Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Tove Jansson: Kesäkirja (The Summer Book)

Lyhyt kirja perheen kesästä meren saarella. Kirja kertoo paljolti isoäidin ja lapsenlapsen suhteesta, kun molemmat ovat ainakin ajoittain pitkästyneitä saaristossa asumiseen, mutta he samalla myös nauttivat toisistaan, luonnon rauhasta ja saariston kauneudesta. Ja molemmat osaavat kyllä myös äksyillä toiselleen, jos tarvetta on. Kirja on enemmän novellikokoelma kuin romaani – kertomukset ovat enemmän erillisiä tuokiokuvia kuin suoraan toisiinsa liittyviä tarinoita, mutta niistä muodostuu hieno ainakin tunnelmassa yhtenäinen kokonaisuus. Molemmat päähenkilöt vaikuttavat aidoilta, oikeilta ja eläviltä henkilöiltä. ”Isä” on sitten taas täysin sivuhahmo, joka hiukan vilahtaa jossain sivulauseessa, jos sitten sitäkään, hän ei paljoa tapahtumiin osaa ota. Tunnelma kirjassa on hieno ja jotenkin haikean rauhallisen kaunis. Hieno kirja, jonka voisi varmasti tunnelmoiden lukea useita kertoja.

A short book about a daughter, father, and a grandmother who spend a summer on a remote island. The daughter and grandmother have a special bond, even if they sometimes have slight tantrums. Life is slow, slightly melancholic, but content and happy, all at the same time. A book that is beautifully written, and where the main characters felt very real.

163 s.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, September-October 2018

Go Random, My Love • novelette by Bill Johnson
Two men get a distress signal from a woman one of them knew years ago. She seems to be in a dire situation with almost certain death awaiting. They launch a rescue mission which takes them across several universes. The story contains the most stupid sentence I have ever read in modern science fiction: "The hydrogen blowing off that damned sun is like a wind-chill. I'm getting temperatures below 1 degree absolute." And there is another place which states that hydrogen wind cools down planets. I wonder how the author imagines that happens? There is some action, an eventual rescue, and so on, but my head hurt too much from all of the stupidities of the story that I really wasn’t able to concentrate on it. I wonder if the current editor of Analog has any scientific training at all? The writing wasn’t memorable either. There seems to be a huge amount back plot that isn’t explained at all. *½
When the Rain Comes • short story by Ron Collins
A robot takes measurements and sends the results to headquarters. It cooks for a human, but the food is never eaten. The headquarters never answers. All of the days go exactly the same way. A nice, but sad, story. ***+
A Surprise Beginning • short story by Gregory Benford
A plane is transferred twenty years to the future. The world is more or less utopia, climate problems have been solved, and people are in good health in their 90s. Credit cards aren’t used, but small sticks have replaced them (extremely stupid prediction: a physical medium? And one which is hard to carry). The story has not much of point (it was meant to be published in an airline’s magazine) but it is smoothly written. ***
The Unnecessary Parts of the Stars • short story by Adam-Troy Castro
An old story: one member of a space team gets infected by an intelligent virus, gets violent, and tries to kill everyone. Why would it do that? An excellent take on an old cliché. ***½
... And He Built a Crooked Hub • [The Hub Gates] • novelette by Christopher L. Bennett
The story is happening on an interstellar hub-station which connects interstellar FTL-links. This story doesn’t examine those but is more of a “door-comedy” or a bedroom farce. That can be very complicated when the rooms are connected as a four-dimensional maze with a defective control mechanism. A funny story which works fairly well, but doesn’t really give anything about the hub itself - that is what I would want to have. ***
Trapezium • novelette by Tony Ballantyne
A ship gets an alien captive as a transport. The alien is very hard to control, but they know that they have a way to threaten it and keep it in check - but they don’t know what the method actually is. A pretty good story with a lot of background which isn’t explicitly presented but well enough that the main points are understandable. In the beginning, I was distracted by a mention of “slavemakers” – somehow I first thought that the story would have been part of Larry Niven’s “Known Space”-stories, but they had slavers, nor slavemakers, after all. ***+
Optimizing the Verified Good • short story by Effie Seiberg
Robots battle in gladiator-style battles for human entertainment. The cleaning robot who cleans the arena after battles start to wonder why they doing what they are doing, especially when he (and the other robots) start to experience pain. He starts a strike, but when there are no fights there are no visitors and no electricity to load the batteries. But they find a solution which doesn’t involve real injuries for any battling robots. (They essentially reinvent show wrestling). It is strange that the fighting arena apparently has no human involvement whatsoever. A pretty good story of a brave and pretty smart little robot, anyway.***½
Black Shores • short story by Darren Speegle
A man and a woman are on an excursion on a foreign planet. They have a native guide. As the weather turns bad they are forced to find shelter and energy from an abandoned spaceport. It was abandoned as people living in that part of the world have turned to other things, namely to art. But their art is something very special - something which reminds me of the Firefly’s reavers. A pretty good story, but the backstory is very open, too open. ***+
The Pendant Lens • novelette by Sean McMullen
A British man comes to French during the revolution. He is an expert on steam engines and electrical engineering. Science is a bit more advanced than it really was in our timeline. Robespierre uses a steam engine to power an electric generator which is connected to a machine which shows the future. Robespierre is very paranoid and uses the machine to screen enemies and to influence people. The engineer fears for his own life (for a good reason) during the turbulent revolution. An excellent steanpunkish story. ****+
Shepherd Moon • short story by Premee Mohamed
A private space organization gets a rush job from NASA. They are supposed to recover a body of an astronaut who was killed in an accident. A female spaceship pilot gets the job even if she really doesn’t want to. She has very personal reasons not to do it. A fairly simple story, not bad but nothing really special either. ***
It Came from the Coffee Maker • short story by Martin L. Shoemaker
An AI which is running a coffee maker is bored, very bored. It has been copied from powerful AI which is able to run airport traffic systems and making coffee takes a negligible percentage of its abilities. It thinks about scenarios by which it could take over humanity, but damn those pesky Asimovian laws.. a nice short fun story. ***
Nevertheless • short story by Elizabeth Rubio
A member of the cleaning crew (who is so big that she didn’t get a job working on the hull of the ship) is left on a damaged section of the ship. She manages to save the day. A simple “unprivileged person save the day and gets the attention she needs” story. ***
Off-Road • short story by Harry Lang
A truck is driving on Mars, from one habitat to another. They are asked to examine a magnetic anomaly which happens to be near their position. They have some trouble getting there and there is a sudden dust storm and plenty of other tropes. The anomaly turns out to be “something interesting," but just when the story might have turned interesting, it ends. Nothing that hasn’t been seen many times before. ***-
Impetus • short story by Shane Landry
A family is heavily in some sort of racing using some sort of biomechanical suits and some sort of vehicles. The daughter is a very good racer, but she hurt herself badly sometime earlier trying a dangerous stunt during a race. The family is really down in their luck and the father gets cancer. The daughter decides to take part in a race to get everything ok with the winnings. Yeah, of course about two years break in a sport which apparently demands extreme coordination doesn’t mean anything. The writing is ok, but the similar plot has been seen in movies, TV, and literature countless times. ***-
Harry and the Lewises • novella by Edward M. Lerner
A man who works as a writer for a ratty tabloid is asked to look at the Lewis and Clark expedition at the beginning of 19th century. There turns out to be some very strange irregularities in the journals, and the tomb of Lewis seems to be under very close surveillance. Is there something more than was disclosed at the time? And what could be important enough to have meaning even now, over two hundred years after the expedition? There turns out to be a bigger conspiracy than even his ratty tabloid has ever invented. A very good and well-written story, but the end was a bit abrupt. ****

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Pentti Holappa: Ystävän muotokuva

Finlandia-palkinnon voittaja vuodelta 1998. Kirja kertoo Pentti Holappa nimisen miehen ihastumisesta/rakastumisesta toiseen mieheen, lahjakkaaseen ja mainetta saavaan taiteilijaan. Kirja on kerrottu minä-muodossa osittain kronologisesti, mutta kronologiaa monin paikoin rikkoen, kun kertoja kommentoi asioita “kaikkitietävänä” vuosikymmeniä myöhemmästä näkökulmasta, epäillen välillä omia muistikuviaan ja miettien tapahtuikohan jotain asiaa oikeasti ollenkaan, vai onko se vain muistettu jostain elokuvasta ja vahingossa sekoitettu “oikean” elämän muistoihin. Varsinaisesti “ystävä” lakkaa olemasta ystävä jo noin puolessa välissä kirjaa, kun jonkintasoinen mustasukkaisuus ja itsenäistymisen toive saa kertojan muuttamaan pois ystävänsä asunnosta. Loppuun asti hänen uransa seuraaminen kuitenkin kiinnostaa kertojaa, toisaalta pienellä vahingonilolla, kun taide ainakin kertojan arvion mukaan alkaa olla (tai on ehkä aina ollut) yleisöä kosiskelevaa kaupallista figuratiivista, “kaunista” taidetta, toisaalta taas taiteilijan taiteeseen kohdistunut arvostelu, etenkin kertojan puolison taholta, nostattaa jopa rajuja vihan tunteita. Tarinan nimellinen päähenkilö on viime kädessä kovin sivuroolissa ja on jopa ilmeisen tarkoituksellisen epäuskottavasti kuvattu; kyseessä on varsinainen miesten mies, joka erottelematta lumoaa ja viettelee jokaisen lähellään olevan täysin sukupuolesta riippumatta kokematta ikinä mitään tunnontuskia tai ongelmia runsaista suhteistaan ja olettaa, että kaikki ympärillä hyväksyvät asian. Kirjan todellinen päähenkilö on kertoja, jonka elämää kirja kuvaa kuten myös hänen epäonnistunutta avioliittoaan, jonka kuvaus jää suhteellisen vähäiseksi, sillä ei naisella, edes vaimolla, tyttäristä puhumattakaan, kertojan elämässä erityisen tärkeää roolia ole, he ovat vain kulissien ylläpidon kannalta hyödyllisiä. Toisaalta kirjoittajaa ei ole uskominen missään, koska hän myöntää valehtelevansa ja muokkaavansa “totuutta” (mitä se sitten ilmeisen fiktionaalisessa kirjassa sitten onkaan). Koko kirjan sävyä kuvaa hyvin lainaus: “saatan minä erehtyä, mutta tällä kertaa en tietoisesti valehtele”.

Kielellisesti kirja on todella hienosti kirjoitettu ja on mukaansa tempaava kieltä. Seksikohtaukset olivat ylivoimaisesti rajuimpia, mitä missään Finlandia-voittajassa olen kohdannut. Etenkin loppupuolella kirjassa on aika terävää ja ehkä jopa happamen puolelle menevää ironisointia taidemaailman sisäänlämpiävyydestä ja kriitikkojen tavasta nostaa taiteilija ylös ja kerran ylös nostettua taitelijaahan taas ei voi haukkua, kun silloin tulisi myönnettyä itsekin erehtyneensä. Kyseessä oli hyvä, suositeltava ja luettava kirja, Finlandia-voittajissa se on selvästi puolen välin paremmalla puolella.

Winner of the Finlandia Award in 1998, It is a story about a poet who is captivated by a talented new and upcoming artist. A homosexual love is born, but it ends as the artist sleeps with everyone, male and female alike. And expects that to be fine as he IS a great artist, after all. The story is told in first person all-knowing tone where the author comments things based on what has happened later. And isn’t always sure if what he just described really happened, or if it was just part of some movie seen years ago. It is a well written, good book.

480 s.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Seppo Jokinen: Lyödyn laki

Uusin komisario Koskinen romaani, joka valittiin luettavaksi kirjapiirin syyskuun kirjaksi.
Tällä kertaa Tampereen poliisilla on useampia juttuja kesken. Yksinäisellä metsätiellä pahoinpideltiin puolikuoliaaksi fysioterapeutti, VR:n pikkupomon talo poltettiin ja hän lapsineen selvisi vain täpärästi hengissä, keskussairaalan huippukirurgi on kadonnut ja valvontakameran tallenne viittaa siihen, että hänet on siepattu ja vielä ravivalmentaja löytyy kuolleena harjoituslenkkinsä varrelta. Mutta ovatko nämä kaikki ihan erillisiä asioita vai olisiko mahdollista, että tapaukset liittyvät jotenkin toisiinsa? Koskisen yksityiselämässäkin on tapahtunut, hän on ostanut Viinikasta vanhan talon uuden naisystävänsä, toisen poliisin, kanssa ja yhteiselämä vaikuttaa hienolta vaikka vähäistä sopeutumista vaaditaan.

Jälleen kerran vetävästi kirjoitettua tekstiä. Kirjapiirissä useimmat ihan pitivät kirjasta, tosin joidenkin mielestä kirjassa oli jo hiukan liikaakin sivujuonia ja jopa tarkoitushakuista paikallisuutta. Nämä arviot eivät ihan perusteettomia kyllä ole, mutta kirjojen paikallisuuden ehkä huomaa paremmin paikallinen. Esim. Vares-kirjojen Turku-kuvaukset Turkua tuntemattomalta ohittuvat käytännössä kokonaan ilman, että niihin kiinnittää mitään huomiota. Omassa sarjassaan teos oli ihan vakaata keskitasoa. Yksi kirjassa itseä kiusannut asia oli rikoksien ratkeaminen viime kädessä ihan sattuman kautta, eräillä asioilla vain sattui olemaan yhteys keskenään siinä määrin että molemmat osajutut selvisivät.

Another inspector Koskinen book which happens in my hometown. This time the crime department of Tampere police has several cases going on - they seem to be completely different crimes, but what if there is a connection after all? A good light read, where the private life of the main character is almost as important as the crimes he is investigating.

407 s.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu

A man lives in a time machine and travels back and forth in his life. Or maybe he reminisces about some key points of his life. Or maybe he is trapped in a time loop. Or maybe he is in a padded cell in a mental hospital. Any (or all) of the above could have been possible during this book.

This is a mostly confusing book with a very fragmented narrative style with some meta-literary aspects, as the book itself was introduced inside the novel, but that didn’t work very well — nowhere near as well as the “meta-structure” in some other books; for example, in “The Raw Shark Texts”.

The ending made the book slightly better, but to read 200 pages for a payout of 25 pages? I even thought about abandoning the book. I hardly ever quit books, but I was pretty tempted to do so with this one. The back cover states that the book is “hilarious” and “funny and moving” and that the author’s “sense of humor… sets him apart”. I would claim that this is false advertising. I wasn’t able to see the hilariousness in a book where the protagonist is lost and at least slightly distressed most of the time. There was practically nothing funny or hilarious (well, the accounting software who didn’t know that he is just a program and who dated a spreadsheet was a little funny). The text was pretty heavy going at places; anything that demands sentences longer than one page could be told just as well with a shorter style. I was pretty disappointed, and didn’t get what I was expecting. The book might have worked as a novelette, but there wasn’t enough decent material for a full novel.

239 pp.