Thursday, November 29, 2018

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, November/December 2018

Empress of Starlight • Novelette by G. David Nordley
In a galactic civilization far in the future researchers find that several suns have “disappeared” for millions of years and then reappeared. The scientists postulate that the only possible explanation is a Dyson sphere. A group of them go on an expedition. They find a Dyson sphere, but it is just a “bubble“ which seems to be designed to capture the sun’s output. But there seems to be no one there, everything is run by automatic machines. An ok story, but a bit too long. The drama between characters didn’t somehow feel right or even necessary for the story. ***+
Pandora's Pantry • Novelette by Stephen L. Burns
A cooking show which is kind of a cross between Masterchef and Top Chef is broadcast live. There is a snow storm in the city and two of the contestants can’t make it. There is a frantic search for new competitors, and then an android appears and wants to take part. A nice, fun, and entertaining story. ***+
The Gleaners • Short story by Sarina Dorie
An alien inhabits the body of an old lady who has given very strict restrictions what may be done with the body. But the alien wants to feel a bit of what life on Earth can be – and to live a fuller life than the real owner of the body. A short, but good and finely written story. ****-
Smear Job • Short story by Rich Larson
The story feels like a Black Mirror episode - hell, the exact same technology was a major point in an episode or even a few episodes. A young man has apparently slept with his girlfriend and has gotten caught. As the girl apparently had been underage, he has a choice of a minor adjustment. A nice story, but a bit too short and too similar to Black Mirror. ***
A Measure of Love • Short story by C. Stuart Hardwick
A woman gets an old robot back which was her friend and teacher at an orphanage. The robot grows “beyond its programming” (even to a hard-to-believe degree) and becomes more than a machine. A short and sentimental story. ***-
Learning the Ropes • Short story by Tom Jolly
Habitats on Mars are owned by a monolithic company which prevents all terraforming efforts as that might devalue their holdings. But one woman, whose home is lost to rising sea-levels, has a plan. A pretty good story with a kind, problem-solving approach. ***+
Hubstitute Creature • [The Hub Gates] • Novelette by Christopher L. Bennett
Another story on a hub which connects FTL routes to different destinations. This time the main protagonists change their species (and genders in some cases) to be able to work underground and to find a valuable artifact. New bodies, new hormones, and novel sex organs make everyone very horny, though. The story relies more on comedy than SF. ***
The Light Fantastic • Short story by J. T. Sharrah
An archeologist who was examining a planet's strange and incomprehensible aliens has disappeared. By a hugely unlikely and stupid coincidence, someone finds out what might have happened to him. More of a fantasy than SF, a somewhat irritating story. **½
The Jagged Bones of Sea-Saw Town • Short story by Marissa Lingen
Scientists in Luleå try to recreate caribou after they have disappeared, apparently due to climate warming. (Why caribou, an American species and not reindeer, a European and Swedish species?) They discuss if the town should relocate back and forth with sea levels. Short and pretty stupid story. **½
Sandy • Short story by Bruce McAllister
There are aliens in school buses traveling with humans. An alien girl gets bullied a bit, and the adults are VERY VERY worried, even though one boy helped her. It turns out that there was a good reason to be worried about treating an alien badly. A pretty nice, but short story.***½
Dad's War • Short story by Filip Wiltgren
Brands have taken over and are battling for territory. People adjust and mostly support the brand that currently rules the territory. They can cast votes have some influence on things but voting “incorrectly“ has consequences. A mother quarrels with the father who isn’t as a loyal supporter of current brands as he should be. A pretty good story, but the background and especially the “voting” was left a bit unclear. ***+
Ashes of Exploding Suns, Monuments to Dust • Novelette by Christopher McKitterick
In the far future, members of a sort of ringworld-like civilization, who can control their sun, want to visit the homeworld of their ancestors, Earth. Their world is completely destroyed in an apparently unprovoked attack by extremely powerful Earth forces. All except one ship. The civilization of the “ringworld" was apparently very much based on honor, family, tradition, and duty (and first seems to be in much need of total destruction, if anything). Later, it turns out that the situation wasn’t as black and white as it seemed. The last ship has a mission: revenge. Not bad in spite of some exposition and some pretty iffy science. ***+
The 7 Most Massive Historical Mistakes in Gunmaster of the Carlords • Short story by Eric James Stone
A review of a book set in the very distant future which tells the story that happens at our time. The reviewer points out several severe errors the author has made (like confusing cows and cars) but makes several funny errors of his own. A short and funny story. ***½
The Ascension • Short story by Jerry Oltion
An alien ruler is preparing to eat a smart child who has studied different subjects extensively. The aliens regain the knowledge of persons they eat, and apparently, the eaten one retains something of itself inside the one who consumed it. The ruler interviews the child to find out if he is worthy of eating. It turns out that he is very smart and has some very convincing opinions and facts to tell the ruler. A very good story about a very logical alien race. ****-
Left Turn • Short story by Jay Parks
An office, a sort of innovating political lobbying/advertising group, gets on offer to prevent the success of automated cars by the asphalt lobby. They succeed. A fun little depressing tale. ***
Mixipox Learns to Drive • Novelette by Joyce Schmidt and Stanley Schmidt
Seems to continue an earlier story – apparently the one very confusing one, which itself felt like second or third part of something, which was published a year or two ago. An alien who lives underground working with US government to prevent other aliens (and apparently his own species, too) from destroying the Earth must learn to drive a car to meet another alien. As he doesn’t look very human there are some slight difficulties with that. The story is bit too long, not bad, but vastly better than the first, very confusing part. ***
Body Drift • Short story by Cynthia Ward
A boy meets a girl. But the boy isn’t a boy and girl isn’t a girl. They are something else: non-binary, post-human robot-android-computer constructs who meet briefly in cyberspace. More of a lecture on non-binarity and “humanity” of post-human constructs than a real story. **½

Monday, November 26, 2018

Tommi Kovanen, Jenny Rostain: Kuolemanlaakso

Kirja, joka herättää varsin ristiriitaisia tuntemuksia – siinä määrin, että hyllytin ensimmäisen paljon pidemmän version arviostani. Tarina jääkiekkoilijasta, joka vähintään koki saaneensa aivovamman ja hänen toipumisestaan. Aivovamma kirjan kuvauksen perusteella on ollut korkeintaan lievä jos sitä arvioidaan virallisen Käypä hoito – ohjeen perusteella. Oireet tuntuivat pahentuvan ajan kuluessa, etenkin aivovamma”spesialisti” neurologille pääsy näyttää huomattavasti pahentaneen koettuja oireita. Eikä ihme, kun annetaan tällaisia lausuntoja: ”Ymmärräthän Tommi, että vahingot aivoissasi ovat pysyviä? Sinulla tulee aina olemaan aivovamma, joka ei parane.” Noin EI SANOTA ihmiselle, jolla on lievä aivovamma, jonka ennuste on periaatteessa hyvä. Tämän tapaiset kommentit eivät todellakaan paranna toipumisen ennustetta, vaan heikentävät sitä, aiheuttavat ahdistusta ja kuten kirjan päähenkilönkin kohdalla nähtiin, saattavat aiheuttaa jopa itsemurhayrityksiä. Ei ole mikään ihme, että kyseinen neurologi päätyikin yhdeksi päähenkilöksi Helsingin Sanomien loistavaan aivovammojen ylidiagnostiikkaa käsittelevään artikkeliin. Kielellisesti kirja on yksinkertaista, nopealukuista kieltä. Tekstin riviväli oli niin suuri, että sitä tuntui olevan vaikea lukea ennenkuin silmä tottui.

A book about an ice-hockey player who is hurt during a game and how he slowly recovers. As a neurologist, I believe that somewhat irresponsible treatment he got made the symptoms worse.

236 s.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Matt Haig: Kuinka aika pysäytetään (How to Stop Time)

A fairly philosophical novel about a man who ages extremely slowly, and has already lived for about 500 years. Well written and very engaging – a very readable book. It feels somehow very similar in style to “Humans” by the same author. Well worth reading.

Kertomus miehestä, ”Tomista” (hän on vaihtanut nimeää vuosisatojen kuluessa monesti), joka ikääntyy ulkoisesti noin yhden vuoden jokaista viittätoista vuotta kohden. Hän on syntynyt Ranskassa 1500-luvun lopulla ja työskentelee nyt Lontoossa peruskoulun historian opettajana. Hän on elänyt läpi vuosisatojen, kokenut noitavainot (joissa hänen äitinsä kuoli vesikokeen yhteydessä) ja historian kulun. Nuorena hänellä oli puoliso ja tytär, joiden luota hän joutui pakenemaan koska epäilyt noituudesta alkoivat levitä. Hänen tyttärensä omaa saman kyvyn kuin hän itse, ja vuosisadat hän on käyttänyt tyttärensä löytämiseen. Rikas, eritäin iäkäs ja varakas mies, Hendrich potee samaa ”sairautta” ja perustanut seuran, joka auttaa muita saman ominaisuuden omaavia, eli ”alboja” tai albatrosseja. Apu ei ole pyyteetöntä, vaan seuran tärkeimpiä tarkoituksia on estää se, että tieto albojen olemassa olosta tulisi julkiseksi. Yksi tapa tähän on ehdoton kielto rakastua kehenkään tavalliseen kuolevaiseen. Mutta koulussa on opettajatoveri, ranskanopettaja, jota kohtaan Tom alkaa tuntea jotain. Mutta rakkaus saattaisi uhata kohteensa henkeä, sillä Hendrich on salassa pitämisen suhteen armoton.
Kirja tapahtuu hyppien eri aikakausina, mutta juonellisesti tämä toimii hyvin, eikä aiheuta mitään sekaantumista missään vaiheessa. Suuri osa kirjasta on hyvin filosofis-tyyppistä pohdiskelua elämästä elämän pituudesta ja sen merkityksestä, samoin kuin rakkaudesta. Kirjassa oli hyvin paljon samankaltaisuutta kuin saman kirjailijan aikaisemmin lukemassani kirjassa ”Humans”. Asiat kirjassa lopulta järjestyvät parhain päin. Ainoa mitä jäin miettimään oli se, että miksi loppuvaiheessa Hendrich itse puuttui tapahtumien kulkuun toisella puolella maapalloa. Luulisi 80 vuotiaalta vaikuttavan ja oikeasti yli tuhat vuotta vanhan jo välttelevän moisia rasituksia.
Kirja oli hyvin vetävästi kirjoitettu ja nopea lukuinen, välillä piti oikein tarkistaa oliko tämä oikeasti täysimittainen romaani, kun hujauksessa Kindle näytti kirjan olevan jo puolivälissä.

363 pp.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Angles of Attack (Frontlines #3) by Marko Kloos

Continues the series where humans are attacked by Lankies, twenty-meter tall, incredibly resilient aliens, who come in giant, almost invincible spaceships. Mars has already been invaded. Earth will soon be next. Our hero is still on an ice planet where they managed to win against the Lankies and to destroy their mothership for the first time ever. They must use a Russian jump gate to get back to Earth, but apparently the chain of command of all Earth forces is badly broken, their ship is captured as soon as they get to the moon and no one really tells them what is going on. Soon the crew finds that they have been imprisoned for mutiny. But is everything - both the heroes and the Earth - lost?

A lot of exciting battles in this book. They seem to be better described than in the previous installment and didn’t feel boring at all. The technology seems to have changed a bit since the last book: in that book they had no trouble at all accelerating a giant spaceship filled with water to semi-relativistic speeds. In this book, the ships must resort to slingshot maneuvers to travel inside our solar system. I wonder where they lost their super-engines? On the other hand, the ships apparently managed to grow themselves some rail-gun-type weapons between the books, and battles are not limited to throwing nukes around – nukes which really aren’t very effective in a vacuum. On the other hand, the author seems to imagine that the penetrators launched by rail-guns have some sort of effective range. No, they don’t – in vacuum, those missiles could in principle travel lightyears without losing any of their effect.
In spite of some technical stupidities, an entertaining, light read. It suited very well for the purposes of reading during lunch hours, occasional commutes and waiting in lines.

352 pp

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

A very popular book with a wide fan base.

The world is a pretty desolate place. There is practically just one escape valve, Oasis, a virtual reality simulation which is used by everyone for everything. The creator of the systems has died and in his will he left the sole ownership of Oasis and about a billion dollars to the first person who solves a series of riddles based on 1980s video games and popular movies.

But there is an evil company IOI, that wants to take control of the Oasis and fill it with advertisements and paid content. It has recruited whole departments of people to work on the puzzle - and they are extremely ruthless against people showing progress on the task.

The book is pretty simplistic. The IOI company is unreasonably evil and apparently purely bad. The beginning of the book felt a bit slow and not well written, but when the pace quickened, it really quickened. I felt a little old for the book. Most, (or practically all) the games were familiar, but as I was already over twenty when they came out, they really weren’t a great overwhelming passion for me, neither was I used watch 80s movies over and over. On the other hand, an over page of description of how the adventure game Zork is controlled felt like dumbing it down and was probably meant for kids who had never played text-based adventure games.

When I was reading I thought this material would work much better as a movie, so as soon I finished it I placed an order for a blu-ray version of the recent Spielberg version of the story. It was already on sale which doesn’t bode well, but I’ll see. Anyway, an entertaining read, at least the last third.

374 pp.