Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, July-August 2012

A thick double-issue with a lot to read, some fairly nice stories.

Zeitgeist, Inc. • shortstory by Carl Frederick
A scientist has developed AI:s that can encompass the opinions of an entire group. Those AI:s can be used in android bodies, and there planned to be used by marketing agencies and other such groups. The Chinese start to produce similar androids and there is suspicion of industrial espionage. That’s the gist of the story, but there are many, many subplots, far too many for a short story. As a result, the story felt very disjointed. Also, the main character who was supposed to be a genius gave an impression of being an idiot. **
The Song Of Uullioll • shortstory by Gray Rinehart
A tale of a beached whale from the viewpoint of the whale (who wants to be near the sun.) Nothing especially especial, but ok. **½
Nightfall on the Peak of Eternal Light • novella by Richard A. Lovett and William Gleason
A man comes to the moon to find a new life. In spite of overwhelming odds against managing it he finds a new life, a new work and a very attractive forewoman who is also the daughter of his boss. But his past isn't forgotten be everyone and there might be serious repercussions. A pretty good story, perhaps somewhat on the long side, but it is an enjoyable one nevertheless. ***½
Red Rover, Red Rover • shortstory by Howard V. Hendrix
A man comes to Mars with his intelligent talking dog. For some poorly defined reason he feeds him drugs which cause the dog have nightmares. I didn't get the motivations of the character or of the dog. Also, one important item in the story is a knife made from a meteorite found in the Mars which originates from the Earth. That wouldn’t' t work, as a such meteorite couldn’t be an iron meteorite, and it would be next to impossible to construct a knife with any useful purpose from any other type of meteorite. **
To Save Man • novelette by H. G. Stratmann
Aliens come to earth trying to bring help for humanity as their main religious belief is to help other species to grow. At first they are baffled as humans can't read minds and seem to be very suspicious of everything. It doesn’t even stop after their burn up an asteroid which would have hit earth in some centuries as a second sun. How they will gain the trust of humanity - it seems impossible and eventually turns out to be impossible - if the humans retain their destructive urges. But soon they won't have them anymore...a pretty good first contact story which is told from the viewpoint of superpowerful but benevolent (at least from their perspective) aliens. ****-
The North Revena Ladies Literary Society • shortstory by Catherine Shaffer
An woman who is an ex- US government secret agent joins a book club which turns out to be a cover for a secret organization which is covering up an invention enabling seeing to the future and at the same time builds a library larger that the US congress library apparently only by the voluntary donations of book club members, and which is threatened by some terrorist organization. Sounds confusing? Yeah, it is even more confusing than it sounds. **-
Sam Below Par • [Sam Gunn] • novelette by Ben Bova
Sam Gunn arranges the first golf tournament in the moon. He has hired a professional golf course designer who has had some trouble in earth. A pretty good story in spite of the far too detailed description of a golf game. ***
The Conquest of the Air • novella by Rob Chilson
A private company with some financial trouble is mining the asteroids of a mineral heavy star system. They are using a livable planet for recreational purposes. The system has an earth like planet and it is used for recreational purposes by the mining crew even though it is so rich in heavy metals that all plants and even rainwater are poisonous for humans.
The planet turns out to have intelligent life in oceans. The story describes how the aliens conquer the air and contract humans. A very entertaining story. There was some unnecessary repeat with even the same words which might have been cut, but otherwise very readable story. ****-
The Mutant Stag at Horn Creek • novelette by Sarah K. Castle
A game warden in a near future where the Grand Canyon has become very inhospitable finds a mutant deer and only narrowly survives the encounter. Years later she is taking her niece for a sightseeing trip to the canyon. She seems to be mostly interested in capturing exiting footage for a popular youtube-like video service. The warden has dreamt that the young woman would have had some real interest to scenery or even to the career or a warden. But the Canyon has some surprises to both of them. Another fairly nice story in spite of far too quickly working evolution. ****

Friday, May 25, 2012

Among Others by Jo Walton

The next Hugo nominee. A diary of a 15-year old girl, Morwenna, who lives in a boarding school, believes in magic and loves science fiction. She has lost her sister in an accident which also broke her hip and leg, and has escaped her mother. She has moved in with his father, who straight away sent her to an old-fashionable boarding school with school uniforms and strict discipline. She survives by reading science fiction. A lot of it. The diary tells the story of how she eventually finds friends and reconciles herself. A strong undercurrent in the book is the magic. Morwenna believes in it, and she also believes that her mother is a crazy and evil witch, who purposefully caused the death of her sister. The reader never really learns if the magic in the book is “real” or if it is just a delusion of a slightly disturbed girl. I believe that the existence of magic is left too open; personally I believe that it would have been better if it all supernatural events in the book would have turned out to be just imagination. Now if anything, it was hinted that the opposite was true.
The book felt too long – there were too many mundane things from the life of a teenage girl. And far far too many self-serving references to most of science fiction written at that time period, so many that it felt at places like mental masturbation of science fiction fandom. The material might have sustained an extremely good novella – as a novel there were too much fluff and little actually happened. In spite of that, I find myself enjoying the book pretty much. It is probably going to be extremely hard to find the right order for the novel category in Hugo voting.

304 pp.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Johanna Sinisalo: Enkelten verta

The latest book by the most famous sf writer in Finland, a Tiptree award winner and Nebula nominated Johanna Sinisalo. A beekeeper who has recently lost his son wonders why the bees are disappearing. The book starts as a realist book happening in the near future, but slowly there are more and more mystical elements. The best book by Sinisalo in a few years.

Mehiläishoitaja huomaa surukseen, että yksi hänen mehiläispesistään on hylätty. Amerikassa on havaittu hyvin laajalle levinnyt mehiläiskato – niin laajalle, että siellä on ruuasta puutetta. (tässä tosin pitää vähän ihmetellä – mehiläiset ovat tärkeitä monille kasveille, mutta kirjan mukaan lihantuotanto on lähes kokonaan romahtanut ja parsakaalikin on kallisarvoista. Karjahan nyt syö lähinnä viljaa ja heinäkasveja, jotka molemmat ovat tuulipölytteisiä, eikä parsakaalikaan mehiläisiä kaipaa kuin korkeintaan siementuotannossa. ) Mies pelkää, että mehiläiskato on ehtinyt jo Suomeen asti, koska pesä josta mehiläiset olivat kadonneet, ei ollut ensimmäinen. Vähitellen mehiläisiä hoitavan miehen ja hänen perheensä taustatarina hahmottuu. Hänen poikansa on ollut luonnonsuojeluaktivisti, joka on ollut aktiivinen hiukan laittomammankin toiminnan piirissä. Tarinaa pilkkovat otteet pojan vanhoista blogeista ja blogin kommentit. Paljastuu, että poika on äskettäin kuollut. Kuolemaan liittyvät yksityiskohdat sitten selkiävät vasta vähitellen kirjan kuluessa. Kirja alkaa realistisena lähitulevaisuuteen sijoittuvana tarinana, mutta vähitellen fantastiset elementit lisääntyvät ja loppua kohden kirja saavuttaa metafyysiset mittasuhteet. Jotenkin kirja on tyylillisesti samantyyppinen kuin Johanna Sinisalon edellinen kirja, Linnunaivo, vaikka juonilla ei keskenään mitään tekemistä olekaan. Erittäin sujuvaa tekstiä jota on nautinto lukea ja perusidea on tärkeä ja huomioarvoinen. Hiukan mustavalkoinen maailma kyllä oli, mutta toisaalta asiat joskus voivat olla varsin mustavalkoisia. Sinällään pidin tästä kirjasta enemmän, oikeastaan varmaan eniten Sinisalon kirjoista sitten ”Sankarit” kirjan.

275 s.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Galaxy Science Fiction, July 1953

A fairly good novelette by Simak, otherwise a fairly average issue at best.

Kindergarten • novelette by Clifford D. Simak
A man has moved countryside after a diagnosis of terminal cancer. One day he finds a strange machine nearby his house. The machine gives him a statue made of jade. A young woman who lives nearby gets a small bottle of eloquent perfume. Soon other people stat to come and everyone gets something - something which they have hoped. Then the machine starts to build something, and military gets very interested in what is going on. At the same time the polio epidemic which has been going on disappears suddenly. The military starts to suspect that the man has something to do with the alien machine and captures him. After through study they are convinced that the man is human after all and relax so much that man is able to escape. He has a powerful compulsion to return to the site. He meets the young woman from the next door from his cottage, and she also has the compulsion to return. They return. Meanwhile the military has tried to attack the now gigantic building which has appeared without any success. The couple gets inside feel welcome, and start learning things - in "kindergarten".
A very good story, style is somewhat similar as in Wayststion. the writing especially in the beginning is excellent, towards to the end it seemed to decay somewhat and could have tighter. For example, the waning of the polio epidemic is mentioned over and over again and there are other places where writing could have tighter and things are repeated without a clear reason. But as a whole an excellent story. ****-
Caretaker • shortstory by James H. Schmitz
A man has been shipwrecked on a planet for years. He believes that there are humans living there, and there are being exterminated by aliens. He is crazy and sees one tribe of aliens as humans most of the time, when he is somewhat more lucid he has been killing members of the tribe as hostile aliens. And he wonders why the strange human tribe doesn't want have anything to do with him...A below average story. **½
Home Is the Hunter • shortstory by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore
The measure of the man is how many heads he has hunted in the Central Park. And you also get all the heads the victim has managed to gather. A man who is fairly close to the top of the ranking gets upstaged has another competitor makes a valuable kill. But he has a clever plan to get to the top in one sweep. The writing is pretty good, the plot is average. ***
The Weather on Mercury • novelette by William Morrison
A rescue mission has landed on Mercury to find an eccentric scientist who has been prospecting there.
The crew takes potshots against supposedly sentient natives and behaves otherwise stupidly, then there is some rain and hail, some strange happenings and a fair amount empty talking. A very bad story on many levels. Overlong, badly written with stupid characters and even sillier plot. *½
A Bad Day for Sales • shortstory by Fritz Leiber
The first automatic robotic salesman has started operation. It sells things for women, men and children, and people a flocking it because it is a novelty. Then the city is hit by a missile and is almost destroyed, and partly destroyed robot still tries to push its merchandise. Wtf? What was the connection with the robot and bomb?. Writing as such was fairly nice, especially after the turd before this story. ***-
Green Grew the Lasses • shortstory by Ruth Laura Wainwright

Women from small community turn green. It is some sort of stupid Venusian plot which is eventually easily averted. Writing as itself is pretty nice, plot is rotten. **½
Soldier Boy • novelette by Michael Shaara
Human colonies have been attacked and destroyed, and the fail safe bomb implanted under all colonies has been disabled beforehand. The military has decayed after centuries of peace and men are untrained and the warships are old and rare. The setting sounds fairly nice, but the story is very bad and writing isn't much better and could have much tighter and less rambling. **-

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Deadline (Newsflesh, Book 2) by Mira Grant

A second part of the zombie trilogy which first part was last year’s nominee. The main character of the first book died at the end of the book, but she “lives” now as a voice in the mind of her brother. The group of bloggers he is running gains knowledge of a widespread conspiracy concerning the zombie plague as a junior researcher seeks refuge from them. She has worked for the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and had started a new research project. Soon all the other participants of the study died from various causes and she started to be afraid for her own life. Very soon everyone must run for their lives. There apparently is something about the zombies the CDC REALLY doesn’t want to be publicly known. The team spends most of the book on run and trying to find what might be so secret.
The book was a pretty interesting read, the writing and characters felt better than in the first book of the series. The middle part could have been a tad tighter, and there are many, many extremely large holes in the logic of the book. Starting with the subject of the study which turned out to be so dangerous. The question is so obvious (and one fairly easily epidemiologically researched), that it would have to be completely impossible to prevent anyone studying that subject. Also, to accomplish everything the conspiracy accomplishes it should worldwide and cover thousands if not tens of thousands of people. And “the gang” is on first name basis with the vice president and they don’t contact him because “there is no evidence”?
In spite of its faults, the book was engaging reading.
After the first part, I thought that I wasn’t going to read the rest of the series (if it isn’t nominated for the Hugo). After this book I am pretty sure I’ll pick up the last part no matter what – it doesn’t have to get the nod from the Hugo voters.
624 pp.