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

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Hugo award votes 2011 part 2: Novellas

”Troika” by Alastair Reynolds
A former cosmonaut of the Second Soviet state has escaped from the prison he is apparently kept in order to prevent him from telling the secret of his last flight: He wants to tell something to an old woman who lives in a nearby town. He was visiting a strange artifact which arrived at our solar system apparently from nowhere. All the members of the crew went more or less mad. The story is told alternating on two time lines. The mid-section was little slow, but otherwise the story was very good.

“The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window” by Rachel Swirsky
A tale of a witch or sorcerer who was killed by treason, and is brought back to life several times during centuries. Excellent, poetic and well written story, even better that Swircky's last year's nominee.

“The Maiden Flight of McCauley’s Bellerophon” by Elizabeth Hand
A story of a fabled flying machine which was supposed to be flown before the Wright brothers, and about a replica made from it. Well written, but the science fiction content is fairly minimal and it is limited to the end of the story, where some irritatingly unexplainable things happen.

“The Lifecycle of Software Objects” by Ted Chiang
A story about AI pets which must be trained carefully (at least as carefully as “normal pets”) . First they were a popular fad, but when the amount of training needed become obvious, most people gave up on them. But a few were so fond of their pets that they kept training them for years. Slowly, the pets got better and better - to at least to some degree. Well written story, but then the ending seems only to whimper out - there is no real “bang” there.

“The Sultan of the Clouds” by Geoffrey A. Landis
Two visitors come to a colony on Venus which floats on air at an altitude where pressure and temperature are tolerable. That altitude on the whole planet is filled with such colonies, which are ruled more or less autocratically. The future head of the most important ruling family shows a great deal of interest towards a female visitor, while the male one gets involved with underground guerrilla movement. An entertaining and good story, but it is fairly standard science fiction.

All novellas were good this year, there wasn’t a single one I didn’t like for at least for some degree. Rachel Swirsky’s novella was even better that her nominee last year and it something which was very easy to place to the first place. The second place was also very clear - Chiang’s stories have always been good. This story wasn’t one of his best ones, but it was excellent nevertheless. The last three stories were harder to put in any order, I liked all of them about as much. They were all competent, nice stories, but they didn’t have anything really special, just “ordinary” good science fiction stories which would have needed something “special” to be really awardworthy.

My votes will be in this order:

1. “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window” by Rachel Swirsky
2. “The Lifecycle of Software Objects” by Ted Chiang
3. “The Sultan of the Clouds” by Geoffrey A. Landis
4.“Troika” by Alastair Reynolds
5.“The Maiden Flight of McCauley’s Bellerophon” by Elizabeth Hand

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My Hugo award votes 2011 part 1: Novels

Most of the Hugo nominees this year are part of a series. The Dervish House was the only one which either isn't the first book of a trilogy or isn't part of an established old series. I didn't really, really love any of the nominees, not the way I liked the City and the City last year. There was just one book I would hate to see to win the award, but I am afraid the that will be the one which will get the Hugo this year - I am speaking about Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis. That book will be the only one I am going to place below "no award" in my ballot.

It was fairly easy to decide the order of the other books. I didn't love the Dervish House, but the writing was clearly better than in any of the other nominees and it was clearly the best book even if I didn't personally love it. Also, as it isn't part of any series I find that it is more "Hugo-worthy" than any of the other nominees. The second place goes to the "Feed" for pure entertainment value that book has. The order of the next two places was a bit more difficult to decide, but I believe the The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms deserves to award more than the Cryoburn which was a disappointment to a degree.

My voting order will be:

1. The Dervish House by Ian McDonald
2. Feed by Mira Grant
3. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
4. Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold
5. No award
6. Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis

The Business of Science Fiction: Two Insiders Discuss Writing and Publishing by Mike Resnick and Barry N. Malzberg

A series of discussions which were originally presented on the sfwa's newsletter which concerns almost all aspects of publishing and writing (and selling) science fiction in the USA. I have no intention ever doing that, but I found the discussions to be interesting anyway. Sometimes Barry N. Malzberg seemed to be more than a little clueless, especially concerning self-publicity and the role of ebooks and internet. Mike Resnick had a more sensible and direct approach.  The book was fairly fast and enjoyably to read, but as the original essays were apparently published in a span of several years there was more than a little repetition.

275 p.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Cryoburn by Lois M Bujold

I have read a few of earlier Miles Vorkosigan books and I have enjoyed them. However, I haven't read all of them, and there was a fair amount of back-story missing between what I have read and this latest tale. Miles is an auditor who is examining a planet where cryocompanies are ruling. Local laws allow the companies use the voting rights of the people who have been "frozen" and consequently most power is in the hands of said companies. One company is planning to expand on the Barrayar empire's area, and Miles wants to find out if it has any ulterior motives.
The book starts straight from action. Miles is lost on the catacombs which are filled with preserved people. He has escaped a kidnap attempt, but is dizzy and hallucinating from the effects of the knockout gas. He is rescued by a young boy who has run away from home. It turns out that his mother has been kidnapped by a cryocompany and “frozen” apparently for made-up reasons. Why? And is there any connection to

The beginning of the book was very good, writing was fine and entertaining, and the plot moved at good pace. For some reason everything seemed to go in the wrong direction as the book progressed. The writing seemed to be somewhat rambling and too much space was used on two cute kids and their pets. Not the best in the series, but it still was an enjoyable book to read.

448 p

Analog Science Fiction and Fact June 2011

The first part of a serial takes a lot of space. An average issue.

Citizen-Astronaut • novelette by David D. Levine
A blogger takes part on a Mars mission. He was supposed to have a free access to all information, even to the negative facts, but he soon finds that everything isn't something that should be told publicly. ***+
Take One For The Road • shortstory by Jamie Todd Rubin
The only surviving astronaut from a failed Mercury mission shares some beers with a younger neighbor and tells the true story of what happened. More mundane story I was expecting with not necessarily most believable plot points. ***
Stone Age • shortstory by Alastair Mayer
Archeologists make a major discovery on an alien planet only to find that grave robbers get it from them on a gunpoint. But there are some strange low radioactive readings still coming from the grave...A short story with not very believable plot. ***
Kawataro • novelette by Alec Nevala-Lee
A scientist who is visiting a remote and isolated Japanese village faces a monster from local legends. Another fairly mundane story which first seemed to be a horror or fantasy, but turns out to be a borderline science fiction with somewhat too neat resolution. ***-

Friday, July 8, 2011

Feed by Mira Grant

Another Hugo award nominee.
I believe this was the first book about zombies I have ever read.
A new disease which appeared when two genetic treatment for separate diseases accidentally combined. It is dormant in everyone and in every warm bodied animal which weights over certain limit. When someone who is carrying the virus dies (that means everyone) he reanimates as a zombies who is extremely hungry for any animal protein. And any contact with any bodily fluid of a zombie also wakes up the dormant virus causing a viral amplification and the person who has been bitten turns to a new zombie usually in under an hour. A massive trauma to brain prevents that in a classical zombie movie manner. The book has lot of references to zombie movies, for example George Romero is hailed as one of the saviors of the humanity as people who had seen his movies instantly knew how to fight against the hordes of undead. All this has happened years before the events of the book, when the book happens things have stabilized more or less and the zombies are a known threat.

The book is told mostly in fairly light, sometimes tongue in cheek manner. For example one of the heroes is called Shaun, and another ( a blond girl) has a nickname “Buffy”.
The heroes of the book are bloggers who are blogging especially about zombies, but they are dealing with other newsworthy subjects, also. The book starts when they get invited to follow the presidential campaign of a promising candidate. And the campaign trail turns out to be a lot more than they were expecting...

This book has a strong young adult vibe. The heroes are young, hardly out of their teens and they are smart, brave and resourceful. Most adults are more of less clueless. The plot is pretty entertaining and fast moving, but there are some zombie sized plot-holes. There really was no reason for the bad guy to do what he was doing, I can't really see what he thought he would gain by playing his cards that way he did. Also, the threat of the zombies seems to be overplayed with ever present blood-tests, as it is stated in the novel that 2653 persons lost their lives by zombie attacks on the previous year. This is around 7-8% of people who lose their lives on traffic accidents in the US every year.

I also wonder why the main hero is using ergots and codeine for migraines. Have the more effective medications been forgotten?

A “side-effect” of the zombie plague is a total resistance against all forms of cancer (and common cold has also disappeared – come to think about that, if only 2600 people lose their lives for zombies yearly, the net effect of the zombie menace seems to be very heavily positive .-) ) and because of that smoking isn't frowned upon anymore. In reality the cardiovascular effects of the smoking are much more important as a whole than the cancer and removing that threat would certainly not make smoking cigarettes safe.

But is spite of a few fairly stupid points the book was enjoyable and entertaining, a fluently written very fast read which felt shorter that the stated 592 pages. This book is also supposed to be a start of a trilogy, but as in case of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K.Nemisin I think that the story was finished in sufficiently satisfying manner in this first volume and I have no compelling urge to read the next part of the series. About Hugo: this seemed a somewhat light book for that award.