Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Dervish House by Ian McDonald

A second book by Ian McDonald I have read. The book is stylistically similar to Brazyl which I read a few years ago; the writing is very descriptive and heavy with adjectives. The writing itself is very good, but I am not a great fan of this writing style where the style and descriptions are more important than the plot. Not to say that the plot in this book would be insignificant or poor. Ian McDonald seems to place his books on varied countries which are less commonly used in science fiction or in English fiction in general. This time the book happens in the fairly near future Istanbul which could even be considered as a main character of the book.

The book starts with a terrorist attack which seems to be failed – only the woman herself who detonated a bomb died. There seems to be some unusual interest for some of the survivors of the attack, especially for one man who starts to have extremely realistic hallucinations.
Another plotline deals with a hunt for the mystical mellified man – a man who has been mummified with honey, and is supposed to have mythical healing properties. And third plotline deals with emerging nanotechnologies. The connection with those main plot-lines seemed first fairly marginal at the beginning and the book was fairly confusing with many different characters but all things converged fairly well by the end of the book.

I found one stupid mistake - I seriously doubt that it would be possible to make a plea bargain or pay bail in Turkey. Especially plea bargaining is a typical practice which happens only in countries with common law type of justice system; and it is practically unknown in countries with more developed or sensible legal systems. I couldn't either find any evidence that it would be possible to pay bail in Turkey.

Most of the plot lies, and last hundred pages were really entertaining. However, I believe that I prefer Brazyl to this book. The beginning of this book was somewhat too slow and disjointed, and it took too much time to really get inside the events. By the way, somehow the book felt a lot of longer than 410 pages.

I have now read three of the Hugo nominated books. So far none of them has been something really worth of the award. This has probably been the least bad so far.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Analog Science Fiction and Fact June 1971

A fairly nice issue. A serial takes a lot of space. Read from iPhone during lunch-breaks.

Glory Day • [Telzey Amberdon] • novelette by James H. Schmitz
A telepathic woman is kidnapped with some of her friends and other people who happened to be on the same spaceship. A potential ruler of one planet was on the same ship, and the kidnappers what him to delinguish his power. Felt pretty similar that an earlier "Telzey Amberdon" story I have read. Telzey is kept as a prisoner in a large house with extensive gardens around it. Fairly ok, but there wasn't really much of suspence as Telseys psi-powers are so formidable that there apparently isn't anything she coudn't face. ****+
The Swan Song of Dame Horse • shortstory by Theodore L. Thomas 
A drug addict doesn't get high with his dose as he is supposed to. He goes after his pusher, but that doesn't really help. A scientist has developed something that might stop drug addiction once and for all. There are problems with the story, there were a few very jarring changes of viewpoint. And the plan the scientist had was in part fairly impressive for something in a story this early (genetic engineering), but how he was implementing it wasn't really logical (not to mention unethical). ***
The Habitat Manager • novelette by William E. Cochrane
A spaceprobe lands on another planet (to Mars apparently, sent by humans). All life of the planet works in unison to evaluate the probe, and to prevent it from finding the abundance of life on the planet. The idea is fairly good, but the alien characters are somewhat too human in spite of the external differences and the story is very badly overlong. **
With Friends Like These . . . • shortstory by Alan Dean Foster
This story was the reason I picked up this issue: I read a description of it from rec.arts.sf.written.
It is a pretty much ultimate Campbellian story where humans are by far better in everything than any alien race. Humans very narrowly lost a war thousands of years ago and they were confined to earth beyond an impenetrable barrier. But now a new very savage race has risen which is threatening all civilized planets of the galaxy and an expedition has been sent to find out if the very savage human race still exists and if it would be able to help in the fight. The landing party finds a very pastoral place where simple folk are tending farms with horses. Of course, appearances can be deceiving...Pretty fun story. I am fairly certain that it was written purposefully to press John W. Capbell's buttons. ****+

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The hundred thousand kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin

The second Hugo nominated book I have read this year. The book was pure fantasy. I am not usually too keen on fantasy as I prefer pure science fiction, but this book was surprisingly readable in spite of that.

The world is ruled by a powerful family who has been able to enslave the gods of the realm to help them to maintain power. The daughter of the ruler, who was supposed to inherit the power had abandoned her position about twenty years before this story. She had married a minor nobility and moved with him to a desolate and unimportant province. After she was murdered, her daughter, Yeine, has been asked to appear in the court. To her surprise, Yeine hears that she has been selected as a contender for the throne. The are two other nominees who aren't too happy to hear that there will be more competition. But it is more complicated than that... And the captive gods have their own plans, also.

The first half of the book was excellent, especially the first few chapters (this seems to be common for the first books). The main character was interesting and original, especially on the first half of the book. For some reason she seems to turn stupider during the story. This might partly be due to the fact that I didn't like the later half story as much as the beginning – there was too much paranormal romance and too many plots going on. The writing also seemed somewhat clumsier. This is the first part of a trilogy. However, I feel that story was fairly well finished in satisfying matter as it is and I don't have any urge to read the last parts as the most relevant questions were answered in satisfying manner.

412 pp.