Sunday, December 27, 2009

Asimov's Science Fiction December 2009

Another fine issue with some very good stories.

A Lovely Little Christmas Fire • shortstory by Jeff Carlson
Gene-modified super-termites with highly unlikely biochemistry eat all plant matter in seconds, have escaped to a city, and are destroying house and office buildings. Teams are fighting against them, but the termites seem to spread just too fast - like someone would be spreading them on purpose. Fairly standard story - nothing really bad but nothing especially good either. ***+
As Women Fight • shortstory by Sara Genge
The gender is determinated by fights occurring by set intervals. The winner can choose which body he/she wants to inhabit. Practically always the winner chooses the female body. The gender roles are very sharply defined – the female who takes care of the children seems to have most authority in the family, while the male provides the food. Pretty well told story, but there are a few problems. One would imagine that the ability to transfer personalities between bodies would lead to less clearly defined gender roles. Also, it doesn't seem plausible that those in female bodies seem usually have the upper hand in the fights. ***½
Animus Rights • shortstory by John Shirley
Two aliens inhabit human bodies as and fight as a sort of a game through centuries. Pretty old fashionable story with nothing really surprising. Could well be from the Galaxy magazines from 50s I have been reading. **1\2
Leaving the Station • shortstory by Jim Aikin
A young woman, who was able to see ghosts as a child, inherits an antique store from her uncle. As she doesn't happen to have a job at a moment, she moves in and starts to manage the store. Soon she starts to see ghosts again...Very good story, well written. The ending is a bit sad in a way. ****
Angie's Errand • shortstory by Nick Wolven
After war which has devastated everything a young girl tries to cope with pressures of raising her younger siblings. She feels unprotected as they live in a house which is separated from the main village without any adult males living with her. Well written but not much happens. The girl makes at least one just too stupid choice - but that is a choice some 16 year old girl makes somewhere every day. ***+
A Large Bucket, and Accidental Godlike Mastery of Spacetime • novelette by Benjamin Crowell
The ambassador of human race is is traveling between stars with ambassadors of several different species's. They are traveling at relativistic speeds, so time is passing very fast in outside universe. The human finds herself as a kind of leader for some of the races traveling on the ship. Will it be possible that the humanity will graduate to “Galactic Civilization”? Another very good story, well written, fascinating, would like to read more of the main character. ****-
The Bride of Frankenstein • shortstory by Mike Resnick
A diary of Dr. Frankenstein's wife. The main story is fairly same as Shelley's version, but the events happen in undefined time, somewhere between 1920-1930. And the ending is far more positive that in the original version. Well written, very good story. Not as sacharine as Resnick's stories tend to be. Woudn't be surprised if this will be found in ballots. ****+
Some Like It Hot • novelette by Brian Stableford
A man and woman have known each others since being small children. Their (single) parents both worked for EU, and later they also ”inherit” jobs working for EU. They meet usually once a year for their common birthday. The story tells mainly about their different approaches to the solving and adapting to the climate change. As such the content of the story is pretty good, but problem is that the story is ALL exposition. Discussions between the characters is mainly exposition, and that is juxtaposed by pure exposition between their meetings. Everything is told, practically nothing is shown. The story felt like an overlong draft for an interesting novel. ***½

Analog Science Fiction and Fact October 1964

Larger size magazine. Not very good, stories are fairly dated .

Situation Unbearable • novelette by Herbert Pembroke
Birth rate has suddenly gone down all around the world. The cold war has stopped for a while, when everyone is trying to find the solution to the current problem. For some very poorly defined reasons a few of the authorities suspect that one geneticist ,whose laboratory burned, and who went insane soon after that accident, was suspecting that something is happening even before anyone else had any knowledge of the problem. Was that the reason he went mad? No, he was just pretending being mad. He planned the infertility – only people from different parts of the world are fertile with each other. So cold war and “hotter” war would turn out to be impossible. Easily best story in the magazine, but that is not saying much. ***½
The Mary Celeste Move • shortstory by Frank Herbert
Many people, especially older ones are moving far from their home, sometimes even leaving their dinner on the table. Why? Apparently new roads with automatic cars with mandatory speed of 400 mph are so intimidating that if you happen to the fast lane, it is easier just to move where the car takes you. Stupid idea, not very good execution. **+
Flying Fish • novelette by John T. Phillifent
Intelligent life has been found for the first time – and it seems to have more than human intelligence. A group of men, lead by a woman who has lived on a planet for longer time, and who apparently had found the alien intelligence, goes to the jungle to find it. Not very well written, fairly disorganized story. The girl turns out to be a kind of a personification of the planetary intelligence, who apparently just want to be loved or something, as that, or something like that, is so fascinating and rare only human attribute – or something. I really didn't care. **-
Professional Dilemma • shortfiction by Theodore L. Thomas
Very boring story about patents, patent lawyers, and how little people are screwing up the big companies and vice verse. Titled as a “special feature”, not as a story, and it is not strictly science fiction at all. I wonder why this was published? *½

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

A Hugo award winning novel.
Time travel is being used for historical research, and one female scientist is planning to travel to the medieval Britain, a few decades before the plague. After she has gone there, the technical in charge of the ”net” used from time ”drops” collapses from an unknown disease. It shouldn't be possible for diseases to travel upwards in the time stream. Just before he collapses he seems to indicate that something has gone wrong in the time jump. And the person who went back in time, Kivrin, starts to feel very ill very soon after arriving to the past. A severe, sometimes deadly disease starts to spread in modern times, and at the same time Kivrin is struggling for her life in middle ages with the same(?) disease. The idea is pretty good, but execution is less so. The book is overtly talky and overlong. Every character seems to engage in smalltalk with every other character talking about idle things. Also, many of the characters seem to be very stupid. And many events in the story depend on some pretty unlikely coincidences. Also, the technology seems to be extremely poorly thought about. There are no mobile phones, but a lot of wordage is used in describing phone calls which are NOT made by normal phonelines, as the lines aren't functioning. The are hardly any computers, and those there are seems to be pretty ineffectual. The calculation of the time drop is apparently something computers can't handle, as it demands a certain technical, and when he falls ill, no-one can use the net, or even check the results of the former drop. The book was written in about 1992, and cell phones were not so rare then (I checked, there were hundreds of thousands them for example in Finland at that time), and when some plot points involve badly functioning phones in the future of 2050, when there were better functioning phones in 1992, it gives an impression of one pretty lazy, and not very well informed author. Laziness of the author can be also seen in the writing. It is extremely loose with a lot of repetition, especially in the beginning where very little happens. One of the more baffling Hugo wins.
578 pp.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Analog Science Fiction and Fact January 1974

Niven's short story is very good, otherwise not too good issue. Long interesting editorial by Heinlein.

The Horus Errand • novelette by William E. Cochrane
It is possible to be reincarnated! Apparently soon after death everyone's mind goes to a mind of a close-by baby which happens to be born around the time of death. Usually adult mind goes crazy inside an unformed infant mind, dies out, and a new mind then takes over. But a telepath is able help the adult mind adjust so that it will survive the transition. For some reason the telepaths helping on those transitions work for police, not for healthcare. And one team consists of one telepath, and two armed police officers. One transfer goes bad, as after the mind ”donor” dies, the baby who was supposed to be born at just the right moment wasn't born yet, and the mind has gone amiss. Now there are only a few hours to find the right newborn baby with the right mind. Very strange story – there are implications of very strange world.
1. Resurrection is enforced by armed police.
2. Parent's consent apparently is not need or asked.
3. Rich and powerful are able to have resurrection, normal people apparently not at all.
4. The police seems to have practically unlimited powers to perform searches without any due process when they are trying to find where the stray soul went.
The implications are that the story happens in some kind of fascist, or almost fascist, state, but that, or any other moral implications which the story raises are not treated at all, it's like they never even occurred to the author. And it it is not even very well written, and ends as a very irritating story. **-
The Astounding Dr. Amizov • shortstory by R. F. DeBaun
Short story of the amazing Dr Azimov, who has written hundreds of books covering dozens of different subjects. How he can do it all? The solution is simple: cloning. Nothing really special. **½
The Hole Man • shortstory by Larry Niven
A story I have read a few times. Expedition to Mars finds an alien artifact. There seems to be something strange with very high mass inside it. The mass is a miniature black hole, of course, which is dropped through one of the characters. Main weak point in the story is that it seems implausible easy to control alien machinery. Very good story anyway. ****+

Friday, December 18, 2009

Analog Science Fiction and Fact September 1996

Only three stories as serial takes large portion of the available space in the magazine.
From this on I am starting to use spoilers - but with some protection.

Something on my Mind • novelette by Grey Rollins
A geologist on a survey trip on an alien planet encounters a small friendly carrion eating animal. He takes a habit shooting food for it. The animal turns out to be able capable of mind control, and is using the geologist for its own good. Nice story, maybe a bit too long with fairly unnecessary romance and jealousy subplot. ***1/2
Beyond the Volcano • novelette by Ned Farrar
A crisis manager travels to a planet where all habitation is on a large domed volcano top, the rest of the planet is Venus style of hot desert with CO2 atmosphere. The inhabitants of the place are for some reason making some decisions which might endanger the whole ecosphere of the dome. Now they are planning to destroy a marsh-land area and build a virtual reality park on it is place. Why are they being s shortsighted? They are building control station from where they are planning to terraform whole planet when the current habitat would turn out to be inhabitable, so they is no point of conserving any marsh-lands. Ok story, surprisingly high sexual content for a Analog story. ***+
The Negative Butterflies • shortstory by Laurence M. Janifer
Butterfly flapping its wings may cause a storm on the other side of earth. What if that could be controlled? By making a lot of mechanical butterflies. Stupid, overlong probability zero story, but not named as one. **

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Väinö Linna: Täällä pohjantähden alla 1 - Under the North Star part 1

One of the "national epics" of Finland. The story happens in small rural village, starting in the late 19th century. The first part spans about 25 years. The focus is on one family who lives as tenant farmers, who were obliged to work certain number of days for their landlord, local vicar. The life of the main character is followed from his father's young adulthood to his own wedding, and at same time the Finnish history of that era unfolds.

Väinö Linnan toinen suurtyö Tuntemattoman sotilaan ohella. Tuntemattoman olen vuosien kuluessa lukenut muutamaankin kertaan, mutta Pohjantähteä en koskaan aikaisemmin ole lukenut. Tarkoitus on pidempään ollut, ja nyt lopultakin tuli urakka tällä ensimmäisellä osalla aloitettua. (Tämä ei liittynyt mitenkään elokuvaversioon, itse asiassa en sellaisen tuloa edes muistanut ennen kuin olin jo kirjassa pitkällä). Ja kyllä lukeminen kannatti, ja jossain vaiheessa ensi vuotta loppuosatkin tulen melkoisella varmuudella lukemaan. Kirja kertoo kuvitteellisesta pienestä hämäläisestä kylästä, ja sen asukkaista. Tapahtumat kuvataan yhden torppariperheen, Koskelan torpan näkökulmasta. Vähitellen päähenkilöksi muodostuu torpan omin käsin raivanneen Jussin poika, Akseli. Hän elää nuoren pojan ja miehen elämää, joka torpparina sisältää paljon työtä. Vähitellen myös sosialismi saapuu paikkakunnalle, työväentaloa rakennetaan, kokouksia pidetään ja maaltaan karkotetun torpparin puolta yritetään pitää. Kirjan kerronta on hyvin totuudenmukaisen ja elävän tuntuista, ja historian tuntu on selvä. Tämä totuudenmukaisuus kyllä välillä aiheuttaa hitauden tuntuakin, ja paikoitellen, mm. pitkien poliittisten puheiden kohdalla mennään jo pitkästyttävänkin puolelle. Kirjailijan ns. "pointtina" on varmaan ollut verrata oikeiston ja vasemmiston puheiden erilaista tyyliä ja retoriikkaa, mutta aika tylsältä molemmat kumminkin vaikuttivat. Oikeastaan koko kirja on ehkä enemmän prologia seuraavalle osalla, jossa todennäköisesti pääaiheena ovat kansalaissodan tapahtumat, mutta kiinnostavat henkilöhahmot kyllä kantoivat hienosti jännitettä koko ajan. Kirja on kirjoitettu murteella, joka yleensä on minulle aika kova kynnys lukemiselle, mutta tässä kieli on niin elävän ja aidon tuntuista, ettei asia haittaa mitenkään.
460 s.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Analog Science Fiction and Fact March 1978

Surprising issue. I wonder if this was a test of some sort? Two stories by first time authors, and one by someone who had published only one story earlier, and that in a minor market. And none of them never had any other stories in any of better magazines, and no more than one in any magazines. And all of them seem to be, well, lets say, slightly lower quality. Was Ben Bova bored, and picked a few stories out of the slush pile more or less in random?
Also, second part of a serial by Joan D. Vinge.

Moontrack • novelette by George W. Olney
Aliens have established a secret base on the moon. For some reason they destroy a Mars probe. Then they start to destroy orbital satellites. The first attack against the base used light infantry forces and was a disaster. The aliens happen to be extremely experienced in light infantry battle. So it is decided to use a mechanized infantry force against them. The aliens just don't happen to destroy the troop transports bringing in the forces to the moon, and they just happen to be totally unfamiliar with that sort of combat troops. The rest of the story feels like a war game campaign transcript told as a story, with practically no characterization at all. Very stupid, illogical, badly written, and boring story. *½

To Keep and Bear Arms • shortstory by Larry Matthews
This story is the reason I picked up this reason for reading. September issue had several letters from readers who were enraged by this. The story is a ironic story about guns, and what kind of consequences the freedom to bear arms might have if it is taken to ridiculous extent. Well, if it were my business, I would be for gun control. But this story is really, really bad and stupid, and badly written. So bad, that I find it surprising so many people were so offended by this. I think it is too bad as a story to be offended by. *
Too Much at Steak • shortstory by Gary D. Douglass
Wordplay about food. Mercifully short. No plot, no content, nothing interesting. *
The Broken Dome • novelette by Vonda N. McIntyre
I read the book version just less than a year ago and I liked it. However, not so much that I would reread it so soon.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Analog Science Fiction and Fact September 1978

A large part of issue is taken by serial, Stardance II. I have read the book version a few years ago – liked it, but I am not going to reread it.

Banzai • novelette by Dean Ing
A deadly virus has killed everyone on earth. The only humans left alive are those living on a space station, and they are barely coping. They have mounted an expedition to earth to find vital supplies, or even a sort of cure for disease. But they find some evidence that there might be a survivor still alive...
Idea is fairly nice, but execution isn't so. There is a lot of fairly clumsy exposition in the beginning where the characters discus in detail things they all should perfectly aware. There is a lot of discussion, too much of it. The details of the viral plague are fairly strange, a viral disease should not survive with no hosts. And the ending and ”cure” are stupid and very unbelievable. Some condensing might have been a good idea. **
Starswarmer • (1978) • shortstory by Gregory Benford
Rerun of the story from June issue. The ending had been omitted by accident at that time. No wonder the story was pretty hard to understand...But as I didn't like even the first part at all, I am not going to reread this.
Stalking the Timelines • shortstory by Kevin O'Donnell, Jr.
A soldier jumps between different times and alternative earths, always working in the military. He tries to find a world without war – but is it possible? Nothing really surprising, very fragmentary structure – intentionally, of course, but not very good any way. **
State of the Art: The Morasses of Academe Revisited • essay by Lloyd Biggle, Jr.
Interesting non-fiction ”state of the art” piece. Mainly criticizing academic research of science fiction. And justly, at least if the examples given are representative. ****

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Fifth Head of Cerberus by Gene Wolfe

A novel which is made up from three loosely connected novellas. They happen on two colony worlds in the same solar system. One of them might or might not have been inhabited byrace of shapeshifters. There are hints that it is possible they have assumed a human form and replaced at least part of the inhabitants of the worlds.

The first novella is best in my opinion. It tells a story about a young boy living in a large house, where a bit shadowy authority figure performs several sorts of experiments, mainly psychological, on him. Slowly he find out what is going on, who he is, and what is his place is. Story is well told, but there seems to be very disturbing immorality as standard in world described. Slaves and even genetic modification of slaves, for pleasure or for work is totally normal and is not considered as unnatural or immoral at any level.

The second part is perhaps the weakest. It is presented as a story written by a minor character from the first part, an anthropologist visiting from earth. It tells a story of the mythological natives of one of the planets. The story is fairly confusing, and pretty dull.

The third is told in non-linear way. John Marsch, the anthropologist and the “author” of the second part has been imprisoned and is suspected of espionage. A security officer reviews his files, and reads parts of them, not in clear chronological order. The files include his diary of a long journey he took to find the last living native people, writings he has done in prison, and recordings of his interrogations. Slowly it is revealed what might have happened.

The book was pretty good, especially the first part, which was nominated for Hugo award. The world presented in it is both repulsive and fascinating at the same time, and would certainly have been good milieu for more stories. Second part was written in fairly different style (well, it is supposed to be written by another person), and the third part is again very interesting and thought provoking, and told in an unusual, fascinating style.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Analog Science Fiction and Fact July-August 1999

Third double issue in this month!
The many of the longer works are pretty good, but the shorter ones aren't among the best ones.

The Astronaut from Wyoming • novella by Adam-Troy Castro and Jerry Oltion
A baby has a genetic defect: he resembles very much the classic ”grey” alien. The tabloids go wild, but he turns out to be normal, bright kid who just looks strange. His greatest ambition is to become astronaut. And that's tall order in the world where few people care more about science than latest gossip about celebs. But almost everything is possible if one tries enough and is good enough. Well written story. Not really much happens, but nice anyway. By the way, it is funny how computer and information technology feels very old fashionable in the ”future ”described in a story only about ten years old. ****
Emperor Penquins • novella by Joseph Manzione
Alien species has contacted earth. They seem to be very amicable and readily share technology. A divorced lawyer is offered very challenging and difficult task: one alien is getting divorced from his family group of four, and he is demanding custodial rights for children. That is something totally unheard and unprecedented. Nice story, but ending wasn't as good as the beginning. ***½
As Time Goes By • novelette by Amy Bechtel
Continues an earlier story about a vet whose friend has a few ”sea monsters” as pets. As they are animals unknown for science treating them is a challenge – and sometimes even physiological processes might not be so easy to recognize. Very good, well told tale. Not much really happens, but very enjoyable story anyway. ****-
Live Bait • novelette by Shane Tourtellotte
A police detective is evaluating if a sport where a diver passes through a large marine animal which uses a water jet for moving is harmful for them. Suddenly the investigation turns to murder investigation. Fairly good story, pretty black and white. (brave manly divers, sneaky envirimentalists who stop at nothing). ***-
E-Mage • novelette by Rajnar Vajra
Hacking using virtual reality gizmo. Fairly stupid and unbelievable story where a hacker hacks a computer system by fighting a dragon in a VR world. Also, if the gizmo is supposed to be super-secret and super powerful, why the hacker gives a detailed overview of it to a random couple whose personal information she is trying to dig up? **
Tempora Mutantur • shortstory by H. G. Stratmann
A man starts to see strange looking people, and the assumption is that they are time travelers. Why are they harassing that one poor guy, who is soon losing his mind? Not my taste, writing doesn't appeal, ending is pretty stupid. **+
Out of Warranty • shortstory by Gordon Gross
Why electronic equipments break down so easily – and why they don't break if you have spilled out for extended warranty? Probably the best of three short stories in this issue, but that is not saying much. Ending and last plot twist are beyond believability. ***
GCEA • shortstory by Laurence M. Janifer
Circus is used for spying, but there seems to be a spy spying on the spies. Boring, confusing and pretty stupid story. And if that kind of method would have been used for spying, their data security is lax beyond belief. **-

Monday, November 23, 2009

Galaxy April 1952

Some pretty old-style stories here..

Accidental Flight • novella by F. L. Wallace
Begins promisingly. A hospital planet has been established for "accidentals" or medical "freaks" who look so horrible that normal people can't stand seeing them. There is a glowing man with no arms, another with no lower body, a woman who grows so fast she must sit in a acid bath to shed extra mass and a beautiful young woman with symptoms which would nowadays called autistic. There might have been very good story there exploring the ethical implications of such segregative system. But this isn't unfortunately that story. Instead this is an adventure story, where our heroes capture a spaceship, learn to pilot it and travel to earth where they want to plead for a ship to travel to nearest star to get away from the people of earth. Pretty stupid story with very many illogicalities. E.g. the accidentals are practically immortal because "they bodies have struggled so much against extreme trauma". Not to mention extreme overall stupidity of that explanation somehow that somehow includes the autistic girl who has never had any trauma. The first few pages were promising, but as a whole very silly and old-fashionable story (even for fifties). **
Katahut Said No • shortstory by J. T. McIntosh
The central computer has decided that one community on Venus must be relocated to prevent a planet wide economic chaos. They decide to just say no. Fairly old-fashionable story, the society and gender norms seems to be from the 19th century. ***
The Moon Is Green • shortstory by Fritz Leiber

The atom war has ended, the last survivors are living in shelters. One woman is yearning to get outside. Then someone knocks on the lead-sheltered window from outside. Writing is nice, but the author has some pretty strange ideas of radio-activity. Of course, not entirely surprising when story is written in the beginning of the 50s. The plot isn't really special, either. ***
Martians Never Die • shortstory by Lucius Daniel
An inventor using a some sort of matter transport machine to journey to Mars didn't return when he was supposed to to. His wife, and especially her lover, were already hoping that he wouldn't return at all. He returns with a strange looking pet, which seems to guard him very carefully. The wife's lover decides to kill the pet off, so that it would be easier to finish off the husband later. But Martian pets have some unusual qualities. Fairly good story, but writing is probably not among the best. ***½
She Who Laughs • shortstory by Peter Phillips
Ghosts (or at least extracorporeal beings) and time travel are a bit unusual mix. Starts fairly well, but ending is pretty bad. **½
Ticket to Anywhere • novelette by Damon Knight
A man escapes from earth to Mars. There is an ancient portal to another worlds. Only trouble is that travel is totally random, and it is highly likely that there will be no return. As the earth has turned on to very stagnant place, due to system that oversees all actions, he takes his chances anyway. Fairly nice idea, but execution wasn't as good. Writing was so-and-so, and the plot felt like an outline for a novel. **+

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Analog Science Fiction and Fact January-February 2010

Fairly average issue, Rusch's novella was fine, but I was expecting something even better.

"Neptune's Treasure", Richard A. Lovett

Continues an earlier story involving a space tug owner and his self-conscious AI implant. They are around Neptune, and have some life changing events. Well written, good story, but somehow I was expecting even more. The ending was very bittersweet, I wonder if story ends here or not? ***½
"Shame", Mike Resnick & Lezli Robyn
A story about a strange looking alien living on a remote village (on sparsely inhabited planet) and prejudice he'll encounter. Typical Resnick story: well written, but very heavy handed parables. ***½
"On Rickety Thistlewaite", Michael F. Flynn
A pair of spies, a man and a woman, are trying find the mother of the woman spy. They have traveled to a planet ruled by an emperor who seems to have power over everything happening on the planet. The story felt somehow disconnected, like a part from a larger story. As a small dose I didn't really get into it – the adjective laden prose felt a bit heavy. ***-
"Rejigging the Thingamajig", Eric James Stone

A galaxy wide teleport networks breaks down – and only one uplifted tyrannosaurus rex who was by chance alone on a remote interconnection, located on very untamed planet, is able to repair it. The planet is so untamed, that it is very dangerous even for tyrannosauruses to venture outside. Too bad that the part needed for repair has fallen miles away to the top of dormant volcano. Humorous little story, ending wasn't on par with the first part of the story. ***+
"A War of Stars", David L. Clements
A galaxy wide war is nearing end. An uploaded mind with a human body is nearing the enemy target, and he has a normal human body as a ”backup”. When his fighter is damaged, he is forced to ”download” to the body. But what the fight is about? Ok, nothing really surprising, ending is far too esay and fast. ***-
"Simple Gifts", Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff
A planet contains very valuable alloy (having extremely unlikely – irritatingly unlikely- properties). The main deposit is near a village of aliens. All that remains before its' exploitation is a impartial agreement between the mining company and the aliens. And that's not so easy when the alien's language haven't yet been deciphered, and all their trading is based on barter. And the company is very anxious to get best deal possible, even on cost of any ”fairness”. Well written, good story, but nothing really surprising, ****-
"Thus Spake the Aliens", H.G. Stratmann
Continues a story from December issue. Aliens have terraformed Mars. Two explorers, a young man and a woman, Katherine, were given practically unlimited powers by the aliens as a test. They failed the test, and now earth is facing destruction. Is there something which could prevent that? The main protagonists are at least as irritating and childish as before. At one point Katherine even stomps her feet. And the man compares everything, and I mean everything, to science fiction stories and movies. It begins to be very tiresome fairly soon. A large bulk of the story is taken by totally unnecessary sightseeing tour in the alien artifact and to the earth's past. The actual resolution takes place in the last few pages. A lot of condensing would have nice. **+
"The Possession of Paavo Deshin", Kristine Kathryn Rusch
A retrieval artist story. Paavo (very Finnish name – however no reason why he has a Finnish forename is given in the story – no one else has anything resembling Finnish names) is a troubled but extremely bright young boy who has seen two ”ghosts” for all his life. One day those ghost appear in physical form to his school yard and try to make contact with him. Turns out they are ”disappeared” people who have had to go underground due to ”crimes” against an alien species. Why have they come out of the hiding, and why are they harassing a young boy? Very good story, perhaps not one of the best of the series, but good anyway. It also nice that there are shades of gray in storytelling, practically no one is purely bad or purely good. ****-

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Asimov's Science Fiction October-November 2009

Fairly good issue, nowhere as excellent as the September issue, but pretty good.

Blood Dauber • novelette by Michael Poore and Ted Kosmatka
A poor zookeeper is working on a poor zoo. He has a lot of personal troubles with his wife, and a chronic shortage of money. He finds a strange looking insect which he doesn't recognize, and puts it in a terrarium and has more than a few surprises while watching it grow and reproduce. He also befriends a strange man who is working on community service for the zoo. Well written story, fairly low in science fiction and main emphasis is on "normal" drama. ***1/2
Where the Time Goes • shortstory by Heather Lindsley
A team travels in time and captures people's surplus time to sell it to highest bidder. Naturally something seems to go wrong. Very disjointed and fragmentary story. Probably meant as humorous but doesn't work for me, at least. **1/2
Wife-Stealing Time • novelette by R. Garcia y Robertson
Adventures in Barsoom. Heroic action, beautiful women, furious beasts. The story seems to be a wish fulfillment fantasy. I wasn't entirely sure if the story was Burroughs fanfic or if it happens in some future terraformed planet which is named after Mars novels. Well - the difference between those is very slight anyway. Not something for my taste. **
Flowers of Asphodel • novelette by Damien Broderick
Far future story, a bit confusing, as at least I didn't completely grasp the background. A man is woken from hibernation before he is supposed to, as his wife is trying to destroying the universe - or something. Writing is ok, but somehow I got feeling that there should be more back-story than it was given in the flashbacks. ***-
Erosion • shortstory by Ian Creasey
A man who has been enhanced before leaving earth and will be traveling to a new colony world has one last weekend on earth and travels to coast to see the sea for one last time. Well written, moving and bittersweet story. Extreme stupidity of the main protagonist in one act is irritation, though. ***½
Flotsam • novelette by Elissa Malcohn
A woman finds as a child a "sea baby" - apparently something which has inspired tales of mermaids. That affects her in many ways. Overlong and very preachy about pollution, a far amount of condensing of a bit over-literary writing would have made the storytelling easier to follow and more enjoyable. **1/2
Before My Last Breath • shortstory by Robert Reed
A cemetery of aliens is found on a coal mine. There are thousands of them, those who are buried deeper are physically healthier and have much more technologically advanced things with them. It appears that they are from a colony or ship wreck and slowly died out during thousands of years. Told by several viewpoints - the last being one of the later aliens before they all died out. Very well written and good story. There seems to be something lacking however, the story goes for the mood, not so much for the plot. There are some small plot-holes: if the aliens have so different biochemistry that they don't decompose well, they shouldn't have been able to eat anything from earth. And if their dying out took 60000 years they'd should have evolved to withstand earth's atmosphere and climate a bit better. ****-
The Ghost Hunter's Beautiful Daughter • novelette by Christopher Barzak
A father and a daughter hunt ghosts. The daughter can see them and make them visible for her father, who then captures them into a photograph. The first ghost they captured was the girls' mother. Unknown to the father the captured ghosts are still "living" inside the photos. Well told and fascinating story. A bit too pure fantasy to be exactly for my taste, but something I enjoyed reading. Ending is perhaps a bit too open. ****-
Deadly Sins • shortstory by Nancy Kress

An assistant has apparently killed an important scientist in cold blood. But why? Well written story, but a bit too short, might well be a first chapter of a longer story. ****-
The Sea of Dreams • novella by William Barton
A man who has made himself rich by using technology from an alien spaceship he found, stumbles to another alien spaceship. When he investigates it with a beautiful "avatar" of female biological AI, they are transported to another time and space. So begins an adventure involving lilliputian, flying saucers, ray guns, alternative worlds and so on. The beginning is very good, but ending is a bit too pulpy. A few ideas less might have made better story - not that this is a bad one as such. ***1/2

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Mycenaeans by Louise Schofield

Very through examination of the Mycenaean culture. Pretty interesting at places, especially as I have personally visited Mycenae twice. Text is more than a bit dry, very no-nonsense. A bit lighter approach might have been a good idea - but this book is issued by the British Museum. Writing easily readable, light books is probably forbidden in their charter, or something. :-) But nevertheless very informative, good book.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ellen Kushner: Thomas Riiminiekka / Thomas the Rhymer

Pretty good, very well written fantasy. Translation was very well done. Plot wasn't too surprising, but the intricacies of the plot was not the main point of this story. As I read this book in Finnish, the main review is in Finnish.

Vanhaan balladiin (tosin ainakin itselleni tuntemattomaan) pohjautuva fantasiaromaani.
Kiertelevä soittoniekka, Thomas, ystävystyy vanhan pariskunnan kanssa, asuu heidän luonaan jonkin aikaa ja tutustuu naapurin kauniiseen neitokaiseen. Tutustuminen on johtamassa läheisempääkin kanssakäymisen, kun Thomas päätyy palvelemaan keijukaisten kuningatarta sekä musiikin, että ruumiin kielellä seitsemäksi vuodeksi. Palveluajan päätyttyä hän ei enää ole sama mies kuin aikaisemmin, ja hän on saanut siunauksekseen ja kirouksekseen kyvyn ja pakon puhua aina totta ja tietää aina vastauksen kaikkiin kysymyksiin. Kirja jakautuu erillisiin osiin, joissa kertojahahmo vaihtuu. Ensimmäisessä osassa kertojana on Thomasin ”adoptoineen” parin mies, toisessa osassa joka tapahtuu haltijoiden maassa kertojana on Thomas itse, kolmannessa osassa aikaisemmin mainitun parin muori, ja viimeisessä kertojana on Thomasin puoliso. Kirjan kieli on todella kaunista ja sujuvaa. Käännös on onnistunut mainiosti. Tarina itsessään ei ole mitenkään yllättävää, mutta ei sitä sellaiseksi ole tarkoitettukaan, vaan kyseessä on sadunomainen miellyttävä lukukokemus, jossa henkilöt ovat hyvin kuvattuja ja koskettavia. Etukäteen ajatellen kirjan kansi ei vaikuttanut kovin houkuttelevalta, mutta lukemisen jälkeen se tuntuu kyllä hyvin kirjan sisällölle sopivalta. Mikään kovin kaupallinen ratkaisu tämän kansikuvan käyttö ei kyllä ole ollut, sillä ainakin itsellä etukäteen kansi kyllä pikemminkin lykkäsi lukemista kuin toimi houkutuksena.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Analog Science Fiction and Fact November 1998

Very good issue with nice stories, no real stinkers.

Duel For a Dracowolf • novelette by Wolf Read
A pair of youngsters try to stop the hunt of half mysterious rare beast, dracowolf. But are they interfering with the customs of local natives? Ok story, but a bit too much sightseeing compared to real content, some condensing might have been nice. ***
Kissing Cousins • shortstory by Jerry Oltion
Continues the series about "ghost"astronauts (made incorporeal by a freak accident ) They land on an archipelago planet and find naked, gorgeous and very friendly race of humans. Nice place to visit, but not much other content aside of wish fulfillment fantasy. ***-
Waltzing My Tilde • shortstory by F. Alexander Brejcha
Alien visitors are offended by a stray remark on web. The author probably hadn't much used the internet before writing this story, as the error described is pretty stupid. Who would type long webaddresses by hand to get to discussions instead of using hyperlinks or bookmarks? **
Wrench and Claw • novella by S. D. Howe
There is a lot of room in earth's past for civilizations which might have disappeared without any trace. What if dinosaurs would have had an advanced culture? The story is split between a dig for dinosaur bones, and a moon base encountering probable end of the world – at least the world which is inhabited by intelligent lizards. Good story, exiting and well written. ****
The Dream of Nations • shortstory by Wil McCarthy

A future where every house is an independent state using very efficient recycling technology. Unfortunately the technology isn't perfect and slowly more uncommon elements are running out. For some reason (probably mainly for plot reasons :-) ) any digging is strictly forbidden so replenishing stores is very hard. And all prepared elements pellets are horribly expensive. (pretty unlogical, because with recycling with that sophistication demand should be fairly low, and supposedly no-one has much “hard” currency. So supply and demand should drive the prices very down very soon). Pretty fine story anyway aside those mentioned stupidities. ****-
Aggravated Vehicular Genocide • novelette by Christopher L. Bennett
A human colony ship using ramjet technology destroys an alien ship by accident, killing thousands. There must be justice, and the aliens put the humans on trial. Very nice and readable story. ****+

Analog Science Fiction and Fact September 1999

Average issue, Gunn's novelette was pretty good.

McAndrew and the Fifth Commandment • novelette by Charles Sheffield

McAndrew meets his mother, and finds out a few things about his father he hadn't known. He turns out to have been at least as brilliant physicist. Pretty nice story, might have been a bit longer. ***½
The Giftie • novelette by James E. Gunn
An aerospace engineer finds from a small bookshop a book about aliens. The book seems to be a bit less loony than usual, and attached to are some schematics about a seemingly feasible space ship.
He tries to find out who has written and published that book with the owner of the book shop. Next night the book shop burns and is destroyed. Very good and exiting story. The ending is a bit too abrupt and not entirely logical, otherwise really excellent. ****+
Ruinborn • shortstory by Leslie Fish
The entire evolution of oxygen producing and using life on earth is caused by lifeforms using hydrogen sulfide, first trying to poison the planet to prevent its' use as a base on an interstellar war. Anything they try to do just makes the evolution of these strange and dangerous oxygen using monsters to move faster. Pretty good story. The description of the evolution on the earth is bit too detailed and takes too much space, some slight condensing might made the story even better. ***½
Holding the Key • novella by Shane Tourtellotte
Continuation to earlier story. Arrogant aliens lease a trip to a planet where an another species of aliens lives with very hard musical language. For some reason I don't find the characters to be very interesting or sympathetic, the story felt overlong. **
Rustle of Spring • shortstory by Laurence M. Janifer
How to find one cow among hundreds or thousand who look exactly alike. Problem solving story, fairly interesting, the solution wasn't too innovating. ***
TCoB • shortstory by Kandis Elliot
A biochemistry lab seems to have very good solutions for most medical related problems in the world – but it has some secrets. A bit too irritatingly paranoid story.**+

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Analog Science Fiction and Fact August 1978

Very variable issue. Something pretty good, something pretty bad.

Starships In Whose Future? • novelette by Sam Nicholson
Two artists, a “bard” and apparently second generation (at least) comedian seem to have some disagreement for some reason. There apparently is also some sort of “no fault” insurance law regarding public figures, making them responsible if someone is hurt when trying to hurt them - or something. It isn’t explained practically at all, and certainly there are no reasons given for so strange law. Then they have some sort of competition by performing in front of audience. Pretty confusing story – partly probably because I was pondering the meaning of the “no fault” insurance and wasn't able to really concentrate on the story. **-
I Put My Blue Genes On • shortstory by Orson Scott Card
Refugees fled from earth just before a global bio-war was starting. Now years later a spaceship is returning to find out what has happened to the mother planet. The entire surface of the planet is covered by a thick “pea soup”. There seems to be one single stronghold still standing. The humans living there seem to be physically a bit changed, and are still waging bio-war against the Soviet Union. But how changed they actually are? Pretty good story, maybe a bit too short as there many good ideas which aren't explored as deeply they could have been. ****
The Man Who Was Heavily into Revenge • shortstory by Harlan Ellison
A contractor swindles an old man on a bath room repair contract overcharging 9000 dollars. He falls in despair. And the contractor starts to have VERY bad day ( + very bad rest of life). Probably Ellison got fed up by some contractor and after suing him up let a bit steam off by writing this story. Pretty good, ending is a bit too depressing, especially considering the otherwise light tone of the story. ****-
Cousins • novelette by Bernard Deitchman
Cave men hunt other species of cave men. It took a while to get into the story, as I was trying to figure out that just what the species of prehumans mentioned were. Soon it became pretty obvious that at least most of them were totally made up species. It was a bit disappointing, but it didn't totally ruin the story. One race had very strange properties which would be hard explain in evolutionary terms, also the mating habits it had were not very logical or believable. Otherwise fairly ok story, but demanded a bit concentration when one species was called “longheads” and one important member of other tribe was “longhair”. As I was reading fast, it always took just a little bit time remembering just what was what. ***½
Right of Passage • shortstory by Jayge Carr
An alien takes a test for citizenship. She almost makes it, but is caught on a technicality. But who was testing who? Pretty good, a bit too short story. ****-
Brother to Demons • novelette by Jack Williamson
I hated the first part of this story, and I didn't finish the second part. I am certainly not going to read this third part. -
The Water Doctor • shortstory by Edmundo Hamiltowne
A student gets a PhD in water making after long period of hard study and practice. Interesting choice of a career, considering on what kind of planet he lives. Meant as an ironic story, but ends up just as a very, very stupid one. **-

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Goblin Reservation by Clifford D. Simak

A cross between fantasy and science fiction. Goblins, fairies and ghosts are real and living among men. Also, interstellar travel via transporter booths and aliens are commonplace. A man returning from a trip to another world (and that trip went haywire – he found him self in a strange, previously unknown crystal world) finds out that he already returned a few week ago, and soon after that died in an accident. He also finds that in his apartment lives a beautiful woman with a sabretooth tiger and he doesn't have his job anymore. He moves in with his Neanderthal friend and tries to find out what is going on – and at the same time he has a secret mission given by the inhabitants of the crystal world.
And what role is played by a strange monolith which was found in far past? At least it has some very strange attributes - it is supposed to reflect all radiation, but it is at the same time totally black. A contradiction Simak probably didn't notice?
Usually mixture of fantasy and science fiction doesn't work very well – and it doesn't work this time. There are also quite many – maybe too many - plot threads going on, some of them fairly sketchily told, and then everything comes together bit too fast in the end. The characters weren't too well characterized, I didn't really care for them. Not nearly as good as “Way Station”, my favorite book by Simak.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Astounding Science Fiction January 1955

First Analog this old I have read. Not too bad, one fine story, others ok.

The Darfsteller • novelette by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
The first piece of short fiction ever to win a Hugo award. From today's perspective it is slightly hard to see why. Writing is fairly nice, but the premise is bit strange. Apparently human actors are replaced in theater by “mannequins”, which are kind of androids programmed by tapes and apparently the fine tune during the performance is done by a central system. Human actors are not used any more at all. For some strange reason these android run shows are very popular and are even critiqued in the papers. Why the reviews are done isn't stated, as logically the performances should be very constant without much variation. A formed actor who has taken a job sweeping floors on a theater gets one last chance to perform (after a bit of sabotage). A very slowly moving story which features far too large parts of a boring play. **½
Armistice • shortstory by John Brunner
A conspirator is arrested, and his mind is read by near absolute dictator of a planet. But neither the apparent rebel or dictator are exactly what might be expected. Ok story, but the plan of the “rebel” doesn't seem to logical, or not at least it isn't very well explained. ***
Field Expedient • novelette by Chad Oliver
Earth has achieved near utopia. Everyone is happy, co-operative, and the most important message everyone knows is: “Don't Rock the Boat”. But one rich eccentric old man wants to rock the boat - at least a little. He has established colonies inVenus which are inhabited by small children and by robots taking care of and rearing them for a very specific purpose. Aside of “jungle-Venus” this is very good, well told story, easily best of the magazine. ****
Without Portfolio • shortstory by James E. Gunn
Diplomacy is delegated for a private firm. But the firm manages things seemingly so badly that the final war seems to be imminent at any moment. Or will it be? Ok story, maybe a bit too short. ***+
Nothing New • shortstory by Eric Frank Russell
A space ship crew is traveling to a planet where according to legends might live a race of immortals. And that's about it. Not much happens, a bit of discussion. I don't really get to point of the story - if there is any. The planet and its' inhabitants seems fairly interesting, there is hardly anything about them and they are practicality used only for a pretty inane punchline. **

Monday, October 19, 2009

Galaxy December 1954

Not one of the best issues. Except for the stories written by Sheckley, all were very outdated stories.

Skulking Permit • novelette by Robert Sheckley
A small, forgotten human colony is getting visitors from Earth for the first time in centuries. Earth demands normal human behavior from all its colonies. Unfortunately, the colony is really backward, and there aren't even any criminals, murders or any other things all civilized worlds usually have, at least according to the few books which are available in the colony. So, one unfortunate man is ordered by the mayor to start a crime wave as soon as possible... Very good funny/ironic story. ****

Playback • short story by J. T. McIntosh
Discussion about time travel in a bar. One of the patrons seems to be a time traveler. Not much happens, the discussion isn't interesting. Boring and easily forgettable story. **

Uncle Tom's Planet • short story by Robert Sheckley
Slavery is permitted only if the enslaved race is clearly, demonstrably inferior compared to the enslaving race. Usually, that is a very hard thing to prove, but one arrogant species finds another that truly seems to be inferior. But nothing is always so constant. Nice ironic story, rather short. ****-

Assignment's End • novelette by Roger Dee
A man has always had a peculiar effect on other people, everyone seems to feel extremely nice around him. He starts to have visual hallucinations and have strange feelings. A story which has a bit of a paranoid feeling, but ends up being pretty much what you would be expecting, and not much else. Writing isn’t really special, either. **

Rough Translation • short story by Jean M. Janis
A scientist studies the lone returnee from Mars expedition who doesn't seem to be able to communicate anymore, as he uses wrong, strange words which seem to have a different meaning from their original meaning. The writing is ok, but the plot is nothing special. ***-

Joy Ride • short story by Mark Meadows
Everything is run by automatic machines. What happens if they start acting erratically?
Short, not surprising, mildly entertaining story. The fact that the story is told from multiple viewpoints is fairly interesting. **½

Collector's Item • novelette by Evelyn E. Smith
The first expedition to Venus has landed – and straight away an alien captures the most good-looking female. Luckily, they are soon retrieved, before anything indecent has time to happen, and the alien turns out to be telepathic and very helpful. But might he have an ulterior motive? Well, at least it doesn't involve any member of the expedition.
A very amusing (but not in a good way) story. Apparently, one professor has single-handedly made the spaceship capable of traveling to Venus just by swindling a bit of government resources and material. And that has pissed everyone off so much that a successful trip to Venus would not mitigate the reaction. Acting as the ship captain is a numbskull who has not even bothered to find out what the length of the day on the planet he is traveling to is. Other members of the expedition are at least as stupid, especially the women. The utmost stupidity and infantilism of the women is particularly strange, as this piece was apparently written by a woman. But everyone is behaving like they would be on an expedition to Africa in the early 19th century. Everyone (even the alien) will get comeuppance, but that doesn't save the story. **-

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Girl Genius: Omnibus Edition #1 by Phil Foglio

The first comic book to win the Hugo award. That was what made me to try this one.
The story is very steanpunky tale of a young girl, Agatha, living in an alternative Europe ruled by mad inventors capable of making steam powered robots and biological constructs. She turns out to be very powerful “spark”, someone who is able to make such inventions, but at first she isn't aware of that herself. After getting abducted to the flying castle's by its' unofficial(?) ruler, baron Wulfenbach, she learns something of her abilities and real background.
This omnibus collects first three books. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be other volumes of these omnibus editions. It was probably very good idea to collect first three books together, as I believe that, if the first one would have marketed as a stand alone, there would have less people getting the later parts. The first part isn't too good, far too many pages are spent on gigantic robots walking around and far too little on the real plot. The later parts are clearly better, both in plot and in drawing style. The plot seem variable, there some very nice ideas and fun scenes, but they there are some slower moving and sometimes even a bit confusing parts. I might be even tempted to get the other parts, but at least part four seems to be kind of hard to find, and it isn't available directly from Amazon.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Analog Science Fiction and Fact December 2009

Pretty average issue.
Formidable Caress by Stephen Baxter
Continues series I am not very familiar with – I believe that I have read one installment years ago. The story happens on a world (presumably far future earth) where time passes at different speed on different heights. The lower you go, the slower the time goes. There is a fair amount of exposition, but especially in the beginning it's kind of hard to know what's going on. Presumable at least some of the same characters have been in the earlier stories, and being familiar with them might have been to story easier to get. ***-
The Jolly Old Boyfriend by Jerry Oltion
Old boyfriend comes back on Christmas night bringing presents. The trouble is that he has been dead for some time already. Ok story, average for Oltion. ***
The Universe Beneath Our Feet by Carl Frederick
Aliens living in fairly strange surroundings seem to have fairly anthropomorphic disagreements about religion and authority. Pretty good story nevertheless. I was expecting that the aliens turn out to live in a sub-Antarctic lake, but that wasn't the case. Probably the best story in ‘zine. ***½
Wilderness Were Paradise Enow by H.G. Stratmann
Continues an earlier story about a couple stranded on a Mars which is terraformed by unknown aliens. The former story ended when both of the characters were given god-like powers. Now they get to use them. It seems that with great power comes great responsibility, but even the greater naivety. Both characters seem to be very stupid, just like they were in the former part of the story. Makes me really wonder why they were selected. Both make very bad decisions with fairly strange and not so logical consequences. Writing is ok, but as both main protagonists are extremely irritating the story ends as irritating as well. ***
To Climb a Flat Mountain by G. David Nordley
Concludes two part serial begun on the November issue. A rescue mission to free a planet enslaved by a religious dictatorship has gone wrong. The rescuers have overshoot by hundreds of light-years and about a thousand years. The few survivors find themselves on a strange, obviously manufactured habitat with strange fauna and flora. When they try to find out what has happened, they find out that their mission was sabotaged. The survivors have some difference of opinion, and are divided. One faction lead by a nutcase religious fundamentalist is left behind, while another group tries to find a shuttle which might explain how they ended where they did, and which might enable them to return. Writing isn't as fluent it could be, and the story is slightly old-fashionable (but not necessarily in bad way). The characters have some strange leaps of logic, and they don't exactly behave totally sensible at all times. And I am pretty sure that atmosphere so rich in oxygen that fires burn faster than normal, would be very toxic at a high pressure. Also, the ending seem very rushed and every open story detail is ”reeled in” in about two pages. ***

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Michael Moorcock: Katso ihmistä! / Behold the Man

I read this book in Finnish, so the main review will be in Finnish. A neurotic loser travels back in time to see the Crucifixion. What he finds isn’t exactly what he was expecting.
Ok book, but the main protagonist is a bit too annoying loser. Writing might be too fragmentary, but that isn’t necessarily completely bad thing.
One small strange thing was that ancient Palestine had corn fields – it might be a translation error, though.

Neuroottinen, ahdistunut luuseri saa mahdollisuuden aikamatkaan. Hän valitsee matkansa kohteeksi Kristuksen ristiinnaulitsemisen. Hän päätyy hieman liian aikaiseen menneisyyteen, ja samalla särkee aikakoneensa. Ilman mahdollisuutta palata tulevaisuuteen, hänellä ei ole muuta mahdollisuutta kuin jäädä odottelemaan ristiinnaulitsemista. Mielenkiintoinen kirja, jossa aikatasot sekoittuvat, välillä eletään Palestinassa ennen ristiinnaulitsemista, välillä taas väläyksinä nähdään pervohkon luuseri-päähenkilön elämää katkelmina nykyajassa suurin piirtein kronologisessa järjestyksessä. Kerronta on välillä ehkä liiankin hajanaista, mutta on kyllä tärkeä osa kirjaa. Puhtaasti tapahtumajärjestyksessä kuvattuna tarinana kirjaa voisi pitää jopa tavanomaisena, nyt se on jotain muuta. Päähenkilö oli ehkä hiukan liiankin ärsyttävä, vähän kuin Woody Allen josta on imetty kaikki itseironisuus ja huumorintaju pois, ja neuroottisuus kerrottu kahdella. Kirjana ihan suositeltava luettava, aika poikkeuksellinen näkymä Kristinuskon syntyyn. Se vain jäi ihmetyttämään, miten ihmeessä antiikin Palestiinassa kasvaa maissi? Olivatkohan kirjan tapahtuvat joissain vaihtoehtomaailmassa tapahtuvia? Vai onko kirjailijan biologian tietämys hiukan vaillinainen? En ole Moorcockia aikaisemmin lukenut, enkä ole brittiscifin tai uuden aallon erityinen ystävä, mutta kyllä tämä oli ihan mielenkiintoinen tuttavuus.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Analog Science Fiction and Fact June 2000

The lead novella was excellent. Other stories weren't nearly as good.

The Retrieval Artist • novella by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
How to find someone who wants to hide? And is there a good reason why someone should try to find people who usually don't want to be found? The inheritance of a giant corporation might be such reason. A story of professional recovery artist, who tries to find hidden people. An excellent and entertaining story, best I have read for a while. ****1/2
Debunking the Faith Healer • novelette by Michael A. Burstein and Lawrence D. Weinberg
A journalist examining faith healers studies one, who really seems to be able cure people, but only mostly one or two in every meeting. Spoilers for this stinker follows: the healer is a time traveler who has come to take samples of DNA. Apparently _every_ human's in future has DNA which has been modified to resist cancer. Unfortunately that has caused a disease which is killing everybody off. And all samples of pre-change DNA have been destroyed because they could be used for harmful purposes. That is so stupid in so many levels. Everyone has changed DNA? So every native living in middle of Amazon? Every loony conspiracy theorist living in fortified bomb shelter in Utah? And ALL samples of pre-change DNA has been destroyed? Like all tissue samples from all hospitals? All people who have been buried in permafrost regions? And apparently all things which were made before the change (as enough DNA apparently can be harvested from the gloves used to touch people coming to the faith healer for a “cure” and which are buried until the future "catches up".) And risks the man collecting the DNA is taking for a really, really stupid and they are taken only for “punchline” reason. Writing is ok, and the story is readable but so full of so stupid plotholes that it ends as really irritating. **-
All Mine • shortstory by Laurence M. Janifer
How to survive on a planet which is filled by bouncing ball-like creatures which love to bump on people and third of them are deadly poisonous? Problem solving story. Short and not especially surprising. ***
A Threat of Cinnamon • novelette by Rajnar Vajra
A man and his AI run in a trouble when mining asteroids on an another star. Told as a tale told to a grandchild. A lot of info dumping and exposition. Some condensing might have nice. ***
The Money Tree • shortstory by Charles L. Harness
Money doesn't grow in trees. Or does it? Very implausible genetic engineering, and very implausible scheme. Money grown in trees is supposed to be exactly like the real currency, but it withers away in a few weeks – that's a pretty contradictory. ***-
A Pig Tale • shortstory by Guy Stewart
Memory altering viral therapy, downfall of personal life and of a small farm. If there are enough troubles, it might be easier just to start again with no recollections of the bad thing. Pretty nice and well told story ***½
Unthinkable • shortstory by Sean McMullen
Mars mission by private enterprise. Very short story picking on NASA. **½
Splendor's Laws • novelette by Dave Creek
Humans are evacuating a planet where two sentient species are living in harmony, before it is sterilized by nearby nova or other similar phenomena. Another alien race decides to use the planet for weapons testing, as it will be destroyed anyway.
Fairly average story in every way, didn't irritate, but was hard to remember only a few days later so didn't have must impact either. ***

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Johanna Sinisalo: Linnunaivot

Non sf -book by author known for her extremely good speculative fiction works. A couple goes for a hiking trek in Tasmania..

Nuori mies, Jyrki, ja nuori nainen, Heidi, lähtevät varsin lyhyen tuntemisajan jälkeen patikkamatkalle Australiaan ja Uuteen Seelentiin. Parin helpomman ja lyhyemmän patikoinnin jälkeen he pitkän ja vaativan patikoinnin Tasmanian eteläkärjessä. Jyrki on kokeneempi retkeilijä, ja suhtautuu patikointiin hyvin pitkälle suorituksena, haasteena, ja on varustautunut viimeistä tekniikkaa olevilla välineillä ja on laskenut kaiken grammalleen ilman mitään ylimääräistä kannettava – aina riskinottoon asti. Heidi on irtisanoutunut työstään matkalle lähteäkseen osaksi kapinana hallitsevaa isäänsä kohtaan, osana yrityksenä löytää elämälleen sisältöä, tarkoitusta. Matka alkaa melko normaalilla tavalla, mutta vähitellen ilmaantuu vaikeuksia, tavaroita katoaa ja säät eivät suosi. Retkivauhti on koko ajan kova, Jyrkille tärkeintä on suoriutuminen, ei todellinen luonnon kokeminen ja muutamankin tunnin pysähtyminen on lähes sietämätöntä kun ylikiireessä aikataulussa ei pysytä. Maisemia hän ei ehdi ihailemaan, vaikka hän on muuten luonnonsuojelun ja säilyttämisen puolella jopa neuroottisuuteen asti. Kolmantena kertojaäänenä on nimeämätön, pahansuopa hahmo. Kirja on hyvin sujuvasti kirjoitettu ja nopealukuinen. Henkilöhahmoista etenkin Jyrki on varsin ärsyttävä ja ristiriitainen hahmo joka tuntuu ottavan kokeneeksi retkeilijäksi hämmästyttäviä riskejä vain jotta kaikki olisi mahdollisimman etukäteen laskelmoitavissa olevaa. Kirja loppuu mielestäni ehkä hiukan liian nopeasti ilman, että tapahtumat ovat eskaloituneet niin paljoa kuin olisi voinut odottaa, ja käteen jää sinällään mielenkiintoinen retkeilykuvaus kohtalaisen mielenkiintoisista henkilöistä.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm

A Hugo-award winning novel. In the beginning of the book all imaginable disasters happen at the same time: pollution, climate change, plagues, radiation fallout, financial depression and universal infertility. One rich extended family has been prepared, and they move on a large area owned by the family, which has a modern research faculty. They ultimately develop a solution for infertility – cloning. But the clones aren't exactly similar than the normal people. They gradually lose all individuality and creativity, and they are practically incapable of tolerating loneliness even in slightest, to degree than being in a forest is almost intolerable. Will the mankind survive at all?
Very well written, very good book. The characterization isn't perfect, but that was probably intentional, as many of the characters are clones after all. The main irritant (well, not to badly) was very shitty science. I don't really understand, why it was necessary to have all imaginable disasters occur at the same time, and some of them with no really good reason. The infertility (which is one of the disasters which appears for no reason) also behaves pretty strangely among clones. The behavior patterns of clones are also pretty illogical as they are genetically full humans, after all. And the climate patterns change far too fast, only in a few decades. Those irritations are fairly minor points, and they weren't very import for the impact of the real story. Well deserved Hugo win.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Analog Science Fiction and Fact June 1999

Ok issue, a serial takes a large part of space.
The Trees of Verità • novella by Wolf Read
A sister follows another sister to colony planet light years from earth. The planet has a forest of apparently immortal giant trees. Pretty good and well written story. An important part of the story is the relationship between the sisters, it might even take a bit too large part as the problems between them area bit clichéd. ****-
Uncertainly Yours • shortstory by Bill Johnson
Uncertainty principle in energy production is, well, uncertain. Short, humorous story bordering a Probability Zero story. ***+
At the Zoo • novelette by Rick Shelley
The first zoo specializing only extraterrestrial animals is having some trouble soon after their newest acquisition. Computers are used without permission and so on. The solution the puzzle is just what you think it would be. In spite of that this is pretty good story. The only bad part was a very disconnected subplot involving advertising agency the zoo is hiring for marketing. Like a zoo with extraterrestrial animals would need any advertising? ***½
Time Lines • shortstory by F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre
Murdering Hitler using a time machine isn't usually very straightforward. Not in this story either. Fairly short comedic story, not too unusual or special. **½

Monday, September 14, 2009

Analog Science Fiction and Fact November 2009

Large part of the issue is taken by a serial, which I haven't read yet. Fairly nice issue overall.

Amabit Sapiens • novelette by Craig DeLancey
Continues an earlier story about people who have been genetically modified to plan on longer term. There apparently has been a really long term plan to sabotage an oil well. But how that would help humanity, and will the sabotage suspect be tortured to death? Good, exiting story. I liked earlier story set in the same world, but this was even better. ****
Foreign Exchange • shortstory by Jerry Oltion
The first Mars expedition is about halfway, when the return capsule which was sent earlier to collect propellant from Martian atmosphere returns by itself. When it lands there is an alien inside. What? Who? How? Why? Not very plausible story with some problems with biochemistry, but nice light yarn. ***½
Thanksgiving Day • shortstory by Jay Werkheiser
Expedition which landed to a planet on an another solar systems is failing. They can't grow food, and they aren't able to eat local plants. When food is running out a schism between scientist and workers of the colony is growing. Ok, but the story some troubles with science. I didn't notice any real, good, reason why earth plants could not be grown. And the solution presented – I don't exactly get it, one way it is far too easy in in another far too hard. **½
Joan • novelette by John G. Hemry
A young woman is extremely fascinated with Joan of Arc. When she happens to get access to a time machine, she straight away travels back in time to save Joan from burning. As expected, she is not what could be expected. Fairly nice story, marred with extremely stupid main character with ridiculous puppy love for half-mythological historical character. She is supposed to be over twenty, but behaves like a half-wit 15 year old. ***+

Analog Science Fiction and Fact July 1978

At best average issue, nothing really special, a few pretty bad ones.

To Bring in the Steel • novelette by Donald Kingsbury
A important leader of an asteroid mining colony wants to bring his daughter to the colony after his ex-wife dies. The people of the colony don't consider him as good enough father, and demand that he'll get someone else to take care of her. For some pretty poorly defined reason he hires a paris hilton type of girl, beautiful and famous courtesan. Some pretty inevitable things happen and everyone finds joy. Overlong story which takes a lot of time to careful explain background and objects which aren't even related to the plot in anyway. It is pretty funny when two or three paragraphs are used to explain how a typewriter of the future works when the said typewriter isn't even used in any way later. ***+
What Really Caused the Energy Crisis • shortstory by Paul J. Nahin
Tall tale about the reason of the energy crisis of 70s. Fairly stupid. **1/2
Kinsman to Lizards • novelette by Jack Williamson
Another part of Jack Williamson's novel (?) he apparently wasn't able to sell in thirties :-) and dumped to Analog in seventies. Pretty bad writing, really feels like something written in 1933. I honestly tried for a few pages, but I had to give up. *
In the Wilderness • shortstory by Jack L. Chalker
A previously unknown alien species is destroying whole planets while saving others from environmental catastrophes. A galactic federation of sorts tries to find out why. Feels like a segment. Motivation of the said species is pretty poorly defined.
Bounded in a Nutshell • shortstory by Charles Sheffield
One company succeeds just too well in auctions. It is almost like they could read minds. Or possibly they might have a some sort of new technology. Ok story, but some details or implications seem to be very similar to Kate Wilhelm's writings .***+
The Paradigmatic Dragon-Slayers • shortstory by James O. Farlow
Dragon slaying and time travel. Dragons are what you probably suspect. Nothing very surprising. **½
Viewpoint Critical • shortstory by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
Clueless ursine historians debate if the strange bipedal creatures were ancestors of real ursinoid civilization, and if they really had any civilization of their own worth mentioning. Ok, nothing especially special. ***-
The Man Who Drove to Work • shortstory by Arsen Darnay
Midlife crises, robot, economic planning? I honestly didn't understand this story at all. Strange writing, not my taste. *+

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Star Mill by Emil Petaja

A science fiction novel based on Finnish nation epic, Kalevala. Pretty strange mixture - something which is essentially fantasy is retold as science fiction. It does not quite work, and the result is a book which starts as relatively straightforward science fiction and ends as pretty pure fantasy. The writing is really, really bad. It reminds me of Spindard's “Iron Dream”, but I somehow suspect that this time overblown pomposity was not intentional. The book contains a lot of Finnish words, but most of them are misspelled more or less. I honestly do not see any reason why they would have modified intentionally, probably Petaja just thought that he can spell Finnish, and was too lazy to check the correct spelling. The plot revolves around the Sampo, a mythical machine which can make everything. It was destroyed in Kalevala, but now it has been repaired. Unfortunately, it works in reverse and is spilling destruction everywhere. It is up to our hero to prevent the destruction of the whole universe.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Analog Science Fiction and Fact May 1999

Major part is this issue is taken by a serial, The Quantum Rose by Catherine Asaro. I haven't read it yet, but it is Nebula winner, so I probably will at least look if it is something I would like. (after reading some reviews from librarything: doesn't look like my cup of tea, but I will try anyway. If I will read it, I will review it in another post. ) Only three stories, none exceptional.

Smoking Gun • shortstory by Mark Rich
A professor is found in his room lying in a pool of blood with a gun beside him. Just a moment later he disappears. What happened? It is a pity that what really happened is something fairly stupid and hard to believe. And if the guy had
invented what he did, why in earth make it in form of a gun? Yeah, there is an explanation. But it is extremely bad and stupid one. **
The Vaults of Permian Love • novelette by Bill Johnson
An scientist experiments on herself and alters some of her DNA with surprising results. Fairly good story, but depends on several extremely unlikely coincidences. ***
Red Sky at Morning • novella by Ben Bova
Second story of second Mars expedition. Not much happens – a storm is rising, but that is noticed after about half of the pages have been used mainly for doing nothing special. Pretty boring story, I lost my interest after about 15 pages, but I read the whole thing, anyway. Would have better with some condensing. **

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer

Soon to be a major TV-series! I must admit that was the reason I selected just this book from my TBR-pile.
The central idea is very interesting: Everyone on earth sees a short glimpse of what happens in future about twenty years later. After falldown of the event is sorted out (during the vision everyone passes out – tough luck for anyone driving a car, standing on the top of staircases, or on an airplane making a landing at that time.) the world naturally isn't the same anymore. First it isn't clear if the future is changeable or not, but soon it turns out that it is possible to make changes to the future which was seen in the visions.
The first third of the book is pretty good. The last part is a lot less so. Especially the chase which is supposed to be one of the culminating scenes, happening along the ring of Large Hadron Collider was pretty laughable and managed to very boring and anticlimactic. The supposed surprise murderer was obvious at least for me early on, and slight misdirection for the probable culprit didn't work at all. And the final ending which crossed to metaphysics was really, really bad. Writing wasn't best I have seen, and the characters seemed to be fairly stupid and not very realistic, especially as they were supposed to be Nobel-level scientists. Another irritant was the emphasis of Canada. When the events mainly happen in CERN, why all things Canadian must be so prevalent in the novel?
As conclusion: the idea of the book is excellent, but the execution was much less so.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Asimov's Science Fiction, September 2009

I haven't read any Asimov's SF magazines for a year. This was very pleasant surprise, story quality was very high. I read this issue as an ebook from Fictionwise.

Away from Here • shortstory by Lisa Goldstein
A young 15 years old girl is working at her parent's hotel. One day a very strange troupe of characters check into the hotel. They seem to be magicians or at least some kind of circus people. By accident she sees them doing some very fascinating things. Very well written story, but that type of magical realism is something I usually don't like. Strange thing happens with no "why" or "how". And the ending is extremely depressing and irritating if one thinks about it. ***1/2
Camera Obscured • shortstory by Ferrett Steinmetz
A young boy is trying to succeed in a world where everything is a competition with charts and positions found on the internet. He has tried several hobbies with only moderate success, achieving top ranking placements in order of few hundred thousands. He sets for himself a new goal - to be the world's best lover in male (hetero) category and starts by asking a girl for a date. With her he finds something beyond the rankings. Very good story, well written. Maybe a bit too short - I would like to hear more about this characters. ****-
Soulmates • novelette by Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn
A nightwatchman who has recently lost her wife in car accident is slowly killing himself with alcohol. A repair robot tries to “repair” him, and not so surprisingly succeeds. Typical saccharine Resnick robot story. Very well written, but really irritating in it's overbearing sweetness. I wonder if this will be a Hugo-nominee - hopefully not, but Resnick stories of this style seem to have a lot of fans. ***1/2
In Their Garden • shortstory by Brenda Cooper
A teenage (?) girl is living in a closed community in post apocalyptic world. She would like to see the outside world. Ok, but feels more like the first chapter of a novel than a stand alone short story. ***+
The Day Before the Day Before • shortstory by Steve Rasnic Tem
Time travel story. The protagonist is a member of a "time team" which makes slight changes to the past. They themselves don't ever know the consequences of any change. Story is internal monologue of one such trip. Fairly well written, but a bit too little real story content. Concept is fascinating as such, but more background and more real events would have been nice. ***
Tear-Down • shortstory by Benjamin Crowell
Artificial intelligence house gets new owners. Both the owners and the house have some training to do. Nice, good story. ****-
Her Heart's Desire • shortstory by Jerry Oltion
A boy meets a girl. He breaks the girl's wishing bowl which was supposed to grant her hearts wish. Magical realism untypical for Oltion. This story could have been written by Resnick - in both good and in bad way. Well written, even a bit moving, but a bit saccharine and strange things happen for no reason or explanation. ***1/2
Broken Windchimes • novella by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
A male soprano (and if you know something about music you should know what that implicates) has been performing for years alien audience. The alien species in question values precision over anything, and even one missed note usually means the end of a career. Inevitable happens and the career of main protagonist is ended. He travels to nearby space station where there is a musical conservatory and discovers that there as much more to music than he ever thought. Another excellent story. ****