Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Analog Science Fact -> Science Fiction, December 1964

A large size issue. Contains a serial which takes a fair amount of space. A varied bunch of stories.

Plague on Kryder II • [Med Service] • novella by Murray Leinster

A very strange medical emergency has happened and a medical ship is called to help. The emergency seems very strange, as there are several diseases in the same person in succession. There has already been one ship but it was not able to solve the problem, and the little "pet" which should be totally invulnerable to all disease had died the medical shop had been destroyed for some reason. It all turns out to be a criminal plot. The plot itself was moderately ok; the writing was fairly smooth, but horribly padded and poorly edited. There were detailed descriptions of everything, how radio waves spread in space, there were several mentions about how much the little pet loves the coffee (well, it was a plot point after all, but probably one mention would have been enough, also the background noises which are used in spaceships were described THREE times with about the same words, and they had no relation with the plot whatsoever. The story felt like it was written by a good author on bet: I can write a story without any rewrites in a day- or something. **½
Shortstack • [Willy Shorts] • novelette by Leigh Richmond and Walt Richmond
A story of a man who designed a system to get free power and water by using temperature difference between ground and upper atmosphere. Fairly mundane story, with a ridiculous cold war angle of using a similar system for the protection of the nuclear fall out. As a sheet of plastic over cities would really matter much, or at least after the food would run out. **
Contrast • [Federation of Humanity] • shortstory by Christopher Anvil
A man who lives alone on a very dangerous colony planet and is only just surviving among very dangerous animals gets a visitor: a very annoying sightseeing tourist. At least annoying until there is a role reversal. Pretty average story, not bad, not especially good. ***
Rescue Operation • shortstory by Harry Harrison
Fishers found an astronaut who has dropped to the bottom of sea. When he is rescued it is discovered that he is an alien. Everything doesn’t go well, though. Not a bad story, but there is some unrealistic stupid behavior by at least one character. ***+
The Equalizer • shortstory by Norman Spinrad
An Israeli scientist discovers an extremely powerful weapon (“more powerful than matter-antimatter reaction”) which is extremely easy and cheap to build and takes only little space. Should he use the invention to protect his country, as that would make invention eventually public and widespread? A very good and thought provoking story, especially the way the problem is examined through the eyes of a scientist and a military commander. ****-

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sandkings by George R. R. Martin

A collection of GRRM’s stories which date from seventies. The quality is very variable; the first story is very good and the last one is among of the best short fiction ever written. The rest of them…not so good for the most part.

The Way of Cross and Dragon • (1979) • novelette by George R. R. Martin
An inquisitor is sent to find out who is behind a new heresy which is spreading on a faraway planet. The heresy’s secret text is about Judas Iscariot and how he tamed the dragons. The inquisitor considers the text entertaining and strangely enticing, so it is especially dangerous. He meets the originator of the faith and finds out that he has had very different motivations than the inquisitor could never have suspected. An excellent story, perhaps a little on the short side, but well written. ****
Bitterblooms • (1977) • novelette by George R. R. Martin
A woman who is near death from freezing and from attacks by “vampires” is rescued by a strange woman. She lives in a strange house which seems able to move from place to place. But everything isn’t what it appears to be…
A pretty good story. The world where it happens has winters of variable length, sometime lasting years. And there even is a character named “Jon”. Somehow that seems somewhat familiar. ***½
In the House of the Worm • (1976) • novella by George R. R. Martin
A story that feels like a D&D story. The characters are in a dungeon and are fighting monsters. The dungeon is even an ancient ruin beneath a castle of sorts. There are pages and pages of description of the levels and rooms of the dungeon and the monsters there, even if there seems to be only two types of monsters. Badly overlong, even as a Dungeons and Dragons campaign this would have about the most boring one I have ever seen. This is easily the worst story I have read by GRRM. *½
Fast-Friend • (1976) • novelette by George R. R. Martin
Some humans have fused with some sort of alien species which lives on empty space. They have lost a lot of their humanity, but are able to travel with FTL speeds and carry humans ships and messages with them. A man whose loved one has transformed to a “fast-friend” lives with an "angel" which is some sort of artificial life form usually used for companionship and for a little more intimate “companionship”. A fairly average story with some good writing. ***½
The Stone City • (1977) • novelette by George R. R. Martin
A man lives on alien planet is trying to get a job on an outbound ship to get back to human space. He is never offered a job. He goes to examine n a fabled stone city with a group of people, and has some very strange and mythical experiences there. I didn’t get into the story at all. Once again D&D style cave exploration, this time crossed with some sort new age extra-dimensional travel nonsense. **
Starlady • (1976) • novelette by George R. R. Martin
A woman is forced to work as a prostitute after she is robbed on a remote planet. She takes care of a “Golden Boy” apparently some sort of alien. The story is told as a fable with nice poetic language, it isn’t entirely a happy tale, but an enjoyable one in spite of that. ***½
Sandkings • (1979) • novelette by George R. R. Martin
One of the most memorable stories I have read. I still remember when I read this from Omni over thirty years ago. I hadn't read this since and I wondered if it would still make an impact. It did. It is wonderfully scary, exiting and even disgusting (in a good way) story. A more or less decadent rich man enjoys cruel animals and cruel games with them. He gets four colonies of a new very strange animal, Sandkings. They are insect like creatures with hive mind that build elaborate castles and fight wars with each other’s. He acts as a "god" for them, but things get slightly out of hand. *****

254 pp.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Yipping Tiger and Other Tales from the Neuropsychiatric Clinic by Perminder Sachdevh

A collection of case studies (of a sort) from a neuropsychiatry clinic. The stories aren't really case studies in a classic sense; they rather use a case as a launching point to the exploration of possible cause and significance of the disease in question. The approach is very impersonal, and it is likely that most of the "cases" are composites or completely made up patients. The thoughts about etiology and pathophysiology of different disorders were interesting, and there were a few things I wasn't aware of. As the stories very so detached from the real people, the book wasn't as captive as those written by Oliver Sacks. The most interesting story might have been “A Chesty Problem” about a fairly unusual manifestation of obsessive compulsive disorder. However, this isn’t a book I would see myself rereading or even recommending for someone as there are better books with a similar theme. Not something I am going to leave to my library.

289 pp.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, June 2006

A fairly nice issue.

Puncher's Chance • novella by James Grayson and Kathy Ferguson

A story about a shuttle mission to Mars to relieve a medical emergency. The ship is very old and almost falling apart and the crew weren’t supposed to go on such mission. There are several more or less serious emergencies during the trip. A problem solving story in typical Analog tradition telling about heroism. The beginning was a bit too slow and some condensing might have been a good idea. **½
The Door That Does Not Close • shortstory by Carl Frederick
An alien which inhabits an android body of a child and a scientist are trying to uncover a manuscript the Romans wrote after the aliens visited earth last time, over 1500 years ago. A pretty good and entertaining story. However, there are some strange assumptions which are critical for the story. Why would the scientist think that that alien is a child while the body it inhabits is for some very strange and impractical reason a child’s body? Why would aliens use a child for a task like that? ***+
Original Sin • novelette by Richard A. Lovett
Starts as a sports story and seems first pretty uninteresting. Then it turns to something else. A running coach is using an apparatus which can record everything the person experiences to evaluate to running performance. Typically for or sports coach :-) he is pretty dense and the wide variety of uses that kind of system would have, won't occur to him. His trainee is smarted, but gets soon involved with criminals. A pretty good story. ***½
Preemption • shortstory by Charlie Rosenkrantz
An alien ship appears and bubbles of destruction start to appear on apparently random locations. The president tries to contact the ship to find out what is going on. The writing was pretty good, especially considering that this was the first (and only) published story. The ending might have been slightly tighter. It seemed to go on far too long. ***½

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tunnel in the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein

A Heinlein juvenile. The book happens in the same or at least very similar society as in ”Starship Troopers”. A part of standard education is a survival training where a bunch of kids is dropped on an untamed planet to survive alone with no rules except one: stay alive. “Battle Royal” style of survival is totally permitted. The travel between planets happens through instantaneous matter transfer gates. When a group of kids are stranded on a hostile planet when the scheduled pick up doesn’t arrive they must try to establish a society of some sort. The hero finds that he must face some serious responsibilities.
The society itself is somewhat repulsing and based on violence, and it is very hard to believe that parents would allow survival exercise in those terms with that mortality rate. The writing was entertaining as in all Heinlein’s juveniles, except when there was a little too much adolescent wisecracking at some places. There were some shades of “Lord of Flies”, but here the throwaways stayed a lot more organized and were on track of establishing a new society by the end of the book. As a whole the book was a fast read and was smoothly written, but it isn’t among his best works.

224 p.