Sunday, May 25, 2014

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

The first of this year’s Hugo-nominees. The first book of a new series by a new author. This was a pretty promising start. The plot is pretty complex and little backstory is explained at the beginning. The main character is an AI from a destroyed space ship, who is “wearing” an “ancillary” body, an “empty” human from a conquered world. She (for most part everyone is referred as “she” as the main language the characters speak doesn’t make the distinction – just like Finnish) rescues a former crew member who doesn’t realize that her savior is not human and her former ship. The ship is a mission to find something really unusual and rare. At the beginning, the chapters alternate with flashbacks. For some reason I much preferred the “current events” to the flashbacks. Even with the flashback only a modest amount of information of the world and its’ workings was presented – a lot was left for the sequels, and it seems the world will change significantly after the events in this book. The writing was pretty nice and enjoyable and the plot was interesting in spite of cold turkey method of exposition. There was surprisingly little about the ethical considerations about using ancillary body driven by AI:s for war fare even though the changing of that practice was one of the plot points. This will probably be pretty high on my ballot. Well, there is at least one, probably two nominees which will be below “no award” even before I have read them, just because I consider their nomination as an abomination.

416 pp.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks

The latest book by Oliver Sacks. This time he presents several case studies (or more like anecdotes) about different sorts of hallucinations - visual, auditory and even some other forms of that intriguing phenomenon. However, he is recycling his anecdotes by now, and the book isn’t anywhere as interesting as some of his earlier works - even though many of the stories _are_ familiar from the earlier books. The stories also tend to repeat themselves, there several very similar ones. Many of them weren’t really unusual – at least not for a neurologist. Almost every page has a foot note, which makes reading less smooth it might be. There were some surprising revelations: apparently Oliver Sachs was pretty heavily into the drugs in the sixties, taking about everything he could get in his hands, up to and including antiparkinson medications at extremely high doses. Well, _that_ caused some pretty unusual and very realistic hallucinations… As a whole the book was readable, but probably I will resist the temptation and won’t buy his possible next book: the law of diminishing returns seems to work.

320 pp.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, March 2004

A pretty good issue.

Greater Fleas Have Lesser Fleas • novelette by Grey Rollins
A farmer whose farm can’t compete against giant industrial farming units sells his farm and finds a way to travel to an alien planet as a stowaway on an alien spaceship. The planet seems o be a virgin one. There are a few human settlers, but for some reason no aliens can be seen anywhere. As the farmers apparently are pretty stupid, they only think about that in passing. Then the aliens show up – and they have a small revelation. I can’t imagine why the aliens would reveal their secret to humans – or is there some other goal after all? ***+
Draft Dodger's Rag • novelette by Jeff Hecht
A pot smoking youth wants to escape the Vietnam War. He gets a wonderful offer: time travelers from a very peaceful future want to experience war. Someone takes his place and then he travels a few years to the future and gets his life back. He takes the offer, but doesn’t ask to extremely obvious question: what happens if his counterpart manages to get himself killed? And that is what happens. The writing is pretty good and the story was interesting. The choices to protagonist made weren’t always logical. ***+
Storm Front • [Draco Tavern] • shortstory by Larry Niven
A Draco Tavern story – Being from another sun are apparently asking for a refuge in ours sun. Short, chatty and without much point. **½
Babel • [Silurian Tales] • shortstory by Steven Utley
A talk by creation "scientist" explaining who evolution is wrong events after a discovery of an anomaly leading to the distant past. Far too longer, isn't amusing - rather depressing. **½
Distant Fire • shortstory by Richard A. Lovett
A story about a really long term love affair. An actress and an astronaut fall desperately in love. When the astronaut gets a captaincy on the first interstellar star ship they will never see each other’s ever again. Or will they? The actress goes to suspended animation to wait out for her boyfriend who returns hundreds of years later old a few years older thanks to time dilation. They spend a few years together, until they do it again…A pretty good, fairy tale like story. ***½
The Color of Pain • novelette by James C. Glass
Colonists on a planet have trouble with worm like creatures which spread extremely toxic gas when they are threatened – or even when there are not. Could they be intelligent? Could there be a way to communicate with them? A pretty standard story with pretty standard plot and characters. ***

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, July 1976

A pretty bad issue. The first story was sort of okay, Schmidt’s story was kind of readable, the other two were bad.

Tricentennial • shortstory by Joe Haldeman
A story about space exploration and human history. A ship is sent for a test drive, but the passengers hijack it and aim for starts. A lot of political wrangling is needed even before the ship is sent. I wonder why a space ship in 2076 would be named to honor people important from the perspective of 1976? Not everything goes smoothly – not on the ship, and not on earth. Somewhat "outline style" of story where things are mainly described. ***+
Fly • shortstory by Mal Warwick
A story that aims for beautiful and poetic language and succeeds so well, that I didn’t really understand much. The story deals with a church, spaceship and love - apparently. **-
His Loyal Opposition • novelette by Stanley Schmidt
Continues an earlier story (which I haven’t read). Aliens (or space faring humans) have apparently visited a medieval planet and left behind a floating ship. A violent tribe might soon attack, and those ships just might save the day. Then a member of the enemy tribe apparently defects. Could he be trusted? There wasn’t much real sf content in this story. It was readable, but not really anything special. ***-
Dolls' Demise • shortstory by George Guthridge
A short shaggy dog style of story with a stupid "point". Unfunny and really, really stupid. *

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Hanna Jensen: 940 päivää isäni muistina

A story about a father with dementia. An interesting and fascinating view how a disease which causes cognitive problems is seen prom the perspective of an adult child, who is forced to take care of her parent.

Monella tasolla mielenkiintoinen kirja dementiasta omaisen näkökulmasta katsottuna. Omalla omaisellani on nopeasti pahentunut muistihäiriö ja oman työni tiimoilla muistiasiat ovat enemmän kuin tuttuja. Kirjassa toimittajatytär kertoo isänsä tarinan. Aikaisemmin hiukan särmikkään persoonan omannut, hyvin aktiivinen ja ulkonäöstään tarkkaa huolta pitänyt mies muuttuu passiiviseksi, tahraisissa olohousuissa sujuvasti liikkuvaksi mutta aikaisempaa sävyisämmäksi ihmiseksi. Isän muistihäiriö oli päässyt jo varsin vaikeaksi siinä vaiheessa kun omaiset asian huomasivat. Usein käytännössäkin käy näin, vähitellen ja hitaasti tapahtuvia muutoksia on vaikea huomata. Kirjassa puhutaan Alzheimerista, mutta oireiden, niiden etenemisen ja muiden tekijöiden perusteella arvioiden vaikuttaa täysin selvältä, että kyseessä on ollut sekamuotoinen dementia, jossa on ollut mukana verenkiertoperäisistä syistä johtuvaa oireistoa ja erittäin todennäköisesti myös alkoholin käytöstä johtuvaa oireistoa. Tuota alkoholiasiaa ihmettelin suuresti, miten ihmeessä jo kohtalaisen pahasti muistihäiriöiselle alkoholin suurkuluttajalle tytär kantaa tolkuttomia määriä alkoholia kotiin? Minkälainen sokeus tai asioiden kieltäminen tuollaisessa toiminnassa mahtaa olla taustalla? Mahtoivatko hoitavat lääkärit olla käyttömääristä tietoisia? Mielenkiintoista oli myös se, että lääkäri joka väheksyi muistioireita ja piti jo ilmeisen vähintään keskivaikeasti dementoituneen oireita ihan lievinä oli ”hyvä lääkäri”. Etenkin, kun on oletettavaa, että katastrofaalinen sairaalasta kotiutusyritys on jossain määrin laitettava tuon huonosti kokonaistilannetta kuvanneen sairaalalähetteen piikkiin. (Jos lähetteen mukaan kyseessä on vain lievästi dementoitunut ja täysin omatoiminen henkilö, niin sairaalassa akuuttiosastolla lähtökohtaisesti oletetaan, että tämä pitää paikkaansa ja akuutin oireen hoidon jälkeen henkilö on taas kotikuntoinen). Ajattelemisen aihetta kirja antoi runsaasti ja se on kirjoitettu erittäin luettavasti ja vetävällä tyylillä. Loppupuoli kirjasta meni väsyneenäkin yötä myöten loppuun asti yhdellä kertaa.

289 s.