Saturday, December 18, 2010

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, January-February 2011

A large double issue with fairly average stories, not among the best.

At Cross Purposes • novelette by Juliette Wade
A team which is terraforming a new planet encounters aliens. Several humans are killed by mistake. The survivors are apparently taken as prisoners. What do the aliens want? A story which is very well written and the viewpoint of aliens is truly alien. The downside of the story is the extremely clichéd leader of the humans, who is an irritatingly stupid clueless idiot, who is a “company man” to the unrealistic end. ***+
The Unfinished Man • novelette by Dave Creek
Two men meet on a stormy planet. The one who has been living on a planet is already old, and another is apparently supposed to persuade him to leave the planet. The discuss things and there is a dangerous incident. And that is about it. I have read one or two stories involving at least one of the characters, but I haven't really any recollections of them. I am about 100% sure that I am not going remember this story after two weeks, either. **+
A Snitch in Time • shortstory by Donald Moffitt
Time travel used in criminal investigation. A retiring policeman wants to solve a crime which has bugged him for all his career. He manages, in a way. The story doesn't really work for me, there is nothing really surprising or interesting. **½
Some of Them Closer • shortstory by Marissa Lingen
A terraformer returns to earth from a job. She has spent a few years of subjective time, but several decades have passed on earth. She has some trouble adjusting. Writing is ok, but the is somewhat too short and practically nothing is told of the world she is lives. The end is very clichéd. Has there ever been a story which is based on a similar premise that doesn't end like this? ***-
Enimga • novelette by Sean McMullen
An expedition has traveled to a strange planet - one which seems to be completely covered by a city according to remote reconnaissance. The crew consists of human-animal chimeras who have carefully calculated amounts of wolf or rat to produce the best possible research team. They are connected to clone bodies on the earth, and when they die, their consciousness will "jump" to those. The solar system where the planet is has been cleared of everything at the radius of two light years, and the structures on the planet seem to be billions of years old. What is the purpose of that structure? Good and well written story. ****-
The First Conquest of Earth • shortstory by David W. Goldman
The earth is being invaded. But the invaders surrender as soon as there is any resistance. But the galactic law has some very detailed terms concerning the roles of invaded and conquered planets. And those are not so simple... Fairly good story, not the best in its class (amusing tales of an alien invasion). ***+
Stay • novelette by Stephen L. Burns
The earth has been invaded by dog-like aliens. They have exterminated all humans and they have uplifted the dogs. Dogs resemble humans, are able to speak. The human minds have been used as templates for dog minds, and they have retained some knowledge and memories of the dead humans. A part of former US is ruled by a ruthless dictator (a dog, naturally). He has made an interesting offer and a representative of the president arrives to meet him. A very far fetched story, maybe somewhat too farfetched. Writing was ok and the plot was interesting. ***½
Non-Native Species • shortstory by Janet Freeman
Aliens have created the ultimate biological weapon which is so powerful a predator that it has taken over their own home world. So how to find out the best way to destroy it? Spread it all over the galaxy, of course! One has been dropped on Australia, and an alien is tracking it to find out if there is something which will kill it. Writing was ok, premise slightly stupid, and the story felt a bit hurried. A slightly longer form might have been a good idea. ***½
The Frog Prince • novelette by Michael F. Flynn
A man with multiple personalities has been kidnapped and is being transported to another planet in a spaceship. The spaceship has been used for smuggling and the original owner of the ship is hiding in concealed areas. The hero must find out where his priorities are. I didn't really get the first story in the series. I believe I liked this somewhat more, but it really wasn't my cup of tea. ***-
The First Day of Eternity • novella by Domingo Santos
A generation ship has arrived to a habitable planet after spending several generations traveling from the earth. The planet has some ingenious life, and it turns out that the colonists will face some dangers. The main plot of the story is pretty good and logical. However, the writing isn't too good. There is a lot of exposition where things and events are just told interspaced with only a few short scenes where something is really shown. There are also some very stupid errors. It is mentioned that the generation ship is totally sterile and there are no bacteria at all. I really don't believe that humans would survive without bacterium flora in the bowel. And at least goats would never survive without their bowel bacteria, they are ruminating animals, after all. Also, how are they making cheese without any micro-organisms? And at the end of the story, when a ship is accelerating away from the plane they can see the planet shrinking. To see that the planet turns “to a dot” in manner of minutes would demand so high acceleration rates (and some sort of gravity control) that there would be no need for generation ships as it would take only a few years to cross interstellar distances. The writing wasn't impressive either, but that might partly be due to the translation. ***-

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Alexander McCall Smith: Siveysoppia kauniille tytöille / Morality for Beautiful Girls

I have enjoyed the earlier parts of this series. I wanted to read something light. This was something realy light, very short, book, very easy read. Fairly little happens. I don’t remember that the earlier parts contained SO much SO naive philosophying.

Mma Rawotswe-kirja. Aikaisemmat osat olen lukenut pari vuotta sitten, nyt ajattelin yhden osa tätä sarjaa lukea kevyenä välipalana. Sellaisena se oli ihan hauska, ja tosiaan kevyt. Nopea luettava, jo ihan sekin vuoksi, että on kovin lyhyt kirja – mahtaako täyttää edes romaanin määritelmää sanamäärällä arvioituna, vai onko paremminkin kyse pienoisromaanista (tai ”novella” kuten englanniksi sanotaan). Leppoisaa kerrontaa, jossa mma Rawotswe ratkoo ihmisten ongelmia, tosin kovin montaa tapausta kirjaan ei mahdu, lähinnä maatilalla tapahtuneiden myrkytyksien salaisuus ratkeaa. Hänen avustajan tosin samaan aikaan ratkoo kauneuskilpailun ehdokkaiden moraalisuutta, joka tosin on aika ärsyttävän mustavalkoista. Vaikuttaa siltä, että sarjan tason on selvästi laskemaan päin, ainakin tämän kirjan perusteella. Aika paljon tilaa, sivukaupalla, tässä kirjassa kuluu erittäin naiviin filosofointiin. ”Pitäisi ottaa muut ihmiset huomioon”. No shit, Sherlock. Myös Mma Rawotswen sulhasen, J.L.B. Matekonin masennus tulee aikalailla ”puun takaa”, eikä edellisissä kirjoissa ole mitään viitteitä asiasta. Toivottavasti sairaus ei sitten jatkossa parannu samanlaisella sormien napsautuksella kuin se alkoi.

285 s.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold

I have had this book for a long time on my shelf. I haven't started it as I haven't been able to decide in which order to read this series. The writing order and the chronological order aren't the same. And I have a few books of the series, but not all of them, so it has been hard to know what would be a good starting point. However, have read a few of the Miles Vorkosigan stories from the Analog years ago, I thought that it doesn't really matter what the “correct” order would be - I can start for example from this book.

345 pp.

A Hugo award winning novel.
Miles Vorkosigan is a son of Aral Vorgosian, one of the most important men on Barrayar. Barrayar is a somewhat isolated planet, which has been gaining power and influence recently. Due to toxic attack against his mother, his bone development is stunted, and he is very short. In spite of that, he has finished his military training at the beginning of this book.

He gets his first post to a faraway island as a weatherman. The life there is extremely boring and nothing much happens. He just is almost killed by a prank which goes wrong, he finds a dead body from a water drain and he takes part on a near mutiny against tyrannical and obviously fairly lunatic commander of the post. The last causes some problems, as mutiny is something that can not be completely overlooked, even when committed for a good purpose, especially by someone in such a high position. To be out of sight for a while, he is employed for intelligence purposes, but there are a few complications, naturally.

This was a very entertaining book, at places laugh out funny. Well written, and an easy and fast read. On the other hand, there was nothing really “special” or unusual about it which would have made it a really A Hugo worth novel. But it makes me look forward to reading other parts of the series.

345 pp.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? by Neil Gaiman

I have had this comic book as a PDF-file since spring, as I got it as a part of Hugo-award voter's package. I didn't read it before voting as I really don't like to read things from a computer screen. Last week I bought an IPad, and decided to test how it works for reading comic books. It turns out that it works really beautifully in this purpose. The screen is clear, the colors are beautiful and it was very easy and comfortable to use.
I haven't read too many Batman comics, only a few of the most famous ones (The Dark Knight Returns, The Killing Joke). I have read few of "normal" stories. This graphic novel was a really pleasant surprise. The Batman has died and there is a wake for him. His friends and enemies tell stories about him and about how he died. The stories are all different and contradictory. The story is excellent, moving and has some real surprises, is very creative, the drawings are excellent. If I had read this before voting, this well might have been my first choice.; even though I haven't read any of the other stories yet. This album had a few other unusual Batman stories in addition to the name story – but they really suffered in comparison. The first, black and white one, where Batman and Joker are "actors" acting in a comic strip was ok, others (I am not even sure if there were one of two others) weren't really impressing at all.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

1001 MAD Pages You Must Read Before You Die (Crammed Into 864 Actual Pages)

A collection of comics from the Mad magazine spanning last fifty years. This collection supposedly represents ”the best” of Mad, but actually very varied bunch of strips. The emphasis is far too much on the movie parodies. I have never thought that they represent the best content of the magazine, and especially the parodies of thirty-year-old movies are mainly uninteresting. One interesting fact is that the quality of drawing seems to go to the worse direction, especially in the latest strips; some of them are really amateurish in execution. The same effect can be seen in the quality of writing, only somewhat less so. Probably not a book I am going to keep. If I suddenly got an urge to read some Mad-magazine style of humor, I can dig up my old magazines from the attic.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Galaxy Science Fiction October 1952

Uneven issue. The lead novella is excellent, other stories less so.

Baby Is Three • novella by Theodore Sturgeon
An adolescent boy comes to psychiatrist's office. He wants to remember what he has done and why. The main story is told in flashbacks. He turns out to belong to a very special group of very special children. They are a “gestalt” who is still growing up. Extremely good and well written story, which is basis for one of the best science fiction novels of all time, More Than Human. ****½
Zen • shortstory by Jerome Bixby
A research team finds a living alien from an asteroid. The asteroid is a remnant of the fifth plane which exploded thousands of years ago. The race is incredibly tough and is able to survive in the vacuum indefinitely. One surviving specimen - male - had been found earlier, and that one is traveling with the expedition. The newly discovered alien is a female. A pretty predictable outcome happens. ***-
Wait for Weight • shortstory by Jack McKenty
A research project is trying to find a perfect rocket fuel. There is a four dimensional answer. Pretty boring story, nothing really special in it. **+
Halo • novelette by Hal Clement
There are some sort of being living between the stars, who cultivate organic molecules on planet for food. A youngster has been responsible for taking care of solar systems, and has failed spectacularly: he managed to explode the fifth planet, and by doing that has created an obstacle that can not be passed. An average story that suffers from two dimensional thinking: if there is an asteroid belt in the plane of ecliptic, it should be extremely easy to approach from “up” or “down” direction. ***-
Tree, Spare That Woodman • shortstory by Dave Dryfoos
Extremely strange story. There are alien mind reading trees invading cabins on an alien planet. Not too well written and pretty confusing story. **+
Game for Blondes • shortstory by John D. MacDonald
An alcoholic has killed his wife by drunk driving. He continues to drink, but has some very strange delirious visions. Another confusing story with some time travel elements. **+
A Little Oil . . . • novelette by Eric Frank Russell 
The third extrasolar expedition is returning. The two earlier ones have disappeared without a trace. The third one has had some trouble, also. They have lost several crew members, and hardly have enough to run the ship on the way home. There are severe tensions among the crew when they are approaching the point they should be able to see the sun. Are they going to the right direction? And some of the crew are behaving pretty strangely...Ok story, nothing special, the end twist was fairly lame. (one crew member was a famous clown to keep the morale up). **½

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bring the Jubilee by Ward Moore

One of the best known alternate reality books of all time. The south has won the civil war, the former USA consists of northern states, and is poorly developed country which is exploited by the rich Confederacy and the European empires. The technical development has gone different route – there are no internal combustion engines (that was unlogical and poorly explainable – internat combustion engine was a mainly European invention, and the major invention leading to it were made only a few years after the civil war ended, so it is unlikely that any “ripple effects” of the different outcome of the war would have had any effect), there is no electric illumination and no heavier than air aircrafts. The most state of art technologies are rare steam powered cars owned by the very rich and dirigibles. Racism is norm, especially in northern states. Blacks are “encouraged” to move away, most of the Jews and Orientals have been killed in ethnic cleanings, and some of the survivors have moved to independent Indian territories.

A poor young man from countryside wants to study at university. Unfortunately, he won't be accepted to any, and anyway, the norther universities aren't worth much, there is no funding and even less interest. However, he is invited to a private “school” where intelligent people can study what they want. As the school is self sustained, the duties of most scholars include farm work. He becomes an expert in the history of civil war. At the same time, a bright but unstable female scientist has developed a time machine. The historian has some doubts about a few details of the battle where the victory for the southern states was determined, and he decides to go back in time to see how the battle really was fought. Accidentally he changes the outcome of the battle and creates our reality.

The book is written in a nice old fashionable writing style which is a pleasure to read. The writing style reminded me more than a little Julian Comstock, this year's Hugo award finalist. The book has many ideas, but too few of them were examined in detail, as the main protagonist spent most of the book first working on a bookshop, and later he was living secluded life on a isolated villa/school, and the outside world wasn't really seen at all. In spite of that the book was very fascinating and well worth of reading.

189 pp

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Leena Lehtolainen: Henkivartija

An extremely unbelievable book which isn't too well written. The author is one of the leading mystery writers of Finland, and her former books have been much, much better. A extremely stupid female bodyguard has some problems with Russian criminals, makes love with a handsome double or triple agent, and has some very hard to believe encounters with different people.

Tämä arvostelu tulee sisältämään runsaasti spoilereita. Jos et ole lukenut tätä kirjaa, suositellen että et lue arvosteluani. Tai tarkemmin ajatellen, ehkä kannattaa kuitenkin lukea tämä arvostelu mieluummin kuin kirja.

Yleensä olen pitänyt Leena Lehtolaisen kirjoista, ja olen lukenut varmaan ne kaikki. Ihan suurilla odotuksilla tätäkin sitten aloitin. Pettymys oli aika paha.

Kirja kertoo naispuolisesta henkivartijasta, Hilja Ilveskerosta, joka lapsellisen pikaistumisen vuoksi eroaa tehtävistään. Myöhemmin samana iltana kun hän yrittää sopua työnantajansa kanssa, hän onnistuu tulla huumatuksi. Ja liikenainen jonka vartijana hän toimi on kuollut, ammuttu. Ovatko hänen enemmän tai vähemmän hämäräperäiset liiketuttavansa syyllisiä tähän tekoon? Vai onko Hilja itse tappanut huumattuna entisen työnantajansa?

En ole ikinä lukenut yhtään Harlekiini-sarjan kirjaa. Tämä kirja on osapuilleen sellainen, jonkalaisia olen ajatellut Harlekiinit-romaanien olevan. Ei erityisen hyvin, varsin yksinkertaisella kielellä kirjoitettu, epäuskottava ja naurettava juoni, runsaasti romantiikkaa ja seksiä, joka sekin on enemmän tai vähemmän epäuskottavaa, ja onnellinen loppu, jossa sankaritar saa urhean alfa-uroksensa. Hilja on muka käynyt kovatasoisen henkivartijakoulun New Yorkissa. Mitään hän ei siellä näytä oppineen, muuta kuin ajoittain liiallisuuksiin menevän paranoidisuuden. Paitsi tietysti silloin, kun pitäisi olla vähän paranoidinen. Hän tekee koko ajan aivan tolkuttoman älyttömiä virheitä ja ratkaisuja. Erotaanpas kesken työtehtävää äkkipikaisesti viimekädessä älyttömän pienen syyn takia. Poistetaanpas viesti, joka voisi olla todistamassa ulkopuolisen murhaajan olemassa olosta. Rakastutaanpas noin vain ensisilmäyksellä mieheen, joka on todennäköisesti parhaimmillaan pahiksien vakooja, ja pahimmillaan tullut likvidoimaan Hiljan itsensä turhana todistajana ja silminnäkijänä.

Juonenkäänteet kirjassa ovat myös täydellisen naurettavia, ja vain pahenevat loppua kohden. Jotenkin Suomenlahden kaasuputki (joka vie kaasua Saksaan) pahentaa Suomen energiariippuvuutta Venäjästä. Ja pahis oligarkki, joka vastustaa putken rakentamista, saadakseen öljynsä varmemmin kaupaksi aikoo sabotoida hanketta radioaktiivista isotooppia mereen levittämällä. Logiikkaa tässä kyllä jää pahasti auki, mitäs haittaa sen isotoopin levittämisellä muka kaasuputken laskemiseen olisi? Uhkailukin tyyliin: ”Ostatte minulta öljyä tai tuhoan meren” ei ehkä ihan uskottavalta vaikuta. Enkä kyllä ole kuullut, että öljyn kaupaksi saamisessa ylivoimaisia vaikeuksia olisi ollut muutenkaan.
Hyvin erikoisia sattumia tapahtuu koko ajan parhaaseen deus-ex-machina tyyliin. Juuri kun Hilja on menossa vapauttamaan siepattua kansanedustajaa, niin sieppareiden huvilalle on sattumalta tilattu ilotyttö, joka sattumalta ajaa kolarin matkalla, ja sitten sattumalta Hiljaa luullaan kyseiseksi ilotytöksi, ja sattumalta ilotytön ”työasuun” kuuluu mm. lasso, jolla on helppo pääpahis sitoa, ja sattumalta huvilallle on jäänyt jonkin transvestin jäljiltä seksikkäät kengät, jotka ovat niin isot, että Hilja ase mahtuu niihin.
Muitakin virheitä kirjaan mahtuu, poistaapa Hilja yhdessä vaiheessa yksittäisiä valokuvia CD-ROM levyiltä. Mitähän se Read-Only-Memory mahtoikaan tarkoittaa?

Tekstikin on jotenkin paljon yksikertaisempaa, ja vähemmän nautittavaa kuin aikaisemmissa Leena Lehtolaisen kirjoissa. Mikä idea tässä romaanissa oikein oli? Joissain ammattiarvioissa taidettiin miettiä sitä onko kirja parodia. En tiedä tekeekö se, että hyvä kirjailija kirjoittaa huonon kirjan, kirjasta parodian.

355 s.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Analog Science Fiction and Fact June 2007

A fairly nice issue.

 The Sands of Titan • [Floyd and Brittney] • novella by Richard A. Lovett
A man and his AI crash-land on Titan. They encounter several obstacles, but manage to stay alive and solve all problems they are facing. At the same time, the AI is growing from a teenager to more adult behavior patterns. A good, entertaining and well written story. ****
Father Hagerman's Dog • shortstory by Scott William Carter
A young man is collecting money for his collage education by selling robot dogs. He is trying to make a sale for his former neighbor; a rich but eccentric old man. He doesn't seem to have too much luck first. Short, but fairly funny. Writing was ok, but there is a pretty strange electric car. Its' motor idles. ***½
On the Bubble • novelette by Rajnar Vajra
A retired man who lives on a nursing home takes part to his grandchild's trip to amusement park using virtual reality/remote sensing equipments of a sort. His daughter in law, the mother of his grandchild, is a police officer. There seems to be something suspicious going on, and it turns out that a band of criminals is planning an attack at that day. Another pretty good story. ***½
 A Zoo in the Jungle • shortstory by Carl Frederick
A moon explorer finds an alien device. Naturally he and his friend must try it out: of course you always start to push buttons on a totally unknown device. A totally stupid premise and the description of the effects of different buttons takes FAR too much space. **½

Friday, November 19, 2010

Hannu Luntiala: Petri Vallin toinen elämä

A mailman who is making a delivery finds a dead man. He decides to impersonate the late sexual therapeutic. A book which is written from several viewpoints. Everyone has secrets and hidden agendas. And everyone is trying to double-cross other characters. A well written book, a good read with a few surprises.

Postinkantaja toimittaa kirjettä joka vaatii vastaanottajan kuittauksen. Kukaan ei vastaa ovikelloon, mutta valot ovat päällä. Postinkantaja uskaltautuu sisään avatusta ovesta, ja löytää vastaanottajan menehtyneenä tietokoneensa edestä. Postimies muistuttaa sattumalta ruumiinrakenteeltaan hyvin paljon menehtynyttä miestä, ja hänellä on ollut yksityiselämässään vaikeuksia., joten hän saa ajatuksen: hän ”valtaa” kuolleen miehen elämän. Sopivasti mies on elänyt suhteellisen eristynyttä elämää, eikä pääsy hänen puhelimensa tietoihin, pankkiyhteyksiin ja sähköposteihin tuota ylipääsemättömiä vaikeuksia. Kuolleen miehen ammatin omaksuminen kestää vain hieman pidempään – seksuaaliterapeutti on pitänyt asiakkaistaan tarkkaa kirjanpitoa, ja siihen ja terapiasessioiden nauhoituksiin tutustuminen antaa hyvän pohjan työn jatkamiselle ja vähän muutakin kiihotusta.
Tästä kirja lähtee etenemään. Kertojaääniä on useampi, yhteistä kaikille on se, että totuudessa kukaan ei pysy, ja aivan kaikilla kirjan henkilöillä on jotain salattavaa, eikä yleensä ihan pientä salattavaa olekaan.
Usean kertojan käyttöä voi pitää hajanaisuutena, mutta itse yleensä pidän tämän tyyppisistä kerrontaratkaisuista, ja mielestäni se toimi hyvin. Tosin sivujuoni lentokentällä tapahtuneesta eko-intoilijoiden sabotoimasta taideteoksesta vaikutti aika irralliselta. Joka tapauksessa kyseessä on varsin mielenkiintoinen ja hyvin kirjoitettu kirja, jota voi suositella.

252 s.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Analog Science Fiction and Fact April 2000

A clearly below average issue.

Obsidian Harvest • novella by Rick Cook and Ernest Hogan
The story happens in an alternative world where the Indian empires in central and southern America were never conquered. There are also giant lizards, some of them intelligent and there is religious reverence towards them. There is a kidnapping and a killing of one lizard and both cases are being investigated. Little back-story was given, and it was fairly hard to get into the story. Writing was pretty good, but it really felt like a part of series. Maybe the story would have worked better with out one difference from the ”real” world. ***-
The Comeback • shortstory by James Van Pelt
A baseball story. Extremely boring. The story is full of baseball trivia and depends on some details of the game. Couldn't care less. *½
Pilgrimage to Overworld • shortstory by Pete D. Manison
Some people have apparently retired to live beneath the earth surface, another group has moved to the starts. Both have changed during eons, and have been unknown to each other. By a change there is a meeting. By far too short a story to handle so large a concept. The story tries to be a melancholic tale, but doesn't really deliver. **
A Matter of Pride • shortstory by Ron Collins
A really good AI ( or a really well designed computer virus) teams with a computer programmer. A short fairly amusing story. Not great, somewhat too easy solution. ***+
Maiden Flight • novelette by Michael F. Flynn
A new space cadet takes part to her first space flight. Naturally there are complications during the flight, which are naturally solved by the new cadet. There was a far too detailed and boring description of pre-flight checks and other boring details. Many people have very strange chauvinistic attitudes (I had some trouble understanding the motivations of some some people in an earlier part of this series, now I didn't get some of the attitudes), writing was ok, but some tightening might have been good. ***
The Virtual Congressional Caucus • novelette by Shane Tourtellotte
A congressional representative who uses remote representation (and is not working in Washington) tries to fight against a proposition which would give people direct voting rights, without representatives. Pretty boring story with a lot of political scheming and wrangling of the constitutional details. ***-

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Farnhams Freehold by Robert A Heinlein

A book by Heinlein I had never even heard before I got it from the bookmooch. No wonder this book is fairly unknown.
A fairly dysfunctional family has gathered for dinner. The father has built a state of the art bomb shelter, as they live close to an army base. The evening is disturbed when the Soviets start a nuclear strike. The family, a friend of the family's daughter, and a black servant/handyman working for the family all retire to the bomb shelter. They survive the attack which involves an almost bull's eye hit and emerge from the shelter. To their surprise all marks of civilization have disappeared, there is no radioactivity, no ruins or devastation. The surroundings are green and there is plenty of game around. They assume that the nuclear explosion has sent them to an alternate universe or something like that. They settle down, but soon they discover that they are not the only humans around. The black people rule and whites are mostly fairly well-treated slaves who have been made docile by selective breeding, upbringing, and castration. There are some slight racist undercurrents in the book :-) (but fewer than it might seem from the short description). As with most things, Heinlein has written this is a very readable book. If it is an enjoyable one, is a different matter. The characterization is pretty bad and one-dimensional. None of the characters is likable, some are extremely irritating. Hugh's son is a sissy “mama's boy” to an unbelievable degree. His daughter is “papa's girl” up to hint that she is willing to have incestuous relations with her father. The servant is “Uncle Tom” who later switches sides while still behaving in a totally uncritical way. A good thing was the plot which was very unpredictable, especially as I didn't know anything about the book beforehand.

318 pp.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Alastair Reynolds: Ilmestysten avaruus / Revelation Space

The first book I have read by this author. It was long, but fairly easy read. The writing wasn't the best ever (however, I can't be sure if the problem was in translation or in the original text), and in the beginning there were places where the plot was hard to follow. The first chapter was extremely good, though. It seems that it had been polished with great care and the later parts weren't rewritten so many times. The characterization was another problem: there were no really sympathetic characters in the book. Overall, a fairly good book, but it didn't make it necessary to read the other parts.

Arvostetun ja hyvämaineisen kirjailijan ensimmäinen teos. Aikaisemmin en ole tutustunut Reynoldsin tuotantoon. Tämäkin teos on ollut hyllyssä jo pitkään, mutta paksuuden ja osittain ennakkoluulojen vuoksi (pelkäsin tämän olevan hiukan liikaa ”Tähtivaeltaja-scifiä”) aloittaminen on venähtänyt melkoisen pitkään.
Kirjan alkupuoli on varsin sekava, tosin ensimmäinen luku on erittäin koukuttava ja sujuva, mutta sen jälkeen kirjassa oli pitkä jakso, jossa seurataan kolmea eri tapahtumapaikkaa, joilla ei ole mitään ilmeistä tekemistä keskenään samaan aikaan. Sitten vähitellen asiat selkeytyvät, ja juoni alkaa taas kunnolla vetämään ja asiat selkenevät. Kirja tapahtuu kaukaisessa tulevaisuudessa, jossa ihminen on levittäytynyt laajalle avaruuteen jo kauan sitten. Muita sivilisaatioita ei löytynyt, vain vanhoja raunioita. Uusimmatkin tunnetut rauniot, amaranttien planeetta, on satojatuhansia vuosia sitten tuhoutunut jonkin tuntemattoman katastrofin seurauksena. Dan Sylveste, jota ehkä eniten voi pitää kirjan päähenkilönä on amaranttien asiantuntija, ja on tutkinut raunioita. Sieltä hän on löytänyt vihjeitä siitä, että amarantit olivat kulttuurinsa loppuvaiheessa paljon pidemmälle kehittyneitä kuin aikaisemmin uskottiin. Samaan aikaan lähestyy suunnattoman suuri ja voimakas avaruusalus, Äärettömyyden Kaipuu, jonka miehistö toivoo Sylvesten voivan parantaa aluksen kapteeni, joka on sairastunut kummalliseen sairauteen. Kolmas juonilinja kertoo Ana Khourista, palkkamurhaajasta joka saa tehtäväkseen tappaa Sylveste hinnalla millä hyvänsä.

Kovin sujuvasti ja hyvin kirjoitettu kirja ei tunnu olevan. Vaikea sanoa kuinka suuri osa jonkinlaisesta kielellisestä jähmeydestä johtuu käännöksestä, kuinka suuri osa alkutekstistä. Hiukan tulee vaikutelmaksi alkutekstin puutteet, sillä jotenkin tuntuu siltä, että ensimmäisen luvun teksti on hiotumpaa ja sujuvampaa kuin pääosassa loppukirjaa, esikoisteoksessa siihen ja sen hiomiseen on varmasti käytetty runsaasti aikaa. Henkilöhahmot eivät tunnu täysin eläviltä, eikä kukaan nouse kunnolla päärooliin. Kukaan päähenkilöistä ei herätä juuri lainkaan sympatia, eikä tarjoa samaistumiselle kohdetta. Tarinankerronta on kohtuullisen löysää, minkä voi päätellä jo kirjan yli 700 sivun pituudesta. Pieni – tai vähän suurempikin – tiivistys ja hiominen olisi tehnyt hyvää. Ihan luettava kirja oli kaikista puutteistaan huolimatta, eikä mitään kovin suuria houkutusta kesken jättämiseen päässyt muodostumaan. Toisaalta kirjaa lukiessa ei kehittynyt mitään ehdotonta pakkoa jatko-osien lukemiseenkaan.

702 s.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Analog Science Fiction and Fact August 1974

A pretty good issue.

Enter a Pilgrim • [Shane Evert] • shortstory by Gordon R. Dickson
Thew earth has been invaded by ruthless aliens, who treat humans as cattle. A messenger who works for the overlords is torn when he contemplates action against the rulers. Very good story, apparently the first of a series. ****
The Ninth Circle • novelette by Robert B. Marcus, Jr.
An agent has been sent back in time. An opposing country has captured an important scientist (who has invented the time machine), and for some extremely strange reason has sent him back in time to stone age while reprogramming his mind so that he behaves like a real “caveman”. How to find out which member of the tribe is the scientist? Writing is fairly nice, but otherwise a pretty stupid story.
And Keep Us from Our Castles • novelette by Cynthia Bunn
Criminals (and dissidents) are punished by banishing them to wild empty areas between cities. Everyone lives in the cities, and only the banished and a few strays live on countryside. (I wonder from where the food comes?). The catch is that if the fugitive stays put for a certain time a ceiling appear on top him. In a short while walls and the floor appear, and ultimately the victim suffocates. A man is sentenced because he killed the man who murdered his wife. (or actually he is being punished from the murder of his wife, pretty much automatically, as husband is the most likely perpetrator anyway, so it isn't worth of trouble to investigate such things too much...). He meets a female scientist who is studying what kind of effects that kind of punishment has. A very well written story, but there are some problems with logic. Why so contrived method of capital punishment? ****-
Paleontology: An Experimental Science • shortstory by Robert R. Olsen
Series of scientific papers involving dinosaurs and how they are brought back from extinction. A fairly average story. **+

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Galaxy Science Fiction May 1952

A below average issue where most stories are well past their time.

Category Phoenix • novella by Lyle G. Boyd and William C. Boyd
US ( or the whole earth?) is ruled by a dictator. All occupations are very strictly defined and it is illegal to study anything which isn't clearly useful. For some reason the dictator seems to have time to meddle with affairs of single people and sometimes grants "free choices" and the recipients can use them do something of their own choosing. A professor has invented a way to stop aging process. ( the method and theory are surprising valid: the author almost predicts telomers their function in the aging process, and a method of genetic modification with a viral vector). Writing is average. Some details are a bit funny: 25 years old woman is young, beautiful and very sexy. Her twin sister who is 35 (without the treatment) is an old and ugly hag, really past her prime. ***
Lost Memory • shortstory by Peter Phillips (1920-)
Robots find an unknown type of robot which apparently has fallen down from the sky. It seems to be hurt, and doesn't first answer to any hails. It has a very curios design, and finding the central processing unit isn't easy. And when it starts to communicate, all it transmits seems to be gibberish, and it is trying to forbid the opening its carapace. Fairly average mildly amusing story, the writing was somewhat below average. ***+
Lover When You're Near Me • novelette by Richard Matheson
A man is having a work shift on an alien planet. He is supposed to supervise a trading station. His shift is only for six months - usually the work shifts are much longer. He has a live-in alien housekeeper, and at first everything seems to work fine. But the housekeeper can read minds and might have some plans of her own. Writing was average, the attitudes old-fashionable - the worst imaginable thing for a man would be to be controlled by a female. And the solution for the troubles what all the the supervisors have had would be totally obvious - if the alien housemaids always cause so much trouble, why they must have one? ***-
Wheels Within • shortstory by Charles V. De Vet
A contractor starts to have severe headaches and hallucinations. They start to involve the psychiatrist who is treating him and a mystic who is supposed to be able to heal him. There are a few not too surprising and fairly stupid twists and turnabouts. Writing is below average. **-
Freudian Slip • shortstory by Franklin Abel
A psychiatrist starts to suspect he has gone mad, as the earth becomes transparent. Soon he finds himself in a strange place psychoanalyzing a being, who is supposed to to remember earth, and who is starting to have memory lapses. Pretty strange story where neither the writing or the plot didn't impress me. Strange end-twist. Why some a supernatural near-god would have that kind of neurosis? **-
Garden in the Void • novelette by Poul Anderson
A young couple is prospecting asteroids, when they run to one which seems to have splotches of vegetation. They also find a stranded space ship, and finally a sole survivor who has gone a bit savage. Pretty old fashionable story with fairly sub average writing. And it funny when they dig limestone from an asteroid without batting an eyelid. **+

Friday, October 29, 2010

Analog Science Fiction and Fact May 2007

A very good issue with some excellent stories.
Damned If You Do ... • novella by Stephen L. Gillett, Ph.D.
A ski trip to an off-point mountain hill leads to some strange happenings. The skier seems to have lost some time and some memories, and there is a lump of gold in his pocket. And soon he is chased by men in dark suits. Pretty good, nicely written story. Some action sequences which were somewhat too long and could have been slightly cut in length. The beginning of the story was clearly stronger and better written than the last third.
Bambi Steaks • novelette by Richard A. Lovett
In a divided US where states are "red" or "blue", young people exchange their minds to find out how the other half lives. A yuppie bartender gets to experience the life of a construction worker. Very good and entertaining story.
The Astronaut • shortstory by Brian Plante
A teenage boy, who has always been interested in space, helps a beautiful astronaut's wife in lawn mowing and other chores while her husband is on mission. Very well written very enjoyable and moving story.
A Higher Level of Misunderstanding • shortstory by Carl Frederick
Diplomatic mission has some problems with machine translation and social norms. Light and enjoyable story.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Analog Science Fiction and Fact December 2010

Some good, some not so good stories.

The Man From Downstream • novella by Shane Tourtellotte
A strange man appears on a farm near Rome. He seems to be loaded up with silver and he is soon making all sorts of new, strange inventions, like a printing press, a steam engine and so on. A pretty good time travel story. Could have been clearly longer, now at places felt a bit too much like an outline. ****-
The Hebras And The Demons And The Damned • shortstory by Brenda Cooper
A colony on another planet has serious trouble with the local fauna which very ferocious, and there hasn't been any species which shows any signs of possible domestication. Good, but pretty short story, mainly a few scenes of a possible larger story. ***+
Deca-Dad • shortstory by Ron Collins
A man meets his grand-grand -and so on- father who is a crew member on a space ship travelling on relativistic speeds. . He is supposed to be Finnish descent, and to have a Finnish name (which isn't spelled right :-). Matter transfer gates are surpassing the older means of space travel. A short, simple story, nothing surprising. **+
Happy Are The Bunyips • shortstory by Carl Frederick
A zoo with some financial problems gets two new animals due to some sort of mishap. The animals are pretty strange, as the head zookeeper who thought he would be able to identify all large animals there are, hasn't ever seem such creatures. A fairly good story, another one which could have been somewhat longer. ***+
A Placebo Effect • shortstory by Brian C. Coad
A retired patent attorney gets some notorious publicity when a patent agreement he crafted years earlier almost causes war between China and India. India is apparently producing medicines which are more inert than placebo as they contain ingredients which suppresses the placebo effect. Somehow that makes the drug so powerful that Chinese is spending so much money on them, that it is causing financial problems. A really, really, stupid story. It might have worked as a probability zero yarn, but as a proper short story it is very ridiculous. And the author seems to imagine that homeopathic “medicines” work because the contain trace amounts of medicines. First, they DON'T work, secondly they DON'T contain and trace amounts of effective ingredients (except perhaps one molecule for every solar system size volume). **-
Home Is Where The Hub Is • novella by Christopher L. Bennett
Another in the series about a young man who wishes to find how the hub (an interstellar transport system) works. No progress is made. Mainly light chatter during an adventure, the main story doesn't progress. Not especially good. **+
Primum Non Nocere • novella by H. G. Stratmann
A woman has been condemned to rehabilitation camp because of her behavior. She has been eating several donuts everyday, and has already passed the maximum BMI allowed. The beginning was pretty good, but the joke didn't carry on, and there were a few too many twists in the end. ***-

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Jari Tervo: Myyrä

A novel written by one of the more popular authors in Finland. The first I have read. A story about political intrigues from the 70s, involving Finnish president, Sovient union, the Finnish communist party and an agent of national security agency, whose father was executed by the president when he was commanding an firing squad after Finnish civil war. Written from several viewpoints in sort of stream of consciousness style. Ok, but not really my cup of tea.

Ensimmäinen Jari Tervon kirjoittama romaani, jonka olen lukenut. Minulla ei ole mitään etukäteistietoa kirjasta, tai oikein kunnolla tietoa edes Tervon kirjoitustyylistä. Satuin löytämään tämän pokkarin kirpputorilta, ja ajattelinpa testata tämänkin suositun kirjailijan kirjaa. Ihan kohtuullinen kokemus.
Kirja kertoo lähinnä nyt jo yli kolmenkymmenen vuoden takaisista poliittisista kuvioista sisä- ja ulkopolitiikan tiimoilta. Yksi päähenkilöistä on Kekkonen itse (jonka nimeä ei kertaakaan mainita), toinen päähenkilö on suojelupoliisissa työskentelevä väitöskirjaa tekevä poliisi, jonka isoisän Kekkonen on aikanaan sisällissodan aikana teloitettavana ampunut teloitusryhmää johtaessaan. Päähenkilön tavoitteena on todistaa Kekkosen olevan Neuvostoliiton vakooja, luikerrellen samalla hänen luottohenkilökseen. Kirjassa on useampi näkökulmahenkilö, ajoittain kerronta koostuu presidentin kirjoittamista päiväkirjamerkinnöistä, osansa saa myös päähenkilön sukulaisen muistelmat Siperian vankileirissä viettämästä ajasta.

Tietty hajanaisuus onkin sitten kirjan suurin ongelma. Kirjoitustyylikään ei ole ihan minun makuuni, ajoittain se on aivan liian tajunnanvirtaista löysää lätinää, jota olisi voinut reilusti tiivistää. Tämän kirjan perusteella en taida ihan heti toisiin Tervo kirjoihin tutustua, vaikka ei tämä missään nimessä mikään pettymys ollutkaan.
612 s.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Analog Science Fiction and Fact March 2007

Fairly good issue, at least slightly above average.

Trucks • shortstory by Amy Bechtel
Mother is raising a “challenged” child who can't instantly calculate how many peas are dropped on the floor, and has strange trouble with calculus, even if he is already on second grade. On the other hand, he seems instinctively grasp facial expressions, something which is extremely hard and demands years and years learning them by heart. Very good “reversal” story. ****-
Misquoting the Moon • shortstory by David Bartell
A giant meteorite is about to hit earth. A few select humans will be able to emigrate to the moon. A man is hunting elephants (as there is no point in saving their lives as they are going to die out anyway). There is a fair amount of philosophical discussion. The writing is ok, but there are some bad anachronisms for a story which is supposed to be happening in mid to late 21st century. There are tube TVs, cars are using petrol and AIDS is certain death. Not to me to mention lax selection criteria for moon habitats and excruciatingly stupid behavior of the main character. **
Cool Neighbor • novelette by Jack McDevitt and Michael Shara
A gamma ray burst causes an emergency at a space station. One scientist who didn't survive was on track of major discovery and left some clues about it. A fairly good story, but bit disjointed, the beginning and end were somewhat separate, and probably was also a bit hurried. ***-
The Small Pond • novella by C. Sanford Lowe and G. David Nordley
Scenes from the life of a scientist and astronaut, who first finds an exoplanet and later emigrates to another solar system, has more than little trouble with authority figures (most of them more than deserving to have some trouble). The story consists of only loosely connected segments separated by several years, and didn't really form a cohesive entity. The writing was good, the characters were interesting, but somewhat less fragmentary storytelling style might have been nice. ***½

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Analog Science Fiction and Fact March 2000

A below average issue. Ben Bova’s “novella” is the best story, but it is just an excerpt from a novel.

Escape Horizon • shortstory by Michael A. Burstein
A race around a black hole. A new contestant who has been the phenomenon of the season races against a seasoned veteran. Yawn. Partly a problem solving story, partly sports story. Not very interesting. **½
Enhancement, Incorporated • novelette by Rajnar Vajra
Murder investigation in a future world where most people have some sort of “virtual reality” embellishments. Not too well written and extremely irritating as the “mystery” is based on the details of imaginary technology, which is naturally unfamiliar for the reader. **-
The Suspended Fourth • shortstory by Paul Levinson
A colonist on a new planet which has a great number of birds, starts to suspect that the birds are able to warn about danger by changing their song after his wife is killed by lighting shortly after landing on the planet. Writing ok, but the conclusions made by the characters seem to be somewhat too easily drawn. ***+
The Eyes of Freedom • novelette by Ramona Louise Wheeler
Two friends have some trouble on a planet, and as a punishment they are ordered to transport a prisoner to another planet. A light, fairly nice story, a bit too long. ***+
Death on Venus • novella by Ben Bova
An excerpt of a novel. An expedition travels to Venus to rescue the body of a former explorer. Naturally there is some personal conflict and natural threats, also. Well written, and even entertaining, but the story is left completely open. Just an excerpt, I believe it shouldn’t have been published as such. ***-

Monday, October 11, 2010

Downbelow Station by C.J. Cherryh

Another Hugo-winner.
Interplanetary intrigue ensues when ”Company” (a giant conglomerate which takes care of humanity's colonies on other solar systems and has been responsible for the exploration) and “Alliance” (an alliance of farther colonies which want to get out of the influence of the Company) are battling against each other. The Company fleet has been losing the war, and their ragtag fleet arrives at Pell, one of few places where there is a habitable world besides the giant space stations which are most commonly used for bases. Among the fleet there are a many refugees, and the life the space station is suddenly severely disrupted. End then there a few hundred pages of fairly boring intrigue among different factions, before the action again picks up for a few dozen last pages and some sort of resolution is reached, at least for a while. Not much happened, there were too many characters who were hard to distinguish from each other, and sometimes it wasn't easy to understand the motives of some characters. Why would an essentially mercenary Company fleet be so passionate about fighting and try to ignore the peace negotiations made by the company officers? The writing style was hard to follow. At places there were 70-80 word long sentences and it seemed clumsy in other ways,also. And the book starts with very long, very boring info-dump which wasn't exactly an engaging beginning. This book is not among my favorites Hugo award winner, but not worst, either, but somewhere well below average.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Analog Science Fiction and Fact November 2010

Pretty variable quality of stories in this issue. Some good, some not so good. I read this issue as en alectronic version, as I haven't gotten even October issue yet as my subscription copy.

Phantom Sense • novella by Richard A. Lovett and Mark Niemann-Ross
A former special forces agent has some trouble adjusting to civil life. He used to have control of a swarm of bio-engineered insects carrying surveillance equipment, but when he quit his job he lost his swarm. When one is used to aware of everything inside a radius of a few hundred meter and when one loses that suddenly it's like you would have lost one of your ordinary senses, and more. His marriage breaks, he loses connection to his daughter, and life generally suck. He follows his daughter's videoblog, where she is complaining about those irritating flies which follow her, especially when she is changing her clothes... A good story, maybe a bit too easy ending. ****-
Zoo Team • shortstory by Allen M. Steele
A team of astronauts are on a “practice run” before manned mars mission. Several different teams are being tested for how they manage the isolation for a long period. One team consists of practical jokers and people with authority problems. They find out that their group has been selected as a certain failure to make other groups look better. They decide to give the controllers something to really think about...Pretty funny and enjoyable story. ***½
Contamination • shortstory by Jay Werkheiser
A group of researchers lives nearby a planet which orbits another star. They only study it, they have not even landed on it yet, as their leader are afraid of contaminating the native life. Then, another ship from earth arrives, and they were expecting that the planet would have been habited by now, and they are going to land as soon as possible. And both sides are ready to fight for their goals – or at least their leaders are ready to sacrify other people for those ideals. Fairly good, but the motives of the “conservationists” could have been explained better. ***
Howl of the Seismologist • novelette by Carl Frederick
A seismologist happens to have a dog which is able to predict earthquakes. He has also taken notes of all howls the dog has made when there hasn't been any earthquake. Correlating that information he and his friend find out that particle colliders are causing earthquakes, especially when two are run at the same time. I didn't like writing, and there were some illogicalities. One would imagine that particle beam accelerators would have automatic shutdown systems to shut them down in case in earthquakes as one would imagine that any shaking would spoil the containment of the particle beams anyway. And it felt slightly forced when one character was described as having “dilated pupils and sweat-glistening forehead”; it wasn't hard to guess what was his problem. **
The Deadliest Moop • shortstory by Michael A. Armstrong
Most or the orbital satellites have been blown up. It isn't know who has done it, but there is a lot of rubbish on orbit which poses a danger for space ships. “A garbage collector” space craft encounter something strange. A fairly fragmentary story and a bit more backstory would have been nice. I didn't like the writing too much either, as it was a bit too colloquial for my taste. **+
Outbound • novelette by Brad R. Torgersen
Earth is destroyed in a war. A young paraplegic boy manages to survive fortuitously and an old couple who is traveling on an old space observatory picks him up. (Well, the husband has died years earlier, and lives as a computer simulation). They decide to head outwards to the oort cloud, where has been rumored to exist human habitats. A very good story, well written especially considering that this is apparently the first published story by this author. The only downside of the story was that it was somewhat too short and hurries at places. Maybe a novella or even novel form would have been better. ****-

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Analog Science Fiction and Fact July 1974

Pretty nice issue.
Extreme Prejudice • novelette by Jerry Pournelle
A spy is sent to kill another who has retired and apparently turned to a traitor. The retired spy lives on an underwater habitat. He seems to be a pretty nice guy with a beautiful wife and cute kid and lives happy life on very idyllic and peaceful location. But no one is allowed to leave the agency... not alive, at least. A well told and exiting story. I was baffled in the beginning when the main protagonist seemed fairly unsympathetic, but that turned out to be purely intentional. ****
Forced Change • shortstory by Bob Buckley
Some kind of insect people live on very hostile conditions. One of them stumbles on a some kind of ancient relic. The story wasn't very fluently writing or interesting and the final twist felt superfluous and stupid. (They are on Earth's moon). **
The Engine at Heartspring's Center • shortstory by Roger Zelazny
An android who is practically immortal has come to a center where people are coming to die. He hasn't taken the final step for long time. Very well written and good story. ****
Exclusive Either/Or • shortstory by Rowland E. Burns
A very short story about love and war which depends on an ending based on a bad pun. **-
Dark Lantern • novelette by P. J. Plauger
A spy is sent to kill another who has retired and apparently turned to a traitor. (sounds familiar?) This time the retired spy is a science genius who has appropriated inventions which could have been used for intelligence purposes for his own nefarious means. A fragmentary story which is told in flashbacks. The goal of agent's elimination attempts lives in a fortified castle which is build on an island. The story was at places confusing and it ended with a deus ex machina ending. I was expecting for some final twist, but there wasn't any. **½

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How Much for Just the Planet? by John M. Ford

I have read fairly few media tie-ins, and only about two or three Star Trek novels. I read some praising reviews of this book and dug up a copy. Well, I have read even less fan-fiction about Star Trek, but about all fan fiction I have read have much, much, much higher quality content and writing than this turd. It reads like a very bad Trek parody written by a very bad author who loves sophomoric humor (and has watched even less Star Trek than me). The characters and races behave out of character, and the plot is pretty worthless. The Enterprise, a Klingon vessel and a research ship all find a planet extremely rich in dilithium at about same time. They all land there, and encounter zany characters who tend to burst into song at odd moments. While on the planet all characters have separate “funny” adventures and everything is wrapped up with a stupid explanation within the last five pages. As a caveat, I really am not familiar with Trek tie-in fiction, so this could be a clever parody of such fare, but honestly, a Star Trek novel which ends with a giant pie-fight...[shudders], and honestly, it really isn't so funny as it sounds.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Analog Science Fiction and Fact February 2000

A fairly average issue.

 A Star Is Born • shortstory by Jerry Oltion
A man travels on an alien spaceship to witness a birth of a new star. The travel arraignments are kind of hard to take as the ship has been designed for giant caterpillars with no sense of hygiene. And one of the caterpillars seems to think that suns are sentient, at least for a while when they are starting their burn. ***½
Achromamorph's Burden • novelette by H. G. Stratmann
An alien ship is mining the moons of outer planets, when one crewmember finds out that there is life on the third planet. According to the standing orders, all new civilizations should be contacted, but the leader of the ship doesn’t seem to be too keen to do it. A too long story which tries to be humorous. It didn’t work for me, and leader of the expedition is by far too stupid if he is what he is described to be. **+
Digital Eyes • shortstory by Pete D. Manison
A blind man has a robotic guide dog which works literally as his eyes. When young punks steal the dog, he isn’t so helpless he might seem. Okay story, which is too short for real impact. ***-
The Quantum Teleporter • novelette by Michael A. Burstein
A man is killed in a locked room. He has invented a teleporter, but that room was supposed to be “a safe room” which is protected from teleporting. The death is dismissed as a suicide, but killed man’s friend asks help from a federal agent he knows. Somewhat too long story which depends on a few very contrived circumstances. ***-
Red Skies • shortstory by Charles L. Harness
A private company is trying to get a complete planet for commercial exploitation. They are ready to do almost anything to ensure their success, up to murder. An undercover agent arrives to investigate. And there are more than a few problems. ***+
I Wish You Dead • shortstory by Brian Plante
A man is in rehabilitation for causing a death after losing his temper while driving. He is in a computer simulation where he has to live “ordinary” life for a year. He can kill everyone else in a simulation just by making a wish. And almost everyone else tends to be very irritating. Only catch is that if he kills someone, he must relive that day again. And again. Fairly good and interesting story. Only: you are living in a world where you can do anything you want, and the only consequence is that you have to relive that day. And that is considered as a punishment? ****-
A Glimpse of Splendor • novelette by Dave Creek
A planet which is inhabited by two intelligent species living in an almost symbiotic relationship is facing certain destruction in a few decades as a nearby star will go nova. A pair of humans is preparing the evacuation, but that isn’t too easy as there aren’t other planets where both of the species could live together. Slightly overlong, some subplots might have been pruned out. Otherwise ok start to a series (?) of stories. ***

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Väinö Linna: Täällä Pohjantähden alla 2 - Under the North Star 2

A second part of one of the national epics of Finland. The book follows the live of one small village concentrating on one family. This part cover about 15 years concentrating on the tragic and very bloody events of the Finnish civil war.

Toinen osa Väinö Linnan trilogiaa.
Tämä osa kattaa kansalais/sisällisodan ajan ja sitä edeltävät tapahtumat. Tarinaa seurataan paljolti yhden perheen, Koskeloiden kautta. Päähenkilöksi muodostuu Koskelan Aleksi, joka luotettavana henkilönä valitaan punakaartin paikallisen osaston johtoon, ja joutuu tässä toimessaan pahasti paikkakunnan talollisten hampaisiin. Myöhemmin oltuaan punaisten armeijassa joukkueen johtajana hän joutuu vankileirille (pelastaen samalla henkensä, kun ”vähäisemmät” kapinalliset ammutaan muitta mutkitta.) Tuskin hirveästi spoilaa, jos sanoo, että kirjan lopussa Akseli vapautuu leiriltä lähes kuoliaaksi nääntyneenä.
Kirjan alkupuoli oli varsin hajanainen ja episodimainen. Henkilöiden lukumäärä tuntui myös liian suurelta, ja vaikka ensimmäisen osan lukemisesta ei ollut kulunut vielä vuottakaan aikaa, niin oli välillä vaikea muistaa sivuhenkilöistä kuka oli kuka. Ehkä osaltaan asiaan vaikeuttaa myös se, että henkilökuvaus ei vaikuta Linnan parhaimmalta osaamisalueelta. Osa henkilöistä tuntui aika yksiulotteisilta, pahiten tämä tuntui Elinan kohdalla. Vaikka hän on päähenkilön puoliso, ja kirjan tärkein naishahmo, niin hän jäi kyllä hyvin luonnosmaiseksi henkilöksi. Jotenkin tuntui, että henkilöiden kuvaus toimi edellisessä osassa paremmin. Kirja parantuu huomattavasti siinä vaiheessa kun sota varsinaisesti alkaa. Tällöin kerronta muuttuu yhtenäisemmäksi, valitettavasti taas lopussa kun ollaan sodan jälkimainingeissa hajanaisuus ja episodittaisuus palaa takaisin ainakin osittain.
Kielellisesti kirjan teksti on elävää ja mielenkiintoista kansan kieltä. Negatiivisessa mielessä huomioita kiinnittivät taas pitkät poliittiset puheet, joita tähänkin kirjaan oli sanasta sanaan liitetty aivan kuin aikaisempaankin osaan. Eivät ehkä aivan yhtä pitkiä ja tylsiä kuin edellisessä osassa, mutta ihan riittävästi kerronnan kulun pysäyttäviä kuitenkin. Parhaiten kirja toimii elävänä historian kuvauksena, ja innosti minutkin lueskelemaan tuon ajan historiaa hiukan tarkemmin Wikipediasta ja muistakin lähteistä.

526 s.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Analog Science Fiction and Fact June 1974

I picked up this issue due to ben Bova's editorial, “Teaching Science Fiction", where he explores cluelessness among TV-producers and people who allegedly are teaching science fiction courses in universities without too much knowledge of the genre. One of the better editorials I have read. Otherwise fairly good issue, exellent serial, very good novella.

Aberrant • shortstory by Sydney J. Van Scyoc
Investigators arrive to evaluate a failed colony planet. Could it be used for a new colonization attempt? A real throwaway to fifties. Psi-powers, mutants persecuted for the genetic inferiority and so. The story wouldn't have really worked on 1952 and it didn't work now. Writing was fairly adequate, though. ***
The Four-Hour Fugue • shortstory by Alfred Bester
Mostly everything is pretty polluted and smelly. The most prosperous industry is the production of perfumes. (yeah, of course the best way the overcome toxic fumes is to add somewhat more to mask the smells.) The leading company is having trouble, as their most talented smell designer is having a dry spell. Their hire an investigator to find out why. Another fairly old fashionable story. Another with psi-powers in the same issue (?!). I have read better ones by Bester. Several, in fact. ***-
Death Sentence • shortstory by William T. Silent
A convict relives several murders from a victim's point of view. Very short, unsurprising story. **-
A Song for Lya • novella by George R. R. Martin
The native inhabitants have a religion which involves making a suicide by letting a parasite eat themselves alive. There are no other religions on the planet and every alien on the planet without any exceptions belong to that religion, and follows the same route. And every alien on the planet seems to be content and very happy. And now humans are turning to that religion in increasing numbers. A husband and wife team of telepaths arrive at a planet to investigate that problem. The husband is an empath, able to mainly feel emotions, Lyta, the wife is very sensitive telepath and is able to read minds. Events go to where you would be expecting, but writing is very good, and the story is really excellent. ****+

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Stargate by Stephen Robinett

Usually, I haven't read the serials from old magazines I have been reading. I picked up the June 1974 issue of Analog because I wanted to read the editorial written by Ben Bova concerning the TV-series he had been consulting. (as the same series inspired his ironic novel, Starcrossed). However, I happened to read a few pages of this one, and very quickly I was hooked.

An engineer who lives with his smart and beautiful girlfriend (who is finishing her law degree) gets kicked out from his work. Fortunately, he gets a new work offer; one that's just too good to be true, but it is real. He will be overseeing the building of a gigantic stargate which will be used for mining planets in other solar systems by tearing chunks measured in several miles from their surface. The former manager died very suddenly just when the building was at high gear, and there are implications that someone might want to sabotage the project. So, he is forced to oversee the project, try to find who is trying to harm it, and to have some time to spend with his nice girlfriend.
This was a very entertaining, fluently written novel with very interesting and mostly sympathetic characters. The writing was nicely humorous and very comfortable. This seems to be a forgotten gem. Warmly recommend for everyone who manage to find a copy.

186 pp. (the book version)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Galaxy Science Fiction June 1952

Mostly fun, simple stories in this issue. Also, the first episode of The Space Merchants, one of the best sf books there is.

The Highest Mountain • shortstory by Bryce Walton
The fifth Mars expedition lands at the root of giant mountain. The abandoned ships for the former expeditions are parked in a line next to each other. One of the crew seems to go mad, claims that he saw something, and when another member shoots at that direction as a joke, he kills him. According to the space law, those with mental problems should be killed as threat to others. The crew however wants to be lenient, and promise not to kill him, but they are going to leave him to Mars with ample food supplies, even after he threatens to kill all other members of the group. But first they want to climb the mountain, and ask the “crazy guy” to take care of the ship, and record their messages. Sounds very smart. Climb to a mountain, which apparently has already killed all crew members of four ships, and leave a madman (who has threaten the lives of everyone) alone to take care of the ship. And apparently all recording equipment have been forgotten. Ending is about what you would expect (The “mad” guy is the only one who is so “spiritual” that the Martians want to have something to do with. Others all die while climbing an imaginary endless mountain). ***-
Shipping Clerk • shortstory by William Morrison
A vagrant finds a small thing which looks like a nut. He eats it and starts soon to be even more hungry than usual. No amount of food satisfies his hunger. After taking part in a eating competition, and being ravenously hungry even after that (and without gaining an ounce) he ends up in a hospital. It turns out that a pair of aliens have lost a sort of intradimensional device which transports matter to another universe. They rescue the vagrant, rig the device so that it can be used from inside the poor man's stomach, as it is easier to keep track of in that way. Apparently, the aliens have not yet discovered the high technology of pockets with buttons. Fairly stupid tale, though entertaining. ***
Orphans of the Void • novelette by Michael Shaara
An expedition lands on a planet filled by mind-reading robots which only want to serve. Their makers have died out, and the robots have lived alone for generations feeling empty as they haven't been able to serve anyone. And now they will be able to fulfill their need. Doh. Not much drama or conflict. Very simple story. Writing was adequate. **½
The Hoaxters • novelette by Richard Wilson
Two man are supervising automatic ore analysis machines on an isolated asteroid. When they get bored they stage an invasion small indigenous animals. First time works pretty well, there are excitement, visitors and attention. When they fake the attack for the second time there are a lot of suspicions, and they decide never to do it again. It isn't too hard to guess what happens next. A fun simple tale. ***½
The Luckiest Man in Denv • shortstory by C. M. Kornbluth
Paranoia and plotting apparently on a futuristic high rise. Fairly confusing and boring story. **-

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Starcrossed by Ben Bova

A novel Ben Bova wrote after he worked as scientific adviser to a short lived TV-series, Starlost. Namely this is a science fiction book which happens in the future. In reality this is a satire about how a TV production of science fiction and probably low price TV-production works of other kind. The only really science fictional thing in the book was a new 3D systems what was used for the fictional series the book tells about, Starcrossed. (the similarity of titles is probably purely accidental :-) ).The clueless managers manage to destroy all originality and creativity the creators of the series might have had, scripts are written by collage kids who won a writing competition and are ready to work for free, the main actor are chosen by fame and looks and can't even speak clear English, and the main actress is a girlfriend of a producer and is very beautiful but can't really act. Producers care only for money which they don't even have, as they have invested the funds meant for the series to a sport team, but at the same time they are expecting huge profits and critical success. The book was fairly interesting as a “realistic” description of TV work, as science fiction it didn't really work. The mid section of the book was fairly slow, and fairly little was happening. Towards to the end the absurdity of everything grew and grew, and book come funnier and more enjoyable.

223 pp.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Analog Science Fiction and Fact October 2010

Fairly average issues. None of the stories were really bad, but none was exceptionally good, either.

The Rift • novella by John G. Hemry
Aliens which were supposedly non-violent have slaughtered almost all members of a research station, and wipe out a military force which was sent for help. What made the aliens to turn against humans so suddenly? Why there are not attacking the few survivors?
A fairly good story, some condensing from dialogue heavy middle part might have made it better. There are a few minor quips: The concept of laughing before battle/death is new and incomprehensible to the scientists – haven't any of them ever read any war stories or watched any movies involving battles? ***+
Midwife Crisis • novelette by Dave Creek
A woman who has been enhanced to be comfortable in aquatic environment helps a gigantic whale like sentient sea creature which has fallen ill. She travels through the vascular system of the “leviathan” to protect an embryo from the disease the adult has. The comparative sizes seem strange, on the other hand the woman easily moves through veins, on the other hand she is able to irritate whale's bladder and help the giant child inside a giant womb. Also, there seem to very large spaces inside the creature – especially a sea-creature wouldn't have empty air filled areas inside it. Also, they are using ANTIcoagulant to stop bleeding?! The characters weren't too engaging and the writing wasn't among the best in this issue. **
Never Saw it Coming • shortstory by Jerry Oltion
An amateur astronomic finds a new comet on a near earth orbit. The media blows that out of proportion speculating about a nearly sure end of the world. Lightly told very nice story with a warm ending (in spite of the subject matter). ***½
The Great Galactic Ghoul • novelette by Allen M. Steele
A story of an accident in space, and how it happened. The events are described in past tense as a kind story inside a story, and there are perhaps too many details which have nothing to do with the main plot. A different approach might have worked better. Now you didn't really care for the characters, told in some other way this could have a really moving tale. ***-
The Alien at the Alamo • shortstory by Arlan Andrews
An alien abductee is interviewed by an alien – voluntary for a change – and gets a change to ask some questions from the alien. As I am a fairly amusical person, I probably missed some of the references here. The alien tests for emotional responses to music, and they are apparently trying to “uplift” humanity by some special musical pieces. Apparently there are not succeeding as well they are hoping (Not surprising, as about the only thing I understand about music is this: the newer music, the worse it is). ***-
The Whole Truth Witness • shortstory by Kenneth Schneyer
It maybe very hard to be lawyer is there is a treatment which makes it impossible to lie. Why – that is something I really don't get. If the cause is just (as it seems in this case) shouldn't a witness who speaks always the truth be a good thing? And is the fairly complicated treatment really so common that the law office is having so many problems? Writing was ok. ***-

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Best Food Writing 2005 by Holly Hughes

A collection essays involving food, cooking and restaurants which are collected from several sources. The tone and quality varies a lot. Some of the stories are interesting, some informative, some funny, and a few plain dull – fortunately not too many of those. A few recipes which would be nice to try out.

325 pp.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Asimov's Science Fiction, July 2010

Fairly average issue, a slight disappointment considering the authors involved. Read as an e-book during lunch hours and waiting for different appointments. That might have hurt a few stories, as some of them were fairly fragmentary and not too easy to follow.

The Other Graces • shortstory by Alice Sola Kim
A Korean girl is struggling with everyday life. Sat tests, finding the real and good collage, everyday racism and family life. She starts to hear voices which promise to help her on the Sat tests. Not much is explained, maybe too little is explained.  Writing is pretty good, though. ***½
Haggle Chips • novelette by Tom Purdom
A trader gets kidnapped and used as a pawn in a power struggle. He is treated very well, and even finds a companion, but as time goes on he really wants to get out. The kidnappers are pretty sympathetic and have a worthwhile agenda, and he has some qualms escaping. Pretty good and entertaining story. ***½
Eddie's Ants • shortstory by D. T. Mitenko
How to kill an intelligent ant colony who has stolen your girlfriend? Nice, light story. ***+
The Jaguar House, in Shadow • novelette by Aliette de Bodard
An alternative history where America is ruled by Indians. There is apparently some sort of competition. A hard story to follow up, especially when you are reading it from an Iphone during several lunch hours. I didn't really get it, but the fault is probably mostly in me. **
Amelia Pillar's Etiquette for the Space Traveler • shortstory by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Just what the title says. Fun little piece about to be a space tourist of interstellar cruise ship. A lighthearted nice piece. ***-
A History of Terraforming • novella by Robert Reed
Segments from a life of one man, who is closely involved in terraforming, its early failures and later successes. Short episodes, showing different sides of things. A bit too fragmented, not among my favorite Reed stories. A longer form might have been better? ***-

Cormac McCarthy: Tie (The Road)

Finnish translation of Road. Excellent but depressing book, one of the best books I have read this year. Translation was very good.

Mies ja poika vaeltavat pimenevässä tuhkan täyttämässä maailmassa tietä pitkin kohteena meri ja etelä. Lähes kaikki muut ovat kuollut, ja viimeiset ihmiset taistelevat sivilisaation jäänteistä. Ruokana ovat vain talojen raunioista pengotut vanhat säilykepurkit.

Kielellisesti kirja on omaperäinen, tyylikästä, hyvin lyhyistä, mutta paljonpuhuvista lauseista koostuvaa, etäännyttävää, ulkopuolelta tapahtuvaa kuvausta, mutta samalla se onnistuu olemaan tunteita herättävää. Henkilöiden nimiä ei missään vaiheessa paljasteta, mutta tämä pikemminkin tekee kuvauksesta henkilökohtaisemman tuntuista.

Tarina on osapuilleen niin synkkä kuin voi olettaa. Toivottomuus ja ahdistus ovat vahvasti mukana koko ajan ja toivonpilkahdukset ja mukavat hetket jäävät vähäisiksi.

Katastrofia ei tarkkaan kuvailla, mutta jokin on tappanut kaikki vihreät kasvit, ja tämän vuoksi myös kaikki eläimet ovat kadonneet. Lisäksi ilmasto vaikuttaa olevan jäähtymässä, aurinkoa ei juuri näy. Miksi ja miten jäävät avoimiksi kysymyksiksi.

Muutama asia katastrofissa jäi kyllä mietityttämään: Jos vähintään noin 98% ihmisistä on kuollut, niin miten ihmeessä saattoi olla niin kova puute kengistä? Kyllähän niitä olisi pitänyt löytyä taloista ja vähän joka puolelta enemmän kuin tarpeeksi.

239 s.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Analog Science Fiction and Fact January 2000

Pretty average issue. Hal Clement's novella was overlong and boring, but Brin'r novellette on the other hand was pretty exellent.

Under • novella by Hal Clement
A direct continuation to Hal Clement’s Mission Of Gravity stories. The same setting, the same characters, but unfortunately not same quality. The Mesklinites build a balloon. Not much happens very slowly. I wonder why most authors turn so long winded in their writing on their later years? I must admit I gave up in about 75% to the story. *½
Time Out of Joint • shortstory by Pauline Ashwell
A time traveler deals with antiques. Guaranteed to be genuine. When a 100% exact copy of a Greek vase turns up, the dealer has some explaining to do. An average story, part of a series? ***-
Greenhouse Chill • shortstory by Ben Bova
Post apocalyptic story. Sea levels have risen decades ago and old style life has almost been forgotten. But there is a new, even more catastrophic climate change coming. Have people learned anything? A pretty good story, might have been somewhat longer. ***+
Loki • shortstory by Larry Niven
A space ship functions as “black monolith” for generations upon generations of aliens. Very short story, not bad. ***+
The Cost of Having a Kid • shortstory by Brian C. Coad
It is possible to plan children beforehand by a computer simulation by analyzing the genomes of sperm cells and ovules, and making composites until you get the exactly right mix. Unfortunately it is very expensive to go to the real child from a simulation. Earning enough money is trouble in itself, especially if you and your wife don't agree on which would be the right child. ***
Tethys Deep • shortstory by Pete D. Manison
A family is diving on Saturn's moon Tethys, and the deep water station they are going to has disappeared. And their father was on board, and everyone must surely be dead – but are they? A bit mushy story, might have been better on slightly longer form. ***-
Pow'r • novelette by James E. Gunn 
Continues an earlier story. The humanity has gotten the secrets for unlimited power and for interstellar flight from an alien transmission. The secret of free energy has been taken to wide spread use. But nobody seems to be interested in space travel (everything in earth is supposed to be SO perfect, that no-one wants to leave earth. Yeah, sure. But in secret one group is preparing for spaceflight..Pretty loose story with some strange assumptions. Worse than the first part of the series. **½
Soapbox Cop Blues • novelette by Stephen L. Burns
A government cyber-crime unit works against hackers and restores net-sites which have been hacked. Most of the hacked sites are more deserving of being hacked, as most of them are racist or far right/left. Restore such sites is really getting on the nerves of a new worker. But the members of the unit have some nice free time activities... Pretty good and entertaining story. ***½
Stones of Significance • (1998) • novelette by David Brin
Singularity has passed, and near paradise has arrived for those who were ready merge with computers. Everyone has practically unlimited intelligence and wealth. One group of intelligences would like to grant citizenship rights to constructs made from fictional characters. Another wants to counter that proposition. Their representative finds a novel approach to find the best strategy to prevent that. Very good story, which was easily the best in the issue. ****

Sunday, August 15, 2010

On Basilisk Station by David Weber

I read this book as a free download from Baen free library.

The first book in an apparently pretty popular series about Honor Harrington, a spaceship captain in the Navy of the kingdom of Manticore. The popularity of the series is fairly hard to understand, as at least the first part wasn't too good. The book was really slow moving. Never, ever have I seen so much exposition in any book. There are literally pages and pages describing the background of the world in mind-numbing detail. And that is given as info-dumps of pages-long techno babble. Sometimes, in middle of a battle, there might be a description of the history and mechanism of space torpedoes covering a few pages. Another irritating and unusual feature of the book is the usage of internal monologue. It feels that most of the book is narrated through people speaking to themselves in their minds. Sometimes the character's viewpoint seemed to change pretty suddenly, and it wasn’t always easy to keep track of who was ”speaking.” The book starts when Honor Harrington gets her first command post. As the Manticore’s Navy is apparently run by idiots, her ship is crippled by a new weapons system that functions well only in very special circumstances. When it functions as expected (that is, doesn’t work at all) during exercises, she and her ship are banished to the most important junction point of the Manticore kingdom. As the kingdom and the Navy ARE run by complete idiots, that is somewhere where the most incompetent captains and ships are sent. At the same time, an enemy empire is plotting against Manticore. In the end, Honor naturally saves the day after a few fairly boring and long-winded space battles. (A few of the space battles in this book seem to employ surprisingly two-dimensional tactics, considering this is supposed to happen in space, not at sea.) Even if the Manticore kingdom really seems to be something worth complete destruction, with its nepotism and idiotic leadership, I strongly suspect that I won’t be reading the next dozen or so parts of this series.

464 pp.