Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Leena Lehtolainen: Rautakolmio

A police procedural about Maria Kallio, female leader of a police department which specializes in untypical crimes. So far they have been able to solve all their cases, but this time they are investigating a double homicide. Smooth storytelling and interesting plot. Nice light reading.

Maria Kallio -romaani.
Mereltä löytyy muoviin pakattuna kaksi ruumista. Alaston nainen ja mies, jonka kasvot on runneltu ja sormenpäät poltettu kuoleman jälkeen. Naisen henkilöllisyys selviää aika nopeasti. Kyseessä on sekalaisilla mallintöillä itsensä elättänyt jo hiukan mallin/seuralaisen töitä ajatellen vanhentuva nainen, jolla osoittautuu olleen taloudellisia vaikeuksia. Hän on aktiivisesti puolustanut ruotsinkielen asemaa, vaikka on täysin suomalaissukuinen ja on joutunut nettitrollien ahdistelemaksi tästä syystä. Liittykö kuolema tähän? Suuren osan ajastaan nainen on asunut jonkin verran aikaisemmin haimasyöpään menehtyneen siskonsa perheen kesäasunnolla. Siskon mies on entinen jääkiekkoilija, nykyinen sijoitustoiminnalla itsensä elättävä varakas liikemies. Kesäasunnolla viettää paljon aikaansa myös perheen lapset, mm. jääkiekko-ottelussa aivovamman saanut alkoholiongelmainen poika.

Kirja oli ihan sujuva ja alan vähitellen päästä yli Leena Lehtolaisen Hilja Ilveskero – romaanin Henkivartija aiheuttamasta voimakkaasta inhoreaktiosta. Tämä kirja on huomattavasti parempi kuin tuo – mutta huonommaksi olisikin ollut vaikea päästä. Sujuvaa kerrontaa, mielenkiintoisia henkilöhahmoja ja kiinnostava juoni. Tosin naimisissa olevan, perheellisen, Maria Kallion koulutyttömäinen typerä säätö komean purjehtijamiehen kanssa oli varsin ärsyttävää ja oikeastaan ihan tarpeetonta.

352 pp.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Lines of Departure (Frontlines #2) by Marko Kloos

The book continues the story which started in the first part. Giant, practically indestructible aliens are attacking human colonies and work in the space navy is starting to become pretty dangerous. Humans are retreating towards Earth as colonies are destroyed. The living conditions on Earth, with its overcrowded welfare cities, are deteriorating. But humans are still using resources to fight against each other. The upper leadership of the Commonwealth Defense Corps seems insane (even the characters are noticing it...). As a possible trouble maker, the main character, Andrew Grayson, is sent to a barren base as a member of a pretty shabby force with unclear/secret instructions. There they are ordered to overtake the civilian production faculties and stores. As that could be considered an illegal order, a faction of the troops starts a mutiny. But that mutiny is slightly hampered as the aliens appear.
The plot on its own was engaging. The problem were the overly long, poorly written battle descriptions which took pages and pages to get through. Personally, I am not interested in the slightest in how the battle happens exactly. At places it seemed that every single shot was described in loving detail. There are some problems with believing this could be realistic also. I wonder what explains the extreme over population in the North America? There are supposed to be cities of tens of millions of people in extremely bad living conditions. Why would the birth rate would be so high under those conditions? On the other hand not a single child is shown in the book, and there are no special longevity methods mentioned, either. The technology also seems strange; apparently the humans not only have jump point technology to travel faster than light, but also rocket engines which are able to accelerate huge and heavy spaceships with several g:s for prolonged time. I wonder what the engines use as an energy source? And what functions as reaction mass? In spite of having all that technology, the military is using ordinary nuclear weapons against the aliens - knowing full well that simple nuclear weapons work pretty badly in a vacuum. And even I can think of several weapon technologies which could use nuclear devices better than just lobbing bombs at intruders (using a nuclear explosion to speed up shaped charges of something dense and heavy like depleted uranium) to extreme velocities? Single use lasers powered by nuclear explosion?
In spite of its faults the book was entertaining for the most part. I might pick up the next part if I saw it discounted somewhere. I really hope that it will have more focus on plot and less on boring battles.

315 pp.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Astounding Science Fiction, July 1953

Only three stories in this issue – most of the space is taken by the last installment of Mission of Gravity – one of the classics of hard science fiction.

Enough Rope • [Wing Alak] • novelette by Poul Anderson
An Interstellar League encounters an alien race which is militaristic and is trying to conquer nearby solar systems. They are located pretty far from leagues area, but some of the threatened planets are asking for help. And the projections show that in just a few centuries the race might turn out to be a real threat. What to do - without risking lives? The League sends parties to strategic solar systems nearby and establishes military bases. The aliens threaten the bases, but the League withdraws. (But establishes a new base on another strategically valuable planet). But the League withdraws from there, without resistance, and establish another base. And so on. A pretty nice story with a wry humor prevalent. ***½
Solution Delayed • shortstory by Mark Clifton and Alex Apostolides
A group of people decides to steal a spaceship. They have been involved in building it, but they are not supposed to be among the colonist. A security man gets wind of that plot and tries to stop them, but something more is going on... A pretty bad story with a LOT of lecturing both at the start and the end with pretty bad and pompous writing. **-
Survival • novelette by Don Green
A passenger space ship has an accident on way to Mars. It hits an unknown asteroid which is large enough to have about 1/10 g gravity and has in spite of the light gravity an oxygen atmosphere - which is dense enough for breathing. And accidents apparently happened so suddenly that the crew wasn't able to prepare for it in any way or even warn passengers. Apparently, the only survivor is a businessman who tries to find survival equipment from the wreck. There a lot of weapons (for what?), but it takes some work to find a single flashlight. The writing was well below average and the plot surely must have been preposterously silly already in 1954. From today’s viewpoint, it is unbelievably bad. *

Nightwings by Robert Silverberg

The story happens in a far future Earth where apparently several civilizations have risen and gone. Humanity has reached the stars but has withdrawn back to the Earth. A group of three friends is approaching an ancient city, Room, where relics of several cycles of civilizations which span millennia can be found. One of the group is a watcher, a kind of guard for an alien invasion which will come at some undetermined date in the future. The invasion has apparently been coming for centuries, but the exact date is unknown. One is a winged female, who is able to fly at nighttime; on daytime, the "pressure of light is too heavy". The third is a mutant who isn't part of any guild – practically everyone is part of some guild which protects the interests of its members. Not being a member of any is a severe handicap. After they have arrived at the Room they have an audience with the emperor of the Room. They get a permission to go to the imperial hotel, but then the aliens attack.

In later parts of the book, the watcher who has lost his purpose (as there is no need to be on guard for an alien invasion anymore) finds a new quilt. He joins the historians at Parrish, another ancient city. There he finds out why the aliens had decided to invade earth - and it turns out that they had a pretty good reason for it. The aliens turn out to be pretty benevolent rulers, perhaps better than the humans themselves were. Later the protagonist continues his journey and finds a new purpose for his life.

A pretty good book, after I got used to pretty pompous writing style (which seemed to lighten a bit at the later novellas - the book is a fix-up of several stories which were originally published separately). I am not sure if they are more stories which happen in this world, but I should find out. Good writing and novel ideas make this a deserved classic and it hardly feels dated.

192 pp.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Kristina Carlson: Maan ääreen

A short novel, which won the Finlandia award in 1999. Bulk of the book consists of diary of a young Finnish man who worked as a secretary of a wealthy businessman. He was mugged with serious consequences and only barely survived. Who hit him with a brick and why? My feelings about the book were lukewarm; it didn’t engage me at all. The description of time and place didn’t seem to work, I didn’t feel at all that the book was supposed to happen in the farthest reaches of Siberia; it could have happened in a generic small town anywhere. Below average of Finlandia winners.

Finlandia palkinnon voittaja vuodelta 1999. Kirja (tai taitaisi angloamerikkalaisessa luokittelussa olla pikemminkin novella/pienoisromaani) tapahtuu Siperian itäisellä äärilaidalla sijaitsevassa kaupungissa, johon on perustettu siirtokunta. Nuori suomalainen työskentelee siellä kirjanpitäjänä ja sihteerinä. Joku on pahoinpidellyt hänet lyömällä tiilellä päähän ja paikallinen lääkäri on leikannut hänen kallonmurtumansa pelastaen hänen henkensä. Kuka hänet pahoinpiteli ja miksi? Toipuessaan hän yrittää selvittää ”murhaajaansa”. Kyseessä on aluksi kuvainnollinen murhaaja, mutta hän ei ehkä toipunutkaan päävammastaan ihan niin hyvin kuin aluksi näytti ja murha onkin konkreettisempi kuin aluksi vaikutti olevan. Kirja koostuu pääosin hänen päiväkirjamerkinnöistään, jotka kirjan lopussa muuttuvat taudin edetessä vähitellen sekavammiksi.
Kirja oli kirjoitettu kauniilla kielellä, mutta kirjasta en muuten erityisen suuresti vaikuttunut. Paikalliskuvaus ja ajankuvaus eivät olleet kovin vakuuttavia, tapahtumapaikan piti olla uudisasutus Siperian äärilaidalla, mutta aivan yhtä hyvin kyseessä olisi voinut olla vaikkapa Kouvola. Ilmasto ja maantiede eivät näkyneet kirjassa käytännössä mitenkään ja elämä oli hämmästyttävän pikkuporvarillista ja tavanomaista: kutsuja, viatonta (ja vähemmän viatonta) seurustelua. Tarinakaan ei oikein tempaissut sisäänsä, jotenkin kokonaisuus jäi erittäin haaleaksi, en oikein suhteellisen laimeasti kuvattuun ihmissuhde peliin osannut samaistua tai siitä innostua. Jää Finlandia voittajista keskitason alapuolelle.

192 s.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, August 1973

This issue contains the first part of a serial which I haven’t read. As a whole, it is a fairly adequate issue, but many of the characters were irritating and stupid.

Forty Days and Nights • novelette by Rob Chilson [as by Robert Chilson ]

A woman works as a researcher at a gene-tech firm. They develop far-fetching gene and germ-based solutions. They are discussing killing all rats. Her husband is an artist of sorts. There is a lot of description of the world, and of fairly unconnected events (such as, among other examples, a totally unconnected visit to a semi-independent black state inside New York or wherever the events happened since I don’t remember anymore). A pretty disjointed story as such. ***-
The Sweet Smell of the Past • short story by Lawrence A. Perkins
A man is finishing his time machine. He is able to send things to the future and bring back things from the past, but the transfer breaks everything on a molecular level, so everything is just a pile of dust. He, or rather his wife, finds a way to use the invention in an extremely polluted future. The possible problems the solution has aren't investigated though. (Bringing back clean air and water from the past would surely backfire spectacularly.) ***
The Epoxy Goat • novelette by David Lewis
A man a takes advantage of his friend by living at his place, eating his food and using his car; years before he stole his girlfriend and later abandoned her. He designs a “mechanical goat”, a machine which cleans roadsides and sorts all rubbish into recyclables portions. Of course it is very sensible to design the machine with half inch steel plates, with no external controls what so ever and a very bad AI with no provisions for the size of the “rubbish.” There is some trouble when the “goat” escapes and goes to the local airport looking for some juicy planes. A fairly fun story, but every single character was unbelievably and irritatingly stupid. ***
Stimulus-Reward Situation • short story by Gene Fisher
Humans have come to a planet with dog-like aliens. They are very passive and sleep most of the day and eat abundant fruits which fulfill all their dietary needs. The new leader of the human colony wants to educate the natives. They aren’t interested in following the teaching, as they don’t see how it would benefit them in any way. But if the natives could be motivated somehow, maybe they would start to learn. Certainly that can’t backfire. A mildly amusing story with an unreasonably stupid leader. ***
The Jungle • short story by Karl Hudgins
A mercenary who usually works for the military is drafted to take care of an internal problem in a slum, where a group of criminals have killed several people. The mission doesn’t go smoothly. A fairly nice story. ***+

Monday, September 5, 2016

Seppo Jokinen: Mustat sydämet

The police inspector Koskinen isn’t solving crimes at Tampere this time. He takes part to a marathon in Australia. There he is asked to find a young Finnish woman, who has mysteriously disappeared. Something strange is going on in the Australian Finnish community, but what? As usual a pretty good book with well described characters.

Komisario Koskinen osallistuu Australiassa työtovereidensa kanssa maratonille. Kohtalaisen hyvin onnistuneen juoksun jälkeen maassa pitkään asunut suomalaisnainen pyytää häntä selvittelemään selittämättömästi kadonneen nuoren sukulaistytön kohtaloa. Tästä sitten kehittyy matkustelua suuressa maassa tapaamaan ihmisiä jotka asuvat ihan lähellä 500 km päässä, eikun taisi olla 800 km, eipä sillä niin suurta eroa, äkkiäkös tuon välin ajaa. Samalla Suomeen jääneet työtoverit tutkivat pahoinpidellyn ja kummallisesti sairaalasta kadonneen nuoren pojan tapausta.
Kirja on vetävää kerrontaa taas kerran. Kuvaus suomalaisyhdyskunnasta Australiassa on aika uskottavan tuntuista. Kirjailija onkin asunut tiettävästi maassa hyvän aikaa, joten kirjalla oli autenttista taustaa - tosin sivuja ehkä hiukan liikaakin käytettiin paikkojen kuvailuun. Henkilöhahmot olivat hyvin kuvattuja ja ainakin kohtalaisen realistisen tuntuisia kuten tavallista ja henkilökemia lomittui dekkarijuoneen sopivalla tavalla. Paremman pään Koskisia.

297 s.