Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sukkanauhakäärme by Reijo Mäki

A hard-boiled detective story about a private detective, Vares, living in Turku. He is hired to trail a Spanish musician who seems to a sleeping with a wife of wealthy attorney. Soon the musician ends up as dead. The attorney hires Vares to find the murderer (and clear his name, as he is naturally one of the top suspects). Fast nice read, fairly early story for the author, I have enjoyed more some of thelater ones.

Vares on Turkulainen viinaan ja naisiin menevä yksityisetsivä. Tällä kertaa Vereksen palkkaa rikas Turkulainen asianajaja jäljestämään Espanjalaista ravintolamuusikkoa, johon hänen vaimonsa on ihastunut. Jo nopeasti ilmenee, että muusikko on lumonnut noin puolet koko Turun naisista, ja hänellä on muitakin hyvin epäilyttävältä näyttäviä bisneksiä. Tutkimukset eivät ehdi kuin alkuunsa, kun muusikko löytyy kuoliaaksi ammuttuna. Vares saa jatkopestin murhaajan löytämisestä (jolloin samalla hän vapauttaisi mustasukkaisen aviomiehen kiusallisista epäilyksistä). Tapahtumat seuraavat nopeasti toisiaan, ja alkaa jälleen kerran vaikuttaa siltä, että Vares on saanut ratkaistavakseen suuremman jutun kuin kukaan osasi odottaakaan. Ja mikä yhteys vankilapakoa valmistelevalla pitkäaikaisvangilla on tähän kaikkeen? Suhteellisen varhainen Vares-kirja. Kuten yleensä, hyvin viihdyttävä ja nopeasti luettava teos – tosin olen tainnut suurimman osa Vares-kirjoista jotka olen ”lukenut” kuunnella äänikirjoina autoa ajaessa. Ei ehkä aivan yhtä hyvä kuin osa sarjan myöhemmistä kirjoista.

284 s.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

This Immortal by Roger Zelazny

A Hugo award winner for 1966.
Earth has been devastated by a ”three day event”, apparently a nuclear war. There are areas which are still radioactive, and strange mutants are roaming on the forests. The most of people who survived the cataclysmic event have moved out from earth, and most of them are working for Vegans. The Vegans are aliens who picked up pieces – at least some of them – after humans had destroyed earth. Now they own the earth and they are using it mainly as a tourist curiosity. The main protagonist of the book is Conrad, a man who seems to be immortal. He seems to be running most things on earth, but he must stop what is is doing and function as a guide/bodyguard for an important Vegan visitor who wants to see the highlights of Earth's culture. Someone seems to be trying to kill the alien, and for some reason it is very important that he will stay alive.
Pretty good story, writing is nice, but it is not something what can be read quickly. Some very interesting concepts. Background of the main character is left intentionally very open, perhaps too open. And the ending was a bit too easy and had some shades of deus ex machina.
174 pp.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Astounding Science Fiction August 1954

A bit old-fashionable stories, however most of them were not too bad.

The Cold Equations • novelette by Tom Godwin
Very famous story. I have heard a lot about this one, but this was the first time ever I have read it. A bit longer that I thought, I had thought that this is a short story, not novellette. A small space ship is on a critically important mission, carrying a cure for a deadly disease which is spreading on a colony planet. The pilot finds a stowaway, a young woman, hiding in a closet. But the mass of the ship has been calculated very carefully, and the surplus mass will doom the ship, and the vital medication will not reach the colony. The only solution is that she must be jettisoned out from the airlock. Pretty good story, but very stupid in several ways. It is hard to imagine that critical mission would have NO safety margin at all. Also, there should be enough mass to throw out side of airlock. Clothes, some air, some water, furniture (at least a chair is mentioned, also, the closet the girl was hiding in, was mentioned to have a door.) It shouldn't have been hard to find a few dozens of kilograms of surplus mass. ****
Superstition • novelette by Lester del Rey
Planet which should have been destroyed by a solar flare is found to have human inhabitants. They seem to have very close relationship to their god, and they seem to think that they get direct help from him. That seems like a silly superstition, until it is noticed that the natives can move a giant spaceship to another location alone, only by using the power of their god.
There are some fairly good parts in this story, but it is a bit overlong. The ending isn't too good – psionics seem to solve anything in the Astounding in the beginning of the 50s. **+
Welcome, Strangers! • shortstory by H. B. Fyfe
An alien and human meet by accident. The alien is an inventor who has developed a sort of matter transporter which can travel everywhere instantaneously. They travel to earth, and to the aliens home world, and then try to get attention of the officials on the both places. Bureaucrats in both places refuse to acknowledge them as their paperwork isn't in order, and furthermore, officially there are no aliens. Ok, simple, mildly ironic story. ***+
This Is the Way the World Ends • shortstory by H. W. Johnson
The son of a late nuclear physicist starts to manifest a power of mind-reading. Moreover, he seems to be able to read minds from the future. At the same time nuclear scare is at its highest. When he sees just fire, and nothing after that, his mother and her boyfriend start for the mountains. It turns out that the boy seems just his own death after a accident with a gasoline truck. ***+

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Analog Science Fiction and Fact April 2010

Very good issue, clearly better than average.

Swords And Saddles • novella by John G. Hemry
A cavalry company is transported by a thunderstorm to an alternative earth. Pretty pure fantasy, but ok. In that world there is no Bering Straight, and Asia and America are connected by a land bridge enabling more travel between the continents that has enabled the transfer more people over the years than in our world. (considering how inhospitable both Siberia and the northern parts of Alaska are, I wonder if that had made a great difference). Pretty good and interesting story, but there is an overlong and (at least for me) boring description of a battle in the end. More details of the society would have been more interesting, but one might hope for more stories happening in this world.***½
Snowflake Kisses • novelette by Richard A. Lovett and Holly Hight
A researcher who is more or less unhappy in her own love-life, studies the effects love have in the brain. Not really much happens, but very well written, something I really enjoyed. ****
A Sound Basis For Misunderstanding • shortstory by Carl Frederick
A cultural liaison is trying to impress a fairly unknown alien species trying to a get a valuable mining contract. Music might be a bit different for a race who has very limited hearing range. Amusing little story. ***½
Nothin' But Blue Skies • shortstory by Stephen L. Burns
A used car sales man makes a deal of a lifetime (trading well worn used cars to flying super-fast super-cars) with an alien looking just like a demon. Pretty good beginning for for a story. I demand to get the rest of it! ***½
When We Were Fab • shortstory by Jerry Oltion
A shopkeeper uses nanofabrication to meet a demand of older things. If there were so high demand for such products, there would a be supply for them. Okay story anyway. ***+
The Planet Hunters • shortstory by S.L. Nickerson
Astronomers who are seeking exoplanets find several solar systems with very similar planets than our own solar system. They then even manage to capture TV-transmissions from one of them. I suspected the solution from early on (those are some kind of “echoes” of our own solar system). The story takes fairly long time to get to the not so surprising, not so well explained end. **½
The Robots' Girl • novelette by Brenda Cooper
A young couple has just moved to a new neighborhood. They start to pay attention to a house next door, where a young girl seems to live alone, tended only by robots. They try to befriend with her, but the guard robots guard her very enthusiastically, and she herself doesn't seem to be very interested of making friends. But they won't give up so easily... Another very well written, good story, which seems like start for a longer tale. ****-

Monday, February 8, 2010

They'd Rather Be Right by Mark Clifton

I read this novel in its' serialized form from Astounding Science Fiction magazines.

The second winner of Hugo-award for the best novel. I wonder why. Seems to continue an earlier story, as the background of the story seems to be a bit sketchy. Two old scientists have developed an artificial mind called “Bossy”, and for some unnamed reason a powerful telepath is helping them to escape police and persecution, as there is a sort of censorship for forbidden ideas (no explanation is given which ideas are ”forbidden” and why, but computers which are capable for near-independent thought seem to fall to that category). They manage to escape their pursuers, and then they make the finishing touches to the “Bossy”. And for what are their going to use the first artificial intelligence? For psychoanalysis, of course. And the psychoanalysis done by the machine is SO effective and profound, that ALL neurosis are removed, and that somehow removes all the effects of old age, if you are willing to give up all your preconceptions of everything... Oh, so logical. That gives also very bad stench of scientology (or that idiocy was probably still called dianetics at that point of time).
The writing isn't too good either. There are a lot of long lectures which consist of psychobabble, and complaining how stupid most people are, and fairly little anything of interest happens between those. Another very baffling Hugo-win. What were they smoking? Or was the worldcon bought out by dianetics nuts?

app. 173 pp.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Rainbow Mars by Larry Niven

This book contains the original Swetz short stories, and a new novel where he is the main character. The Swetz of short stories was a bumbling comedic figure, but the Swetz of the new novel is an action hero who shoots the aliens and gets the girl. And there are a lot of aliens to shoot. The newest secretary general of UN, and supreme overlord of all earth is more interested in space aliens than exotic animals. So they must find some aliens from somewhere. The only place where there might be aliens available is the past of Mars. So that's where they'll go. As an added bonus the past Mars seems to have a giant tree, which grows up to the geostationary orbit. That would be pretty nice on Earth too – so they are going to try to find some seeds for that. The Mars turns out to be inhabited by several species of people (modeled on Martians from the classics of sf) and then our heroes have have battles with them. A lot of battles. A lot of boring battles. The book is probably meant as a parody of some kind, but it didn't work for me, the battles were boring, and writing wasn't very captivating. By far the worst book by Niven I have ever read.
The original stories – at least some of them - were a lot better. In those stories Swetz tries to find some samples of animals in the past, and to transport them to his own time (where all animals have died out due to massive pollution). Unfortunately his time machine not only travels back in time, it also travels sideways at the same time, and the animals he captures tend to be "a bit" special. These stories are for most part at least amusing.

367 pp.