Thursday, November 28, 2019

The Big Over Easy (Nursery Crime #1) by Jasper Fforde

A murder mystery which happens in a world where the creatures of the fairytales really exist. There are also some other differences. Solving crimes is considered as entertainment and a finding out who committed a murder too soon is often considered as unfortunate and boring: it isn’t possible to write an exciting story this way. Here, Inspector Jack Spratt is in charge of the nursery crime division of the police department. His track record hasn’t been too good after a recent failure to get a conviction for three little pigs for the brutal murder of a wolf because a jury of pigs gave an acquittal for the crime. Now a new crime has happened: Humpty Dumpty has fallen down from the wall he used to sit on. It soon turns out that it wasn’t an accident, it was a murder. But who did it? It appears as if Humpty was a quite the womanizer. He also played in the investment market, but with very poor results. Soon they find who the murderer was – a written confession before a suicide is a pretty good proof of evidence, but what if it turns out that it must have been someone else?

An avalanche of ideas and events – not all very sensible or coherent – ensues, but what else could be expected about a book which deals with crimes committed by characters from nursery stories? At times it looks like there are too many ideas. At times, the story slows down and examining the ideas for a little while might have been a better idea itself. A pretty good book, but not as good as most of the Thursday Next books.

420 pp.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Christian Rönnbacka: Kävikö käry? Vakuutusetsivien parhaat tarinat

Vakuutusetsivän kertoma ja keräämä kokoelma enemmän tai vähemmän hupaisia tarinoita ihmisistä, jotka ovat yrittäneet huijata vakuutusyhtiötä. Osa huijausyrityksistä on lähinnä surkuhupaisia, osa hyvin pitkälle harkittuja ja suunniteltuja ja ovat usein jääneet kiinni vain ahneuden vuoksi – ei kannattaisi tehdä samanaikaisia vakuutuksia moneen vakuutusyhtiöön, firmat kun saattavat verrata tietojaan. Kevyesti kirjoitettu mukava välipalakirja, josta muutama kertomus oli jo entuudestaan lehtien otsikoista tuttuja.

A light collection of cases an insurance detective has encountered during his career. Some attempts were laughable, some were pretty conniving, but, usually, the excessive greed was the downfall of the scammer. A nice and entertaining read.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Lasikaupunki (New York Trilogy #1) by Paul Auster (City of Glass)

Ensimmäinen osa trilogiaa, joka on julkaistu myös yhtenä teoksena. Tämä kirja/novelli ainakin vaikuttaa itsenäiseltä teokselta. Kirjan eräänlaisena teemana on identiteetti ja identiteetin omaksuminen. Tarina on ulkoisesti eräänlainen jännityskertomus, mutta tämä rakenne on enemmän vain hahmo, mihin tarina on rakennettu.
New Yorkista kotoisin oleva jännityskirjailija, Daniel Quinn, joka kirjoittaa salanimellä sarjaa salapoliisista ja joka kokee kirjojensa salapoliisin jonkinlaiseksi alter egokseen, saa yöllä puhelun, jossa etsitään yksityisetsivää nimeltä Paul Auster. Hetken mielijohteesta hän päättää teeskennellä etsivää ja sopii tapaamisen Peter Stillman nimisen erikoisen miehen kanssa, joka uskoo isänsä, Peter Stillmanin, aikovan murhata hänet ja haluaa yksityisetsivän varjostavan tätä isää. Daniel Quinn, joka siis teeskentelee olevansa Paul Auster, varjostaakin Peter Stillmann vanhempaa, joka tuntuu harhailevan kaupungilla päämäärättömästi. Lopulta Daniel Quinn tapaa myös oikean Paul Austeren, joka on kirjailija, mutta ei salapoliisi ja koko kaupungista ei löydy Paul Austeria, joka olisi salapoliisi. Kirjan lopussa on vielä pieni tarinankerronnallinen jippo, joka vielä niksauttaa kertomuksen hiukan eri suuntaan. Kyseessä on varsin monimutkainen kertomus pituisekseen, josta on kyllä mahdollista nauttia pinnallisellakin tasolle, mutta jonka täydellinen ymmärtäminen todennäköisesti vaatisi useampia lukukertoja.

A very complex story which plays on identity in many levels, where assumed names, pretending to be some else and complex actions by the characters are the main point. A book which should be read a few times before it really can be understood.

144 p.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, November-December 2019

An Eye for an Eye • [The Ascension (Jerry Oltion)] • novelette by Jerry Oltion

A human spaceship lands on an alien planet with aliens who apparently are near to an industrial revolution. A convoy of caterpillar-like aliens approaches the ship. One of them breaks off his eyestalk and gives it to the humans. The expedition is a bit baffled but takes it, and the aliens leave. The aliens seem to lose their interest, and even seem irritated when they meet the humans again, and when the humans refuse to eat a severed finger offered by the aliens, the aliens seem offended. Meanwhile, the severed eye seems to contain surprisingly complex and extensive neuronal structures. The story continues an earlier one, this time from the human viewpoint. A pretty good one, even if there were shades of an idiotic plot – it was painfully obvious for the reader what was happening even when characters were in the dark. ****-
Formless • novelette by Gary Kloster
A soldier approaches a planet. It has been invaded by the “formless”, who are disgusting creatures who have destroyed humans on Earth and have apparently followed them here. The soldier’s ship is hit and he falls on the mercy of the formless. But not everything is what it looks like. A pretty nice story. ***+
Moon Santa Mongo • short story by John Edward Urh
A shop owner on the moon has had some hard times. There are not many tourists and his assistant left suddenly. He hires a veteran who seems homeless and apparently has memory problems. A fairly warm-hearted Christmas story. ***½
The Prince of Svalbard: A Saga of the Thaw • short story by Louis Evans
A Viking saga of a raid to Svalbard seed vault. Ponderous language and I didn’t really get into it. I wonder what is the timespan after the accident - at first, it seemed like centuries and then there was someone alive? **
Filaments of Hope • short story by Marissa Lingen
A Martian colony was canceled. The developer of a lichen suitable for the production of food there is invited to Iceland. They want to use the lichen for food production. A pretty sketch-like story. **+
Just a Guy and Some Aliens • short story by Michael Carroll
A probe is sent to a star with a planet on the goldilocks zone. It can analyze DNA and send it to Earth, where it can be used to build the creature it is from. It turns out that something went a little wrong. A stupid story on so many levels. All the science sucks heavily – alien life forms with exactly similar DNA structure? No pre-analysis of DNA whatsoever? DNA enduring decades in space? **
Wolves • short story by Edward Ashton
An employee/slave/pet is sent to track a lone woman he saw digging through trash. He is supposed to kill her. The setup is shown slowly and it would be a spoiler to describe it in detail. There are apparently alien invaders who use humans for menial tasks, but there are also still a few “wild” ones around. A very nice short story. ****-
Binary • short story by Rajan Khanna
A recording of a person is used as a mind of a bot which is sent to study a possible alien artifact. She seems to have hallucinations of the past events of her life. There also seems to be something strange about the AI which governs how her ship behaves. The idea was fairly good, but the story was too short, there was no real emotional attachment to the main “character”. ***½
Sojourner • short story by Craig DeLancey
A man is trying to help an AI which apparently is threatened by a government man who wants to hunt it down and destroy it. He escapes a raid with the AI but gets caught. The government man has an alternative explanation about what is going on. A very good story which turns around very nicely. ****-
Martian Fever • novelette by Julie Novakova
The first Mars expedition is financed by a billionaire. After they start the exploration, one member gets sick with a Martian bug. According to the pre-agreed rules, that means no one can go back home, to prevent bringing back infections to Earth. That isn’t something everyone is too happy about – and if they don’t find the cure, their chance of living on Mars isn’t very good, either. A pretty good story which concentrates more on people than on events. And the people seem real and behave in a fairly consistent and logical way. ****-
Keep the Line Tight But Not too Tight, or Esteban and the Moon • short story by J. M. McDermott [as by Joe M. McDermott]
Workers on the Moon who build generation ships are stressed about the pressures. I didn’t really get into the story, it seemed mainly to be bitching about living on the Moon and about other people. The main character felt like a very irritating and unhappy person. And I didn’t get some of the technology: habitats on the Moon are spun for artificial gravity, but they stopped for the night? Why in hell? Wouldn’t that be extremely uneconomical? There are some other questionable details, also. The writing felt somewhat clumsy and hard to get. **-
Yamadori • short story by Stephen R. Wilk
A man who builds miniature robots is asked to build a small human-looking robot with moving capability, with hollow arms with room to stick meat into. As the builder is more than a little baffled, he wants to see what his robot is used for. (For feeding a miniature version of a man-eating plant.) The writing was fairly nice but there wasn’t really much plot, just a demonstration of the robot and its use. ***½
Follow, Past Meridian • short story by Mark W. Tiedemann
A group of youngsters goes for some sort of initiation quest in a post-apocalyptic world where there seems to be a lot of working tech still around. They have heard rumors that an “American” might be around and they want to see it. Along the way, they meet a mystery woman. Far too sketchy and short, it feels like a short prologue for the real story. ***
Empty Box • short story by Allison Mulvihill
A man has a discussion with his girlfriend, whom he has never seen in person. The girlfriend’s name is Eliza and they talk about artificial intelligences which are better than just passing a Turing test. Oh, I wonder what the girlfriend really is? A short and simple story. ***-
The Quarantine Nursery • short story by Aimee Ogden
A well-to-do family's small children are taken care of by robots in a germ-free environment. Influenza is especially considered as horrific. I wonder if the story happens in some sort of alternate world where there are no vaccines and social norms are from the fifties. Women are at home cooking for their husbands and wear something pretty when he comes home. As a matter of fact, the story feels exactly like it would be at home in Galaxy magazine from 1954 or something. Otherwise, it is a pretty good and well-told story. ***½
Kamsahamnida, America • novelette by Guy Stewart
An elderly astronaut is testing a spaceship with simulations when news breaks out: Koreans have sent a ship to the Moon. All space-capable nations scramble to send their own ships to be first on the Moon since the 70s. The Korean ship seems to approach the Moon at an impossible speed. As the other ships approach the Moon, there is even some attempt to sabotage other “contestants”. Extremely stupid story: apparently everyone had a ship which was able to go to the Moon, but couldn’t be bothered. When one nation goes there, it suddenly is imperative to be there first. It doesn’t make any sense. If it is so important, why wait if it almost trivial to launch an expedition in a few hours? And hitting another ship with a passive “missile” would be a billion-to-one chance. The writing is OK, but every aspect of the plot is pedestrian. **½
You Must Remember This • novella by Jay O'Connell
Runaway AI has destroyed a part of town and “archived” many people who were living there. It is possible to rebuild and wake those people, but it is expensive, and will not be done unless someone will sponsor it. A woman who was pretty maladjusted has been awakened. Her sponsor wants to remain unknown. Her ADHD can be cured, and after some trepidation, she takes the cure. But can she adjust to a new life in the future, and with a slightly different personality than what she was used to? A pretty nice and well-told story. ****-

Monday, November 4, 2019

Syvä uni (The Big Sleep) by Raymond Chandler,

A classic detective story. In fact, it is so classic that the plot felt familiar, even though I haven’t ever read it before. I saw everything in black and white in my mind’s eye, and there are plenty of movies with a similar plot. And there’s plenty of movies from this book. It’s smoothly and well written with an appropriately convoluted plot.

Klassista klassisempi yksityisetsivätarina, kertomus, joka oikeastaan aloitti oman genrensä, noir-tyyppisen dekkaritarinan. Tarina on kerrottu minämuodossa kyynisen yksityisetsivän Phillip Marlowen näkökulmasta. Rikas, vanha, ja sairas mies palkkaa hänet tutkimaan miksi hiukan hämäräperäisen maineen omaava kirjakauppias on kiristämässä miehen tytärtä. Tarinassa on lopulta monta mutkaa, mutta ruumista ja monta kohtalokasta kaunotarta. Marlow itsekin loppua kohden joutuu pahaan pinteeseen, mutta mistä ei ylimielisellä käytöksellä, huulenheitolla ja naisten viettelemisellä kuiville selviäsi?
Vetävää tekstiä, mutta tarina oli aika tuttu, sillä samankaltaisia elokuvia on melkoisen monta – ja ihan tästä samasta kirjasta olevia elokuvia on varmaan ainakin pari kolme. Itse olen varmasti jonkin niistä kyllä joskus nähnyt. Kirja näki koko ajan sielunsa silmin mustavalkoisena 4:3 kuvasuhteella kertojaäänen kera – kirjan kertojaääni sopi hyvin siihen mielikuvan elokuvan kertojaan.

238 pp.