Saturday, January 31, 2009

Analog October 1977

Unusual issue. Two serials, one concluding, one starting. I usually don’t read serials from old magazines if there isn’t some really special about them, and there doesn’t seem to be in neither of these. Only two stories, one very good, another so-and-so.

Dog Day Evening • shortstory by Spider Robinson
A bearded guy comes to Callahan’s bar with a dog, claiming that his dog can talk. Hilarity, bad puns, tall tales and so on ensues.
One of the better Callahan stories, really enjoyable and fun piece. ****
The Ultimate Arbiter • shortstory by Eric Vinicoff and Marcia Martin
A perfect treatment for cancer has been developed. The only catch is that the treatment needs a lot of clones which will suffer painful procedures. Is that ethical or not? The main point of story is legislatory wrangling and several politicians competing with each others. Boring! Really boring, especially as the premise in itself is fairly interesting, but however, the biological premise also doesn’t hold water from scientific viewpoint on many different levels. The writing in itself is average. **½

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Galaxy July 1954

Pretty average issue. Sheckley’s story is fine, other stories aren’t very good. I am reading the serial, and I am going the review it in a separate post when I have finished it.
A Thief in Time • novelette by Robert Sheckley
Nice time travel story. A professor of a technical high school from fifties is brought to justice in future for crimes he will do at a later time. And very strange crimes, stealing assorted low value artifacts. Why did he steal those things? A bit of paradox of a story (in many levels), but fine nevertheless. Not perhaps one of the best by Sheckley, but very fine anyway. ****
This Side Up • shortstory by Raymond E. Banks [as by R. E. Banks ]
Aliens have come to earth after an atomic war, and they have somehow slightly misunderstood the human life cycle. They themselves are born as old, and grow younger by the time, until they disappear to nothingness. So, they think that life is similar for humans, too. The aliens are supposed to think that humans are exactly similar to them, but they eat through their ear. Also, for some strange reason one lone human is alive in a respirator. One joke story, which really doesn’t have content for its’ length, there are just far too many really stupid implausibilities. **
Green Thumb • novelette by Clifford D. Simak
A man finds an intelligent alien plant which is able to move and communicate by transmitting and receiving feelings. Especially the beginning, where there is some mystery about what is going on is very good. Alas, the ending isn’t as fine, as the story is just too nice and comfortable. The alien plant turns out to be super benevolent, intelligent, but naïve being, who is just so sad when humans use and kill plants. ***
What Rough Beast? • shortstory by Jefferson Highe
Children are learning psi-powers like teleporting and mind-reading. At the same time flying saucer sightings are growing so common, that it is a bother to report them to military as it is expected. A bit clumsy story, not really enough content for even a shortish short story. **½
Felony • shortstory by James Causey
Unlikeable foreman hires a new worker, who is very quiet, but competent. For fairly obscure reasons he starts to suspect that the new worker is a Martian. Well, he just turns out to be a reject from another dimension who is trying to get back there. Not very good, no real surprises, the end “twist” is really stupid – not that the character wouldn’t have earned his fate. **½

Friday, January 23, 2009

Hannu Raittila: Kirjailijaelämää

A book written by finnish author, read in finnish. So the blog post is in finnish. Translation available only for those who really need it. :-)

Varsin erikoinen, vaikeasti luokiteltavissa oleva, kirja. Osittain esseekokoelma, osittain kokoelma kirjailijan työhön liittyvästä kirjeenvaihdosta, osittain päiväkirja, osittain kirjaan itseensä viittaavien kirjoituksien kokoelma. Kaikkea tätä, ja muutakin. Ilmeisesti kirja on kirjoittaessa muokkautunut melkoisessa määrin - ihan niin kuin kirjassa sanotaan. Paikoitellen hiukan katkeraakin tilitystä siitä, kuinka kirjoja kirjoittamalla on lähes mahdotonta saada edes jotenkin keskiluokkaista eläintasoa vastaavaa elämisentasoa aikaiseksi. Kirjassa Raittila ihmettelee myös sitä, miksi hänen itsensä parhaaksensa arvioima kirja, Pamisoksen purkaus menestyi niin heikosti. Samaa oikeastaan ihmettelen minäkin, pidin tuosta kirjasta kovasti.
Kokonaisuutena positiivinen lukukokemus, tyyliltään hyvin vaihteleva. Paikoitellen ehkä hiukan katkerankin sävyinen, mutta en tiedä onko katkeruus todellista, vaiko kirjallista tuotantoa - ehkä enemmän jälkimmäistä.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Analog December 1977

An uneven issue. The first story is very fine and the last story is either real stinker, or far too fancy for me. Other two were fairly unremarkable.

Dark Age • novelette by Stanley Schmidt
Continues a story where earth is in transit to new home due to accident in the middle of our galaxy. Now the journey has lasted for years, and it is time to increase speed. However, the younger generation doesn’t anymore understand why anyone would necessarily need a sun, as everything seems to be fairly good even without and why anyone would have to suffer years of higher acceleration just to reach a new sun in decades instead of centuries. There is an action/terrorist group, which is trying to stop the speed up - at any cost. A very nice and well written story. The motivation of the terrorist group isn’t entirely believable - but there probably would be that kind of group, if the situation were like the one in the story. A good read. ****
Now You See Her • shortstory by Sam Nicholson
A ship is seen in two different place at same time - colliding another ship and sailing without any trouble at all over a hundred miles away. And the owner of the sunken ship is demanding compensations. Nothing special, isn't very logical, the plan the scammers had wouldn't have a great change of succeeding, I believe. **
Antithiotimoline • shortstory by Topi H. Barr
Thiotimoline story where that strange compound is used to take picture from the future. Of course, sometimes those picture might be something you wouldn't want to see. Especially if your wife is unfaithful.. A simple little one-joke story. **+
Then and Now • novelette by Raymond Z. Gallun
A colonization of nearby star is starting and people who have been chosen as first colonists are leaving soon. They are having their last leave before the trip and a pair of them are for some reason visiting an affluent man. Or something. I had really trouble reading this story, as I found the writing to be horrible. The story starts with a info dump which is over two pages long and there is more info dumping in dialog. The writing is stilted, using really heavy dose of ellipses. The use of ellipses is totally ridiculous, there isn’t a single page of the story where there aren’t at least a few, up to almost twenty in one page. I wasn’t able to finish this, this is one of the worst stories I have ever read (or started). *

Monday, January 19, 2009

My Analog 2008 Analytical Laboratory Ballot:


1. Tenbrook of Mars—McLaughlin, Dean
2. The Spacetime Pool—Asaro, Catherine
3. Brittney’s Labyrinth—Lovett, Richard A.

Only four novellas were published last year. My favorite was very clear, and also I had no trouble at all deciding which one to drop out of the top three. But the order of second and third was hard to decide as both are good stories, but extremely different ones. Lovett’s story is pretty good hard sf, Asaro’s story is pretty good romantic fantasy with some science fictional trappings - but very interesting trappings which are based on mathematics. I think The Spacetime Pool was written on a bit better style, and there seemed to be a bit of unjustified hatred against it on the forums of Analog, so I gave it the second place :-).


Many more candidates, and much harder decision. These are my favorites, which were on final round:

The Man in the Mirror • novelette by Geoffrey A. Landis
The Natural World • novelette by Don D'Ammassa
Amor Vincit Omnia—DeLancy, Craig
The Night of the RFIDs—Lerner, Edward M.
Consequences of the Mutiny—Lambert, Ronald R.
Demand Ecology • novelette by Craig DeLancey
Shotgun Seat • novelette by Paul Carlson
Greenwich Nasty Time • novelette by Carl Frederick

There were a few I almost hated, but probably it is best not to mention them.
Choosing the best three wasn’t easy. This is an order mainly based on a feeling:

1. Greenwich Nasty Time • novelette by Carl Frederick
2. Amor Vincit Omnia—DeLancy, Craig
3. The Night of the RFIDs—Lerner, Edward M.

Short stories:

Also hard category to decide.


A New Generation • shortstory by Jerry Oltion
Low Life • shortstory by Mia Molvray
A Deadly Intent • shortstory by Richard A. Lovett and Mark Niemann-Ross
The Anthropic Precipice—Oltion, Jerry
The Fourth Thing • shortstory by Stephen L. Burns
Invasion of the Pattern Snatchers • shortstory by David W. Goldman
Starship Down By Tracy Canfield

And my votes go to:
1. Invasion of the Pattern Snatchers • shortstory by David W. Goldman
2. The Fourth Thing • shortstory by Stephen L. Burns
3. A New Generation • shortstory by Jerry Oltion


I have voting rights for Hugo-nominations, and these are Analog stories which will get a nominating vote from me:

1. Tenbrook of Mars—McLaughlin, Dean
2. The Spacetime Pool—Asaro, Catherine

Greenwich Nasty Time • novelette by Carl Frederick
Amor Vincit Omnia—DeLancy, Craig

Short story
The Fourth Thing • shortstory by Stephen L. Burns
Invasion of the Pattern Snatchers • shortstory by David W. Goldman

And in Novel category:
Tracking By David Palmer, of course.

Analog Science Fiction and Fact March 2008

Pretty decent issue, Asaro’s romantic fantasy was surprisingly good, even if I am fairly far away from intended demographic. I haven’t read the serial by Haldeman yet.

The Spacetime Pool • novella by Catherine Asaro
A young female mathematician is snatched to an alternative reality due to prophecy, which states that she will marry one of two competing brothers, and another brother will die. A lot of action ensues - many kinds of action. Romantic fantasy thinly disguised as science fiction. Surprising enjoyable anyway, well written. Ending is partly open, so there might be more. I am even looking forward to continuation of this story. ****+
Not Even the Past • novelette by Robert R. Chase
Locked room murder mystery on an orbital elevator. Pretty nice science fiction detective story. Writing is also nice, nothing unforgettable. ***½
The Bookseller of Bastet • shortstory by John G. Hemry
Crystal Night type of uprising against booksellers (and others) on alien planet. Not really sf, except for location. Short, well told mood piece. ***½
Knot Your Grandfather's Knot • shortstory by Howard V. Hendrix
Time travel story, time travel forming a kind of moebius strip, man travels to past and becomes his own grandfather (not literally, as surrogate grandfather). Pretty ok, nothing special or too surprising. ***½
Helen's Last Will • shortstory by James C. Glass
After old woman has died, her sister becomes suspicious about circumstances of her death, as her body has been used for medical experiments, her head has been deep frozen, and what is worst, she has changed her will, and beneficiary is her son, nor even a single million goes for her sister - how inconsiderate, so it is best to sue, and fast. But is there a way ask the opinion of the passed one? Pretty nice story, very irritating and greedy sister character. ***½

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Analog Science Fiction and Fact - January - February 2008

A fairly good issue. A few pretty good stories, only a couple which aren’t up to the standards. Haven’t started on the serial by Joe Haldeman yet.

The Man in the Mirror • novelette by Geoffrey A. Landis
A “problem solving” story. The point of the story is how to escape from a perfect, practically frictionless parabolic “hole” in a asteroid. Not much characterization or any other kind of literary nonsense - but that is not needed, as that isn’t the point of this type of storytelling. Pretty good as such, interesting and entertaining. ****
A New Generation • shortstory by Jerry Oltion
A life form which uses genetic memory gives human explorers more than they were bargaining for. A very nice story, interesting. Well written, interesting how the conception of the alien changes during the story - at the beginning it feels like just a mindless animal and in the end it seems to be practically super intelligent. ****
Low Life • shortstory by Mia Molvray
A plumber has some trouble when trying to eradicate all of the e coli bacteria from the human waste on a research station. Well and interestingly told, but not too surprising ending - it was something I was expecting from about the second page. Pretty unlikely explanation why the alien bacteria was registering as a coliform bacteria - DNA resemblance by change alone is practically impossible. ****-
Tangible Light • novelette by J. Timothy Bagwell
A rich man leaves as inheritance for his son a journey to the alien university/archive where records of everything are kept - but not anything else. He goes there a bit baffled and finds that literally everything is tracked. It also seems that aliens and humans have common ancestry, and have similar genome. And there have been so many generations of so many aliens, that all genetic codes have existed at some time, usually several times, and there are several “identical twins“ for everyone, who have lived earlier in different circumstances. While studying in the university he also finds out that humanity’s future doesn’t seem to be too good. And soon after that the story ends pretty strangely, without any real closure. Pretty fragmented story, there are many ideas, but they don’t form any complete story as the many different story details don‘t seem to have anything to do with each other even in the end. Also, the premise that genetic code might repeat itself dozens of times is totally ridiculous, it just shows that the writer doesn’t have a slightest grasp of genetics. **½
The Natural World • novelette by Don D'Ammassa
A 19th century lady and her sister ( with irritating young man tagging on) find a nest of very strange beetles. One of them bites the man, who starts to act strangely during the next few months. Pretty nice, “Jane Austen” style SF-story, a bit on the short side, there would have been material for more. ****-
The Engulfed Cathedral • shortstory by Carl Frederick
A couple takes part on ecumenical service in a submerged church. Genetic modification is pretty commonplace, there are intelligent dolphins, and a significant portion of humans are gene modified in one way or another. During the service a fanatic tries to explode a bomb. A lot of discussion, pretty strange ideas, not very logical story, and it is not too well written - not at least to my taste. A lot of explaining of different things is going on. In the end the main character is revealed to be a human chauvinist Christian who believes to souls, and who thinks that the intelligent dolphins aren’t really worth much, as they don’t have souls, as only humans can have souls. As the end “twist” he is ready to reconsider - which is a pretty strange revelation, as in the beginning of the story he seems to be something else than a religious nut, so that even the fact that he seriously believes to souls is a surprise in itself. **
A Deadly Intent • shortstory by Richard A. Lovett and Mark Niemann-Ross
A naked, frozen woman who’s skin is warm to touch is found in front of her tent on an Antarctic expedition, which is testing new, nanotechnology based equipment for low temperatures. Pretty interesting story. ****
The Purloined Labradoodle • novelette by Barry B. Longyear
Continues a series. I haven’t read any of the previous installments, and it is kind of hard to get into story. There are hardly any explanations of what the background is. Apparently it is possible and common to load consciousnesses to human or animal android bodies. A pair of detectives are playing Sherlock Holmes and Watson. They are solving a jewel theft with A LOT OF idle chatter about old movies, theatrical plays and so on. Story movies a bit slowly, and there doesn’t seem to be much of real content. I didn’t like too much - probably the main reason being that the background wasn’t familiar.. **½
Conversations With My Knees • novelette by Ron Goulart
When a elderly man is recovering from a knee operation, his knees start to talk with him. It turns out that the knees are new experimental model with AI, meant for military/espionage use. Light, fast moving (even a bit too fast moving) entertaining story. Not very plausible - but it is not meant to be. ****-
How the Bald Apes Saved Mass Crossing • shortstory by Will McCarthy
The long history of Salamander People of Antares IV, their two all knowing computers and Bald Ape People from Sol III. Light, entertaining story, maybe too much in Douglas Adams - style. ***½

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Galaxy June 1954

Pretty nice issue, fairly good stories, especially that written by Sheckley. No real stinkers.

Gladiator at Law (Part 1 of 3) • serial by Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth
First part of a serial. I’ll write a complete review this when I have read all of the parts. Takes a while to start, in beginning changing viewpoints made it hard to grasp what character was what (I REALLY suck when I try to remember names of story characters - or real people)
Something for Nothing • shortstory by Robert Sheckley
A classic. A lazy man finds a machine which seems to make all whishes come true. It is pity that someone tries to get it away from him, so it’s best to make a lot of wishes very soon fast. But almost nothing comes without a price… ****½
High Man • shortstory by Jay Clarke
Rich British woman’s fiancée is journeying in America, and doesn’t answer her letters. When he finally answers he tells a preposterous tall tale of an English professor with an antigravity belt. Surely that is just a desperate way to get more money, especially as the said professor is in London. Ok, not too bad story, writing so and so, but main idea isn’t too bad, ending nice. ***½
Down Among the Dead Men • novelette by William Tenn
There has been a been war for several years or decades against alien bugs. The space fleet of earth needs a lot of new recruits, and there just doesn’t seem to enough men, even when all the women try to be pregnant all the time. But there is a new technology which is able to revitalize the flesh of the dead soldiers. The first few attempts, with very zombie-like appearance, were not exactly a success, but new models are starting to be look very nice…Good story, especially the beginning and middle. Those parts, especially the middle were humorous and good storytelling. Pity that the ending went to the direction of melodrama and pathos - and far too far in there. ****-
See? • shortstory by Edward G. Robles, Jr.
With a retrogressing gun you can wipe person’s memories and personality to the level of three to four year old. And they are very commonplace. The main protagonist is a man who has been retrogressed and tries to learn who he has been, and why someone has wiped away his memories. Retrogressing is also pretty common form of “suicide”, so he might even have done it himself. Pretty exiting, a bit overlong story, which happens in a strange, poorly rationalized world. Murder is very rare, and police takes it very seriously - but they couldn’t care less about retrogressed persons. I don’t think there would be much difference between murder or retrogressing in reality, at least from the point of view of an individual in question. ****-

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Analog November 1977

Pretty nice issue. Contains also a serial by Mack Reynolds (which I haven't read.)

Beachhead • novelette by Dean McLaughlin
The story happens in a colony world where only mountaintops and plateaus around them are habitable. The lower altitudes have hot climate with atmosphere high in carbon dioxide. The most of the colony lives in a dome city, but a single group has established a farming colony on the plateau in spite of the wishes of the majority of the colony. They seem to be almost succeeding, when very powerful storm starts approaching. Very Analog-style storytelling on surviving in a difficult situation. Writing is fine, the story is interesting, but a bit overlong. There some irritating details, like the insistence using made-up unit of time (“desi” and so on). Also, the author seems to thing that the survival in temperatures exceeding the body temperature is next to impossible for more than a few hours. Well, if that would be the case, there would be a lot of unpopulated territory around on the tropical areas of earth… Ending is more than a bit letdown, by far too convenient. Also, some of the characters did things stupid enough for nomination for the Darwin award. As a whole, nice story anyway. ****-
Mirror/rorriM Off the Wall • [Callahan] • shortstory by Spider Robinson
Nice Callahan story. A man from a mirror reality comes to Callahan’s and wants to have the worst alcohol imaginable for a drink. One of the better Callahan stories, enjoyable, contains something more than bad puns. ****
The Trees • shortstory by John Charles Baker
A ancient space ship is found from a former red wood forest. Very fragmentary story, told in short flashes of conversation. More like are starting point, or prologue, not much of a point or content. **+
Malpractice • shortstory by Orson Scott Card
The story is told by diary comments written by the protagonist, who discovers for his surprise that he got a heart transplant during a minor operation. He finds several other people who have suffered something similar. A bit strange story. I don't know who to protagonist is supposed to be? The comments are written in language which is something an 8 year old would write, but at same time he seems to be an adult, a cop or private eye or in some corresponding job. The ending is also something I didn't really get. **
Legal Rights for Germs? • shortstory by Joe Patrouch
Bacteria should have right to live also! And what about the plants the cruel humans eat by millions? Probability zero story in all but in name. **½
Home Computers Now! • essay by Martin Buchanan
Usually I haven't reviewed the fact articles, but this is a pretty interesting one. There are some very fine predictions (effect of data networks to shopping, entertainment and banking), but also some less good ones. Why anyone would want to use his computer as an alarm clock using spoken alarm sounds - or why would anyone use self-made programs for text processing and accounting?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Kjell Westö: Missä kuljimme kerran

As I read this is in Finnish, I'll write my thoughts about it in Finnish also. This is very fine book, winner of Finlandia-award (the most prestigious literature award in Finland) telling a story of people of different classes who live in Helsinki at about the first third of 20th century.

Ansaitusti Finlandia-palkinnon vuonna 2006 voittanut teos. Kirja kertoo Helsingistä ja sen monista asukkaista vuosisadan ensimmäisten vuosikymmenien kuluessa. Osa hahmoista on yläluokkaa, osa työläisväestöä, ja heidän kohtalonsa ajoittain koskettavat toisinaan ehkä vain hipaisten, tai aina ei ollenkaan. Varsinaista yhtäjaksoista koko kirjan käsittävää juonta teoksessa ei varsinaisesti klassisessa mielessä ole, ei sen enempää kuin oikeassakaan elämässä, kertoopahan vain ihmiskohtaloista maailman menon pyörteissä. Henkilöt ovat hyvin kuvattuja, ja heidän kohtalaistaan välittää. Ajoittain kerronta on aika katkelmallista, ja vuosienkin taukoja on välillä joidenkin henkilöiden kohdalla. Pääsääntöisesti tällä ei ollut juuri merkitystä, ainoa itseä kummastuttavana asian oli yksi tietty pariutuminen, jonka tausta etenkin naishenkilön kannalta kyllä melkoisesti ihmetytti, kyseessä on ehkä hiukan kirjallisuuden ja elokuvan kliseitä noudattanut avioliitto, joka jotenkin ei vaikuttanut aidolta kirjan kokonaisuutta ajatellen - etenkin sen tausta jäi kokonaan kuvaamatta. Yhtäkkiä vain jo kertaalleen eronneet ja varsin epäsuhtaiselta vaikuttaneet henkilöt olivat olleet jo jonkin aikaa avioliitossa.
Tärkein käännekohta kirjassa oli sisällissota, joka jätti lähtemättömät jäljet useimpiin henkilöhahmoihin, ja vaikutti vahvasti heidän persoonallisuuteensa. Kirja loppuu vuoteen ennen talvisotaa, ja loppulauseessa joidenkin hahmojen tarina viedään päätökseen hahmotelman luonteisesti, ja lähes 600 sivun paksuudesta huolimatta näihin kohtaloihin olisi kaivannut vähän täydennystä, ja yhden mielihahmoni tarina jäi kokonaan ilman päätöstään.

Kielellisesti kirja on omanlaisensa. Pilkkusääntöihin ei juuri huomioita kiinnitetä, ja lauseiden pituus - etenkin henkilöiden sisäisiä tuntemuksia ja tajunnanvirtaa kuvatessa - on erittäin pitkä, pisimmät virkkeet ovat pituudeltaan varmaan reilusti yli puolisen sivua. Tähän tottui melkoisen nopeasti, tosin joka kerta lukemista aloittaessa hetki aikaa sopeutumiseen kyllä kului. Sen verran kiinnostava kirja oli, että pitänee harkita Leijat Helsingin yllä -kirjan lukemista jossain vaiheessa.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Analog July 1977

Nation Without Walls • novelette by David Drake
Story about a policeman who examines a murder in a future, where everything is recorded, everywhere. The premise is interesting, especially as the world is going to that direction. However, the writing isn’t engaging. There was far too much description of the future world, not too much was happening. The characters are clichéd, and not interesting, and it was very hard to keep my interest in the story, as the plot itself isn‘t worth much. **
Prodigy • shortstory by Robert Czerwony
Military is using handwriting analysis to find reincarnated military leaders of the past. Pretty stupid and “a bit” unlikely premise, OK as a short story. ***
Caesar Clark • novelette by Stanley Schmidt
Benevolent aliens are moving earth away from the explosion of galactic core. That causes a lot problems due to earthquakes, tidal waves, food shortages and so on. The governing is done by benevolent near dictatorship. There are dissenting voices, off course, but are there any choice for actions which must be taken? Probably best story in the issue. I wonder if there is an earlier part in existence, this seems to start quite straight, from middle of action. The beginning and ending are nice, the middle part is a bit weaker and might have profited from a slight tightening. ***½
Pure Gold • shortstory by Lord St. Davids
Experimental sailing ship starts to collect gold directly from seawater. Story as such is okay, characters, especially the female one, and the romance subplot is a cliché of a high magnitude. ***

Spider Robinson: The Callahan Touch

A Callahan’s bar fix up novel. The original Callahan’s place was destroyed in a nuclear explosion, but the “I” character of the stories establishes a new bar for the same gang to hang on. For some reason this is a bar that tends to attract very strange visitors, including, but not limited to, time travelers and characters out of Irish folklore. This book is based for a most part on short stories published earlier, but some of the material has been substantially rewritten. And that was really, really, bad idea. The original stories were tight, nice, good entertaining stories, but in this book there are a lot of totally unnecessary padding. All action stops in the middle part for very long time, where absolutely nothing happens. There are ever literally two pages long list of names of people visiting Callahan’s and what instruments they are supposed to be playing. This has about same amount of entertainment value as reading a phone book. The glorification of alcoholism was also a bit disturbing, and it also was at its' worst in the middle part of the book. The book would have been better if the author had left the stories as there were, and wouldn’t have expanded them with unneeded fluff.