Sunday, April 21, 2013

Asimov's Science Fiction, June 2013

Some good, some less good stories. A pretty average issue.

The Fountain • novelette by G. David Nordley
A far future story where an alien emissary from a race with a hive mind comes to meet the immortal empress of the Earth with a request. A pretty good story with intriguing characters. ***½
Skylight • novelette by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
An orphan has been trained as an assassin by a guild which specializes in the assassinations of criminals, former dictators and others who deserve death. She fails her last test when she doesn't make what she was supposed to do in a VR simulation. An excellent "origin" story. I look forward to other possible stories in this series. ****-
Hypervigilant • shortstory by Eric Del Carlo
A series of terror attacks with neurochemical toxins have produced “amokers”, people who tend to go berserk at public places and kill as many people they can. However, the same toxins have produced empaths who are able to feel if someone is going to start a rampage. They are stationed at public places. One day one empath who sits in a waiting room of a hospital feels a woman with a mind full of fury entering. But then the fury disappears – did he make an error? A pretty good story with an interesting background. ***½
A Love Song Concerning His Vineyard • shortstory by Megan Arkenberg
A story about wine, dysfunctional family and Mars. A story which is going more for a mood than plot. Very short and somewhat sketchy. **½
Precious Mental • [The Great Ship Universe] • novella by Robert Reed
Apparently a part of a series. A far future story. There are immortal and powerful races in the galaxy and some people are apparently also immortal. All races share a similar basis for immortality: a bioceramic practically indestructible brain module. Some people are trying to repair a very old and very efficient space ship engine. I didn't get into this story at all – probably because I am not familiar with the other parts of the series. Everything felt very confusing and disjointed. **½

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde

The next book in Thursday Next series. Thursday returns from the book world with her son and Hamlet from Shakespeare’s plays to the real world. She has been away for two years and finds that a character from fiction, Yorrick Kaine is a prime minister and is taking the country towards dictatorship and no one sees anything really wrong with that. The Goliath Company is remodeling itself as a religion for some reason and the best assassin has taken a contract for Thursday. And her husband is still eradicated and no one knows that he has even existed. And there is a prophecy which states that if a local team wins the Croquet match the Goliath Company is defeated and Yorrick Kaine loses his power. If the team loses, the world will end. And there are more than a few subplots in addition… A lot happens in this book and with great pace. There are several jaw dropping moments, when the events are deliciously abrupt and absurd. However, this part was a slight letdown compared with the previous part of the series. The real world – even the very strange real world of this series is a slight letdown after the bookworld and metafictional wordgames which may happen there. This book gives a closure for the series and most of the plot points left hanging in earlier parts are resolved. Of, course there are sequels… I wonder what happens in them.

416 pp.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, June 2013

Is Analog changing? This issue had a few stories which were somewhat different than those usually from this magazine, with more emphasis on writing. Alas, at the same time those stories seemed to have little emphasis on the plot.

A Cup of Dirt • novelette by Mark Niemann-Ross
A project to grow “dirt-grown” tomatoes in a space ship get started first in secret, later more and more publicly. Ok story, but making dirt shouldn’t have been so hard. Googling with terms mentioned in the story which were supposed NOT to give any hits about making dirt produced a lot of web pages involving composting. Also, the author seems to imagine that compost need worms to work - not so as a really well running compost is far too warm for worms or any critters to survive. That said with a 15 years of experience of running a compost pile. A pretty standard story of its type.***+
In the Green • shortstory by K. S. Patterson
An autistic boy who communicates only by Bliss language or by some cruder picture signs has a small adventure on an alien planet. The writing has quite high literary aspirations and an overdose of sentimentality, but little really happened in the story. **+
Hydroponics 101 • shortstory by Maggie Clark
Criminals are punished by confining them with some sort of nanites which react to the thought patterns of the prisoners. Usually, they end up torturing themselves, but then one seems to have overcome his past and grown as a person. This is another story where the writing felt overwritten and the plot was lacking. I didn’t really grasp what was the objective of the prison. Torture or rehabilitation?***-
Wavefronts of History and Memory • shortstory by David D. Levine
An archeologist studies ancient radio waves broadcast from 2nd World War Japan. He discovers other, more personal transmissions. A lot of literary descriptions and musings of personal things. The idea itself nice but it was used enough.***
Out in the Dark • [Zeke Choy] • shortstory by Linda Nagata
A cop investigates how a woman appeared to a commercial settlement on a remote asteroid without any previous credentials. Is she illegal copy ( the technology for making clone bodies and copying consciousness is well established, but it is extremely illegal to have more than one copy of an individual at the same time) and was the police who let her in corrupt? A pretty nice, but too short police procedural. A little too detailed description of tech involved. ***+

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, January-February 2005

A double issue with pretty nice and readable stories.

Seventy-Five Years • shortstory by Michael A. Burstein
An ex-wife comes to meet senator who has aspirations to run for presidency. She has a simple request: the senator should not push for legislation which would prolong the release of 75 year old census information. There is a good reason for that, of course. Nice, short story. ***+
A Few Good Men • novella by Richard A. Lovett
Two female friends frequent a cafe where students often read to their exams. They notice that several students stop appearing. One time one of the friends notice a pair strangely dresses women who appear to follow one male student who isn’t seen after that anymore. It turns out that the future is stealing all decent men from the present. The time travelers captures one of the female friends by accident, who them starts work in a waystation outside of time straight away, without much batting her eyelash and without giving much thought to her surroundings.. The plot itself is tolerable, but the characters aren’t too believable and the writing is fairly clumsy. ***
Mars Opposition • novelette by David Brin
The Martians land. They have a list of names and they are seeking people from that list – and they are ready to pay handsomely of the information. If they find someone, who is mentioned on the list he is coolly and efficiently killed. Soon it is discovered that the name list is from a Mars probe. All attempts to fight the Martians are completely futile. A pretty nice story about aliens with really alien thought patterns, which ends with some nice moral ambiguity. ****-
Rough Draft • shortstory by Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta
A "one hit wonder" sf author whose only book won both Nebula and Hugo awards has never written other books as he believes everything would be just going downhill from his first success, get a copy of his counterpart from an alternative reality has written. What is he going to do with it? A pretty good story with nice resolution. ***½
The Supersonic Zeppelin • novelette by Ben Bova
A story about rise and fall of supersonic zeppelin. Starts as an irony of government run ventures and committee run engineering projects, but ends up as pretty confusing mess where everyone is an idiot, more or less. **½
Uncreated Night and Strange Shadows • [The Gift from the Stars] • novella by James E. Gunn [as by James Gunn ]
Continues an earlier story. An eccentric and more than half-mad inventor has decoded plans for limitless power and FTL space ship from a broadcast sent from a star far away. In this story, a FTL space ship arrives to a planet from where the transmission originated. They find an empty looking planet and a lot of strange looking space on different orbits. The most partly metaphysical secrets are then revealed in seemingly endless expositionary speech which lasts for pages and pages. The law of diminishing returns works once again. The first story of the series was pretty decent, but this one sucks big time. **-
Nova Terra • shortstory by Jeffery D. Kooistra
An engineer gets a letter from his deceased childhood friend. The letter includes a draft of an engine which could not possibly work. Men in black suits arrive the retrieve the letter, but they miss the draft. The engineer decides to build the engine as a tribute to his friend. A pretty good and well written story. ***½

Monday, April 1, 2013

Analog Science Fact -> Science Fiction, March 1964

This issue has only three stories as a serial takes a lot space. A pretty average issue.

The Pie-Duddle Puddle • shortstory by Leigh Richmond and Walt Richmond
A lazy creature manages to solve a problem. There was a slight twist in the story. The reader was probably supposed to think that the protagonist is a child or an extremely lazy person, but he turns out to be a cat. What a surprise, while I was reading the story I thought that the protagonist would turn out to be a dog. **½
Outward Bound • novelette by Norman Spinrad
Earth governs an interstellar union of planets. All space travel happens by sublight speed and hibernation techniques are used for decades lasting journeys between stars. But it appears that one man has discovered the mathematical basis for ftl-drive. The earth forces are chasing him as the discovery would destroy Earth's edge for the new inventions and technologies and earth's influence would disappear. Excuse me? I would imagine the result would be exactly the opposite. In spite of that totally brainless premise, the story was pretty readable and entertaining. ***+
Third Alternative • novelette by Robin Scott Wilson [as by Robin Scott ]
A time traveler is facing a choice: either he continues to work as an operative time traveler and must spend months of his time during one working day or his must take a managerial position with better benefits and lose the thrill of journeying to the past. But there is a third alternative...which isn't too surprising. There is one interesting point, however. In the first paragraph it is stated that the protagonist has a "sterility certificate". In the last paragraph his is planning to have children. Writing was ok, standard fare without any surprises. ***+