Sunday, January 30, 2011

Analog Science Fiction and Fact September 2000

Fairly average or slightly above average issue.

Identity Crisis • novelette by Kevin J. Anderson
People are able to chance bodies by some sort of PSI-power nearly everyone has apparently suddenly acquired. The story follows two friends, one who is working for police and another who is renting out his body for people who don't want to endure a painful operation or for some other reason want out of their own body for a while. A very disjointed story which would have right at home on Campbell's Astounding during his lunatic years. Writing was fairly clumsy. **
Night Voices • shortstory by Stephen L. Burns
A night time radio host gets a call from an alien whose space ship has crashed nearby. He (she/it?) has something pretty serious to tell. Excellent story. ****
Cloud Sky City • novelette by Alexis Glynn Latner
A researcher is studying a myth of an ancient city: Her flyer is damaged, and she must try to get back to base by herself. She meets some of the original colonists what live very harsh and secluded life. One man thinks that she is a reincarnation of his recently deceased wife, and captures her. Nothing really impressive, but the writing is nice, though. ***
Executive Committee • shortstory by Alan L. Lickiss
The project of building the Earth has some managerial problems. A very short mildly amusing story consisting of letters between different project managers. **½
Playmate • shortstory by Charles L. Harness
A scientist badly shaken by a death of his wife tries to find out a cure for multiresistant bacteria. Fairly trivial and average story. **½
Reflections • shortstory by Jayge Carr
A daughter (or a clone) of the empress of everything journeys to a small, practically unknown, planet. She is supposed to find useful merchandise apparently as some sort of proof for her abilities. There are naturally some complications. A pretty good story, feels more like a starting point. The more interesting story would happen after this episode. ***½
The Great White Way • novelette by Laura Frankos
Two co-workers who a big time fans of musicals create a VR-simulation where the greatest heroes of the best known musicals face each other. The author apparently loves musicals, and the description of the characters and of their battle is somewhat too detailed. The writing was ok, as a whole not a bad story. ***+

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mikko Rimminen: Nenäpäivä

Last year’s Finlandia award winner. A lonely middle-aged woman starts to pretend to be taking opinion polls and goes from door to door asking inane questions. The book is written in a stream-of-consciousness style with a lot of made up words and extremely long sentences. Being inside a mind of a very stupid and irritating person soon gets pretty tiring.

Tämän vuoden Finlandia palkinnon voittaja. Jo toinen kerta peräkkäin, kun lähinnä tajunnanvirraksi luokiteltava romaani voittaa. Viime vuonna Uunissa kerronnan hitaus toimi oikeastaan tehokeinona. Tämä kirja tuntui osapuilleen yhtä vauhdikkaalta. Kirjan ”sankari” on Irma, keski-ikäinen luuseri, joka saa jostain päähänsä esittää mielipidekyselyiden tekijää saadakseen kontakteja tuntemattomiin henkilöihin. Vähitellen tämä kontaktinhaku alkaa muistuttaa enemmänkin vainoamista.

Kirja on kirjoitettu kokonaan erittäin omaperäisellä tajunnanvirtatekniikalla, ja se on selvästi luovan ja taitavan kirjoittajan tuotosta. Mukan on värikkäitä onomapoeettisia ja muuten erikoisia keksittyjä sanoja. Eri asia onko koko ajan vastenmielisemmäksi muuttuvan, tyhmän henkilön, tajunnanvirran seuraaminen mitenkään kiinnostavaa. Kaikkeen kuluu kappalekaupalla yhtenä pötkönä kirjoitettua tekstimassaa, jopa dialogi on pääosin yhteen kirjoitettua tajunnanvirtana. Varsinaisia tapahtumia kirjassa on kovin vähän, ja pääosa niistäkin on lähinnä voimakasta myötähäpeää aiheuttavia. Kielellisesti kirja on luova, mutta kyllä tästä ”keisarin uudet vaatteet” fiilikset päällimmäisiksi jäivät. Tosin tämä ei ehkä minun kirjani kyllä muutenkaan ole, sillä minulle lukiessa juoni on kieliasua tärkeämpi. Tietysti on tärkeää, että kirja on hyvin kirjoitettu, mutta hyvän juonen vuoksi olen valmis antamaan aika paljon anteeksi, kun taas hyvä pelkkä hyvä kieliasu ilman juonta ei oikein riitä.

339 s.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Galaxy Science Fiction August 1952

A serial takes a lot of space. Otherwise fairly average issue.

Surface Tension • [Pantropy] • novelette by James Blish
The adventures of microscopic men on another planet. They are planning to explore things outside of their world, but they have to overcome a serious obstacle - the surface tension above the ponds they live in.  Somewhat old fashionable, but still readable story.
Proof of the Pudding • shortstory by Robert Sheckley
The last man alive is able to create and destroy things by his though - at least he thought that he is the last human, until a beautiful woman appears. A nice story, as most thing by Sheckley are.
Education of a Martian • shortstory by Joseph Shallit
A girl from earth has fallen in love with a Martian. Her father is a racist, thinking that Martian scum isn't good enough for his daughter. She doesn't think so and considers the Martians perfect, philosophical race. She is going to be surprised...well, in reality she should have picked those personality traits beforehand.
 Yesterday House • novelette by Fritz Leiber
A man is sailing on far islands. He happens land on an island, where a beautiful young woman lives. She seems to be stuck on past, reding thirty-year-old newspapers, and is tended by two old women. The solution lies in an unfortunate death, cloning, sibling rivalry and unfulfilled love. A partly childish sentimental and partly stupid story, the writing could be worse.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Memoirs of a successful celebrity chef, and some background about what happens behind the scenes in restaurants. The book contains the best or second best quote ever: "Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, and an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food. "
For the most part, this is a very entertaining and fascinating book. Anthony Bourdain certainly has lived an interesting life, both in a good way and in a “bad” way. He has been interested in food since he was nine and had a revelation during a family trip to France. He studied later at The Culinary Institute of America, and later worked at several restaurants while using copious amounts of drugs and alcohol. Later he cleaned his act and became the chief chef of an important restaurant and celebrity chef. He tells his life story in very frank and unembellished way and gives really fascinating details about how a professional kitchen works.

320 pp.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Analog Science Fiction and Fact March 2011

A nice issue, clearly above average.

Rule Book • novelette by Paul Carlson
Very developed robots are becoming more common. They can take care of household chores, even be partly responsible for childcare. They are threatening to replace workers in industry, also. The story is somewhat disjointed covering Halloween trick-and-treating and ridiculing a clueless politician. Writing was nice, but it might have been split into two parts and expanded a bit. ***+
Falls the Firebrand • shortstory by Sarah Frost
Very clueless exploration team is studying a new planet where aliens help them out. Writing is very fine, but but... the rain is almost unfamiliar for planetary explorers? ***+
Hiding From Nobel • shortstory by Brad Aiken
A group of men who met on a summer camp a boys meet again. When they were young they had an adventure with unfortunate consequences. Or so they thought. Another story where writing is pretty, but the storyline isn't one of the most believable around. ***+
Julie is Three • shortstory by Craig DeLancey
A seven -year-old girl has survived a car accident which killed her parents. She is still in a hospital under observation, when a doctor starts to pay attention to her somewhat unusual behavior. The title is apparently a play on the famous story by Theodore Sturgeon (which I read just a short while ago). Another good story. The story could have been a bit longer. ***½
Astronomic Distance, Geologic Time • shortstory by Bud Sparhawk
Poetic and bittersweet story spanning geological times following one man and his decadents and a space probe launched by a faraway long dead civilization. Nicely written story going more for the mood than plot. ***½
Taboo • shortstory by Jerry Oltion
If you are practically immortal, haven't seen or been in any contact with your daughter for more than a century (and you can't even really remember anything detailed which has happened more than about fifty years ago), is the incest taboo still valid? Pretty good story.
Betty Knox and Dictionary Jones in the Mystery of the Missing Teenage Anachronisms • novelette by John G. Hemry
Two people from the future have transferred their consciousnesses to their young counterparts of themselves who are still in school. They are trying to stop epigenetic changes the widespread use of chemicals have caused in the future. A few other time-travelers have disappeared without any trace. Is there some force working against the plan? A very good and enjoyable story- ****-

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Analog Science Fiction and Fact July-August 2007

A fairly good issue, some good stories. However, a few not so good ones, also.

Quaestiones Super Aelo et Mundo • novelette by Michael 
How the natural laws might have been discovered much earlier? A well written story as such, but extremely boring. Just several characters are discussing and deriving the most basic laws of physics. Nothing really happens. ***-
The Last of the Weathermen • shortstory by Richard A. Lovett
The local weather predictions turn out to be not local enough,when a former weather man is on a hiking trip on the mountains. A very good story with some fairly good predictions and some anachronisms. The speculative fiction percentage isn't very high and the story would have worked almost as well as a straight contemporary drama. *****-
A Time for Lawsuits • [Little Monsters] • novelette by Amy Bechtel
A "little monsters" story. A vet has more than enough problems. This time the problems deal with unknown animals are fairly minor in comparison with others, including a few pending lawsuits. A well written very nice story. The speculative content was fairly minor. ***½
The Caves of Ceres • novelette by Joe Schembrie
An operator space delivery service meets a young woman who is trying to find her father's mine. Pretty bad story on many levels. The beginning is fragmentary. The characterization is pretty bad. The writing isn't too good. The plot is fairly stupid with some very stupid plot details: making wine on an asteroid doesn't raise any
eyebrows until the end, and one character is supposed to have tasted that probably highly poisonous brew! **+
Jimmy the Box • shortstory by Scott Virtes
A vending machine develops self-awarance. A very simple short story which has no real surprises. Writing is ok. ***
Political Science • shortstory by C. W. Johnson
A professor is capture by homeland security as he practices practically forbidden "French " sciences like radio-astronomy or cosmological research about the Big Bang. That is just "a theory", so it can't be worth anything.  What's worse he claims that aliens have sent a message that claims that soon starting vacuum energy project will cause a catastrophe. Nice, maybe a bit too short story which is uncomfortably close to what the US might be after prolonged conservative far-right fundamentalist rule.***½
Do No Harm • shortstory by John G. Hemry
A new space ship which is based on advanced AI is being tested. It turns out that the AI is too well designed as it first gets an epileptic seizure, then a tumor and later it develops an autoimmune disease. A fairly stupid premise, why would someone design an AI so poorly? The writing isn't too good either. ***-
Loki's Realm • [The Black Hole Project] • novella by C. Sanford Lowe and G. David Nordley
Happenings on a colony orbiting a nearby star. Several more or less unconnected problems, some involving an interconnected mission to create a black hole. Somewhat too long and fractured story. ***
Bringing It All Back Home • [Bubba Pritchert] • novella by Bud Webster
Bubba Pritchert gets an offer from a museum to fetch the first lunar rover from the moon with his flying saucer. Nice, humorous entertaining story. A little bit tightening might have made it even better. ****-

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Counting Up, Counting Down by Harry Turtledove

A fairly nice collection containing mostly different sorts of alternative reality tales. Some stories were excellent, some really didn't have any real point, except something was different compared with the “real” world.

Forty, Counting Down • (1999) • novella by Harry Turtledove
”Other half” of the story which concludes this collection (and which I have already read). A forty years old man returns in time to mend his relationship with a girlfriend he had when he was twenty. Later the same girl was his wife, still later she became his ex-wife. I think I prefer the viewpoint of the young man. The forties version is so irritatingly clueless about most things. Well written, very entertaining story. ****
Must and Shall • (1995) • novelette by Harry Turtledove
Lincoln was killed in a battle. The North won the civil war, but treated the Confederacy as a conquered nation. 100 years later there are still very high tensions between the former enemies, there is guerrilla fighting on the mountains, and general hostility against damnyankees. Fairly good story, not as good as the first in the book. ***½
Ready for the Fatherland • (1991) • shortstory by Harry Turtledove
The second world war ended in a stalemate. Nazis control Serbia, the Serbs rule and persecute the Croats. British spies have a mission on Serbia. Ok story, feels more like a scene in a larger story. ***
The Phantom Tolbukhin • (1998) • shortstory by Harry Turtledove
Another story with drawn out Second World War. A Russian squadron raids the Nazi occupied east-Europe. A battle description, not much else. ***-
Deconstruction Gang • (1992) • shortstory by Harry Turtledove
An academic who has trouble finding a teaching job joins a deconstruction crew. Nice word-play, a one-joke story. **1/2
The Green Buffalo • (1991) • shortstory by Harry Turtledove
Triceratops in the wild west. There is no really any other point. **+
The Maltese Elephant • (1995) • novelette by Harry Turtledove
Maltese Falcon retold. The Mccuffin is a Maltese elephant,a real one. They didn't die out in this reality. I didn't really get what was the point of the story, the plot is pretty much the same. A well written story, but fairly pointless. ***-
Vermin • (1993) • novelette by Harry Turtledove
A religious colony lives on a planet which is infested with lice. They especially love a local intelligent species. A woman asks for a scientist living on a research base to get rid of the lice. They do, but very predictable results. Extremely clueless scientists, otherwise pretty good story. ****-
Ils Ne Passeront Pas • (1998) • novelette by Harry Turtledove
Trench warfare of the first World War is interrupted by something strange. Alien invasion? Lot is left open in this short segment-like story. A writing and story-telling are fine, but this seems like the first chapter of a novel. ***+
In This Season • (1992) • novelette by Harry Turtledove
Jewish families in WW2 Poland meet a golem and a Chanukah miracle. A pretty good, but somewhat oversentimental story. ***½
Honeymouth • (1990) • shortstory by Harry Turtledove
Unicorns would be the ultimate mounts on the battleground, if there wouldn't be one obvious flaw. Battleready troops usually aren't virgins. But why one man, who goes from one whorehouse to another, and enjoys considerable popularity among wenches, is able to ride an unicorn? The tittle is an obvious clue, something I got immediately. Nice story anyway. ***½
Myth Manners' Guide to Greek Missology #1: Andromeda and Perseus • (1999) • shortstory by Harry Turtledove
Some ironic word play and parody contrasting Greek myths and some modern day people and phenomenon. Left me pretty lukewarm, but I probably didn't get all references. **½
Goddess for a Day • (1995) • shortstory by Harry Turtledove
A girl in ancient Greek plays Pallas Athene to help a returning tyrant to get back to power. There is a slight fantasy event in the end. There isn't much to it.   ***+
After the Last Elf is Dead • (1988) • shortstory by Harry Turtledove
The dark Lord has won, the last elf has been killed and last pieces of resistance are being wiped out. A very good story with expected but logical outcome. ****-
The Decoy Duck • (1992) • novelette by Harry Turtledove
Some sort of high fantasy happenings. I couldn't get on to it at all, as there was practically no exposition at all.**-
The Seventh Chapter • (1997) • shortstory by Harry Turtledove
The rules of a monk brotherhood clearly states “”No brother shall be permitted to entertain women”. How it is possible that in one branch the relationships between local women and the brothers seem to bit fairly “warm”, and the abbot denies any wrongdoings even under a truth potion. Pretty nice story, even though I got the twist early on. ***½
Twenty-One, Counting Up • (1999) • novella by Harry Turtledove
A “mirror image” of the first story. The same plot, seem from the viewpoint of the young man. I prefer this version, but the difference is pretty small. Pretty good pair of stories. ****+

416 pp

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Disappeared by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

I have liked most of Rusch's short fiction I have read. This was her first novel I have read and it probably won't be the last.

Humanity has spread on space, but isn't alone. There are many alien races, all with their own idiosyncrasies. The interstellar agreements state that all crimes are handled in the trial system of the planet where the crime was committed. And some judicial systems are often pretty strange and the definition of the crimes are not always something humans would think. So, perhaps he must give up his first child or face ritual slaughter for something which is unintentional and from a human viewpoint minor misdemeanor. Those finding themselves in that position often use the services of one of several “disappearance service” to get a new identity. There will always be risk of getting caught.

The law enforcers in the moon are facing several crisis at the same time. Alien bounty hunters from more than one race have caught up with some disappeared at the same time. They have two kidnapped (legally “kidnapped”, their parents have been condemned for their crimes in an alien court) children at their hands, and at the same time they must investigate a spaceship containing very bloodily killed humans and one escaped possible fugitive. And some extremely irritated aliens.

A very smoothly written and entertaining book which has some well-described characters. The background was already familiar to me from shorter fiction and worked very well in longer form, too. Unfortunately, it seems to kind of hard to get the next part in the series: used copies cost 110 pounds in, and there is no ebook version. There are ebooks of some other parts of the series in the Amazon's US store, but they are not sold outside of USA. I might have to look into some grayer markets... Cluelessness seems to rule in ebook markets.

374 pp.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Analog Science Fiction and Fact May 2000

Some fairly nice stories, some less so. Average or slightly above average issue.

The Debt • [Haley and Taylor] • novelette by Bud Sparhawk
Prospecting in Io. Some sort of volcanoes bring up volatiles and mineral from the deep parts of the moon. Automatic systems are going to replace humans in this work. A lot of discussion and exposition, fairly little happens before the end. Very boring story to read. **½
Pathways • [Mike and Linna] • shortstory by Dave Creek
A mystery style of story. A man has been murdered. There are only two possible suspects – his wife, and an alien who consist of an unintelligent symbiont and from smaller intelligent part. Some very contrived ideas. ***-
Sheena 5 • [Manifold] • shortstory by Stephen Baxter
A modified squid is sent to space as a part of a project to bring an asteroid to near earth orbit. The squid might have been made to somewhat too intelligent... A very good story, I might have to dig up the novel which is based on this premise. ****-
The Horse Raiders • novelette by Kij Johnson
Different human tribes live on an alien planet. Horses are very important for them. A few member of one are slaughtered by another. One young woman and a child survive as captives. A well written and good story. More stories on this setting would be interesting. ****
One Thousand Years • shortstory by Pauline Ashwell
Time travel is used to speed terraforming a planet (go a million or so years back in time, spread algae, return to see the results). A fairly average story, mainly because there is a lot of exposition and there a lot of things happening, so everything feels very rushed. Considerable expansion might have been useful. ***
Any Mother's Son • shortstory by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff
A woman travels forward in time and finds out that her son is responsible for legislation which allows mercy killings for people suffering from certain illnesses. She reacts to that pretty badly, even surprisingly badly. Every time and every situation have pretty much their own morality, after all. Good writing, good thought provoking story. ****+
Agape Among the Robots • novelette by Allen Steele
Two groups compete in trying to develop anthropomorphic robots for home use. The robots are behaving in a very strange way, sometimes when they are supposed to behave in friendly manner they tend to smash things against people and each other. Turns out they are learning things by example and they are misunderstanding some fine points. Pretty smoothly written, but otherwise not too impressive story. ***

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Blackout by Connie Willis

I haven't been a great fan of the time travel books by Connie Willis. As I am afraid that her new books will end on Hugo award short list, I decided to read this book already to get it over with. In part I was pleasantly surprised, on the other hand this book had all same faults I have usually disliked in her books. And it was a nice read while visiting London. My hotel was just across to St Pancras which was mentioned several times.

This time the historians from Oxford travel to second World War Britain to observe the Blitz and Dunkirk evacuation. There are some unspecified problems and some of the historians must start their travel with fairly little preparation, and in some cases travel to other times they were first planning. As usually the ”future” parts of the book are extremely badly imagined and the events are very chaotic. Luckily this fairly little part of the book happens in the future Oxford.

Most of the book happens in 1940. (there are some parts which happen a few years later, but they feel extremely separate from the other events, and for some reason the person at that time is forgotten before the halfway of the book and that plot thread is just dropped.) There are a few people at the same time period studying different aspects of Britain at that time. (I wonder if those three or four people are the ONLY ones ever to travel that period of time? That would be surprising and strange) They are having real trouble, as the “drops” which function as portals in time are not working, and they are afraid that they may have inadvertently changed something in the past,even if it is supposed to be impossible.

The things I dislike about Connie Willis are very well presented in this work. The characters have endless discussions about various things which usually have only a very minimal connection with the main plot. They mull over things endlessly and spend pages and pages pondering over mundane things. A lot of time is spent by the characters looking of each other, For some very strange reason they seem to consider the leader of the time travel department, Mr Dunworth, in extremely high esteem, even though in all books he has turned out to be extremely unorganized and not too bright a person. Well, none of the characters seems to be too bright, as they behave in many instances in extremely stupid way, so maybe this is a case where a one-eyed man is the king of the blind people...

In spite of all the faults, I enjoyed this book in some perverse way. The writing was easy to read and fluent, even though the endless discussions at places started to irritate more than a little. At least it was better that the “Doomsday Book” which I practically hated. Probably because this book had so few episodes which happened in the ridiculously badly described “future” Oxford. With some copy-editing (cutting the discussions, some of the wandering back and forth, making the characters somewhat less stupid) this might have been a very good book. Then it might also have been possible to publish this book in one volume. Now the story suddenly ends, just when things start to be interesting.

512 pp.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Galaxy Science Fiction November 1952

Pretty varied issue – Asimov's novella was pretty good, but many of the shorter stories are pretty much past their due date.

The Martian Way • novella by Isaac Asimov
A Martian colony is threatened by a politician from earth who wants to stop space flight as it spends the water of earth. It would take only about million years to spend almost one percent of all water in the worst case scenario. The colony has its own approach. ****
Warrior Race • shortstory by Robert Sheckley
A spaceship has run out of fuel and must stop on a primitive planet to find reserve fuel left behind years ago. Too bad that the primitive aliens consider that fuel dump as a sacred site and are ready to fight to protect it. Their method of fighting is somewhat unnerving - they suicide until the enemy is unnerved. A nice story, about average for Sheckley. ****-
Sugar Plum • novelette by Reginald Bretnor 
The Victorian manners are in style. A man buys a planet and plans to bring his Property there. The planet has an strange effect - it relaxes inhibitions. For extremely small amount. A light story with not much of a point with fairly mediocre writing. **-
A Thought for Tomorrow • shortstory by Robert E. Gilbert
A man is in a mental hospital. He imagines that he can travel in time and space. His treatment is very brutal, and then the inevitable happens. Another boring and predictable story. **
The Altar at Midnight • shortstory by C. M. Kornbluth
A man is having a drink. Another with a face full of broken veins comes in. He takes him under his wing and treats him very well. There is a minor, very minor twist. Short, fairly pointless story. **-
The Misogynist • interior artwork by Karl Rogers
A man starts to suspect that women belong to an alien race. A story with one - not too good – joke. **+
Runaway • shortstory by William Morrison
A boy escapes from his school to stowaway on a spaceship. A very simplistic story which isn't saved by a fairly meaningless end twist: the boy isn't human, he is an android. **
Command Performance • novelette by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
A suburban housewife seems to have it all - a nice home, a well to do husband and a couple of beautiful children. When she starts to hear a voice in her head, she first thinks that she is losing her mind.
A mind reading / mutant story with unsurprising ending, but is pretty well written and entertaining. ***½