Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Taro Korhonen: Paskapokkari

This book’s name translates as a ”Shit Paperback”. The name is literal and it tells everything and more you have ever wanted to know about the subject matter.

Kirja, jonka aiheen voi päätellä sen nimestä. Lyhyitä faktapohjaisia juttuja aiheeseen liittyen, sekä erilaisia anekdootteja saman asian tiimoilta. Anekdootteihin on kyllä eksynyt tunnettuja urbaanilegendoja ainakin yksittäisiä mukaan, joten ihan aidoista kertomuksista ei ole kyse. Tämä kirja tuli luettua ihan yksityisesti aiheeseensa liittyvissä tilanteissa, ja sopi siihen käyttöön oikein mainiosti. Huvittavia, viihdyttäviä ja joskus hiukkasen yököttäviäkin tarinoita – ihan oivaa ajankulua.

256 s.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, September 2006

There were only three stories in this issue as a serial takes a lot of space. They were all pretty good ones, though.

A Pound of Flesh • novella by Robert A. Lovett
Magic potions (”nanos”) which are able to do almost anything have become commonplace. They are routinely used to enforce all sorts of contracts including apartment rentals. If you don’t pay your rent in time, a nano which was put in your bloodstream while signing the contract will cause some very uncomfortable results. As all contracts are 100% enforceable most lawyers have become unemployed. (I wonder if that would really happen – are most lawyers really enforcing contracts?) . One recently divorced tries to make the ends meet by working as a private detective. The business isn’t too good, but on one day a mysterious lady comes to visit him… She has a job offer: her business partner who has developed a new style of magic potion…[cough]..nano –machine… which is able to reveal if someone is lying or not, has disappeared with his priceless invention. He must be found. A pretty good and entertaining detective –style science fiction. An enjoyable read. ****
Kyrie Eleison • shortstory by John G. Hemry
Survivors of a space ship accident have lived on a barely habitable planet for a few generations. The bridge crew has established a religion which preached salvation from the planet for worthy – those who obey the descendants of crew in everything. And The Officers and Crew are naturally saved automatically, and the offspring of the passengers who languish with poor food and heavy labor aren’t probably worthy. But then a rescue ship lands and is able to take part of the inhabitants on board... Another good and entertaining tale. ****-
A Million Years and Counting • novelette by Rajnar Vajra
A robot has been found in a cave on the moon. Apparently, it has been there for millennia. After it has been studied for years it has been released and it lives in New York. Then on one day its head (which hasn’t been removable) drop off, and the android starts demonstrate unseen powers. A fairly good story, which was somewhat overlong. There was too far much soapboxing by the author for several things about humanity, evolution and human behavior which were very superfluous. ***+

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?: And Other Reflections on Being Human by Jesse Bering

A book which describes the possible evolutionary origins of several human anatomical details and behavior patterns covering several different factoids from the shape of the human penis to reason why teenage girls tend to be so cruel against each other’s. Entertaining and fascinating details and thoughts from wide variety of things. Mostly they were logical and easy to agree upon, but there were a few details where apparently author’s cultural background influenced his opinions. For example, the chapter where he assumes that people who openly show their religious beliefs (e.g. by having a visible crucifix on a car window) seem to be more trustful than those who don’t show them – even for the author who is an atheist. I really don’t believe that would apply to Finland where religious belief is a very private matter and showing them very openly is unusual and even suspect. I would have picked up the taxi without the crucifix. The writing style was easy to read and light, at places probably slightly too light, but might very well pick up other books by the same author.
301 pp.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Asimov's Science Fiction, January 2013

Not one of the best issues of Asimov's.

They Shall Salt the Earth With Seeds of Glass by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Aliens with an unknown agenda has invaded earth. The make attacks at will for reasons remaining humans don't usually know. For some reason they are very interested in pregnant women and promise good care for everyone who is pregnant. But no one who seeks their care comes back. A young woman is pregnant. She and her sister seeks out a doctor who could perform an abortion. They get caught, and an alien drone starts to take them to a health faculty - and seems to think it is doing them a favor. There is too little backstory for the story really work. Now it is just a pretty blatant allegory for the US invasion/influence of third world countries. ***+
Over There by Will McIntosh
An apparently innocuous experiment causes the world to divide into two separate continuums. The people in those are able to perceive both realties which is very confusing them and most start eventually be very anxious. The story is told as two s narratives describing simultaneous events on both time-lines. I wonder how the story was supposed to be read. There were hardly any natural divides or chapter breaks which would have made it easier to switch reading between two different simultaneous stories involving the same characters. The ending was also fairly weak in my opinion. ***-
Legend of Troop 13 by Kit Reed
A story of a lost group of girls who live or might not live in a forest. Very "artsy" story which I didn't get or really understood. **
Hotel by Suzanne Palmer
A story happens in a hotel on Mars, which for historical reasons is on neutral territory which doesn’t belong to any nation. There are some unusual visitors there, most of them are using the name "Smith" to remain anonymous. And there are a few secret plots going on.. a noirish story where science fictions elements aren't really important for the plot in spite of a few aliens in important roles. Some condensing probably would have made the story better. **½
The Family Rocket by James Van Pelt
A man is coming back to his childhood home with his fiancée. His family has always been space nuts. And his father bought a used space rocket when he was young and refurbished it for an imaginary trip to Mars. A sweet story with a nice mood. ***
Mithridates, He Died Old by Nancy Kress
An experimental and risky treatment for severe brain trauma causes unforeseen effects. A sort of rerun of “A Christmas Carol” by Dickens. Very good, emotional story. One drawback is that the author apparently hasn’t got a clue how scientific studies are really done. ***½

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde

The second Thursday Next novel featuring the Britain’s best (?) literary detective in an alternative world where literature is the most important thing in the world, and where characters from books are able to come to the real world, and where people are able to spend time in books , at least after they have learnt the trick to do it. Thursday has many problems: her husband has been eradicated from history and no one except her has any recollections of him at all, but she is still pregnant without being entirely sure if the father is her non-existing husband or someone she has never met, she is supposed to fetch an obnoxious agent from Poe’s famous poem, “Raven” – and there is a little matter of the end of the world coming in just a few days. An extremely inventive book with many, many literary references using at places even different writing styles. This second part was even better than the first part of the series, and as it ends in the middle of the story I must probably get the next part sooner or later.

384 pp.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, January-February 2013

A pretty good issue with mostly very entertaining stories.

In The Moment • shortstory by Jerry Oltion
A comet is approaching moon. If it hits the moon, it might cause "splatter" which would hit earth with catastrophic consequences. (I am not sure, if that were the case - could that cause SO big effects?) A teenage girl (whose parents apparently are religious nuts) is on a field watching what happens. She meets her male classmate who also has come to watch. A sweet but simple story. ***½
The Exchange Officers • novelette by Brad R. Torgersen
Chinese attack a space station US is constructing on orbit. A pair of building crew who use remote working system unsurprisingly defeat them. A pretty standard Analog-style story. The plot was unsurprising, but the pretty nice writing gave freshness to the otherwise very conventional plot. ***+
The War of the Worlds, Book One, Chapter 18: The Sergeant-Major • shortstory by John G. Hemry
A missing chapter from Well's “War of the Worlds”, where a very British group of soldiers who have no doubt what so ever, that the British people are the best anywhere, defeat a Martian invader. A nice "fan fiction" style addition to a familiar tale. ***+
The Woman Who Cried Corpse • novella by Rajnar Vajra
Computer programmer's mother (who was a famous scientist who had won Nobel price) is dying from a stroke in a hospital. She seems to die, but then revives and does that again, and again. Later she disappears from the hospital. When her daughter arrives at the scene, she is arrested as a suspect for her mother’s murder and for hacking the computer system of the hospital to cover up the murder. While she is still being interrogated on the scene by police officers, they are attacked and most of the agents on the scene are shot. Then there are pages and pages of action. After that there are pages and pages of detailed explanation of fake science, after that there are pages and pages of exposition done by one character explaining what happened, and then the story ends. Without any really good, sane, half believable explanation why the attack in the hospital even took place. The writing as such was ok, but the plot and pacing of the story were not ok. ***-
Descartes's Stepchildren • novelette by Robert Scherrer
A scientist is trying to discover the brain centre for consciousness. He finds that a part of population doesn't have it. Does he refine his methods? No, he concludes that some people aren't conscious - even though there are NO corroborating evidence and no psychological evaluation or any other study can differentiate between those people who have supposedly have consciousness and those supposedly don't have it. And for some strange reason his findings are taken seriously, which leads to the predictable outcome with concentration camps and so on. Writing was ok, but the stupidity of the science was overwhelming. ***
Neighborhood Watch • shortstory by H.G. Stratmann
The dozens of intelligent species of solar system debate if they should still continue to fool humans and pretend that there is no life anywhere in the system - or should they just get rid of those pesky and irritating troublemakers. A humorous story, ok in its class. ***
True to Form • novelette by Kyle Kirkland
There are artificial humans who are used for manual and dangerous work; there is some sort of conspiracy involving something, a death of an important politician in suspicious circumstances and a lot of expositionary dialog. I really didn't get into this story. **
Buddha Nature • novelette by Amy Thomson
A robot arrives at a Buddhist monastery and wants stay there and become enlightened. Is it self-aware? Does it have rights or is it just property? And is it possible that a mere machine really could be spiritually enlightened? A pretty good, enjoyable and well written story. ***½
Time Out • novella by Edward M. Lerner
A story of a "sidekick" (out of work bank employee) of a "mad scientist", who invents a working time machine. There are naturally paradoxes and a threat of serious butterfly effect. And it all ends in flames. (That is not a spoiler, as the main story is told as a flashback after the fire). Another well written very good story. Probably the best of the issue. ****-