Sunday, December 29, 2013

Asimov's Science Fiction, February 2014

An average or below average issue. Stories aim for literary quality but many fail as entertainment.

Schools of Clay • (2014) • novelette by Derek Künsken
Metallic, apparently artificial insectoid life forms live on asteroids mining volatiles and metals. They more or less follow the life cycle of insect colonies with periodic swarming where queens find new homes and workers are left behind to die. Radioactive isotopes turn ordinary worker more self-aware and smart. The workers are ruthlessly exploited and the start to plan a mutiny…A pretty good story. A lot happens and writing is fairly dense it took some time to understand the backstory. ***½
The Long Happy Death of Oxford Brown • (2014) • novelette by Jason K. Chapman
A man has died. His brain and consciousness has been uploaded to a digital afterlife. All he wants is to find is wife who died a few years earlier. But apparently she doesn’t want to be easily found. A pretty nice afterlife story. But why the main character always is never interested in the “operation manual” of the afterlife in this type of stories? I personally would take time to peruse it well. ***
Ball and Chain • (2014) • shortstory by Maggie Shen King
The new laws in China allow (or force) polyamorous relationships as there are too few women. The courting of a new husband to a group marriage may be kind of hard. An okay and readably short story. ***
The Transdimensional Horsemaster Rabbis of Mpumalanga Province • (2014) • shortstory by Sarah Pinsker
A widow of photographer visits a tribe of very strange people. Apparently descendants of very early Jews, who apparently ably to translocate in time and/or space. A nicely written story, probably could be classified mainly as some sort of metaphorical magical realism. The writing is good, but the story leaves more questions than it answers and feels like just a fragment. ***+
Last Day at the Ice Man Café • (2014) • shortstory by M. Bennardo
A frozen man from a stone is working on a café and has trouble adjusting to life. A stupid story on many levels. Stupid premise, extremely stupid “science”, stupid characters. **
Steppin' Razor • (2014) • novelette by Maurice Broaddus
A steampunk story involving airships, a cloned Haile Selassie, Rastafarian religion and Jamaica. I know little about last two, and not much more about the first. I had to google to find out that Haile Selassie really was/is a kind messiah for the Rastafarians, and really visited Jamaica in the sixties. As I knew nothing about the real background it hard to get into the story with imaginary background built on the real one and understand it. I found this hard to finish. **

The Humans: A Novel by Matt Haig

A mathematician has proofed the Riemann Hypothesis, which would unlock the mysteries of the prime numbers. Aliens from another galaxy (!) consider this is so threatening that they kill him and replace him with one of them, who is supposed to kill everyone who knows anything about the discovery. The alien slowly adjusts to life on earth and to what it is to be a human, and starts to value things he didn’t know even existed before. He learns to love his wife and son and to enjoy the good things in human life – many things the man his is replacing did not do.
Especially the first half of the book was very good and well written. Towards to the end the naïve philosophizing started to be pretty irritating. Once more the message from the aliens is “be nice and friendly and stop the wars”. Not to mention the incredible hypocrisy of the aliens: they supposedly abhor violence and consider even eating meat as an abomination, but are ready to execute several human with the slightest reasons. Also, the aliens seem pretty dense on many levels – if they were able to learn about the mathematical discovery as soon it was made, how are they were SO unfamiliar with earth and humans in every possible way? All in all, the book was an enjoyable read, but it doesn’t stand much logical scrutiny. Strange for a book where one of the main points is mathematics.

304 pp.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Panu Rajala: Unio mystica : Mika Waltarin elämä ja teokset

A very comprehensive biography of Finland’s most internationally known author, Mika Waltari. He had several books in the New York Time’s bestseller list in the 50s. He was more prolific with a wider body of works I had known and wrote his first books at his teens. A fascinating book and subject – I must probably pick up something he wrote.

Erittäin perinpohjainen elämänkerta Mika Waltarista, joka käsittää hänen koko elämänsä. Oli aika yllättävää saada tietää minkälainen ihmelapsi Waltari aikanaan oli ollut ja kuinka nuorena hän julkaisi ensimmäiset kirjansa: 17-vuotiaana ja läpimurtoteoksensa Suuren Illusionin 20-vuotiaana. Myös hänen laaja-alaisuutensa oli yllätys, en tiennyt että esimerkiksi Kulkurin valssi elokuva on Waltarin käsikirjoittama. Kirjan jaksoi hyvin lukea laajuudestaan huolimatta, koska kohdehenkilö vaikuttaa olleen varsin mielenkiintoinen ja kompleksi henkilö kaksisuuntaisine mielialahäiriöineen. Tätä diagnoosia ei suoraan kirjassa mainita, mutta Waltarin henkilöhistorian perusteella kyseisen sairauden olemassaolosta ei juuri epäilyksiä voi asettaa. Suurin kirjan ongelma oli se, että se ei ollut kokonaan kronologinen, vaan kertoi asioita enemmän kokonaisuuksien kannalta. Tämä lähestymistapa on hyvä, jos lukee kirjasta luvin sieltä, toisen täältä, mutta kirjaa järjestyksessä lukiessa tämäntyyppinen epälineaarisuus oli ajoittain häiritsevää. Jotain Waltarilta pitänee pikapuoleen kyllä lukea, mielenkiinto tästä kyllä heräsi.

992 s.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, March 2014

A pretty good issue, especially the lead novelette.

Life Flight • novelette by Brad R. Torgerson
A spaceship is on the way to a nearby solar system. It is manned on a rotation basis. Most of the colonists are on suspended animation while a few of them take care of the functions of the ship. The first shift is taken care of by two adults and four children, two girls and two boys. The adults are supposed to teach everything to the kids, who in turn are supposed to train their replacements before they go to the suspended animation. The story is told as a diary of one of the boys. It turns out that he has a rare condition which makes it impossible to go to the deep sleep. It seems he must spend his life awake as the journey will take ninety years. An excellent story in spite of some credibility issues. Ten to eleven years old who apparently have only a vague idea of how the children are made? Teenagers who spend years together with little to do and with only slack supervision (and knowing that they have birth control capsules) and never have any sexual experiments? ****
Rubik's Chromosomes • shortstory by Megan Chaudhuri
A Saudi couple comes to see a geneticist. They want to see what kind of modifications their child will have. There are some interesting ones. A pretty nice story, writing was nice, slightly short.***+
Not for Sissies • shortstory by Jerry Oltion
A man has been diagnosed with a prostate cancer. As he can’t tolerate at least ten years of life in uncertainty he naturally wants to kill himself. Everyone but his husband understands, and he is only one who really is sorry in the customarily farewell party, After that the widow is seriously twisted – he actually wants to live as long as possible and even tries to heal himself instead off swallowing the suicide pill at the first misfortune like all the sensible people. A pretty good story. I have always liked Oltion’s writing and this one of his better works. ****-
The Teacher's Gamble • shortstory by Stephen L. Burns
A space probe approaches earth at the beginning of the 20th century. Its’ goal is to guide human development, but when it is approaching it makes an important discovery. A very short but pretty good story, especially considering the slightly worn premise. ***
The Avalon Missions • shortstory by David Brin
Space probes are sent to a nearby solar system. However, as technology advance the new probes are much faster than the earlier ones. And there have been also some changes in the society. A very short story, okay for its length. ***-
We Who Are About to Watch You Die Salute You • shortstory by Maggie Clark
A Martian expedition which has been chosen by a reality show or by bribery has problems, there has been a radiation accident and or there are too few women around. Extremely confusing story, which is mainly told as segments from Tv-shows, articles and interviews. I didn’t get this at all. **

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Galaxy Science Fiction, April 1951

Not bad. A good issue for this time period.

Nice Girl with Five Husbands • shortstory by Fritz Leiber
A man travels to the future, meets a beautiful woman who would be ready to include him in her group marriage and then he returns to present. And that’s about everything what happened in this story. The writing as such was pretty good, but I really didn’t get the point of the story - if there was one. ***
Inside Earth • novelette by Poul Anderson
Earth has been invaded. There is a mutiny brewing, but one alien is sent to find what the mutineers are going to do – and to take care there WILL be a mutiny, but not too soon. The aliens believe that an outside threat could unificate humans and created a more cohesive and far better whole for the good of all species of the universe. A pretty good story with pretty nice writing, the only drawback was the slight overlong length. ***½
Betelgeuse Bridge • shortstory by William Tenn
A group of advanced aliens, who look just like giant slugs, arrive at earth. They are very condescendingly polite and give elaborate answers to all questions apologizing that humans don’t have enough knowledge and background to understand even the concepts. They let it slip that they have a machine that can cure all disease and rejuvenate body. Not surprisingly, humans want to buy that – at any cost. And it is for sale, but at a steep price. But there is a catch, of course. But there is a catch in the catch, of course. An old style average story with a fairly worn premise. ***
I, the Unspeakable • novelette by Walt Sheldon
Everyone who lives in a future totalitarian country has a designation with four letters and six numbers. After the designations have been re-evaluated one man gets an extremely rude designation. He must give up his work and finds that no one wants to have anything to do with him. He tries to find out if it is possible to change the designation. That isn’t going to be easy in a very bureaucratic state. ***-
Field Study • shortstory by Peter Phillips
A strange man is offering wonder cures. He doesn’t ask any money, but accepts it if someone gives. A some sort of criminal examiner goes to evaluate him and expects to expose a fraud. He finds that his sinusitis has healed. An overlong, overtalky and confusing story without any interesting point. **
The Marching Morons • novelette by C. M. Kornbluth
A man who has spent last centuries in suspended animation wakes up in a future where almost everyone is an idiot. A small smart aristocracy is running things and working themselves to death. This is the end result of stupid people getting more children while smarter people have less. The man from the past isn't a nice guy, though. And he has a final solution for the problem. One of the all time classics. There are some ideas which can be later seen in the Merchants of Venus: unscrupulous add men pushing for Venus colony. ****-