Sunday, June 27, 2010

My Hugo award votes 2010 part 1: Novellas

Novellas happen to be the first category of the Hugo awards I have read this year. The overall quality was pretty good. There were no bad or unreadable stories at all this time.

Act One, Nancy Kress
An actress and her midget manager are meeting members of a clandestine (and highly forbidden) organization which is creating children who are modified to be more empathic, as a movie dealing similar issues is being planned. Later the organization decides that some more drastic measures will be needed for the good of mankind. Pretty good story, but there is nothing really new or surprising.

Palimpsest, Charles Stross
A sort of ”timepolice” is constantly altering reality to ensure long survival of humanity. But is their plan the best possible one? Extremely good story which has some echoes of Asimov's ”End of Eternity”. There are few stories which cover a longer time span.

Shambling Towards Hiroshima, James Morrow
An actor famous for his roles as a monster in horror films is planning a suicide. He reminisces his contribution to the war effort during the second world war. There apparently for a competitor for the Manhattan project – a plan to create giant monsters to wreck havoc on Japan's coastal cities. A part of the plan is to make an impression to Japanese delegation by using man in a suit to create the impression of damage which could be caused.

The God Engines, John Scalzi
Minor gods are used as engines on starships. They are forced to that function by torture and iron which binds them, and by the force of the main god, who get power through worship of his people. But there appears to be a new force in play, someone or something who weakens the power of main god be killing the believers. Beginning and the end are excellent, the middle part probably a bit weaker.

Vishnu at the Cat Circus, Ian McDonald
The main protagonist, Vishnu, is genetically enhanced. He is extremely intelligent and will live twice as long as a normal human. Only catch is that his body ages at half speed starting from childhood, so when his mind is twenty, his looks like a ten years old boy. His parents had entertained some idias about establishing a “dynasty” of superhumans, but Vishnu himself has some other ideas. And at the same time India seems to be approaching singularity. Good, well written story, but somehow it was a bit too open.

The Women of Nell Gwynne’s, Kage Baker
A steampunk style story. A very exclusive brother is working together with a clandestine government agency to ensure that British empire will flourish. The agency also makes new inventions, among others artificial eyes for a blind woman. When a shady, eccentric, nobleman invites representatives of several foreign powers for a demonstration of a new, amazing invention, it is up to our brave hookers to prevent any competitors of the empire getting it.

It was very hard to decide which is the best voting order, as all stories were at least pretty good. The first and the last places were fairly easy. I think that Stross's story gave the best sense of wonder. Morrow's story was a bit too irritatingly stupid and unlikely, and with some far too obvious allegories about nuclear war. Late Kage Baker's story was very nice. I wonder if it will get some sympathy votes, but it was not a bad story. In my opinion, it competes from the second place with Scalzi's story, which was pretty different from anything else I have read by him. Maybe The Women of Nell Gwynne’s was a bit stronger overall.

1.Palimpses, Charles Stross
2.The Women of Nell Gwynne’s, Kage Baker
3.The God Engines, John Scalzi
4.Act One, Nancy Kress 
5.Vishnu at the Cat Circus, Ian McDonald
6.Shambling Towards Hiroshima, James Morrow

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Liza Marklund: Punainen Susi

A detective story about a reporter who get herself mixed up with an old act of terrorism after another reporter who restarted the investigations is murdered. And her private life has more than enough problems.

Liza Marklundin kirjoittama Annika Bengtzon-kirja. Kuten aikaisemmatkin sarjan kirjat kertoo rikosreportterina toimivasta Annikasta. Tällä kertaa vuosia sitten tapahtunutta terrori-iskua tutkinut reportteri murhataan, ja isku jota ajateltiin venäläisten järjestämäksi alkaa näyttää kotimaisten Mao-uskoon hurahtaneiden nuorten tekemäksi. Ruumiit eivät jää yhteen, ja aikanaan maoistien kanssa tekemisissä olleet alkavat kuolla. Lisäksi kuten tavallista Annikalla on ongelmia työpaikallaan, eikä rakkauselämäkään ole niin onnellista kuin voisi toivoa. Hyvin nopeasti luettava kevyt dekkari, joka oli mukava välipala Palimpsestin (joka oli niin kaukana nopeasti luettavasta ja kevyestä kuin vain olla voi) jälkeen. Selkeästi parempi kuin edellinen kirjailijalta lukemani teos, Paratiisi. Tässä kirjassa oli selkeämpi ja vähemmän hajanaisen tuntuinen tarina, joka tuntui olevan sujuvammin kirjoitettu. Ehkä Paratiisin teemat vainotuista naisista olivat hiukan liian lähellä Marklundia, onhan hän kirjoittanut aiheesta tosipohjaisiakin teoksia.

380 s.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Analog Science Fiction and Fact June 1998

A below average issue.

Spindown • shortstory by Wolf Read
A far future tale. A woman who has lived for millions of years tries to stop the destruction of a planet which is will be capable of producing intelligent life. Her on-off boyfriend from last million or so years does not want to lose her. I did not truly care for the protagonists. The story might have been a bit too short. **
Cosmic Corkscrew  novelette by Paul Levinson
Time traveler goes back in time to obtain a copy of Isaac Asimov's lost story. Not too bad, but there is nothing quite compelling. ***
Little Differences  shortstory by Ron Goulart
Another time travel story. Continues an earlier one, where travelers from a future where a shuttle accident destroyed a school house try to change the history. The story didn't have enough background, and I was not able to feel for the characters. **½
My Pal Clunky shortstory by Ron Goulart
A man who has created the famous robodog from a big time TV-series get a new chance when the TV series is going to be considered for renewal. The story is a bit too short and fragmented. **
The Guac Bug novelette by Charles L. Harness
A scientist finds a micro-organism with extremely unlikely properties from a meteorite. After that the story can't decide where it is going. It goes from a story about developing a new cure for a serious disease to court room drama to exercise in code breaking. It feels a bit like an outline for a series of stories. **½

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Palimpsest by Catherynne Valente

Palimpsest is a story about a mystical city. Only people who carry a map of the city as a tattoo are able to enter it, only in sleep after having sex. And the mark of the city is transmitted to other persons with sexual activity. The book is written in highly flowery and lyrical style, and it was really hard to read. I had to reread passages several times, and as whole the book was not at all enjoyable experience. I usually prefer story and characters, and “beautiful” writing is much less important for me. There was hardly any story in this book, and I did not care for most of the characters, they felt pretty whiny and irritating as best. However, there were some short parts of the book which I enjoyed; namely those which told stories inside the story about the customs and history of Palimpsest and if there would have more of those, this might have been more enjoyable experience. It seems that as those were “separate” parts of the narrative, the author didn’t feel compelled to load every sentence full with allegories and linguistic finesses, and actually told some fascinating things. This book is not going to be one of my top choices for Hugo awards.
384 pp.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Analog Science Fiction and Fact July/August 2010

Fairly average issue.

Doctor Alien's Five Empty Boxes • novella by Rajnar Vajra
Continues the tale of a psychiatrist is treats aliens. He has a new clinic on earth, and has a few new very difficult cases – and some very irritated and irritating neighbours. Not as good as the first story in the series. The first one was funny without actually trying – this one tries to be funny, and as usually that doesn’t work. ***+
The Long Way Around • shortstory by Carl Frederick
A problem solving story set on the moon. How to get help after an unlikely accident? The story left me pretty lukewarm. ***-
Questioning the Tree • shortstory by Brad Aiken
A future of healthcare. Only those questions which are covered by structured interview notes are allowed and only treatments by machine are allowed. Okay story, ironic, doesn’t really hit. ***+
Fly Me to the Moon • novelette by Marianne J. Dyson
The last of Apollo astronauts is needed when a catastrophe occurs on moon. Too bad that he is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Very good, but implausible story. Very enjoyable anyway. ****-
Bug Trap • novella by Stephen L. Burns
Aliens have placed a lot of portals to earth. Through the portals anyone who wishes can travel to Venus where aliens have built a giant habitant. A young guy escaping from drug dealers and police at the same time is forced to escape through a portal. He finds that life on Venus isn’t perfect, but there are ways to make things better, if you want. Background was a bit sketchy, but god story. I hope there will be continuation to this tale. ***½
The Single Larry Ti, or Fear of Black Holes and Ken • shortstory by Brenda Cooper
Scientists want to start a new particle collider in the moon. They are battling in court against people who are afraid that the particle collisions will turn moon into a black hole. The story is fairly decent, but it might be a bit too short. ***½
The Android Who Became a Human Who Became an Android • novelette by Scott William Carter A private eye is trying to find his former wife’s latest (extremely rich) husband. The husband happens to be an android, who used to be human, who used to be an android. Fairly nice and entertaining story. ***½
Project Hades • novella by Stephen Baxter
In the year 1960 military is exploding an experimental nuclear bomb deep underground in the UK. What was supposed to be just an “ordinary” atom test turns out to be a pilot for a global weapon system which is supposed to produce major seismic cataclysms. However, the testing disturbs beings living inside the earth, and meanwhile a lunatic military commander takes charge of weapon system. Doesn’t sound too good, does it? I wonder if Stephen Baxter dug up an early manuscript and submitted it. This doesn’t seem to be the same standard as his usual work. Even the writing seems to be pretty clumsy. **

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Asimov's Science Fiction, June 2010

Fairly good issue. Some very good stories, some were a bit less good.

The Emperor of Mars • novelette by Allen M. Steele
A bride of a man who works in a Mars colony dies in a car accident on earth. He soon starts to believe that he is the emperor of Mars and all classic sf about mars is true. Excellent and entertaining story. ****+
Petopia • shortstory by Benjamin Crowell
An advanced robotoy winds up in a developing country. A teenage girl who is trying to take care of her family finds it. The toy has some advanced AI-properties. Well told, a good story. ****
Monkey Do • shortstory by Kit Reed
A failing author gets a monkey as he is writing a novel involving a monkey. The turns out to be fairly ”high maintainance”. To get something to do for the monkey, the writer gets him a computer software package which is supposed to make writing books extremely easy. What happens is easy to predict. Pretty good, nothing surprising. ***´+
The Peacock Cloak • shortstory by Chris Beckett
A some sort of virtual reality world is visited by its creators. They act like (and for all practical purposes ARE) gods. Some of them have different methods concerning their “minions”. I didn’t quite get into the story and didn’t find it very interesting as I found it hard to care about the characters. **
Voyage to the Moon • shortstory by Peter Friend
A some sort of insect scientist are exploring their world, and is traveling to their moon with some sort of pod-ship. Fairly nice, but it might have been better than it is now if it had been possible to figure out what their world actually was – at least I was not able to do it. ***½
Dreadnought Neptune • shortstory by Anna Tambour
I didn't get this one. I tried to start it several times, but honestly I didn't get it and wasn't able to read or understand it. Stylish writing apparently, but... The fault is probably on me, but the writing really seemed fairly strange. *
Earth III • novella by Stephen Baxter
I am not familiar with the earlier parts of the story. That didn't hurt much, however. Humans have lived in a small planet tidal locked with its small sun. There is a Trojan War style campaign to recover an escaped princess, and that leads to an escape to the far side of the world. Nice enough story, but there is nothing really remarkable in it to make it extraordinary. ***½