Monday, March 29, 2010

Analog Science Fiction and Fact May 2010

Very good issue with some fine stories, each better than average.

Page Turner • novelette by Rajnar Vajra
Raining fishes and other strange happenings in this structurally creative story, where there are several stories inside the story, and several possible reasons for why there are live fishes on the doorsteps. Interesting, well written story what leaves some things a bit open. ***½
The Day the Music Died • novelette by H. G. Stratmann
A special sort of sound reprograms human minds, and makes exposed individuals to make that same sound, thereby spreading the infection. Ultimately all transmission of sound is forbidden. Ok story, there were some slight problems, it wasn't really logical when even old LP-records were destroyed. It is hard to believe that mob mentality would be so strong in normal neighbourhood. ***+
Hanging By A Thread • novelette by Lee Goodloe
Some very strong waves on an ocean planet threat a habitat which is tethered to an orbital elevator. And the water in the ocean is fairly strong acid, and is teeming with sharp toothed predatory fishes. Fairly good, very much "Analog-style" story. ***+
A Talent for Vanessa • shortstory by David W. Goldman
A proprietor of a "Special Talent Agency" tries to convince a young woman NOT to have a "Special Talent". A Special talent is savant ability, similar to those some (very few) autistic people have. They can produced intentionally by special sort of surgery, but most often at least some degree autistic behaviour is produced at the same time. Nice fairly simple story. ***½
Fishing Hole • shortstory by Rick Cook
Some Seattle seafood restaurants are serving very special seafood. So special, it has been extinct for a few millions of years. Where do those crustaceans come? Another good story which doesn't explain much. In a way that is nice, in another way not so nice. Perhaps there will be more stories in this setting? ****-
Teaching the Pig to Sing • shortstory by David D. Levine
A Defender of Humanity, Viceroy of Germany and Austria, and Royal Colonel of the European Army is kidnapped. He is gene-modified and brainwashed to be a perfect autocrat. Most things in the world are fine, but there is no room for individualism, or chance to strive for something more than middle-class lifestyle everyone have. And his sister, the queen of America, seems to have a bit of evil streak in spite of all breeding she is supposed have gone through. The kidnappers are planning a revolt against her, and they are deconstructing the brainwashing the viceroy has had, and are hoping that he will help them in their revolt. Very good, enjoyable story. Another one where more stories in the same world would be welcome. ****-
Farallon Woman • novelette by Walter L. Kleine
A scientist, who is trying to examine an alien space ship which was found on a sea, befriends an exotic, extremely smart young woman. She has suffered severe memory loss for unknown reason, but is relearning things extremely fast. Not exactly surprising plot, but extremely well told, very good tale. One of the best stories I have read this year. This will probably be on my Hugo-nomination list next year. ****+

Friday, March 26, 2010

Gold: The Final Science Fiction Collection by Isaac Asimov

This collection is scarping the bottom of the barrel of Asimov stories. Pretty bad fiction, and most of the fact articles aren't worth much, either, but a few are fairly interesting. The inclusion of the forewords for several books seems very superfluous.

An author upgrades his robot so that it can learn to write stories. Eventually the robot writes a very good yearn. Nothing very special, the story would have worked better, if the ”story” inside the story ”written by the robot” would haven been any good. As it really wasn't very good or funny, the ending didn't work. ***
Left to Right
Short short which ends by a bad pun.*½
Not a real story, just a segment of a story about how wars are hard in a world ruled by computers. **-
A newcomer to a colony world solves a problem, which deals with hallucinations nobody else has even really noticed. Very simplistic story, almost like a first effort by some young writer. **+
The Instability
Time travel, and a few slight problems. Another light story both in tone and quality. **
In the Canyon
A letter home from Mars. And that's about it. No action, not much content. **-
Good-bye to Earth
Another story told by a ”letter”, this time addressed to earth from the people of an orbital settlements. No action, no much content. **
Alexander the God
A smart man tries to conquer the world by owning everything in it. He is using a sophisticated computer program to analyze commercial trends. As usual, everything doesn't go according to the plans. ***
Another story ending to a bad pun. First it felt incomprehensible, but it clicked eventually. Doesn't make the story worth much, anyway. **-
Feghoot and the Courts
And one more story which was written just for one stupid pun. **
A writer, Asimov's alter ego, gets a word processing apparatus. It is able to learn by the time, but it seems to be very good, even too good, in learning. Ok story, pretty light. ***+
Kid Brother
A family consisting from an irritating, bigoted husband, a stupid wife and a bully son gets a robot ”big brother” for their son. Not one of the worst in this collection, but that is not saying much. ***
The Nations in Space
A simple ”bed time story” of two nations hating each others and what some individuals might do. Is hate natural? Extremely simplistic. **
The Smile of the Chipper
Two brain chipped business geniuses battle it out over a female. There is a slight twist, but overall another very inconsequential story. **+
A movie produced makes a sort of computer animated movie about the middle part of Asimov's “God Themselves”. Okay, but nothing really special. Probably best in this collection, but again, not saying much...

448 pp.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Astounding Science Fiction October 1954

Fairly oldfashionable stories. It seems that Analog's stories have aged less well than the stories from the Galaxy magazine.

The Big Rain • novella by Poul Anderson
An agent of Earth is sent to Venus to investigate the local conditions and human rights. Venus has seceded from Earth's influence and hardly any information concerning its conditions is known. The story starts as a fairly black and white scenario, where the main protagonist seems to be very arrogant. I thought that things would turn out to be less black and white eventually. Unfortunately, things turn out to be even more black and white, and the supposed ”hero” is a pretty irritating thug who beats up his wife before brainwashing her and kills loads of "evil" Venusians before escaping. The writing, especially in beginning, was pretty good and exiting, but the ending had too many long fight sequences. The characterization for most people was pretty bad, especially the main hero's spouse who has the character development of a badly drawn stick figure. ***½
The Deviant • short story by Everett B. Cole
A deviant has escaped to earth, and tries live here. Eventually, it turns out to be too hard and horrible, and he contacts the authority he is escaping from. And that's it. **
Training Aid • short story by Walter L. Kleine
The first space ship crew has gone through years worth of exercises. Then they must face the last and most realistic exercise ever. The ”exercise” is just what you would think, but the crew —consisting of apparent idiots— doesn't notice it. You would think that weightlessness would be a slight clue. **-
The Conners • short story by Edward Peattie
A scientist who is working for the army is always trailed by an armed guard. One day he clubs the guard on the head and escapes to his freedom. But he might not be so welcome in the civilian world. It is a story that is very much rooted in the cold war atmosphere and the fifties. And the scientist in question seems to be extremely dense.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Analog Science Fiction and Fact July-August 1997

Pretty good stories overall, clearly above average issue.

Sam Boone's Dry Run • novelette by Bud Sparhawk
Sam Boone has to travel to a new planet to intermediate an argument between two races. Even the travel is something less than comfortable, and when he gets where he was going, he finds himself in the middle of a murder mystery. Fairly ok story, perhaps a bit overlong and disjointed story, and it wasn't so funny at all places. ***-
The Space Program • shortstory by Jerry Oltion”Wish-fulfillment fantasy”, where political decisions are made using a sophisticated software which is capable of making extremely long term predictions. And everything is wonderful; space is conquered and so on. ***
Billy's Bunter • novella by Walter F. Cuirle
US is apparently ruled by religious fundamentalists and even in private schools a new generation of teachers is downplaying independent thought as ”disruptive” behavior. A son of AI designer is getting notices from school for such behavior. He is designing a ”butler” AI, which is supposed to function as a help in everyday life.
The story is well written, but at places it seems to be more a description of the world, not a real story with a plot. There isn’t enough plot for such a long novella, and especially in the end there are a bit too much ranting about the value of independent though and creativity. I am all for those things, but ranting about anything isn't good for a story. ***½
Already in Heaven • shortstory by Brian Plante
A personality upload from a late priest takes confessionals on a church. One day an arsonists gives his confession. There is no way the AI priest can contact anyone as that would be a breach of confession – and also impossible by his programming. Good, maybe a bit too short story, but it is the winner of Anlab in short story category for 1997. ****-
Safari • novelette by Rick Shelly
A new species of mouse is found on a derelict housing area. A scientist tries to capture a few specimens, but that isn't so easy. Pretty good story, especially the first part. There were some hints in the story which weren't followed – or maybe I read too much into it. I wonder if the author has/had some plans to follow up this one. ****-
Payoff • shortstory by David J. Strumfels
Cold fusion using Martian crystals, and a boy meets an old flame and wants to rekindle it. Very much “meh”, too short and too much like an outline. ***-
Clamoring Voices • shortstory by Robert R. Chase
A man has lost his memory, and starts slowly to recover it. And then the story takes some very strange, hard believe and hard to understand turns. Extremely literal deus ex machina ending – up to thunder bolts (!) which comes from nowhere. **-
Starsong • novella by Timothy Zahn
A cargo ship is drafted by a powerful woman to find a legendary generation ship, which has been presumed lost. The spaceships are powered by music – or some sort of very little knows animals which are living in hyperspace, and who just happen to really love all kinds of music. Very good story, and very well written. Perhaps the characters were bit too black and white, but this was easily the best story in magazine (and it also was the winner of Anlab for best novella in 1997). ****

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Toiset kengät - Hannu Väisänen

Another winner of Finlandia-award. A autobiographical account of the school years of a famous Finnish artist. Very well written book with nice, visual verbal images.

Finlandia voittaja.
Kertoo minä-muotoisesti omaelämänkerrallisen tarinan nuoren pojan kouluvuosista Oulussa, aina siihen asti kun hän muuttaa toiselle paikkakunnalle kuvataidelukioon. Kieliasu on hyvin sulavaa, sujuvaa, kaunista ja visuaalista – joka ei ole hämmästyttävää kun huomioi sen, että kirjoittaja on eturivin kuvataitelija. Kirja toimii myös hyvänä ajankuvana, tosin yksi selvä anakronismi oli kyllä tekstiin sivulauseeseen eksynyt. (Piilaaksosta käytettiin nimeä Piilaakso ensimmäistä kertaa vasta 70-luvun alkupuolella). Tapahtumia ei oikeastaan paljoa ole, mutta koko ajan kirja pitää otteessaan kertoessa tarkasti havainnoivan, herkän, itsensä ulkopuoliseksi tuntevan pojan elämästä. Ihan helppoa äidittömän pojan elämä ei aina sotilasmestari-isän ja veljeskatraan kanssa ole, mutta välittämistä kyllä perheessä on. Varsin nopeasti luettava, kiinnostava kirja, joka herättää mielenkiintoa tänä vuonna ilmestynyttä jatko-osaa kohtaan.

367 s.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain!: Cartoonist Ignores Helpful Advice by Scott Adams

Best pieces from Scott Adams' blog. Short, usually humorous, pieces, which deal with very various subjects. The most interesting were those which were about with his Dilbert comics, and what can and what can't be shown on newspapers. It seems that US is one very strange nation, at least if one uses the censorship of newspaper cartoons as a yardstick. Otherwise very varied essays. Not as good as the “proper” Dilbert books, but nice shorts pieces to be read in a quiet, lonely, place. :-)

368 pp.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Astounding Science Fiction September 1954

Contains a long novella, Martians, Go Home, which I have read as a novel version. It is pretty good one, but I didn't want to reread it. Otherwise the stories were pretty mediocre.

Mister Pinschur • shortstory by Betty Fuller and Maurice Ogden
I didn't understood this story or its' point at all. The man is hired to go around and ask one question from different people. And that's about it. Doh. I probably missed something. *
The Interlopers • shortstory by Roger Dee
The human race is starting to explore galaxy. The galaxy is filled by very advanced races with extremely advanced technology, but everything has been very stagnant for eons. One very powerful race, T'sai, seems to be running things and is held in extremely high esteem by everyone. The first human colony ship encounter a ship run by T'sai, and is stopped, as humans have not asked permission for taking that planet. The ending is something that can only be found from Campbell's Astounding: The humans are a special race, with real inventiveness and drive, and they will inherit the galaxy after the T'sai has gone. The writing is on a par with the story line. **-
The Easy Way • shortstory by Oscar A. Boch
The children of a family think that they are able to solve the problems of time and space. The father tries to get them to give up such foolishness, but he might be up to some surprises. Very old fashionable attitudes and plot line. The father behaves very strangely – it doesn't matter if his son has invented time machine, he just gets a scolding and a command never to do that again.**

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Minding Tomorrow by Luke Burrage

The first book I have read with my new e-book reader, Bebook Neo. It works pretty well, and is nice for eyes, but there are some issues with the battery life. I hope they will be sorted out by a firmware update. Minding Tomorrow is the first book written by Luke Burrage. I have listened his excellent podcast, SFBRP for a long time now. In that podcast he reviews all science fiction books he reads, and it is well worth of download.
This freely downloadable book is ”a near-future, non-linear, multiple-character, science fiction/mystery/thriller novel” The book has multiple viewpoints, and it is non-linear to such degree that telling anything about its' content is a spoiler to some degree. The multiple viewpoints, and especially the non-linearity, caused some confusion in the beginning, but when I was able to sort out the main structure of storytelling, the pieces fell pretty well into their places. There were places, especially in the beginning, where there were a bit too much exposition, but as whole the writing was pretty good, especially considering that this was author's first work. A lot of much worse books have been commercially published.

app. 200 pp.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Analog Science Fiction and Fact April 1997

Fairly average, or even a bit less than average issue.

Finder's Fee • novelette by David M. Alexander and Hayford Peirce
A negotiator of interstellar deals has had some bad luck. and has ended up running a less than successful cargo ship. He gets a shipload of strange crystals, and ends up by mistake to the very same planet the crystals originate. Some very strange, previously unknown, aliens have also turned up, and they demand the possession of all those crystals, and also instantaneous cessation on all mining operations of those crystals. The trouble is that their language is next to impossible to understand, and the reasons for their demands are unknown. Fairly nice story. ***½
This Old Rock • novelette by G. David Nordley
A young family has moved on a asteroid which is in fairly bad repair. Before they really can settle, they must face a “building inspection”. The inspector seems to be very tough, so tough that the head of the family starts to suspect foul play. Pretty good story as such, attitudes of some characters were a bit irritating. ***½
Warrior's Honor • shortstory by Uncle River
Video game design which takes [strange] ethics to consideration in the game-play (it is so much more ethical to murder someone so that he knows who did the deed, than the make the killing so that the victims doesn't notice anything) interspaced with preaching about urban development. Strange, boring, pointless and stupid story. *½
The Dream of Castles • shortstory by Wil McCarthy
An another part of the series with independent, self-sufficient houses. I have read at least one later installment. This story is mainly about the phase wherethe houses were getting their ”independence”. The story seemed to start from nowhere, there was fairly little background, and not too much happened, and it didn't seem to work very well as a separate piece. Clearly worse than the later story I have read earlier. **½
The Mendelian Lamp Case • novelette by Paul Levinson
Amishes, or Amish-like faction have developed widespread allergens and are using them to kill people. The real amishes have developed several kind of biotechnology, among others fireflies which not only give enough light for illumination, but also are able to warmth to houses, and also countermeasures for those deadly allergens . Writing is ok, but there are some problems with the story line. The bad guys seem to doing bad things just because they are bad – or at least I didn't notice any other motivation. Also, the energy requirements for the fire-flies described in the story would by totally ridiculous – far beyond any plausibility. ***