Sunday, February 27, 2011

Analog Science Fiction and Fact October 2000

Pretty average issue.

The Taranth Stone • novelette by Ron Collins
Aliens find a human artifact and try reverse engineer it. They also discover that their world is threatened by an extreme climate change. A somewhat too short story, I didn’t like the writing for some reason. ***-
Mask of Terminus • shortstory by Sean McMullen
A future where a near immortality has been achieved. Procreation is naturally very strictly controlled and DNA-scans are commonplace to screen out non-licensed inviduals. The story felt somehow fragmentary and it was not entirely clearly written. ***-
Graveyard Shift • shortstory by Kathy Oltion
Strictly speaking not science fiction at all, more like a straight mystery. Laboratory technicians get some really, really strange results when they are analyzing samples from a young man who have died recently. Less surprising ending than I was expecting - there was just a simple murder done by autopsy assistant. ***+
Friday, After the Game • shortstory by James Van Pelt
A sport story. About American football. The starting point wasn’t to enticing, but the story was fairly nice. Practically all contact sports have disappeared, as everyone is afraid of contagions after a few lethal epidemics. Games are played on virtual simulators and everyone is “equalized” to level the playing filed. A few kids want to try playing on real. ***½
The Nechtanite and the Inforat • novelette by Catherine Wells
A librarian and students reading in the library are teased by a very arrogant and abusive tattooed man who belongs to a secretive warrior cult. It turns out that he has a reason why he is behaving that way. (Students are so used to remote learning that they need something to bind them together and give them self-confidence). ***
"Put Back That Universe!" • shortstory by F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre
A man (a criminal) travels back in time to the beginning of the universe. And he is chased by a time cop.
A humorous story where the humor doesn’t really work. **
The Perfumed Heart • novelette by Charles L. Harness
A patent lawyer takes care of a case where a very beautiful android tries to patent a perfume she has invented. But is she a person who can be an inventor? A nice story, but not too surprising in any way. ***+
His Hands Passed Like Clouds • novelette by Rajnar Vajra
A man with a clawed hand has a very peculiar uncle Joe, whose touch seems to heal the hand. Later the same uncle heals the feet of the protagonist by a single touch. At the same time something very strange is found from a bottom of a lake - something almost like a sunken spaceship.
There are some factual stupidities (apparently the uploading something on the internet commonly changes the content of the file, and the disease which was supposed to cause the hand deformity of the protagonist as a child occurs in reality only on middle aged or older people), but otherwise nice, not very original story, probably the best in issue. ***½

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ron McLarty: Polkupyörällä ajamisen taito - The Memory of Running

An overweight and miserable Vietnam veteran bicycles through American on a journey of self-discovery. Easy and fast readable novel. The first book by this author. There are some narrative problems, and the first chapter is much more polished that later ones, but pretty enjoyable book anyway.

Smitty on lihava, huonokuntoinen Vietnamissa haavoittunut elämässään epäonnistunut lähes alkoholisoitunut vanhempiensa luona vielä nelikymppisenä asuva mies jolla ei ole ystäviä. Hänen vanhempansa kuolevat liikenneonnettomuudessa. Käydessään läpi vanhempiensa tavaroita, hän löytää isälleen osoitetun kirjeen, jota tämä eläessään ei ollut ehtinyt vielä saada. Kirje on ilmoitus siitä, että hänen vuosia kateissa ollut sisarensa on löytynyt kuolleena toiselta puolelta maata. Oikeastaan puolittain vahingossa Smitty lähtee vanhalla polkupyörällään ajamaan Yhdysvaltojen halki hakemaan siskonsa ruumista.
Matkallaan hän kohtaa monenlaisia ihmisiä, ja mikä tärkeintä itsensä. Kirja on aika tyypillinen matkasta kertova teos, jossa matkustaminen toimii vertauskuvana elämälle ja elämänmuutokselle. Kirja on kirjoittajansa esikoisteos, ja se huomaa paikoitellen tietynlaisena kömpelyytenä. Vaikuttaa myös siltä, että ensimmäistä lukua on viilattu viimeisen päälle; se vaikuttaa sujuvammin ja paremmin kirjoitetulta kuin muu kirja. Ihan nopea ja viihdyttävä kirja, joka ole ei mitään ”suurta” tai yllättävää kirjallisuutta, mutta jossa on mukavan elämänmyönteinen mutta haikea sävy.

381 s.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Big Time by Fritz Leiber

Another Hugo award winner. A very short book, more of a novella than a novel.
Two mystical sides, the Spiders and the Snakes are fighting. No one really knows what they are, or why they are fighting. The soldiers of the war are recruited from different eras. They are constantly changing the past, present and future to ensure that their side wins. Why they should win – they have no idea at all. The events happen in ”Big Time” which is a sort of grouping area outside of time used for recreation, regrouping and healthcare purposes. The workers who live there also come from different eras. Little of the war is shown, most of the story is presented as discussions between different characters while the ponder the meaning of their life and the purpose of the war they are fighting. There is sort sort of crisis or mystery they face at the final half of the book, but the solution to that is a disappointment as it is completely based on made up technology and there wouldn't have been any way a reader might have figured out the solution. The writing is very good, but as the plot is almost nonexistent I am somewhat ambivalent about the book.

171 pp.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Astounding Science Fiction May 1959

A fairly average issue – worse that the other 1959 issue I have read.

We Didn't Do Anything Wrong, Hardly • shortstory by Roger Kuykendall
Two kids build an antigravity spaceship from crap and capture a Russian spy satellite. A rather naive and silly story. ***-
Cum Grano Salis • novelette by Randall Garrett [as by David Gordon ]
A large research team is studying a planet when an accident destroys their food stores. (apparently practically all food is stored in the same place, very smart). They are facing a certain death by hunger, as it will months before their ship comes back. All fauna in the planet is poisonous in one way or another. But one man seems to be able to eat a native fruit which kills everyone else. A kind of problem solving story. Not very interesting as the solution is extremely clearly spelled out from the beginning. Writing was average, simple but readable. ***
History Repeats • shortstory by George O. Smith
A man and an intelligent dog are visiting the main planet of the milky way, which controls most of the commerce. Corruption is the normal way of handling most things. They try to find a girl who is missing. The setting seems to be interesting, but the story itself is pretty shite and badly written. **-
Operation Haystack • novelette by Frank Herbert
A devastating war has been fought centuries ago. It starts to seem like the lost partly has been quietly gaining influence and is planning to take over of the government. A member of some sort of special ops unit who has survived an almost fatal wounding is sent to investigate the plot in undercover. Very strange and old old-fashionable attitudes (only men can be successful in politics) with other stereotypes, also - otherwise not too bad. ***+
 Disturbing Sun • shortstory by R. S. Richardson [as by Philip Latham ]
A story that is presented as a discussion between two scientists. The sun apparently periodically emits rays that cause mental instability. An extremely dry story that just describes things. Could be considered as some sort of “What if?” thought experiment. **
 Hex • novelette by Laurence M. Janifer [as by Larry M. Harris ]
A young beautiful witch works as a social worker. She makes horrible hexes against people she is helping, for example she might give them a compulsion to stop loafing on welfare and get a job. One old woman tries to fight back, but there a little she can do. Very good and amusing story. ****-

Friday, February 11, 2011

Galaxy Science Fiction Semtember 1952

Fairly average or below average issue.

Delay in Transit • novelette by F. L. Wallace
A secret agent travels to an obscure planet to meet an important scientist. Halfway through he is stranded to a fairly obscure planet when his traveling papers are stolen. He is carrying some sort of very powerful AI type of neural attachment. The story starts pretty well, but turns out to be very overlong and boring. **
The Snowball Effect • shortstory by Katherine MacLean
A sociology professor proves that sociology is useful as a science by designing rules for a knitting club. The rules make the club work perfectly and make it possible to expand. But the system is somewhat too perfect... Very good entertaining story, easily best in the issue. ****
Today Is Forever • shortstory by Roger Dee
The aliens offer the secrets of immortality, but only for a select few. “Hilarity” naturally ensues. Nothing really new, not especially well written. **½
The Moons of Mars • shortstory by Dean Evans
A man sees a Martian boy who whistles a nice tone. He tells that he learned the tone from his mother. That is strange as Martians never have any ear for tones. A simplistic story which apparently tries to speak for tolerance, but manages to have some racist overtones when it is looked from today's point of view. **
 Tea Tray in the Sky • shortstory by Evelyn E. Smith
A young man visits a big city. He has some trouble adjusting as there are a lot of alien races, all with their own customs, and by interstellar laws everyone must abide with ALL customs of other sentient species. A story that is probably more timely now than it was when it was written. **+
The Mousetrap • shortstory by Gordon R. Dickson
A man wakes up on an idyllic planet nearby a cottage with an ample store of food and entertainment tapes. He has no recollection at all about what has happened. It turns out that this is a plan of an extremely ruthless earth government to capture aliens to dissect. Surprisingly, the story doesn't pay any attention to complete immorality of that sorts of actions, but rather the end “twist” is that the man in question must spend the rest of his life in isolation to prevent any alien epidemics. Writing was pretty nice. ***+
The Altruist • novelette by James H. Schmitz
A colonel working in his office discovers that there invisible people living in the world. Not much happens, writing is below average. **-

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Resistance by J.M. Dillard

Another media tie-in. After reading two Star Trek book within a few month, I believe that I won’t be touching this stuff for some time. For decade or so.
I got this book from a friend who had liked it a lot. I wasn’t too fond of it, in fact I think this was a fairly lousy book.

The Enterprise meets with the Borg, again. Picard starts to hear the voice of the Borg collective. He goes against them against the direct command from the Starfleet. The Borg cube is being finalized, and it is just a matter of hour before the new queen is awoken, and the cube start its way to destroy earth. It turns out that the only way to combat them is that he turns again to Locutus. For some reason the cube is conveniently manned only with a skeleton crew and most of the drones are hibernating. ( I wonder who is finishing the building of the cube). The writing style of the book is very irritating. There is a lot of exposition of earlier events, and there is A LOT of internal monologue where characters reminisce of old events and mull over what is happening for them. Sometimes everything stops for several pages worth of this. If all that fluff would have cut away, this might have been a pretty interesting story, but it would have been just of novella after that, not a novel. That isn’t the only thing which is wrong with the book. The writing isn’t too good, the characterization has some severe problems, there are far too many superfluous references to the episodes of the TV-series, probably only for the more enthusiastic fans sake.

306 pp.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

David Bodanis: E=mc2 : maailman tunnetuimman yhtälön elämäkerta / E=mc2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation

Very interesting book about the most famous formula in the world. A fairly light book which covered many subjects, sometimes with somewhat too cursory look, but nice, fast, book to read nevertheless.

Tarina maailman tunnetuimman yhtälön historiasta ja merkityksestä. ”Päähenkilö” on luonnollisesti Einstein, mutta tarina alkaa jo satoja vuosia aikaisemmin, nykyaikaisen luonnontieteellisen tutkimuksen kehittymisestä, ja päättyy atomipommin kehittämiseen ja sen merkitykseen. Kirja on hyvin luettava ja viihdyttävä, mitään erityistä uutta se ei minulle varsinaisen tieteellisen taustan tasolla tarjonnut, mutta henkilöhistoriana ja luonnontieteen historiana kirjalla oli kyllä annettavaa. Paikoitellen olisin toivonut hiukan perusteellisempaa ja syvemmälle menevämpää lähestymistapaa, nyt monia mielenkiintoisia henkilöitä ja tapahtumia ohitettiin hyvin nopeasti. Onneksi perusteellisempaa tutustumista varten kirjasta löytyy hyvä viiteluettelo.

379 s.