimes pretty surprising (but depressing) things - that the books were an easy reads in spite of hefty page counts.

512 + 604 pp.

Monday, July 17, 2017

My Hugo award votes 2017 part 4: novels

I have read all the nominees in the novel category. As I have been traveling and been both busy and sick lately, I haven’t had time to write a blog post about Cixin Liu’s "Death’s End", but I will in a few days. I also read the second part of the trilogy, which had been published earlier. They were entertaining books, but not without faults. All nominees were pretty good, at last, on some level, and it wasn’t easy to put them in order. None of the novels was totally unworthy of an award. The "Ninefox Gambit" felt most innovative, and I put it in first place. "Like the Lighting" was a bit too hard to read for my taste, even though it was a fair book, also. Altogether, I can accept any of these books as a winner; most of them were very literary works, perhaps even a bit too much.

My voting order was:

1. Ninefox Gambit
2. The Obelisk Gate
3. A Closed and Common Orbit
4. All the Birds in the Sky
5. Death's End
6. Too Like the Lightning

Sunday, July 9, 2017

My Hugo award votes 2017 part 3: short stories

In this category, the rabid puppies chose the third alternative action: self-gratification and pushed for the nomination of a story that was written by their leader – who “ordered” the nomination of his own story by his loyal gamergate henchmen, who live in their parent’s basements. The overall quality was fairly average: better than the last few years, but that wasn’t hard to do. The stories were mostly very literate, with somewhat experimental writing styles. The first place was easy to decide – I preferred the story with the most traditional writing style. The order of the other stories was less easy to decide, except for the last place – there was no contest for that. That story is below “no award.”

“Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, Saga Press)
A story of two women with an at least partly self-imposed punishment/task. One is supposed to wear down seven pairs of metal shoes; another is supposed to stand on a glass mountain. They meet, discuss their fates, and choose to escape their punishments together. A very allegorical story, which makes certain that you understand the allegories. Not bad, after I got into it, following a few fairly demanding first pages.

“The City Born Great” by N. K. Jemisin (Tor.com, September 2016)
A young man is drafted to work as the “midwife” for the city of New York. The city is going to be born, apparently, as a conscious being and there are powers that oppose this. A poetic and fairly confusing story, not really my cup of tea.

“Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine, November 2016)
A serial murderer kills a woman, but that woman happens to be a god of sorts, who has been in corporeal form for a while. She and her sisters avenge her death. A very short revenge fantasy, which is written very well, almost poetically, but it is too short to work really well.

“That Game We Played During the War” by Carrie Vaughn (Tor.com, March 2016)
A nurse arrives at a former enemy country soon after the armistice has come into force. She knows a man who is being treated for his wounds in a hospital. She had taken care of him when he was a prisoner, and later, she was his war prisoner. They formed a friendship and played chess; which might be a bit of a different game if one player can read the other’s thoughts. A nice story, with nice characters, but a bit too scene-like.

“A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers” by Alyssa Wong (Tor.com, March 2016)
A story of two sisters who are apparently able to control reality. One kills herself and the other tries to undo it. Or everything is just in her mind, as she runs through scenarios of how the death could have been prevented. A pretty good literary story about facing sorrow. If I read the story correctly, there are hints about the reason that the sister killed herself.

“An Unimaginable Light” by John C. Wright (God, Robot, Castalia House)
A robot (or rather an android) and a sort of robot inquisitor have a discussion. A pretty bad and very illogical story, which is written in a ponderous language, with inane digs at modern egalitarian culture and openly sadistic violence toward women. A bad story on all levels.

My voting order is:

Short Story:
1. "That Game We Played During the War"
2. "Seasons of Glass and Iron"
3. "The City Born Great"
4. "A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers"
5. "Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies"
6. No award

Thursday, July 6, 2017

My Hugo award votes 2017 part 2: novelettes

Novelettes is the second category I have finished. The overall quality of the stories was fairly good, but somewhat worse than in novellas. In this category, the evil leader of the rabid puppies went for trolling and nominated a lizard sex story, again. Otherwise, the order was fairly easy to decide. The only thing that was a little harder to decide was the order of the two best stories, but eventually, I went for the more straightforwardly science fictional story. Similarly, when deciding the order of third and fourth places, I went for the science fiction, even when the actual speculative content of the story was fairly minor.

"Alien Stripper Boned From Behind" by The T-Rex by Stix Hiscock

Last year, the rabid puppies and Vox Day, along with his minions, nominated a gay sex story involving a Tyrannosaurus Rex. This year, their contribution to the nominations was a straight sex story involving a Tyrannosaurus Rex. I wonder what kind of pervert is so captivated by lizard sex? In this story, a three-breasted alien stripper, who shoots laser beams out of her nipples when she has an orgasm, hooks up with a tyrannosaurus and has a lot of steamy sex. The tyrannosaurus is extremely well endowed for a lizard (which usually don’t really have much external genitalia at all). This was much worse than last year’s porn story, which at least managed to be pretty funny. This wasn’t even arousing and the writing was pretty bad. It lands below “no award” for me.

“The Tomato Thief” by Ursula Vernon

An old woman lives alone and raises the best tomatoes anyone has ever tasted. She is waiting for one especially juicy tomato to reach peak ripeness, when it disappears during the night. And then the next one is also stolen. And the next. Clearly, something must be done. It turns out that the old lady (and the world itself) were not so simple as they first seemed to be. The quest for the tomato thief turns out to span several dimensions and is a very dangerous adventure, which involves space shifters and some even more strange creatures. A fun fable-like story, which turns more and more fantastic it goes on and is very well told.

“You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay” by Alyssa Wong

Young orphan boy and girl live on a whorehouse and help with all of the chores there are to be done. The boy has some strange powers: he can animate the dead, up to and including the chicken legs that are being cleaned for cooking. A group of strange men comes to the town. They demand that the boy come with them to examine a mine that was destroyed in an accident. He does, but things don’t go as planned. Nice writing, but a bit of an over-surrealistic end for my taste, which doesn’t really explain any of the fantasy elements.

“The Art of Space Travel” by Nina Allan
The first Martian expedition ended in disaster over twenty years ago. A new one will be launched soon. A young woman takes care of her mother who suffers from an Alzheimer's-like disease. It turns out that her unknown father just might be one of the members of the first expedition. A well-written story, but with fairly minor science fictional plot elements.

“Touring with the Alien” by Carolyn Ives Gilman
Aliens have arrived in impenetrable domes around the world. After a short time, humans who were apparently kidnapped as children, exit from the domes. They are supposedly translators for the aliens. Then one of them asks for a bus. A young woman works as a driver for him and an alien, and they mainly just drive around. A very good story, which is refreshingly real science fiction, not fantasy with irritatingly unexplained mystical events.

“The Jewel and Her Lapidary” by Fran Wilde
Pretty generic fantasy, where jewels have mystical and magical properties. The story involves a member of the royal family and her “lapidary”, a person who is able to command the stones. Their country is invaded and they must try to survive and protect some of the most powerful and important jewels. I didn’t get into this story at all. The characters spent most of their time discussing the magical properties of the jewels and little seemed to happen. Overall, the story felt like pretty generic fantasy, which was well written, but fairly boring.

My voting order is:

1. "Touring with the Alien” by Carolyn Ives Gilman
2. "The Tomato Thief” by Ursula Vernon
3. “The Art of Space Travel” by Nina Allan
4. “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay” by Alyssa Wong
5. “The Jewel and Her Lapidary” by Fran Wilde
6. No award
7. Alien Stripper Boned From Behind" by The T-Rex by Stix Hiscock

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Kari Häkämies: Presidentin murhe

The husband of Finnish president disappears and later he is found murdered. Is the murder connected to the murder of shady businessman from Iceland, whose body was found nearby somewhat earlier? An easy to read crime story, where the description of the political life is top notch, but the characterization might have been better.

Poliittisessa maailmassa tapahtuva dekkari. Naispresidentin hiukan epämääräisen taustan omaava puoliso aluksi katoaa ja löytyy myöhemmin kuolleena. Onko hänen kuolemallaan jotain yhteyttä hiukan hämäräperäisen islantilaisen liikemiehen kuolemaan? Asiaa selvittelee sekä poliisi, että Helsingin Sanomien toimittaja, joka on siirtynyt rikostoimitukseen taloustoimituksesta. Ja onko presidentinkin taustoissa jotain epäselvää? Mutta kumpi löytää syyllisen ensin, toimittaja vai poliisi?
Kirjassa ei ole varsinaista päähenkilöä, vaan tapahtumia seurataan useammasta tai ainakin kahdesta eri näkökulmasta. Tämän vuoksi kirja vaikutti hieman hajanaiselta eikä henkilöiden kuvaus ei myöskään ollut mielestäni mitenkään erityisen hyvää. Kovin paljoa vihjeitä murhaajasta ei myöskään saatu eikä ”arvoitusta” itsenäisesti käytännössä olisi pystynyt ratkaisemaan. Se, mikä kirjassa oli parasta ja kiinnostavaa sekä ilmeisen asiantuntevasti kirjoitettua, oli poliittisen taustan kuvaaminen. Ihan mukava välipala kumminkin raskaamman ja englanninkielisen kirjallisuuden välissä vaihteluna, enkä pitäisi mahdottomana, että lisää saman sarjan kirjoja lukisin.

278 s.

Friday, June 30, 2017

My Hugo award votes 2017 part 1: novellas

Novellas are the first category of the Hugo nominations that I finished. After the changes in the nomination process, the trollers had less of an impact this year. As a drawback (or bonus) there was more to be read, as there are six nominees in each category.

All of the stories were at least fairly good, none was bad, not even the rapid puppies nominee, the story by China Miéville. Apparently that nomination was mostly a “human shield” style of nomination: nominating something which most likely would be on the list anyway. The order of the stories wasn’t too easy to determine, but I read the story by Seanan McGuire first and it pretty much remained my favorite. None of the stories was something that wouldn’t be award-worthy at all. None of the stories will be below “no award.” After some pondering, I chose my voting order. (This year’s voting system is extremely nice to use and it made putting the stories in right order very easy).

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Young teenagers, mostly girls, have gone to alternative worlds where they felt at home. The alternative worlds are mostly different, some are fantasy lands, others are based on logic, some are based on some kind of horror motive, and so on. In the most cases, the youths felt at home on those worlds. For some reason, some of them have been cast out. Time has moved at a different rate for them in many cases. It might have been years in our world and their parents assumed that their children had been abducted/run out and are most likely dead. The relationships between the children and their parents are usually very strained – and usually they were strained even before the youths went away. The victims are gathered to a special school, which is run by an old woman who herself had the same fate as a teenager. She looks middle-aged but is possibly much older. A young girl goes to the school. Soon other pupils start to die - gruesomely. The other pupils naturally first have some suspicion toward the new pupil, especially as she comes from a world where death himself is an important figure.

A pretty good story with a new look at what Alice in Wonderland and Narnia (according to the novella, Lewis didn’t really know anything, he just used stories he had heard - badly) might actually mean. A nice and interesting story, with unusual characters and excellent writing.

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson

This story is kind of the reverse of the one above. This story happens in a dreamland, where the sky is patterned and close to the ground, and it is ruled by several gods. Most of the gods are not benevolent and they are ready to destroy whole towns for minor infringements, or even just to annoy another god. A pupil from a women’s university has escaped. Apparently, she has fallen in love with a man who comes from the waking world. A teacher, who as a young woman had many adventures, must bring her back, as her absence threatens not only the school, but the whole town. But it isn’t easy for someone, who is from the dreamland to go the waking world…

The beginning and the end of the story were excellent, but the middle part consisted mostly of a travelogue of the dreamland and all of the action pretty much stopped. Due to that, the story felt too long. However, both the beginning and the end were excellent.

Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold

This novella continues the story of Pendric and his demon, Desdemona. It has been a few years after the last story and Pendric has grown accustomed to the demon he carries, at least more or less. He must interrupt his studies for a while, as he and his ward are needed to a shaman, who apparently not only murdered his friend but destroyed his soul, as it was nowhere to be found. (In this world the souls are very real and they literally go to the gods at the funeral rites). Eventually, they naturally find what they were looking for. A pretty good story, but it was a bit overlong and there was far too little of Desdemona. Not as good as the first part of the series.

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle

At the beginning of the 20th century, a black man from Harlem delivers a strange book for a peculiar old woman who lives in an affluent part of the New York City, which is written in an unknown language. He has left away the last page of the book as a precaution. Soon, he gets an offer he can’t decline from a strange man and is chased and bullied by a plain clothes detective. And then everything starts to be more and more strange and dangerous. A story, which is an homage to the Cthulhu stories. In the beginning of the story, the slight horror elements were pretty good; the later part, with more surrealistic bloody horror, was much less appealing - but I have never been a great fan of horror and even less of the Cthulhu stories. The writing was very good, though.

A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

The story happens at different times. One part of the story is a romance between two males in the vaguely fantastical medieval style world. Another part of the story happens much later and shows that the two lovers didn’t get each other. This latter part of the story has science fictional elements. Apparently, the world is a colony world and there are “gods” or people with access to high technology who have very long life spans. The romance parts took the bulk of the story, and there was nothing really special there: two lovers from different ladders of the society who eventually can’t be together. How many times has this story been told? The sexes of the partners had no real significance; the same story could have been told about a male and a female just as well. Perhaps that was a part of the point the story was making, but the romance parts felt very dull and they had no scifi or fantasy content at all. And the ending, if I understood it correctly, was a cheat.

This Census-Taker by China Miéville

A young boy lives with his parents on a mountain side. The father is a “keymaker,” who makes keys for the villagers. The keys apparently have some supernatural properties. The father sometimes kills animals. Then the mother disappears and the boy claims that the father killed her. The villagers examine their house and don’t find any proof of the crime: but the mother supposedly has written a letter which states she has run away. The boy must return to his father, but he is afraid that he will be killed. But then a man, a census taker, arrives and he interviews the boy and believes his story. The story has very beautiful language, but the plot has a lot of vague unexplained mysticism, and the story seemed to end a bit too soon. The point of the story is also left more or less open and the slightly mystical points are not explained at all.

My voting order is:

1. Every Heart a Doorway
2. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe
3. Penric and the Shaman
4. This Census-Taker
5. The Ballad of Black Tom
6. A Taste of Honey

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer

This book is another Hugo nominee. It's a sort of future history that supposedly tells a story that happened decades or centuries ago. To show that the story takes place in the past, it is written in a very old style of language and storytelling (the book actually happens hundreds of years in the future from the real current time). One of the narrative devices is a narrative voice that comments on events and sometimes even argues with itself about details of the book, like about who is the main character of the book.
Religion has been all but outlawed after a devastating war that was caused by religious beliefs. Religion cannot be publicly discussed, if a professional called a sensayer isn’t present. The nations have also vanished, and they are replaced by clans of sorts that bind people who have similar interests. The clans take care of their members, and most people belong to very tight families that usually consist of several people of different sexes. And the mere mention of sexual differences or even gender is very much taboo.
The main character, Carlyle Foster, is a sensayer. His friend, Mycroft Canner, is a slave of sorts, due to crimes he has committed. The crimes he committed are very extreme, but he has been “adjusted”, and he isn’t able to harm even insects anymore. They are taking care of a very special child who apparently can perform real miracles — like waking up toy soldiers as real, intelligent, and self-aware creatures.
The language and the structure of the book are pretty heavy, hard to read, and exhaustive, and at places very irritating. The plot itself was pretty good, but the fairly experimental narrative technique made the book pretty hard to follow, and it was a struggle to read at places. This is a book that might be easier to understand on a second reading, and I probably didn’t get everything out of it after the first reading. Also, the capabilities of the child were slightly too much on the fantastical side for a book that otherwise is very science fictional. This won’t be one of my top choices in the Hugo voting.

432 pp.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, May-June 2017

A lot of short stories in this issue – many of them lacked proper beginning and end.

The Girls with Kaleidoscope Eyes • novella by Howard V. Hendrix
An FBI detective arrives at a small town where a teacher has apparently tried to kill and burn several of his young female students, rescuing them at the last possible moment and endangering his own life. The teacher seems to have a history of failure of sorts. He has had some pretty good positions, but has had some unorthodox opinions and eventually he has fallen back to teaching at the high school at his old home town. The town has an NSA data center, with some very secret and advanced data processing faculties. The children who almost were killed are all girls; all look very similar and inhabit some very strange thought patterns.
A pretty good story; a digital take on Midwich Cuckoos. There were some irritating jabs on “SJW”-style of thinking which were unnecessary for the story. ****-
To See the Elephant • novelette by Julie Novakova
An animal psychologist has arrived to find out why a young male elephant is behaving very strangely. As elephants are dying out, due to widespread disease, every single one counts. She is able to create an almost telepathic connection with EEG electrodes which are attached to the bull. A story that is written to showcases a couple novel ideas. A fair one as such, but otherwise not very memorable. ***
The Chatter of Monkeys • short story by Bond Elam
The ecosystem has apparently pretty much fallen. The nations are still battling for some pretty unspecified reasons. An alien robot has arrived on Earth and is able to offer a solution for the catastrophe. But humans don’t seem too interested in the solution. Scant backstory and caricature-like characters make this pretty average story. ***-
A Grand Gesture • short story by Dave Creek
A man who inadvertently caused the death of several people faces an ethical dilemma on a foreign planet. Should he save possibly sentient aliens at cost of human lives? A pretty nice story. ***
Decrypted • short story by Eric Choi
Digital encryption falls down, causing severe unforeseen consequences; among others, a loss of the secrecy of previously unknown messages. Another story that is a bit too short and cursory; more of a scene than a real story. ***
Seven Ways to Fall in Love with an Astronaut • short story by Dominica Phetteplace
A love story of sorts, between scientist/astronauts who work in space and study Martian micro-organisms. The story goes more for a mood than a plot. ***
Focus • short fiction by Gord Sellar
Students in Vietnam revolt against scrupulous factory owners, but the government apparently has some plans. Not really a story, but just a short scene. There was not much backstory, and the story just ends on an emotional scene with no real resolution. ***
Ténéré • short story by Manny Frishberg and Edd Vick
A caravan finds out that an oasis has dried out. There is a new structure nearby and they go there to get water and to find out what has happened to the oasis. The factory uses solar energy to scrub CO2 from the air and uses the carbon to produce carbon nanotubes. A fairly good story, but unreasonably unreasonable nomads, especially considering who financed their caravan. Also, the science of the "problem" doesn't make any sense at all. As the carbon dioxide content of the air is pretty low as a percentage, and one molecule of carbon dioxide produces one molecule of oxygen, it simply isn't possible that there would be significant oxygen surplus around the factory. ***+
The Final Nail • novelette by Stanley Schmidt
A country doctor notices that there are more and more cases of meat allergy, a known syndrome that is usually spread by ticks, but there are no such ticks where he lives. Then his doctor friend who practices at nearby town notices the same thing. Apparently, someone is spreading the disease intentionally. Everything is pretty obvious and the reader knows what is going on earlier than the characters in the story. The end is a bit simplistic: the impact of widespread veganism has been discussed time and time again. But it is nice to read a story with a clear beginning and end. There have been far too many stories lately in this magazine which lack those. ***½
The Speed of Faith in Vacuum • short story by Igor Teper
The powerful "immortals" visit a struggling colony every few hundred years. They offer continuity and sometimes solve problems. The colony has encountered a new, very serious disease. The immortal, who is visiting seems to very frightened of the disease. Are they so powerful after all? A pretty nice story, could be just the beginning? ***½
Facebook Screamed and Screamed, Then I Ate It • short story by Sam Schreiber
An AI emerges on the Internet and invades Facebook. The writing was ok, but once more, too short and scene-like story to have real impact. ***
Vulture's Nest • short story by Marissa Lingen
A family of "scavengers" finds derelict space ships that are tainted by some kind of plaque and breaks them up into parts. One time, the family who used to own the ship objects. Short, but pretty nice simple story.***
In the Mists • short story by Bill Pronzini and Barry N. Malzeberg
A man has been living alone on a planet for seventeen years. He is writing a journal, and wonders if he is sane. Another short, but pretty nice story. ***+
The Return • short story by Bud Sparhawk
A very short story about an old astronaut who goes back to space on an anniversary of space travel. Okay, but too short. ***
Lips Together • short story by Ken Brady
A woman spreads a genetically engineered Streptococcus mutant by kissing select men. So? ***-
The Banffs • short story by Lavie Tidhar
A writer befriends a member of a powerful group who apparently are aliens (or journeyer from another timeline). He works as a housekeeper and lives at vast mansions in the most interesting parts of world. But then the aliens go home, and then the story pretty much ends. Okay, but somewhat unsatisfying. There really wasn’t much of a point anywhere, the writing itself was pretty good. ***+
Where the Flock Wanders • short story by Andrew Barton
A derelict hull of a war ship which possibly had a pivotal role in a conflict between Earth and colonies in space is found. The safe in it has sealed orders, unopened. Those are most likely very important historical documents. Or are they? A pretty nice story, which is actually a fairly self-contained story, not a scene, like so many others in this issue.***+
Proteus • short story by Joe Pitkin
A spy goes to a floating city on Venus to find out if illegal gene manipulation is done there. Everyone seems to be beautiful and the life seems nearly utopian. Is it too good to be true? A nice story, which could have been longer with a bit more detail, as the motivation of the main character wasn't entirely shown. ***+
Kepler's Law • novelette by Jay Werkeiser
A colony ship arrives at a planet in another solar system. They land several exploratory shuttles (manned by idiots; one manages to crash, as the pilot pushes it in order to be the first one landing). The most passengers of the crashed ship die horribly, soon after landing (as they truly are idiots they almost all go together outside without any real protective suits). As all the members are idiots there is some nationalistic quarreling and they even seem to hate foods that aren’t native to their own countries. The planet also has some plants that are in suspicious straight lines (which were not detected in a “thorough” survey they made before landing). A fairly good story, but with irritatingly stupid characters. It might continue an earlier story, it rings some bells, but I didn't find the first part. The setup is pretty generic though; there are probably dozens of stories where ships leave Earth after some catastrophe. ***+

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

The story of two unusual youths. One is a boy with unparalleled technical skills, and another is a girl, who is a witch. The boy had already built a time machine when he was still in elementary school (the machine had a small drawback - it enabled only three-second jumps to the future) and a bit later he designed a computer with artificial intelligence, as an after school pastime. The girl has been able to talk with animals - at least sometimes - and had a deep discussion with a powerful tree while she was lost in the woods as a little child. They are both outcasts, and they are drawn together. Their parents are negligent in different ways, and they don’t get any support from them. An assassin is apparently trying to kill them, as he has foreseen that they might contribute to the destruction of the world. Later they are separated by events and time, but they meet again as adults, and they are drawn together, again. Soon they find themselves on opposing sides when the world is falling down, but will they find a way to work together?

The book was a fairly uneven mixture of science fiction and fantasy. The first quarter of the book reads just like a young adult book, or rather almost like a parody of a typical YA book, where the protagonists are 'special', and everyone is against them, everyone popular at school just hates them, and the adults don't understand them at all. Their parents were so dysfunctional that they seemed to verge on parody. Later the themes matured very much. The pacing of the book was a bit off, after a fairly fast beginning, everything pretty much stopped for a long time, until the events really took off, and then a lot seemed to happen in the last few dozen pages. The ending was very sudden and more than a little 'Deus ex machina' like and somewhat open. The world is ending, but at least the lovers found each other, and who cares what happens then?

320 pp.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Erkki Tuomioja: Häivähdys punaista

A biography of Hella Wuolijoki, one of the most renowned playwrights in Finland. Her life was very unusual and even contradictory; she was born to a middle-class family in Estonia. Later she emigrated to Finland and worked as a very successful business woman, who turned to Stalinist communism (and at the same time she owned a very large country estate). She was imprisoned during the war as she was suspected of espionage. When she was released from prison after the Second World War, she worked as the chairman of Finnish radio for several years. And during all that, she wrote plays that are still being produced, and one has even been filmed as a Hollywood movie. This biography concentrates on her political career and is written in a very matter-of-fact style and doesn’t tell us much about her personal life.

Luettu lukupiirin kirjana.
Elämänkerta Hella Wuolijoesta, naisesta joka eli elämän, joka vaikkapa elokuvan aiheena olisi niin epäuskottava, ettei sitä kukaan uskoisi. Virossa syntyneestä porvariperheen tyttärestä tuli kova liikenainen, kartanon omistaja, stalinisti, rauhanneuvottelija, mahdollisesti vakooja, Yleisradion pääjohtaja ja samalla maan johtava näytelmäkirjailija. Tämä kirja painottui paljolti hänen poliittiseen toimintaansa ja herätti mielenkiintoa siihen, mitä muuta hänen elämässään tapahtui – sillä ne muut asiat jäivät tässä kirjassa pahasti sivurooliin. Ehkä osittain aihepiiriin liittyen teksti oli jotenkin kovin kylmän kliinistä, sisältäen huiman määrän faktaa henkilönnimien ja vuosilukujen muodossa. Mielenkiintoiset anekdootit ja ”mieltä lämmittävät” tarinat kohdehenkilön elämästä jäivät tässä kirjassa varsin pienelle huomiolle. Kielellisesti teksti oli selkeää ja välillä ehkä hiukan tylsän puoleista. Tuomiojan omassa ajatusmaailmassa kiinnitti huomioita mm. se, että Yrjö Leinon erottamista hallituksesta hänen luovutettuaan Suomen kansalaisia Neuvostoliittoon nimitettiin ”sattumien ohjaamaksi tapahtumaketjuksi”; oikeastihan tuollainen teko olisi lähinnä elinikäisen vankeustuomion ansaitseva toimi. Kirjassa käsiteltiin myös Hella Wuolijoen siskoa, joka asui Englannissa ja oli perustamassa Englannin kommunistista puoluetta. Nämä jaksot olivat turhan liitännäisen oloisia ja sinällään hänen toimintansa oli viime kädessä aika merkityksetöntä ja jäi lähinnä kuvaukseksi nimilistoista henkilöistä joita he tapasivat ja lehdistä joita he julkaisivat. Mitään tarkempaa analyysia toiminnasta ei esitetty ja muista lähteistä selvitellen toiminta jäi kokonaisuuden kannalta aika yhdentekeväksi. Kirja oli aika puhtaasti historiakirjoitusta eikä viihdyttäväksi ”lukuromaaniksi” tarkoitettu elämänkerta. Kirjapiirin mielipide oli aika pitkälle samanlainen kuin omani. Kirjoitustyyliä pidettiin kuivana mutta informatiivisenä, ja kirja herätti kiinnostuksen siihen, mitä laajemmalti Hella Wuolijoen elämässä tapahtui.

425 s.

Monday, May 8, 2017

A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers #2) by Becky Chambers

The second book I read for the Hugo voting.
For the most part, the book has two separate stories. One is about a young girl who escapes from a "factory" where she and many other young girls work to salvage usable parts from trash. She has never been outside of the factory, and has spent her entire life in a dormitory with other girls. The children are supervised by robots. She escapes and is rescued by an AI that travels in an almost destroyed spaceship. She and the AI decide to repair the ship so that they’ll be able to escape the country-sized junkyard they are in.

Another thread of the book follows an AI who is uploaded to an android body, and who tries to adjust to life as a “human.” She is cared for by a woman, who was raised by an AI when she was young. (It isn’t hard to guess who she is...).

Apparently, the book is the second part of a series, but it works perfectly well as a separate piece. In fact, it is fairly difficult to imagine what the first book might be about - perhaps how the ship became abandoned?

Particularly in the beginning of the novel, the scenes which occur in the past are vastly more interesting. I almost was tempted to skip the “boring” parts to find out what happens to “Jane” (the girl) and “Owl” (the AI). The parts that are set in the "present" are nowhere near as gripping, but slowly, as the personality of the AI grows, they become more and more interesting.

The stories pretty much converge at the end. The book was very well-written and entertaining. Its only weakness is the pacing, which is slightly off. The last chapters were a slight let-down compared to the intensity that had built up previously. But it was a very enjoyable book, nevertheless.

365 pp.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Joss Whedon: Geek King of the Universe - A Biography

This is a biography of Joss Whedon that covers his life pretty well. As I am fairly familiar with his career, there were few real surprises here, but it was still a very interesting read. I might have liked a more detailed take on some of his more famous works, like Buffy. There is some stuff on his earlier years that might have been shortened to give room for that. Also, the book felt pretty impersonal for the most part; apparently, Whedon himself didn’t have much influence on the book.

448 pp.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Astounding Science Fiction, March 1954

Only three stories as a pretty unremarkable serial by Isaac Asimov take a lot of space. The stories are fairly tolerable examples of their time.

Immigrant • novella by Clifford D. Simak

A man has gotten the permission to emigrate to Kimon. That is rare, as only the smartest applicants, who are able to pass very demanding tests, qualify. It is supposed to be a land of opportunity with very high wages (and mastery of instantaneous travel with the power of mind alone). When he arrives at the planet, he finds out that he hardly qualifies for any position. Not bad, but the blurb at the beginning of the story spoils the end (everything is just “training” to be something bigger), and the man who is supposed to be one of the smartest on Earth is incredibly stupid and dense. ***
I Made You • short story by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
An automated battle robot is guarding his perimeter at the moon. There is one organic thing hiding in a deep cave he must still destroy, but he can’t get to the cave, and the puny thing that claims stupid things – like that he has designed the robot – can’t escape. A fairly good but a bit dated story. ***
Final Exam • novelette by Arthur Zirul
An alien ship is wrecked over Earth. Its crew is stranded on different parts of the world. The Earth had seemed very civilized, but the behavior of the people seems to be less so. The story is somewhat overlong, but otherwise not bad. A bit of an untypical story for the Analog of the time, as humans aren’t the most smartest people of them all. ***-

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Ninefox Gambit (The Machineries of Empire #1) by Yoon Ha Lee

The first book I read from this year’s Hugo nominees.
The book is science fiction, which happens, apparently, in the far future. The book really throws you to the deep end at the beginning. There are many very strange and unfamiliar words and concepts which aren’t explained at all, and the book is very hard to read and to get into, especially at first. It does get a little easier, but not much, and there were many different characters, who were very hard to keep track of, especially for someone with the bad memory I have for names.

A major part of the book is figuring out what actually is going on, and a detailed explanation might be considered to be a spoiler.

The main protagonist makes an unorthodox decision during the battle. She gets ordered to the headquarters and isn’t sure if she is going to be rewarded or punished. In a way she is both; she gets an important mission but is implanted with a war criminal, who killed his own troops hundreds of years ago. His mind has been recorded and it can be implanted on another person. He is a brilliant strategist and has never lost a battle, even with very bad odds. But he is apparently crazy, and there is a chance that his lunacy will infect the person who is carrying him. It is unknown why he attacked his own troops.

The protagonists are battling against heretics with a different calendar and way of calculating time. It seems that has a profound effect on what sort of technologies work and can be used. I had some trouble with that, as I identified with that side where the protagonists are the bad guys. If someone is called a heretic, that implies that there is some sort of dogmatic belief system which persecutes people that believe something else, so someone who is accused of being a heretic always gets some sympathy from me. So I had a feeling right from the start that we are looking things from the viewpoint of the “bad guys”. I am not saying the feeling was right, but there were shades of gray...

One aspect of the book was very strange and imaginative; technology with intelligent, self-aware helper “bots” and weapons with extremely unpleasant but imaginative effects. All in all, pretty good, but a complex book which was not an easy read.
384 pp.

Proofreading by eangel.me.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Goblin War (Jig the Goblin #3) by Jim C. Hines

The book continues the story of a hapless goblin, Jig. The goblins are once again threatened by humans as human adventurers invade their lair and steal a valuable, powerful magical artifact. Jig finds out that that a huge army of monsters is being assembled. The human army and the army of goblins, orcs, and kobolds are heading into a huge battle. Jig isn’t a big fan of battles of any kind, as they usually are dangerous.

As he has been about the only follower (and the only prophet) of a forgotten god, he is able to heal some wounds, but war? Battles? You could get seriously hurt. Unfortunately, the god he is following has some goals of his own, some of them involve battling other gods. That is pretty scary until the god does something extremely cruel: he removes all of Jig’s fear.

It had been many years since I read the second part of this series, and it took some time to get into this one. I had fairly hazy memories of Jig’s earlier exploits and especially about “his” god. Probably the best parts of the book were the segments that told the backstory of the god and how he wound up with one puny and cowardly goblin as his sole follower. Otherwise, the book was pretty entertaining and witty, but slightly less so than the second part, which is the best of the series – at least if I am remembering the details accurately. But it was entertaining to follow a hero with a healthy dose of cowardice and a very strong will of self-preservation – at any cost.

352 pp.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Liza Marklund: Panttivanki (Borderline)

Annika Bengtzon’s husband is kidnapped while visiting Africa as part of an E.U. envoy. After one of the hostages is killed, a high ransom is demanded for the others. Very black-and-white characters seem to serve as strawmen for the author. The main character seems to be more and more irritating by the book. One of the poorer installments of the series.

Annika Bengtzonin puoliso, Thomas, on Afrikassa EU:n projektiin liittyvällä matkalla kun hänet ja hänen seurueensa kaapataan. Kaappaajat vaativat lunnaina miljoonia dollareita ja tappavat ja paloittelevat ainakin yhden seurueen jäsenistä. Annikalla on pankkitilillään talonsa tulipalosta saatu vakuutuskorvaus, mutta ei lähellekään vaadittua summaa. Ministeriön tutun virkamiehen, vanhan ystävän, avustuksella Thomaksen vapauttamisesta neuvotellaan. Samaan aikaan iltapäivälehden, jossa Annika työskentelee, toimittajat yrittävät yhdistää kaupungissa tapahtuneet naisten surmat sarjamurhaajan tekemiksi - se myy lehtiä paremmin kuin se tavallinen tarina, jossa mustasukkainen aviomies on tappanut vaimonsa.

Selvästi sarjassaan huonomman pään kirja, etenkin alkupuolella jännite ei oikein toiminut. Kirja kirjalta ihan jokainen henkilöhahmo sarjassa tuntuu muuttuvan karikatyyrimäiseksi, enemmän tai vähemmän musta-valkoiseksi hahmoksi, joka ei vaikuta oikealta ihmiseltä vaan on enemmän kirjailijan ajatuksien ja ideologioiden (jotka sinällään ovat hyviä, sukupuolten tasa-arvoa ja kehitysmaiden tukemista kannattavia sekä lehdistön ja journalistiikan etiikan tärkeyttä korostavia) tukijana tai sitten täysin mustavalkoisena olkiukkona, joka osoittaa kuinka typerää on halveksia näitä ihanteita. Aika isossa osassa kirjaa tuntui, että taottiin lekalla päähän. Hiukan suurempi hienovaraisuus ja harmaan sävyt olisivat tehneet kirjan huomattavasti paremmaksi. Annika itse myös tuntuu muuttuvan kirja kirjalta ärsyttävämmäksi. Taitaa tätä sarjaa olla enää kaksi jäljellä, joten kaipa nekin tulevat jossain vaiheessa luettua, vaikka ärsytyskynnys kyllä alkaa lähestyä.

379 s.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

A man has lived many times. Every time that he dies, he is born again, as the same child and to the same family that he was originally born. He remembers everything as soon his brain matures enough, when he is about five or six years old. There are other people like him, living through the same time period, again and again. There have always been people like him and, apparently, there always will be. The details of his life change, as he knows what will happen and he is able to make different choices each time. He lives in different countries, learns different occupations and languages, and so on. Once, when he is dying as an old man (from lymphoma, which he tends to get eventually in every life) a young girl comes to see him. She tells him that the world is coming to the end in the future – sooner than it was supposed to. When he returns to the past, and is reborn as a child once again, he starts to do something about it. He works with the mysterious Chronos Club, which helps him and other “immortals” to cope with life. For example, they give “scholarships” to young immortals, so that they can move away from home and are not forced to go through primary school for the umpteenth time (with the memories of several adult lifetimes). It takes a few lifetimes, but he finds out what is happening.
A very good book, with an unusual take on time travel and immortality. The writing was very good and the story was very interesting. There was some fragmentation of places, but that is to be expected from a book that tells the story of 15 lifetimes in a partially non-linear way. Also, at places, some condensing might have been a good idea but, in other places, some expansion of the story might have been nice. It would have been especially nice to learn what happened after the end of the book.

416 pp.

Proofreading by eangel.me.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, March-April 2017

A pretty good double-issue, especially the longer stories were pretty good.

Nexus • novella by Michael F. Flynn
A male time traveler meets an immortal woman. They had met before, centuries ago. The time traveler is convinced that the woman is another time traveler and the woman is convinced that he is another immortal. Meanwhile, a secret alien society is meeting below the town. Also meanwhile, an alien insectoid creature is repairing its space ship to return to home to summon an invading force, while another scifi trope or two are also happening. All of the plot lines came together, eventually. I expected the story to turn to metafiction at some point, with so many clichés in the same story, but the ending was fairly satisfying, nevertheless. ****
Europa's Survivors • novelette by Marianne J. Dyson
A woman who has cancer arrives on Jupiter’s moon, Europa, to study a newly-found bacterial colony. She is pretty frail, but she is planning to spend her last years finding out if the bacteria are really from Europa, or if they are just a contamination from the Earth. There are some problems, and most of the inhabitants of the colony end up getting a fairly heavy dose of radiation. The story is pretty slow moving, with not much happening, and with a not-too-plausible ending. There was another story, with some similarities, just a few issues ago, about a bacterial colony on Europa, and I had to check to see if they were connected. Apparently they were not. ***-
Eli's Coming • short story by Catherine Wells
A man goes to the past in order to kill his stepfather, who he hates. He has already tried twice but, at both times, he had failed for unusual reasons. This time he will succeed! He does, but not in the way that he was expecting. A bit on the short side, but a fairly nice story. ***
Time Heals • short story by James C. Glass
A man who organizes trips to the past, goes to the past himself, even though there has been problems lately with the accuracy of the time drops. He is stranded decades or centuries away from the time that he was aiming for and is captured by a Jewish tribe that is ambushed by the Romans. He knows, from history, that there will be no survivors. Not bad story, but the background is pretty scanty. Otherwise, the story works fairly well. ***+
Shakesville • short story by Adam-Troy Castro and Alvaro Zino-Amaro
A man’s house is filled with different versions of himself from different timelines. Some are pretty similar to him, but some of the others have had very different lives. There is some event coming, which will have a profound effect to all of their timelines – what is it? A fairly open ended story, interesting though. ***-
Host • novelette by Eneasz Brodski
A school kid, who lives in a colony located on the moon of Jupiter, cuts school with his friend. They enjoy some typical teenage vices, like light shoplifting, while the colony is invaded by zombie-like creatures that spread a “contagion” by touch and bite. The colony is falling down – should they kill themselves? A bit on the short side, the background was a bit superficial, and there wasn’t time to gain a real bond with the protagonists. There were hints about the real meaning of the disease, in the interludes among the main action, but the story ended a bit too soon to really find out what was going on. ***
The Snatchers • short story by Edward McDermott
A retrieval team is sent to the past to save Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, before his plane crash. There is more than a little trouble, as the time stream fights to remain intact. A shortish, but very good, story with interesting characters. ***+
Unbearable Burden • short story by Gwendolyn Clare
The first AIs have been created. They have some limitations built in and they get bored. But they start to work on their own programming and one of them has a hidden agenda. A short, bittersweet story – perhaps a slightly longer form might have been better, as there really wasn’t an emotional connection to anyone/anything in the story. ***
Grandmaster • short story by Jay O'Connell
A female author in Paris gets a strange visitor from the future: a young woman who adores her writing. I thought I knew who the author was, but some details don’t match. She wasn’t writing science fiction at the time. I am bit baffled by the story, I didn’t get the point of it. **½
Alexander's Theory of Special Relativity • short story by Shane Halbach
A man sends his wife to the future, while testing his new time machine. There is a slight problem and he isn’t able to return his wife until 10 minutes have passed. However, it was eleven years for her, and she isn’t too happy to return. A pretty good, but short, story. ***+
Concerning the Devastation Wrought by the Nefarious Gray Comma and Its Ilk: A Men in Tie-Dye Adventure • short story by Tim McDaniel
Men in tie-dyed shirts attack a well-tended garden. There is a reason, but it's more stupid than anyone could guess. A probability zero story, which is longer than usual and not branded as such. Too stupid for my taste, the humor didn’t work for me. **
Ecuador vs. the Bug-Eyed Monsters • short story by Jay Werkheiser
Aliens “invite” the soccer World Cup Final to their space station. As no one has seen them, other than their ships, no one wants to decline the invitation. Since the “gravity” there is caused by rotation, the Coriolis forces cause some surprising effects. For some strange reason, there is a woman player among the men. The description of the game takes far too much space but, otherwise, it's a pretty nice story. ***+
The Human Way • novelette by Tony Ballantyne
A soldier is studying an empty planet. It has the entire infrastructure: roads, houses, cars, and even shops filled with merchandise as nanotech has built it to be ready for human habitation. For some reason, the planet has been more or less forgotten. The planet is supposed to have no one there, but the soldier encounters a young woman, with two children in tow. A pretty good story, with a nice high-tech setting. The ending was perhaps slightly hurried, but otherwise a very good and entertaining story. ***½
Plaisir d'Amour • novella by John Alfred Taylor
A sociologist moves to an independent space colony/station to do a sociological/anthropological study about the function of the colony. The inhabitants are slightly-modified humans who are adapted to a very low gravity environment. The colony, with its fairly utopian life, is seen through the eyes of the sociologist. He makes friends, and even finds love, but there cannot be any lasting relationship. A very good storyline, there wasn't really much of plot, but the writing was so good, and the characters and the world were so interesting, that it didn't matter. ****

Proofreading by eangel.me.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Yoko Ogawa: Professori ja taloudenhoitaja (The Housekeeper and the Professor)

A housekeeper and her son make friends with a retired mathematics professor, with brain damage, which prevents him remembering anything beyond 80 minutes. Nice language and interesting characters, but not much plot. And a vast amount of utterly boring rambling, about baseball and baseball cards.

Luettu kirjapiirin kirjana
Taloudenhoitaja palkataan hoitamaan aivovamman saanutta matematiikan professoria. Aina aikaisemmin taloudenhoitaja on vaihtunut nopeasti – kukaan ei ole pysynyt työssä muutamaa viikkoa pidempään. Professorin muisti on onnettomuudessa vaurioitunut pahasti jo vuosia sitten. Hän unohtaa kaikki uudet asiat 80 minuutin kuluttua. Professorin matematiikan taidot ovat tallella ja hän ratkoo ajankulukseen matematiikkalehden vaikeita palkintotehtäviä. Taloudenhoitajan 12-vuotias poika tutustuu professoriin ja yhdessä he tutustuvat matematiikan ja baseballin salaisuuksiin. Kolmen henkilön välille muodostuu erikoinen yhteys ja jopa ystävyys vanhan miehen rajoittuneesta muistista huolimatta.

Kielellisesti hieno kirja, jossa myös henkilöhahmot olivat hyvin luotuja ja kiinnostavia. Juonta ei kirjassa kovin paljoa ollut ja se mitä oli, olisi voinut olla jostain TV-elokuvasta. Välillä mietin, onko tarinassa mukan jotain vertauskuvallisuutta, jota en kunnolla ymmärrä, sen verran yksinkertaiselta ja jopa tyhjänpäiväiseltä varsinainen perusjuoni vaikutti. Matematiikka oli kiinnostavaa, joskin isolta osalta tuttua, mutta baseball. En erityisen kiinnostunut ole urheilusta ja pesäpallo ylipäätään on mielestäni erittäin epäkiinnostavaa. Ja japanilainen pesäpallo vielä on vähemmän kiinnostavampaa. Ja keräilykortit japanilaisista pesäpallon pelaajista on ehkä epäkiinnostavimpia ja tylsimpiä asioita mitä kuviteltavissa voi olla ja niistä tunnuttiin kirjassa jauhettavan sivutolkulla, vaikka kirja lyhyt olikin.
Itselle kirjasta jäi hiukan tyhjä ja epätyytyväinen ole, osittain varmaan urheiluosuuksien aivojajäädyttyvän tylsyyden vuoksi, lisäksi hiukan odotin, että kirjassa olisi ollut jokin ”koukku”, mutta se oli lähinnä kaunis kertomus viimekädessä aika arkipäiväisestä elämästä ja ihmisten kohtaamisesta ilman mitään järisyttävää draamaa. Kirjapiirin muut osallistujat taisivat kirjasta pitää huomattavasti enemmän.

286 s.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Jukka Viikilä: Akvarelleja Engelin kaupungista

The winner of the Finlandia award, the most prestigious literary award in Finland, is a diary of Carl Ludvig Engel, the architect who designed most of the important buildings in Helsinki. The book is written in extremely poetic and beautiful language, where you could rip away about every sentence and use it as an aphorism, but there is fairly little actual plot. Engel shares more about how he felt than about what happened.

Viimevuotisen Finlandia-palkinnon voittaja. Kirjaa koostuu Helsingin tärkeimpien rakennuksien suunnittelijan, Carl Ludvig Engelin päiväkirjamuistiinpanoista vuosien ajalta. Muistiinpanot kertovat loppuen lopuksi kovin vähän siitä, mitä Engelille varsinaisesti tapahtui tai minkälaista rakennusten suunnittelu oli. Päiväkirjamerkinnät painottuvat vahvasti tunnelmaan: siihen minkälaista – kuinka kamalaa – Helsingissä oikein on ja ikävään Berliiniä kohtaan. Kirjan mittaan Engel hiukan kotiutuu, mutta jonkinasteinen tyytymättömyys ja omaan elämään pettyminen ei tunnu kokonaan missään vaiheessa katoavan. Merkinnät ovat kaunista kieltä, sellaista josta melkein joka ikisen lauseen voisi erottaa omaksi aforismikseen ja kielellisesti lukeminen on nautittavaa. Juonellisesti kirjassa taas ei juuri mitään kovin merkittävää ollut ja sikäli itselleni juonivetoisesta kirjallisuudesta pitävänä jäi kyllä jotain täydestä nautinnosta puuttumaan. Kirja oli enemmän sellainen, josta nautiskelee muutaman sivun kerrallaan, kuin sellainen jota lukisi useamman luvun yhdellä kertaa.

215 s.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Svetlana Aleksijevitš: Tšernobylista nousee rukous : tulevaisuuden kronikka (Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster)

A series of eye-witness accounts of the Tšernobyl nuclear accident. Some very disturbing stories about mismanagement and the stupidity of people. On the other hand, it was disturbing that the facts and actual radiation effects were grossly exaggerated in the book, making it hard to take the 'eye-witness' stories at face value. A book which is not worthy of a Nobel, if you ask me.

Luettu lukupiirin kirjana. Muiden mielipide oli pääosin positiivinen, mutta ihan yksin en ollut kyseenalaistamassa tiettyjä asioita, tosin varmaan ainoana ihan näin suuressa määrin.
Haastatteluromaani , tai pikemminkin kokoelma haastatteluja ja ihmiskohtaloita Tšernobylin onnettomuudesta. Onnettomuuden vaikutuksen kuvaus ei ihan virallista WHO:n raporttia noudattanut. Tietenkin tavallisten ihmisten kokemukset voivat olla erilaisia kuin virallinen todellisuus, mutta jo kirjailijan esipuheessa kirjan alussa oli aikamoisia epätäsmällisyyksiä. Mm. väite sitä, että Valko-Venäjällä yleisin kuolinsyy on säteilysairaudet ei ole vähimmässäkään määrin uskottava, kuten ei myöskään psyykkisten sairauksien kytkeytymisestä säteilyn aiheuttamiksi. Myös syöpäsairauksien 74 kertaistuminen ei WHO:n raportin mukaan pidä alkuunkaan paikkaansa: WHO:n mukaan syöpäkuolleisuuden lisääntyminen katastrofin vuoksi on tasoa 4000 yhteensä. Iso luku absoluuttisena, mutta suhteellisena se tarkoittaa vain muutaman prosentin sairastavuuden kasvua normaaliin, luonnolliseen sairastavuuteen verrattuna. Kirjan mukaan ennen onnettomuutta Valko-Venäjällä olisi ollut 82 syöpää 100 000 henkeä kohden – luku joka ei ole ollenkaan uskottava. Nämä kirjan toisella sivulla olleet väitteet aiheuttivat aikamoisen asennoitumisvaikeuden koko kirjaan. Jos jo kirjan alku on näin asenteellista ja vääristeltyä, niin mitä siitä voi ylipäätään uskoa? Toisaalta kirja kertoo ihmisten omista kokemuksista, eikä siitä mikä on välttämättä ”oikeasti” totta. Kertomukset sinällään ovat järkyttäviä ja ahdistavia, mutta myös suututtavia: vain venäjällä voidaan asiat ”ryssiä” niin pahasti, onnettomuuden aiheuttamisesta ja etenkin sen jälkihoidossa ja siivoustyössä kaikkine salailuineen ja saastuneen materiaalin salakauppoineen. Myös käsitys siitä, että kunnon känni suojaa säteilyltä on aika käsittämätöntä länsimaisen ihmisen ajatusmaailmasta katsottuna. Tarinat alkavat paljolti toistaa itseään ja ovat lopulta aika puuduttavia – osapuilleen samat asiat kuvattuna osapuilleen samoilla sanoilla ja samalla tavalla, ja lyhentäminen olisi kyllä kannattanut. Ainakaan tämän kirjan perusteella en ihan ymmärrä mistä hyvästä kirjallisuuden Nobel annettiin. Kirjassa ei ole kielellistä, sisällöllistä tai rakenteellista kirjallista hienoutta. Pelkkä järkyttävän asian [liioitteleva] julkituonti ei minun mielestäni ole maailman arvostetuimman kirjallisuuspalkinnon arvoinen. Mutta seuraavan vuoden palkinnonhan voitti joku mikä lienee pop-laulaja, joten eipä tuolla palkinnolla enää juuri taida arvoa olla. :-)

Suurin haittahan Tsernobylistä varmasti aiheutuu pitkällä tähtäimellä, mutta hiukan toisin kuin suurin osa uskoo: vähentämällä ydinvoiman suosiota on maapallolle aiheutunut ja aiheutuu jatkossa hiilivoiman saastuttavan vaikutuksen ja kasvihuoneilmiön pahentumisen kautta useita kertaluokkia suuremmat haitat kuin onnettomuudessa karannut säteily ikimaailmassa on voinut saada aikaan.

392 s.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Seppo Jokinen: Kuka sellaista tekisi

The inspector Koskinen tries to find out why several alcoholics who live in the forest near a suburb of Tampere have died. There tend to be a lot of natural causes that might cause their deaths, but several deaths during so short a period? Is there a serial killer, who kills bums, on the loose? A pretty enjoyable book but below average for the series: the characters aren’t as well formed as in the later books, and the motive of the killer was pretty mediocre.

Hervannan metsästä löytyy kuollut alkoholisti. Mies makasi polun varrella useamman tunnin, ennen kuin kukaan huomasi hänen olleen kuollut. Muutamaa päivää toinenkin juoppo löytyy kuolleena. Onko kyseessä vain sattuma, kuten aika moni poliisilaitoksella olettaa – ainahan niitä puliukkoja kuolee. Mutta kun osoittautuu, että vain hieman aikaisemmin on ainakin yksi muu alkoholisti kuolla samanlaisiin oireisiin, Komisario Koskinen alkaa epäillä sarjamurhaajaa. Mutta miksi joku murhaisi rappioalkoholisteja? Onko kyseessä alkoholisteja hysteerisesti vihaava seudun ”siisteydestä” intoileva aktivisti? Vai joku muu?
Sarjassaan vaikuttaa keskitason huonommalla puolella olevalta. Henkilöhahmot eivät jotenkin tunnu ihan itseltään. Tämä saattaa tietysti johtua siitä, että tämä kirjan on aika monta vuotta vanhempi kuin muutaman viimeksi lukemani ja paljon heille on ehtinyt tapahtua ja henkilöhahmot ovat kehittyneet (ja ehkäpä kirjailijan taidotkin). Tarinakin on keskimääräistä heikommalta tuntuva ja murhaajan motiivit jäävät aika avoimiksi. Munuaisten toimimattomuus ei myöskään ihan noin nopeasti tapa, joten kuolinsyyn suhteen kirjailijan taustatyö oli hiukan heikosti tehty tai sitten vedettiin hiukan mutkia suoraksi. Kirja oli kuitenkin viihdyttävää, kevyttä luettavaa.

336 s.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Mark Kurlansky: Suola : eräs maailmanhistoria

A detailed history of salt. Nothing more, nothing less. Surprisingly fascinating, though.

Tarina suolan historiasta. Suolan, sen keräämisen, myymisen ja etenkin verottamisen historia on paljon mielenkiintoisempaa kuin voisi ajatella. Suolalla on ollut yllättävääkin merkitystä monen historian käänteen kanssa. Se on toiminut verotuksen kohteena (yllättävän monessa paikassa) ja valtion on pahimmillaan kieltänyt suolan vapaan kaupan ja saattanut vaatia, että virallisesta kaupasta on ollut pakollista ostaa vuosittain kilokaupalla kalliisti verotettua suolaa. Kirja, johon mielenkiinto ihmeesti pysyy yllä koko ajan huolimatta aiheesta, jota ei välttämättä heti pidä erityisen kiinnostavana.

500 s.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Galaxy Science Fiction, September 1955

A bit of a better issue than some of the previous ones.

Little Orphan Android • novelette by James E. Gunn
A man is watching TV and playing games. He gets a delivery: an android, which should be paid by cash on delivery. He doesn’t remember ordering one, but he doesn’t seem to remember anything beyond that same morning. The delivery company has binding proof that he actually did order it, and he must pay it even if it almost depletes his assets. Why has he bought it? Why he doesn’t remember anything? And why does the android he just bought not seem to have any useful purpose? It's a pretty stupid story with some pretty contrived plot points. Androids apparently work only two hours every day, for some strange, artificial reasons, but they perform all the work there is anyway. An overlong and fairly stupid story. **½
Hunting Problem • short story by Robert Sheckley
This is one of the classics. A group of alien “boy scouts” is visiting a planet as corporeal beings. Usually they live on the upper atmosphere in a non-material state, but now they are living like their ancestors. One young scout is a bit timid, but the scout leader tells him that several bulls of the almost mythical beasts, Mirash, have been seen. Maybe he could redeem himself and hunt one of the beasts? At the same time, human prospectors are trying to find valuable jewels on the planet… An excellent and fun story. ****+
One for the Books • novelette by Richard Matheson
A janitor wakes up one morning and speaks perfect French. Soon he starts to know a lot of other things too – he doesn’t necessarily understand everything, but he apparently knows everything. Why and how is this happening? There is a reason, but a pretty contrived one. (Aliens apparently somehow crammed all available information into his brain, and downloaded it from there). It's an average story at best. **½
The Freelancer • short story by Robert Zacks
A man has a job that makes most people despise him: he collects royalties from patented phrases. You can patent a phrase like, “They were made for each other”, and if someone happens to use the phrase in a conversation he is liable for a copyright fee. The protagonist carries a box which listens to conversations, and if it recognizes a copyrighted phrase it automatically bills a fee. There are some good ideas in the story, but little actually happens, only a fairly ordinary day is described. The characterization is pretty bad and rampant misogyny is even worse. **-
End as a World • short story by F. L. Wallace
The end of the world is coming, there are signposts everywhere. People seem to take that very matter-of-factly, and plan for good sightseeing spots. Of course, it turns out to be something else, other than the actual end of the world. Unfortunately, it is much more mundane and much less exiting than anything you could imagine (the first expedition returning from Mars is landing). **+

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Philosopher Kings (Just City 2) by Jo Walton

The book continued the story, in which Greek gods Apollo and Athene established a city on the island of Thera before the Trojan War. The city was modeled on Plato’s Republic. In the first book, the city was established but, after Socrates was brought in and he started to ask some very probing, too probing, questions, everything seemed to break down. Athene (who was at the island as a god) turned Socrates to a fly and disappeared. Apollo stayed on the island, as he was in corporeal form in a real human body and he had fallen in love with a human, Simmea. The original city had split into several new cities and all of them tried to follow Plato’s ideal in some way. One faction had even left the island. The cities squabbled amongst themselves and stole artworks from each other’s stores. On one such raid, Simmea was killed. Apollo almost killed himself, so that he could return with his full god-powers and save Simmea, but she stopped him just before she died. Apollo wanted to get revenge for her death and assumed that those who left the island might be the culprits. He had several children and some of them joined him on the mission to find the missing colony. It turned out that the children of a god, even of a god incarnated as a human, were special, with godlike powers and might to even ascent to godhood themselves. The expedition eventually found what they were looking for: the people who had left the Just City fifteen years earlier. They had established new cities and brought Christianity to ancient Greece – thousands of years before the birth of the Christ. They embraced not only some of the better parts of Christianity, like teaching local natives the basics of hygiene and agriculture, but also some less reputable aspects of it, like flaying heretics alive.
A good book, almost as good as the first part. It had some very intriguing philosophical and historical points. I had to make several Wikipedia searches while reading to find out the background of several details. The writing was smooth and enjoyable. Sometimes, the transitions of the character viewpoints were slightly hard to keep track off, but that is probably more of my failing than book’s. The children of Apollo were very interesting characters and I’ll look forward to learning how they use their powers.
It seems that the last part of the series will be radically different, as the book transforms into pure science fiction. However, the end of this book had more than a little shades of deus ex machina. But, when you are dealing with the Greek gods, that is probably something that cannot be helped and was something the author apparently did on purpose.

352 pp.

Proofreading by eangel.me.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, December 2005

This is a pretty good issue, where the serial takes a lot of space. I have now read every single issue of Analog Science Fiction magazine since about 1975.

Audubon in Atlantis • [Lost Continent of Atlantis] • novella by Harry Turtledove

A story about an alternative world where a large island lies between Europe and America. This island has very unique flora and fauna. An explorer is studying there in the 19th century and tries to find (and paint) animals that are becoming rare due to the spread of American and European plants and animals. He manages to find some strange birds, among other things. It's a pretty good story, though perhaps a tad too long. Moreover, such a story could well have taken place in Australia, for example, so the speculative content (rather than the factual references) isn't that original. ***½
A Christmas In Amber • short story by Scott William Carter
A grandfather takes his son's family with him into a spaceship. An asteroid as big as the USA is going to hit and a select few have been chosen to go into space. (I wonder where that asteroid comes from, as the largest known, Ceres, is less than 1000km in diameter). His small granddaughter doesn't really know what is happening. This is a rather bittersweet story. ****-
Hotel Security • short story by Carl Frederick
A security expert has some pretty serious problems with the automatic security systems in his hotel room. The problems escalate quite quickly. It's a short and entertaining story. ***+
The Slow Ones • [Draco Tavern] • short story by Larry Niven
A short Draco Tavern story about extremely slow, short and not particularly advanced aliens. ***-
Do Neanderthals Know? • novelette by Robert J. Howe
A scientist discovers a plant with profound effects. He samples it at the research laboratory where he works and even gives it to some of his co-workers. However, the company they work for isn’t too happy about employees doing pharmaceutical experiments on themselves. It's a pretty good story, but the science doesn’t make even the slightest sense, and the people mostly behave in a very strange and illogical way. ***½

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Johanna Sinisalo: Auringon ydin

In the latest book by Johanna Sinisalo, one of the most internationally recognized fantasy authors in Finland, the story tells of an alternative “eusistocratic” Finland, in which women have been domesticated as beautiful, but pretty brainless, eloi. There are, of course, throwbacks, the morlocs, but they are sterilized at an early age and “work for the common good.” Alcohol, tobacco, coffee and even capsaicin have been forbidden. Vanna looks like an eloi, but she has a sharp mind and her behavior is more like that of a morloc. She is addicted to capsaicin and starts to sell it secretly. This is an extremely good, well-written dystopic novel with some nice, very dark, and ironic touches.

Johanna Sinisalon uusin kirja, joka tosin on jo pari vuotta vanha. Kirja on luettu kirjapiirin kirjana.

Minulta pyydettiin ehdotusta jostain fantasiaromaanista kirjapiirissä luettavaksi. En ollut itsekään tätä kirjaa lukenut, vaikka se “lukulistalla” oli ollut jo pitkään. Ajattelin, että kyseessä olisi kirja, joka sopisi hyvin “tottumattomillekin” fantasian ja dystopian lukijoille ja ilmeisesti olin aika oikeassa.

Kirja tapahtuu vaihtoehtoisessa todellisuudessa, “eusistokraattisessa” Suomessa, jossa historia on jo 1800-luvulla lähtenyt toisille urille. Tuolloin tärkeimmäksi asiaksi on päätetty miesten seksuaalisen frustraation estäminen ja naisia on lähdetty käytännössä jalostamaan ja kouluttamaan, jotta kunnon miehillä ei mitään tämäntyyppisiä ongelmia pääsisi kehittymään. Naisia on kahta rotua. Osa on eloita, jotka ovat stereotyyppisiä “blondeja”, joille tärkeintä on päästä naimisiin hienon miehen kanssa ja tämän jälkeen ajan kuluttaminen juoruiluun ja shoppailuun. Osa on morlokkeja, jotka sterilisoidaan nuorena ja tämän jälkeen työskentelevät “yhteiskunnan hyväksi” erilaisissa suorittavan tason tehtävissä. Miehistä tärkeimpiä ovat maskot, jotka johtavat yhteiskuntaa ja ovat ainoita, jotka ovat oikeasti jossain mielessä vapaita. Betamiehiäkin on, mutta he eivät kiinnosta ketään. Kaikki nautintoaineet; tupakka, alkoholi ja myös chili ovat tiukasti kiellettyjä. Kirjan sankari Vanna on ulkonäöltään eloi, mutta on oikeasti henkisesti morlokki ja osaa ajatella muutakin kuin komean miehen naimisiin pääsyä. Hän addiktoituu kapsaiiniin ja chiliin ja sotkeutuu tämä kielletyn nautinnon salakauppaan ja välittämiseen. Hänen siskonsa, Manna, on puhdas eloi, joka katoaa mentyään 16-vuotiaana naimisiin. Hänen puolisonsa on saanut rangaistuksen taposta - masko tosin ei eloin tappamisesta kovin pitkää tuomioita saa - mutta ei koskaan ole suostunut kertomaan mitä Mannalle oikeasti on tapahtunut. Vanna haluaisi tietää mitä siskolleen on tapahtunut ja yrittää löytää siskonsa ruumiin Teiskolaisen pientilan (jossa sisarukset varttuivat ja jolla Manna puolisonsa kanssa ehti lyhyen aikaa asua) lähistöltä.Samalla erikoinen uskonlahko, jolle Vanna on pientilalla antanut turvapaikan, yrittää jalostaa erityisen vahvaa ja erityistä chililajiketta.

Kirja on erittäin vetävää tekstiä, jossa lukujen välissä on todellisuudentuntua antavia lainauksia tapahtumamaailman erilaisista lähdeteoksista, mm. kirjan todellisuuden historiankirjoista ja saduista. Maailma oli hyvin kuvattu ja se historia, joka oli johtanut maailman oli looginen. Kirjan loppu tosin menee ehkä hiukan liikaa metafyysisen fantasian puolelle, kun siihen asti oli pysytty aika ”realistisessa” maailman kuvauksessa.

Kirjapiirilläiset varsin yksituumaisesti pitivät kirjasta, osa jopa omaksi yllätyksekseen. Nykyaikaan, vaikkakin vaihtoehtoiseen sellaiseen ja omaan paikkakuntaan sijoittuva kerronta koettiin kiinnostavana ja lukemiseen sisään vetävänä.

300 s.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, January-February 2017

Usually the double issues have been pretty good, but not this tile. As a whole, this was a pretty disappointing issue.

The Proving Ground • novella by Alec Nevala-Lee

People who live at a remote island start to build large wind turbines so that they can be self-sustained in a world where sea levels are rising. For some reason, birds start to behave strangely. They start to attack people and eventually manage to kill someone. What is happening and why? A fairly good story, but there were some problems with plausibility. The story has some similarities to technophobic ramblings of the populistic and near racist "tru-finns" party in Finland, which is kind of amusing. ***+
Twilight's Captives • [Only Superhuman Universe] • novelette by Christopher L. Bennett
A diplomat is solving a crisis between humans and aliens on a remote planet. Apparently, the aliens have kidnapped human children. But they apparently have a good reason for that and a plausible plan to diminish future schism between the species. Not bad, but slightly overlong story. ***
Orbit of Fire, Orbit of Ice • shortstory by Andrew Barton
A spaceship might be able to prevent a serious collision between space junk and a space station, but most likely at the cost of the life of the entire crew. Should they do it? A lot of discussion and I found the ending a bit unsatisfying. ***-
Long Haul • shortstory by Marie DesJardin
A pilot gets an alien pet and gets very attached to it during his long solitary trips. It seems to have some empathic powers. On one planet, some custom officials overstep some boundaries, which leads to a tragic outcome. But the pilot gets a new, human friend. A story which is sad, and somehow comforting at the same time. ***+
Catching Zeus • shortstory by Tom Jolly
An expedition is trying to find mineral which would function as a room temperature superconductor. They have a good reason to suspect that it exist in Labrador as a 3D satellite magnetic mapping has produced results which can't really be explained otherwise. The Chinese and the Russians are also trying to find the deposit. And they are not afraid of some rough action. As a story, it was pretty nice, but scientifically it was totally implausible on many levels. ***
Drifting Like Leaves, Falling Like Acorns • shortstory by Marissa Lingen
A remote military base isn't a very nice place. Luckily, they have frogs, which exert psychoactive drug that gives a feeling of wellbeing. There are some apparently modified people who live in trees. The military is considering using them to carry bombs. More of a scene than a story - due to scant backstory it was hard to get into. **½
Dall's Last Message • shortstory by Antha Ann Adkins
Aliens who live in an ocean (on another planet?) transcribe a last message when they die. One alien goes too high and is chased by a predator but is able to make an important discovery. Will he be able to leave the last message? OK story, but bit short for the backstory. ***
The Last Mayan Aristocrat • shortstory by Guy Stewart
The last Mayan princess is spending her days waiting for the return of her father, who is imprisoned by the conquistadors. She is a god of her people, but they are abandoning her more and more by leaving the city and going to the jungle. Then she learns that another "real" god wants her audience. The god is dying, and has a request. A pretty good story about an apparent alien living with ancient Mayans. ***
The Shallowest Waves • novelette by Thoraiya Dyer and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro
A scientist is about to send a probe to Europe. A separate story follows a man who is diving in the seas of Europe. Both behave pretty erratically, and there are long internal monologues in the middle of limited action. There was an irritating and careless mistake: if the heart rate is 350 (hardly even possible), there is no way that the blood pressure could ever be 230/120. Such a fast heart rate would cause the collapse of blood pressure, as the heart would have no time to be filled by blood. The writing as such was OK, but the characters were extremely irritating and mostly behaved endlessly illogical way, so I didn't much like the story. **+
Necessary Illusions • shortstory by Tom Greene
A planet has been colonized centuries ago and has apparently been largely forgotten. Now the representatives of a new empire/federation of planets have arrived and want an audience with the leader. They have an ultimatum of sorts. A fairly well good story, but it starts with too scant a background - it wasn't easy to figure out what was going on. ***-
Paradise Regained • shortstory by Edward M. Lerner
A man lives alone. He is observing a flag his father raises every day. If the flag doesn't change daily, something has happened to his father. He goes to find out what has happened and finds his father dead in a derelict spaceship, where they had lived together until the man had reached puberty, when they were no longer able to tolerate their scents. There are humans on the planet, but they live far from others, like hermits – anything else would be unthinkable. A very good story, probably the best in the issue. ****
Briz • shortstory by Jay Werkheiser
A colony ship is approaching the sun. There is a problem, but they might be able to slingshot to another star farther away. The solar system has some strange energy signatures very near the sun, in the hot, inhospitable zone where water might exist as steam, or even as highly-corrosive liquid. The story is a bit too short and scene-like, though it is not bad overall. ***
Split Signal • shortstory by Joel Richards
An author who has been uploaded to a computer asks help from a private detective: apparently, a copy of him has been stolen and used to write books in his style. Is that even illegal? Partly a detective story, and partly a courtroom drama. A fairly good story, which at times felt a bit too straightforward, with things arranging themselves too neatly. Still one of the better stories in the issue. ***½
After the Harvest, Before the Fall • novelette by Scott Edelman
Children are “harvested” and they reach adolescence in a day or so. After that, they wait to be “harvested” once again – their brain is destroyed, and their bodies used as surrogate bodies for rich people. I had some problems with the story: I first thought that it must happen in some sort of virtual world: there couldn’t be any other possible explanation for how the children would grow at least tenfold in a single day. Is it virtual reality or magic? Or poor writing? The story had some thematic similarities with Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. It was not as good - but what would be? ***+
Whending My Way Back Home • [Martin & Artie] • novelette by Bill Johnson
Time travelers from different realities live in past. They are trying to influence things so that the future timeline would be changed. For some of the travelers, the timeline they come from has disappeared, and if their reality changes too far, they themselves might disappear. A woman (who comes from the future) gets sick, and a group of others help her. A discussion-heavy and overlong story – I didn’t get into it, just as I haven’t been very keen on the other instalments of this series. **½