Sunday, February 24, 2013

Brothers in Arms by Lois McMaster Bujold,

I decided to read the ”Mirror Dance” by Lois McMaster Bujold. I read a few pages and found that I was pretty much lost as the book seemed to continue a story started in an earlier book. I found out by a short Google search that this was the previous book. When I started this book, I found that I was pretty much lost, as the story first seemed to continue straight from an earlier book. I got over that part soon and found myself really enjoying the story didn't go back to the still previous installment.

Miles Vorgosigan returns as his alter ego, Admiral Naismith, from a secret mission to Cetagandan space. His mission was a great success, and the Cetagandans are _really_ pissed at him. He is ordered to the Barrayaran embassy of Earth in London as himself. Never before the both identities have been so close together, and he is afraid that someone makes the connection between two different characters and learns that the same person is behind both. To explain why there are two deformed, but extremely bright dwarf who look exactly the same he makes up a lie: Admiral Naismith is an illegal clone made from Miles Vorgosigan, who has escaped an unknown party, who created the clone as an attempt to undermine Barrayaran government. However, it turns out that there really IS a clone, which was created for exactly that purpose. And the plan to dispose of the real Miles and replace him is going on.

A very good book, much better than the Cryoburn, which was nominated for Hugo award a couple of years ago. The book was entertaining and full of smooth action, amusing dialogue and entertaining situations. I often like books with cocky heroes and Miles is pretty much the definition of cocky. In a good way. This book makes me look forward to reading the “Mirror Dance” which according to some reviews might be the best one of the series.

352 pp.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, July 1971

The lead novella was pretty nice in spite of some illogical details.

Zero Sum • novella by Joseph P. Martino
A war has been going in for some time. Mankind seems to be winning, as the aliens use suboptimal tactics and always lose more men in a battle than the humans. The humans capture an alien occupied planet. Every single alien seems to have committed a suicide. Is there a rationale behind the actions of the aliens? A fairly good story with some problems. The tactics of the space battles seem pretty strange, and the weaponry doesn't behave like they would in space - for example there is definite range for the missiles which can't be surpassed. Also, the way the military considers battles being won solely in bases of the number of men who are lost seem totally lunatic. By that definition, Finland beat Russia in the 2nd World War by an extremely wide margin…Wouldn’t the actual objectives which are achieved by the battle be far more important? ***½
The Man with the Anteater • [LaNague Federation] • shortstory by F. Paul Wilson
A man who has an anteater as a pet gets drafted to evaluate and eventually popularize a government project where a large group of children has been raised to have the occupation which is completely suitable for each person. After he has visited there the experiment collapses. Apparently after seeing so eccentric a person all people having careers which suit them perfectly decided to switch to those careers they actually wanted. Apparently most of the people didn’t want the jobs they were perfectly suitable for. **½
A Little Edge • novelette by William E. Cochrane [as by S. Kye Boult ]
There is a battle between two races, both apparently sentient. The avian Draks use the Riverpeople as a food source. Little background is given, and the story consists mainly from a detailed description of a battle. As it isn’t even entirely clear who are the “bad guys” in the story, and there is so little background of the Riverpeople and of the characters we should apparently be rooting for that I could not care less for them. Also, the ending where one lone glider pilot just manages to save himself feels somewhat separated from the main story. **
Poltergeist • [Telzey Amberdon] • shortstory by James H. Schmitz
Another story in a series starring Telzey, a young woman with extremely strong psi-powers. She is just learning to use her power and is on a vacationing on a resort when she encounters a man who seems to be haunted by a strange power. The shortest and perhaps the best story in this series I have read. It is very positive that this time Telzey isn’t kidnapped by anyone.***+

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Galaxy Science Fiction, November 1951

A pretty bad issue with unknown stories by mainly unknown authors.

Sea Legs • novelette by Frank Quattrocchi
A member of space corps returns to earth after his period of service ends. No one has before returned to earth after their tour. As the protagonist apparently is an idiot he has no knowledge at all how the political system in the earth works. And because he is especially stupid he doesn’t bother to learn anything about it before he gets to the earth. He is treated with a lot of suspicion and eventually he meets a resistance leader who gives him an expositionary lecture which lasts several pages. A pretty bad story with almost as bad writing. **-
Tiger by the Tail • shortstory by Alan E. Nourse
A shop lifter is using a purse with unlimited capacity to steal utensils which are made from aluminum. It turns out that an alternate universe wants to get aluminum from ours. At least so the scientists assume by some tremendous leaps of reasoning. By another lunatic leap of fancy, the scientists find themselves in a dangerous stalemate with the other universe. **½
Zeritsky's Law • shortstory by Ann Griffith
It is discovered that it is extremely easy to froze and thaw people. (if it would be that easy, no one would never have died from exposure to cold). As it is so easy to it is only natural that one company manages to get practical monopole for the procedure. They NEVER make any mistakes, until they eventually make a slight error keep one man frozen for too long time. And after that the procedure is made illegal with a mandatory penalty of death. And apparently there is a grave international situation going on (never mentioned before the final chapter) which has some effect on people wanting that treatment. A confusing mess of story, the writing as such has some wry humor, but the plot isn’t worth much. **+
Self Portrait • interior artwork by Martin Schneider
A diary of a man who works in some kind of government research facility. He tries to create the ultimate leg prosthetic and his friend tries to develop a chess playing computer. Apparently such computer would be ultimate tactician and beat any other nation in any war. The man keeping the diary would want to take part to the development of the computer and apparently conspires a bit to achieve that goal. I am not entirely sure as the diary includes endless extremely boring discussions about the ultimate tactical computer. **
Psychotennis, Anyone? • shortstory by Lloyd Williams
A contestant has died in a ball game played with balls controlled by thought. That should not have happened, as the mechanics of thought control should have prevented that. A bad, boring, confusing and not too well written story. No wonder it has never ever been reprinted. *+

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Seppo Jokinen: Räätälöity ratkaisu

A police procedural which happens in my home town. A smooth writing and entertaining plot which involves a murdered preteen and corrupt business consultants.

Toinen lukemani Komisario Koskinen kirja. Kirjan valitseminen oli osittain kokeilu siitä, miten Elisa kirjasta ostetun kirjan siirtäminen Kindleen onnistuu. Elisa kirjassa näyttä olevan joitain hieman vanhempia teoksia varsin kohtuulliseen – e-kirjaksi jopa halpaan – hintaan. Kiusantekona nämä halpakirjatkin ovat Adoben DRM:llä suojattuja, eivätkä ole suoraan Kindleen siirrettävissä. Pienellä taustatutkimuksella kuitenkin selvisi, että ko. suojaus ei ole erityisen vahva ja on helposti purettavissa. Ilmaisohjelmana on ladattavissa ePUBee-niminen ohjelma, joka suojaus purkautui käytännössä automaattisesti. Vielä piti kirjan formaatti vaihtaa toisella ilmaisohjelmalla, Calibrella, Kindlen ymmärtämään formaattiiin. Tämän jälkeen ei tarvinnut muuta kuin lähettää tiedosto sähköpostilla omaan Kindleen, jolle se sitten ilmaantui automaagisesti.

Varhaisteini-ikäinen poika on löytynyt kuolleen rautatieltä. Paljastuu, että hän oli ollut kuolleena jo tunteja ennen kuin jäi junan ruhjomaksi. Lukija tietää jonkin verran enemmän kuin tutkivat poliisit: poika oli ollut mukana vanhuksiin kohdistuvissa ryöstöissä ja joku tuntematon oli saanut hänet kiinni ja surmannut puolivahingossa. Toisena tarinajuonteena seurataan konsulttifirmaa, joka huolehtii siitä, että urakat päätyvät ”oikeille” yrityksille. Yrityksen luottokonsultti saa suureksi yllätyksekseen firman toimitusjohtajalta yllätyspotkut, joka johtaa eskaloituvaan kostonkierteeseen miesten välillä. Kirjan loppua kohden juonilinjat yhdistyvät varsin hyvin joitain pikkuasioita lukuun ottamatta.

Sujuvasti kirjoitettu vetävä viihderomaani, josta oli hieno bongailla Tampereen paikannimiä. Huomattavasti parempi kirja kuin Koskinen ja taikashow, joka oli edellinen lukemani sarjan teos.

301 s.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Asimov's Science Fiction, March 2013

A pretty good issue.

Uncertainty • novelette by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
A some sort of organization which is situated "outside of time" tries to mold history. The first try had caused unforeseen consequences and they are working to restore the history, but it seems to be harder that thought. An extremely good and well written story, the only nitpick is that the story feels like a segment from a larger story. ****-
Brother Swine • shortstory by Garrett Ashley
The reincarnation is apparently true and the dead return as animals and sometimes animals return as humans. A village is in the middle of famine, and a recently died family member returns as a big, fat, swine. Excellent writing, more of a fantasy than a sf story, but a good read. ****
Needlework • shortstory by Lavie Tidhar
A man is learning to cook so that he can work on a space ship. If he is elected, he must spend most of the time apart from his family. Nice writing, but a very fragmentary story without much real plot. **½
Monday's Monk • novelette by Jason Sanford

Nanomachines have produced a practical immortality, but a guerrilla movement kills people who have nanos by chopping them to pieces and burning them (alive) to ash. A Buddhist monk is allowed to perform the last rites for people being burned. One day his childhood friend and secret love is brought to the funeral piles – beheaded, but still conscious by the power of the nanos. But it turns out that the nanos are much more resilient than had been thought...the plausibility of the story isn't its strong points, but otherwise an excellent and moving story. ****
Pitching Old Mars • shortstory by Michael Cassutt
Musing about how to place a story in Mars - maybe use past as a backdrop. A short "story" without any plot, characters or point. **
Feral Moon • novella by Alexander Jablokov
A description of an attack to Phobos. Phobos has been THE vacation spot of the solar system, but now it is a battle field of a strange battle which mostly tries to ignore civilians living on the moon. A former commander has been released from prison to lead some of the forces. Little was explained about the background or even why the war had started. It wasn’t even very clear who were the “good guys” and details of the fight were extremely unclear. If I don’t know what is going on and why, why should I care of the characters and what they are doing? The main character was apparently meant to be sympathetic and even human, but I couldn’t feel much emotion towards him. An overlong and confusing story. **-

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde

The next part in the adventures of Thursday Next. Thursday is hiding from her enemies in an unpublished detective novel. As no one ever reads the book she is able to do pretty much whatever she likes. She gets drafted as member of Jurisfiction, the law enforcement agency of the Bookworld. Thursday has become an apprentice to Miss Havisham from Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, who is one of the most valued agents of the Jurisfiction. Another import agent is the Cat Formerly Known as Cheshire. Working with Jurisfiction keeps Thurday busy as a new operating system for literature – BOOK v. 9, the Ultraword, is going to be published in a few weeks. It is supposed to be the best thing ever, but there seems to be something fishy going on…Also, Thursday has been sued for changing the ending of the Jane Eyre in the first book. Also, she seems to be forgetting her husband, who has been murdered as an infant and no one else has any memories of him at all. In spite of his eradication and her inability to remember him, Thursday is still carrying his child. And who is that Godot guy? There are so many people who are waiting for him.
This series seems to come better and better. The book is filled with so many references in books and writing is so funny and creative that it is hard to believe. Never before I have seen two successive sentences with eleven (11!) consecutive uses of the word “had”. The events in the book often have an effect on the actual text of the book, as when the characters face different creatures of the Bookworld - like bookworms, which change common adjectives into others, or the more dangerous creatures like adjectivores, which suck all descriptions from an object. This was an unbelievably fun book to read even if I probably missed many of the references to English language literature. I have high hopes for the next part.

375 pp.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, April 2013

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

The Lost Bloodhound Sonata by Carl Frederick
A scientist is studying smells and he has finalized a some kind of “smell organ”. By a remarkable coincidence his friend, a marine scientist, happens to find a new sort of marine animal. With a gigantic leap of reasoning he figures out that the animal communicates by spreading different smells. With an even greater leap of reasoning (or with something, there doesn’t seem to be much of an actual _reason_ for that conclusion) he concludes that the animals are capable of complex communication. And it is apparently extremely easy to find a complete swarm of animals which were previously unknown to science. Oh dear. About as good as it sounds. **
Altruism by Kyle Kirkland
A sort of private detective, who has a small adjustment to his mitochondrial DNA, is hired to find out why a rich man who has a lot of mitochondrial adjustments is getting sick. The person who has developed the technique for adjustments has founded a company, which is running different sorts of charity operations – for a healthy profit. There are some goons, some chases and some dangerous situations before everything is sorted. Ok story, which was somewhat overlong. And I find hard to believe that mitochondrial DNA changes could have effects described in the story. ***-
The Skeptic by Jennifer R. Povey
A mother with a few children claims that she was captured by aliens. The officer interviewing her is slightly skeptic. Even after they visit together the place where the ship landed. A fun light and short tale. ***+
The Last Clone by Brad Aiken
The last man to die from old age is a clone. Some extremely rich people used cloning to prolong their life, but soon after the first clones were used for mind transfers of rich and sometime amoral people, the secret of immortality was found. And that didn’t work for the clones, so the last old person is a clone of a rich man. The way he became rich wasn’t necessarily very ethical – naturally that depends on the viewpoint. A pretty good story, the best in the issue? ***½
Launch Window by Sarah Frost
A young woman journeys to a space station to stop her sister. The sister is going to be onboard of an interstellar spaceship, but her family doesn’t approve it. The young woman tries some half desperate measures to prevent her sister’s departure, but finally learns something. The writing is pretty good, but the plot offers nothing new. And the security aboard the space ship is apparently ridiculously bad. ***