Thursday, December 29, 2011

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, February 2001

The theme of the issue seems to be genetic manipulation. Pity that none of the stories is really good.

The Mycojuana Incident • novella by Fran Van Cleave
A country doctor encounters some very strange fungal infection which has not been discovered earlier. He discovers (by a pretty large leap of reasoning) that a fungus designed to kill off the marijuana plants is responsible. Very soon, surprisingly soon government agents are making threats against him. Eventually, he manages the overcome both problems – the infection and government.
More than a little paranoid story. The beginning was pretty good, the last half wasn’t as enjoyable due to a clichéd mustache twirling bad guy totalitarian government agent and the plot and writing were somewhat less engaging, also. ***
Fresh Air • shortstory by Brian Plante
A colonists of a new planet must design their children to survive on atmosphere poisonous to humans. That means children and their parents can't breathe the same air. But when gene manipulation gets more sophisticated there’s a solution. Children who can breathe both atmospheres. Short story which goes for a mood, ok. ***-
The Fine Art of Watching • novelette by Allen Steele [as by John Mulherin ]
A very important secret of a drug company has been embezzled. They are very good reasons to suspect one employee, but there is no way he could have gotten the information out. A team of security experts tries to catch him. The only science fictional part was the method the industrial spy used and that really wasn’t something which would have worked well. There would have been some much work involved that someone would have noticed. ***
Or Die Trying • [Jack Sawyer's Doppelganger] • shortstory by Grey Rollins
A man has been murdered. That usually wouldn’t be a big deal, but all his personality copies have also been deleted. The detective who examines the case soon finds himself as only a computer copy, also. The crook with fairly vague motivations is caught easily. ***-
Nanoweights • shortstory by Shane Tourtellotte
Boxers use nanotechnology and other technologies and fight in stables of biotech companies. One fighter starts to suspect that his company isn’t completely behind him. A sports story. About boxing. Two negatives won’t make a positive in this case. . Writing is ok, but the subject matter is something I have no interest whatsoever. **
Mirka's Wings • [Epona] • novelette by Wolf Read
An Epona story. Kids play with their alien friends on Epona flying on some sorts of wings. One gets in a trouble as she behaves as a total irresponsible idiot. I would think that there would be some sort of age limit and/or screening before being allowed to fly.
The story has an annoying brat and pages and pages descriptions of flying. A very boring and very irritating story. **

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Väinö Linna: Täällä Pohjantähden alla 3 (Under the North Star part 3)

The third and final part of a novel series which covers Finnish history from the late part of 19th century to the middle part of 20th century. The main events were the rise of the right during thirties and the Second World War. The events are followed through the lives of a small rural community.

Väinö Linnan ”Täällä Pohjantähden alla” on melkoisen klassikon maineen saanut kirja. Itse asiassa kirjan maine on niin suuri, että lienee melkein pyhäinhäväistys siitä mitään moitteen sanaa sanoa. Jotain valitettavaa siitä kyllä minä ainakin löydän. Ilmeisesti tässä vaiheessa Väinö Linna oli jo niin suuri tähti, että hän ei enää tarvinnut kustannustoimittajaa. Etenkin kirjan alkupuolella oli paljon turhia rönsyjä, joilla ei ollut mitään merkitystä miltään kannalta, ja joita olisi hyvin voinut karsia. Kirjan rakenne on sinä mielessä hiukan tavanomaisimmasta poikkeava, että siinä ei ole varsinaista päähenkilöä, vaan kirjassa seurataan pienen kylän ihmisten tapahtumia enemmän kokonaisuutena, eikä siinä myöskään ole varsinaista juonta perinteisessä mielessä. Kirja seuraa historian kulkua on enemmän tai vähemmän niin kuin se tapahtui ja historian vaikutusta eri ihmisiin. Tämän viimeisen osan tapahtumat kattoivat ajan kansalaissodan jälkimainingeista toisen maailman sodan päättymiseen ja maan uudelleen rakentamiseen tämän jälkeen. Yksi koko kirjasarjan heikkous joka tuli tässäkin osassa esiin olivat liiat poliittiset palopuheet, jotka pahimmillaan ovat sivujen mittaisia. Kirjan loppu oli selkeästi alkua yhtenäisempi ja miellyttävämpi lukea. Kokonaisuutena kirja oli hienoa ajankuvaa lähihistorian tapahtumista ja koskettavista ihmiskohtaloista ja oli kyllä kovastikin lukemisen arvoinen pienistä rakenteellisista heikkouksistaan ja osittaisesta mustavalkoisuudesta huolimatta.

544 s.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Great Feuds in Medicine: Ten of the Liveliest Disputes Ever

Some of the most interesting and sometimes very bitter disputes between medical researchers, starting from the opposition Harvey faced when he dared to claim that the circulation of blood doesn’t work the way ancient authorities had described and ending at the feud between Gallo and Montagnier about who really discover the HIV virus. (Well, in that case I didn’t have much sympathy for Montagnier who seems to have totally made himself a fool with his latest research involving the radio signals from DNA. See for example NeuroLogica blog.).
It seems that the recipe to produce disputes is not only to find out a new, controversial medical fact, but being extremely stubborn about it up to point being abrasive against anyone questioning the invention in anyway without worrying too much about really proving the discovery. Being too sure even while being right doesn’t seem to work too well. A very interesting and even enjoyable book.
250 pp.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Analog Science Fiction and Fact March 2012

A pretty average or slightly over average issue. Most of the stories might have been longer.

"The Ediacarian Machine" by Craig DeLancey
An apparently alien probe is found embedded in ancient rock formation. A woman who found it asks help from a former boyfriend whose company specializes in microrobots. There start to examine to artifact using a virtual reality interface. The artifact is in surprisingly good condition and the power appears to be on, even after a few million years. A pretty nice story, especially the first half. The second half was weaker, but it really would have been hard to follow the setup of the story. The story could have been the first part of a novel. ***½
"Mother's Tattoos" by Richard A. Lovett
Tattoos are being used as a sort of surveillance against terrorism. The people who wield the special tattoos get a monthly stipend, while the tattoos alert officials if the detect traces of explosives or other similar things. The problem is that they are starting to be too sensitive and there are false positives. Also, what constitutes threating behavior…? A pretty good story, another one which was slightly too short. ***+
"Ernesto" by Alec Nevala-Lee
There surprising cases of people getting cured from cancer during the Spanish civil war. Those who have been healed have stayed in a monastery and have had stigmata. An interesting story. There really seems to be some anecdotal evidence for the described method for curing cancer. However, I don’t see how erysipelas could be on all limbs at the same time. Also, before penicillin that would have been very life threatening infection. Not a very science fictional story, but pretty good anyway. Too short. ***+
"Upon Their Backs" by Kyle Kirkland
A some sort of super-secret agent tries to find out the meaning of several naked bodies that are apparently in some sort of suspended animation from a strange cave. At the same time, he has some qualms about his job. Apparently the story happens in some sort of alternative future, where paper is still used for EEG registrations – in our world computerizes systems have been used for almost inclusively almost a decade :-). Somehow I didn’t really get involved in the story – neither the mystery of strange clones nor the battle of the consciousness of the main protagonist. The former wasn’t defined well enough and I couldn’t identify with the main character enough to care about his worries. Maybe a longer form might have served the story giving more background to the characterization and the plot. ***-

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, May 2006

This issue was read from my cell during lunch hours and waiting for different things. A serial takes a lot of space and there were only four stories. A pretty good, above average issue.

Farmers in the Sky • novelette by Rob Chilson
A young woman has returned to an asteroid farm where she lives from the earth. She has spent several years there studying. A man who has fallen in love with her comes to visit the asteroid as a surprise. Is he going to emigrate to the asteroids? A story which has more than a little YA-vibe with some young love. Writing is ok, but pretty simple. There were some strange scenes. When a young man meets for the first time the family of his girlfriend the main discussion point is assets of her family? There is very little drama, but the story is pretty readable anyway. ***½
Lazy Taekos • shortstory by Geoffrey A. Landis
A fun little fairytale about a lazy boy with a few, about a billion or so, nanotechnology robots, a fair maiden and her evil step father. A fun short story. ***½
Slide Show • shortstory by Jerry Oltion
A man takes astronomical pictures is shocked when he hears that color slides film isn’t made anymore. He tries to do something to prevent the obsolescence of both the film stock and slide projectors. The writing is pretty good, but the premise seems pretty strange. I can’t really imagine that anyone taking astronomical pictures would have been so stuck on taking pictures using slide film even in 2006 considering the quality and possibilities the digital photography offers. ***½
The Scarlet Band • [Lost Continent of Atlantis] • novella by Harry Turtledove
Sherlock Holmes (or “Athelstan Helms”) and Dr. Watson (or “Dr. Walton”) journey to Atlantis to find why a strange religious sect is committing murders. The story happens on an alternative earth where Atlantis exists. Is seems to be a pretty large land area somewhere on the Atlantic Ocean. The Americas seem to exist also, so I am somewhat confused about the geology, but that didn’t hurt the story which is pretty nice “eye winking” Sherlock Holmes story with some pretty funny moments. Humor is nice and presented with a “straight face” which always more to my taste than shouting aloud: “This Is Funny”. The only strange thing is why the “Watson” was made to be a complete prick, especially in the beginning. ****

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Galaxy Science Fiction, March 1953

A very average issue with mainly very average and unsurprising stories.

The Old Die Rich • novella by H. L. Gold
Many old people die from hunger with a lot of money either on them or on banking account. Why are they not using their money to buy food? And their bank account books look very pristine and unused, but they are real - at least the deposits which have been made on them since the beginning of the century are on the banks. An actor who specializes in playing older people tries to find what is going on. Well, everyone who has ever read any science fiction naturally knows what is going on.
I had some qualms about this story before starting it: A story which is written by the editor of the magazine. In spite of this, the story was ok and didn’t suck. At least no more than an average story from the fifties. ***½
Games • shortstory by Katherine MacLean
A man who has imprisoned by the government as he doesn’t give up the secret of a super weapon he has developed somehow transfers his mind to a mind of a child. A pretty fragmentary and hard to follow story with not too good writing. **
Student Body • novelette by F. L. Wallace
A new colony has been established on a planet which according to the initial surveys was almost perfect. The planet is supposed to have a nice climate, fertile pastures and little animal life. Soon the colonists start to have a lot of trouble with different sorts of vermin which try eat food stores and edible plants. There is one (only ONE!?) scientist among the colonists who tries to find out what is going on, and tries to finds ways to fight against several sorts of animals the planet throws against the colony. A pretty ordinary story for fifties, average both in plot and writing. ***-
Secret of the House • shortstory by Anthony Boucher [as by H. H. Holmes ]
A young wife uses special spices to make impression to her gourmet husband. She uses exotic Venusian spices, but when she really wants to make an impression she has a secret: very well made food from good ingredients without any spices. Very, very fifties story in attitude, writing is standard quality. ***-
The Drop • shortstory by John Christopher
After a nuclear war a civilization has been established on other planets of the solar system and on asteroids. Earth is being used as a penal colony, from where no one returns. There is a conspiracy to overthrow authority, and a man gets sent to earth after he gets involved with the conspiracy partly unintentionally. But there is more to the is a ploy to get the earth inhabited again. ***+
Horse Trader • novelette by Poul Anderson
Humans have established a “horse trading post” where different alien species can exchange ideas after negotiating what technologies or branch of sciences can be traded. The secrets of one species have been stolen and it demands retribution. The reputation of humans is at stake. A surprisingly boring story considering its fairly interesting premise, but it apparently strives for humor and doesn’t quite make it. **+

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Asimov's Science Fiction, October-November 2011

A large double-issue with a lot to read. A fairly average issue. Writing in most of the stories is very good,

Stealth • novella by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
“Diving in the wreck” -story. This time the story isn't about driving in a concrete ship wreck, but rather about the consequences of strange technology which has been retrieved from ancient spaceships. Military has a lot of interest for a cloaking device. Unfortunately, it seems to be extremely dangerous and people studying it tend to disappear without leaving any trace. Sometimes whole laboratories or even space stations where the experiments have been done have vanished. A woman who may have a better grasp of the tech than anyone else has been responsible for themain lab studying the cloaking tech. The story starts when the lab is being evacuated as apparently something has gone very much wrong. Then the story is told on several time levels, some covering past of the scientist, while the events after the accident are also being followed. A very good story, some parts were somewhat heavy with discussion, but very enjoyable nevertheless, however it is not among the best stories by one of my favorite authors. ****-
The Cult of Whale Worship • shortstory by Dominica Phetteplace
A first story of a new author. A scientist who studies toxoplasma wants to stop whale hunting by designing a new strain of toxoplasma which would apparently affect somehow human though patterns concerning whales. It isn’t explicitly stated what the influence would be. Would people start to like whales? Or would they be indifferent towards them? Both alternatives might have some serious consequences. Writing was ok, especially for a first timer. ***-
This Petty Pace • shortstory by Jason K. Chapman
A man gets some advice from the future. Everything doesn’t go very well, but his life is pretty good anyway. He still gets a few messages which are garbled to some degree (or are not told to the reader). He starts to suspect that his line of research and/or his decedents will eventully cause something really bad. Pretty well written story, but there some less clear things in the ending especially the reason why the man did what he did. (Sent a letter for his descendent). ***
The Outside Event • novelette by Kit Reed

An author takes part on a strange author retreat. A group of authors live very isolated life, and they are eliminated one at a time. It is supposed to be some sort of reality show at the same time (but I wonder where the cameras are - they are not mentioned, and the protagonist even learns the “reality show” angle on the second day). There is a strange and agonizing atmosphere all the time. And there is a threat of “the outside event” which might have effect to the outcome of the competition. The writing is distinctive, perhaps too much so. I am not sure got the story, especially the ending was to a certain extent unclear. **½
The Pastry Chef, the Nanotechnologist, the Aerobics Instructor, and the Plumber • shortstory by Eugene Mirabelli
A woman starts to hear Italian from the water running through the kitchen faucet. Her live-in partner - a nanotech researcher - doesn’t hear it. She asks a linguistic to listen if the sounds really are Italian. And soon the toilet starts to speak in Turkish. The story revolves around unbelievable relationships and even more unbelievable unexplained strange happenings. Overall the content and style were something I usually hate. It that was pretty much true for this story, also. ***-
Free Dog • shortstory by Jack Skillingstead
After a divorce man got his dog, but the ex-wife spreads the template of the dog on the Internet. It gets popular for a while and people have copies of the dog as nano-swarmns. He isn’t too thrilled about that. He finds a new love, the real dog gets older and the story just fizzles out. Writing is good, but there isn’t real ending. ***
My Husband Steinn • novelette by Eleanor Arnason
A story about a woman who lives on a secluded area in Iceland. He meets some trolls, and eventually befriends one. Fairly nice story, but there was a very superfluous story inside a story which had nothing to do with the main tale and could easily have removed. ***+
To Live and Die in Gibbontown • shortstory by Derek Künsken
There apparently are only monkeys on earth, most countries have a majority of one monkey species. Euthanasia of the old monkeys is commonplace and encouraged. One monkey establishes an euthanasia service which offers its’ as assassinations. One old bonobo granny hires him to assassinate her so well that she doesn’t even notice it. A pretty unusual and interesting story. ***+
A Hundred Hundred Daisies • shortstory by Nancy Kress
Climate has changed and parts of the US are dried out. Former farmers live meager life on their already foreclosed farms. A water pipe from the great Lakes is running through area. Some people are starting to fight against it. A very good story, but it is far too short. Might very well be a first chapter of a novel, now it ends far too soon. ****
The Man Who Bridged the Mist • novella by Kij Johnson
Areas of “mist” separate different parts of the world. Mist is at least partly toxic and it is something between liquid and gas. It is possible cross on special boats, but that is often very hazardous. There are also strange and dangerous things living inside the mist. An engineer comes to build a bridge over a strait filled with mist, which will be the longest bridge ever to cross an area of mist. The story tells mainly about of the life man building the bridge, about his work and love and how he changed during the years. A rather long story, which is at places more than a little longwinded. Few actual events happen during the story. The setting was pretty interesting, but we didn’t learn anything about what the mist is or about any other details of the world. There was no reason at all why the story couldn’t have been told as a straight drama and the fantasy aspects are extremely superfluous. If you want to tell that story, why set the story in a fantasyland? Writing as such was excellent, though. ***-

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Analog Science Fiction and Fact January/February 2012

A pretty average issue. It contains the first part of a new serial by Robert J. Sawyer. I am going to read it only when I’ll have at least three parts of the four to come.

"Listen Up, Nitwits" by Jack McDevitt
A voice from Jupiter gives some hints to Earth on the brink of war asking humanity not to destroy itself. It doesn’t agree to answer any question except by those which are asked by one man. The answers he gets aren’t some of the most believable and most of the world pretty much ignores them. A fairly nice story.***+
"Humanity by Proxy" by Mark Niemann-Ross
A history of a mechanical donkey which was first developed by the military and then was adapted for civilian use, presented in reverse order. First the invention is used by a demented old woman in 2114, then by military in 2092 and last we are shown how it was developed 2052. The first segment is very good, the second segment is fairly good, but the last and longest is far too long and boring and heavy with discussion. ***+
"Ninety Thousand Horses" by Sean McMullen
A cyberpunkish tale of an inventor who builds a rocket in Yorkshire 1899 as means to revenge his father. The story is told from the viewpoint a maid (who in reality is a spy working for the inventor's father and has a very good education in mathematics and engineering.) A very good, well written and exiting story, which is easily the best in issue. ****
"Project Herakles" by Stephen Baxter
A story which happens in the Britain in the sixties. The British army (or secret service) has created human giants by selective breeding. Those giants are REALLY gigantic and weight much more than elephants. That apparently took about two or three generations of selective breeding. At the same time a greedy magazine publisher and the king plan a coup with the support of US forces (those who are planning the coup have promised forces for the Vietnam war).Will the people rise to oppose the insurgents? I am not sure what to think about this story. Was it written with serious intent? Or is it some sort of parody of the worst pulps of the 1930s? The biological and scientific details are completely ridiculous, so horribly bad that they surely must have intentionally ludicrous. But there wasn’t any humorous “eye winking” which would have typical for a parody - or at least I couldn't find it. It might very well be a parody nevertheless for all I know. But the writing also seemed to be somewhat clumsy, and I really, really did not like this story at all. Well at least it was easy to read and finish while trying not to drop my jaw from too far from the silliness of most of the details. **-
"An Interstellar Incident" by Catherine Shaffer
A young diplomatic aide must organize a gala dinner with an alien delegation. The trouble is that aliens consider human feeding habits disgusting (cutting dead meat to pieces and putting them openly to the mouth! Disgusting!) and humans aren’t too keen about the eating habits of the aliens (releasing a lot of small live furry animals in the room and bouncing over them). With the help of a corresponding junior aide from the alien delegation they almost manage. A light story with some small stupidities. Perhaps the security would have been a tad tighter for such an event. ***
"Doctor Alien and the Spindles of Infinity" by Rajnar Vajra
A doctor alien story. A psychiatrist who specializes in alien patients first treats a very strange alien with a memory trouble, after that he is invited to another galaxy give his opinion on an important matter. An overlong story which might have benefitted if it had been split in two parts and condensed. There is far too much discussing and describing going on which doesn’t really drive the plot forward. There were some pretty good parts, but they are being overshadowed by the dull parts. ***-

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

A very original book about a literary detective in alternative 1985 where Crimean war is still going on, the charge of the light brigade is recent history (and the main protagonist, Thursday Next not only took part in it but lost her brother during the charge), Dodos are popular pets, Wales is a communist dictatorship and literature is much more important than in our world, so important that there is a special branch of secret police solely dedicated to crimes involving literature. Not a very important branch, but more prestigious than ordinary police. The first editions and original manuscripts are more valuable than anything and something master criminals crave. Thursday Next is drafted to a higher branch of secret service as she is one of the few people who can identify a master thief, Acheron Hades. Their first encounter is pretty much a disaster…and soon the barriers between books and real life apparently start to weaken, at least characters seem to disappear from books and appear in the real world.
A very entertaining and amusing book with nice characters, dry humor, a lot of action and a huge amount of literary allusions – some of which I surely missed. (I haven’t ever read Jane Eyre – a book which is very important for most of the plot, but reading the Wikipedia synopsis of the book helped a lot). The world was interesting and usual, something I would like to hear more about. Everything might not have been extremely logical, but the tone was light and entertaining that it didn’t hurt. I probably must pick up the next part of the series sooner than later.

400 p.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, April 2006

A pretty good, above average issue.

Boundary Condition • novella by Wil McCarthy
A space ship is recording quantum boundary effects of some sort which only can be detected using the brains of certain individuals as a sort of receptor. This might have something to do with god, religion, meditation and/or prayer. The Pope (the first American pope, Dave the first), comes to visit the space station as a surprise. There are a LOT of discussion about different things and a lot of explaining of different things. A few totally ridiculous situations happen. (The bodyguards of the pope are apparently total idiots with no sense what can be dangerous and what isn’t) The ending is sad and/or ambiguous. The writing is such is very good, but I didn’t get the point of the story. ***
Nothing to Fear But • shortstory by Stephen L. Burns
An inventor who has phobias for almost everything, tries to find a way remove all fear from people. He succeeds only too well. The story is told as a diary which was found from the ruins after a devastating fire. Very enjoyable story, but not really special in any way. ***
The Lowland Expedition • [Old Earth] • shortstory by Stephen Baxter
A part of series which happens on a planet (A far future earth?) where time passes at different speeds on different altitudes. An expedition is sent to explore lowlands where time moves much slower than on the high ground most people live. They encounter a strange town and strange woman who has metallic smell. A pretty good but simple exploration style adventure story. ***+
Lighthouse • [Kristi Land and Greg Cooper] • shortstory by Jack McDevitt and Michael Shara
A young scientist has discovered a new class of strange stars. That type of stars should not be able to exist in nature. She finds an explanation (which is about what could be expected). A well written story which uses flashback format. There isn’t much happening and there isn’t anything surprising, but nevertheless this worked pretty well as a story. ***+
Lady be Good • novelette by John G. Hemry
A story about an old and worn spaceship which has to take slightly suspect cargoes to be able function at all. The first mate rescues passengers from a ship which was destroyed by pirates and he must ultimately make a desperate choice. A very well written story with an emotional ending. There were some things to nitpick though, if two spaceships hit each other, you really are not going to see “structural beams bending”, as speeds would be so great that everything would be over in microseconds and probably so far that nothing could be seen anyway. Aside from that a rare story which made my eyes to mist for a second. ****
Numismatist • novelette by Richard A. Lovett
A pastor has been shot dead after he went on a shooting spree. A psychologist tries to find out what happened to him and why. He seems to have lived very quiet and peaceful life; why he went to the mall and tried to shoot several kids? A well written and gripping story with some emotional scenes. ****-

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Galaxy science fiction February 1953

A pretty average issue.

Four in One • novelette by Damon Knight
Four individuals who have been exploring an alien planet are digested by a strange creature, which absorbs everything but the brains. They are able to communicate with each other, and they are eventually able to take control of the creature. But as all characters are very different (a scientist, a secretary, a military man and a "moral officer" of an apparently more or less fascist style earth empire) it seems it is impossible to find a common goal? A pretty nice and entertaining story. ***½
Protective Mimicry • shortstory by Algis Budrys
The currency should be completely counterfeit proof. But how there can be several exactly similar banknotes including all stains on them? A fairly stupid story which has below average writing which depends on a stupid final twist. **
Saucer of Loneliness • shortstory by Theodore Sturgeon
A flying saucer touches a young woman and then disappears. Everyone tries to find out if the saucer sent her some sort of message. People suspect her, FBI interrogates her and puts a tail on her. She starts to send messages in the bottles on the shore. The story strives for poetic and beautiful writing and even succeeds in it at least for a measure. Pity that the “plot” doesn’t carry the writing – there hardly is any. **
Watchbird • novelette by Robert Sheckley
Thousands of robot planes which are able to generalize and learn are launched to prevent murder. Not only they are self-learning, they are able spread information between every unit, and soon they generalize the concept of "murder" a bit too much…Ok story, clearly below average for Sheckley. ***-
Know Thy Neighbor • shortstory by Elisabeth R. Lewis
A single girl who lives alone in an apartment and worries of not getting married - after all, she is already 27 - starts to suspect her neighbor is an alien. Well, she is right, she just is wrong about which neighbor. A pretty well and fluently written story, but the plot has holes and isn't very creative. ***-

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny

A Hugo award winner from 1968.
A book which throws the reader directly to the deep end of the pool. The book starts in the middle of action with no explanations or background information. The next chapters tell as semi-independent stories how the situation of the first chapter was set up.
The book happens on a planet which has been colonized centuries earlier. The crew of the space ship has established themselves as the “gods” of the world and has created mythology and religion which is loosely based on Hinduism. They use technology and reincarnation using a sort of mind transfer to stay in power, while the rest of the colonist stay on about medieval technology level. Any significant scientific advancement is crushed to preserve the power of the “gods”. One former crew member and former “god”, Mahasamatman (or Sam for short) wants to change that and establishes Buddhism as a rival to “god-run” Hinduism placing himself at the role of Buddha hoping to undermine rigid social structure imposed by the old “gods”. He also drafts the “demons” who were the originals inhabitant of the planet and who have been banished for centuries.
I was somewhat ambivalent about this book. Parts of it were very good, parts were written in fairly complex language which wasn’t too easy to understand (especially under fairly heavy medication against pain. A frozen shoulder is something I DON'T recommend). Perhaps a little better knowledge of religions described in the book would have made the content easier to understand. The independence of the separate chapters which happened sometimes with very long time-spans between them didn’t help and it took some time get into a new chapter with totally new situation. The book is excellent in spite of those little shortcomings I have mentioned.
304 p.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, November 2011

Fairly nice issue, perhaps slightly above average.

With Unclean Hands • novella by Adam-Troy Castro
An incredibly advanced alien race which is thousands year ahead of humans is dying out. As herbivores, they are so timid that when they first encountered other species in space they just retreated and basically slowly dying from the shock as a race. For some reason they are trying to find the worst murderers mankind has and they are ready to pay practically anything for them. Why would they want them? A very good and well written gripping story. ****-
Dig Site • shortstory by Jack McDevitt
A very strange statue is found in an island in Greek. It looks very different from other statues, is in modernistic style and appears to depict a space suit or a diving suit. Writing is pretty nice, but the story ends just when it is starting to get interesting. Is it even science fiction or not? ***½
The Buddy System • shortstory by Don D'Ammassa
A pair of friends develops an AI based expert system which co-ordinates almost everything. It seems to be a success and the world seems to be a better place. Until things go wrong.. Shortish and fairly simple and not too unpredictable tale, but is very entertaining and well written anyway. ***+
Rocket Science • shortstory by Jerry Oltion
A man is waiting in a cabin of his self-made suborbital space ship for the launch. Another man who has attached weather balloons to a lawn chair causes a dangerous situation during the launch. And man on the top of the self-made rocket wonders how some people are cranks? Nice, a very short and ironic story, but the irony is spelled out a little too clearly. ***
Chumbolone • shortstory by Bill Johnson
The story goes from fixing an election with a computer system to finding intelligent radio signals from interstellar noise with the same computer system. I wasn’t too impressed, the story felt somewhat disjointed and didn’t make any lasting impression - I had trouble remembering it only after a few days. ***-
Ian, Isaac, and John • novelette by Paul Levinson
A man travels back in time to make small adjustment in a David Bowie music album. He may have also another motive. (to warn John Lennon about his coming murder). An ok story, not bad. ***-
The Boneless One • novelette by Alec Nevala-Lee
A ship which is doing biological research finds a colony of unusual biolumescent octopuses. The stop to study them, but soon the leader of the expedition is murdered and the motor of the boat is sabotaged. The first part of the story was pretty good, but the plot and even the writing seemed to decay towards the end. From a scientific viewpoint the plot was totally, totally, ludicrous. A virus which could infect both humans and octopuses with similar mental effects - no way. **+

Friday, November 4, 2011

Hannu Väisänen: Kuperat ja koverat

Continues an”autobiographical” story of a Finnish artist. The events in the book might be true, but then again they very well might not be. The book has creative language which is written mostly in stream of consciousness style.

Jatkaa Hannu Väisäsen aikaisempaa muistelmakirjaa. Kun aikaisempi kirja, Toiset kengät, käsitteli lähinnä lapsuutta tämä kirja kattaa kursorisesti lukioajan Savonlinnassa ja taideopinnot Helsingissä. Ote on vähemmän elämänkerralliselta vaikuttava ja tyylilajina on enemmän anekdotaalinen tajunnanvirta, jonka todellinen elämänkerrallisuus on ehkä hieman epäilyksiä herättävää. Kirjan minä-hahmo Antero ajelehtii enemmän havainnoijana kuin aktiivisena tekijänä epämääräisestä asunnosta ja omalaatuisesta tuttavuudesta toiseen valmistuen sinä samalla kuvataitelijaksi ja pitää ensimmäisen oman näyttelynsä. Kielellisesti ja tyylillisesti tosiaan kirja vaikutti toisentyyppiseltä kuin aikaisempi lukemani osa, enkä tästä ihan yhtä paljoa pitänyt, ihan luova ja omaperäinen luettava kuitenkin.

431 s.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Analog Science Fiction - Fact March 1971

This issue was read from my phone during lunch hours, so that might have hurt my concentration somewhat. A bulk of the issue is taken by a serial and there are only three stories.

The Missing Man • [Rescue Squad] • novella by Katherine MacLean
An underwater dome is destroyed in an apparent bomb attack causing a lot of destruction. A youth gang/terrorist cell is one suspect, but who did they do it? The story was felt fairly unstructured and went from a catastrophe tale to a police procedural to an engineering problem solving story to an action piece. Pretty overlong, writing as such was ok. ***
The Operator • [Federation of Humanity] • novelette by Christopher Anvil
Most women have died in a fairly new colony world. A shipload of women land there... and then there are twists and turns aplenty. A part of series and I have no knowledge of any of other parts, so there wasn’t enough back story and I didn’t get really into the story. It felt more than a little overlong. ***-
May the Best Man Win • shortstory by Stanley Schmidt
A man who has returned as a hero from an interstellar expedition is the most popular candidate for US presidency. He has some doubts, as due to time dilation he is only 34.5 and not required 35 years (when his calendar age is well past that) and almost declines. The party officials talk him over eventually. A fairly stupid story. If the candidate is so serious about such a small “technicality”, why bring it up when the votes from the primary are already being counted and not earlier? ***-

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, January 2001

A fairly average issue. Not exceptional. No real stinkers except the Williamson story. I have yet to read something by him I would enjoy.

Relic of Chaos • [Hartigan O'Reilly and Gwen Chryse] • novella by G. David Nordley
A police detective who is working on a space station which is orbiting Saturn must find a sacred relic which has been stolen from Vatican. The thief is extorting the Catholic Church and demanding some very secret information. I couldn't really get into the story, as the premise sounded SO ridiculous: the relic is a common wooden box owned by Mother Theresa (the world would probably be a better place without her, anyway – preaching against birth control in India - that is lunacy if anything) so it has no real historical or other value. I would imagine that the Catholic Church has truckloads upon truckloads as valuable or more valuable relics. Why would they give a s*it for one which doesn't even sound very special in any way? There is murder and mayhem, all for that box? I really couldn't accept that. The writing itself is competent; maybe the story could have been somewhat shorter. ***+
Vibes • novelette by Laurence M. Janifer
Beings which consist of vibrating noble gas atoms are dying on a strange planet. What is killing them? A story which is written in extremely verbose and meandering style. I really didn't get it at all. It felt like a parody of something I didn't recognize, or it was supposed to be humorous and I failed to get the point. **½
Resurrection • shortstory by James Van Pelt
The crew of a generation spaceship wakes up on 100 year rotation. A girl is afraid to go to cryosleep and stays awake. A man who has been in love with her wakes up after a hundred years to find out that the love is still alive. An emotional story which has a few problems with logic. ***
Augie • shortstory by George Zebrowski
People are using AI "butlers" which takes years and years of training to work properly. And even then they may malfunction like the Angie" of this story and behave like spoiled eight year olds. Would that kind of AI helper really be worth all the trouble no matter how efficient it would finally be, I wonder. ***
A Singular Clone • shortstory by Marie Ming
A medical story in the best James White / Sector general style. How to cure cancer from protoplasmic life form who is fragile, can't tolerate any anaesthetics and shoots poison as involuntary reflex against pain. A pretty nice story, only downside was that there was no background for the characters at all. It felt like a middle piece from a larger story arch. ***
The Nth Step • novelette by Jack Williamson
Continues the story from Dec 2000 Analog. The clones return to earth only to find that all humans have disappeared. I couldn't really get into the story. Writing felt longwinded, not very good, the story telling was detached and not compelling. The ending just fizzled out.**-

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Galaxy Science Fiction January 1953

Not too bad issue, amusing tales which are quaintly old fashionable.

The Defenders • novelette by Philip K. Dick
The ultimate war has been going on for seven years. Americans have retreated to subterranean habitants while very intelligent and sophisticated robots wage the war above on the earth which has turned to an inhabitable wasteland. A group of soldiers would like to see the earth by their own eyes. The robots are very reluctant to allow that as the radioactivity is very lethal for humans. Or so they say. If I say that the story ends with very positive and optimistic way, it is easy to guess what is happening in the world above the caves. ***+
Teething Ring • shortstory by James Causey
An alien anthropologist who is doing field work on an American suburb makes a mistake and thinks that earth is much more advanced than it is. He leaves a neural amplifier behind him and an infant uses it. It is a pretty ineffective model though, it only cubes the iq score… nice little amusing simple tale reminiscent of Sheckley. ***
Life Sentence • shortstory by James V. McConnell [as by James McConnell ]
A man has murdered his wife and her lover. It was first murder for years and society finds a new way to punish him: it won't let him die. As frail and old, he has one more new year’s day without even knowing how long he has spent in a hospital. A fairly good story which strives for literate writing - doesn't quite make it – but is not bad. ***
The Inhabited • novelette by Richard Wilson
An alien invader inhabits minds of different people and likes it a lot. Until it goes to the mind of a schizophrenic and finds it is not able to get out and such people would trap his people if they were to invade. A fairly good story, very “oldstyle” but still entertaining. ***+
Prott • shortstory by Margaret St. Clair
A man is studying strange creatures resembling a poached egg. They appear in the space when the space ship travels at a certain speed. He manages to make telepathic contact with them, and they send strong messages about “-ing the –“, without really specifying what that means. The story is presented as a diary which has been recovered from space. The man has decided never to return to earth so that the aliens won't find the way there. Of course he doesn't manage. Not much point in this story, or I wasn't able to find it. **½

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

The film which is based on this book is probably more famous than the book itself. The main plot was very familiar - I have seen the movie several times and the movie plot follows the book almost in verbatim except for a few scenes which have been dropped out of the movie (apparently they would have been too complicated to shoot). At the end of this edition, there are also some unconnected scenes from the “second part” of the book. (Unfortunately, that can’t be published as the writing is supposed to be done by Steven King and he hasn’t written it yet). The book has a framing story which tells how William Goldman heard these stories as a child. When he hunted down the book as an adult, he found that there were some boring bits besides the good parts as his father had omitted the boring bits while telling the story. Then he decided to abridge the story by removing all the boring bits, and was able to produce something even his son loved. However, there were a lot of legal difficulties with the curator of the original author’s estate, which all were eventually settled. All that is totally fictional, as fictional as the basic plot probably everyone knows: The Story of the True Love (+ some exiting action) where a beautiful girl falls in love with a farm boy who ends up as a pirate while his love of life is courted by the evil prince of the realm, who is plotting the assassination of his bride to be.
The book is as good as the film; the writing is warm and witty. There are lot of action, a lot of humor, a lot to love in this book.

416 pp

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Galaxy Science Fiction July 1952

A pretty good issue.

Star, Bright • novelette by Mark Clifton
A single dad is taking care of his daughter, who turns out to be a Bright, a kind of new step in evolution. She is much more intelligent that her father by the age of four or five, even though her dad is a “Tween” (something between the normal people and Brights). She learns soon to communicate telepathically and contacts another Bright child, whose parents soon “happen” to move to next door. The powers of the kids rise with a fast rate, until they apparently get trapped to another dimension. A well written and very good story in spite of a fairly worn premise. ****
Wailing Wall • [Marco 4] • shortstory by Roger Dee
A ship is stranded on a planet where humans used to be slaves of another species. The society seems to be very strange. That idea sounds a lot better than the story actually is. A lot of fairly pointless discussion several things which pretty poorly connected with the subject matter and a sudden ending. Pretty mediocre story. **
Dumb Martian • novelette by John Wyndham
A man who has taken a job on an asteroid for five years buys a Martian girl for his companion. He gets soon bored with the stupid “mart” and occasionally batters her and treats her overall very badly and condescendingly. A scientist comes to visit them and treats the “stupid mart” as a real human woman, which of course irritates the hero immensely. The scientist soon disappears after an "accident" . The Martian seems to be so stupid that she doesn't really react to that at all, at least it seems so.. A very good story, there was somewhat too much exposition at some places, but otherwise very entertaining and well written story. Something Astounding would never have published: an alien beating a human. ****-
Shipshape Home • shortstory by Richard Matheson
A science fiction author and his wife have found a real deal: a furnished apartment with extremely low rent. The apartment house has very creepy looking janitor, and the wife starts to suspect that he has some sort of sinister plans. And she claims that there are some sorts of engines at the basement. It shouldn't be hard to guess what is going to happen. Not too surprising plot. Loose writing, there is far, far too much arguing and discussing between the author and the wife about the same thing with even same words. The worst story of the issue.**-

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Analog Science Fiction and Fact December 2011

A fairly good issue, seem to be somewhat above the average.

Ray of Light • novelette by Brad R. Torgersen
A strange alien space ship arrived and deposited millions of mirrors in space which block the sun. The last humans live at the bottom of ocean tapping geothermal heat. A daughter of the main character has disappeared. A very good story about hope, well written, could have been somewhat longer. ***½
Turning It Off • shortstory by Susan Forest
Everything has ”safeties” which prevent practically all sorts of accidents. Even people have safety systems which prevent accidents by falls etc. But they also dampen the sensitivity of skin. Two teenagers find a way to turn off their safety systems and experiment a little. A fairly good story, could have been slightly longer. ***+
Freudian Slipstream • shortstory by Brad Aiken
A scientist how is travelling to a colony world works while on suspended animation on a cure for a disease which threatens the existence of the new world. Somewhat confusing first, but most thing did make sense eventually. ***
Hidden • shortstory by Kyle Kirkland
A genetic treatment which makes someone extremely intelligent has been available for some time. There is a slight problem; those have the treatment usually go destructively mad before they are thirty. One supergenius has taken over a military installation, which has an experimental extremely powerful bomb. An attorney who has some experience with supergeniuses is drafted to find out what is going on. Not too bad, background probably more interesting than the story itself. ***
Art for Splendor's Sake • shortstory by Dave Creek
Continues a series where humans are trying to help two alien species coexisting on a planet which will be turned inhabitable by solar emissions (or something) in a near future. There are some schisms between the species, there is some tension among humans and so on. A fairly light piece. ***-
The Impossibles • novelette by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
A story from the “Disappearance Artist” universe. A young attorney is working on a court which handles interspecies affairs. The work is very stressful and there never are any cases where you could get an acquittal, at best you can make some slight plea bargains on the punishment. The attorney gets a case where a pregnant young female is going to be punished for theft by cutting away her hand, most certainly killing her in the process. A very good, well written and enjoyable story. There will probably be more stories involving the same main character, at least I hope so. ****
Not for Ourselves Alone • novelette by Charles E. Gannon
Aliens are approaching Jupiter after annihilating a human colony on the Barnard’s star. An international group faces them mainly in order to gather some intelligence and if possible to delay their attack agains the earth. A LOT of info dumping and details of orbital mechanics, otherwise an adequately presented fairly ordinary story about heroism. The attack is prevented far far too easily in about two lines at the end of the story.***-

Monday, October 17, 2011

Alexander McCall Smith: Kalaharin konekirjoituskoulu miehille

A mma Ramotswen “mystery”. Not much detecting here. A light book where problems tend to solve themselves. A depression can disappear between books by itself, there are no really unfortunate events at all anywhere. A slightly better than the previous book, I might even pick up the next one in the series at some time.

Mma Ramotswe romaani. Etsiväntyö jää kirja kirjalta vähäisemmäksi tässä sarjassa. Kirjassa kuvataan lähinnä tavallista elämänmyönteistä elämää Botswanassa. Tällä kertaa ongelmina on kilpailevan etsiväntoimiston ilmaantuminen, etsivätoimiston sihteerin mma Makutsin rakkaushuolet ja perustama miehille tarkoitettu konekirjoituskoulu sekä mma Ramotswen ja hänen kihlattunsa kasvatuslapsen huono käytös. Kuten vähän pelkäsin, kihlatun, J.L.B. Matekonin masentuneisuus on kadonnut yhtä äkillisesti kuin se ilmaantuikin. Todennäköisesti ottolapsen käytösongelmat ovat seuraavaan kirjaan mennessä samanlaisesti sormianäpsäyttämällä kadonneet. Suhteellisen naivia, äärimmäisen hyväntahtoista, mutta elämänmyönteistä kerrontaa, jota on nopea lukea, etenkin kun kirjat ovat kovin lyhyitä. Sen verran paremman tuntuinen kuin edellinen osa, että en ihan vielä taida sarjaa hylätä, vaan luen seuraavankin osan taas kevyenä välipalana raskaampien kirjojen välissä.

285 s.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Analog Science Fiction and Fact October 2011

A pretty good issue for most part.

Of Night • novelette by Janet Catherine Johnston
A story of a spaceship which seems to be haunted. Told as a campfire tale by unknown women who just happens to stroll to a camping place. After the crew (everyone, nobody stays on the ship) visits a planet the ship seems somehow strange and eventually people start to disappear. A few first pages were pretty good (in spite of the story inside a story structure which seldom works very well) but then the story went sharply downhill. It is supposed to be fairly common that spaceships have lunatic crews who abandon their ships without even the pilot staying behind? Doh.
The story falls fairly badly apart towards the end and writing seems to go in a worse direction. **
The Last of Lust • shortstory by Jerry Oltion
Scientists find out where lust is located in the brain and how to turn that off. Religious fanatics manage to turn off lust in everyone in the world. That leads to some unforeseen consequences. Pretty nice story. ***½
The Bullfrog Radio Astronomy Project • shortstory by Brad R. Torgersen
A man who runs a small community FM radio stations gets on offer that cannot be refused: he'll get all the funding he needs if he lends his signal o rich eccentric neighbor who wants to send it to space through a giant radio telescope he has built. It seems like a pretty good deal until the aliens appear...some problems with plausibility, otherwise an entertaining story which could have benefitted from considerable expansion. ****-
The Lycanthropic Principle • shortstory by Carl Frederick
A professor gets his email spammed by some extremely rude spam. He asks help from an internet whiz working in the same school, who claims to be werewolf. A pretty nice and entertaining story. ***½

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Energized by Edward M. Lerner

A novel which was published as a serial in Analog. There will be spoilers in this review, so be aware!

A group of Russian terrorists hijacks an American power satellite and uses its microwave transmitter to destroy alternative energy establishments. Russians have a near monopoly of the oil production and can ask about any price they want for their oil. They want to ruin the reputation of the power satellite, stop its use and harm the alternative sources of energy. So that they can have a monopoly of oil production, and ask any price they want. Wait, didn't they already have those? Yeah, but they are eeevill Russians. The plot of the book was an extremely black and white story with unreasonably mad Russians. Who cares about climate chance and alternative forms of energy, let’s destroy everything so we can hike the oil price for a little while. I was expecting that there would have been some sort of twist and the stupid evilness of the bad guys would have been some sort of clever ruse, but no such luck.
There was at least one very stupid mistake: a radio astronomer (who really should know better) thinks that aurora borealis might be visible in the sunlight and the daylight only "sometimes" washes them away. I would be extremely surprised if anyone has ever seen northern lights at daytime. They are fairly dim at the best and hard to see even at night time near cities as even moderate light pollution overcomes them.
The writing wasn't too good. I started to read this straight away after the Snow Queen (which had very eloquent writing) and the effect was pretty jarring and took some time to get used to “slightly” less literate writing style. At the beginning of the story there were too much exposition and too detailed explaining of everything, and the end had too long action scene. As a whole, some condensing might have served the story.

app. 340 pp. (a little over 100 000 words, I believe)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Analog Science Fiction and Fact December 2000

One of the less good issues. Almost all stories are below average.

The Ultimate Earth • novella by Jack Williamson
A group of clones who live in the moon have apparently seeded earth with new life after some sort of catastrophe. Millennia have passed and a new generation of clones travels to earth. Earth is a pastoral world with very strict population control with near immortality. Then a colony ship which supposed to go to a new colony returns. The colony has been destroyed and all life there has disappeared. As there is no room for the clones on earth, they take part to an expedition to find out what happened to the colony. Very little is found out there.
The story starts from nowhere and ends nowhere. There is very little real content, the writing is pretty bad and characterization is appalling. It is totally unbelievable that this story won a Hugo. It is probably by far the worst Hugo winning novella I have read. **
Snowball in Hell • novelette by Brian Stableford
Some sort of radical group is using some sort of genetic tweaking to produce human offspring from some farm animals, for example from pigs. A raid to faculty goes wrong resulting to shootings and a fire. One of attacking force is rescued by a girl whose parents were pigs, and who seem to be very humane in all ways. Ridiculous genetics and writing in par with science. **+
It's the Thought That Counts • shortstory by Jerry Oltion
Two visitors on alien planet are trying to bypass some trade regulations by asking for Christmas presents.It backfires, of course. Short and pretty stupid story. **
The Missing Mass • [Draco Tavern] • shortstory by Larry Niven
A Draco tavern story. A discussion with aliens about the missing mass in the universe. Worse than average Draco story. **
Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele • novelette by Christopher L. Bennett
Robots which were sent on an alien planet to prepare for human colonization didn’t turn themselves off as they were supposed. Instead they have evolved to various sorts of “animals” filling several evolutionary niches on the planet. There are some arguments which are more valuable, the real life forms they are replacing or the new mechanical life. Not very convincing ones. The best story in a mediocre issue. ***-
Eden Tag • novelette by Stephen L. Burns
A small moon colony and its sheriff face an attack by terrorists. The tone of this story felt a little strange – it couldn’t decide if went for comedy, action or drama. It didn’t really work as any of them, mainly it aimed at being a light-hearted story. A light hearted story about terrorism? **½

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge

A book that follows the main plot of the Snow Queen fairy tale. This version happens on a planet where both summer and winter lasts over hundred years. The planet is a part of the galactic trade routes only during the winter; during the summer the black hole which is used for FTL and is situated nearby the planet is in a position which makes it impossible to use and there is no contact with the rest of the galaxy at all.
The planet is always ruled by a queen. Now the rule of the winter queen is nearing its end. To extend her power, she has planted several clones among the summer people. Only one of them has survived, a girl named Moon. She and her cousin, her lover, were separated while she became a Sibyl, a mythical seer who is revered by the summer people, but is despised and feared by the more technologically inclined winter people. By accident Moon ends up in the outside world, while the winter queen takes interest on Moon’s cousin Sparks. Sparks ends up as a lover of the winter queen, and he seems to have forgotten his earlier life as a nature loving summer. It takes years before Moon is able to return. She still loves Sparks and hopes to win him back. In spite of appearances, this book is pure science fiction. Everything which might seem mystical has a science fictional explanation.
A very well written book with nice characterization and rich language. The only character that really didn’t come alive was Sparks, who felt very cardboardish when compared with the well-described female characters of the book. It seemed that he was mainly used as a more or less simpleminded boy-toy by the two main characters. I wonder if that was intentional “comment” which was purposefully made by the author, considering how females are often used in science fiction. Anyway, a book which well deserves the Hugo award it won 1981.

560 pp.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Galaxy March 1952

Somewhat above average issue, the stories are ok, but perhaps a little past their time.

The Year of the Jackpot • novelette by Robert A. Heinlein
Strange things start to happen – people are behaving in surprising manner and the tensions are rising everywhere. One scientist, a statistician who analyzes trends believes that all trends are going in the worse direction at the same time and will bottom down in a few months. He runs to mountains with a girl (who he met earlier when she took away all her clothes in the middle of a street and who later for some hard to understand reason fell in love with him). After they have settled to live on the mountains (there are some small problems, like a nuclear war on the outside world) the sun goes nova. The writing is pretty good, but I really didn’t get the real point of the story if there was any. Things just happen and everything ends badly.
Manners of the Age • shortstory by H. B. Fyfe
People have no social interaction at all, have a lot of robots to take care of their needs and have contact with each other via a TV system. A man finds out that a woman lives in a nearby mansion. He decides to visit her in person. As they haven't interacted with other people in years, they have no social graces at all and irritate each other’s immensely, but they manage to have (off screen) sex nevertheless. The man then returns to his mansion after filing a marriage.
The 7th Order • shortstory by Jerry Sohl
A robot who is the seventh order of being comes to earth to evaluate if it is a good and safe place to produce more robots of the seventh order. Humans as lesser beings would be workers in that project. If the robot cannot be stopped, he will call the invading force. If he is stopped, earth will be written off as a dangerous place and will not be bothered again. The robot is able to read all minds inside a circle of dozens of miles, so stopping it won’t be so easy. The story reminds me of a Spider Robinson story which is based on more or less on the basic premise. A somewhat old fashionable story, but all right.
Catch That Martian • shortstory by Damon Knight
A "Martian" is on loose. Or at least noisy and irritating people start to find themselves partly dislocated from this universe, and are partly transparent and totally silent. An investigator is trying to find who is doing that, but ends up as one of the victims. Nothing really surprising, writing is fairly mediocre. Some tightening would really have served the story.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Galaxy Science Fiction, February 1952

An average issue for Galaxy at that time.

Double Standard • shortstory by Alfred Coppel
A man is using a fake ID and masks to get on a space ship to which he could not be accepted because of his genetics. He is caught soon after liftoff by women who is the gender more suited to space travel. Have seen better writing - and very often. **
Conditionally Human • novelette by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
As very strict population control (based on genetics) is being enforced pets which are modified either to have a higher intelligence or to resemble human children are popular. A man who is responsible for the district pound has to find run away pets and often put down "surplus" ones. As can be imagined this can be a stressful job. Especially his wife (who of course is at home even though they haven't and can't have children) has many qualms about the work ( it apparently comes as a surprise to her...). A mutant strain of pets has been released by accident. The restrictions on the growth and intelligence aren't working as they should. What to do when "a pet" looks like a two year old girl, and is on the intelligence level of about a five year old and "it" should be put down? ***½
Dr. Kometevsky's Day • shortstory by Fritz Leiber
Moons of Mars and Jupiter have disappeared. And there are a lot of people who are claiming to be "gods". Feels like a very old-fashionable story and finishes far too easily ( all the planets of the solar system are camouflaged space ships hiding from the enemy who is now approaching, and the ships must fight or escape - destroying earth and all the other planets while doing so. It happens that the bad guys have stopped being bads, and everything is nice and good...**
Fresh Air Fiend • shortstory by Kris Neville
A man is suffering from debilitating disease on a foreign planet. A woman is tending him, but unfortunately she is very stupid, it is hard to give her instructions. About as appalling it sounds. Writing as such is ok, but otherwise pretty bad at all levels. It doesn't even seem to be written as an ironic piece.**-

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Mind's Eye by Oliver Sacks

This book continues the series of interesting neurological case studies. This time the emphasis is on visual perception and sight.
The book describes some interesting cases, among others a musician who lost her ability to read sheet music, but was ably play from memory, and a man after a stroke lost his ability to read written text, but was still able to write (without being able to read his own writing!). The last part of the book describes Sacks’ own experiences when he lost his sight from his better eye.
The first half wasn’t as good as his earlier books. The writing felt somewhat more complex but at the same too “loose” and it was not as entertaining as the earlier books. The latter half was better and very personal. There was one pretty bad irritant in this book: there were a great number of footnotes, on some pages there was more text on footnotes than in the body text. And many of the footnotes were very redundant and little would have been lost if they were omitted.

As a whole a pretty interesting book, but probably worst book by Sacks I have read.
260 pp.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Analog Science Fiction and Fact September 2011

A serial takes lot of space from this issue. Otherwise below average issue.

Therapeutic Mathematics and The Physics of Curve Balls • novelette by Gray Rinehart
A boy with a malformed skull living on a freak show (in the 1930s) is a mathematical whiz kid, and is able to read minds and influence thoughts. He is maltreated by the owner of the freak show (I wonder why he isn't able to influence him?). He runs away to see a baseball game. There are some good ideas in the story, but it is far too short to explore them properly. And there is the baseball, always a turnoff for me...**1/2
Hostile Environment • shortstory by Emily Mah
Two teenagers on a Mars colony manage to get in trouble more than once. They have an accident while driving surface vehicles and they suspected from a foul play. A pretty simple story where children seem to be behaving below their age. Writing was ok. ***
The Chaplain's Assistant • shortstory by By Brad R. Torgersen
There apparently has been a human invasion of a hostile alien planet. It has failed completely, but a few survivors of the invading fleet live in a sort of reservation where they are studied by insectoid aliens, most of whom seem to have lost interest. It might be only a short while before the aliens destroy the survivors. One day an alien visits a small church some of the humans have built. Apparently the alien have no concept of religion at all. Is that something which could be so interesting for the aliens they will think that there might be something to be learned from the humans. Average story with old and irritating trope: “no religion” = “cold and evil”. ***+
Asteroid Monte • shortstory by Craig DeLancey
Humanity has joined a sort of galactic community. The more barbaric species (like humans) are often used for police work. A human who has broken some rules is drafted to a very elite police force. His first mission is to examine the smuggling of a potentially dangerous machinelike life form. The background of the story feels very interesting, but the plot and resolution of this story (the first of a series?) wasn’t anything really special. ***-
Helix Of Friends • novelette by Carl Frederick
An experiment in some sort of mind melding using some sort apparatus as help leads to a discovery of alternative worlds, as an imaginary friend of a child turns out to be something more. A small nice twist in the middle of the story, but otherwise something which could have been published in Astounding during Campbell’s Dianetics phase. Writing is on about the same level, also. **-

Darwinia: A Novel of a Very Different Twentieth Century by Robert Charles Wilson

Europe is overnight replaced with a strange land with strange plants and strange, most often poisonous animals. The geography is the same, but no trace of any human habitation remains. After a short period of puzzlement there is a scramble for new territory and resources. The main character is a photographer who takes part on an ill fated expedition to mountains which used to be called the Alps. The expedition finds a strange artificial structure before they are attacked by unknown villains. The few survivors keep a very low profile after their return, especially after some very unusual visitors contact them..

The later half of the book is pretty different from the beginning. There turns out to be strange factions fighting age old battles and the people find themselves drafted to take part of the fight. And by the end of the book things turn out to be very metaphysical and the world itself might not be what it appears.
The idea of the book is pretty good, and the first half is excellent. Unfortunately the second half is much worse. It covers a very long time – decades - in fairly sketchy manner and and even the final battle is over in a few pages and is described in very detached manner.

320 pp.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Analog Science Fiction and Fact July-August 2011

I read this issue weeks ago, but haven't had time to write the review. Stupidly I hadn't made any notes about stories, either – and had some real trouble remembering the details of some of them. That naturally tells something about the quality of those stories, also. Two goods ones, others less so.

Coordinated Attacks • novella by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Practically all leaders of the moon are assassinated or at least tried to assassinate with a very strange poison. A police officer investigates the crime. Her examination of an earlier crime (which almost ended very badly for her and her partner) is followed on another time level. There is a connection between those events, but a fairly loose one. A well-written story, but somehow not so well structured as it could have been. The ending was also a bit too open. ****-

Jak and the Beanstalk • novelette by Richard A. Lovett
A young boy wants to climb to the orbital elevator when he grows up. It takes some planning and maneuvering, but when he is a young man, he gets his chance. It is only 35,786 km vertically...
Surprisingly good story, but there a little too much (perhaps unneeded) drama at the end. ****-

A Witness to All That Was • shortstory by Scott William Carter
A married couple with serious issues find a lone robot from a desolate planet. The robot has a story to tell. Writing was fairly good, but the plot felt very familiar with some echoes from Star Trek TNG:s “Inner Light”. ***

Death and Dancing in New Las Vegas • shortstory by Ernest Hogan
Some extremely confusing happenstances in Mars. Some sort of band is supposed to perform on Martian city. I didn't get the story at all, or at least couldn't recall any real details when writing the review.. Apparently, it was supposed to be funny. **

One Out of Many • novelette by Kyle Kirkland
A brain stimulator which is supposed to be safe might have some unforeseen consequences after all. But why a legendary character, a possible crime lord, is interested in it and kidnaps a member science regulations bureau? A lot happens in the story and not everything in it is very logical. The world is fairly strange – you must wait in a line to get access to information databases and you are not supposed to take notes. Some pruning of some details or expansion might have served the story. ***-

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Naked Lady Who Stood on Her Head: A Psychiatrist's Stories of His Most Bizarre Cases by Gary Small

A collection of unusual cases from the practice of American psychiatrist, varying from a naked young woman standing on her head on the emergency ward to a slowly progressing dementia of a colleague. All cases are solved very neatly and quickly by the author, while most of his fellow doctors tend to be arrogant fools. Pretty interesting as such, but gives an impression that psychotherapy is a fast process which is most often based on a clever insight of the therapists. The book was entertaining to read in spite of a great amount simplification of the process.

267 pp.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin

The long waited installment of perhaps the best fantasy series there is or have ever been.
The story continues partly in parallel with the earlier book and deals with those characters who were not featured in it.
As usually, the story is seen from multiple viewpoints, perhaps from too many. For some reason there seemed to be a fair amount of fluctuation of quality between different chapters. Some of them (especially the most Reek/Theon chapters,) were extremely good, some less good, or seemed even superfluous.
As a whole, this book felt more than a little like a middle part of a series: the pieces are being set up for the more important events in the later books and the Real Events will happen sometime later. Well, there were some moving and surprising turns of the plot, but even they seemed to be more cliffhangers for the rest of the series and the consequences were not explored at all, and practically all characters were left to hang on cliffhangers. This was not the best book on the series, and it seems that GRRM has reached that point in his career that he doesn’t have to use an editor anymore. There are a fair amount of things which could have been condensed and even removed resulting in a more satisfying and entertaining book, not to say that this wasn’t one.

1040 pp.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Katja Bargum: Kutistuva turska ja muita evoluution ihmeitä

Excellent and entertainingly written book about the basic principles of evolution. Something every creationist should read, but probably wont.

Viihdyttävästi kirjoitettu johdatus evoluutioon ja sen perusmekanismeihin. Kirja lähtee evoluution perusmekanismeista ja päätyy siihen kuinka ihmiskunnan itsekkyys (joka on evolutionaarisesti ymmärrettävää) vaarantaa koko maailman. Loppupuolella ehkä mennään hiukan liiankin moralisoivalla puolelle. Parasta kirjassa ovat kuvaukset evoluution erikoisista ratkaisuista, mm tilanteissa joissa evoluutio on johtanut lajeja umpikujaan suosimalla yksilön selviämistä lajin selviämisen asemesta. Evoluution logiikka ja mekanismi selitetään kirjassa erittäin hyvin ja selkeästi. Jokaisen sekopää kreationistin lukulistalle tämä kuuluisi, tosin ei taida siitä olla pelkoa.

317 s.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Analog Science Fiction and Fact March 2006

A serial takes a lot of space. Pretty average issue.

The Little White Nerves Went Last • novella by John Barnes
A formed leader of some sort of military or espionage organization is woken inside another man's mind, so that important information can be retrieved. Most of the story is a story inside a story, a tale what happened to him as a very young boy ( mind eating robots attacked the planet) the framing story was a lot less interesting as the nested tale. ***+
The Skeekit-Woogle Test • shortstory by Carl Frederick
A slow and asymptomatic viral infection makes people more creative. A scientist who discovers that wants to be infected as he doesn't consider himself to be creative at all. A fairly nice idea, but execution didn't really work. I found it hard to believe that someone who has been studying synesthesia wouldn't recognize it when he himself has it. ***+
Wildlife • shortstory by Henry Melton
A nature photographer goes to the moon to take some pictures of the landscape there. He finds out that there is some ”wildlife” there, also. A simple, short, story. ***-
Playhouse • [Draco Tavern] • shortstory by Larry Niven
A Draco tavern story. The aliens have some difficulties with their stasis equipment and unload a bunch of alien children from different species to the Draco tavern. Some of them with some fairly unusual habits. Ok, average or above average story. ***
Wasting Time • novelette by Grey Rollins
A professor has some trouble keeping his office plants alive. Then the whole outside wall of his office crumbles, later when the workers are building a new wall it explodes. What might be causing that? Pretty good story, probably the best in issue. The sinister implications of the invention which was made in the laboratory in the next building are are also at least mentioned. ***½

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Reijo Mäki: Kolmastoista yö

A detective novel about a PI working in Turku. Probably worst I have read in this series. The book has some serious problems with an overcrowded plot involving KGB sleeper agents, mafia hit men, nuclear weapons and bisexual love triagles.

Vares romaani. Tällä kertaa Vares kohtaa useampiakin entisen Neuvostoliiton ja nyky isen Venäjän sleeper- agentteja, oma osuutensa juonessa on myös mafialla ja ydinaseilla, epätoivoista biseksuaalista rakkaustarinaa unohtamatta. Ja Vareksella tietenkin kauniita naisia ja olutta riittää. Kovin suuri uskottavuus ei Vares-kirjoissa ole mikään perusvaatimus tavallisestikaan ollut, mutta tässä kyllä mentiin uskottavuudessa kaikkien järkevien rajojen yli. Kirjassa oli runsaasti vauhdikkaita tapahtumia, mutta niiden järkevyys kyllä oli siinä ja sinä. Useampia sarjan kirjoja olen lukenut, mutta tämä taitaa kyllä olla heikoin. Jotenkin kirjoitustyylikin oli jäykempää kuin muissa sarjan kirjoissa. Jonkinasteinen pettymys, joka tuntui vähän välityöltä, mutta menihän tämä kirja hyvin kevyenä ja nopeana kesälukemisena.

362 s.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Galaxy Science Fiction October 1953

A serial takes a lot of space. The short stories are clearly below average.

The Model of a Judge • shortstory by William Morrison
An extraterrestrial with impeccable taste judges a pie making contest. I wonder what the point of the story is supposed to be? **-
The Carnivore • shortstory by Katherine MacLean [as by G. A. Morris ]
Aliens show themselves after humanity has destroyed itself in a war. Aliens are herbivores and very timid, and are afraid of the warlike humanity. The end twist is something that could be expected - aliens have sterilized all remaining humans so that there can be no more so dangerous creatures.***-
With a Vengeance • shortstory by J. B. Woodley
A short story about a new American emperor, who as a young man wanted to by a newspaperman, but couldn't as his writing was so atrocious. Now he has a job for the editor who fired him.... The best story in the magazine, but still fairly mediocre. ***
Origins of Galactic Etiquette • [Origins of Galactic . . .] • shortstory by Edward Wellen
Short stupid vignettes of misunderstandings between Galatic races. The premise might be good, but the stories are overlong and really, really stupid and badly written. Supposed to be funny, but isn't. **
At the Post • novelette by H. L. Gold
Gambler's wife is in a mental hospital because of catatonic schizophrenia. He and some of his friends starts to suspect that she is able to travel to the future. As that would be really valuable for some whose main interest is gambling on horse races, he tries to get into the same state as his wife. It turns out that she isn't traveling to the future – she is working with aliens who want to preserve some of humanity's most important aspects before mankind destroys itself. A pretty bad story which is badly written. **-

Sunday, July 24, 2011

My Hugo award votes 2011 part 4: Short Stories

“For Want of a Nail” by Mary Robinette Kowal
A family on generation ship saves all important data through an AI personality. Apparently it is so poorly constructed that a dropping it shakes a wire apart from its socket, and prevents it from accessing the long term memories. And apparently those who developed the system were brain dead and didn't plan for any backups. Well, that accident reveals that not only the system is poorly constructed and poorly fault tolerant, it is extremely poorly programmed as well - someone with dementia can hack the system so badly it can not be restored. The writing is ok and strives for emotion, but the premise and logic are so horribly bad, that irritation over those prevented any possible emotions.
“Ponies” by Kij Johnson 
A young girl has to bring her pony (with wings, a horn and ability to speak) to a party where the pony has to lose two of the skills. All metaphor, nothing else. Very short story,
“The Things” by Peter Watts 
John Carpenter's The Thing from the monsters point of view. Naturally he(it?) has motivations and goals of his own, and doesn't consider himself as on monster or as a "bad guy" ( or as an individual at all as matter of fact). A fairly good story, very well written, but somewhat too derivative.
“Amaryllis” by Carrie Vaughn 
A kind of postapocalyptic story about a future where there are strict quotas for everything, from fishing to getting children. A fishing group is led by a woman who originally has been born without valid permits and there some resentment against her for that reason. Another fairly good story, probably best of bunch. Not that it means much.

The average quality was probably the worst in this category. Once again I wonder how these stories managed to be nominated. Where is for example “Red Letter Day” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (the winner of Analog's reader survey), which is by far better story than any of these? Two of the stories were fairly good, two were so bad or irritating that I am going to place them below “no award”.

1. “Amaryllis” by Carrie Vaughn 
2. “The Things” by Peter Watts 
3. No award
4. “For Want of a Nail” by Mary Robinette Kowal
5. “Ponies” by Kij Johnson 

Friday, July 22, 2011

My Hugo award votes 2011 part 3: Novelettes

“Eight Miles” by Sean McMullen
A steampunk story from Analog? Is this a first? A balloonist gets an interesting offer from a nobleman in 19th century Britain. The nobleman has found a strange woman, who is very lethargic and passive, and clearly is not a human. He assumes that she comes from the highlands of Tibet, and uses the balloon to get higher up to thinner air.
“That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made” by Eric James Stone
A Mormon missionary is working to convert aliens who live on the sun and are made from plasma. He has made some converts, but then a one of them has bad conscience about a sexual act. 
A well written and good story, in spite of having a totally despicable main protagonist, who is trying to brainwash aliens to totally alien (to them) ideology. That point isn’t really discussed in the story; apparently the author doesn’t recognize the ethical problems. Personally, I think that all missionary work has some very racist connotations: OUR religion is so much better than YOUR religion.
“The Emperor of Mars” 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.
“The Jaguar House, in Shadow” by Aliette de Bodard
I read this story earlier when it was published in Asimov's. i didn't get it them. Now I tried to reread it, but I got it even less. Some sort of intrigue told in reverse cronological order in some sort of alternative world where the great indian kingdoms of middle and south America weren't destroyed.
Plus or Minus” by James Patrick Kelly
A youngster who has been genetically modified for interstelar travel ( she is able to go hibernation) has more or less run away home and is working on some sort of space freighter. They have an acident, and inevitable conclusion happens. Well written but very ordinary and predictable story. I wonder why this was nominated?

Most of the nominees in this category were competent and even enjoyable, and I really liked of “The Emperor of Mars” and ”Eight Miles”. They were both competent and good stories, and it was fairly hard to decide which of them is the better one. I might well change their order before the final voting. The worst two were also easy to find; in both cases I really don't understand why they were even nominated. I didn't really hate either one, so I am not going put them below the ”no award”.

1. “The Emperor of Mars” by Allen M. Steele
2. “Eight Miles” by Sean McMullen
3. “That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made” by Eric James Stone
4. “Plus or Minus” by James Patrick Kelly
5. “The Jaguar House, in Shadow” by Aliette de Bodard