Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Galaxy Science Fiction, July 1951

An average or even slightly above average story. Quaintly entertaining stories – most of them probably weren’t meant to funny at the time of writing.

Venus Is a Man's World • novelette by William Tenn
The world is ruled by females and there is a shortage of eligible husbands. There are more men in Venus and a shipload of hopeful brides-to-be is flying to Venus. A young boy, who is a ward of one of the women, finds a stowaway: a Venusian man who is returning from the Earth after a failed mission to find a wife. The end is just what you would expect of a sf story from the beginning of the fifties: of course the most feminist and confident woman must have A Real Man to be happy. Attitudes in the story almost seem to be irony, but probably weren’t meant to be. ***
Common Denominator • shortstory by John D. MacDonald
Humans encounter aliens, who are really pleasant, but also mellow and their civilization has been on the same level for centuries if not more. On the other hand they apparently haven’t had wars and have little violent crime. The chief of the bureau of racial maturity travels to their home world to find out how they have managed that. It turns out that they have a really novel approach: everyone is able to commit totally painless and fast suicide at will. That has removed all mental instabilities out from the race. ***-
Syndrome Johnny • shortstory by Katherine MacLean [as by Charles Dye ]
Several plagues have ravaged earth. It seems that they are spread by the same man – even when several decades have passed. There is an explanation and an ulterior motive for that, of course. A fairly stupid story – the wring wasn’t too good, either. **½
Pen Pal • shortstory by Milton Lesser
An old spinster (about thirty and almost already getting too old to marry) finds an intriguing (it is hard to understand why she finds the ad so interesting – it reads like something written by an egoistic idiot) corresponding advertisement. She is so fascinated by it that she isn’t satisfied by just writing a letter but drives to meet the man who wrote the add. She gets captured for a night, but is eventually released as she doesn’t believe what the man tells her. An extremely stupid story at so so many levels. **+
Appointment in Tomorrow • novelette by Fritz Leiber
Two factions compete for power in a post nuclear world: Thinkers (scientist) have had a lot of power and popularity due to fantastic inventions (some of those might be only a deception), but there are opposing forces. Little happens in the story. The writing was pretty good, but the story was excruciatingly boring and there was far too much idle talking. **

Friday, October 26, 2012

Kathrin Passig, Aleks Scholz: Tietämättömyyden sanakirja / Lexikon des Unwissens

Short essays about things science can’t yet explain. The essays are fairly light and are sometimes written in irritating light style. I found most of essays to be too shallow and short and I would have liked a more detailed approach. An ok light read, though.

Lyhyitä kertomuksia asioista joiden laatua tiede ei vielä tunne ainakaan kirjoittajien mielestä. Artikkeleiden aiheet ovat hyvin vaihtelevia ankeriaiden lisääntymisen salaisuudesta matematiikan perusongelmien kautta siihen miksi juomarahaa jätetään. Kirjoitustyyli on kevyttä, välillä ärsyttävän kevyttä viisastelevine tekohauskoine puujalkavitseineen. Myös artikkeleiden ylimalkaisuus ja lyhyys oli jonkin verran häiritsevää, perustiedot asioista tuli selville, mutta ei mitään syvällisempää. Ihan mukiinmenevä kirja, joka on ehkä kuitenkin hiukan nuoremmalle yleisölle suunnattu.

256 s.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Asimov's Science Fiction, Decmber 2012

A pretty nice issue with mostly good stories.

The Caramel Forest by Chris Beckett
A planet with new colonists is inhabited by alien "goblins" which are able to project at least feelings to the minds of humans. Most of the feelings are negative: anxiety, uncertainty and other negative feelings, but one child experiences them as positive. The goblins seem to be interested in her, and eventually they seem to be able to influence her. A pretty good story, but the ending was too open for my taste. ***+
The Waves by Ken Liu
A generation ship which is travelling to another star receives a transmission from earth: the secret for immortality has been discovered and it is so simple that even the colonists on the ship are able to achieve it. But the life on the ship was planned to depend on new generations replacing the old ones. A sort of decision is reached. Eventually, the ship arrives to the planet it was supposed to, but the mankind has already arrived there by new, better and faster ships, and they are getting near to the singularity.
The story has far too many ideas for a novellette and is pretty fragmented as a result.***
The Wizard of West 34th Street by Mike Resnick
Just like an episode from the Twilight Zone TV series. A man befriends with a bit tattered and shaggy man who seems to be able to see everything which happens to other people and what kind of choices they should make. Is that a blessing or a curse? ***+
The Pipes of Pan by Robert Reed
A taxonomist starts to propose a new taxonomical name for Homo sapiens, as so many aren't so sapient. That causes great controversy and there are even several attempts against his life. Eventually, he becomes a kind of guru for peace and cooperation, but when situation turns bad there might be some hard choices to be made. A pretty good story, another one where a longer form might have worked better. ***
The Black Feminist’s Guide to Science Fiction Film Editing by Sandra McDonald
Movies are being re-edited to remove chauvinistic male dominated influences to give women the starring roles. A film which has never been publicly shown which has been written by Leight Brackett has been found in the remains of old time movie producer. His demented widow will let someone to edit it and make it presentable for public showing. A woman whose has been successful on several re-edits and a male who has made edited "feminist" movies (for example Handmaids Tale) to NOT to be o feminist compete for the rights. A pretty good story, well written. ***½
Sudden, Broken, and Unexpected by Steven Popkes
Ex-girlfriend hires an embittered musician (who was an one hit wonder years ago with a song he himself didn't really appreciate) to enhance songs performed by "teeny-popper", who is in reality a sophisticated computer software programmed to give most engaging performances possible. Would any of them have possibilities to grow as persons or in case of the singer who is "just" software to grow to a person? An extremely good story, which might well find itself from the award shortlists next year. The only nitpicks are far too many song names mentioned at the end part of the story and somewhat too convenient and easy ending. ****

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dorsai! by Gordon R. Dickson

The first part of the Dorsai-series. Dorsai is a planet which produces the best mercenaries of the galaxy. Donal Graeme was a fairly unremarkable youngster, but when he started his career as a mercenary he turned out to be the most talented tactician, leader and solder ever. He is so tough, that he is able to walk on air (literally), but he decides that he won’t bother. And that is apparently presented with a completely straight face, not as a parody. The book is presented as episodes where Donal rises higher and higher in the hierarchy until his is the leader of all known human worlds. The basic plot was audacious and as stated, apparently seriously presented. It would offer a lot of material for parody…The writing was fairly fluent, typical for its time, and there was nothing especially special. The structure of the book was very fragmented and sometimes it was hard to keep track of all characters. I don’t believe that I am going to read the rest of the series not being a great fan of military science fiction.

236 pp.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Liza Marklund & James Patterson : Postikorttimurhat (The Postcard Killers)

A very light mystery about two serial killers rampaging through different cities of Europe. Extremely short chapters made the book feel like a novelization of a movie with a very fast cutting style. A light read which wasn’t as good as Marklund’s solo efforts.

Kahden suositun ruotsalaisen dekkaristin yhteisteos.
Ympäri Eurooppaan on tapahtunut samankaltaisia nuorten parien rajuja murhia. Jokaisen murhan jälkeen murhaaja on vaihtanut kaupunkia ja maata, ja on lähettänyt enemmän tai vähemmän umpimähkään valitulle toimittajalle ennakkoviestin tulevasta murhasta. Nyt murhaava kaksikko on siirtynyt Tukholmaan kintereillä amerikkalainen poliisi, jonka tytär oli yksi ensimmäisiä sarjamurhaajien uhreista. Kirjassa seurataan sekä poliisityötä että murhaajien toimintaa erillisissä luvuissa. Kirjan luvut ovat erittäin lyhyitä, pisimilläänkin vain muutaman sivun mittaisia, ja kirja vaikuttaa ylinopeaksi leikatun elokuvan kirjaversiolta. Nopeasta kioskikirjamaisesta tyylistään huolimatta tai ehkä juuri sen takia kirja oli nopeaa ja mukavaa luettavaa, kirjan uskottavuus luonnollisesti ei ollut kaikkein korkeimmalla tasolla. Ei mitään suurta kirjallisuutta, ja selvästi huonompaa ja kevyempää tasoa kuin Liza Marklundin yksinään kirjoittamat teokset.

318 s.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, December 2012

An above average issue.

The Moon Belongs to Everyone • novella by K. C. Ball and Michael Alexander
The story happens in an alternate reality where US is preparing a flight to Mars at end of 70s. Water ice is transported from a moon base to the space ship which is being built on lunar orbit. a dead man is found on one ice block. A former police woman who has been fired from her old job and arrives to the moon as an ordinary worker is drafted to investigate. A pretty standard science fiction mystery. A slightly overlong in novella form. Not bad, but nothing unforgettable, either. ***+
From An Antique Land • novelette by Shane Tourtellotte
A group of people arrives to a small village in post-apocalyptic America. They are trying get to an old large telescope and confirm that humans once visited moon. There pictures of moon landing are still around in old books, but everyone knows that they were faked. A well written pessimistic story with good characters. Maybe it was slightly too downbeat. ****-
Hearing Impairment • shortstory by Stephen L. Burns
The aliens have arrived and they are bringing gifts. But conservative politicians in US refuse to believe even the existence of any aliens. They are not even mentioned in the bible...Finland already has short distance teleportation and inertial dampeners running, but in the US the discussions are still going on and without very much progress. But there some very concrete approaches which can be used.. A fun little tale where Finland is nicely and positively mentioned. ***½
The Perfect Book • shortstory by Ken Liu
A very short story about a future where books are always personalized to the reader by computer. ut there is something even more personal…Nice writing but just “an anecdote” ***-
Garden Spot • shortstory by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff
The explorers have landed on alien planet. It seems empty of life and desolate, but it turns out not to be so barren after all. Reminds me about the movie “planet 51” – even if I haven’t even actually seen it. ***+
Cats Know • shortstory by Richard A. Lovett
An elderly widow befriends with a holographic advertisement. The advertisement uses a personality template as basis for its programming. The personality used to belong to a beautiful model. At first the program uses the personality only in most limited way, but slowly the old widow manages to get past of the limits. A nicely written story which could have been longer. ***+
Scary Monsters • shortstory by Liz J. Andersen
A vet who is in call gets an interesting mission: she must humanely euthanize a pet dragon who has become too dangerous to keep around. That is quite large task..a short light story, the writing is nice and easy to read. ***+
Silent Mode • [Claude & Friends] • novelette by Paul Carlson
A part of a series involving a truck driver who has made friends with robots. He gets an order to remove some industrial robots from an abandoned factory and ends helping them. There are a few other plotlines also. I haven’t been fan of these stories, and I didn’t like this one either. It was too long with too much going on. **

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Wool - Omnibus Edition by Hugh Howey

A self-published book which mainly marketed as an e-book and which has risen to extremely high place on Amazon’s selling charts. The book consists of five separate short stories/novellas, which happen in the same setting and partly with the same characters. The setting is an underground silo where people have lived as long as anyone can remember. The outside world is barren, grey and extremely poisonous and can only be seen from monitors from the top floor of the silo. The worst punishment is a “cleaning” – you are sent to clean the cameras which are sending the real-time feed to the monitors. The worst crime is even hinting that you would like to go outside of the silo. That will always be punished by a cleaning. And no matter how strongly those who are banished swear that they won’t clean the cameras, for some reason they always end up doing it. The stories slowly reveal more and more of the background and give hints what has happened and what the silo really is. The first short story was excellent; the latter longer ones were very good, but felt slightly too prolonged at places. The characters were interesting and had a refreshing degree of shades of black and white. Writing was also very good – something which made me pleasantly surprised. (One always approaches self-published works with some trepidation). The plot was also good and creative, but somewhat depressing at times. An extremely good book, one of the best self-published books I have ever read and something which apparently has made the author at least moderately wealthy.
550 pp.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, April 1971

An average issue. Schmidt’s novelette was pretty good, the other stories less so.

The Unreachable Stars • novelette by Stanley Schmidt
A construction foreman has found ancient books from an old tomb they were demolishing. The books seem to claim that people used to be able to travel in space. He hopes that space travel could be used to ease the severe population problem, and shows what he found to government officials. They don’t seem to like too much that idea, and soon he finds himself running and hiding. And then a voice starts to speak directly to him in his mind. It turns out that an aliens ship is orbiting the earth and trying to find out why humanity has forgotten the space travel. A pretty nice story, where the characters were not black and white, even when at first they might have seemed to be so. At place the story was more than a little preachy about the necessity of space exploration. ***½
Heart's Desire and Other Simple Wants • [Ravenshaw] • novelette by W. Macfarlane
A man who is studying paranormal phenomena learns how travel to different alternative realities. He briefly visits several with a beautiful woman and then returns. A somewhat fragmented story without a real point. **
Higher Centers • [LaNague Federation] • shortstory by F. Paul Wilson
Apparently belongs to a series: The background was pretty sketchy, but an investigator arrives to a fishing city on an alien planet. A strange malady seems to be spreading: people have trouble sleeping and have to use copious amounts of stimulants to be able to function. The investigator works out what has happened: a sort of Ondine’s curse (taking far too much time to figure it out) due to an extremely implausible explanation. And that malady is supposed to very ironic for some reason a casual reader of the story can’t really fathom out. **½

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Vernor Vinge: Taivaan syvyydet (A Deepness in the Sky)

Another Hugo-award winner. About average Hugo winner in quality. The events among the humans tended to boring and could have been shorter. Those parts of the book which concerned the aliens were much more interesting and readable as were some flashbacks to the history of the human explosion to the galaxy.

Kaksi tutkimusryhmää matkaa lähes yhtä aikaa eriskummalliselle tähdelle, joka sammuu käytännössä kokonaan vuosiksi, ja syttyy sitten taas uudelleen. Tähteä kiertä yksi ainoa planeetta, ja sillä asustaa hämähäkkimäisiä olentoja, jotka ovat juuri ottamassa askeleen joka johtaa avaruusmatkailuun kykenevään sivilisaatioon. Se ryhmä, joka onnistuu saamaan yksinoikeuden kauppaa tämän uuden sivilisaation kanssa todennäköisesti tulee suunnattoman rikkaaksi. Molemmat ryhmät - jotka molemmat koostuvat useista eri aluksista - saapuvat aurinkokuntaan sen pitkän yön aikana. Aluksi näyttää siltä, että olisi ryhmien olisi mahdollista tehdä yhteistyötä, mutta toisen ryhmän, emergenttien (jotka ovat aika uusi ihmisten sivilisaatio) yhteistyön tarjous olikin vain salajuoni, ja ryhmät päätyvät keskinäiseen taisteluun. Taistelun jälkeen molemmat osapuolet ovat menettäneet suurimman osan aluksistaan, ja joutuvat odottamaan hämähäkki-muukalaisten kehittymistä niin pitkälle kehittyneeksi teknologiseksi sivilisaatioksi, että avun saaminen aluksien korjaamiseen on mahdollista. Niskanpäälle jää emigranttien ryhmä, joilla on apunaan ns. fokusoidut. He ovat ihmisiä. joille on saatu aivoja manipuloimalla aikaan kaiken voittava intohimo ja keskittyminen johonkin tiettyyn asiaan. Tämä tila saadaan aikaan virusinfection ja magneettistimulaation yhdistelmällä, eivätkä emigrantit ole turhan tarkkoja kohteena olevan vapaaehtoisuudesta uusia fokusoituja tehdessään. Samalla seurataan planeetan asukkaiden elämää muutamien poikkeuksellisten yksilöiden kautta.

Ne kirjan jaksot jotka tapahtuivat ihmisten parissa, eivät oikein jaksaneet kiinnostaa. Sivukaupalla sekavahkoa juonittelua. Sen sijaan planeetan muukalaisia seuraavat sivujuonet sekä Linnunradan ihmisten historiaa käsittelevät takautumat olivat erittäin hyviä ja kiinnostavia. Myös monet kirjassa esillä olleet ideat olivat hienoja, ja niistä oli saatu aika paljon irti. Loppua kohden myös kokonaisuus tuntui parantuvan, mutta tiivistämisen varaa kirjassa olisi ollut ja melkein tuntuu siltä, että se kiinnostavin osa tarinaa tapahtuisi vasta näiden kirjassa kuvattujen tapahtumien jälkeen. Kirjoitustyylistä on käännöksen perusteella vaikea sanoa mitään kovin tarkkaa, paikoitellen pientä jäykkyyttä tekstissä tuntui olevan, ja muutama tyylillisesti mielestäni väärä käännösratkaisu hiukan kiusasi. Hugo-palkittujen joukossa pidän tätä vakaaseen keskikastiin kuuluvana.

759 s.