Friday, December 26, 2008

Ruth Reichl: Tender at the Bone

The first part of Ruth Reichl’s biography. For some reason I have read them in reverse order. This one might have best when read as a first one as much background information about her troubled relation with her mother can been found from here. Book tells the story of her childhood, adolescence and young adulthood, until the first time she finds a writing position as a food critic. Very entertaining and interesting book, much better than the middle part, but probably not entirely as good as the last part. Many interesting recipes waiting for testing.

Analog June 1977

Special ”Women’s Issue” where most things were written by women authors - including editorial and the Reference Library. Some of the stories are very well written.
Eyes of Amber • novelette by Joan D. Vinge
Humans communicate with aliens living in Titan using a probe which landed there. Light speed delay causes some problems. Little happens, but observation has an effect to the observed, and vice versa. Very well and stylistically written, but fairly boring story. Aliens are not alien enough, they are carbon copies of some medieval assassins or highway robbers or royalty (not much difference between those…) ***-
The Screwfly Solution • novelette by James Tiptree, Jr. [as by Raccoona Sheldon ]
Cults which want to kill all the women are forming everywhere around the world. Story follows a man working away from his wife, exchanging letters with her, and ultimately journeying back to visit her. But is he able to resist all more common hatred against women? Very well written story, but the ending is too clearly spelled out. Also, that kind of alien invasion scheme seems overtly complicated - why alter human behavior when a fast spreading disease might have faster and more sure? ****
The Ax • shortfiction by Jayge Carr
Courtroom drama. Is it legal to kill a clone, or something what might be considered a clone? Story depends on legal points which are far too silly and/or improbable for even American courts. **½
Salamander • shortstory by Leigh Kennedy
Workers working in a lunar colony have some trouble with each others, with their leaders, and with the command on earth. Pretty boring, pretty conventional story without many surprises. I had to struggle through it, might have missed something, but was wondering what was the real point of writing this. **
Lord of All It Surveys • shortstory by Alison Tellure
Story follows the evolution of sentient, sea living, life form on an another planet. It evolves to single huge brain. Writing ok, ending anticlimactic. The really interesting part of the story would happen _after_ this ending - this story reads like a bit boring prologue to the _real_, more interesting story. ***

Monday, December 15, 2008

Galaxy May 1954

Average issue. Stories are average, with very non-surprising endings.

Granny Won't Knit • novella by Theodore Sturgeon
Far future story. A easy and cheap matter transplanter has changed society. Stability is valued more than anything, everyone is brainwashed to believe that all development has achieved its’ peak. For some reason body shapes and pare hands are something not to be shown publicly, and everything is covered. The main character seems to get a wrong number on his matter transplanter when going to work on morning, and meets an almost naked (not even wearing gloves) woman before hurriedly continuing to his original destination. Later the same woman seems to pop to his workplace out of nowhere without any kind of matter transplanter at all.
Overlong, loosely written story. It seems that the only piece of technology developed in in a few thousand years is the matter transplanter. There are no explanation why hands are considered indecent, or at least I didn’t notice any. I was more and more “speed reading” towards the end of the story…The society itself has very fifties-like patriarchal values, and even the titular “knitting” is something the titular granny remembers old ladies were doing in her youth. Remember, this is supposed to happen in the year 6000 or something. Condensing _a lot_ might have been a good idea. As such pretty boring stuff. **
Back to Julie • shortstory by Richard Wilson
A man is able to travel through dimensions, and he is finding a secret for his employer and using it for himself at the same time. And to get the girl, of course. Decent little story. ***
Mate in Two Moves • novelette by Winston K. Marks
A disease which makes yourself to fall deeply to love with someone is spreading around the world. Two doctors, a female and male, are trying to find the solution. Plot goes exactly like you would expect, no surprises anywhere. Writing is ok, was nice read, but there _really_ were no surprises of any kind. ***
Open Warfare • novelette by James E. Gunn
A professional golf player has fallen in love with rich man’s daughter. He is given ultimatum - if he is not able to earn 50000 dollars, he will not get the daughter. It seems almost like piece of cake - just win US open, but then a new, unknown, very quiet player who plays very mechanically and without making any mistakes enters the competition. Not too surprising story, either. The player is exactly what you think he is… Very fifties story in attitudes. However, entertainingly written. ***+
Chain of Command • shortstory by Stephen Arr
A mutated, intelligent mouse wants to move a mouse trap to somewhere away from his mouse hole. It isn’t so easy it could be… Simple little story, ok. ***+
Bedside Manner • novelette by William Morrison
Alien (unseen) doctor heals a married couple after disastrous (very disastrous, healing starts apparently about from cellular level) space accident. Story follows the wife, how has always been plain, and ponders if it would good or bad if she will be turned to beautiful due to regrowth process. Nice story, attitudes amusingly old-fashioned. Ending (true to form in this issue) is nothing surprising. ***½

Monday, December 8, 2008

Analog Science Fiction and Fact July/August 2003

This was bad issue, and it took some time to read. Most of the stories were pretty bad, couple real stinkers. Only a few pretty decent ones, and even those had some minor faults.
12 • The Fire and the Wind • novelette by G. David Nordley
A rescue party (from a moon colony) tries to save a stranded exploration (or spying) expedition from Antarctic. More of a spy story than sf. If the rescue wouldn’t come from the space, and the spying “country” wouldn’t be the moon, this story would be just a standard James Bond-style action adventure. A bit on a long side, bit hard to keep my interest up at some places. ***-
52 • The Meeting of Pilgrims • novelette by Robert R. Chase
Continues a story I don’t remember reading. Not really enough background is given to really stand on its’ own. Apparently humans have colonized only the mountaintops of a world where lowlands are filled by local flora and fauna with alien natives. The natives have changed a human child with a child of their own so that the two cultures might learn to understand each others better. In this story the changelings are changed back. A troupe of characters journey to the lowlands meeting several pretty clichéd dangers on the way. As the characters were not familiar to me, and they were not properly introduced, I really couldn’t care very much for them – not mentioning pretty clichéd nature of several of them (noble alien, xenophobic militaryman…). Writing was ok, not nearly as good as in Robert Chase’s later works. **½
73 • The Robot Who Knew Too Much • novelette by Ron Goulart
Continues the story of a robot detective, the detective in a robot body solves a case of missing starlet, while his ex-wife working for ad-agency is trying to get a huge advertising contract. There is material for a short story, but not for something in the novella length. Condensing might have made the fundamentally very simple story into something a bit better. Pretty boring stuff after all. **+
86 • Traveling, Traveling • shortstory by Sarah A. Hoyt
A woman traveling on a some kind of high tech flying path is forced to make emergency landing in backward community. A small story aiming more to mood than plot. Ok writing, nothing special. ***-
94 • Cowzilla • [Probability Zero] • shortstory by Geoffrey A. Landis
Cow + Godzilla = Probability zero story.
100 • Not a Drop to Drink • novelette by Grey Rollins
A colony world is being destroyed by a drought. As a solution a biologist suggests that the new children should be modified genetically, so that they are able to drink salty water. However, the colony seems to consist mainly of religious lunatics, who think that just praying hard enough is the only viable solution. Somehow it is hard too that a sizable portion of colonists could so fixed on their religion, that they would continue this through years of drought. Well written, maybe a bit unlikely, but nice story anyway. ****-
119 • Triumph in the Desert • novelette by Bud Webster
Prequel for a series of stories about Bubba Pritchert. I have read at least one of those, but I don’t remember anything else than generally positive vibe. Mainly introduction, not much happens, but interestingly written, anyway. ***½
136 • A Professor at Harvard • shortstory by David Brin
History lecture, boring as hell, on the last page turns out to be alternative history. There might have been clues earlier, but if there were I missed them, as the complete dryness of the story hurt my concentration, and I am not expert in Anglo-Saxon/American history of 16th century. Struggle to read. **-
145 • Brownian Motion • shortstory by Richard . Lovett
Blind dates by virtual reality. Pretty simple story, where the protagonist meets several women, seeking for the “right one”. Science fictional content pretty slight, not entirely convincing explanation of why the dating happens in VR. Nice read anyway. ****-
154 • The Spacemice Incident • shortstory by Carl Frederick
Mice are used as “biological warfare” in two space habitats which are competing of tourists. Writing is ok, simple, short story. Doesn’t irritate, doesn’t leave anything extra positive to mind. ***
163 • Agent • shortstory by Shirley Kennett
Crooked hacker who is a serial killer (using computer hacking to murder) sends his self-aware avatar to a generation ship’s computer. Pretty simple, not too surprising, not too bad. ***½
170 • Linda's Dragon • shortstory by Brenda Cooper
Epidemic is killing space ship crew. Two doctors left are pushed to desperate and illegal action: they make computer uploads of themselves to help beating the infection. Solution is finally found (which doesn’t make a slightest sense from medical viewpoint). Pretty nice, but the end solution is extremely stupid and the internal logic of the world isn’t most solid, but ok anyway. ***½
180 • Home on the Range • shortstory by Pat York
Buffaloes have come so common that they are nuisance to property owners. Not too surprising ending and end solution. (bring up some wolves, too). There just might be a few minor problems there…which of course are not thought up be characters in the story or mentioned anyway. Well, then there might have been a better story – this sucks. Not to mention that most of story is boring dialog and not much happens. *½
194 • Trinity Bay • novelette by Alexis Glynn Latner
A glider flies over industrial accident involving nanotechnology. Long infodumps, bad, clumsy, writing, plot which is not too interesting, pretty unlikely premise, ending is practically deus ex machine. Pretty bad story. **
210 • Still Coming Ashore • novelette by Michael F. Flynn
Lecture of the water ape theory of evolution, then a fable-like story within story, then another lecture of evolution. Pretty boring, overlong story, could have been a bit better if that all exposition would have been cut. ***-