Thursday, July 30, 2015

Gillian Flynn: Paha paikka

Very fast moving and readable thriller. Practically all characters were irritating and unpleasant and were supposed to be like that. A good book, but some slight tightening might have made it even better.

Pidin saman kirjailijan Kiltti tyttö- kirjasta ja kun tämä kirja sattui vastaan niin pitihän se lukea – eikä se ollut huono, vaikutti ehkä jopa hiukan paremmalta kuin Kiltti Tyttö.
Libby Dayn perhe murhattiin kun hän oli seitsemän. Hänen veljensä tuomittiin elinkautiseen vankeuteen teoista, pitkälti Libbyn todistuksen perusteella. Tapahtumasta on kulunut 25 vuotta ja Libbyn aikoinaan lahjoituksina saamat rahat alkavat olla lopussa. Häneen ottaa yhteyttä erikoisia murhatapauksia harrastava ryhmä, joka tarjoaa rahaa siitä, että Libby alkaa selvittää neljännesvuosisadan takaisia tapahtumia. Pahassa rahapulassa Libby suostuu ehdotukseen. Vuorotahtia näiden nykyaikaan sijoittuvien tapahtumien kanssa kirjassa kuvataan murhia edeltäneitä tapahtumia neljännesvuosisata sitten. Oikeat tapahtumat ja Libbyn selvitystyö lomittuvat sopivasti toisiinsa. Vähitellen salaisuudet paljastuvat ja niitä onkin enemmän mitä Libby saattoi ajatella.
Tässäkin kirjassa oikeastaan kaikki henkilöhahmot olivat ainakin jossain määrin epämiellyttäviä. Toisaalta kirjan alun kuvaus pahasti mieleltään järkkyneestä naisesta, joka ei itse tunnista käytännössä lainkaan oireitaan on varsin hienoa ja muutenkin hahmot ovat hyvin kuvattuja ja onnistuneita – ärsyttävyys on täysin tarkoituksellista. Myös päähenkilön vähittäinen toipuminen asioiden selvitessä on mielestäni hyvin kuvattua ja hänen ärsyttävyytensä vähenee huomattavasti kirjan kuluessa. Juonellisesti ja kielellisesti kirja on varsin hyvä, ehkä pieni tiivistäminen puolestavälistä olisi ollut paikallaan. Yksi asia kyllä hiukan ihmetyttää: mitä Gillian Flynnillä on psykologeja vastaan? Kiltissä tytössä psykologivanhemmat olivat kasvattaneet tyttärensä hieman omituisesti; tässä kirjassa psykologit manipuloivat lapsille valemuistoja. Ja toinen asia: aika synkkiä naishahmoja näissä kirjoissa on – harvoin samanlaisia missään kirjallisuudessa on vastaan tullut.

381 s.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, September 2004

Serial takes some space. Average or even above average issue.

Trophies and Treasures • novelette by Jerry Oltion and Amy Axt Hanson

A Martian aristocrat takes part in a camel race (with breathing apparatus on camels). They ran into trouble and meet some nomads who first steal their camels and later help them to win the race. A humorous story which does cause a few chuckles even if the characters are so one dimensional and caricatures. ***
The First Martian • shortstory by Joe Schembrie
A man who usually almost fails at everything is selected to be the first man on Mars from thousands of nominees. The mission is funded most by pay TV watchers. After several mishaps, he makes it and is able to establish a base until the real explorer arrives. Another amusing story about a marginally competent astronaut who is good for ratings. ***+
Viewschool • novelette by Rajnar Vajra
A school teacher teaches a special class, a "last change" project for pupils who haven't been able to cope in normal school. The teaching happens by an extremely advanced virtual reality system which interfaces directly with the brain. The beginning of the story is very good, but then the story goes pretty mundane where the teacher is trying to stop the suicide of one of his students. The premise was fine and interesting, but it was underused. A pretty nice story anyway. ***½
Unbound • shortstory by Dave Creek
A soldier is threatened by court martial after the risks he took to save his girlfriend. He is given a hard choice. Too short, not very believable. The writing is fine and the story was successfully agonizing, so it worked in spite of its faults. ***

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Bo Carpelan: Kesän varjot

The winner of the Finlandia award in the year 2005. Very poetically written book which is based more on the feelings than on the plot. It tells about an old man who comes for the last time to see a farm he spent summers at wartime. Beautiful slightly bittersweet language, which worked fairly well. Personally I like more books which are based on plot, but this wasn’t bad at all. Below average of the awards winners for me, though.

Ilmestymisvuotenaan Finlandia-palkinnon voittanut kirja. Ikääntynyt mies palaa lapsuutensa kotiin viimeistä kertaa. Kirjassa lomittuvat aika saumattomasti nykyhetki ja vanhojen ystävien ja sukulaisten tapaaminen vuosien tauon jälkeen sekä haikeat ja ajoittain hiukan katkeratkin muistot sotavuosien lapsuudesta, joissa lapsuuden viattomuus, kesän kauneus ja aikuisten – ja lapsienkin - sodasta aiheutuva ahdistus poimuttuvat toisiinsa. Kirja pohjautuu selvästi enemmän tunnelmaan kuin juoneen, ja se on kirjoitettu hyvin runollisella ja kauniilla kielellä, paikoitellen teksti muistuttaa enemmän runoutta kuin proosaa. Itse olen enemmän juonipohjaisen kirjallisuuden ystävä, mutta tämän kirjan kielellinen nautittavuus, joka aika hyvin käännöksestäkin pääsi lävitse osittain paikkasi aika vähäisen juonen aiheuttamaa haittaa. Kuitenkin, jää omalla asteikollani Finlandia-voittajissa keskitason alapuolelle. Tämän kirjan myötä olen lukenut jokaisen Finlandia-voittajan vuoden 2000 jälkeen + muutaman edellisellä vuosituhannella julkaistun. Todennäköisesti tulen kirjoittamaan niistä jonkinlaisen yhteenvedon kunhan ehdin.

201 s.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Galaxy Science Fiction, May 1955

A pretty average or slightly above average stories for the time.

The Dreaming Wall • novelette by Gerald Pearce
The first man who has been evaluating new archeological findings on an unexplored planet has killed himself. For some strange reason it is customary that the first evaluation is done by one man. Now two men are trying to find out what happened. And then the dreams start... A pretty simple story which is badly overlong especially considering pretty lackluster payoff. A lot of space is used on discussions about psychological ratings. Every member of the space corps has a rating, and that is apparently public knowledge. The men spend a lot of time discussing those ratings and whose has gone down or up. ***
The Aggravation of Elmer • shortstory by Robert Arthur
A child genius has invented some extraordinarily inventions- it doesn't end well. A short and pretty stupid. **
The Middle of Nowhere • shortstory by Frederik Pohl
Humans have a few colonies on Mars. Martians wage a kind of guerrilla style war. The word comes that another town has been attacked. The main colony must send a rescue effort, but time is running out. Should they use the sandcars, which usually are attacked by the Martians? A readable story, but I was rooting for Martians who were fighting for their world and not for fairly stupid humans - I don't believe I was supposed to do that. ***
Sam, This Is You • novelette by Murray Leinster
A telephone repairman gets a call from his future self. He wishes to get rich, but he and his girlfriend seem to be morons without a slightest grasp of time. A light, but overlong, story with irritating and extremely childish characters who behave in baffling manner. ( for example, for the girl the fact that she once got a bug inside her dress is a huge secret and she gets very angry when her boyfriend’s future self knows about that. Really?)***
Competition • shortstory by James Causey
Explorers go to find out why a colony on a new planet failed. It seems everyone is dead after internal fighting. They start their studies, but don’t find any pathogens. They continue as it is imperative that there would be a new place for those who live in the overcrowded Earth. But somehow games start to take more and more of their times – but some members of the expedition seem to be cheating, which cause more and discord. And eventually fighting. And murders. The story is told as a diary, which makes the fairly worn idea work at some level. The writing wasn’t the best, though. ***-
A Woman's Place • novelette by Mark Clifton
A woman is travelling back to earth on a spaceship. The warp engine malfunctions and they end on an alternate earth with no human habitation. The men try to work towards returning home while the woman starts to prepare for living on the planet. She starts to plan for future generations, also. (and collects wild maize and tomatoes - both plants with no wild forms which would have anything to do with cultivated breeds) But they are able to return. The woman is dying from embarrassment as she already made a certain proposition to the men. It is SO horrible, what they must think! Luckily, she is able to explain that as a result of sickness, so everything is alright. But now she knows what the real purpose of women is! To bear as many children as possible at a new world! Pretty quaint little story. So dated it is pretty funny. The writing is fairly nice, as can be expected of Mark Clifton. ***

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Terry Pratchett: Carpe jugulum

A Discworld novel. I haven’t read these for a long time. I have enjoyed the books with Death, but this was too confusing – probably mostly because I wasn’t familiar with the characters. There were some good jokes and some nice wordplay, but this book was a disappointment.

En ole Terry Pratchettejä pitkän aikaa lukenut. Tämä sattui kirjakaupan poistomyynnissä eteen yhden (1) euron hinnalla, joten piti kerätä talteen. Vampyyrit ovat vallanneet paikallisen linnan. Ja nämä vampyyrit ovat uudenaikaisia, eivätkä usko vanhoihin taikauskoisiin höpötyksiin valkosipulin, auringonvalon tai uskonnollisten symbolien haitallisesta vaikutuksesta. Ja he ovat kohteliaita, eivät odota kuin täyttä tottelevaisuutta (joka tietenkin mielenhallinnan avulla on automaattisesti selvää) ja silloin tällöin jonkun veren imettäväksi. Mutta onneksi noidat pystyvät vastustamaan vampyyrien lumoa.
Kirja oli jonkinasteinen pettymys. Pratchetin Discworld-kirjoista eniten olen pitänyt Kuolema-sarjasta ja niidenkin lukemisesta on kulunut vuosia. En ole muita Noita-sarjaa kuuluvia teoksia tainnut lukea, sivuhenkilöinähän noidat ovat muissa, lukemissanikin, kirjoissa esiintyneet. Ehkä johtuen siitä, että hahmoja en kovin hyvin tuntenut, kirja vaikutti kovin sekavalta ja paikoitellen liian tajunnanvirtaiselta. Yksittäisiä varsin hauskoja heittoja kyllä löytyi, mutta kokonaisuus ei tehnyt suurta vaikutelmaa.
343 s.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Liza Marklund: Elinkautinen (Lifetime)

Annika Bengtzon is a criminal reporter in a Swedish tabloid. This book continues the story straight from the previous one. Her house has burned down, she has separated from her husband and everything seems to be shaken down. She is suspected from arson, as at first there doesn’t seem to any other way the fire might have started. Being a suspect draws her to examine a case where a policewoman is suspected of killing her husband and child. She was found behind a locked door in a very distraught mental state with a gun and a dead husband. Certainly she did it, didn’t she? Very smoothly written book, which was easy and fast to read. Plot had a few holes, but I didn’t notice them while I was reading. At least Annika found the culprit by real work and not by a freak accident like in some books of the series.

Kesän myötä pitää lukea kesädekkareita muutama. Aika pitkään aikaan en ollutkaan lukenut, johtuen lähinnä siitä, että sarjan seuraavaa kirjaa ei ollut sattunut vastaan soivasti tulemaan.
Kirja jatkuu aika suoraan siitä, mihin edellinen loppui. Annika Bengtzonin talo on palanut ja mies jättänyt. Ihan tarkkaan tapahtumien yksityiskohdat eivät enää olleet useamman vuoden takaa mielessä, mutta viime kädessä se ei haitannut, sen verran selvennystä aikaisempiin tapahtumiin kirjan kuluessa saatiin. Kirjan varsinainen rikosjuoni kertoo entisestä naisesta, jota syytetään poliisimiehensä ja lapsensa murhasta. Nainen löytyy sekavassa tilassa kotoaan, hänen miehensä on ammuttu ja hänen lapsensa on kadonnut. Hän on ilmiselvästi syyllinen, vai onko? Annika itseään epäillään kotinsa polttamisesta ja osittain kompensaationa hän haluaa uskoa toisen naisen syyttömyyteen.
Kirja oli mukaansatempaava ja kiinnostava, vaikka suurin osa henkilöhahmoista olikin ärsyttäviä tavalla tai toisella, päähenkilö mukaan lukien. Juoni toimi varsin sujuvasti, vaikka siinä olikin kyllä muutama suureko aukko, jotka huomasi vasta jälkikäteen. Miten murhaaja saattoi olla varma, että kukaan ei rappukäytävässä tai muualla nähnyt häntä? Miten hän saattoi tietää, että tapetun poliisin vaimo – itsekin poliisi – lamautuisi täysin toimintakyvyttömäksi ja menisi käytännössä psykoosiin? Juonen kannalta kyseessä ovat ehkä kuitenkin helpot ratkaisut, jotka eivät oikeasti ehkä olisi ihan toimineet. Hyvää oli se, että nyt rikosjuonen ratkeaminen tuntui tapahtuvan aika loogisesti ja oikean työskentelyn ja selvittelyn ansiosta, eikä vain onnellisten yhteensattumien tuloksena kuten joissain aikaisemmissa kirjoissa.
Hyvä, sarjansa keskitason yläpuolella oleva teos, joka oli hyvin lukemisen arvoinen.

413 s.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

My Hugo award votes 2015 part 4 – Novels

Two of the nominees of the novel category originated from the “puppy lists”; three got to the final voting list by people who probably actually have read the books in question. The difference between these two groups was pretty obvious. The three honestly nominated books were inventive, and at least in some way unusual, and they were mostly well written. The two others weren’t bad, but they weren’t special in any way either, and both come from the middle of a long series. In my opinion, the best book with least faults was Ancillary Sword, which was even better than the first part of the series. The only drawback is that it IS a part of a series – but so were all nominees, except one, The Goblin Emperor. However, Ancillary Sword stood pretty well by itself; it was very enjoyable and it was easily the best written of all nominees. The Goblin Emperor and Three Body Problem both have some fairly serious flaws, but they both were interesting in their own way. In my opinion, the flaws of Three Bode problems were worse – among them was a so ridiculous description of scientists, that it begs belief (Oh, my physics experiment produced unpredictable results – I must now go and kill myself. Really?). I won’t place Skin Game in my voting as I didn’t finish it (and no way a middle part of a pulpish series is worth a Hugo), but I won’t be using “no award” in this category – there have been worse nominees (and winners) than any of these books.

My voting will be:
1. Ancillary Sword
2. The Goblin Emperor
3. The Three Body Problem
4. The Dark Between the Stars


Friday, July 10, 2015

Skin Game (The Dresden Files #15) by Jim Butcher

Only a sample of this book was included in the voter’s package. This nominee is the 15th in a series I hadn’t even heard before, but it is apparently pretty popular. The book got its’ nomination through the puppy lists. I read the sample, and if I would have been very impressed I might have bought the book. The sample was ok, and I got something about it, but being totally unfamiliar with the backstory and the characters, I didn’t really get into it. And I am reluctant to give money to a puppy favorite if there isn’t a compelling reason to do so, so I am not going to buy this book and finish it. The genre of the book is urban fantasy – something I am not familiar with at all (or have much interest). The hero is some kind of super powerful warlock / private detective. He has some sort of supernatural parasite inside his head, and he must perform a task which might be too much even for his powers. But he gets help for a few sexy women, who have magical powers themselves. The beginning felt extremely pulpy and straightforward with a hero who is throwing away cute quips and ogling beautiful ladies. Fun and stupid, but certainly not impressive. This wouldn’t be a Hugo worthy book even if it weren’t the 15th part of the series, which disqualifies it anyway in my opinion.

86 pp (the sample included in the Hugo package)

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, September 2015

Analog seems to go steadily downhill. This was a pretty bad issue. The serial (which I haven’t started) takes a lot of space, and stories are pretty mediocre. There seem to be more and more stories, which are just portions of the real tale – or seem to continue an earlier, apparently unpublished, story. A good short story should be self-standing, with a beginning, a middle and a real ending. Very often lately published stories contain only the middle part – at best. I have been reading Analog for decades – I am starting to wonder if it is time to stop.

Racing to Mars • novelette by Martin L. Shoemaker

A doctor who has been fired from her job after she blew a whistle on some shady practices finds she can’t find another job. She gets a job as a doctor on a spaceship running to Mars. The ship seems to be modeled very closely marine ships from the 19th century or so. Captain’s power is absolute, there are rich passengers enjoying the leisure on board, there is ample room and so on. A son of the owner of the shipping company is on the ship and behaves very obnoxiously. But the captain is able to enforce some discipline. ..At first the story felt very irritating as all characters very extremely unsympathetic. But the theme was personal growth and the characters changed during the story – perhaps even a bit too much to be believable. There was a slight feel of YA-fiction, but as whole not bad. By far the best story in the issue. ***½
Live From the Air Chair • shortstory by Maggie Clark
Seems to continue an earlier story, but I couldn’t find any installments in possible series, not from Analog at least. Ther background is pretty thick, but apparently most of the people are living on orbit in small ships very close to each other. So close that you can jump in a space suit from one ship to another and when you are traveling you can see people from windows and wave. I can’t exactly wrap my mind on how that could work considering relative distances and speeds. It sounds incredibly stupid and impossible. Some sort of relationship has ended, and a wife has moved out to live with her family. A bad man tries to extort her for some artifact and she asks her former husband for help. There is a ruthless group who are ready to do anything to get the item and including wanton murder. A very confusing story, which doesn’t really work alone. With a very strange and extremely hard to believe setting. The writing was pretty thick. **-
The Crashing of the Cloud • shortstory by Norman Spinrad
A hacker, who has wiped all the records of Internal Revenue Service, has escaped to Yemen. He fears for his life, but it is said that it is sure that no jury would sentence him. (I wonder why wouldn’t – his actions are clearly illegal, and most people agree that taxes are necessary. I also wonder why that wiping prevented the collection of taxes for that year – all IRS should have done was to ask again for the information – a lot of hassle but possible). A Taliban sheik asks him to take down the Internet. He explains that it is impossible, but he might be able to do something accomplishing almost as good effects. After some haggling about terms, they come to agreement – and then the story ends. The writing was as good as can be expected, this is just a piece of a tale, with a poor beginning and with no real end. ***+
The Limits of Belief • shortstory by Arlan Andrews [as by Arlan Andrews, Sr. ]
A pretty confusing story without much background. A rich art collector usually refuses all visitors, but someone manages to persuade him with an offer that is hard to refuse. Thick writing and scant background makes this story pretty hard to get. Some expansion might have made this easier to grasp. Now it just feels forced. **+

Lock In: A Novel of the Near Future by John Scalzi

I bought this book as a reaction to the boycott effort, which was called against the Daw books. The far right people who were demanding it seem to especially hate John Scalzi, so this book was an appropriate choice.
After a wide spread viral infection a number of people are left locked in, that is “imprisoned” inside their brains. Apparently, the lock-in which was caused by the virus isn’t similar to the ordinary lock-in syndrome, which is usually caused by damage of pons. At least the locked-in persons in the novel apparently retain some of feeling of their body, while the normal locked-ins usually do not retain any sensory functions.
Some of those who recovered from the disease are able to allow other people ride inside their minds. There are also sophisticated robotic bodies, which also can be used by the locked in people. To enable those, the lock-ins have a sophisticated intracerebral wiring with highly developed software attached to them. Most of the lock-ins practically live inside the robot/android bodies and their physical bodies are being taken care of in faculties designed for that.
A locked in person with a very rich and famous dad has just started working for the FBI. Her first case involves a lock-in person, who apparently was killed in pretty strange circumstances. Slowly a conspiracy is revealed.
The book is mainly a police procedural in the future with people with an interesting fictional disorder. I would have like that the symptoms and what it is to be a sufferer of the disease had been examined in more detail. The writing pretty straight forward and simple with nice, maybe too light banter, but the plot was engaging and interesting. The book was pretty fast read. Especially the beginning of the book had a lot of exposition, which wasn’t done very well – people were telling each other’s things there certainly knew, in the best “as you know, Bob” manner. Nice summer reading, not as good as “Old Man’s War” books. If this had been a Hugo nominee, it wouldn’t have been my first choice, but not the last, either.

337 pp.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Dark Between the Stars by Kevin J. Anderson

The book consists of short chapters, following sevral different characters. It continues an earlier long series and starts a new one.
There are several subplots. One involves a man who kidnaps his son from her mother as he belies that the base they live in is too unsafe. Another involves a doctor who collects rare diseases and a ruthless man who helps her. Another is about strange creatures, who appear to produce ekti, a volatile substance which is needed as fuel for interstellar travel. And a strange creature straight from the ancient myths which seems to consist of pure darkness is waking and wants to destroy all intelligent life from the universe.
This book works fairly well even without detailed knowledge of the first part of the series. The major drawback was that as the characters were not familiar, it was hard to form any emotion attachment towards them, especially as most of them weren’t necessarily very sympathetic. Some of the events were pretty separate and seemed superfluous. The subplot involving an alien plague had little to do with the rest of the book and could have been omitted with no consequences to the rest of the plot. There were some huge coincides – once one person just stumbles upon a secret base where other people are working and they even know each other’s. It must be a really, really small universe! The book was readable, but not special in any way. It could have been drastically shorted by leaving away unneeded subplots and by leaving away some of the tendency to explain everything in detail, often several times. There was also a slight anti-science and anti-technology bias- scientists and industrialists were mostly bad guys and the few sympathetic characters were mystic monk-like figures. The ending had more than a shade of deus ex machina. Mystic creatures only briefly mentioned earlier appear and save the day. A pretty average book, not worth of any awards, which feels more fantasy than science fiction.

672 pp.