Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Matti Yrjänä Joensuu: Väkivallan virkamies

The first book of its series, the first book by the author. A constable of violent crime division of the Helsinki police takes part in a criminal investigation of a typical murder which involves down in his luck alcoholic. The main protagonist is very distressed and stressed about his work and spends a lot of time thinking about social implications of everything.

Ensimmäinen Harjunpää-kirjoista. Kuvittelin, että tätä en ollut koskaan lukenut, mutta tutulta tarina kyllä vaikutti. Kirjassa tutustumme Harjunpäähän, Helsingin poliisin väkivaltajaoksen konstaapeliin, joka on hiukan liian hermoheikko työhönsä. Työhönsä hän on päätynyt lähinnä sattumankauppaa, mikään haave poliisin ura ei hänellä koskaan ollut ollut. Yövuorot, vastuu ja hoidettavat keikat aiheuttavat hänelle painetta ja lähes pelkoa. Kirjassa on murhakin, siihen tosin päästään vasta kun noin kolmasosa kirjaa on kulunut. Kyseessä on tyypillinen kotimainen henkirikos, alkoholiin menevä mies on päätynyt hengettömäksi. Ihan täysin tavallinen ryyppyporukan tappelu silti kyseessä ei vaikuta olevan, vaan mukana on ryöstö.
Hitaahkosti etenevä, paljon yhteiskunnan ongelmien pohdiskelua sisältävä teos, joka on samalla kiinnostavaa ajankuvaa. Hämmästyttävää kuinka paljon kirjassa tupakoidaan! Laadullisesti kirja ei ole aivan samaa tasoa myöhempien osien kanssa, mutta laatutyötä joka tapauksessa.
269 s.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Astounding Science Fiction, January 1956

A pretty readable issue for its time. At least the writing was tolerable.

The Executioner • novelette by Algis Budrys
A judge of a future religious oligarchic society is going to have a trial. The accused is a young girl who has committed a serious crime. She has talked in public with her lover, a member of ruling family. Guilt seems to be clear and naturally the verdict is guilty. The accused of course has the privilege to hope for the god's reversal of the judgment. It has never happened - the bulled shot by the judge has always killed the stripped accused. But this time someone throws a gun for a girl, and she gets out one shot before she dies. The judge has been absolute in his believe of the god and on the right of the ruling families, but now he starts to think about the situation. Ultimately, he comes to a shocking, but logical conclusion. A pretty good, slightly overlong story with a moving and even surprising end. ***½
Indirection • shortstory by Everett B. Cole

A new and very successful fantasy writer has a secret. He allows his friend, who is a literary critic, to see his newest "story". It is in form of letters and testimonials of several kinds of aliens. They are all true, and the man is making the world ready of the reveal large interstellar civilization. I would imagine this was a very tired plot even in the 1950s.**
Won't You Walk— • novelette by Theodore Sturgeon (variant of "Won't You Walk...")
A man is desperate enough to be ready to kill himself. He tries to steal a car to drive it off a cliff, but the car happens to be a "trap" of a psychologist, who promises to change his life. The writing was ok, the plot wasn't anything really special - I saw the “surprise” ending straight away. ***-

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Elephants on Acid: and Other Bizarre Experiments by Alex Boese

A collection of short case studies of strange, unusual or just plain crazy scientific projects. Including "what happens if you give LSD to an elephant?" (It drops dead even when acid isn't really toxic for humans.) Or are soldiers able to function if they are sure they will die? Or what happens if you try to raise a chimpanzee just like a human child? A pretty interesting book, but not mostly really new - I was familiar with at least half of the “case studies” beforehand. Nice and light reading anyhow. Maybe some more depth might have been nice for some of the stories.
304 pp.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Asimov's Science Fiction, December 2013

A pretty decent and readable issue.

Pearl Rehabilitative Colony for Ungrateful Daughters • novelette by Henry Lien

A naive Chinese girl is at a ”boarding school”, which emphasis training on skates. Everything on school premises is covered by “pearl” which makes it possible to skate everywhere. The girls train for some sort of martial art/sport academy which accepts only the best. The protagonist is the best skater of bunch and knows it very well. Will she grow during the story? A slightly surprising answer: no, she doesn’t. A very well written story on very unusual surroundings. ****-
Dignity • shortstory by Jay O'Connell
A daughter of an extremely affluent man wants to keep her find: a shabby child. The father opposes as it would be too much trouble to get her conditioned to be a faithful servant. An okay, somewhat short story. ***+
The Fitter • shortstory by Timons Esaias
An alien gets work in a ladies' undergarment story and becomes the best salesman ever. The beginning was pretty good, but the story decayed by the end. ***-
Vox ex Machina • novelette by William Preston
A flight attendant finds a head from an airplane. For some strange reason he takes it with her. It turns out to be a head of an android which is modeled on a late science fiction author. The head is able to speak almost sensibly. She asks different sorts of questions and the head gives Delphic answers. The writing is once more nice, but I didn’t really understand the actions of the protagonist. Why would she steal such an object from the plane? Why would she take so seriously head's fairly pointless discussion? Why would I care? ***
Grainers • shortstory by R. Neube
The story is told from two points of view. One is a slightly alcoholic officer of a patrol ship, another is a swindler of a "grain ship" which is filled by refugees from earth who have lived on the ship for years. Both are tricking the other, both know for a degree that they are tricking and being tricked. A pretty nice story, but the background was slightly sketchy as I am not familiar with other stories with the same background - at least I assume there are other stories in the same series. ***+
Bloom • shortstory by Gregory Norman Bossert
A small group of people is trapped by a strange alien plant/animal/creature which consumes its victims instantly. They can’t escape, but they can discuss their situation. Good writing, but I didn’t really get into the story. ***
Frog Watch • shortstory by Nancy Kress
A recently bereaved young woman is spending her grieving time nearby a swamp counting frogs. There seems to be more and healthier frogs around than could be expected. She meets her neighbor who seems more than slightly strange. The writing was pretty nice and the story was pretty enjoyable, but it slightly too much just a fragment. ***½
Entangled • novelette by Ian R. MacLeod
A woman has some sort of neural enhancement which allows her to influence other people’s mind. She has a brain trauma, and she isn't able to join a sort of group mind everyone else is part of. She has some traumatic past which eventually must face. An ok story with perhaps too complicated setup for its length.***

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, December 2013

The serial which starts I this issue takes a lot of space. The stories aren’t too good in my opinion. Most of them don’t really tell a coherent, good story with a start, middle and end – they feel more like just short segments or scenes.

The Deer Girl Hitches a Ride • shortstory by Sarah Frost
A truck driver picks up from the road a girl who is half doe. There are apparently plagues which are apparently caused by out of control nanotech. Then there is a mishap and the doe-lady behaves in a surprising way. The writing was ok, but the story was short and had too sketchy background. It was more like just an episode rather than a proper story. ***-
The Chorus Line • novelette by Daniel Hatch
It is possible to record the past with a special apparatus, but the recording must happen in the exactly same place where the event took place. An extremely interesting, popular and strange recording has surfaced in the Internet. The recording has been done at a remote place and it takes some effort to find out if recording is a real, unaltered one. The writing is ok, but the story is overlong, without a real point and depends far too heavily on the (very stupid) last chapter reveal. **
Fear Response • shortstory by Lesley L. Smith
Showing fear is an ultimate taboo for an alien species. When they face a situation when there is no other possibility the result is bad even when there is one ”runt” who learnt that fear is not something to afraid of. Another very short, too short, story. The connection to Earth felt tacked on. ***
Oedipus at the Sperm Bank • shortstory by Joel Richards
The competing clones of an eccentric businessman who has left earth to evaluating his business prospects on other solar systems are managing his businesses in this solar system. At least one of them gets an interesting offer from his stepmother. Another short story without any real point. I don’t really understand what the fuzz about the frozen sperm of the “senior”. As there are two clones around there should be an unlimited supply of fresh 100% genuine stuff available anyway.***-
Ian, George, and George • novelette by Paul Levinson
Orson Welles apparently from an alternate reality travels back in time to meet himself. He has a proposition he already knows his younger self will accept. But the runner of the time travel agency has some farther reaching plans. A fairly competent story, but plot didn’t really work. There were events which happened, but there was really no coherent plot where events would have created a cohesive whole. ***-

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Eeva Joenpelto: Tuomari Müller, hieno mies

The winner of the Finlandia award in 1994. The book tells the story of a son of an alcohol bootlegger, who was an honest man and a judge, perhaps too honest for a small rural town. The writing is pretty good and story interesting. The book was clearly above average in its class.

Kirja, joka on voittanut Finlandia palkinnon vuonna 1994. Kirja kertoo eri aikatasoilla pirtukauppiaan pojasta, tuomariksi lukeneesta tunnontarkasta miehestä. Mies on kuollut kotikunnassaan hyljättynä ja sorrettuna, säntillisistä tilikirjoista oli turhaan jätetty huomautuksia, joka yhdistettynä rakkaan tyttären kuolemaan oli miehelle liikaa. Tai tämä ainakin on lesken käsitys. Leski on elellyt jo aikansa pääkaupungissa myytyään kaiken paitsi nummialueen, joka aikanaan ei kaupaksi mennyt. Nyt kunnalla on alueelle suuret suunnitelmat ja lesken luokse matkaa retkikunta kukkien kera toiveenaan lunastaa alue. Toisessa aikatasossa sitten seurataan tuomarin elää lapsesta alkaen jo ennalta tiedettyyn loppuun asti. Pikkukaupungista annetaan kovin sisäänlämpiävä kuva, tosin ei tuomari Müller kaikkein helpoimmin lähestyttävä ja lämpimin ihminen ole. Hän on tinkimättömän rehellinen ja lahjomaton kylläkin, liiankin sellainen pikkukunnan pankinjohtajaksi. Lopullisen murtumisen syyt ovat laajempia kuin lesken oma käsitys on, eikä lesken oma käytös ollut niistä vähäisimpiä. Ystäviä tuomarilla ei juuri muita ollut kuin naapurinpoika, josta varttui kaupungin puutarhuri ja joka oli ehkä jopa hiukan ihastunut ystäväänsä - ainakin siitä päätellen kuinka paljon tuomarin ensimmäinen seurustelusuhde vaikutti häntä ärsyttävän.
Kirja on sulavasti kirjoitettu, tosin ajankuva ja ajankulku on tuotu esiin aika huonosti, elämä vaikuttaa varsin tarkkaan samanlaiselta elettiin sitten 40-lukua tai 70-80-lukua. Yhdessä vaiheessa kuvittelin, että kirjassa eletään vielä 50-lukua, mutta sitten kirjan henkilöt viettivät iltoja TV-ohjelmia katsellen. Myös kunnanjohtajien suunnitelma maanalaisesta pysäköintilaitoksesta ilmeisimmin 50-luvun alussa vaikutti melkoiselta anakronismilta, kun koko maan ensimmäinen maanpäällinenkin pysäköintihalli rakennettiin vasta 70-luvulla. Kirjan loppua kohden sekä kielellinen että kirjallinen laatu tuntui putoavan, ehkä asiat muuttuivat liian henkilökohtaisiksi kirjailijalle. Kirjan syntyhistoriaan ainakin nettitietojen mukaan liittyy jokin paikallinen protestiliike, johon kirjailija otti osaa. Loppuratkaisu pysyi kuitenkin kohtuudella koossa, ja kirja oli Finlandia-voittajissa selvästi keskitason paremmalla puolella.

441 s.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, April 2005

A pretty average issue. Somehow the stories felt very aged.

Company Secrets • novelette by Kyle Kirkland

Practically all companies have been downsizes to one person. For some unexplained reason there are strict restrictions on co-operation between companies. The protagonist is a company who acquires business data. It first seems that someone trying to get him, later a shady partnership between two companies tries to draft his services. A story with an oldfashionalble feel in it. Writing was ok, but plotting wasn’t too good and felt dated. There were several times the protagonist used countermeasures which were total surprise not only for the reader (unfair) but for the other characters, also (who really should have known workings and practices of their world.) ***-
Her World Exploded • shortstory by David L. Burkhead
A rich and beautiful woman finds that her private vacation planet explodes just when her private ship arrives there. She narrowly escapes with the help of her self-aware ship mind. She finds that the insurance company isn’t going to pay for damages, as it isn’t responsible for accidents with unknown causes. I had to check several times, that I really was reading something which published in 2005 and not in fifties. The plot is very old fashionable, full of long descriptions of technology and the plot line was also straight from fifties. The writing was slightly better than would have been typical in 1955. ***
Reinventing Carl Hobbs • shortstory by James C. Glass
A famous actress receives threatening letters. She has a good reason to be afraid for her life, but she has the best possible robotic lifeguard. The writing was OK, but the story felt overlong with a fairly stupid twist at the end. ***-
Standards of Success • shortstory by John G. Hemry
A short and stupid story about the first human expedition to Mars and it is run by NASA. Using same methods they have used for robotic missions – like using several hours to climb down the ladder. Short and stupid. **-
Letters of Transit • shortstory by Brian Plante
A member of the first interstellar expedition exchanges letters with his young bride via a wormhole communication device. His bride is slightly too young, only sixteen, but the relativistic time dilation should take care of the age difference before he gets back to the earth. The communication method leads to some interesting time effects, though. Short, but pretty nice story. ***+