Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Orders of Battle (Frontlines #7) by Marko Kloos


The next part in a military science fiction series where humanity battles against giant, almost unstoppable monsters. Humanity has created new weapons, now ships, and has driven the invaders away from the solar system (well, mostly: the aliens still have a stronghold on Mars, even after years of killing every other creature that could be found on the planet). 

The main character, Andrew Grayson, goes on a secret mission. They later find out they're going to the same colony the aliens first invaded. When they arrive, everything seems fairly quiet - there are only two alien seed ships orbiting, and they are (fairly) easily destroyed with the new weapons. The planet seems to be covered by strange alien plants. They decide to land on the planet to retrieve old archives. An exobiologist wants to come with them, she wishes to examine the biology of the planet if there is a chance. Grudgingly, she is allowed to tag along. The priorities here are strange, surely more information about the biology of the aliens and the biosphere is vastly more important than any kind of old files. Once again, the scientific research (other than weapon research) is downplayed in the series - apparently, little is understood of the creatures even after years, and apparently, the military has little interest in sending spy drones to the lairs of the creatures, to take samples, to try and figure out their life cycle, to try to find biological agents against them, and so on. My fan theory is that the monsters they have been fighting are just biological drones and the real invader is something else - the ships themselves? Or the strange creature they encountered on the invaded planet?

The book ends on a cliffhanger, so the story is to be continued. This part of the series felt a lot better than the former part, which felt a bit tired. The writing was smooth and easy to read.  

269 pp. 


Sunday, February 28, 2021

Network Effect (The Murderbot Diaries #5) by Martha Wells


The book continues the series started by a string of novellas. I have read the first two but not the two following ones. That didn’t really matter, and it was easy to get into the story straight away. Murderbot is guarding his human friends (it still has difficulties grasping that those humans don't think about it as expandable) on a mission. When they are returning, some humans and the bot are kidnapped through a wormhole. The ship they end up on is familiar; it is the same ship that Murderbot’s AI friend is controlling, or was controlling. The AI mind appears to be deleted, and the ship is controlled by strange-looking, partly humanoid, creatures. After the Murderbot takes care of the invaders (he is shot in the head at first sight, and it takes a few minutes to recuperate from that, even for a rogue Security Unit robot) he and his humans must find what is going on.

The book is in the same style as the earlier, shorter works. The Murderbot is a delightfully cynical person, who strongly believes he doesn’t understand humans and emotion, but actually understands them far better than he himself suspects. Some of that knowledge is, of course, slightly tainted by those thousands of hours of watching popular dramas he consumes - sometimes in the background while he is speaking with humans or doing other non-important things which don’t demand a lot of processing cycles.

A  fun, fast-moving book with real characters with fascinating personalities - even if many of them weren’t actually persons. The Murderbot himself showed a really well-described character growth during the series and, even during this one book. Eventually, he is learning that there really is something called friendship and there really are people who are ready to take dangerous changes for his safety.  The book (combined with the earlier works) would make the best action-scifi TV series ever, but the budget would surely be huge.  


350 pp. 

Anni Kytömäki: Margarita

The winner of this year’s Finlandia award. The book tells a story in postwar Finland, about a young massager who later gets training as a physiotherapist treating the victims of the ongoing polio epidemic. There are other characters also, but in the beginning, it is partly unclear who they actually are and how they fit into the picture. One of the “characters” is a freshwater pearl mussel who battles in changing conditions on its home river. The book is excellently written, and the plot when it all folded together was excellent. Well worth the award.


Viimeisin Finlandia-palkinnon voittaja. Kyseessä on ulkonäköään paksumpi kirja, päältäpäin se näyttää tavanomaiselta, mutta se onkin painettu jollekin raamattupaperin tapaiselle ja on lähes 600 sivua pitkä. Kirjan alkuun pääsemisessä kului hetki, kun irtonaisista eri henkilöistä kertovista kohtauksista ei heti ymmärtänyt mistä on kyse. Vähitellen kirjan varsinaisesti alkaessa ja juonen siirtyessä kuvaamaan pääosin varsinaisen päähenkilön, hierojana toimivan Sennin elämää, kirja alkoi vetää. Senni toimii hierojana kylpylässä, jossa hänen isänsäkin oli työskennellyt ennen sotaa. Isä oli kuollut sodassa tapaturmaisen, hiukan turhan tuntuisen kuoleman. Toisena kirjan päähenkilönä on Antti, joka tutkii valtion metsistä mitä niistä voisi hakata paljaaksi ja samalla toivoen luonnon säilymistä, mutta joutuu osittain toimimaan vakaumuksensa vastaisesti.

Senni päätyy epäonnisen raskauden jälkeen opiskelemaan lääkintävoimistelijaksi - näille kun polioepidemia riehuessa on tarvetta. Kirjan yhtenä teema on myös luonnon säilyminen, etenkin jokihelmisimpukan, Margaritifera margaritiferan, elämä ja säilyminen. Jokihelmisimpukka on jopa yhtenä kertoja henkilönä, jonka kokemukset kuvastavat samalla kirjan henkilöiden kokemaa ja kirjan tapahtumia - hiukan liian tyhmänä ja nopeasti tekstiä hotkivana lukijana minulta tämän kunnollinen tajuaminen kesti tosin kirjan loppupuolelle asti. 

Kielellisesti kirja oli kaunista ja samalla hyvin luettavaa tekstiä, jota oli ilo lukea. Tarina - kun siihen pääsi sisään ja ymmärsi kuka on kuka - oli liikuttava ja samalla nautittava. Jos olisi aikaa, niin kirja melkein olisi toisen lukemisen arvoinen, palapelin palaset varmasti loksahtaisivat paremmin paikoilleen toisella kerralla. Finlandia-palkituista lukemistani kirjoista tämä teos menee kevyesti top 10 joukkoon.

581 pp. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow


 The book happens in an alternate world where witches are real and magic happens. The witches' hunts are much more severe, and in Salem, not only a few women were killed; but also the whole town was burnt with everyone inside. Three sisters are drawn together by magic, they all have run away from their abusive father and there is some bad blood between them. But soon they find togetherness again, and they want to rekindle the power of magic. But there are some bad men who hate magic, women, and especially women who are using magic and want to restart the inquisition. At least one of those evil men seems to have very powerful magical abilities himself… The book was pretty well written, but it was fairly overlong, even though it was episodic at least in the middle parts. Many things happened off-screen, several times it is said that the main protagonists hurried to a meeting with other women involved with witching, but the happenings or resolutions of those meetings were never broadcasted. The general feel of the book was very rambling, the characters endlessly discussed things. The book was vastly worse than the author's earlier novel, "The Ten Thousand Doors of January", and at times it felt like it was almost a chore to read. Also, the writing felt worse than in the earlier book by the same author.

516 pp


Saturday, February 13, 2021

Jarkko Sipilä: Karu keikka (Takamäki #3)


 Autossa kuunneltu kirja, jonka kuuntelu venyi sattumien vuoksi useamman kuukauden ajalle.  Loppupuolella oli jo hiukan vaikea muistaa mitä kirjan alussa tapahtui. Joka tapauksessa kirjan alussa löytyy alaston, kuoliaaksi puukotettu mies asunnossa, joka on ilmiselvästi huolellisesti siivottu kaikista jäljistä. Mies osoittautuu poliisiksi, joka on työskennellyt sisäministeriössä projektissa, josta murhaa tutkivien poliisien on yllättäen lähes mahdotonta saada mitään tietoa. Kun asunnosta löytyy yksittäinen ilotyttönä toimineeseen naiseen viittaava sormenjälki, tutkimukset pääsevät vähän pidemmällä. Alkaa kuitenkin näyttää siltä, että poliisipiireissä, ainakin sisäministeriössä ja suojelupoliisissa on joitakin, jotka eivät asian kovin tarkasta selvittelystä ole innoissaan.

Kirja oli hyvin samaa laatua kuin sarjan aikaisemmat osat. Mukana oli kiinnostavaa poliisityön kuvausta, jossa poliisin toiminnassa oli monen sävyisiä harmaan sävyjä. Tässäkään osa sarjaa ei mennä syvällisesti poliiseiden yksityiselämään ja persoonallisuuksiin, vaan paino on paljolti rikoksessa ja sen selvittämisessä. Jossain vaiheessa jatkoja tulee varmasti kuunneltua, pari osaa on jo ostettuna, kun Elisa Kirjan sopimuksen heikentämisen ja hinnan lähes tuplaantumisen vuoksi piti pikavauhtia käyttää kertyneet krediitit pois. 


Another police procedural. The Helsinki murder group tries to find out who killed a policeman who was working on a secret project that even the police investigating the crime are not allowed to get any information about. A competent book, where the emphasis is on ordinary police work, not on dysfunctional, but unreasonably bright, individuals.

282 pp. 

Wexi Korhonen: Kiusaksi kuiskattu murha (Kari Salo #1)


Kun komisario Koskiset on kaikki luettu, niin piti testata toista Tampereelle sijoittuvaa, suosioltaan paljon vähäisemmäksi jäänyttä dekkarisarjaa. Kari Salo on pahasti viinaanmenevä Tampereen rikospoliisin etsivä, joka on viimeisen varoituksen päässä eläkkeelle potkimisesta. Vanha ja rikas mies on kuollut, eikä hänen kuolemaansa aluksi edes pidetty muuna kuin luonnollisena kuoleman - ennen kuin sairaalaan tuli vihje mahdollisesta murhasta. Tarkemmissa tutkimuksissa miehen päästä löytyy kummallinen itsetehty luoti. Kuka on tappanut lähes 90-vuotiaan, kuolemaa jo muutenkin lähestyvän miehen? Asiaa selvitellessä paljastuu, että melkein kaikilla sukulaisilla oli tähän erittäin hyvä motiivi - mies kun oli ihan lähiaikoina muuttamassa testamenttiaan. Mahdollisia syyllisiä sitten on paljon ja vähitellen Kari Salo pääsee syyllisen jäljille, vaikka töistään saa potkut kesken kirjan ja omakin henki on välillä uhattuna. 


Kirja on selvästi vanhanaikaisempi kuin Koskis-sarja. Se ei sisällä yhteiskuntakritiikkiä eikä poliisien persoonallisuus päähenkilöä lukuun ottamatta juuri tavallisista poliisikirjojen kliseistä poikkea ylimielisinä kaikkitietävine pomoineen. Tietenkin myös Kari Salo itse on puhdas klisee viinaan menevästä, mutta ah niin taitavasta ja naisten mieleen olevasta poliisista. Kirja oli muutenkin vanhanaikaisen tuntuinen oikeastaan sekä hyvässä että pahassa. Kirja on julkaistu 1999, mutta poliisien käytöksen perusteella, tyylillisesti ja kielellisesti se olisi hyvin voinut olla julkaistu jopa noin 20 vuotta aikaisemmin. Siitä huolimatta, että kirja nimellisesti oli poliisityön kuvaus, se oli hyvin klassinen dekkari, jossa vihjeiden perusteella päähenkilö selvittää kuka on murhaaja. Kirjassa on mukana jopa vanha klassinen kohtaus, jossa kaikki kirjassa esiintyneet henkilö istuvat samassa huoneessa, kun salapoliisi esittää löydöksensä ja paljastaa dramaattisesti murhaajan. Mitään suurta kirjallisuutta teos ei ollut, mutta kyllähän sen parissa ihan viihtyi. Tampereen kaupunki ei kirjassa yhtä elävästi tullut esiin kuin Seppo Jokisen kirjoissa. En pidä mahdottomana seuraavan osan hankkimista, tämä kappale kirjastosta tilattu ja “varastokirjasto” tarralla varustettu, eli kovin kysytty ei taida enää olla. 


Another crime book series that happens in my home town. Kari Salo is a policeman with a severe drinking problem; so bad that he is one step away from getting fired. He tries to solve the murder of a 90-year-old rich man, which would have gone unnoticed if someone hadn’t called the hospital and alerted the pathologist to the possibility of a murder. At first, the murder seems strange. Why kill someone so old? But it turns out that he was going to adjust his will, and everyone in his fairly large family had a really good motive to kill him. A pretty old fashionable book in style, language and attitudes. It was been published 1999, but could well have been written at least two decades earlier. It wasn’t all bad, though, I might read at least the next part. 

366 pp

Thursday, February 11, 2021

The New Hugo Winners, Vol. 3 1989-1991 by Connie Willis


The Mountains of Mourning • [Miles Vorkosigan] • (1989) • novella by Lois McMaster Bujold

A Miles Vorgosian story. Miles must act as a detective, judge, and jury in a case where a young mother blames her husband of killing their baby because she was hare-lipped. Life in a small village is a stark contrast to the protected life in the court. An ancient custom involved killing disabled children, but the new, more civilized age is coming and the king wants to use this case to set an example. An excellent, well-written story, one of the better stories of the Vorgosian saga, and that isn’t an easy task to achieve. ****+

Kirinyaga • [Kirinyaga • 2] • (1988) • novelette by Mike Resnick

The Kenyan culture before the white people came has been recreated (in a colonized planet?). There is an agreement according to which the Kenyans may have total independence and total control of their own matters. That is threatened when their leader has killed a child. The killing was done according to ancient customs, but has this gone too far? A well-told story with moral ambiguity. However, I always found it very irritating when the “old ways” and ancient customs are considered sacred and somehow the best possible - the society should ALWAYS be able to evolve. ****-    

The Hemingway Hoax • (1990) • novella by Joe Haldeman

A shady character tries to get a Hemingway scholar to recreate some manuscripts Hemingway lost as an aspiring author. At first, the scholar declines, but after they think of a way to do it without it being totally criminal, he starts to create works in the style of Hemingway. Once he starts, a strange man who looks like Hemingway appears. He tells the scholar that if he finishes what he is writing, the future of several alternative worlds could be at stake. As he doesn’t believe what the “Hemingway” is saying, he refuses, and so, the "Hemingway" kills him. He is surprised to wake up at an alternative world which is slightly different and the same con is going on in there, too. Eventually, the characters go through several worlds which always tend to be slightly worse. The writing was fairly good, but the plot was meandering - meandered more and more towards the end of the story (probably in purpose).  ***½ 

 Bears Discover Fire • (1990) • short story by Terry Bisson

Bears discover how to use fire and they light campfires beside the highways. They behave very civilized and eat new berry varieties which grow on the middle section of the roads. The main protagonists wonder what is going on and even mingle with the bears a bit. And that is about everything in the story. I don’t understand the reputation that this story has at all. ***-

Boobs • (1989) • short story by Suzy McKee Charnas

A young girl develops earlier than her classmates and is well endowed for her age, and gets teased and even groped by the boys. When she gets her first period (during a full moon) she turns into a werewolf. Well, what's a girl gotta do...  An enjoyable and even fun story where a light tone and gruesome events mash surprisingly well with each other. ****

Enter a Soldier. Later: Enter Another • [Time Gate] • (1989) • novelette by Robert Silverberg

In a few hundred years, it is possible to make computer simulations of historical figures. Success with them has been limited, but the simulation of Pizarro seems self-aware or at least has a very good simulation of self-awareness. The scientists want to see how a strange combination of characters would behave and introduce the simulation of Socrates to the simulation of Pizarro. An excellent, well-written, and thought-provoking story. ****

Schrödinger's Kitten • [Budayeen] • (1988) • novelette by George Alec Effinger

A middle-eastern woman sees several different realities; in some of them, she is raped as a young woman and abandoned by her family afterward. In others, she kills the would-be rapist and is executed, or works with Schrödinger and Heisenberg while they develop physics theories. A very good and thought-provoking story that was well written. ****

The Last of the Winnebagos • (1988) • novella by Connie Willis

Like Connie Willis stories always have some shitty and stupid science and technology. Speed cameras are put on the sides of roads, there are license plates on the sides of cars, but the cameras are so ridiculously worthless that driving sixty miles spoils the pictures. There are public phones and cameras using film. The dogs have died out about a decade earlier and for some strange unspecified reason that has enabled The Human Society to have almost unlimited dictatorial power. As the protagonist sees a dead coyote beside the road and reports it only after driving a mile or so, he attracts “The Society’s” interest. For some very strange reason, he contacts a woman who, a decade ago, ran over his dog by accident. The writing is good, but the logic in world-building and technology is very, very poor - as usual for Connie Willis. ***-

The Manamouki • [Kirinyaga • 5] • (1990) • novelette by Mike Resnick

Another story of old Kenyan culture recreated on an alien planet. A couple of moves in, and the wife is very keen on adjusting to the life-style of ancient Kenya. But she has some ideas and behaviors that mesh with the ancient customs, and adjusting isn’t as easy as she hoped. A well-written story, but I wonder why the horrible and disgusting old ways are considered to be the good ones. The world seems to be one of the worst dystopias I have encountered in SF with mandatory female circumcision and repressing dictatorship of the old customs. I can’t imagine why ANYONE would want to live there. The writing and storytelling are good, though. ****-


Saturday, January 30, 2021

David Lagercrantz: Se mikä ei tapa (Millennium #4) (The Girl in the Spider's Web )


 Jatkoa Millenium-sarjaan, joka on tuotettu alkuperäisen kirjailijan ennenaikaisen kuoleman jälkeen. Edellisten kirjojen päähenkilön Mikael Blomkvistin ura on suvantovaiheessa ja hänestä on julkaistu lähes pilkkakirjoituksia muissa lehdissä (oikeasti, olisiko kukaan toimittaja niin kiinnostava, että tavallista kansaa kiinnostaisi moisia lukea?). Mikaeliin ottaa yhteyttä tekoälytutkija, joka kertoo hänellä olevan tulenarkaa tietoa Yhdysvaltain tiedustelutoiminnasta ja NSA:sta. NSA:ta kohtaa hakkerointi, jonka ei pitänyt olla mitenkään mahdollista ja heiltä on varastettu salaista tietoa. Hakkeroinnissa on ollut erikoista se, että näyttää ihan kuin hakkeroija olisi halunnut, että verkkoon tunkeutuminen ei jää huomaamatta. Kun Mikael menee tapaamaan tutkijaa, tutkija ammutaan Mikaelin silmien alla. Ainoana silminnäkijänä on tutkijan autistinen poika. 


Aika hitaan ja jaarittelevan alun jälkeen kirjassa vähitellen alkaa tapahtua. Loppua kohden kirja muuttuu ihan kohtalaisen vetäväksi, mutta se jää kuitenkin kauas kolme ensimmäisen kirjan vangitsevuudesta. Mukana tuntuu olevan osittain turhaa täytettä, etenkin alussa. Henkilöhahmot eivät heränneet henkiin kunnolla koko kirjan aikana, jotenkin tuli vaikutelma siitä, että tämän kirjan hahmot olivat vain keskitasoisia näyttelijöitä, jotka esittivät oikeita hahmoja ilman, että kykenevät täydelliseen suoritukseen. Ainakaan mitään välttämätöntä pakkoa ei tullut seuraavaa osa lukea. 


The book continues the famed Millennium series, and is written by another author after the original one died. The beginning of the book was pretty slow and drones on for far too long. Then it slowly picks up speed, but ends like a fairly poor imitation of the original trilogy. The characters feel like bad actors pretending to be the “real” people they were in the original books. I am not sure if I will pick up the later parts.

487 pp.