Saturday, November 29, 2014

Pekka Matilainen: Kupoli

A murder has been done in 15th century Florence. There are eye witnesses and the sentencing should be easy, even though the obvious murderer denies everything. Early on it turns out that he was framed. But why and by whom? A fairly disjointed book with a fair amount of lecturing. A disappointment.

1400-luvun Firenzeen sijoittuva dekkari. Mies on murhattu, syyllinen on vangittu ja syyllisyys on selvä, onhan tapahtumalla useita silminnäkijöitä. Odotellaan vain paavin erityislähettilästä, jotta oikeudenkäynti voidaan suorittaa ja ilmeinen syyllinen hirttää, vaikka tämä typerästi edelleen syyttömyyttään yrittää vakuutella. Mutta asiaa alkaa selvittelevän hieman salaperäinen mies, jonka avustajana on lahjakas latinaa uutterasti opetellut poika. Asiat eivät niin ilmiselviä olekaan, kuin aluksi on näyttänyt ja vastoin epäilyksiä syytetty vapautetaan – jo varsin varhaisessa vaiheessa kirjaa. Mutta miksi murha tapahtui? Ja miten varsin suunnitellulta vaikuttava lavastus oikein tapahtui? Kirjassa on liikaa jaarittelua, esitelmöintiä, asioiden ja paikkojen kuvailua. En mitenkään erityisen ihastunut teokseen, vaan se oli keskitasoa huonompia tänä vuonna lukemistani. Lisäksi otsikon Kupoli – Firenzen tuomiokirkon pääkupoli - ei kirjassa näyttelyt juuri minkäänlaista merkittävää roolia. Olisin odottanut että se ja sen rakentaminen olisivat tulleet selkeämmin esille. Kirjan juoni on liian hajanainen ja välillä melkein unohtuu. Kirja alkaa murhatarina, mutta muuttuu sitten hiukan sekavaksi kadonneen kirjan suhteellisen laiskaksi metsästykseksi, sisältäen lopulta myös ripauksen melko kornia teiniromantiikkaa.
Kirjassa henkihahmojen määrä on suuri ja nimet eivät helpoiten muistettavia ole. Kirjoitustyyliltäänkään kirja ei mielestäni ollut mitään parhaita, vaan oli jonkin verran yksitoikkoisen tuntuinen. Hajanaisuus myös kiusasi minua, aika monenlaista kirjassa ehti tapahtua, mutta näiden tapahtumien väliset yhteydet eivät olleet aina kovin loogisia, vaan jäivät välillä keinotekoisen tuntuisiksi. Aika monesti juonta edistettiin siten, että joku selitti mitä tapahtui - jotenkin olisi tuntunut paremmalta, että olisi noudatettu ohjetta show, don't tell. Dekkarina kirja ei toiminut siinäkään mielessä, että olisi edes teoriassa ollut mahdollista päätellä kuka murhaan oli syyllinen. Jonkinasteinen pettymys kiinnostavan idean ja kehuvien arvioiden jälkeen.

300 s.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe

A collection of essays from a wide variety of subjects. What would happen if the earth would stop rotating? What would happen if a baseball would be pitched at light speed? What if you would go for a swim in the nuclear waste pool? The scenarios are mainly fairly preposterous, but they are handled seriously, or at least almost seriously. With a nice XKCD twist at places. A very interesting, entertaining and fun book to read. And no apparent mistakes – or at least none I noticed straight away.

320 pp.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, June 2004

A fairly nice issue.

Time Ablaze • novella by Michael A. Burstein
A time traveler goes to the New York of the beginning of the 20th century to see a boat disaster. He moves to live with a family of widower mother and her daughter. The pair of women sees a fairly handsome single and apparently fairly well to do man, as a good prospect for possible marriage. But the daughter finds out that the man doesn’t have the job he claimed on a newspaper, and he has a strange looking book about a horrible disaster which hasn’t happened yet. (Very serious sloppiness for the time traveler) . But can she stop the accident? And should she? Or will she even be able to? A very good story plot wise, the writing was ok, but to as good as the plot. ****-
On the Tip of My Tongue • [Victor and Martin] • novelette by Grey Rollins
A pair of detectives (human who is good looking man but not too smart, and an alien who looks like a banana and loves rotten food)solve a crime involving super rich collector of exotic animals. Light and entertaining story. Nothing really deep, but isn’t meat to contain anything profound. ***+
Blu 97-032D • shortstory by Alexis Glynn Latner
Old satellites start to disappear. And the disappearances seem to follow a set trajectory. What is eating space junk? Another short story with a decent idea, but not much else. ***
The Bistro of Alternate Realities • [Alternitech] • shortstory by Kevin J. Anderson
Different versions (from different timelines) of the same woman meet on a café and change ideas, information and even a boyfriend. There are some problems, though. A pretty good, but slightly too short story. ***+
Caretaker • shortstory by Richard A. Lovett
A man lives alone on a beautiful planet. A colony ship approaches. He isn’t happy about it and tries to persuade the colonists to leave. But what can he do? Quite lot as matter of fact. A pretty good but too short almost solipsist story. ***+
PeriAndry's Quest • [Old Earth] • novelette by Stephen Baxter
Happens on the far future earth where time passes at different speed at different heights. The higher the elevation, the faster time goes. The aristocracy uses people who live higher to cook their food, mend clothes and so on. A young man falls for a beautiful young woman from higher altitude. Not only the class division is something frowned upon, but he must hurry or the young woman won’t be so young anymore. A fairly good story, but I really don’t get the economic system of the world? What kind of influence the slower zones have for the faster zones? Why the faster zones slave away for the slow zones? ***+
Greetings from Kudesh • novelette by J. T. Sharrah
A diary of a young woman, who works as a missionary on an alien planet. The aliens have asked for someone to tell them about human religion. The story is told by a diary recording. The girl is somewhat naïve and a reader can spot some hints of what is to come she doesn’t see. A well written story but a stupid, stupid, but brave girl. ***½

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Hyperion by Dan Simmons

Humanity has spread around the stars. Not only faster than light space travel has been invented, but instantaneous travel through “farcaster” network is commonplace. The same network is used for information exchange, and super intelligent AI:s with partly unknown motives also use that network for their own purposes. A group of pilgrims is on way the meet shrike, a vicious alien who lives around the “time tombs” on a remote planet, Hyperion. The time itself seems to behave strangely in that area. No space ship can approach, as every member of all crew has always vanished without a trace. A war is coming, and “Ousters”, humans who live in deep space are attacking. This expedition might be last for a long time if not ever. The pilgrims start to tell stories of why they a taking the hard and dangerous journey which most likely will kill them. The stories all involve Hyperion and time tombs in some way, mostly very disturbed (and fascinating) way. Those involve immortality (with a cost) and accident which causes a young woman to grow younger day by day until she is an infant.
This is just the first half of the book and it ends when the group arrives at their destination. Practically everything is just setup and shrike and timetombs are left largely as a mystery. The writing was good and the stories itself were very engaging and interesting. The combining parts them were luckily short and a struggle to get through at least in comparison. One of the better Hugo winners.
I have now read 93% of all Hugo award winning novels. Four to go.

482 pp.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Astounding Science Fiction, July 1959

A fairly bad issue with dated stories. The last part of Dorsai! takes a lot of space.

But, I Don't Think • novelette by Randall Garrett
A guesser (who is able to guess the orbits of ships accurately during battle situations) is stranded on an underdeveloped planet after an attempt against his life. The world is very militaristic with extremely stiff class divisions. A light look to a pretty grim world, where the protagonist doesn't show any personal growth – and that is pretty much the point of the story. ***½
Broken Tool • shortstory by Theodore L. Thomas
A man due to space command faces the last test. He must visit his home town and see if he will regret abandoning the earth. He has no need for the Earth; all he wants is to get to space. So he fails the test. A very short bitter sweet story. Not bad. ***+
Straw • shortstory by Algis Budrys
Corruption and shady dealing on some sort of casino. Extremely boring and somewhat confusing. How was this science fiction? There might have been some speculative aspect, by mind was too glazed by total indifference to notice it. *
Leverage • [Federation of Humanity] • shortstory by Christopher Anvil
A space colony has serious problems due mosquito like insects and giant, violent birds. (I wonder why no one uses mosquito nets or helmets; apparently the author wasn’t familiar with areas with severe mosquito infestations). Then a stupid solution is found. A pretty bad and childish tale. **
Vanishing Point • shortstory by C. C. Beck
Man invents a sort of four dimensional device, which seems to suck the parallax out from the world. Or something. A very short and stupid story. **-

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Galaxy Science Fiction, March 1955

An average issue, but not quite as bad as couple previous ones.

Project Mastodon • novelette by Clifford D. Simak
Three men have invented time travel and travelled to a distant past. They try to sell past to military as a source of raw materials and a refugee area in case of the war, but they are laughed away. They return to the past and have an accident. Meanwhile the military learns that there really is a way to get to the past and gets very interested. Fairly little happens in the story and what happens happens very slowly. A pretty overlong but readable story. ***+
The Candle Lighter • shortstory by Frederik Pohl
A man who has been fighting for the human rights of Martians is appointed as the emissary of the humanity. He is keen to making some changes but the first thing he is supposed to do is an execution of a Martian. As he hasn't bothered to learn anything about the Martian culture he faces some hard learning. A pretty stupid story with even stupider characters. ***-
Dulcie and Decorum • novelette by Damon Knight
Two friends start to suspect that spelling mistakes contain information. But what, from where and why? Overlong, but the ending is rushed and the "secret " is just told by the author - the protagonists themselves won't learn it.**
One Way • shortstory by Miriam Allen deFord (variant of One-Way Journey)
The only son of a couple is selected for a secret mission where only top 200 students of the world is selected. His girlfriend and mother have a plan. She will get a child by the son, so the family will have something. But the baby will be born out of marriage! Horrible! An elaborate plan is needed. Pity that the women have forgotten how the government keeps track of its citizens, but thankfully the husband is smart and is able to find a solution. A pretty stupid story with badly outdated attitudes. It is surprising that even in far future the attitudes are exactly similar that those on 1950s US. **+
Who? • novelette by Theodore Sturgeon (variant of Bulkhead)
A man is having the final test before getting the command of interstellar starship. He must endure a long lone space journey. There is another person on the same ship, but he is behind an impenetrable wall. He could contact him by a press of a button. For some poorly defined reason he is supposed to hold out as long as possible before making the contact. When he finally makes the contact he is due to surprise. Not bad, writing good for its’ era, but the story is overlong with too much psychological non sense. **½
Big Stupe • shortstory by Charles V. De Vet
A ship from Earth has arrived at an almost unknown planet. They are supposed to create good relations, as the planet contains some rare elements worth mining. The natives are little apprehensive, but they seem to warm up and even give earthmen a goofy and stupid monkeylike animal as a pet. A short, simple and pretty stupid story which depends on a stupid end “reveal”. **+

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Gillian Flynn: Kiltti tyttö (Gone Girl)

A book where almost everything is a spoiler. A wife disappears and the husband is suspected from a murder. A lot of entertaining plot twists, smooth uncomplicated writing, but unlikable characters. An interesting new author, well worth reading.

Kirja, jonka sisällöstä on hyvin vaikea kertoa yhtään mitään ilman spoilereita. Alkuasetelmana päällisin puolin onnellinen aviopari on muuttanut New Yorkista miehen kotipaikkakunnalle. Molemmat puolisot ovat jääneet työttömiksi ja samalla miehen vanhemmat ovat tarvinneet lisääntyvästi apua, joten New Yorkista poismuutto vaikutti hyvältä ajatukselta. Mies on perustanut sisarensa kanssa (vaimon rahoilla) baarin ja vaimo harjoittelee kotirouvan elämää. Pikkupaikkakunnan elämä on osoittautunut hankalammaksi kuin oli odotettu ja puolisoiden väliset suhteet eivät ole säilyneet hyvänä. Hääpäivänä nainen katoaa ja näyttää siltä että asunnossa on käyty raju kamppailu. Pian aviopuolisoa epäillään murhasta. Kirjaan mahtui todella monta mutkaa, joista osa oli aika selvästi ennakoitavissa, mutta vauhtia tarinassa pääsääntöisesti riitti runsaasti, vakkakin kirjan toinen neljännes oli aika hidas ja tuntui sisältävän hiukan turhaa paisuttelua - tiiviimpi tarinankerronta olisi voinut laatua kohottaa. Kirja oli kuitenkin erittäin vetävää ja viihdyttävää tekstiä. Ongelma oli, että oikeastaan yksikään kirjan henkilöistä ei ollut mitenkään mukava tai samaistumisen houkutteleva. Vaikka lähes kaikki päähenkilöt olivat enemmän tai vähemmän epämiellyttäviä, heidän persoonallisuutensa oli kyllä kirjan sisällä varsin hyvä selitys; molempien puolisoiden lapsuus oli ollut vammauttavaa, tosin täysin eri tavoilla ja käytännössä vastakkaisesti. Sen verran viihdyttävää ja nautittava kirja oli, että pitänee jossain vaiheessa etsiä käsiin saman kirjailijan muutkin teokset.
447 s.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, December 2014

A fairly good issue, clearly above average.

The Anomaly • novelette by C. W. Johnson

A young poor, but brilliant man works himself out from a future ghetto (on an alien planet?). He gets a job mining for “anomalies” which are used for interstellar travel. He gets a chance to return to his birth place, but his family’s and his friend’s expectations aren’t exactly what he wants from the life. A well-written story, which feels more like a beginning of a larger work than a separate novelette. The actual story seems to start from here. ***½
Dino Mate • interior artwork by Andrea Radeck
A couple who dates goes to the past with a time machine to see dinosaurs. Some small drama, a lot of descriptions of dinosaurs and engagement proposal at the end. The writing was ok, but there was little actual plot. ***-
Citizen of the Galaxy • shortstory by Evan Dicken
The aliens have come and everything has changed. A history teacher in Japan tries to connect with her child who has been born to a completely different world. She doesn't really care even talk in human language, but communities by light in the way of the aliens. And the history curriculum is being changed, the emphasis is going to the wider galactic viewpoint rather than provincial earthen things. A short but good story which is able to present different viewpoints very well. The writing is good. ****-
Mammals • shortstory by David D. Levine
The AIs which have destroyed humans might encounter something strange. But will they really notice it? Short and pretty unsurprising, but the writing was interesting. ***
Saboteur • shortstory by Ken Liu
A short story about a trucker who tries to sabotage trucks with AI (without human drivers). He succeeds – with a cost. A very short poignant story. ***
Twist of Coil • shortstory by Miki Dare
The story happens in an alien world - no humans are even mentioned. The aliens have "coils" which contain sensory organs and manipulative appendages. A young female is a fine coil dancer, but her brother is sickly. The don't have money for the operation, but the priests say that if the protagonist lets her coils be cut, the gods will surely grant a miracle. She faces a hard choice. A well written story with moving and very irritating, even frustrating content. Probably too short. ***+
Racing the Tide • shortstory by Craig DeLancey
Sea level is raising and a village is drowning slowly. A mayor’s son is badly sick and needs expensive treatment. There is a plan to save the village which also would give a lot of money, but as often the long term effects might be unknown. The writing was ok, but the story was pretty fragmented- the two plot lines didn't seem to have much to do with each other’s. ***
Humans First! • novella by Kyle Kirkland
A man who services neural network computers is almost fatally stabbed at his work by a computer advocacy terrorist (I wonder why there should be a terrorist organization for that - the story doesn’t give any good answer. ) He isn’t allowed back to work as a computer analysis predicts that he suffers from a severe posttraumatic stress and is too volatile to return to work. Is there a way he can convince the “black and white” computer algorithms that he is able to work? Or are the algorithms right? And why he, who was repairing the computers, was attacked by a group which is pro-computer? A pretty good story in spite of some illogicalities. ***½