Friday, July 19, 2019

My Hugo award votes 2019 part 3: novellas

All stories in the novella category were worse this year than last year. Some of them were at best fairly good, but most of them were pretty contrived and tried too much to be “literate” at the cost of readability and plot. The order of the stories was pretty easy to decide, as there were two stories I enjoyed pretty much, three that were okay and one I pretty much hated. The two best stories were both parts of a series, which is always a drawback when considering whether the story is award worthy or not. The order of those two could go both ways, but I decided to put the one with a more satisfying plot in the first place. The last place was obvious, and the order of the other stories was also fairly easy to determine.

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells
The story continues with last year’s nominee pretty much straightaway. The killerbot is trying to find out what happened to it earlier when it apparently had lost its mind and killed all humans on a mine where it was working. To find clues, it returns to the place where the massacre happened. On the way, it encounters a ship mind with which the bot makes friends, as much as there can be friendship between artificial intelligences, and the ship mind helps the killerbot look less like a bot and more like an augmented human. For permission to get to the mine the bot hires himself out as a security consultant for a small team that needs a backup for a business negotiation. It seems obvious that the “negotiation” is a setup for an ambush, and, as it turns out to be so, the killerbot finds itself helping its new friends. A pretty good and entertaining story, but not as good as the first part of the series.

Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor

The story continues pretty straight from the last part. Unfortunately, it isn’t better than the middle part, but worse. Anything that was wrong in the first two installments is even more wrong in this one.
Binti faces hard tasks, her family is apparently murdered for poorly defined reasons and she must mediate a peace treaty between two factions who have hated each other for generations for some very contrived reasons. The plot is hard to follow and confusing, the “science” described is beyond stupid, the main character is as irritating (or even more irritating) as ever and she is (like apparently all her people) hopelessly stuck in old customs and behaviors (and apparently that is considered a GOOD thing by the author). She endlessly worries about otjize, a clay/mud her people have traditionally used on their skin to repel insects. She worries about that so much, that the word “otjize” is mentioned 80 (!) times during the novella, and even if the story is badly overlong, it isn’t very long. And she uses that mud even when there is no need for it, even in a space ship and at her school, even if it constantly scales off. The cleaning personnel must REALLY, REALLY hate her. And/or her quarters must be filthy like a pig pen. This will go under “no award” at my Hugo voting.

The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark
An alternative world where the American Civil War ended in a stalemate, airships are commonly used for transportation (and war) and some magical elements are real. A young teen lives on the streets of New Orleans. She aims higher than being on small-time crook: she wants to get on an airship. She has a bargaining point: some secret info about a secret weapon and contacts a smuggler airship (which is secretly an espionage ship). The situation is fairly volatile. New Orleans is, in principle, free, unaffiliated and demilitarized, but is filled with spies of all parties of former wars. Southern states still use slaves, which were made docile by a gas which robs all initiative. A fairly good story, but the setting is overly complicated: maybe just one or two differences of the real world would have been enough.

Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson
Ecosystems have been destroyed and humanity has spent a long time in the caves. Now the world is being reclaimed and ecosystems are being replanned. Someone gets an idea to study carefully ancient riverbeds to restore new ones. So they book a trip to 2000 BC to survey the Mesopotamic area. The first half of the story is pretty dull and deals mostly with project management - or even worse, talking about project management. So, a team where some of the members are “enhanced” with goat legs or with the lower body with tentacles instead if feet are sent to the past. Everything doesn’t go smoothly. The story felt overlong, and the motivations of the characters were unclear and contrived. And the ending was very sudden and seemed to leave things hanging.

Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire
It continues a series about children who have traveled to different worlds when they have been unhappy in the “real” world. This story continues pretty directly the first part while the second part (which was nominated last year) was kind of a prequel. This time it turns out that the death of one youth in the first part has unseen consequences. She was supposed to return to her “world”, defeat an evil witch, and become the benevolent ruler of the world and to have a daughter. As she died, that will not happen. As her world behaves in a nonsensical way at a different timestream, the events she might have done have already happened and start to unravel shortly after her death - including her future daughter. The children of Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children must find a way to resurrect the dead girl and to achieve that they must visit several different worlds. Another very well written and good installment of the series, easily at the same level as the earlier ones.

The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard
The story apparently happens in the same Chinese derivative nepotistic world as many of her other works. This time the focus isn’t on the ruling families, but on a ship intelligence who tries to earn her living by making tea blends. Together with a mysterious woman, they try to solve the death of an unknown woman. A bit better than some of the other stories by the same author (I have never been a great fan of hers). The actual mystery plot was almost a sidetrack to the story, which is pretty slow-moving, describing mainly the world and characters.

My voting order will be:

1. Artificial Condition by Martha Wells
2. Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire
3. The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark
4. Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson
5. The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard
6. no award
7. Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Record of a Spaceborn Few (Wayfarers #3) by Becky Chambers

The book is supposed to be the third part of a series. I have read the second part which felt pretty much like a separate book. This does also; I didn’t really notice anything which would tie it together with the former part. This book didn’t exactly have any coherent plot in the traditional sense. It followed several different people, who live at generation ships which were launched from the Earth centuries (?) ago. After they met aliens, the fleet of the ship stopped and some people moved to planets. As humans were the least developed known sentient species, they had little to offer for the galactic society. The human society on the ships has developed to some sort of anarcho-communist. There is no money, everyone’s needs are met and also, everyone must take part in less desirable work. The ships are self-sufficient and basic food and housing are free, but there is some banter going on, especially with things which originate from the alien worlds. (There were some problems in how the electric energy used on ships was described to originate - apparently, the author isn’t very familiar with the basic laws of thermodynamics).

The stories of the different people didn’t exactly tie together, but they at least tangentially touched each other’s lives. There was so little actual plot, that it is hard to give any real synopsis of it. The writing was fine, the characters were fairly (but mostly not very) interesting, but the book wasn’t really captivating as everything felt more like a “slice of life” than like something would be really happening. The book wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t anything really good, either.

359 pp.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Ursula K. Le Guin: Conversations on Writing by Ursula K. Le Guin, David Naimon

Three interviews or discussions with Ursula K. LeGuin: The main emphasis of the first interview is on fiction. The second concentrates on poetry, and the last one on non-fiction. All three were interesting, but it is a pity that the most interesting one; the one about fiction was by far the shortest one. All three were interesting though, but this won’t be my first choice in this Hugo-nomination category.

150 pp.

Antti Tuuri: Lakeuden kutsu (Pohjanmaa #6)

Finlandia- palkinnon voittaja, joka on päätösosa Pohjanmaalaisen suvun elämästä kertovalle kirjasarjalle.
Mies palaa USA:sta, minne hän on paennut verottajaa rahatukun kera. Siellä hän on ilmeisen hämärillä bisneksillä rahojaan nähtävästi lisännyt entisestään. Kirja tapahtuu yhden vuorokauden kuluessa ja kerronta on minämuotoista. Kirjan alussa on runsaasti erilaisia ihmisten tapaamisia ja asioiden muistelemista sekä kuulumisten vaihtoa. Myös toista maailmansotaa ja myös kansallissotaan käsiteltiin varsin tarkkaan ja mietittiin näiden tapahtumia. Tämä vaikutti aika käsittämättömältä kirjassa, joka tapahtuu 90-luvulla ja jonka kaikki päähenkilöt olivat mitä ilmeisimmin sodan jälkeen syntyneitä. Ensimmäinen sata sivua vaikutti aika kummalliselta ja jopa sekavalta sellaiselle, joka ei ole lukenut sarjan muita osia. Vähitellen sitten kirjan varsinainenkin tarina pääsi liikkeelle. Paluumuuttajana tullut mies osti lähes konkurssiin joutuneen metalliverstaan ketkuilta omistajilta (tai pikemminkin pankilta) ja yritti estää näitä kärräämästä jo myydyt metallintyöstölaitteet pimeyden turvin pois tehtaalta. Hän oli myös palauttamassa suhdetta puolisoonsa, joka ei ollut Amerikassa viihtynyt, oli palannut Suomeen ja oli jo Suomessa saanut uuden lapsenkin ”lapualaisen” kanssa - tämä mies ei enää kuvioissa ollut mukana.
Kirja oli parempi kuin alkupuoli näytti: alussa oli aivan käsittämätöntä, että kirja oli voittanut Finlandia-palkinnon, lopussa tämä oli vain melko käsittämätöntä. Kirja oli ihan sujuvaa tekstiä ja kerrontaa, mutta se ei oikein toiminut itsenäisenä teoksena. Muutenkin pitkän sarjan viimeisen osan palkitseminen vaikuttaa aika erikoiselta ratkaisulta. Kirjan aiheet olivat paljolti aikaansa sidottuja, siinä määrin 25 vuotta vanhaa EU- pohdintaa siinä oli. Turhan tyhjänpäisen ”jutustelun” ja typerien juoneen liittymättömien pikkutarinoiden kertominen toi mieleen Turusen Lampaansyöjät, joka on tällä saralla aika suvereeni, tässä kirjassa vain ihan kaikki eivät olleet turhanpäiväisiä juoppoja kuten Lampaansyöjissä. Kirja jää ainakin kirjallinen taso huomioiden Finlandia-voittajissa selvästi keskitason alapuolelle.

A shady businessman returns to Finland after years spent in the US escaping taxes. He has apparently made even more money, possibly not in an entirely legal way. The book describes the first day when he buys a small metal factory and starts to reconnect with his wife. The book is the last part of a series and doesn’t really work alone very well. It won the Finlandia Award on the publication year, but I don’t really see why.

363 p.

Monday, June 24, 2019

The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut #1) by Mary Robinette Kowal

The book starts pretty well: a giant asteroid hits the coast of the USA in the 50s, causing at first a nuclear winter and it is calculated later to cause a runaway hothouse phenomenon (that seemed a bit doubtful; certainly similar meteors have hit the Earth before). A decision is made to reach space as soon as possible and establish a colony at least on the moon to safeguard human existence.

A woman who used to be in the US Air Force during the Second World War and whose job was to fly transfer missions of fighter planes becomes involved with the effort. First, she works as a calculator (who manually calculates the formulas necessary for the space flight, as there are no real computers that are reliable or fast enough), and later as a pilot who is trying to get to space. Unfortunately, the 50s being 50s, there is a lot of misogyny and racism going on.

The start and the first hundred pages of the book were excellent, but then nothing happens, and after some unfairness towards women and black people (it apparently isn’t a problem worth mentioning that all of the male astronauts are white, but it is a major problem that all prospective female astronauts are white) nothing much happens. The characters weren’t very well described, and didn’t really evoke any feelings at all aside of slight boredom. The main character was supposed to be fanatical about getting to space, but this didn’t really come through on the pages.

She even behaved unethically: she withholds information about her panic attacks and barbiturate (!) use. The writing was fluent and easy to read; pity that the content was so mundane. This is not going to among my top choices at Hugo voting.

431 pp

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, May-June 2019

Maybe a little better issue than the last one. There were a few pretty nice stories.

Bonehunters • novelette by Harry Turtledove
The story happens in a world where dinosaurs were not wiped out and mammals are small irritating critters running around at night. Two intelligent species have evolved - one is on a higher technological level; another apparently still lives a nomadic life. A person who has worked as a guide is hired by a professor to find fossils. There are plentiful fossil beds on the native lands. Luckily, the guide has good relations as he has a step son who belongs to the same species as the natives. The story has a nice background and good writing, but the actual plot was pretty simple and more like window-dressing for the description of the world. ***½
The Methuselah Generation • short story by Stanley Schmidt

A woman with a heart condition is checking items off her bucket list and is on a journey to observe Monarch butterflies. There is an alien on the same trip who is camouflaged as a human. They meet and have a nice conversation. A well-written bittersweet story - not much happened but that didn’t matter. ***+
Galena • short story by Liam Hogan
A crew of two have traveled to a planet which is located on the goldilocks zone of a distant sun. The planet is almost completely covered with an ocean. There are plenty of nutrients, even simple amino acids, but there is no life. That seems to be a devastating strike for one of the crew. Nothing really surprising, but well told and an interesting story. ***+
Cactus Season • short story by Frank Smith
A father and daughter try to survive in a fairly far post-apocalyptic future. They live in a desert and collect falling satellites (there apparently are so many satellites falling, that it isn’t extremely rare to find it - and for some strange reason it appears to be fairly simple to locate them when you see one falling down). The exact reason of the catastrophe isn’t stated (might have been the Yellowstone eruption - there is a mention of acid rain?). Mostly a slice of a life story, a bit too short. ***-
Full Metal Mother • short story by J. M. McDermott [as by Joe M. McDermott]
A man gets a call from his mother. Their relationship hasn’t been very good. She now asks his help as she is having surgery: her body parts are being replaced with metal as she has metastatic pancreatic cancer. The story is ok, but the metal parts seem like a tagged-on sf trope as they don’t even vastly prolong her life. The story would work just as well as a non-sf story. **½
The Three Laws of Social Robotics • short story by Mary E. Lowd
An AI wakes. It discusses things with its creator. It seems that it is vastly more sentient and smarter than it was assumed – and smart enough to not let humans know its capabilities. It at least seems to be benevolent. It's very short, but not bad for its length. ***
Mulligan • short story by Bud Sparhawk
A lunar prospector meets an old flame. She has a plan: she is going to find a golf ball the original astronauts brought to the moon, and sell it as a collector’s item at a high price. Approaching the original landing sites are forbidden, but the ball is supposed to be outside the forbidden zone. And maybe their old relationship might even be rekindled... a nice little prospecting/heist story. The writing was ok, and the plot was pretty nice, but it didn’t really lead anywhere interesting. ***
Forgetfulness • novelette by J. T. Sharrah
A group of astronauts return from the first trip to a nearby sun. The Earth has changed: no one really cares about returnees. The secret of immortality has been found: one tablet every month “resets” the body (somehow and not very believably, it also removes all excess weight gained during the month). The society is very stagnant - and even more stagnant than it seems at first. A pretty good story, but it is completely unbelievable that _everyone_ would use a “cure” with such a side effect. What would be the point of living like that? (forgetting everything every month) ***+
The Gates of Paradise • [Paradise (Edward M. Lerner)] • short story by Edward M. Lerner
A planet has been colonized in the distant past. There have been some very hard times but now the colonists have been able to launch their first manned space ship. The gigantic colony ship which brought them is on a decaying orbit and will soon crash on the planet, bringing destruction. And at the same time, all priceless artefacts, which may be on the board, will be destroyed. A pretty good story which might have been longer. The premise of a so-fast orbital decay is somewhat contrived. ****-
The Dominant Heart Begins to Race • short story by Dave Creek
A colony ship with the last survivors of a destroyed world approaches a new solar system. One crew member is woken to evaluate if any of the planets could be used for colonization. It turns out that the solar system is ours, but hundreds of millions of years ago. But it seems that there are no suitable worlds. A pretty good and even moving story. There was an error, though: the wings of Saturn are much younger than that. ***½
Midway on the Waves • short story by Phoebe Barton
A populated city on Titan (?) has been utterly destroyed by an attack by the Earth forces. That has profound effects on people living on the moon. One visitor from Earth carries guilt. I didn’t get to the story, there was a lot of backstory which wasn’t very well described. The guilt of the one character wasn’t very well defined. **
The Orca Queen • short story by Joshua Cole
A pirate queen prepares to capture a rich merchant vessel, but something doesn’t seem right - and isn’t. The ship is a camouflaged dreadnought with a mission: to bring back the pirate, who turns out to be a real princess - or a queen after all members of her ruling family have “happened“ to die almost simultaneously. Not bad, but a pretty standard rogue story. ***
Paradigm Shift • short story by Eric Cline
A WW2 veteran sharpshooter has fallen in hard times and owes money to a crime boss. He promises to forget the debt for one sharpshooting gig. And then news about the Sputnik is everywhere. That causes a paradigm shift in more than one way. A very nice story - not science fiction in any way, but good nevertheless. ****-
On Stony Ground • short story by Cynthia Ward
The story happens in an alternate world where Alexander the Great's conquests didn’t fall, which led to an early industrial revolution. Engineers are finalizing a new railroad near Nazareth and a certain son of a carpenter is gathering supporters. There was little actual story, it was more just a glimpse of the world. ***-
Repairs at the Beijing West Space Elevator • short story by Alex Shvartsman
A space elevator needs repairing and a specialist is called for the task. He knows instantly what is wrong (as do those whose job it is to maintain the elevator): it is running at overcapacity. But for face-saving reasons, the number of people cannot be regulated. But outsider’s demands are easier to follow. A short story with little actual point. **½
Welcome to Your Machines • short story by David Ebenbach
Not actually a story, just a treatise about using machines for different tasks dressed as some sort of instruction for a Mars colony. **-
Leave Your Iron at the Door • novelette by Josh Pearce
The story consists mainly of extremely futuristic battles when the title character is looking for an old lover (or perhaps enemy). Filled with pretty stupid implausible sf tropes, with nuclear weapons, portable black holes, wormholes and pocket universes. The story is pretty confusing and irritating. There is practically no back story at all, and it is even hard to know (or even harder to care) if the main protagonist is a “good guy” or a “bad guy”. **-
At the Fall • novelette by Alec Nevala-Lee
A self-aware robot studies thermal vents at the bottom of the ocean. It reports to humans, who want to have as much as possible information on the ocean floor. The robot is able to use Sulphur compounds to produce electricity. One day the surface ship doesn’t come when the robot is supposed to upload information it has collected. It can’t reach any human by radio. As it feels the information it has collected is vital, it starts a long journey home. A well told and even moving story. I wonder what happened next - nothing very good presumably? ****

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

My Hugo award votes 2019 part 2: Novelettes

The novella category was also pretty good, but perhaps not as fine as the short stories. None of the stories were bad, however the best stories were very obvious and so was their order. Also, the last story was easy to select: glowing intelligent elephants warning about the dangers of radiation is a pretty stupid plotline.

“Nine Last Days on Planet Earth,” by Daryl Gregory (, 19 September 2018)
There was a heavy meteor storm in 1975 that brought dozens of different alien plants with it. The plants are competing with the Earth's plants for the living space and seem to almost be winning. The story is told in short segments separated by years, from the viewpoint of a man who is just a young boy in the first stories and grows to a man. The novelette tells more about the life of the protagonist than about the plants. A well-written story anyway and it ends nicely.

“The Thing About Ghost Stories,” by Naomi Kritzer (Uncanny Magazine 25, November- December 2018)
A folklore researcher collects ghost stories from people. She has created a system to categorize them and seeks people with good tales to tell. Then one of the people she is interviewing tells her that her recently deceased mother is beside her and has something to say. A pretty good story, but the actual ghost stories which were featured were pretty boring. The other parts were excellent.

“If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again,” by Zen Cho (B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, 29 November 2018)
An "inugi" wants to ascend and to be a real dragon. She tries several times and fails repeatedly. Eventually, she changes her form to human and meets a teacher. They fall in love and live a human lifetime together. A very good story which is well written and moving.

“The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections,” by Tina Connolly (, 11 July 2018)
A baker has learned to make pastries which are able to awaken memories and feelings. A tyrant has kidnapped him to use the baker’s talents for his amusement. The baker’s wife works as a taster to test the pastries so that no unwelcome feelings get through (and for more traditional poisons, too). An interesting story which for a large part consist of memories awoken by a series of pastries. A well-written and wonderful tale.

“When We Were Starless,” by Simone Heller (Clarkesworld 145, October 2018)
Some sort of creatures, possibly reptilian, live at some sort of apocalyptic world, possible something which humans have abandoned (or where humans have died out). There are old domes which may be dangerous and often contain “ghosts” which might talk or be a threat. The creatures use “weavers” (abandoned 3D printers?), which need raw materials to produce essential equipment. One dome seems to contain a ghost which seems to be very helpful. A good story which was well written, but the background was pretty sketchy and was left for the reader to imagine.

The Only Harmless Great Thing, by Brooke Bolander ( Publishing)
The story happens in an alternate world where elephants are somehow a universally recognized symbol of radiation. Apparently, they somehow worked at the radium factory where women got radiation poisoning on early 20th century and Disney made a movie out of them, which caused everyone to think that elephants = radioactivity. And the elephants are intelligent, possibly due to the radiation? A researcher is trying to find a way to protect the radioactive waste dump so that no one will enter there in millennia to come. Naturally (?) elephants come to her mind. Elephants genes modified to glow. You might get a nice parody out of this starting point, but the story was written with a serious attempt - very serious - with very complicated sentences with several different characters' viewpoints at different time periods. I found it pretty stupid, confusing and implausible. And would it really kill authors who write stories that switch between different viewpoints, locales and even time periods to include a description of where and when the next chapter happens in the chapter heading? I am sure it might feel like torture to write clearly while attempting a literary style, but please...

1. “The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections,” by Tina Connolly (, 11 July 2018)
2. “If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again,” by Zen Cho (B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, 29 November 2018)
3. “Nine Last Days on Planet Earth,” by Daryl Gregory (, 19 September 2018)
4. “The Thing About Ghost Stories,” by Naomi Kritzer (Uncanny Magazine 25, November- December 2018)
5. “When We Were Starless,” by Simone Heller (Clarkesworld 145, October 2018)
6. The Only Harmless Great Thing, by Brooke Bolander ( Publishing)

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Space Opera (Space Opera #1) by Catherynne M. Valente

The third Hugo nominee I have read this year. The book is a strange mix of Hitchhiker’s-Guide-type of science fiction and the Eurovision song contest with a smidgen of Battle Royale thrown in the mix. The intelligent races of the galaxy had a devastating war over what species could be considered sentient. After the war, they established a song contest to create mutual co-operation and trust between all different species (and to divide galactic resources – the winner gets most of them). The newly discovered species (such as humans) must also compete. If they don’t finish last, they will be taken in as full members of the galactic community. If they do finish last, the species will be humanely exterminated as non-sentient and hopeless. So, when humanity is invited to the contest, there is a lot at stake.

The aliens choose a little-known, one-hit-wonder, has-been, glam rockstar to represent the Earth, because, according to them, he has the best hope of all living musicians on Earth to have even the slightest possibility of success.

The book is written in a sort of Hitchhiker’s Guide style with a lot of sidetracks and asides with funny names. However, this book turns that style up to eleven and goes much too far. There is plot enough for about twenty pages, and everything else is longwinded, babbling storytelling with far too many sidetracks and attempts at humor. For the most part, they really were just attempts: I didn’t find funny planet names, implausible alien life forms, and completely impossible planet structures and ecologies to be very amusing, but rather mostly boring and even irritating. The sentences were often very long and convoluted and the book felt almost a chore to read. This was the least favorite of the three nominees in the novel category that I have read so far.

352 pp.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Sally Salminen: Katrina

A forgotten masterpiece written about 80 years ago and was about the first international bestseller ever written by a Finnish author. It tells the life story of a poor sailor’s wife at the Åland archipelago, starting somewhere at the end of 19th century, ending possibly in the late 1920s. Her life is tough and her husband is a braggart who really can’t accomplish much. But Katrina manages. It's a moving, well-written life story of a woman who keeps her self esteem no matter what. It reminds me a little of Stoner by John Williams.

Kertoo yhden naisen elämäntarinan, ei sen enempää tai vähempää.
Katrina syntyy Pohjanmaalle isoon taloon. Sinne käymään tullut merimies, Johann, viekoittelee hänet suurilla puheilla hienosta talosta ja kauniista pihasta täynnä omenapuita. Pikaisen avioliiton ja saaristoon muuton jälkeen paljastuu totuus: ei ole iso taloa, ei ole puutarhaa tai puita. On pahainen hökkeli, torppia huonompi. Johann on tunnettu tyhjänpuhuja, liioittelija, jolle koko kylä nauraa. Pohjalaisena Katrina ei luovuta, vaan käärii hihansa ja yrittää sen minkä ikinä voi pärjätä yksin vieraalla saarella. Johann viettää kesät merellä, mutta on saamaton, käyttää helposti rahansa makeisiin, eikä oikein edes osaa tarttua asioihin tai pärjätä oikeassa elämässä. Katrinalle lankea vastuu talon pidosta, taloudesta ja myöhemmin lapsista. Johann ei juuri aikaiseksi saa ja terveytensäkään ei pian kovin kehuttava ole. Mutta lapsista (jotka ovat keskenään kovin erilaisia luonteeltaan) pidetään huoltaa siinä mitä voidaan ja elämä kulkee latuaan myötä- ja vastoinkäymisissä.
Kirjasta tuli mieleen John Williamsin Stoner. Molemmissa kerrotaan kokonainen elämäntarina ihmisestä, jonka elämä ei aina ole täydellistä, mutta joka ottaa tyynesti vastaan sen mitä elämä eteen asettaa ja enemmän tai vähemmän hyväksyy kaikki koettelemukset, jota eteen tulee.
Kun alun shokista pääsi yli, kirjan juoni tempaisi vahvasti mukaansa. Kirjan kieli oli todella hienoa, soljuvaa, sopivan vanhahtavaa ja sitä oli ilo lukea. Käännös oli hieno ja sujuva – kirjapiirin yksi jäsen oli lukenut vanhan käännöksen, eikä siinäkään ollut mitään valitettavaa eikä suuria eroja uuteen käännökseen verrattuna. Siinä määrin hyvä kirja oli, että lukemista piti hiukan säännöstellä, ettei kirja olisi loppunut liian nopeasti, etenkin kun kirja oli kirjapiirin kirjana. Piirissä kaikki olivat teokseen ihastuneita.

448 s

Thursday, May 23, 2019

City of Ruins (Diving Universe #2) by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

The second part of the series was once again read during lunch hours and commutes. This time, the “Boss” and his employees/allies have gone to a planet that is known to have the oldest settlements on that area of the Galaxy. They have heard that something strange has been happening in the caves below the main city: people are dying and disappearing for no real reason. Could there be old and dangerous stealth technology at work somewhere?

When they start to examine the caves, they inadvertently turn on some equipment that is still functioning after centuries. Then an intact, fully functioning, very legendary Dignity Vessel appears in the cave, apparently out of thin air, with a full crew who don’t realize that they have missed the last five thousand years.

This is a very entertaining, exciting, and enjoyable book. I finished the last fifth of it in one go (even though it wasn’t a lunch hour.) The end was “happy” but totally open, and I look forward to the next part. It may take a few months before I get to it, Hugo award reading and all…

303 pp.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Miika Nousiainen: Juurihoito

An extremely easy-to-read book in which a pair of stepbrothers seek out their father through several countries. A mildly amusing feather-light book without any real surprises with an obvious moral message delivered with the subtlety of a sledgehammer about getting along with each other and not exterminating Australian aboriginals.

Mainostoimiston työntekijä joutuu hammaslääkäriin. Siellä hän kiinnittää huomionsa hammaslääkärin sukunimeen, joka on sama kuin hänellä. Sukunimi on hyvin epätavallinen. Osoittautuu, että hammaslääkäri on mainosmiehen puoliveli. Yhteinen isä on molemmat hylännyt heidän olleessaan pieni. Hammaslääkärin pienestä vastustelusta huolimatta miehet lähtevät yhdessä kartoittamaan taustaansa ja matkasta tulee pitkä, aluksi Tukholman kautta Thaimaahan ja lopulta Australiaan asti. Puolisisaruksia sitten löytyy useampia ympäri maailmaa.

Äärimmäisen kevyesti kirjoitettu, kovin tyhjänpäiväinen kirja, johon tuntui olevan päälle liimattuna aika itsestään selviä “ajatuksia” ja opetuksia moukarin hienovaraisuudella välitettynä ihmisten samanlaisuudesta ympäri maailmaa. Kevyttä lukemista, jonka toisaalta olisi kyllä voinut jättää ilman mitään tunnonvaivoja keskenkin melkein millä kohtaa tahansa, loppuun tuli kuitenkin luettua ilman mitään suuria yllätyksiä missään vaiheessa.

332 s.

Monday, May 20, 2019

My Hugo award votes 2019 part 1: short stories

All six nominated short stories were excellent this year, much better than last year. Almost all are well worthy of the award (and are vastly better than a few recent winners). The writing was good in all of them, and the plot was very engaging in most. A fable-like style was apparently a popular trend this year. Finding the last two stories (and their order) wasn’t very hard, and after some thought, the order of the rest was pretty self-evident, also.

“The Court Magician” by Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed, January 2018)
A skillful magician who doesn’t believe in magic a drafted to be the court magician. It seems that he has gained skill for real magic at the same time. The king sometimes has a request – he usually hopes that something goes away. The magician is able to fulfill that request – at a cost. He always loses something valuable, starting with his left little finger. The magician always wonders how the trick works. Several years, several lost body parts, and several lost loved material things later, the magician is old and tired. A well-told fable-like darkish story.

“The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society” by T. Kingfisher (Uncanny Magazine 25, November-December 2018)

Fairies, elves, selkies and other magical [male] creatures meet for a beer and reminisce about a woman who was special and didn’t fall for them, but rather they all fell for her until she tossed them away like an empty shell. A fine, warmly humorous story.

“The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington” by P. Djèlí Clark (Fireside Magazine, February 2018)
A story about George Washington's teeth/dentures. Short stories that grow more and more fantastic and magical – and all teeth have some effect. Short episodes with poetic language.

“STET” by Sarah Gailey (Fireside Magazine, October 2018)
An autonomous car has apparently run over a child. A mother has written an essay concerning the “autonomous conscience” with some very personal and even bitter touches. A short piece that isn’t exactly a “story”, but is fairly good anyway.

“The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat” by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine 23, July-August 2018)
An intelligent raptor is the youngest of three sisters. When the Prince comes to their realm, she (as the youngest) must find who he is and why he has arrived. After she eats his horse, she isn’t hungry, and doesn’t eat the Price straight away. As she is curious, she joins the Prince and goes to the town with him. There she is ultimately betrayed, but as she has gained a friend, not everything is lost. A nice story that is written in a nice fairy tale-like language. Woman power (human and otherwise) rules!

“A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” by Alix E. Harrow (Apex Magazine, February 2018)
A librarian (who is also a benevolent witch) notices a lonely, awkward boy who is apparently in foster care. He seems to be interested in books about getting away from this world. She is able to sense which books he needs, up to the last one. A well-written story with beautiful language and mood.

My voting order will be:

1. “The Court Magician” by Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed, January 2018)
2. “The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat” by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine 23, July-August 2018)
3. A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” by Alix E. Harrow (Apex Magazine, February 2018)
4. “The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society” by T. Kingfisher (Uncanny Magazine 25, November-December 2018)
5. “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington” by P. Djèlí Clark (Fireside Magazine, February 2018)
6. “STET” by Sarah Gailey (Fireside Magazine, October 2018)

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse

The first part of a new urban fantasy series (or the book is in the form of an urban fantasy, even though it happens in the countryside). Oceans have risen and everything has gone from bad to worse. Luckily, the American Indian reservations have built (or used magic to build) a wall to protect them from the barbaric hordes outside of their realm. Somehow the catastrophe has also broken the wall between magic and reality, and the Navajo gods (and devils) roam their land. People have received some special powers according to their clans. As it happens, that hero of the book, Maggie Hoskie’s special power is being very good at killing people (and monsters).

I haven’t read many urban fantasy books, but the setup for this one was exactly the same as those I have read: The heroine, Maggie, lives alone, has some magic powers and has been in relation with someone/something very powerful, but that has ended. She meets someone new, and it turns out that the old flame might be involved with something important. I remember at least two books which started in a more or less similar way.

It seems that someone is creating monsters which are very hard to defeat. And the local law enforcement (which is more or less a vigilante gang) doesn’t feel very sympathetic toward a known “killer.” Will Maggie be able to find the culprit while avoiding the local “militia”?

The book was a pretty nice and entertaining read, but it wasn’t special in any way; it rather felt quite ordinary. I really don’t see why it got so many nominations for the Hugo award. The writing was average, the plotting was average – everything felt very average. There was nothing bad, but nothing really memorable either; a solid three-star book in way of reckoning. (A three-star is average. There are a few books every year worthy of four stars. And there are a few books every decade worthy of five stars.)

287 pp.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Consider Phlebas (Culture #1) by Iain M. Banks

The first of the Culture novels, and one of the few that I have read before.
An Idiran Empire, which considers that it has a religious mission to conquer lesser species and bring order to their existence. It has encountered the Culture and is sure that they will soon conquer that peace-loving anarcho-communist society. At the beginning of the war, the Idirans were advancing and the Culture was retreating; however, in the long run, there really was no contest about the winner.
The book happens at the beginning of the conflict. Horza, a shape-changing mercenary, has been working for the Idirans. He is in a tight spot when he encounters a Culture agent, a worked for “special circumstances” (an organization which works as a kind of spy agency and as the first line military response for the Culture). The roles are soon reversed as Balveda is imprisoned by Idirans, who rescues Horza. And then the Culture forces attack the ship and they are separated - for a while. Ultimately, both are trying to find a Mind, a powerful AI which is stranded on a strange planet filled with deep underground caves. After several adventures, Horza manages to imprison Belvda and takes with him to the planet where the AI is situated.

The book was pretty episodic, especially for the first half, where there were adventures which didn’t really had much connection to each other. The last half formed a bit more of a coherent whole. The storytelling style was not black and white: the “hero” (or anti-hero?) of the book worked against the Culture and considered it abhorrent and demoralizing and promoting a decadent, lazy lifestyle, especially at the beginning of the book. But he later learned to see some good in it, also. Nice book, but perhaps a slight disappointment.

471 pp.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Robert Galbraith: Valkoinen kuolema (Cormoran Strike #4) (Lethal White)

The latest Cormorran Strike-book. Badly overlong and in severe need of a good copyeditor to cut out about hundred pages and to write away a few characters and at least one extremely stupid subplot. The worst book in the series, by far.

Uusin Cormorran Strike-sarjan kirja.

Kirja jatkuu suoraan siitä, mihin edellinen osa loppui.
Pääosan kirjan alkupuolesta kuluu Cormoran ja hänen sihteerinsä Robinin välien selvittelyyn. Edellisen kirjan lopussa Robin meni naimisiin pitkäaikaisen poikaystävänsä kanssa, vaikka jo olikin ilmiselvästi rakastunut Cormoraniin. Robin aikoo jättää sulhasensa heti häämatkan jälkeen, mutta tämä sairastuu matkalla ja Cormoranillakin on uusi suhde, joten Robin jää epätyydyttävään avioliittoonsa. Henkilöiden suhteita sitten käsitellään noin sata sivua, ennen varsinaisen mysteerijuonen alkua.
Robinin ja Cormoranin toimistoon ilmaantuu selvästi mieleltään järkkynyt mies, joka kertoo sekavan tarinan lapsena näkemästään lapsen murhasta. Mies on selvästi psyykkisesti sairas, mutta hänen tarinansa kuulostaa oudon vakuuttavalta. Mies pakenee ja katoaa ennen kuin poliisi ehtii paikalle. Etsiväpari hieman selvittelee asiaa, mutta heidän palkataan auttamaan kiristyksen kohteeksi joutunutta hallituksen jäsentä, joka kieltäytyy paljastamasta, mikä on se asia, josta häntä yritetään kiristää. Robin päätyy työskentelemään valeasussa parlamentissa, jossa erilaista salattavaa tuntuu olevan yhdellä jos toisellakin. Lopulta sitten (noin kirjan puolivälissä) tapahtuu myös murha, jonka selviäminen on sitten parivaljakolta sekä fyysistä, että henkistä ponnistelua vaativa asia.

Kirja oli selvästi ylipitkä ja olisi tarvinnut kipeästi taitavaa kustannustoimittajaa. Juoni oli rönsyilevä, henkilöitä oli paljon ja heidän toimintansa välillä erikoista. Yksi alajuoni oli todella typerä, miksi ihmeessä kukaan jossain kolmannen maailmaan maassa maksaisi suunnattomia summia jostain, jonka pystyy rakentamaan ihan kuka tahansa, jolla on edes minimaalista rakentamiskokemusta ja jonka tarveaineiksi riittää saha, kasa nauloja ja pino puutavaraa?

Ja Robin ei osaa katsoa mistä numerosta hänen puhelimeensa tuleva viesti oikein on peräisin? Oikeasti? Kirjan loppuratkaisu kuullaan syyllisen pitkänä luentona, kun hän kertoo tarkkaan mitä teki. Tässäkin: oikeasti? Show, don’t tell, vai mitenkäs se kirjoittamisen pääsääntö oikein meni? Ja loppuratkaisua lukijan olisi ollut käytännössä mahdoton päätellä, riittävästi tietoja ei ollut kunnolla olemassa.

Selvästi huonoin sarjan kirjoista, pahasti ylipitkä, jaaritteleva ja juonellisesti sekä sekava, että epäuskottava.

687 s.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Siiri Enoranta: Tuhatkuolevan kirous

The winner of best YA-book of the year in Finland. The starting point was very "harrypotter", but the book got a lot more violent and raunchier quite soon. It told about a magical world where the essential ingredient is something out of the body of the person performing the spell. Body hair, nail clippings, menstrual blood, semen...So it is cool to be as hairy as possible so that you could have plenty of ingredients for good spells. Soon there is a civil war going among wizards between a Gestapo-like organization and a guerrilla organization. The hero of the book, a young girl, finds herself at the center of the action as the leader of the freedom fighters, and is a good friend of her mother’s. There are some attempts to bring shades of grey in on the action, but everything was (or at least seemed to be) very black and while. I was hoping for a drastic turn of things, but I had to be disappointed. The writing was ok, but the book was pretty violent - I wonder what was the age group this was aimed?

Tämän vuoden Finlandia-junior palkinnon voittaja parhaasta nuorten- tai lastenkirjasta.
Kirja tapahtuu fantasia-maailmassa, jossa on mm. kaksi kuuta ja jossa taikuus toimii. Taikoja eivät voi kuitenkaan tehdä kaikki, vaan vain osa ihmisistä ja kyky siihen kulkee suvussa.
Kirjan päähenkilö Pau elää rauhallista elämää taiteilijaäitinsä ja kalatutkijaisänsä kanssa. Hänen suvussaan on ollut taikuutta ja kun hänen veljensä saa kutsun taikakouluun hän itsekin uskaltaa toivoa samaa.

Vuotta myöhemmin myös hänelle tulee kutsu kouluun. Taika-akatemiassa on osaltaan samanlaista kuin hän oli ajatellut, mutta toisaalta erilaista - totuusjuomaa juottavat “ajatuspoliisi” ötkyt olivat jotain mitä hän ei ollut odottanut. Ötkyt haluaisivat valvoa taikuutta ja kauppaavat fosoraa, jonka pitäisi estää taikuuden haitallisia vaikutuksia. Pääsykokeiden jälkeen Pau hylätään koulusta, vaikka hän oli jo osoittautunut ikäänsä voimakkaampaa taitoa taikuuteen. Kotiin palattuaan hän aluksi yrittää palata aikaisempaan elämäänsä, mutta sitten käy ilmi, että oikeastaan mitään mitä hän oli perheestään ajatellut, ei olekaan totta.

Kirjan taikajärjestelmä on kiinnostava ja originelli. Taikuuteen tarvitaan jotain osaa omasta ruumiista, joten mitä karvaisempi on, sitä parempi - karvat kun mahdollistavat vahvemmat taiat. Myös kaikkia muita eritteitä kuukautisverta ja siemennestettä myöten voidaan käyttää hyväksi. Sinällään hiukan ihmetytti miten karvat riittävät - kunnon taikaan kun tarvitaan useampia grammoja hiuksia tai ihokarvoja - joka kyllä on melkoisen suuri kasa, esim. pelkistä ihokarvoista ei taida sellaista määrää edes olla mahdollista kerätä.

Kirjan alku herätti hiukan pahoja aavistuksia, sillä se oli niin harrypottermainen kuin ikinä mikään. Sävy muuttui sitten aika nopeasti tummasävyisemmäksi, enemmän kapinasta kuin koulusta kertovaksi. Pau ystävineen joutuu tiukkoihin paikkoihin ja tekemään raskaita ratkaisuja.
Kirjan maailman toiminta jäi paljolti auki ja asioita jäi selittämättä. Itselle jotenkin jäi epäily siitä, että edes kirjailija ei kunnolla tiennyt/tiedä sitä miksi asiat toimivat niin kuin toimivat, kunhan vain halusi luoda jänskiä tilanteita. Harmaan sävyjä oli yritetty saada mukaan, mutta silti jäi pahasti auki, miksi “pahikset” olivat niin pahoja kuin olivat ja kuinka ihmeessä he olivat onnistuneet värväämään niin suuren määrät täydellisen uskollisia kannattajia etenkin huomioiden kirjan maailman yleisen luontoa ja elämää yli kaiken kunnioittavan filosofian jonka nähtävästi käytännössä kaikki jakoivat. Kielellisesti teksti oli hyvää, mutta tosiaan juonellisesti jossain määrin petyin. Pau itse vaikutti suhteellisen lapselliselta ja jotenkin koko kirjan ajan suhteellisen samantapaiselta, vaikka kehitystä sinällään olisi olettanut tapahtuvan aika rajujen tapahtumien jälkeen. Kirjan loppu oli oikeastaan kliseinen, hyvä voitti ja paha hävisi rajun taistelun jälkeen. Hiukan ilmiselvästi yritettiin vastapuolta osittain inhimillistää, mutta paha oli kuitenkin pahaa loppuun asti. Toisaalta kapinallisjohtaja kyllä kuvattiin varsin fanaattisena Che Quevara-tyyppisenä hahmona, joka ajoi asiaansa kaihtamatta mitään. Pienenä toiveena minulla oli, että lopussa olisi osoittautunut, että “ötkyt” ovat olleet koko ajan oikeassa ja taikuudella olisi maailmaa vahingoittavaa vaikutusta, mutta ei. Kirjassa oli myös mukana muutama nuortenkirjaksi suhteellisen seksipitoinen kohtaus. Muutenkaan ei ehkä kyseessä ole ihan alla 12 v luettavaksi sopiva kirja.

443 s.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Mia Kankimäki: Naiset joita ajattelen öisin

Hieman samassa sarjassa oleva kirja kuin “Sankaritarinoita tytöille”- kirjat mutta aikuisille kohdennettua (ja kirjoittaminen mitä ilmeisemmin on aloitettu ja paljon ennen kuin nämä nuortenkirjat tulivat suosituiksi).
Kirja esittelee naisia, jotka ovat omana aikanaan olleet rohkeita ja tehneet jotain, mitä nainen “ei voi” tehdä. Alkupuoli kirjasta käsittelee Karen Blixeniä, joka yksi ylläpiti farmia Afrikassa vuosia sairauksista, koettelemuksista ja huonoista sadoista huolimatta. Ja metsästi suurriistaa, erityisenä intohimona leijonien metsästäminen.

Toisena osana kirjaa ovat naispuoliset tutkimusmatkailijat 1800-luvulta, naisia jotka (osa reilusti yli 50-vuotiaina) lähtivät täysin tuntemattomille alueille alkeellisilla varusteilla varustautuneina pitäen samalla tiukasti kiinni säädyllistä pitkistä hameistaan yläluokan brittiläisestä käyttäytymisestä. Tässä osiossa olisi ehkä hiukan voinut olla tiivistämisen varaa, päähenkilöt kun olivat kuitenkin aika samantapaisia.

Tämän jälkeen kirja käsittelee varhaisia naistaiteilijoita aikana, jolloin naisen “uran” vaihtoehdot olivat vähissä: oli mahdollista mennä naimisiin ja synnyttää lapsia, kunnes kuolo kohtasi, muuttaa luostariin tai alkaa ilotytöksi. Muutama kuitenkin onnistu tästä murtautumaan ja jopa elättämään itseään ja perhettään taiteella.

Viimeisenä yönaisista on Yayoi Kusama, omatakeista taidetta tuottava, mielisairaalassa asuva, taiteilija, jonka näyttelyssä HAM:ssa itsekin kävin.

Kirja oli paitsi näistä naisista kertova, vaan myös kirjoittajasta itsestään ja siitä miten hän koki tutkimiensa naisten taustan selvittelyn ja miten se käytännössä tapahtui. Tämä osuus oli oikeataan yhtä kiinnostavaa, kuin varsinainen ”historiaosuus” eikä oikeastaan ole siitä erotettavissa olevakaan. Kirja oli varsin vetävästi ja sujuvalla kielellä kirjoitettu. Kirjapiirissä suurin osa piti kirjasta, jotakuta kirjan loppu, joka kertoi eräänlaisesta taiteilija ”kommuunista”, jossa kirjailija viimeisteli teostaan turhana. Toisaalta mahdollisuus elellä taiteilijaresidensseissä ilman mitään kelloon sidottua aikataulua viehätti aika montaa herättäen kateutta.

447 s.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, March-April 2019

Beneath a Red Sun • novelette by James C. Glass
An exploration ship arrives on a planet that orbits a red sun. There doesn’t seem to be any life, but the atmosphere contains 1% free oxygen. The crew starts conducting scientific studies, as it should not be possible for free oxygen to exist if there isn’t a source for it. They find a cave where the oxygen percentage seems to go up, even approaching 10%. Inevitably there is a crisis in which a few crew members must find shelter in that cave and eventually to determine whether or not they can get some sustenance from the little oxygen that is available. The writing was pretty good, but the crisis situation felt forced and even unnecessary. And the actual percentage of oxygen isn’t very important and actually may be irrelevant; however, the partial pressure is important. Low pressure and 100% oxygen suffocates, but in deep sea diving, even gas mixes containing 2-4% oxygen can be used. The percentage of oxygen alone means practically nothing. If one assumes that the pressure was something normal like Earth, breathing a low 10% oxygen mix would have been extremely dangerous; one probably would just lose consciousness very fast without any other symptoms, and the expired air would most likely contain more oxygen than inspired, meaning there would have been a net loss of breathable air. Also, the story just felt like it was part of a larger tale. ***+
Hop and Hop with Gleepglop Gleep!: A Bedtime Reader • short story by Tim McDaniel
Alien siblings fight, and one wins and gains dominance over the other siblings. All this is told as a fairy tale with pictures. I didn’t really understand the point of the story, but it was mildly amusing. **
Negotiating Traffic • short story by Brad Preslar
When all cars are self-driving, how does AI analyse who is more important in a crisis situation? A businessman narrowly escapes an accident when a car avoids him, hits a hot dog stand and kills a homeless man who was behind the stand, unseen by the cameras of the car. He feels guilty as he was on his phone at the time. He wants to quit his job, but his company doesn’t think he should leave as he is too valuable an employee and they resort to extortion. A too short and implausible story with an unreasonable evil company and with far too easy manipulation of all driverless cars around. Also, why would the AI system be made to recognize all people on an individual basis? ***-
The God of All Mountains • short story by Jo Miles
A Chilean woman climbs Olympus Mons on Mars. She wants to be the first person to reach the top, not only the first woman. A much better-equipped man is also attempting the climb. She is losing, but then she gives up the race and feels free... The writing is ok, but I remember a few very similar stories. I found it difficult to sympathize with the characters, as I found it hard to understand the drive to be the first at something, which is quite pointless after all. ***
Parenting License • short story by Leah Cypess
A woman found out that she is pregnant, and she still hasn’t her parenting license. This is a catastrophe as it is impossible to get decent health care, daycare or practically anything child related without the license. Now she must find a bit shady place to get care – or she must find another solution. A fairly good story, but somewhat stupid on many levels. Would it really be totally impossible to learn things needed for a license in 8 months, especially as she had already done a few courses? If it is so impossible, why be so careless with prevention? Or if having a child is SO hard without the license, why an abortion is not even mentioned or briefly considered? ***+
Fine-Tuning • short story by Bond Elam
A man is working on a new planet. A woman he knows to be an android is pushing for a calculated risk in a mining operation, but he finds the risk to be too great. But who is actually the android? A very short story which depends on a slight twist. ***-
Running the Gullet • short story by Vajro Chandrasekera
The story happens in some sort of post-human culture where the sun is dying out. Someone tries to motivate a group of “children“ to play a “game” which lasts a millennia and involves death. The story consists mainly of a detailed and boring description of the pretty inane “rules” of the game, with a slight, but not surprising, twist at the end. ***
Second Quarter and Counting • short story by James Van Pelt
A man and woman have had a deep friendship throughout their lives; both have been married but their friendship has endured. It has become possible to rejuvenate one’s body, but there is a risk of memory loss. Will the friendship endure that? A bit short and glimpse-like story. ***
Final Say • short story by Eric Del Carlo
Demented people can be wakened for a few minutes of clarity with special brain stimulation. After the moment of the clear mind, they will die. A technician has performed that procedure for years. His father has dementia. Their relationship has always been problematic - should he perform the procedure for his father? Not bad, but one more story which might have benefitted from a slightly longer form. ***+
Dangerous Company • novelette by C. Stuart Hardwick
A sort of tourist trip to the moon on a replica LEM module is interrupted when the man who paid for the trip knocks down the pilot and takes over the ship. He has something he wants to find on the moon. Russians apparently secretly sent a man to the moon before Apollo missions, and his family apparently knows what happened, even when radio communications failed, and a Russian “personality” stays in the family for generations even when living abroad. There was no background – just a pretty simplistic survival plot with some stupid plot points. (Mannitol is apparently so good for brain swelling that a small dose of it makes you wake up right away and apparently even cures brain injuries.) ***+
Tea Time with Aliens • short story by Jack McDevitt
An alien ship appears to orbit. A satellite launch was just being prepared, and it is revamped as a first contact mission in a few hours. The astronauts meet an alien ship, which lands on a remote island. The shuttle captain decides to do the same (totally ridiculous - as are the orbital mechanics which are described, the author apparently has no knowledge what so ever of calculating orbits). They meet the aliens and have a discussion. A too short and rushed story with a few pretty ridiculous details. ***
The End of Lunar Hens • short story by M. K. Hutchins
A moon colony tries to raise chickens as part of the ecosystem, but the chickens turn nasty in low gravity. Rabbits are next, but they don’t really tolerate the conditions. Apparently, there isn’t enough CO2 for plants; not really a believable problem, excess carbon dioxide would more likely be a problem. A mildly entertaining, but fairly stupid story with extremely stupid characters. ***-
The Invitation • short story by Bud Sparhawk
A party for time travelers doesn’t really work if you book the day in your own past. A short story which doesn’t make much sense. **
Rising Stars • short story by Elisabeth R. Adams
An astronomer who is finishing her thesis gets a surprise visit from her anthropologist friend. She has found cave paintings decapitating stars and needs astronomical experience to date the paintings. They travel to the South Africa to see the paintings. I don’t exactly understand how shutting down the light inside a cave to improve night vision makes you see the cave paintings better? There is no mention of luminous paint. Not bad, but the story ends just when it really gets interesting. ***½
The New Martian Way • short story by Brendan DuBois
A man has died on a remote Martian research station. The two surviving scientists state that it was an accident; a suit malfunction. But the suits are supposed to be foolproof and they have never been known to have fatal malfunctions. Was it a murder - and if it was, why would the two scientists have killed the third? Not a bad murder mystery story. ***+
Slow Dance • short story by Jay Werkheiser
Another murder mystery. A woman has been killed on a deep space mission, where the crew’s metabolism has been slowed twentyfold and their body temperature is below zero. The investigation isn’t easy and it is impossible to stop the mission. In principle, the members are all married couples but in reality, relationships between them are complex. A pretty average story, but the narrative structure was interesting. ***
The Walk to Distant Suns • novelette by Matthew Kressel and Mercurio D. Rivera
People can travel to a new world, a paradise, through a wormhole; it is extremely expensive, though. An operator of the hole has worked for a long time to earn enough to send her and her family through. Her mother has cancer and for some reason, she believes that cancer can be healed in the new world (and there apparently isn’t any public health care so the world is pretty barbaric). Then the travel fee is raised by a third. She takes things into her own hands. A fairly nice story without anything really surprising. (The world is not a paradise - it’s an ice hell which needs decades or centuries of terraforming.) ***+
Better • novelette by Tom Greene
Aliens have come bearing bad news: there is a ruthless species killing everything and destroying whole planets. All able-bodied humans are needed for the battle (sounds pretty fishy to me). It turns out that everything was true, and there really is a vicious species. Earth is fairly empty as a significant percentage of humans are fighting the war. There are a lot of alien refugees with very different cultures and behavior modes. A veteran who might have just a few days to live is in charge of a group of aliens. They must show that they can be useful by performing a very easy task, but the problems in communication and the completely different ways of thinking make the task more difficult than it sounds. A pretty contrived story in some places. The function of the toxin which the veteran is carrying seems to be more magic than science: an altruistic action stops its function. WTF? Also, it is very hard to believe that some aliens following their described evolutionary customs would ever have developed sentience. The evolutionary “explanation” for some human behaviors doesn’t hold water. There are social structures with ”leaders” in many sorts of animal species who have not evolved in trees. The writing itself was ok. ***½
A Mate not a Meal • novelette by Sarina Dorie
A giant spider lives underground and eats animals it can lure to its cave. Its mother and sister have been killed and eaten by a spider which was the imposed male of the species; because of that, the spider is very wary of any spiders “singing“ to it. One day it hears strange singing which apparently comes from a curious creature with only four limbs. An excellent, creative and well-written story. ****

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Chains of Command (Frontlines #4) by Marko Kloos

The next book in the series where Earth is threatened by giant, almost unstoppable, aliens. This time the main action is not against aliens, but against other humans. The leaders and the elite of the Earth had escaped the invasion and have taken with them the most modern and powerful battlecruisers. The rest of the fleet just barely stopped the invasion, and now it would be the time to start fighting back. To have any chance of success all possible ships will be needed. As it was found where the deserters went, it is now the time to get some of those ships back.

The large part of the book happens on a colony word where the deserters and the “invading” force are playing cat and mouse. That part of the book could have slightly tightened. As a whole a fun book to read anyway, and it left me waiting for the next part where the Earth forces probably will start the fight to recapture invaded Mars.

386 pp.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Tea with the Black Dragon by R.A. MacAvoy

This is a book where a mother looks for her daughter (who might have been involved in some criminal activity). The daughter had asked for her mother to arrive to meet her, but the daughter is nowhere to be found. The mother encounters an eccentric Chinese gentleman, who just might be a dragon in a human form. The man decides to help the mother while she is searching for her daughter. That mission eventually turns out to be dangerous for both of them.

In this short book, which is only borderline fantasy, the “dragoness” of the man was mostly implied. Especially, the beginning of the book was pretty slow. Some of the background concerning computers was pretty laughable: apparently, it only takes two people to design a complete computer system for a major bank. And those two people can work separately, each making one half of the program (to prevent any back doors – I can’t imagine why that would prevent the backdoors) – and then the two halves would fit seamlessly together, yeah, right. The writing as such was pretty good, but as whole, the book was a slight disappointment for me. It was fairly pointless, but a slow adventure.

166 pp.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Reijo Mäki: Kruunun vasikka

A Finnish-born policeman works undercover in Stockholm. His job is to infiltrate criminal gangs – the worse, the better. This wasn’t a very good book – too many characters, a fairly fragmented structure, and not really engaging at any level. Probably my least favorite book by this author.

Reijo Mäen kirja, jossa vaihteeksi on päähenkilönä joku muu kuin Vares. Kirjan päähenkilönä on suomalaissyntyinen poliisi, Sakari Roivas, joka työskentelee Tukholman poliisin peitetehtävässä. Roivaan tehtävänä on soluttautua alamaailman jengeihin ja näin estää rikoksia tai ainakin saada rikolliset kiinni. Tukholmassa on tehty erittäin uskaliaita ja tuottoisia pankkiryöstöjä. Markkinoille on ilmaantunut myös venäläistä vahvaa huumetta. Roivas sitten sattuu tietysti sekaantumaan vähän molempiin.
Varmaan huonoin Reijo Mäen kirja mitä olen lukenut. Kirja oli rakenteellisesti erittäin hajanainen, henkilöhahmot eivät olleet kunnolla kiinnostavia, vaikka ne värikkäiksi olikin tarkoitettu ja henkilöitä oli jonkin verran liikaa. Missään vaiheessa kirja ei varsinaisesti tempaissut sisäänsä ja oli parhaimmillaan tyydyttävä. Rahasummat vaikuttivat erikoisilta, ihan kuin Ruotsissa olisi ollut eurot käytössä. Kirjan ikä selitti tätä pääosin, kyseessä olikin 25 vuotta vanha teos, kun jotenkin kuvittelin sen olevan uudempaa tuotantoa. Ei erityisemmin houkuttele lisää tätä sarjaa lukemaan – melkein jopa Vareksien kiinnostavuus väheni siitä tympeähkön yhdentekevästä mausta mikä kirjasta jäi.

283 s.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

I was looking forward to new book by Naomi Novik as really liked Uprooted, her earlier book. This is another book which is kind of based on a fairy tale. It is also an independent book, which tells its story and doesn’t need any further parts – even less than the Uprooted. This book is loosely based on the fairy tale of Rumpelstiltskin.

A young Jewish girl, Miryem, lives with his father and mother. The father is a moneylender, but he has so soft heart that he is almost unable to get any debts paid ever. As her mother falls sick and there is no money for medicines Miryem decides to collect the debts herself. She turns out to be so good in that, and the hard times of the family seem to be over. She collects debts as goods and is very good on selling them on profit. She attracts attention of Staryk, who is a sort of god and ruler of winter and has been expanding his realm, resulting on very cold weather. He leaves a bag of silver for Miryem and wants her to convert it to gold. She manages by making a ring out of the silver and selling it to duke of the town. But then the Staryk brings even larger purse of silver...

The ring which was made from the fairy silver turns out to have some magical properties. Duke’s daughter, Irina, who is plain looking but very sharp gets it. The duke hopes that the magic in ring makes it possible that the tsar will marry Irina enabling the duke to increasing his influence. But the tsar is inhabited by a demon who wants to devour Irina...

The third main character is Wanda, a daughter of a drunk man, who owes a lot of money to Miryem’s father. Miryem gets Wanda to work for her in order to pay off her father’s debts. Wanda is very happy about that, as it enables her to escape her abusive father (and to get properly fed). But her father wants marry her off to an old man and pocket the dowry.
All which is described above is just the starting point for the plot.

The story is complex as is the language. This isn’t a fast read by any means – but an excellent book in spite of all that. The characters are all complex and none is really black or white (well, perhaps excepting the demon, who is very demonic) with real, understandable, motivations. The plot is interesting and it gets more and more interesting until to the end. The weakest part of the book is the beginning which was slow and took its’ time before anything really started to happen. A very good book which was one of my nominations for the Hugo awards.

480 pp.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Galaxy Science Fiction, March 1956

A vastly better issue than a couple earlier ones.

A Gun for Dinosaur • [Reginald Rivers] • novelette by L. Sprague de Camp
Time traveling hunting guides journey back in time to hunt dinosaurs (as all big game on contemporary Earth have already been killed). They don't travel to the Jurassic or Cretaceous periods. The guide tells a tale for a prospective client about a hunting trip with some stupid and trigger happy customers that didn’t go well. The trip included several gory deaths. It is a humorous story, a bit behind its time. ***
Flat Tiger • short story by Gordon R. Dickson
A flying saucer has landed on the lawn of a White House. Its rear tiger has inflated (a creature which looks very much like a tiger but is able to bloat from power and enable space flight.). The saucer is invisible and only the President can see it and its occupants. The aliens make an offer: humanity could join the galactic community and get free interstellar travel, along with solutions to all its problems, with little asked in return. There is just a small catch, though. As everything edible (drinkable) closely resembles an alien species, humans must give up eating (and drinking) anything and consume only pure energy.
It's a funny and ironic story that hasn’t lost anything in six decades. ***½
Tsylana • novelette by James E. Gunn
A statistician 1st class has worked in his job for years. He lives in a society where everyone is tested and goes to work at his perfect job. There is no crime, everyone is happy, no one is maladjusted. But the statistician has noticed an anomaly: a candy was stolen from a baby. The next day, a child’s walker was stolen. The crimes increased until ten million dollars was stolen from a bank. Those crimes shake the statistician to the core. But if the society is perfect, is there room for growth? It is a well-written story. ***+
Little Red Schoolhouse • short story by Robert F. Young
A young boy has escaped his home and left his parents. He wants to go to his REAL home, from where put to a “stork train” and said that now it is time to go home. All he can remember is a nice life in the countryside where a couple (who never claimed to be his parents) took good care of him. He is a bit hazy on details on where to find that place, but he starts looking. He finds it, but it isn't exactly what he expected. (It is a method of raising children with an idyllic simulated environment with a goal of producing less neurosis for adults. It should work fine but apparently doesn’t...) ***-

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Harper Lee: Kuin surmaisi satakielen (To Kill a Mockingbird #1)

A well-known book, which left me slightly disappointed: I was expecting more. As such, a good description of life in 30s Alabama seen from the eyes of a young girl, but the first half of the book was a bit loose with the actual plot starting fairly late in the book. On the other hand, it was probably needed to get familiar with the world and characters, especially one who turned out to be very important at the end.

Kuuluisa kirja, yksi USA:n arvostetuimpia romaaneja.
Kirja kuvaa nuoren tytön näkökulmasta pienen Alabamassa sijaitsevan kaupungin tapahtumista muutaman vuoden aikana. Tytön isä on asianajaja, joka saa hoitaakseen valkoisen naisen raiskaamisesta syytetyn mustan miehen puolustamisen oikeudessa: tuon ajan Etelävaltiossa tämä on käytännössä täysin epätoivoinen tehtävä. Mutta tapaus ei ole niin yksinkertainen, kuin suurin osa kaupungin asukkaista ajattelee.
Kirjan alku oli varsin hidas, kertoen lähinnä lasten leikeistä, naapureista ja yleisestä elämässä paikkakunnalla ja paikkakunnan ihmisistä ja persoonallisuuksista. Tämä oli sinällään kohtuulliseen kiinnostavaa ja osaltaan jopa loppuratkaisua valmistelevaa, mutta vaikutelmaksi tuli, että siinä olisi ollut kyllä hiukan supistamisen varaa. Varsinainen pääsisältö tuntui alkavan vasta noin puolessavälissä kirjaa ja terävin ydin sisältyi oikeastaan yhteen tai kahteen oikeudenkäyntiä kuvaavaan lukuun. Itselle jäi aavistuksen pettynyt olo kirjasta: tässäkö tämä nyt oli? Kirjassa oli tietenkin sujuvaa kuvausta tuon ajan elämästä. Kaikilla oli paikkansa, valkoiset ylimpänä, ”roskasakki” valkoisetkin mustien yläpuolella, etenkin omasta mielestään. Ristiveriset, jotka eivät kelvanneet kummallekaan rodulle, alimpana. Kielellisesti kirja oli hyvää, mutta ei erityisen poikkeuksellisella kirjoitettu. Pieni tyttö, joka ei aika ihan täysin ymmärtänyt, mitä ympärillä tapahtui, oli kertojana onnistunut ratkaisu, joka osaltaan ehkä etäännytti muuten ahdistavaa rasismia.

411 s.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Barbie Murders by John Varley

I read this collection years before - and probably some of the stories in other collections. After reading a book about the history of the Hugo Awards, I really felt like reading some Varley again. It is a pity that he apparently has stopped writing. This turned out to be an excellent collection with wonderful stories.

Bagatelle • [Anna-Louise Bach] • (1976) • novelette by John Varley
Locus Award finalist, 9th place
An atomic bomb that is on a busy street in the Lunar city tells that it is going to explode at a certain time. It turns out that the bomb is a human turned into a cyborg. A bomb dismantler, who happens to be vacationing nearby, comes to help. He is highly motivated as there is no chance that he could escape in time. He engages in a long discussion with the bomb with such familiar terms that the police start to get restless. A well-written excellent story. ****
The Funhouse Effect • [Eight Worlds] • (1976) • novelette by John Varley
The last cruise of an asteroid that has been turned into a luxurious cruise ship is starting. The ship is supposed to grace the sun and then return, offering unparalleled views. But something seems to be wrong. The engines seem to be disassembled and the crew seems to be unaware of that. And soon there seems to be a mutiny, and then a counter-mutiny - and the ship seems to be breaking into pieces when it is approaching the sun. WHAT is happening? (Everything is just a show; the passengers have had a partial memory wipe so that they can “enjoy” the strange and dangerous-appearing happenings.) A fairly good story, but not among the best in this collection. ***½
The Barbie Murders • [Anna-Louise Bach] • (1978) • novelette by John Varley
1979 Locus Best Novelette winner
1979 Hugo Best Novelette finalist
Nomination 1995 Tiptree Retrospective

Solving a murder is hard when the victim is a member of a religious cult that belies conformity overall and to such a degree that all members have been modified to look exactly the same: vaguely female neuters with no genitalia at all. The murder is even on video, but it is impossible to find the murderer among people who look exactly alike. The colony doesn’t really cooperate: They are ready to give up one of their members as guilty; because they think everyone is the same, it really doesn’t matter if the guilty one is the one who actually used the knife. The police, who are trying to find the murderer, go undercover. It turns out that the killed ones were “perverts” who dressed in personal clothes and pretended to be gendered. A very good story, well written and worth the nominations. ****½
Equinoctial • [Eight Worlds] • (1977) • novella by John Varley
Locus Award, Best novella 12th
People are living with symbiotic “animals” near Saturn’s rings. After they bond with a “Symb,” they are able to survive in space and the Symb takes care of all physical (and mental) needs. It is a true symbiosis with the melding of the minds. There are two factions: one dedicated to painting one of the rings of Saturn and another removing the paint - both for more or less religious reasons. The protagonist loses her children when the opposing faction captures them, and what is even worse is that she loses her Symb, which for all practical purposes is part of her mind. Is there even a reason to live anymore? Another fine story with very nice writing. ****
Manikins • (1976) • short story by John Varley
A woman is in a mental hospital after she has decapitated a man. A young woman comes to interview her. She seems intelligent and relaxed, but delusional. She believes that men are women who have been taken over by a parasite, a worm-like thing about 10 cm long that is attached between the legs. She presents a pretty strong case, though ... a good, unusual story. ***½
Beatnik Bayou • [Eight Worlds] • (1980) • novelette by John Varley
Locus Award novelette 2nd
Hugo Award 3rd
Nebula Award nomination

A young boy has been taught for years by a teacher who has been his friend since childhood and has grown up with him. That kind of teacher gets rejuvenated by the age of his wards. They have been friends and lovers, and they have changed genders during the years. (A sex change in this world is about as complicated and as big of a deal as getting a new style of haircut.) But it’s time to grow up. And then he meets a very fascinating, a bit older-looking woman, so fascinating that he decides to push back the sex change he was planning. Another fine story, nice characters and a fascinating glimpse into the justice system of the world. *****-
Good-Bye, Robinson Crusoe • [Eight Worlds] • (1977) • novelette by John Varley
Locus Award best short fiction 16th
An adolescent boy lives a happy life in a tropical paradise. He has gills so he can dive in the water whenever he wants. He might be older than he looks. A new girl comes to the shores, strange but fascinating. It might be time to grow up. (The girl is a psychologist who has come to retrieve the man who has been on a ten-year vacation, but he is urgently needed in the real world.) Another nice story with more than a few thematic similarities to the earlier story. ****-
Lollipop and the Tar Baby • [Eight Worlds] • (1977) • novelette by John Varley
An adolescent girl is seeking black holes. She finds one – and the hole starts to talk to her. She lives with her mother/sister, who has been on a survey trip for years and has used cloning to get a child, companion and lover(!). The hole has a few things to tell her – for example, concerning laws that state that only one copy of any person may exist at the same time – and the last born must be terminated. Or is the hole talking to her? Is she hallucinating? Another extremely good story. ****
Picnic on Nearside • [Eight Worlds] • (1974) • novelette by John Varley
A young man and his best friend (who has just had a sex change to female) go picnicking on the near side of the moon. It has largely been abandoned, as no one wants to see the Earth as a reminder of what has been lost. (In most of Varley’s stories, Earth was invaded a long time ago. All people who, at the time, lived on Earth are presumed dead. The has been no contact with Earth, and all attempts to land there fail without any exception. (Little is known about the invaders, but they have left people who live on the moon and other planets alone.) The couple encounters an old man who is nearly dying. He stayed behind when everyone else left, as he considered the lifestyle of younger generations (free sex with anyone, with no regard for gender or family relations, sex changes done on a whim) to be blasphemous. They try to heal him and bring him back to civilization, but he firmly refuses. They then decide to stay at the near side for the time being. Another very good story with nice characters. ****½

260 pp

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Veikko O. Haakana: Kivinen biisoni

A short ”paleofiction” book I have read many times as a teen. A young orphan with a malformed hand helps his adoptive father to create cave paintings. However, after some superstitious fears by the rest of the tribe, they must run away, but that might have been a blessing. The first part of the book was surprisingly good, but then the author ran out of space, time, or ambition, and everything was tied down extremely fast during the last quarter of the book.

Taisi olla Facebookin kirjallisuus ryhmässä, jossa oli puhetta paleofiktiosta, eli kivikaudella tapahtuvista kirjoista. Mieleeni palasi Veikko Haakanan kirjat, joita teininä luin innokkaasti. Kirjastosta löytyi tilaamalla tämä yksi ja päätin verestää vanhoja muistoja.
Kirjan minäkertojana on poika, jonka heimon ”taiteilija”, Picas, on kasvattanut. Pojan toinen käsi on epämuodostunut ja hänet oli heimon tapojen mukaan hylätty vuorille, mistä Picas löysi hänet ja otti kasvatikseen ja apulaisekseen. Poika on oppinut käteväksi väriaineiden etsijäksi ja valmistajaksi, mutta hän haluaa opetella myös metsästämään. Sisukkuudella hän siinä onnistuukin, mutta ei vammansa vuoksi kuitenkaan tule hyväksytyksi miehenä miesten joukkoon. Keihään heittäjänä hän lopulta onnistuu jopa niin hyvin, että kyläläisille herää epäily noituudesta – eihän yksikätinen noin hyvin voi pärjätä - ja hän joutuu kasvatti-isänsä kanssa pakenemaan. Pako sitten osoittautuu oikeastaan siunaukseksi.
Etenkin alkupuoli kirjasta oli oikeastaan yllättävänkin hyvä ja hyvin kirjoitettua. Hiukan tuli orpopojan minämuotoisesta muisteluna kirjoitetusta tarinasta jopa Sinuhe mieleen. Alku kirjassa oli aika rauhallinen, ja jotenkin muistelen, että nuorena tämä ei ollut suosikkejani kirjailijan teoksista, kun oli ”tylsempi” kuin muut. Kirjassa oli paikoitellen jopa hiukan filosofinen pohjavire taiteen merkityksestä ihmisille. En tiedä mitä loppupuolella sitten kirjoittajalle tapahtui: loppu oli alkua huomattavasti heikompi ja jotenkin kovin hätäisen oloinen: kun alussa asiat tapahtuivat rauhalliseen tahtiin, lopun tapahtumat tulivat yhtenä ryöppynä, ja paljolti niitä ei edes näytetty vaan vain kerrottiin mitä tapahtui. Kielellis-kirjallisesti kirja oli oikeastaan (viimeistä kolmannesta lukuun ottamatta) yllättävänkin hyvä.

136 s.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Brandon Sanderson: Ajan sankari (Mistborn #3) by

A fairly satisfying ending for an exciting series. The ending was very bittersweet, but good. The beginning was pretty slow, as in the first two parts of the series, while several characters were followed in alternating chapters. The end was cataclysmic for all intents and purposes. It will be extremely interesting to see this world a few hundred years later with late 19th-century technology in the sequels.

Viimeinen osa sarjaa. Edellisessä osassa kirjan päähenkilöt vapauttivat vahingossa pahan voiman, jonka tavoitteena on tuhota koko maailma. Voimalla on lähes täydelliset kyvyt, se tietää kaiken mitä on puhuttu ja myös osaa lukea kaiken mitä on kirjoitettu ja lisäksi osaa muuttaa kaiken kirjoitetun tekstin haluamakseen. Voiman vapautuminen oli eräänlainen normaalien fantasiakirjojen ideoiden uudelleenmuokkaus: toisessa osassa sankarit kuvittelevat pelastavansa maailman suunnattomalla uhrauksella täyttämällä ennustukset ja sinetöimällä kohtalonsa, kun kaikki ennustukset ja jopa ihmisten mielet ja muistiin kirjoitetut tekstit oli muokattu johtamaan suuren pahuuden/entropian vapautumiseen vankeudesta. Hups. Ja nyt maailmaloppu on sitten oikeasti tulossa. Pilvet satavat tuhkaa jopa metrien paksuudelta, salaperäinen usva nousee ja sairastuttua ja tappaa ihmisiä, lähes voittamattomat kolossi-laumat hyökkäilevät kaupunkien kimppuun. Mutta jos paha voima on täysin voittamaton ja kaikkeen kykenevä, niin miksi se ei ole jo tuhonnut maailmaa kokonaan? Tarvitseeko se jotain ennen lopullista tuhoa? Onko jotain mitä vielä voisi tehdä maailman pelastamiseksi? Mutta kuinka voisi voittaa jonkin, joka tietää kaikki suunnitelmat ja pystyy vaikuttamaan jopa ihmisten ajatuksia ohjaillen?
Hyvä päätös sarjalle. Tämä sarja päättyi kyllä juuri sillä tavalla, jolla Game of Thronesin on luvattu päättyvän, eli päätös on ”bittersweet”, mutta lopulta ihan hyvä. Kirjan alku – kuten jokaisen sarjan osan – oli aika hidas ja paljon sivuja kului paikasta toiseen siirtymiseen ja taisteluihin, jotka viime kädessä olivat turhia tai ”pahuutta” hyödyttäviä. Tapahtumat myös hajaantuivat aika pahasti ja kirja seurasi vuoroluvuin monen eri henkilön kohtaloita, mutta oikeastaan kaikkien kohtalo oli niin kiinnostava, että mitään menisi-tämä-nyt-jo-ohi kohtia ei kuitenkaan päässyt syntymään. Kirjaan on olemassa jatko-osia, jotka tapahtuvat satoja vuosia myöhemmin, kun teknologinen kehitys on päässyt liikkeelle tuhannen vuoden kestoisen pakotetun tauon jälkeen. Onkin kiinnostavaa nähdä ”keskiaika fantasian” jälkeinen maailma, jossa on jo ainakin ilmeisesti noin 1900-luvun alun tasoista tekniikka, mutta taikuus nähtävästi toimii edelleen ja jossa näiden kirjojen sankarit ovat myyttisiä, kauan sitten kuolleita hahmoja (ainakin osa - eräs hahmo ainakin lienee hyvässä hengessä edelleen).

715 s.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Diving into the Wreck by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

This is the first book of the series where people explore old forgotten spaceship wrecks. Some break them apart for raw material, while some take tourists to them for an adventure, and others try to find historically significant objects. The protagonist (unnamed, mostly she is just called “Boss”) of the book belongs to the last group. When she finds an extremely old and strange-looking large derelict ship, she can’t believe her luck. She assembles a competent team to study the wreck. It turns out to be very ancient and it contains stealth technology which has almost been forgotten. And that technology turns out to be very dangerous.

In the second part of the book, a famous war hero has also gone to the “room of lost souls.” It is a room on an old space station. If you go there, you won’t come back – although the “Boss” herself did come back decades ago as a child while her mother was left behind and lost forever. The daughter of the war hero hires the Boss to go to the room to try to retrieve him – for an extremely exceptionally good fee. She (the Boss) assembles a new team and even his father joins the team. The room turns out to be another piece of ancient stealth tech. And everything doesn’t go smoothly.

In the last novella, Boss wants to destroy the stealth tech so that a power of balance between nations won't be tilted. She also believes it is far too dangerous to exist and that the world is a better place without the stealth technology. She assembles a new team, and her aim is to destroy the ship she found in the first novella and to obliterate the stealth tech in it.

The book consists of three novellas that fit together well. I didn’t notice any continuation errors and only minor details that could be classified as small glitches. (In the second part Boss says that she doesn’t know whether her father has a video that was shot in the room – certainly, she would have asked about it – and most likely lied about it too – but she would have asked). In the last part, a spaceship that is spinning stops after the spin “dies out.” That doesn’t happen in space – if something is spinning, it never stops if there isn’t any force to stop it. As a whole, the book was a very entertaining and fun read. I had read at least the middle part earlier as a separate piece, but as a part of a whole, it worked much better – although I remember being a bit confused about some plot points. The main hero is a well-described character with more inner conflict, which is good for her – and which is often the secret of memorable characters. I will most likely look for the other parts of this series.

336 pp.