Sunday, October 26, 2008

Analog Science Fiction March 1993

Pretty solid issue.
Squatter's Rights (Part 1 of 2) • serial by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff
A Human colony has habited a planet for over twenty years, when a fleet of aliens ships arrive demanding the planet for themselves. Pretty standard first part for a very Analogish serial. Very well written, the plot isn’t one of the most original. Promising start, anyway. ***½
The Worting's Testament • shortstory by Rob Chilson
Humans misunderstand planets original inhabitant’s purpose, and they misunderstand humans' purpose. After all, misunderstandings maybe easy, when it’s normal to slaughter one’s offspring. The story is a ”testament” of an alien. Purposefully irritating style, but nice story. ****-
The Ghost in the Machine • novelette by Grey Rollins
Making films by computer graphics with at least semi self-aware characters. Not entirely logical story, already after 15 year a bit past its’ time. Not too well written, bit stiff. ***-
The Return of the Golden Age • shortstory by Jeffery D. Kooistra
A ”spacetug” driver hijacks his vessel and drives it to the moon. Old fashionable, tries to imitate Heinlein? If it would by _so_ easy to fly to the moon someone would have done it earlier. Predictable, okayish. ***
The Alicia Conspiracy • novelette by Doug Larsen
A recently widowed man goes for ”peace corps” work in 3rd world dictatorship. After he gets over his grief, he is able to plant seed for a better health and future for the people of the land. Good, exiting and moving story. The plan for the better nutrition is a ”bit” too easily achieved, but the story is very good nevertheless. ****

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer

A scientist who was testing his quantum computing device in an alternative reality where Neanderthals survived (and homo sapient died out sometime close to the last ice age) “drops“ to the our world. The idea is excellent, the book is written fairly interestingly, but the quality of the writing isn’t one of the best. Some of the plot points and characters are fairly clichéd. The world of Neanderthals is overtly utopic. No overpopulation, no violence (they are so powerful, that a single strike by them almost always kills, so their culture abhors all violence), no religion, no extinct animals (mammoths walk around in the forests of Canada - to my understanding the reason for their extinctions wasn’t so much hunting by humans as climate change after the ice-age. The human main character is also pretty much a cliché: as an opposing force for a atheist, nonviolent Neanderthal male is a religious woman (who at one point rationalizes her faith by Pascal’s wager. Wasn’t that proved as logically totally unsound in 15th century or something?) who has faced violence (a rape ) conveniently just hours before asked to take part in proving that the visitor really is a Neanderthal. There are couple of more books in this series, haven’t decided yet if they are worth of reading or not. This book is a Hugo-winner - one more proof that the other things beside quality of scincefictional writing (besides this years winner) have an effect to many voters. Of course a Canadian Worldcon gives an award for a Canadian writer…

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Analog Science Fiction December 2002

As a whole very nice issue, the last story is the almost the only one I didn’t like.

Slow Life • novelette by Michael Swanwick
An expedition studying Titan meets very different kind of life.
Good, not entirely no surprising first contact story, well written. ****
Witness • shortstory by Jerry Oltion
When immortality is achieved, the only way to have a child is to have a life willed to you by someone committing suicide. But when that might happen? Another good one, interesting premise. ****
Swap-Out • shortstory by Shane Tourtellotte
When direct brain enhancing is norm, maybe someone wants even more direct approach to be able to compete at work and otherwise. But when it goes too far there may be consequences. Good, but not as good as the first two. Pretty standard addiction story. ***½
Green Light, Red Light • shortstory by Stephen L. Burns
A pair of scientist develop a machine capable of finding fanatics of any sort. But all fanatics are not necessarily terrorist. Thought provoking , interesting story, well writing. Would be very interesting to see aftermath of this technology. ****+
You Gotta See This! • shortstory by Ian Randal Strock
Probability zero story about a prank done by moon miners. Not even entirely impossible, not much of a point in a story anyway. Very much ”meh”. *½
Voices • shortstory by Charles L. Harness
Short story about a story told/playacted by semi self aware play-dolls. Nicely told, even moving story, but not much of a point. **½
The Hunters of Pangaea shortstory by Stephen Baxter
Intelligent, evolving, but ultimately doomed, dinosaurs hunt and follow a pack of diplodocus. Very nice, even exiting story. ****
Generation Gap • novelette by John G. Hemry
Generation ship arrives to target planet. But is social system which is designed for stability even too stable? Moving to the surface of a planet from controlled environment of a space ship is after all something which demands a lot of flexibility. Maybe a bit clichéd, but overall pretty good take on the generation ship genre. ***½
Garbage Day • novelette by Wil McCarthy
Future where there is longevity and perfect health through a matter transplanter system. A kind of a generation gap, or youth rebellion, story. Premise is fairly good, but the storytelling sucked. A LOT of telling what kind of the word is, a lot of idle dialog, but the motivations of characters are left open. Characters were dis-likable. I must confess that I just skimmed after about half way, and even that was a struggle. *

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Analog July/August 2002

Okay issue. Not great, not bad. A lot of stories which continue earlier stories, and which don't always completely work alone.

Unseen Demons
Adam-Troy Castro

An alien has been brutally dismembered by an earthman. A official of central government is called to investigate. But how to have a trial for the guilty, when the alien species doesn’t notice humans or any observers of other alien species, or haven’t even noticed the crime.
Ok story, a bit overlong and some condensing might have been very good. Ending is a bit weak, part of the end reveal was fairly obvious, partly just implausible and strange, unnecessary for the sake of the story (as is the whole backstory of the investigator)
Mammoth Dawn
Kevin J. Anderson and Gregory Benford

Mammoths and other extinct animals have been cloned in a remote research facility by millionaire and his wife. Nutso ecofasists stage a practically military grade attack to kill all the “unnatural” animals. Lots of very implausible fighting ensues, and also half-sad ending intended to open tear ducts. Not too well written, much action, but all of it boring. **-
The Great Prayer Wheel
Rajnar Vajra

Tibetan monk encounters an alien vessel - and a bit of surprise why the vessel was visiting. Okayish story, doesn’t make very great impact to me. **½
Iniquitous Computing
Edward M. Lerner

If ubiquitous computing goes too far…
Short short story, entertaining, funny in its’ own way. ****
Falling Onto Mars
Geoffrey A. Landis

Martian “love” story. Excellent story, though too short. ****+
The Convergence of the Old Mind
Larry Niven

Draco tavern story. Pretty simple, short. Older “civilization” than chirpsithra is gathering, and chirpsithra are recruiting travelers for a visit. Less than average Draco tavern story. **½
A Green Thumb
Tobias S. Buckell

Alternative history, where due to metal shortage, cars and appliances are grown, not build. Teenager really wants to have a car. Another very short, ok story. Not bad, not great. ***
Jack McDevitt

Explorers try to save alien books from destruction after an accident in takeoff. A bit “meh” for this also. Seems like a piece from a larger whole. ***-
Shane Tourtellotte

How much more fun movies would be without spoilers from word of mouth, previous screenings or stupid trailers? Very good story, and an invention, which would be really wonderful. ****
The Lone Granger
Jayge Carr

Aliens kidnap a whole village. A lone women decides to be practically catatonic as she doesn’t want to “co-operate” with the enemy. But is there a way get her out of her self-imposed shell. Good story, but not much (or at all) back-story. The motivations of the aliens are left completely open. ****
The Robot Who Came to Dinner
Ron Goulart

Problem solving / being private investigator might be just a bit harder if you happen to be uploaded to a robot body. Another store where back story is missing, and it doesn’t completely work alone. Nothing special, humor isn’t so funny. ***-
Tiptoe, on a Fence Post
B. W. Clough

What if you are transported from 1912 to 2045? Another story which continues an earlier one - however, this works better as a stand alone piece. Well written, but it is funny to see how the year 2045 already feels like it would be something a few years in the past :-). Not much mention about net, computers or cell phones… ****

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Väärän jäljillä, Leena Lehtolainen

This is detective /police procedural by Leena Lehtolainen. She one of the best writers in that genre in Finland. There isn't English translation, so I am not going to review it in English.

Uusi Maria Kallio romaani. Maria on viime kirjan lopputapahtumien jälkeen jäänyt pois poliisityöstä, mutta kun tarpeeksi merkittävä henkilö kuolee, ja tutkimuksien johtaja ei henkilökohtaisten syiden vuoksi pysty täysipainoiseen työhön, löytää Maria itsensä taas Espoon poliisista. Tällä kertaa kirjan aiheena ovat urheilupiirit, ja ajankohtaisuus on varsin hyvää, jopa huumepoliisin sotkut saavat oman pikkumainintansa. Jos aikaisemmista sarjan kirjoista on pitänyt, pitää kyllä tästäkin. Juoni on todella hyvä, jotenkin kirjoitustyyli ei aivan samaan ehkä yllä kuin joissain aikaisemmissa kirjoissa. Pieni tiivistys ja uudelleen kirjoittaminen olisi ehkä tehnyt hyvää.

"Star Trek" Movie Memories

More memories by Shatner, this time the focus is on Star Trek films. Many others, among them Leonard Nimoy and Nicholas Meyer get their chance to give their insights of events. Other actors beside Nimoy won't get their turn, which isn't too surprising for anyone knowing anything about behind the scenes relationships between the actors. The book is told in nice, self-mocking way, although there is always an undertone "I mock myself, but I am not serious about it - in reality I am excellent actor, director and scriptwriter." Especially this can be seen in everything connected with Star Trek V. There is a lot of explaining about that movie. :-) Everything connected with Roddenberry is also interesting. It seems, that he had really "lost it" by the time they started to make movies. His influence was greatest in the first movie. Apparently it was significant also in Star Trek - Next Generation for first two or three seasons. Does anyone see any connection between those? As a whole this was very interesting book, and worthwhile read.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Galaxy Science Fiction - April 1954

I got a nice pile of old Galaxy magazines from Ebay. I have been reading through them slowly, starting from 1954 volume. My short reviews for issues January to March can be found from Librarything.

This was a quite good issue, none of the stories was horrible, couple were very good.

The Midas Plague
Fredrik Pohl

What if production of goods and energy is so high, that consuming it all is hard work? In this world it is so, and “poor” people must really work to meet their consumption quotas. The poor hero has married a daughter of a rich family, and the new family has trouble to consume everything they have to. Luckily a they found a solution.
Very entertaining, well told story, but a bit overlong. Novelette length would probably been enough. There are some serious problems in the economy described in the story, if you think about it too much - as not only products and services made by robots must be consumed, some services which are produced by humans must be consumed. E.g. the protagonist must take part in the group therapy - where he is treated by a group of psychiatrists. If everyone - or almost everyone - are treated weekly by several psychiatrist, there would be some minor practical problems, especially as there seems to other occupations beside psychiatry. Also, the ending isn’t logical at all: if throwing away products or intentionally destroying them is horrible and not allowed (everything must be really used personally) why it is so different if robots consume products by doing nothing productive? And if almost all production is done by automatic machines, why they can’t produce less - it is not like the unemployment is a major problem in this world. ****-
Limiting factor
Theodore R. Cogswell

There has been a mutation, and some people have gotten powerful psi-like powers, enabling them to fly or pilot ftl-spaceships to another worlds. They plan to leave ordinary people on their own, but on the way the encounter a polite gentleman dressed to suit floating in front of them in space. Who and why? Small, nice story, writing is adequate. ***+
Hands off
Robert Sheckley

Human criminals try to capture nonviolent alien’s nice, powerful spaceship. However, they get a lot more than they bargained for… Very good, classic story. Probably best story in this good issue. *****-
Michael Shaara

Life story of a man who wasn’t able to take brain augmentation like most at his time, and so retains his original creativity unlike the modified humans. Ending goes to unexpected direction - in bad way - there were no logical reason for it, and it didn’t suit the story. Also, in the story practically everything is told, not shown. Nothing special, weakest in the ‘zine. **
Black Charlie
Gordon R. Dickson

Interplanetary art dealer meets alien “artist”, but isn’t impressed by the quality of his works. A few years later he visit’s the same planet again, and now the situation of the artist has changed. He is moved deeply, and gets one work. Good, well written, moving story. ***½
Special Delivery
Damon Knight

Expecting mother starts to communicate with the fetus which slowly gains major influence in her life. Pretty well written, but very much fifties story. Doesn’t hurt the story as much it might, as the story happens in the fifties, afterall. The resolution isn’t much of a surprise. But the most disturbing thing of the story (in hindsight from the present time) is that the pregnant mother smokes all the time, and that is something taken as granted, and it is not something that is intended to give impression of being bad mother or something. ***½