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.