Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Stieg Larsson: Tyttö joka leikki tulella

Toinen osa millenium-sarjaa. Millenium- lehti aikoo julkaista paljastuskirjoituksen naiskaupasta ja jutussa on tarkoitus nimetä seksin ostajia, joita löytyy politiikasta, poliisista ja jopa kilpailevien lehtien toimittajia. Apuna on tutkijapariskunta, josta naispuolinen on tekemässä aiheesta väitöskirjaa ja miespuolinen on toimittaja, joka valmistelee samasta aiheesta kirjaa. Kun julkaisupäivämäärä lähestyy, pariskunta löytyy kuolleeksi ammuttuina. Talon rappukäytävästä löytyy ase, jossa on Lisbeth Salanderin sormenjäljet. Hiukan myöhemmin Salanderin asioita hoitanut asianajaja löytyy myös ammuttuna. Käynnistyy Ruotsin laajuinen jahti, jossa ilmeinen murhaaja, Lisbeth Salander, yritetään saada kiinni.

Erittäin mukaansatempaava kirja tämäkin oli, mutta mielestäni ehkä hiukan heikompi kuin ensimmäinen osa. Osittain tapahtumat perustuvat varsin suunnattomiin sattumiin ja mukana on hiukan liikaa kirjailijan hämäystä hämäyksen vuoksi (esim. asianajajan alastomuuden selitys oli onneton). Päätösvaiheessa suunnattoman älykäs ja aina varovainen Salander teki täysin idioottimaisia virheitä, niin isoja, että eivät sopineet hahmoon. Mukavasti kuitenkin Salanderin taustatarina selvisi pitkälle ja oli kiinnostava ja selitti paljon hänen taustastaan auki olleita asioita. Kirjan lopetus oli dramaattinen ja seuraava osa pitänee vielä aika nopeasti lukea.

The second part of the world famous Millennium-trilogy. A very addictive book which gives the background of the personality of Lisbeth Salander. Not as good as the first one, though. Somewhat forced and contrived plot points were slightly irritating.

616 pp.

Monday, July 30, 2018

My Hugo award votes 2018 part 4: novellas

Overall, the category was very good this year – so good that all first three or four stories were almost as good, and their order wasn’t very easy to decide. The two last places were easy to decide, but their order wasn’t as clear. Finally, I put River of Teeth in last place as I found it mostly boring and there really wasn’t anything science fictional in it (except the hippos. Yawn). Pinsker's story was a very entertaining who-did-it tale in an interesting setting. I put it in first place for share entertainment value. All Systems Red was also good, but it hadn’t really ended and left things very much hanging. An end even a few pages earlier might have been more satisfying. Seanan McGuire’s story would have worked better as the first of the series, not the second.

Binti: Home, by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com Publishing)

Continues an earlier story which was nominated and even won. I wasn’t a great fan of that story due to some logical problems and an irritating main character whose attitudes were stuck on the past. This story retroactively repairs some of the worst problems of the earlier one. Binti returns home for some sort of initiation ceremony. She has been changed by aliens and a “medusa,” an alien that she is sort of bonded with who comes with her. Her relatives seem to be even more stuck on the past than she is; they wonder how she could ever catch a good husband, among other things. It turns out that Binti’s family isn’t wholly what she thought, but something else, and even partly alien. A well-written story, but a bit overlong - especially the beginning which was somewhat hard going. The story went too far to fantasy; the tech used was more magic than science.

The Black Tides of Heaven, by JY Yang (Tor.com Publishing)

The world is ruled by the Protector who lives above the city. In the city is a semiautonomous monastery. It helped to quell a mutiny sometime before and as thanks, the Protector has promised one of her children for the monastery. The abbot was waiting to get a bright young woman he had befriended, but he gets two newborns. They join the Monastery a few years later as acolytes. A few years later it turns out that one of them is a prophet and her dreams will come true - no matter what is done to prevent them, apparently, often the act of an attempted prevention turns out to make the dream true. The siblings love each other, but the time will come that forces them to separate. The story happens in a very interesting world, where most things work by some sort of crossover of technology and magic. There is a rising faction, machinists, who try to change that and to design things which run without magic, making everyone capable of using them. Also, people decide their sexes when they want to, before that they apparently are androgynous.

Very good characters, moving and interesting plot and a richly designed world. I would love to learn more about the history of it. Apparently, it is a different planet: during one day there are four sun revolutions around the sky.

All Systems Red, by Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing)
A “secunit” (a sort of defense droid made with partly biological parts) works as a “protector” for an exploration team which is studying an alien planet. The sec units have a governor module, which adjusts its behavior and compels to follow human instructions and so on. However, this secunit has hacked its own governor module and can do pretty much what it wants. What it really wants is to watch entertainment shows. But it also does its job at least as well as an unhacked secunit. It is really needed when it turns out that there might be an unknown team on the planet that wants to destroy the other teams. A well told and exciting science fiction story with a very interesting main character.

“And Then There Were (N-One),” by Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny, March/April 2017)
A woman, Sarah Pinsker, who works as an insurance investigation is invited to SarahCon, a convention for Sarah Pinskers from alternate realities. There are hundreds of them all looking (mostly) the same, some having pretty similar life experiences, and other very different (with earlier divergent points). One of the Sarahs is found dead, and it turns out to be a murder. As everyone looks more or less the same and practically everyone has the same name, it is pretty hard even to figure out who is the victim. As the protagonist is the only Sarah Pinsker with any law enforcement background even slightly, she is the one who tries to find out what has happened, as the convention is located on a remote island with no possibility to summon law enforcement officials. A well written and entertaining story with a nice take on the alternate worlds.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
A prologue for the story which was nominated last year and tells the backstory of two of the main characters of that story. A couple who is mostly concerned with fitting into the social circles decides to get a child so that they can tell nice “child-stories” at important social gatherings. They get twins, identical girls. One is brought up by the mother as a “princess”, another by the father as a “tomboy”. Neither is really happy about their roles and are jealous of each other, who each get what the other doesn’t and at least secretly wants to have. As small children they were friends but when their roles become different they grow apart. When they have a birthday, they decide to pay together in spite of everything and find a gateway inside an old trunk. They end up in a world where a vampire rules from his castle and a “mad” scientist is a kind of opposing force for the vampire. One of the girls ends up as an “adopted” daughter for the vampire, another as an apprentice for the scientist.
An excellent fairy-tale like story, in fact, better than the last year’s story. Well written with well-described characters. I believe this story should be read as first as it sets up the events of the earlier story. I wonder why these were published in this order?

River of Teeth, by Sarah Gailey (Tor.com Publishing)
The story happens in an alternate 19th century America with hippopotamuses living on the Mississippi River. Someone plans a caper (or a mission, as the story corrects several times) which might change the world. A group of people is gathered and they leave for the mission. One is an expert with demolitions, one is a card shark (extremely incompetent one who used bad techniques for cheating and is always caught - if he was meant as comedic relief it didn’t work), one is an expert with knives and so on. A pretty slow moving story where hippos are so plentiful and so ferocious that falling on the water means always an instant death. Practically the story could have worked in some sort of Wild West setting, and the hippos felt like a pasted on detail for the most part. I didn’t really get into it and didn’t really care about the characters.

My voting order is:
1. “And Then There Were (N-One),” by Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny, March/April 2017)
2. All Systems Red, by Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing)
3. Down Among the Sticks and Bones, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
4. The Black Tides of Heaven, by JY Yang (Tor.com Publishing)
5. Binti: Home, by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com Publishing)
6. River of Teeth, by Sarah Gailey (Tor.com Publishing)

Thursday, July 26, 2018

My Hugo award votes 2018 part 3: novels

A fairly varied bunch of nominees. All of them are at least fairly good, or at least well written. This year there was no influence of voting lists to be seen. Online fame, on the other hand, seems to have an effect; at least Scalzi and Mur Lafferty have run popular websites. Their books aren’t bad – or even worse of the nominees, but I wonder which books were the first ones just under the threshold and what the results would have been without the effect of fame?

There are one of the first part of a new series (The Collapsing Empire), one last part of a trilogy (The Stone Sky), one middle part of a trilogy (Raven Stratagem), one “collateral” part of an older series (Provenance) and two independent works (Six Wakes and New York 2140). As usual, the more independent the book is, the more it is award-worthy in my opinion – if it is well written with a decent plot. Some of the books were entertaining even if they weren’t written in the most eloquent and creative language (Six Wakes and The Collapsing Empire). On the other hand, if the writing is too “thick,” even apparently a pretty good plot might make the book hard to read (Raven Stratagem). The first choice was pretty obvious after some thinking. Also, it was easy to choose the last one – the only book where reading felt more like work than fun. The order of the other books could almost be interchangeable in any way, but the following feels right at the moment – Stone Sky was a worthy end for a good trilogy.

My voting order:

1. New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit)
2. The Stone Sky, by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
3. The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi (Tor)
4. Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty (Orbit)
5. Provenance, by Ann Leckie (Orbit)
6. Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Raven Stratagem (The Machineries of Empire #2) by Yoon Ha Lee

Continues the story which began in last year’s nominee. The story happens in a world where a belief set (or a “calendar”) that is followed changes what sort of technology can be used. The “heretics” who believe otherwise may be really dangerous and are often treated in extreme ways.

The “mad” general who had lived as an uploaded personality for centuries has apparently totally taken over the host body he was inhabiting in the last book. He has never lost a battle in his life, but sometimes his methods have been very ruthless, up to killing his own troops. Now he has some objective – but what really is the objective? He apparently should even be the leader, but the troops have a “formation instinct” that compels them to follow the leader no matter what, and they don’t have any choice in that.

A large cast of characters and a structure where there is a chapter that might be a flashback with no stated time (so you must read it before you actually realize this is a flashback) makes the book fairly hard to follow. Also, the fact that a very large portion of the book consists of discussions concerning strategy and tactics and little of the action happens “on screen“ doesn’t help with the readability. It was pretty hard going for the most part and I really didn’t get involved with the characters. I am not usually a fan of military science fiction, and this book didn’t change that. It won’t be among my top choices in the voting.

355 pp.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

A story of a reasonably near future after the sea level has risen. The lower part of New York is covered by sea water, but the more sturdy buildings are still in use. The more poorly constructed structures have mostly been destroyed or are at least in danger of falling down. In spite of all this, the city lives a pretty normal life as a sort of modern-day Venice. There are new technologies: sprayable diamond coatings so on, which help to waterproof buildings and even underwater parts are now been taken into use with these. Life as such largely goes on and the severe financial crises the rise of the water level brought have largely passed. Day trading goes on, the financial institutions work as usual and are greedy as usual, people live their lives, meet at nightclubs, date, fall in love and so on.

The book follows the lives of several people, who at first don’t seem to have anything to do with each other. Slowly there are connections as they meet and even befriend each other. The book starts when two computer nerds decide to do something, as they believe the financial system is unfair and creates too much money basically from nowhere, with great risks, which eventually will fall on the public - as they have always fallen in the previous financial crises. About as soon as they try to do something they disappear. Among the other main protagonists are a day trader, a police chief, and a videoblogger/TV-persona (pretty much the same thing at this time). Eventually, things lead to an attempted, more or less socialistic, peaceful revolution.

A pretty good book with a nice environmental plot. As could be imagined, the book was sometimes slightly preaching. Also, the cardinal fault the author has had in some of his other books was evident here, also. There were too many descriptions even about some fairly trivial points. For example several pages of description of how futures and financial derivatives and day trading involving the value of partially submerged coast areas really glazed my eyes. Also, the author apparently doesn’t know much about diving and needs stops to equalize pressure changes. The plot was enjoyable and satisfying (not very believable though – like those choices would ever be accepted in the US). The characters all were well drawn and interesting. A surprisingly socialistic book to come from the USA.

As a whole book had many more positives than negatives and most likely it is one of my top choices in the Hugo voting.

624 pp.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Astounding Science Fiction, April 1954

A surprisingly good issue for its time.

Fighting Philosopher • [Philosophical Corps] • novelette by Everett B. Cole [as by E. B. Cole]

A new civilization has been found on a planet. It seems pretty barbaric and primitive. Usually, all contact with such worlds has been prohibited, but now a new commander has something else in mind. There are already a few rogues living on the planet illegally. Would it be possible to change the society from the inside? A fairly nice story, but slightly overlong. ***+
Marshmallow World • short story by Joseph Whitehill
An absolute dictator learns that there is a man who got almost absolute power after a scientific experiment. What to do? A very short story, which wasn’t bad at all. ***
Rite of Passage • novelette by Chad Oliver
Most of the crew of a spaceship are killed by a strange disease. As there are no longer enough people to properly fly the ship, they must land on a strange, unknown planet. There appear to be pretty primitive natives on the planet who live in small communities. All communities seem to be on the same technological level. But something seems to be off, and one crew member finds a cigarette on the ground. It is better quality than anything made on Earth, and it is clearly produced in a factory. What is going on? A fairly good story – eventually. The first part was far too long and the description of the death of the crew was completely unnecessary for the main plot. ***
The Thousandth Year • novelette by Robert Abernathy
An alien race has spotted another race near its territory. It has prepared for centuries to intercept a ship that is approaching. Everything is ready for a very demanding capture. The ship is a human ship with few arms and it is bearing colonists to a new world. They are captured and interrogated. As this story is published in Astounding, the humans are the bestest race ever, anywhere, anytime and eventually are able to beat everybody without even really trying. A pretty readable story in spite of that. ***
Age of Retirement • short story by Hal Lynch
A military commander is facing retirement, as he is considered too old to fight, with too many other interests and declining conviction – at 15. A short story, not bad. ***-

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Seppo Jokinen: Lyöty mies

Kokoelma Komisario Koskinen novelleja. Vaihtelu tarinoiden välillä oli suurta, osa kertomuksista oli oikein hyviä, osa taas – etenkin sellaiset joissa Koskista itseään ei edes ollut – olivat varsin vaatimattomia, etenkin tarina luuserista jonka avopuoliso pistää ”ulkoruokintaan” ja joka lopulta palaa takaisin kotiin ja myös tulee otettua takaisin jätti hiukan kummastelevan tunteen. Tuskin olisi jonkin tuntemattoman kirjoittamana missään julkaistu. Parhaita tarinoita ovat ehkä niminovelli, ”Lyöty mies” sekä ”Naistenpäivä” joka kertoo naisesta, joka vangitsee entisen opettajansa, jonka kokeen kiusanneen häntä kouluaikoina. Läpimenevänä tarinana novelleissa on Koskisen naisystävän, Linnean sairastaminen ja hänen vointisan vähittäinen hiipuminen.

A collection of crime short stories from Tampere, my hometown. Some pretty good, some less so.
336 s

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Provenance by Ann Leckie

This is a book that happens in the same world as the award-winning trilogy and supposedly at the same time or soon after. An adopted daughter of an important political figure tries to impress her mother and manages to get a family member released from “compassionate removal”, a sort of lifetime prison/banishment. This isn’t supposed to be possible.

This requires her to use all of her assets and if everything doesn’t go right she will be heavily in debt for years to come. Everything doesn’t go smoothly, as the released man looks a lot like the person she was supposed to release, but he denies this and says he is a forger who used to forge vestiges, historical memorabilia which are of an extremely valuable and expensive.. They are an important part of the society and might be very commonplace objects which were around close to important people or events in history. The man who she was supposed to be rescuing had, allegedly, stolen an immeasurably valuable cache of such objects. As the original plan didn’t work, they decide to try some sort of scam to retrieve at least some of the money she invested. But there are complications. The ship they booked passage on might have been stolen from aliens and, when they get home, an important official is murdered. They endlessly discuss motives, political allegiances, who did what, and when, while enjoying a hot tea-like drink, which is supposed to be an acquired taste. The book is well-written and the start was excellent, but then it turned almost completely to civilized discussions and was, for a large part, pretty boring reading. There were some short episodes of action, and the main character was fairly interesting, but as a whole, the book was a disappointment and not as good as the award-winning trilogy. There was some amusing play on pronouns, and “e”, “em”, “eir” were used when the sex of the person was not important or was ambiguous. As someone whose native language doesn’t have any sort of grammatical gender of differences between he and she, I did not find this very creative. And it would be impossible to translate to Finnish anyway. Another thing which was strange was the emphasis given on the last half for the main character's hair-pins. They are mentioned probably about a dozen times. I was waiting they would have some significance, but no.
This book won’t be among my top choices.

448 pp.