Sunday, November 26, 2017

Petri Pietiläinen: Koirien maailmanhistoria

A pretty comprehensive book about dogs as human companions (and in other uses, up to and including, as meat animals) through the ages. Not a single picture, which is pretty strange and makes the book heavy to read.

Hesarin tilaajien ilmaisena kirjana luettu teos. Kirja kertoo koirien tarinan ihmisten kumppanina halki historian. Alkupuoli on aikamoista viitteiden, nimien ja pikkufaktojen vyörytystä, loppupuolella päästään hiukan enemmän filosofistyyppisiin pohdintoihin. Kokonaisuutena kirja oli kiinnostava, joskin tässä muodossa aika raskaslukuinen. Täysin käsittämätöntä, että kirjassa, joka laajalti kuvailee taidetta, kirjallisuutta ja erilaisia koirarotuja ei ole ainoatakaan kuvaa. Jonkin verran piti lukiessa googlailla, mutta se ei vastannut sitä, että kuvat olisivat olleet valmiiksi kirjassa. En tiedä, onko se ”oikeakin” kirja yhtä heikosti suunniteltu, vai liittyikö kuvattomuus vain ekirja-versioon, mutta vaikka Hesarin kirjojen lukuohjelma on ylivoimaisesti heikoin lukuohjelma mitä iPadissä olen ikinä käyttänyt, niin luulisi sen sentään kuvituksen pystyvän näyttämään. Mielenkiintoista tietoa kirjassa kuitenkin oli eikä lukeminen kaduta.

344 s.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Unidentified Funny Objects 6 edited by Alex Shvartsman

A clection of humourous stories. Mostly fairly good, just suitable for reading from phone during lunch breaks.

A Game of Goblins • short fiction by Jim C. Hines
The Goblin stories meet Game of Thrones. The leader of the goblins is asked/forced to help humans in a minor matter of deciding who will sit on the onyx throne. To do that, she must get married to a human (and survive the wedding, as weddings apparently can be very dangerous.) and hope that the bloody brunch doesn't happen again. A very fun story where Golaka, the goblin chieftess, and cook, shows which is the more clever (and ruthless) race. ****+
The Breakdown of Parasite/Host Relationship • short fiction by Paul R. Hardy
Two people share the same body: a bit anal human and a bit sloppy parasitic alien. The alien is in control when the human sleeps and vice versa. The alien is a vital specialist on a space mission. Both minds communicate with leaving notes for each other. And they complain to the mission leader. A lot. Their quarrels escalate to an absurd point. A pretty fun story which is told entirely as short messages. ***½
From This She Makes a Living? • short fiction by Esther M. Friesner [as by Esther Friesner]
People live in a town which is apparently known for foolishness. It turns out that a dragon has arrived there and eaten at least one man. A modern woman appears at the town meeting. Apparently, the town exists in some dimension outside of time and space. It is a rather silly story, which is told in grating "funny" language with many, silly footnotes. I didn't find it to be funny, only pretty irritating. I don't know why the story needed a zillion Jewish references. ***
Twenty-Nine Responses to Inquiries About My Craigslist Post: Alien Spaceship for Sale $200, You Haul • short fiction by Tina Connolly
Someone sells a crashed flying saucer on Craigslist and answers some stupid questions. A short, and not very funny story. **
Agent of Chaos • short fiction by Jack Campbell
A writer is out in the woods in pouring rain. Possibly chased by monsters. She is forced to follow her muse, who is arranging material for her writing, even when she herself isn't so happy about such "hands-on" experience. She manages to find a cave, but it contains an evil god chained to its walls. When the god learns that she is a writer, he doesn't eat her, but gives her a task. She is supposed to deliver the god's manuscript to the publishers. There is a slight catch: the manuscript is also a spell, which destroys the world if someone reads it. Very good, and even humorous. ****-
Tyler the Snot Elemental Scours the Newspaper, Searching for Change • short fiction by Zach Shephard
A snot elemental has a bad day and tries to find something to do and to get some friends. He meets several mystical creatures - most of them are not happy with their lives. But things get better. A heartwarming nice story with a warm humorous element going through it for the whole length. ***½
Display of Affection • short fiction by P. J. Sambeaux
A man loses his mother, who has been ill for a while. The world is super connected and everything happens with great speed. After his mother’s body is repurposed, his employer asks him to return back to the work, as he has had whole five minutes of mourning. Soon he disconnects himself from the net. A pretty good story, but not exactly funny. Had a strong feeling of an episode of Black Mirror TV-series. ***½
The Great Manhattan Eat-Off • short fiction by Mike Resnick
Apparently belongs to a series. I haven’t read any previous installments; it took a few pages to figure out what was going on. A sort of thirties style of gangster boss rules from his bar arranges boxing bets and so on. He hears about an eating contest with nice rewards and possibilities for betting. One of his goonies can eat practically limitless portions and is always hungry. And he has a few magicians on a payroll - there is no way he can lose...A pretty nice amusing story with a slightly baffling world.***½
An Evil Opportunity Employer • short fiction by Lawrence Watt-Evans
A masked superhero has a day job as a contracts attorney. A henchman of an evil supercriminal comes to him with his employee contracts as he feels that he isn’t treated fairly. It turns out that according to the contract, he isn’t henchman, he is a minion. And that is totally different. A fun, short story. ***½
Common Scents • short fiction by Jody Lynn Nye
A pregnant homicide detective is carrying an implanted alien who gets very intoxicated from powerful smells. They investigate a murder of a man who used to use vast amounts of really obnoxious cologne. Not bad, mildly amusing science fiction detective story. ***+
A Mountain Man and a Cat Walk into a Bar • short fiction by Alan Dean Foster
A vast man comes to a bar on Wild West. He has a slight argument with another man about dogs and cats. As both are apparently sorcerers, the arguments get slightly wild. Involving wild and very dangerous types of dogs and cats. A pretty good and even funny story. ***½
Lost and Found • short fiction by Laura Resnick
An asteroid, which turns out to be an alien spaceship is closing to Earth. The US president reacts be going golfing. And different news outlets react in their own way. This would be a funny story if it were really fiction. ***½
A Crawlspace Full of Prizes • short fiction by Bill Ferris
A man starts to get tickets when he does ordinary household chores from the space between the washer and dryer. Under his house in the crawlspace is a booth, where he can validate the tickets for different prizes. Up to a possibility to live an entire lifetime as someone else. However, the grand prize is Xbox One. Not bad, but it is only mildly amusing story. ***+
Return to Sender • short fiction by Melissa Mead
The giant of the "Jack and the Beanstalk" fairy tale corresponds with his brother. Short and sad - but funny at the same time. ***
The Friendly Necromancer • short fiction by Rod M. Santos
A group of adventurers goes to the castle of a recently died necromancer. He had an extremely valuable and very dangerous artifact which should be destroyed. They encounter several traps and threats and mostly survive them while having funny banter. Nice and entertaining story. ***½
An Open Letter to the Sentient AI Who Has Announced Its Intention to Take Over the Earth • short fiction by Ken Liu
AI has taken over the world. A manager with a degree in business communication sends to the AI a surrender letter offering his services. Ok, a pretty average story for this book. ***
Approved Expense • short fiction by David Vierling
A James Bond type of secret agent sends his travel expense bill and there are some slightly unusual (and expensive) items there, which the accounting isn’t ready to accept without a good explanation. They have correspondence concerning some of the more unusual expenses. Not bad, a fairly amusing story.***-
Alexander Outland: Space Jockey • short fiction by Jeanne Cook [as by Gini Koch]
A space pirate crew has landed for some repairs and recreation. In a bar, they get a couple of applicants for a position on the ship. After a lot of sexist jokes, stupid wisecracking and some inane adventures, they get back to the ship. A very grating and horribly sexist and stupid story, with irritating and stereotypical characters. **½
Dear Joyce • short fiction by Langley Hyde
The chosen one asks guidance from “Joyce”, who apparently runs a help column in the local paper. Following her advice, the chosen escapes his destiny which includes marrying the princess and defeating the evil leader and moves in together with his male lover. The princess, who has waited for her destiny for years, isn’t happy, but eventually, things work out for the best. Pretty good and even fun story. ***½
Impress Me, Then We'll Talk About the Money • short fiction by Tatiana Ivanova
An unscrupulous chemist and even more unscrupulous manager of a drug company sell drugs which alter people’s appearances. The drugs also have some very drastic side-effects – but you can always sell another drug for those. An overlong and badly implausible (even for humorous story) novel. The writing and plotting felt very old fashioned: this wouldn’t have been out of place in Galaxy magazine in 1952. **½

304 pp.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, November-December 2017

A little worse issue than the previous, but there were a few pretty nice stories.

Hybrid, Blue, by Firelight • novelette by Bill Johnson
Time travelers from different time periods and alternative futures hang together. Sometimes someone might disappear when his future turns out to be impossible. There is a lot of scheming and discussing. I didn't look into the story - just I didn't get into any previous installments of this series. **
Keepsakes • novelette by Kenneth Schneyer
People can make copies of their mind which represents the way they think at that moment. As people change when they get older, it is often interesting to go back and see how one thought when he/she was younger. One woman talks with a simulation of her five-year-old self. The little girl version says that her father killed her mother. The adult version doesn’t remember anything like that. Was the memory repressed? Can the copy be trusted? Can what the copy says be used on a trial as a testimony? An interesting story, but it was partly spoiled by totally unnecessary love subplot of two people investigating the alleged crime. There was more than enough plot without it. ***+
Laminated Moose Zombies and Other Road Maintenance Problems • short story by Michael F. Flynn and Dennis M. Flynn
A fungal infection turns everything dead into zombies. They aren’t very dangerous, though, as they move extremely slowly and clumsily and they invade only dead bodies. Or do they? There are strict and very bureaucratic rules how they should be dealt with. Why is the bureaucracy so bad? Not bad, writing is nice but very short, so there isn’t enough plot. ***
Downsized • short story by Bud Sparhawk
A who lives on a luxurious retirement home on a space station gets a notion that he must move to a smaller apartment as his wife died and so he isn’t allocated to have so much space anymore. He tries to appeal to the authorities of the station, but they are not very sympathetic. The old apartment is filled with memories, should he let them go? A good well written and moving story. ***½
New Teeth • short story by James Sallis
A man hunts changed people. Some kind of presence invades humans and takes over their mind. Or so he at least believes. There was little backstory and fairly little real plot and the story goes for the mood. I didn't get it, and it was too scene like for my taste. **½
Luscinia • short story by Robert Reed
The world richest woman lives in an alley pushing old child carriage (filled with the best automatic safety gear money can buy). She doesn't really need anything, but her smart money accumulates itself. A short story (or a political statement) which was ok. ***-
Fermi's Slime • short story by Tom Jolly
An expedition to another solar system finds only planets filled with slime. It appears to have very stable DNA, and the mutation rate is negligible, so there hasn't been any evolution. Are all other worlds in the universe filled with single cellular slime colonies? A short but okay story. ***+
Quirks • short story by Marie Vibbert
Skills can be easily transferred to other people. That has led to heavy unionizing, where unions protect their knowledge. But as there is always some "leaking" of talent to the public domain, it is becoming harder and harder to get jobs with a decent pay. A man gets an offer for his skills. A bit too short, but a decent story. ***
Time Travel Is Only for the Poor • short story by S. L. Huang
Poor people are offered an investment. They are supposed to make a small monetary investment, even cents, and then they put in suspended animation until that investment is grown by compounded interest to a real fortune. And that isn't exactly a voluntary practice. One man fights back and he is supported by a lawyer working pro bono. A pretty good but depressing story. ***+
Papoose Lake • short story by Richard A. Lovett
A man has a friend who is heavily on conspiracy theories. So much that he is very irritating company. He has another friend who is an expert on experimental neurology. Would it be possible to influence thought patterns? A bit short, but good story. ***½
Hot Air • short story by Igor Teper
A scientist has come to China. She meets an old friend, who worked on a similar defense project on the Chinese side. They have a common past and share a secret. A good non-linear story. ***½
Kindle No Flame • short story by Stephen R. Loftus-Mercer
A researcher goes to Oxford library, soon after American newspapers have encountered strange problems with paper. Nicely written story, but I wonder what would have been motivation for such bug. ***+
Two Hours at Frontier • short story by Sean McMullen
Four people wake up in android bodies. They were on a way to study a strange artifact on the fringes of the solar system. It turns out five thousand years have gone and the Earth is silent on all bands. And they then spend two hours arguing about extremely stupid things, like the inability of getting children if you are an android. Like that would be the most important thing in that situation? A fairly stupid story which discusses all the non-interesting points of the setting and glosses over the more relevant things. A nice twist at the end makes the story slightly better. ***
Reentry • short story by Brendan DuBois
A three-man mission has been sent to an asteroid. An accident happens which kills two of three member and damages the ship. The return will take well over thousand days. It is a long time to be alone. The survivor is recuperating in a hospital. The company which sent him on the mission is taking care of him- but not out of kindness. A good story even if the company was unreasonably evil. ***
Weaponized • short story by Jay O'Connell
A man and a woman have dated for a while, they are falling in love. Every time they have sex, she checks something from her phone. A pretty nice, but short story. ***
Housekeeping 100 XP • short story by Brenta Blevins
A technician who repairs the malfunctions of smart houses, has to take her grandmother with her to work. There is a bit of a generation gap and the job in question is hard. A pretty average story. ***-
And Then They Were Gone • short story by Ian Creasey
The rich and famous parents of an eighteen years old girl, tell her that they are going to upload their minds to the virtual world. The girl has mostly been neglected by the parents and she has issues. Will her scars ever heal? An excellent story which could have been longer. ****-
How Val Finally Escaped from the Basement • novelette by Scott Edelman
A man inherits a house from his uncle. He finds an imprisoned alien in its cellar. The alien gives humanity all the technological and medical secrets anyone could have hoped. The man becomes hated and despised as his uncle apparently delayed the revelations. A bitter man whose father was killed a little before the revelations, imprisons him ( I didn't get that point at all - why anyone would blame him? It doesn't make any sense). But then there is a twist. A good, well written and enjoyable story. ****-
Native Seeds • novella by Catherine Wells
There has been a catastrophe – first there has been widespread famine, and then vast flooding and almost everything has been destroyed. Two groups have survived: a group which is descendants of scientist who have lived inside a mountain, and a group which is apparently descendants of Native Americans. Both are small, and just surviving. They encounter. Should the “wilds” move to the mountain? Could they even be supported? Do they even want to move? And both groups are almost too small to survive from the genetic point of view. A very good story, there are nice possibilities for both prequels and sequels. ****-

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Arundhati Roy: Äärimmäisen onnen ministeriö (The Ministry of Utmost Happiness)

This is a fairly chaotic novel about India and about the conflict in Kashmir. There was little actual plot, but the book followed lives of several people. At the beginning of the book the intersex boy/girl was promising, but then the plot spread like a network, following far too many sub-characters in a non-coherent way. The book is filled with violence, rape, and injustice, and is not light reading.

Kirja, joka oli kulttuurillisesti niin outo, että alkupuolella sitä piti lukea ”science fiction” -moodi päällä – harva scifi romaani kuvaa vieraampaa ja kummallisempaa maailmaa. Juonellisesti kirja on kuin Intia, runsas, vaihteleva ja kaoottinen. Kirjassa ei ole varsinaista yhtä yksittäistä juonta, vaan se muodostaa enemmänkin toisiaan sivuavien toisistaan polveilevien juonien verkoston, joka tuntuu laajentuvan koko ajan.
Kirja alkaa hermafrodiitin, Anjumin tarinalla. Hän muuttaa 15-vuotiaana hijrojen taloon. Hijrat ovat ”kolmatta sukupuolta” perinteisesti edustava ala”kasti” Intiassa. (Tämä piti googlata, ja näin tosiaan on, kyseessä ovat etenkin miehet mutta ilmeisesti myös naiset, jotka kokevat olevansa normaalin sukupuolensa ”ulkopuolella”. Heillä on oma asemansa Intian elämässä ja rituaaleissa). Vietettyään vuosia hijrojen talossa ja koettuaan sekä hyviä, että huonoja aikoja hän muuttaa hökkeliin hautausmaalle. Sinne kerääntyy muita kohtalon koettelemia ihmisiä ja osittain näiden ihmisten kokemaan kirjan tapahtumat perustuvat – tosin poimuillen runsaasti eri henkilöiden välillä. Kovin merkittävää ja selkeää yhtenäistä juonta kirjassa ei oikeastaan ollut.
Asiat joita kirja kuvaa ovat pääosin järkyttäviä ja ahdistavia, eivätkä todellakaan saa aikaan mitään mielihalua matkustaa Intiaan. Pistää ihmettelemään minkälainen valta uskonnolla ja kansallistunteella (jotka ovat pitkälti oikeastaan samaa asiaa tai ainakin saman asian kahta eri puolta) oikein on. En oikein ymmärrä logiikkaa, miksi jotain yksittäisen maan osaa – vaikkapa siis Kashmirin Intiassa ei anneta erota emämaasta, jos pääosa sen väestöstä sitä haluaa. Mihin ihmeeseen Intia sitä muka tarvitsi? Miksi sen takia pitää sotia ja sortaa? Mutta tätä kumminkin tapahtuu ja tämän älyttömyyden julkituomissa kirja on tärkeä. Mikään varsinainen lukunautinto se ei ollut, enkä edes pidä sitä erityisen hyvin tai kauniilla kielellä kirjoitettuna, vaikka omat hyvät kohtansa siinä onkin. Tosin sen arvioiminen, onko tässä kyse käännöksestä vai alkuperäistekstistä ei ole helppoa. Suosittelen kirjaa luettavaksi, jos on ihan liian pirteällä ja optimistisella tuulella ja ajattelee, että maailma on kaikkialla hyvä paikka.

478 s.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Liza Marklund: Ajojahti

Second to last of the Annika Bengtzon series. A businessman is tortured almost to his death and his wife is missing. There is nothing in their past (at first glance) which could be the reason for those things. And Annika's boss is in trouble as the TV-documentary he made about twenty years ago is suspected to be false. (Like anyone would really care so much). A lot better than some of the former books – Annika is less irritating and there less dwelling on her personal life.

Annika Bengtzon -sarjan viimeistä edellinen osa. Solsidanin eliittilähiöstä löytyy kotoaan lähes kuoliaaksi kidutettu liikemies. Hän on aikaisemmin ollut mukana politiikassa äärikonservatiivissa puolueessa, mutta on joutunut eromaan yrityksiensä taloudellisten epäselvyyksien vuoksi. Myös liikemiehen vaimo on kadonnut. Samaan aikaan lehden päätoimittaja, Anders Schyman on vaikeuksissa, kun hänen vuosia sitten tekemäänsä TV-dokumenttia on alettu epäillä valheelliseksi, ja tuntematon blogikirjoittaja arvostelee häntä siitä kovin sanoin. Liikemiehen kidutusta tutkii muiden poliisin mukana edellisistä kirjoista tuttu poliisi, Nina Hoffman, joka on saanut uuden työpaikan rikospoliisista. Annikalla itsellään on sopeutumisia uuden avopuolisonsa ja etenkin hänen lastensa kanssa elämiseen. Kirjassa seurataan osajuonia aika tasapuolisesti ja mielenkiintoisesti ja Annikan oman elämän kuviot eivät saa suhteetonta osaa, kuten joissain aikaisemmissa kirjoissa. Hän myös vaikuttaa selvästi vähemmän ärsyttävältä kuin joskus aikaisemmin. Nina Hoffman on hyvä uusi lisä päähenkilöiden joukossa ja hänen osuutensa ovat lähestulkoon kiinnostavimpia koko kirjassa. Tapahtumat etenevät hyvää vauhtia ja seuraavaa, sarjan päättävää osaa, jää odottamaan ihan hyvällä mielellä. Ainoita hiukan häiritseviä osuuksia olivat Anders Schymania koskevat jaksot – oikeastiko joku olisi niin kiinnostunut yksittäisestä parikymmentä vuotta sitten julkaistusta TV-dokumentista, että välittäisi vähääkään, saati sitten, että asiaa koskeva blogi keräsi suunnattoman suosion ja tiedotusvälineet parveilisivat asian tiimoilla niin innostuneina?

382 s.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Markus Bennemann: Himokas härkäsammakko ja muita eläinkunnan seksipetoja

A book which examines many different strategies animals have for procreation. Some very interesting stories.

Mielenkiintoinen tietokirja, joka esittelee eläinkunnan erikoisimpia lisääntymistapoja kattaen osapuilleen kaikki eliöryhmät paperiveneistä hyönteisten (sieltä niitä erikoisuuksia todella paljon löytyykin) kautta nisäkkäisiin. Kaikennäköiset mahdolliset erikoisuudet prostituutiosta erilaisiaan petostyyleihin asti kyllä löytyy. Esimerkkinä vaikkapa kalalaji, jossa urokset ja naaraat ovat erinäköisiä, ja uros puolustaa haaremiaan raivokkaasti. Mutta osa uroksista näyttääkin naaralta ja tässä valeasussa pääsee livahtamaan naaraiden seuraan.

338 s.