Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tove Jansson: Muumilaakson Marraskuu (Moominvalley in November)


The last of the Moomin books. One of the few I didn't read as a child. On the other hand, there are no moomins in this book at all. Several inhabitants of the Moominvalley want to meet the moomins and travel to the Moominhouse late at autumn. It turns out, that the house is empty and there is no trace of any of the Moomins. The characters almost start to imitate the life of the moomin family and they move in the house. The writing is excellent and gives powerful feeling of the autumn stillness. A very good book and a proper goodbye for the moomins.



Luettu kirjapiirin syksyyn sopivana kirjana. En ollut tätä muumikirjaa aikaisemmin lukenut, en edes lapsena. Lastenkirjasta tosin ei oikeastaan edes ole kyse. Eikä oikeastaan tarkkaan ottaen edes muumikirjasta – muumeja ei tässä kirjassa tavata.

On syksy. Monet muumilaakson asukkaat päättävät mieli enemmän tai vähemmän haikeana lähteä muumitalolle muumeja, etenkin muumimammaa, tapaamaan. Mutta muumitalo onkin tyhjä. Ovet ovat auki, mutta kukaan ei ole paikalla. Jokainen erikseen tullut pikku olento: Hemuli, joka on yhtäkkiä tuntenut elämänsä jotenkin tyhjäksi, Vilijonkka, joka on menettänyt halunsa siivoamiseen, yksinäinen ja hieman pelokas homssu, ikivanha ja huonomuistinen Ruttuvaari ja kaunis, itsevarma pikku Myyn isosisko, Mymmeli. Kun muumit eivät ole paikalla, vieraat asettuvat asumaan muumitaloon ja jopa ottavat osittain muumien rooleja itselleen.

Ajallisesti kirja ilmeisesti liittyy kirjaan Muumipappa ja meri, jota en muista lukeneeni. Lopussa ilmeisesti muumiperhe on palaamassa tuolta merimatkaltaan – tai sitten ei, asia jää lopulta hiukan auki.

Kirja on hyvin kaunista kieltä, joka välittää syksyn haikean ja jotenkin melankolisen ja jopa hitaan tunnelman hyvin voimakkaana. Kirjan yhtenä henkenä on myös muutos, yhden aikakauden päättyminen. Kirjan loppuun mennessä oikeastaan kaikki kirjan henkilöt olivat jollain lailla muuttuneet ja ehkä hyväksyneet itsensä paremmin.

Muumit eivät kirjan kirjoittamisen aikaan tainneet olla ihan yhtä suosittuja kuin nykyään, mutta onkohan kirjan juonessa mukana jonkinlaista metakirjallista kommentointia muumien kovasta suosiosta? Kaikki kirjan hahmot ihailevat muumiperhettä, haluavat tavata heitä ja jopa alkavat käyttäytyä ja osittain jopa melkein muuttua muumien kaltaisiksi. Onko tämä kirjailijan kannanotto muumifaneihin? Ei ehkä sentään.

Kokonaisuutena kyllä hieno kirja, ja houkuttaa lukemaan muut muumikirjat, muista suurimman osan olen lukenut, mutta vuosikymmeniä sitten ja muistikuvat ovat enemmän tai vähemmän hämäriä.

161 s

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Aleksis Kivi: Seitsemän veljestä


This is one of the oldest Finnish novels and by far the oldest that is still being read. Everyone has read this in school. It's a story of seven brothers who live in the countryside. They try to learn to read, escape to a forest to live more or less as hermits, and are later rehabilitated to society. It's written mostly in play format, with oldish but very inventive language. It's still worth reading for the writing and the vivid descriptions of the different personalities of the brothers.

Lukupiirissäni päätettiin lukea Seitsemän veljestä hiukan Suomi 100 teemaan liittyen. Kirja kun on oikeastaan ensimmäinen oikeasti merkittävä suomalainen romaani, ainakin ensimmäinen joka ei ole unohtunut. Tarinahan on kaikille tuttu, todennäköisesti ei ole montaa ihmistä, joka ei tätä ainakin koulussa olisi lukenut – tai tunne ainakin jotain teatteri-, ooppera- tai elokuvaversiota. Tai ainakin Seitsemän koiraveljestä lastenkirjaversion, jos ei muuta. Omasta edellisestä lukukerrasta oli kulunut varmasti ainakin parikymmentä vuotta ja muistikuvat olivat päässeet jossain määrin haalistumaan. Kirjan pituus ja kaksijakoisuus oli vähän yllätys lukiessa. Kun kaikki kohtaukset, jotka kirjasta muistin, olivat tapahtunet (Toukolan poikien kanssa tappelu, lukkarin kanssa lukemaan opettelu, Impivaaraan muutto, talon palaminen jouluna ja kivellä härkiä paossa oleminen), oli kirja vasta puolivälissä. Loppuosan tapahtumista, joissa veljekset ryhdistäytyvät ja alkavat kunnon kansalaisiksi ei ollut mitään muistikuvia. Jonkinlainen muistikuva oli, että tämä olisi kuvattu ”pikakelauksena” sivulla tai kahdella.
Kielellisesti kirja oli hieno, vaikka vanhojen paikoitellen osittain murteellisten sanojen ymmärtäminen ei aina ollut helppoa. Usein sanojen äänen ”makustelu” auttoi asiaa. Uskottavaa kieli ei ollut ollenkaan, ei ole mitenkään mahdollista että lukutaidottomat metsämökin suurelta osin keskenään kasvaneet pojat puhuisivat sellaista kieltä! Aikanaan kirja tyrmättiin arvosteluissa juuri ”ruman” kielen vuoksi – tätä on vaikea ymmärtää, sillä jos jotain, kieli on ihan liian kaunista. Huumoria kirjassa myös oli enemmän kuin muistin, aika nokkelaa ja enemmän kuin vähän ironista sanailua kirjassa oli paljon. Ihan mukava lukukokemus kaiken kaikkiaan kyllä.

405 s.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, July-August 2017


A pretty good issue in which most of the stories were enjoyable. However, there were some less-good ones, too.
¨

Not Far Enough • novella by Martin L. Shoemaker

The second expedition to Mars arrives. As there were some problems with the first one, the current mission is controlled in part by artificial intelligence. It turns out to be extremely badly designed and is partially responsible for a catastrophe that almost destroys the party. There are deaths and one member of the expedition loses a leg. (I wonder why—the severed leg is described in detail and it seems to be perfectly fine.) The psychological profiling of the expedition is apparently of the same "high" quality as the AI design and causes some problems. A fairly good "survival" story. Andy Weir did survival on Mars so much better, though. ***
The Fool's Stone • short story by Aubry Kae Andersen
A magician/alchemist finds a stone that can actually transmute metals. Unfortunately it turns gold into lead and not other way around. It also apparently makes people very sick. A caliph who murdered the previous caliph believes the alchemist has valuable secrets and isn’t telling everything he knows. It's a very good story that happens in an eastern setting. The “MacGuffin” of the story is an intriguing substance that is clearly radioactive, but otherwise doesn't really seem to obey the laws of nature. ****-
The First Rule Is, You Don't Eat Your Friends • short story by Robert R. Chase
A monastery raises pigs and the abbot has noticed they are really intelligent. Should they be used as meat? Or should their capabilities be enhanced? A scientist also seek asylum at the monastery. Not bad, but not much backstory and then the story just ends. ***-
Alouette, Gentille Alouette • short story by Andrew Barton
An ancient satellite with historical value is being rescued from orbit. It has parts that don't fit into the docking bay—should they be broken? A very short story—more of a scene than a real story. It was perfectly nice, though. ***
Fat Bubble • short story by Thomas A. Easton [as by Tom Easton]
An overweight couple invests heavily into gut bacteria that make you thinner. A very short, but fairly good, story—and it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. ***
Perspective • short story by Kyle Kirkland
A retired expert of direct brain stimulation is enlisted to examine the president. He has misused brain stimulation in his youth and there is a chance of brain damage. A pretty good story with unlikely, but certainly possible, type of brain injury. ***+
For All Mankind • novelette by C. Stuart Hardwick
A joint mission of Americans and Russians is sent to intercept an asteroid that will hit Earth in a few decades. To deflect it, the asteroid must be reached as soon as possible. A joint mission of two women (they weigh less than men and consume less food and oxygen) is sent to the asteroid. Their payload is enough bombs to slightly shift the asteroid's trajectory. And the mission is one-way only—there will be no return or rescue. An excellent and moving story. ****+
Clarity of Signal • short story by Holly Schofield
A woman studies alien animals on an interstellar mission. She is convinced they are intelligent and intends to prove it at all costs. A fairly short story with a main protagonist who somehow manages to be very irritating. ***-
Belly Up • novelette by Maggie Clark
A story I didn’t really get at all. The backstory is pretty scant: there is apparently some sort of racing, space ships, a war going on, and there is some sort of revenge. The plot felt pretty confusing and I found the language hard to read and understand. Didn’t like it at all. **-
Pitch • short story by Bruce McAllister and Patrick Smith
A plot proposal for a movie in the future with some prophetic undertones. Short and OK—probably contained references to something I didn’t get. **½
Phuquiang: A History • short story by Uncle River
A sort of folk tale of a post-apocalyptic future (or a feral colony planet). Cousins discover some sort of hot vents that can be useful and which turn out to be important. A pretty short story, but not bad.***-
Blinking Noon and Midnight • short story by Tim McDaniel
User interfaces tend to be hard to use, especially for elderly people. It always has been so, and it probably will always be so. A pretty fun story about an old man in a future “smart house” with a confusing UI. ***
Teamwork • short story by Eve Warren
The kids who live in a Martian colony have fun in dangerous ways. A very short story, but not a bad one. ***
Often and Silently We Come • short story by Ron Collins
Aliens with truly different physiology examine samples of beings with a more ordinary physiology. As they don’t really understand what they are doing, they first make some grave errors. Not bad, but a bit short. ***+
Galleon • novelette by Brian Trent
A space ship with a very powerful AI takes an active interest in its occupants. It has some very advanced and sometimes unpleasant ways to influence its occupants. It turns out that all other ships like it have been decommissioned. A very good, well-written, and fresh story, where the main character (the AI) is very well drawn with sufficiently “alien” thought patterns. ****-
Across the Steaming Sea • novelette by Rob Chilson
I have loathed the previous installments in this series. The characters have extremely irritating speech patterns that make them seem like brain-damaged half-wits. Did not read. Not rated.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Jennifer Egan: Sydäntorni (The Keep)


A man has had to escape his old life for undefined reasons. He goes to work with his cousin, who has become very rich and has bought a castle in Europe. Their relationship in childhood ended with some very bad blood, but now past is past, and they are renewing their relationship. The events slowly turn almost surrealistic. At first, the book felt at best mediocre, but rarely has the ending of a book changed my conception of the book to such a degree.


Mies, joka on joutunut jonkinlaisiin tarkemmin kuvailemattomiin vaikeuksiin ja joutuu käytännössä pakenemaan, saa työtä rikkaalta serkultaan. Serkku on rikastunut osakevälityksellä ja on nyt nuorena eläkkeelle jäämisen jälkeen ostanut Euroopasta vanhan linnan. Hän on remontoimassa sitä kovan tason retriittihotelliksi. Serkukset olivat olleet lapsena kaverukset, kunnes välit rikkoutuvat osittain ryhmäpaineesta aiheutuneen aika rajun kiusaamisepisodin jälkeen. Mutta mennyt on mennyttä ja serkkujen suhde on lämpiämässä uudelleen. Tosin etäällä oleva linna, jonka alueella ei ole kännykkäverkkoa ja kaikki sähköiset laitteet toimivat heikosti, ei ole välttämättä kovin auvoisa paikka miehelle, joka on addiktoinut kännyköihin ja yhteydenpitoon. Linnan keskellä on vanha sydäntorni, jossa vielä asuu linnan omistajasuvun vanha jäsen, joka ei ole suostunut muuttamaan pois. Linnan aluetta kunnostamassa on melko sekalainen ryhmä ihmisiä, mukana myös kesätyössä olevia opiskelijoita. Pikkuhiljaa tapahtumat muuttuvat kummallisemmiksi ja melkein surrealistisiksi. Tämän kirjan päätarinan välissä on lukuja, jotka kertovat vankilassa olevan vangin kirjoitusharjoituksista ja hänen kehittyvästä suhteestaan vankilassa käyvään luovan kirjoituksen opettajaan.
Kirja vaikutti alussa melko kömpelösti kirjoitetulta sekä hiukan sekavalta ja epäloogiselta ja jotenkin ärsyttävältä. Loppuratkaisu oli kumminkin sen verran yllättävä ja hyvä, että nämä virheet voi antaa anteeksi (ja oikeastaan ne jopa selittyvät). Aika harvoin on alustava mielipide kirjasta muuttunut niin paljon niin nopeasti kuin nyt, kun matto vedettiin jalkojen alta siihen malliin, että sama kappale piti lukea muutamaan kertaan, jotta oikeasti ymmärsi mitä juuri tapahtui. Kirja melkein pitäisi lukea uudelleen, nyt kun tietää, mistä milloinkin on oikeasti kyse. Lopputuloksena kirja oli kuitenkin hyvin mielenkiintoinen lukuelämys.

347 s.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Salla Simukka: Valkea kuin lumi (As White as Snow)


A Finnish YA-book which has gotten some international fame. The main character of the series is spending some vacation time in Prague after the events in the first book. She is approached by a young woman who claims to be her sister. Could that be true? A smoothly going book with some hard to believe plot points, but it was nice light reading anyway for young spirited people of all ages.

Toinen osa kansainvälistä huomiota saaneesta suomalaisesta nuortenkirja-sarjasta. Kovien koettelemuksien jälkeen Lumikki on matkustanut Prahaan lomalle. Siellä hänelle aikaisemmin tuntematon nuori nainen lähestyy häntä ja kertoo olevansa hänen siskonsa. Puhuuko hän totta? Onko Lumikin perheessä salaisuus, josta ei ole puhuttu? Tämä ainakin jotenkin tuntuisi olevan totta, mutta onko Lumikin isä joskus yli kaksikymmentä vuotta sitten käynyt Tsekeissä, ainakaan ennen Lumikin matkaa asiasta ei ollut mitään puhetta. Lumikin siskoksi esittäytynyt nainen näyttää elävän osana kummallista uskonlahkoa. Lumikkia näyttää alkavan vainota joku, joka oikeasti haluaa tappaa hänet. Mitä ihmettä oikein on meneillään?
Sujuvasti kirjoitettu nuortenkirja; tosin joten vaikutti hiukan heikommalta kuin ensimmäinen osa. Kyseessä tietysti osaltaan voi olla trilogioiden toisen osan vaikeus – henkilöt ja tausta on esitelty, mutta loppuratkaisuja ei vielä päästä tekemään. Juonen uskottavuudessa oli jonkin verran epäuskottavuutta, mutta vetävästi kirjoitettu kirja oli, ja siinä jäi ihan mukavasti auki asioita päätösosaan. Eiköhän sekin jossain vaiheessa pidä lukea.


237 pp.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Dark Forest and Death's End (Remembrance of Earth's Past #2 and #3) by Liu Cixin


I read these two books back to back. I already have some trouble remembering what happened in which book, as they continue almost directly from the same story. Aliens are going to attack Earth. Luckily it is going to take a few centuries, so Earth will have time to prepare. Unfortunately, aliens have been able to prevent all high energy particle physics, so it is likely that humans will run against a technological barrier at some point. But as centuries pass, humans have built a huge space navy and are practically sure they will easily beat the invaders. But the science gap turns out to be vastly greater than almost anyone on Earth anticipated.
A lot happens in these novels – and I mean a LOT. The structure of one book is such that it leaps even centuries at a time, while the main characters spend their time in suspended animation. And then it is carefully explained what has happened; this book mostly tells things, doesn’t actually show them, except the most crucial moments. It is hard to give a very detailed plot description without spoilers, and because of the really vast scope the book covers.
There were some strange details, like smoking in a future restaurant (which had android waiters who looked completely human, but with such bad programming and pattern recognition that they are not able to recognize a removed table). And the behavior of some characters is incredibly stupid: after several failed murder attempts, one character casually orders drugs for very mundane reason, and almost takes them without a second thought.
Also, the strategies used by humans are completely insane. An unknown enemy probe with unknown capabilities arrives. Oh, let's arrange the whole human fleet in close proximity at STRAIGHT LINES very close to each others.
There were many problems with science; for example, interstellar dust is so dense that it slows spaceships which move at relativistic speeds by “drag” significantly? Electromagnetic pulse caused by a nuclear detonation causes such a heavy vibration of the space ship hull that it kills everyone inside?
The motives of many the characters are often very strange and hard to understand, and some actions even the nations took were very strange. There was no mention at all about opposition, which is active in all western countries; all political decisions were apparently unanimous with no one opposing sometimes very strange decisions, like classifying all attempts to build ships to escape the solar system and the coming invasion as “escapism” and extremely criminal – I didn’t get that at all (there was an explanation in book for that, but it was a ridiculously stupid one).
There is a lot of lecturing, explaining pretty basic scientific things, and if something isn't explained, there is a translator's note which explains it.
As a whole, the plot was interesting, but the writing style and behavior of many of the protagonists was pretty infuriating. However so much happened - sometimes pretty surprising (but depressing) things - that the books were an easy reads in spite of hefty page counts.

512 + 604 pp.

Monday, July 17, 2017

My Hugo award votes 2017 part 4: novels

I have read all the nominees in the novel category. As I have been traveling and been both busy and sick lately, I haven’t had time to write a blog post about Cixin Liu’s "Death’s End", but I will in a few days. I also read the second part of the trilogy, which had been published earlier. They were entertaining books, but not without faults. All nominees were pretty good, at last, on some level, and it wasn’t easy to put them in order. None of the novels was totally unworthy of an award. The "Ninefox Gambit" felt most innovative, and I put it in first place. "Like the Lighting" was a bit too hard to read for my taste, even though it was a fair book, also. Altogether, I can accept any of these books as a winner; most of them were very literary works, perhaps even a bit too much.

My voting order was:

1. Ninefox Gambit
2. The Obelisk Gate
3. A Closed and Common Orbit
4. All the Birds in the Sky
5. Death's End
6. Too Like the Lightning

Sunday, July 9, 2017

My Hugo award votes 2017 part 3: short stories


In this category, the rabid puppies chose the third alternative action: self-gratification and pushed for the nomination of a story that was written by their leader – who “ordered” the nomination of his own story by his loyal gamergate henchmen, who live in their parent’s basements. The overall quality was fairly average: better than the last few years, but that wasn’t hard to do. The stories were mostly very literate, with somewhat experimental writing styles. The first place was easy to decide – I preferred the story with the most traditional writing style. The order of the other stories was less easy to decide, except for the last place – there was no contest for that. That story is below “no award.”


“Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, Saga Press)
A story of two women with an at least partly self-imposed punishment/task. One is supposed to wear down seven pairs of metal shoes; another is supposed to stand on a glass mountain. They meet, discuss their fates, and choose to escape their punishments together. A very allegorical story, which makes certain that you understand the allegories. Not bad, after I got into it, following a few fairly demanding first pages.

“The City Born Great” by N. K. Jemisin (Tor.com, September 2016)
A young man is drafted to work as the “midwife” for the city of New York. The city is going to be born, apparently, as a conscious being and there are powers that oppose this. A poetic and fairly confusing story, not really my cup of tea.

“Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine, November 2016)
A serial murderer kills a woman, but that woman happens to be a god of sorts, who has been in corporeal form for a while. She and her sisters avenge her death. A very short revenge fantasy, which is written very well, almost poetically, but it is too short to work really well.

“That Game We Played During the War” by Carrie Vaughn (Tor.com, March 2016)
A nurse arrives at a former enemy country soon after the armistice has come into force. She knows a man who is being treated for his wounds in a hospital. She had taken care of him when he was a prisoner, and later, she was his war prisoner. They formed a friendship and played chess; which might be a bit of a different game if one player can read the other’s thoughts. A nice story, with nice characters, but a bit too scene-like.

“A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers” by Alyssa Wong (Tor.com, March 2016)
A story of two sisters who are apparently able to control reality. One kills herself and the other tries to undo it. Or everything is just in her mind, as she runs through scenarios of how the death could have been prevented. A pretty good literary story about facing sorrow. If I read the story correctly, there are hints about the reason that the sister killed herself.

“An Unimaginable Light” by John C. Wright (God, Robot, Castalia House)
A robot (or rather an android) and a sort of robot inquisitor have a discussion. A pretty bad and very illogical story, which is written in a ponderous language, with inane digs at modern egalitarian culture and openly sadistic violence toward women. A bad story on all levels.


My voting order is:

Short Story:
1. "That Game We Played During the War"
2. "Seasons of Glass and Iron"
3. "The City Born Great"
4. "A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers"
5. "Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies"
6. No award