Thursday, November 26, 2015

Astounding Science Fiction, August 1959

Stories in this issue were fairly well written, but the attitudes were extremely strange from a modern viewpoint. By the way, I'll give away this issue. Ask for it in comments and I'll mail it to anywhere in Earth. If there are more than one asking for it after a week, the winner will be selected in random. (the copy in question is tattered – strictly a reading copy only)

The Aliens • novelette by Murray Leinster

A human spacecraft encounters an alien ship for the first time. The humans behave extremely paranoid and eventually fire torpedoes at another ship on the flimsiest of excuses. The aliens respond extremely violently—they deflect the torpedoes back to the human ship. The humans, at least, consider this a very violent and aggressive response....Luckily the self-destruct mechanism of the torpedoes still works. Somehow the two ships collide and fuse together. It turns out that the ship is built from brass and pure metallic sodium and potassium and it is inhabited by chlorine breathers. (Somehow that particular chemical combination doesn't sound most likely...) In spite of rampant paranoia and xenophobia among some of the human crew (apparently there is no psychological evaluation for members of the space navy), humans and aliens finally manage to work together. It is pretty strange when the aliens feel less alien than the humans...and I get the feeling that it wasn't meant to be like that. The writing was OK, but the attitudes were really, really strange. ***
Dead Giveaway • novelette by Randall Garrett
A man returns from a long journey. Several messages from his friend are waiting. The first few are pretty frantic and hint at a significant discovery, but the last one takes everything back, though not very convincingly. And the friend can't be reached. Is there some sort of fool’s play going on? A giant alien city which was found years before seems to be involved somehow; a city which was built for an unknown purpose. It was an overlong story, where the "payback" was pretty poor and everything was just explained as a lecture by the disappeared person, after he was not-so-surprisingly found. **½
The Outsiders • novelette by A. Bertram Chandler
The crew of a spaceship gets a salvage reward and decides to buy a spaceship for themselves. On the first voyage, one newly-drafted member of the crew is a drunkard, who is very afraid of going towards the less-explored regions. He hints that he has experienced something horrible there. Soon he drinks himself to death. The rest of the crew ponders whether they should try to find out what was so strange. They first decide against it, but years later, when there is a slow spell in the business, they still remember... It's a very long setup for a fairly small payoff. (The secret is an alien device that tests if visitors are psychologically worthy. If they pass the test, there is a technological bounty to be had.) The writing was OK for its time, but the story could have drastically shortened. ***
Familiar Pattern • novelette by A. Bertram Chandler [as by George Whitley ]
A ship on sea encounters a spaceship, which has landed on water for minor repairs. The captains befriend one another and start trading things. The aliens are willing to trade only luxury items; they won’t even talk about space drives or any serious scientific inventions. The aliens eventually establish a trading mission, but soon things go badly, when an alien church is looted for being far too open-minded (they preach that all earthly pleasures should be enjoyed as much as possible) and things go then very, very badly. It was an okay story, but the set-up is very slow and then the end comes very suddenly in a few paragraphs. ***+
Day of Succession • shortstory by Theodore L. Thomas
An alien spaceship lands. A general orders that as soon as the hatch on it is opened, all possible firepower is to be turned on it. The ship is completely destroyed. Then a second one lands and the same happens again. When the third ship lands, the president prevents the attack. Not so surprisingly the third ship attacks everything nearby - which naturally “proves” that the aliens were hostile to begin with. And as the president slightly hesitates at the launch of an all-out nuclear strike against the ship, (which would destroy a significant part of the country) the general must take leadership to his own hands. A jaw-droppingly strange story. Apparently it is meant as it is, not as parody or irony. **
A Matter of Proportion • shortstory by Anne Walker
A war is going on, apparently against aliens. During a mission a commander notices that one of his rookies is performing very well—in fact, suspiciously well. It turns out that he is a famous war hero, who was paralyzed in action. His brain was transplanted to a new body and now he was able to fight again. The rest of story is the soldier telling his story. A surprisingly dull and longwinded story. I had trouble finishing it and I retain no memories of it even though I tried to read it twice. It was a pretty bad story with not-so-good writing. **-

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Reijo Mäki - Siivellä eläjä (Reijo Mäen novellikirjailija Luusalmi)

A really rotten book, where a failed idiot author talks about stupidities with various people - mostly with his own delusions. Avoid at any cost. One of worst books I have ever read.

Wares- kirjojen sivuhenkilö novellikirjailija Luusalmi pääsee oman kirjansa kertojahahmoksi. Jostain käsittämättömästä syystä kustantaja on värvännyt hänet kirjoittamaan parisuhdekirjan.
Asia ei oikein etene pariin vuoteen, mutta mitäs siitä, pseudofilosofisia tyhjänpäiväisiä heittoja sentään voi raapustella.
Kuvittelin että kirja olisi ollut dekkari, vähän toisesta näkökulmasta kuin yleensä Wares kirjat ja odotin kirjalta aika paljon. Petyin pahasti. Kirja oli yhdenpäivästä turhaa lätinää, jossa varsin vastenmielinen minä-hahmo kävi typeriä keskusteluja eri ihmisten tyhjänpäiväisistä asioista, tosin paljolti kyseiset keskustelut tapahtuvat päähenkilön omien juoppohulluus harhojen kanssa. Ylivoimaisesti huonoin kirja mitä olen pitkään aikaan, ehkä muutamaan vuoteen lukenut. On typerää markkinoida tallaista kuonaa Vareksen ja tunnetun kirjailijan nimellä, tuli vastenmielisyys edes lukea Reijo Mäen kirjoja, vaikka niitä pari on hankittuna odottamassa. Tosin kirja laatu on niin surkea, että Reijo Mäen väitteet siitä, että kirjan on kirjoittanut joku muu vaikuttavat uskotavilta. Tosin ei kukaan täysijärkinen tätä kuonaa varmasti vapaaehtoisesti myöntäisikään tuottaneensa. Missään nimessä tätä ei kannata hankkia eikä edes ilmaiseksi lukea, elämä on liian lyhyt.

191 s.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The End of All Things (Old Man's War) by John Scalzi

This is the sixth part of an ongoing series. The earlier books have been fairly separate and have worked alone to at least some degree, but this continues the story pretty much from the last one and probably would be very confusing for a random reader. Humans have divided to two main factions: the colony worlds are ruled by a military colonial union, CU, and the Earth itself is governed by nation states more or less similar to today. The relations of the CU and Earth have gone very bad since apparently CU destroyed a space station in Earth’s orbit. At the same time, the Colonial Union is facing unrest on its’ own turf as several colonies are straining for independence. Also, a vast consortium of alien races, The Conclave, has gained influence and is trying to form a union of several different species, many of which have been bitter enemies and competitors. The relations between the Conclave and CU have never been very warm, but they are getting worse as they apparently attack each other’s ships. However, it turns out (or turned out in the last book) that there is a third group, a very secret organization called Equilibrium, with an unknown agenda that is working behind the scenes. At first, little is known about what its’ aims are, but by a fortuitous event, there is a chance to learn at least something. Is there time to prevent what Equilibrium is trying to do? Is it possible that former enemies are able to forget their differences and do the unthinkable – to trust each other?

It is a pretty good book, even better than the previous part.
There were a lot of shades of grey in most of the factions in the book– with the exception of the main villain, Equilibrium. Its’ motivations were left pretty unclear. It has always been refreshing to read military science fiction, where humans aren’t clearly the good guys, or at least not the only good guys. In this book and series, the single group with most identifiable agenda has been the alien Conclave, but now even the CU was less of a “bad guy” than in some of the earlier books. An enjoyable read and I am looking forward to next instalment – if there will be any. There weren’t any major cliffhangers left at the end of this book.

384 pp.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Ursula K. Le Guin: Osattomien planeetta (The Dispossessed)

A good book even after over forty years. There are some problems, like the apparent lack of any social or technological change whatsoever in either of societies during two hundred years and some fairly caricature like characters. The writing was good and gradual “greying” of both societies from the initial idealized starting point was well done.

Edellisestä tämän kirjan liukukerrasta on kulunut varmastikin noin yli 30 vuotta. Muistikuvat olivat hyvästä, mutta paikoitellen hitaasta kirjasta. Jossain määrin muistikuvat pitivät paikkansa, tosin vähemmän hitaalta kirja vaikutti nyt kuin teininä. Toisaalta viat ja epäloogisuudet huomasi nyt selvemmin.
Urras on planeetta, jolla asuvat käytännössä täysin ihmisen kaltaiset asukkaat. (LeGuinin kirjoissa sama rotu on asuttanut tunnetut asuin kelpoiset planeetat kaukaisessa menneisyydessä, ja geneettisestä ajautumisesta huolimatta asukkaat ovat vielä hyvin toistensa kaltaisia). Noin kaksisataa vuotta sitten ryhmä anarkisteja perusti siirtokunnan Anarrekseen, Urraksen kuuhun. Siellä he ovat luoneet yhteiskunnan jossa ei ole lakeja, ei johtajia eikä omaisuutta. Yllättävästi systeemi toimii, tosin nälänhädät eivät huonon satovuoden sattuessa ole tuntemattomia, ja uusien, poikkeavien ajatuksien esittäjiä ei välttämättä aina kohdella erityisen hyvin ja suvaitsevasti. Urraksessa taas on vallalla lähinnä kapitalis-feodalistinen järjestelmä, ainakin siinä osassa mitä kirjassa nähdään. Muitakin valtioita planeetalla on erilaisine järjestelmineen, mukana nähtävästi myös perinteisemmin keskusjohtoisen totalitaarisen kommunismin tyylinen maa. Kirjan alussa Anarreksestä syntyisin oleva matemaatikko, joka on kehittänyt uusia, fysiikan perusteita järisyttäviä metodeja, matkustaa Urrakseen ensimmäisenä ihmisenä siirtokunnan perustamisen jälkeen. Päällisin puolin siellä on ylenpalttista kaikessa köyhään anarkistimaailmaan verrattuna, mutta vähitellen kääntöpuoli paljastuu. Lomittain Urraksen tapahtumien kanssa seurataan miehen aikaisempaa elämää Anarreksella ja kuvaillaan elämää anarkistisessa ”utopiassa”.
Kirja on erittäin hyvä, vaikka siinä joitain kummia puolia onkin. Osa henkilöistä on melkoisen karikatyyrimäisiä. Myös se, että kahteensataan vuoteen ei näytä kummallakaan planeetalla tapahtuneen käytännössä minkäänlaista yhteiskunnallista, teknologista tai sosiaalista kehitystä tai muutosta mihinkään suuntaan vaikuttaa enemmän kuin kummalliselta, normaalisti noin pitkän ajan kuluessa yhteiskunta kuin yhteiskunta muuttuu jo suuressa määrin. Luonnollisesti kirjan vastakkainasettelu ei olisi ollut yhtä vahva, jos asetelma olisi ollut vähemmän mustavalkoinen. Toisaalta mustavalkoisuus on aika kaukana kirjasta, vaan molempien maailmojen käsittelyssä löytyy runsaasti harmaan sävyjä, Urraksen luksuselämän takaa paljastuu sortoa, kun Anarreksen teoreettinen täydellinen yksilönvapaus ei aivan täyttä ja kaikkea koskevaa lopulta olekaan. Kirja on pysynyt varsin hyvin tuoreena, vaikka kirjoittamisesta on kulunut jo yli 40 vuotta, ja on Hugo-palkituista puolenvälin paremmalla puolella.

413 s.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, December 2015

A fairly nice issue, above average.

Builders of Leaf Houses • novella by Catherine Wells

A pair of humans are studying a kind of little known ”reservation” on an alien planet. After one of them breaks her leg, a young sentient alien takes them home as a “pet”. Her parent at first doesn’t even believe that the strange creatures are sentient, but slowly they are able to establish a connection. A pretty good story, but there is a lot going on, and even novella length might have been too short – or something, like the problems aliens were having, could have been left out. ***½
The Museum of Modern Warfare • shortstory by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
A veteran of a bitter war who now serves as an ambassador visits an alien war memorial with unique qualities. It is rumoured that the exhibition is horribly offensive towards humans. Is it? A pretty good story which aims for emotions. ****-
Footprints in the Snow • shortstory by Bud Sparhawk
A lonely and fairly bitter male widow gets new neighbors: a family of refugee aliens. There is a fair share of resentment in the beginning, but slowly things change. A kind of science-fiction retelling of the Grand Torino movie. There are more than a few implausibilities and illogicalities, but the story aims more for emotion and succeeds pretty well. ***½
Paris, 1835 • shortstory by Bill Johnson
A time-travel story where a group time-travellers try to force history to a similar mold as their original timeline. It feels like a chapter from a larger story, and little backstory is given at first. The writing is ok, but is typical of so many Analog stories of late – it is just a fragment. **½
The Master's Voice • shortstory by Brendan DuBois
A young boy who lives in Mars has an initiation to adulthood. A story which is a sort of tribute to Heinlein and almost makes him a god-like figure. A pretty blatant story as such. Nothing really new. **+
A Case of Identity • novelette by Edward M. Lerner
An artificial intelligence gets a new, strange case. Another AI has disappeared after a row with his fiancée, an extremely rich heiress. The server the AI was living doesn’t show any activity. What has happened? Has the AI been murdered? There has been more than a little offence after the relation had become public. But how could the murder have happened? Or was it a suicide? A pretty nice story, but I guessed what was going on about half way. ***+

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