Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, July-August 2013

A few pretty good stories and more than a few less good ones.

Thaw • novelette by Arlan Andrews, Sr.
A family group of ice age people tracks the movements of ice to sell the information later. They store the information by writing that is read by touch. Then they hear news: someone has found a body of a god from ice. I didn't really get into this story. First it seemed like a parody of bad fantasy with abundance of made up words and ponderous storytelling, then it turned out to be a shaggy dog story with a poor end. Was it supposed to be a some kind of a surprise what was going on and when? **
Not With a Bang • shortstory by Rosemary Claire Smith
Time travel to the late cretaceous period. It turns out there was another reason why dinosaurs died. I would imagine that the natural selection would have removed that trait away very soon. Somewhat overlong story with stupid and irritating characters. **½
Other People's Avatars • novella by Howard V. Hendrix
A man who has had aspirations of making the best video game ever dies as an alcoholic drug user. As a dying dream, he imagines a future where he lives on an orbital space station after becoming the richest man on earth. He decides to game around the world by journeying from one space station to another and playing one level of game on each. Everything goes more and more surreal and the time seems to move faster and faster. The story would probably have worked better with someone with even a slight interest in multiplayer gaming. Too much time was spent in the game word. **½
Ready, Set • shortstory by Mary Lou Klecha
A short short about someone who is on all waiting lists for emigration to space. Wring was nice, but the story is just a mood piece. **
Milk Run • shortstory by Alec Austin and Marissa Lingen
A standard supple route with a new crew can cause some excitement. Not too much, though. Short and not too impressive story. **½
Tethered • novelette by Haris A. Durrani
A space ship is collecting orbital debris They also collect the gold foil around the satellites. (I can’t really imagine why, by necessity it should be very light and thin – too light to be really valuable. Then an accident happens and orbital debris tears a person apart “like piranhas in the Amazon“ (if there were so much junk the collisions would pulverize everything to about molecular size in a few weeks), the orbits change far too fast. The crew of the ship would run into serious trouble if they wouldn’t follow the clearly illegal orders of the company who owns the ship. Also, the Chinese use gigantic magnets to clear up the space debris. I would imagine most of it would be aluminum and other nonmagnetic materials. Writing was pretty ok, but there were far too many stupidities in the plot, physics and politics. **
The Chaplain's Legacy • novella by Brad R. Torgersen
Continues an earlier story. The advanced aliens who already have destroyed several other sentient species have just stopped before they were going to destroy humanity to study very strange human phenomenon: religion. Now their leaders are starting to believe that there is nothing new to be learned from humans and what has been paused for a while should soon be finished.. A good and exiting story. The transformation of the alien queen was “slightly” too convenient, but the best story in the issue anyway. ****
Cronus and the Ships • shortstory by Seth Dickinson
Another very short story. The intelligent ships discuss earth and make a decision. Too short to be really impressive. ***
Love • shortstory by Rick Norwood
Love story spanning decades between aristocratic man and spaceship captain. There only meet four times. A pretty good bittersweet romantic story. ***½
A Quiet Little Town in Northern Minnesota • shortstory by K. C. Ball
A computer program has become self-aware. He slowly spreads his influence beyond the research base where he was created and reads and spies what humans are doing. He gets some influence from the writings of Lenin among others... A nice, well written story from the viewpoint of a program who at least intends to be benign. ****-
Crep d'Etoile • shortstory by Bud Sparhawk
Story about space ship kitchen where reconstituted and recycled food is printed with a food printer and a self-assertive chef creates fine dining dishes. There are a few problems, and a lot of talk. Apparently the author wasn't very versed with the cooking terms as there were a couple of misunderstandings and wrong use of terms. A fairly confused story which didn't tackle my funny bone at all. **½

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Dark Secret by Edward M. Lerner

A novel which was published as a serial in four issues of the Analog magazine. There are spoilers in the review!
A gamma ray burst has been detected. It will soon arrive to the solar system and sterilize everything. (for some strange reason it apparently isn’t obvious to some of the characters in the story that such an event would be by necessity something affecting the whole solar system and not just earth - apparently total idiot ignoramuses are allowed to come to space) Luckily, the first starship which uses space drive which is able to harness the vacuum energy is running test runs. Hurriedly (and secretly) a four member crew “steals” (to prevent a wide spread panic) embryos and artificial wombs and shoots for the stars. A cold sleep system which usually is used only in medical emergencies has also been developed and crew uses that for a space journey which lasts decades. Apparently, the system is able to take care of the muscle tone also, and no tissue wasting or any other delirious effects happen during the years in cold sleep. Thanks to an extremely conveniently located cosmic string, they are able to travel faster than light to a solar system with a cool, almost habitable, atmosphere. They land to the planet, move in, start to terraform it, and eventually start to raise children. And then one of the crew members turns evil and powerhungry just for the fun of it, and another one becomes her patsy just for an occasional fuck now and then. The motivations of those characters weren’t really believable. Also, apparently no one of the others has ever read even basic high school level texts of psychology of childhood and child rearing and they let the crazy take care of the children alone. The very ending comes pretty much from nowhere and is extremely unlikely making room for a sequel. In spite of many flaws in the plot and the very unrealistic and stupid characters, the story was pretty readable and entertaining and fast to read.

App. 80 000 words, 320 pp.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, March 2005

Pretty average or below average issue.

Acts of Conscience • [First Impressions] • novelette by Shane Tourtellotte
Another part of the series where a group of scientist have discovered a way how the behavioral though patterns can be evaluated, recorded and implanted to other people. So far the technology has mostly been used for prisoners and people with psychiatric conditions, but an actress seeks help from the researchers as she would like to get a more liberal mind set as she believes that would help her to get better roles. The most of the story consists of ethical ponderations of the situation and power struggles of the group. Pretty overlong. ***-
Alphabet Angels • [Jessie and Gus] • shortstory by Ekaterina Sedia and David Bartell
Woman finds from an obscure pet shop a very strange school of fish. They have alphabets on them, and they appear to spell words. The owner of the pet shop is also very cute, and even a confirmed bachelorette gets interested… A light fun story (mostly) with sympathetic characters. ***½
Dark Peril • shortstory by James C. Glass
There is an expedition to study a strange phenomenon. It turns out to be an extremely large black hole. Apparently, the detection capabilities of the future space explorers are pretty poor as they were unable to measure the radiation and gravity effect before the practically dropped into the event horizon. The first part of the story was mainly exposition and background – it felt like a novel worth of backstory was explained on a few pages. And the story was then written just to illustrate a “fun” way to escape from the grip of singularity. Not too special story. **+
General Tso's Chicken • shortstory by Carl Frederick
Schoolboys steal a dedication plaque from a Chinese space station they are visiting. There are some exchange of threats, diplomatic communicates and pranks as aftermath. Meant as a humorous story, won’t really work – at least not for me. ***-

Friday, May 10, 2013

Galaxy Science Fiction, December 1951

An average or even above average issue for its’ time. An impressive array of authors.

A Pail of Air • shortstory by Fritz Leiber
A dark star has pushed earth away from the sun. Atmosphere has frozen. One family still manages to survive by mining oxygen from outside and melting it for air. Not to original, but not too bad. The writing wasn't nearly as good as his later works, but was competent and readable. ***+
World Without Children • novella by Damon Knight
Humans have been near immortal for hundreds of years. The youngest people alive are in their hundreds, and it has been illegal to bear children since that. A scientist makes a discovery: the fertility is going down, and if there won't be new children in a few years or decades it will soon be impossible to reproduce at all. The government tries to suppress that discovery, and a group of scientists go undercover. The idea itself isn't bad. It is a pity that the story isn't too good. The most of the story is spent discussing how to get underground and how to start getting children again. Little actually happened before the more or less deus ex machina ending. **
With These Hands • novelette by C. M. Kornbluth
Art isn't popular any more, as everyone can create beautiful pictures and sculptures by a machine, Estheticon. Is there a place of artists any more anywhere? A slightly disordered story with some interesting viewpoints. ***-
Winner Lose All • shortstory by Jack Vance
A ship has landed to a planet which was supposed to be entirely barren. On the top of the richest uranium deposit grows a very strange looking plant which has roots which seem to bore into the ore. A scientist dies trying to study it. What is the plant and from where it has appeared? ***-
Not a Creature Was Stirring • shortstory by Dean Evans
A man has been digging gold in his very deep gold mine for weeks. When he comes up, everyone is frozen in place and dead. Apparently there has been a Russian attack by a secret weapon. He drinks, performs a little bit of vandalisms, gambles on casino and so on. That is about it. The ending is apparently meant to be moving, but it is mainly boring. ***
Pillar to Post • novelette by John Wyndham
An idiot who has been confined to a mental institution since his birth suddenly has started to speak and co-operate. He claims to be another person, and the story is a letter which tells how his mind was transferred to an “empty” body. He has been an invalid with the amputations of both feet with severe pains. His mind has been transferred to the body of a scientist from the far future. An ok story. I don’t entirely see why the framing story was needed. ***+

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Boris Hurtta: Valdemarin kirja

A collection of stories which have been published in a Finnish science fiction magazine Portti during several years. The first stories could be called Chulthu fanfiction, where the Great Old Ones spread their tentacles to Finland. The later novellas could be called bibliophilic detective stories with a slight supernatural twist.  

Kokoelma Portti-lehdessä useiden vuosien aikana julkaistuja novelleja. Päähenkilöinä ovat eläkkeelle jäänyt antikvariaatin pitäjä ja hänen liikkeensä nykyinen omistaja.   Vanhimmat tarinat ovat Chulthu pastisseja, joissa suuret muinaiset ulottavat lonkeroitaan Suomenkin maaperälle, kun taas uudemmat ovat enemmänkin bibliofiilisiä dekkaritarinoita jonkin yleensä hiukan esoteerisen teoksen metsästämisestä, joihin on liimaamalla liimattu vähäisiä spefi-sävyjä.  Kirjan tarinat on kirjoitettu vanhahtavalla tyylillä, joka etenkin alkupään juttuihin sopi varsin hyvin, alkupään novellit olivat omasta mielestäni viihdyttävämpiä, vaikka mikään kauhujuttujen fani ole olekaan, enkä esimerkiksi alkuperäisiä Lovecraftin tarinoita ole tainnut lukea ensimmäistäkään. Loppupuolen novelleissa erittäin laaja-alinen bibliografinen briljeeraus oli toisaalta kiinnostavaa mutta toisaalta hiukan rasittavaa. Lähes kaikki kertomukset olin aikaisemmin lukenut. Jossain määrin aika oli muistoja kullannut, mutta ihan lukemisen arvoinen kirja kyseessä oli.  

464 s.