Monday, May 30, 2011

All Clear by Connie Willis

The second part of the series. This review will contain some spoilers, so beware!

I was hoping that this continuation would have better that the first part, but I had to be disappointed. The same faults were evident. A lot of space is spent on constant worrying and going from one place to another while accomplishing nothing. Also, the characters seem as stupid as earlier - they often withhold crucial information from each others for no good or sane reason. ”Oh, I can't tell that, they would worry”.

They are constantly forgetting that they are time travelers and what the sequence of events in future Oxford was doesn't really matter; for example they remember at last possible time that another historian visited the same time period years before in the “oxford time”. Doh.

There are some really stupid small subplots. Pages are spent on worrying one characters lost jacket. “Oh, you'll get a cold without it”. No wonder that the character who lost his jacket faked his own death later on, apparently to rid himself of those two whining women – at least no other good reason was stated.

The characters are constantly worrying that they'll change the world, but they are constantly making decisions which certainly would change the path of history without any concern at all.

There are anachronisms, apparently they are traveling on subway lines which built thirty years after the war (at least according to some British reviews). And I cringed every time they talked about V-1 and V-2 bombs. I really don't believe that they were called that during the war in Britain, especially why anyone would call V-1s V-ONEs before there even were any V-2 type of rockets?

And I am still wondering what is the point of time tourism? The characters were supposed to be historians, but they don't seem to have any kind of research plan whatsoever beyond “I'll go to see what the blitz looked like”.

The ending, especially the reason why the “drops” weren't working was extremely stupid and illogical. The time space continuum apparently has a conscious mind?

I find this even worse book that the first part, probably because I was expecting that the story would have gone in a better direction. This was the first Hugo nominee I have read this year, and this will certainly be below the “No award” on my ballot.

656 pp.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner

Another Hugo award winner.
I approached this book with some reservations, as I had tried to read this book years ago never getting beyond page ten, and I have seen this book mentioned on at least one or two lists of unreadable sf novels. I was pleasantly surprised when I found myself enjoying most of the book. It isn't one of the most readable novels around and it takes some time to get used to it.
The books tells about a fairly near future (from a sixties point of view) when overpopulation is rampant, unemployment is more common than working, crime and terrorism are everyday fear, genetic manipulation is either a threat to human existence or the last way enabling the survival of the human race. The story is told on several segments. Some of the chapters, titled ”continuity” tell the main plot line of the novel, some of the chapters ”Tracking with Closeups ” present glimpses to the life of other charters living in the world, most of them are unconnected to the main plot. In addition there are chapters called ”context” which give background information of the world, including chapters from popular and scholarly books discussing the world and finally fourth style of chapters are those called The Happening World are flashes of the world, for example short news headlines. The unusual structure took some time to get used to, but it worked very well. The main plot line dealt with a fictional African country called Beninia which seems too good to be true. No crime, no racial prejudice, no hate crimes. Another plot line deals with a supposed major breakthrough in genetic engineering. The plot lines weren't as important as the vividly described world and I found that the most interesting segments were “Tracking with Closeups”, which dealt mainly with the background. They presented very interesting glimpses to an interesting world. The writing was fine and interesting, and even the fair amount of made up words didn't hurt. This book was really a pleasant surprise.

650 pp.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, November 2007

A fairly good issue, the most of the stories were fairly light-hearted.

Murder in Parliament Street • [Jaggers and Shad] • novella by Barry B. Longyear

A pair of detectives investigates a murder of a pigeon. The pigeon was a human wearing a pigeon “suit”. His work was to keep real pigeons off the statues. One of the detectives is a duck. As one might guess this was a slightly lighter story. A nice story, a tad overlong, too many movie references which all weren’t even funny. ***
These Are the Times • novelette by John G. Hemry
Time travellers journey to American revolutionary war. In fact that is so popular an era, that there is abundance of visitors. There is some romance between two travellers, some excitement from a deranged traveller who tries to change past. Nice and entertaining, nothing really deep, but enjoyable. ***½
Yearning For the White Avenger • shortstory by Carl Frederick
Not really science fiction: A well-trained parrot “translates” dog “speak” to human language. The pair helps a young boy with an abusive father. A nicely written entertaining and even moving story, which could have been somewhat longer. ****-
The Suit • shortstory by Bud Sparhawk
When the clothes function as computers, and control eating habits, communications with other people’s clothes and the outside world, you shouldn’t wear a poorly functioning suit with software which hasn’t been updated. A light, humorous story, writing ok. ***+
Permission to Speak Freely • shortstory by David Walton
A machine which enables a physician really feel what the patient feels enables easier and more accurate diagnosis. A very nice concept, but the conflict in the story is slightly forced and the ethical considerations were slightly overblown. ***½
The Paradise Project • [The Paradise Project] • novelette by H. G. Stratmann
A young couple has been selected for a trip to Mars, when aliens move that planet closer to the Earth orbit and change it gravity and atmosphere to more suitable for humans. They travel there and find an alien construct. A part of a series. I still wonder why that clueless pair was selected – they are supposed to about thirty, but they behave like irritating sixteen year olds who are less mature than average. The writing isn’t my favourite either. **

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Analog Science Fiction and Fact March 1976

A Dune serial takes most of space. Otherwise a slightly below average issue.

Field Test • [Bolo] • shortstory by Keith Laumer
An automated tank with a self-aware AI is used in a battle for a first time despite some reservations. It wins the battle against insurmountable odds, as fights ”for the honor of the regiment”. An overlong story with too much exposition first, and then with a boring description of battle, and everything leading to ”shaggy dog” -like last line. **-
 Blessing in Disguise • shortstory by Herbie Brennan
A Muslim-like sect has a ”real” messiah, and a pilgrim is traveling to visit him. The messiah is a result of selective ”breeding” campaign, to ”pilgrim is a brain washed assassin whose goal is to murder the figure head. Writing was ok, maybe a longer form would have been better suited for the story. ***
A Penny's Worth • novelette by Stephen Robinett
A lawyer takes a case involving a battery. A young man walked into a house of another and beat him badly. He claims that he doesn't remember anything about the assault, and didn't even know the man he beat. The beginning of the story was pretty good, the ending was somewhat overlong, and the plot decayed too much. ***