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.