Saturday, February 22, 2014

Galaxy Science Fiction, January 1955

The lead novelette is pretty good and interesting – otherwise most stories were slightly past they due date.

The Tunnel Under the World • novelette by Frederik Pohl
A man has a strange dream: he feels like he is blown apart. His work day is pretty standard, except for some strangely irritating advertisements. The next day starts the same way, and it IS the same day, except some of the ads are even more irritating, but the protagonist doesn’t seem to have any memories of the former day. And there are some strange encounters. This night he happens to be trapped to his cellar by accident at the midnight. And this time when the same day starts he remembers. Groundhog Day meets Truman Show with some shades of Matrix. A pretty interesting story, which would be ready for a movie version – but with a slight rewrite of some of the characters, especially all the female ones. ****
The Vilbar Party • shortstory by Evelyn E. Smith
A grumpy professor from Saturn comes to earth as a part of an exchange program. He is sure that he will be hated and discriminated, but it turns out to be something else… A very stupid story on many levels aims for cute funniness, but mostly fails - at least from modern perspective. **
Perfect Control • novelette by Richard Stockham
A space ship arrives to earth after decades in space. It was aiming at a nearby solar system, but had an engine failure on the way. For some undescribed reason to has drifted back to earth (apparently the author had no knowledge whatsoever of orbital mechanics and how trajectories work in space). The crew members are very old, but they want to repair and refuel their ship and continue their voyage. But why? Cue to long stupid interviews of the crew members on radio by a psychologist. A pretty stupid story on many levels, some psychological thoughts are mildly interesting. **
When You're Smiling • novelette by Theodore Sturgeon
Two old friends meet and discuss their lives. One seems to be moderately successful, another somewhat down on his luck. One has a theory that there are people who superhuman, and sometimes kill people who are causing too much trouble those around them. An overlong story which consists practically only from discussion. The writing as such is ok, but there is nothing really surprising. **+
Brknk's Bounty • shortstory by Jerry Sohl
A long tailed invisible furry squirrel-like trans-dimensional being starts to channel writing through a newspaper reporter. Doesn’t sound too good and is even worse. Tries to be funny but isn’t. **
Squirrel Cage • [AAA Ace] • novelette by Robert Sheckley
The Interplanetary decontamination service gets a new job: they must get rid of an infestation of rodents which threats to consume all crops of a farm. When they arrive on site they notice a little catch: the vermin are invisible. A lighthearted well written story which manages to be amusing. ***+

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Xiaolong Qiu: Punaisen merkin tanssija (A Loyal Character Dancer)

A Chinese police must help an American policewoman who is picking up a wife of an important witness. The wife has disappeared and must be found as soon as possible. An intriguing book where the main emphasis is on life in China and its peculiarities – not the detective plot as itself.

Poliisiromaani, joka tapahtuu nykypäivän (tai paremminkin kirjoitusajankohdan) Kiinassa. Kiinalainen poliisipäällikkö saa tehtävän: hänen pitää avustaa USA:laista naispoliisia, joka on noutamassa USA:ssa todistajainsuojelussa ja laittomasta siirtolaisuudesta todistaneen kiinalaismiehen raskaana olevaa vaimoa. Yksinkertainen tehtävä osoittautuukin oletettua mutkikkaammaksi, kun vaimo katoaa juuri ennen kuin hänen piti poistua Kiinasta. Onko rikossyndikaatti siepannut hänet – vai onko hän paennut jotain?
Kirjassa varsinainen ”salapoliisi” juoni on suhteellisen vähäinen ja ylimalkainen. Pääosan kirjassa muodostaa kiinnostava ja autenttisen tuntuinen kuvailu elämästä kommunistisessa Kiinassa, jossa olosuhteet ovat varallisuuden kasvun myötä muuttumassa. Kiinalaisten tapojen ja kommunistisen kaaderibyrokratian piirteiden setviminen myös kulutti sivuja runsaasti, ehkä hiukan liikaakin – jonkinasteinen pieni tiivistäminen olisi saattanut tehdä kirjalle hyvää.
413 s.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, June 1976

A pretty average issue.

A Thrust of Greatness • [Lifeboat Earth] • novelette by Stanley Schmidt
Another part of the series where alien move earth to save humanity from an explosion at the core of our galaxy. The man who has made contact with the aliens must have made the decision and the governments of the earth aren’t too happy about that, especially as the starting movement of the planet causes major disasters around the globe. But ultimately all choices are hard ones. A fairly good, somewhat too talky and long story. ***+
Brains Isn't Everything • shortstory by Christopher Anvil
The aliens come and the make an offer: Each nation may choose one thing for its’ citizens. Perfect health? Long life? Great mental development? Is there a catch? Will they demand extraordinary payment later? Of course, but the catch and the payment aren’t necessarily what could be expected. Nice, short story, but there is nothing really unusual. ***+
Side Effect • shortstory by Hayford Peirce
Just a stupid shaggy dog story about a National Geography –like magazine which offers lifetime subscriptions. *½
Longevity • shortstory by Scott W. Schumack
A centre has been in contact with an extraterrestrial civilization. There have been a few new inventions, but then the nothing seems to come out. Are they hiding something? A preventive strike might be in order? A standard “to powerful invention will cause our destruction” story. Not too good in its’ class, a little disorganized. **+

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

The first part of Stephen King’s major fantasy saga. I have read only a few of his books; probably the last one was the Firestarter about when it was published in Finnish a few decades ago. He has lot fans, but somehow I have never had an interest of his work. As this is a popular series I decided to give it a shot. The world where the book happens is fascinating and interesting. It is either a far future world after some kind of worldwide collapse or some sort of future alternative earth. A gunslinger chases an unnamed man in black, who is apparently evil, or at least he is some sort of representation of evil. The man in black seems to have some supernatural capabilities and can influence the minds of people he encounters. The gunslinger meets a few interesting charterers and tells to some of them parts of the backstory of what has happened to him earlier. By the end, we learn some version of what might be happening. The style is at places slightly confusing as at least once there was a story inside a story inside a story. The events were very surreal at places. The writing was pretty good, but this somehow this didn’t really appeal to me. I am not sure if this is fantasy or science fiction, but at least this first part felt slightly too fantasy like to my taste.

336 pp