Monday, October 31, 2011

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

The film which is based on this book is probably more famous than the book itself. The main plot was very familiar - I have seen the movie several times and the movie plot follows the book almost in verbatim except for a few scenes which have been dropped out of the movie (apparently they would have been too complicated to shoot). At the end of this edition, there are also some unconnected scenes from the “second part” of the book. (Unfortunately, that can’t be published as the writing is supposed to be done by Steven King and he hasn’t written it yet). The book has a framing story which tells how William Goldman heard these stories as a child. When he hunted down the book as an adult, he found that there were some boring bits besides the good parts as his father had omitted the boring bits while telling the story. Then he decided to abridge the story by removing all the boring bits, and was able to produce something even his son loved. However, there were a lot of legal difficulties with the curator of the original author’s estate, which all were eventually settled. All that is totally fictional, as fictional as the basic plot probably everyone knows: The Story of the True Love (+ some exiting action) where a beautiful girl falls in love with a farm boy who ends up as a pirate while his love of life is courted by the evil prince of the realm, who is plotting the assassination of his bride to be.
The book is as good as the film; the writing is warm and witty. There are lot of action, a lot of humor, a lot to love in this book.

416 pp

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Galaxy Science Fiction July 1952

A pretty good issue.

Star, Bright • novelette by Mark Clifton
A single dad is taking care of his daughter, who turns out to be a Bright, a kind of new step in evolution. She is much more intelligent that her father by the age of four or five, even though her dad is a “Tween” (something between the normal people and Brights). She learns soon to communicate telepathically and contacts another Bright child, whose parents soon “happen” to move to next door. The powers of the kids rise with a fast rate, until they apparently get trapped to another dimension. A well written and very good story in spite of a fairly worn premise. ****
Wailing Wall • [Marco 4] • shortstory by Roger Dee
A ship is stranded on a planet where humans used to be slaves of another species. The society seems to be very strange. That idea sounds a lot better than the story actually is. A lot of fairly pointless discussion several things which pretty poorly connected with the subject matter and a sudden ending. Pretty mediocre story. **
Dumb Martian • novelette by John Wyndham
A man who has taken a job on an asteroid for five years buys a Martian girl for his companion. He gets soon bored with the stupid “mart” and occasionally batters her and treats her overall very badly and condescendingly. A scientist comes to visit them and treats the “stupid mart” as a real human woman, which of course irritates the hero immensely. The scientist soon disappears after an "accident" . The Martian seems to be so stupid that she doesn't really react to that at all, at least it seems so.. A very good story, there was somewhat too much exposition at some places, but otherwise very entertaining and well written story. Something Astounding would never have published: an alien beating a human. ****-
Shipshape Home • shortstory by Richard Matheson
A science fiction author and his wife have found a real deal: a furnished apartment with extremely low rent. The apartment house has very creepy looking janitor, and the wife starts to suspect that he has some sort of sinister plans. And she claims that there are some sorts of engines at the basement. It shouldn't be hard to guess what is going to happen. Not too surprising plot. Loose writing, there is far, far too much arguing and discussing between the author and the wife about the same thing with even same words. The worst story of the issue.**-

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Analog Science Fiction and Fact December 2011

A fairly good issue, seem to be somewhat above the average.

Ray of Light • novelette by Brad R. Torgersen
A strange alien space ship arrived and deposited millions of mirrors in space which block the sun. The last humans live at the bottom of ocean tapping geothermal heat. A daughter of the main character has disappeared. A very good story about hope, well written, could have been somewhat longer. ***½
Turning It Off • shortstory by Susan Forest
Everything has ”safeties” which prevent practically all sorts of accidents. Even people have safety systems which prevent accidents by falls etc. But they also dampen the sensitivity of skin. Two teenagers find a way to turn off their safety systems and experiment a little. A fairly good story, could have been slightly longer. ***+
Freudian Slipstream • shortstory by Brad Aiken
A scientist how is travelling to a colony world works while on suspended animation on a cure for a disease which threatens the existence of the new world. Somewhat confusing first, but most thing did make sense eventually. ***
Hidden • shortstory by Kyle Kirkland
A genetic treatment which makes someone extremely intelligent has been available for some time. There is a slight problem; those have the treatment usually go destructively mad before they are thirty. One supergenius has taken over a military installation, which has an experimental extremely powerful bomb. An attorney who has some experience with supergeniuses is drafted to find out what is going on. Not too bad, background probably more interesting than the story itself. ***
Art for Splendor's Sake • shortstory by Dave Creek
Continues a series where humans are trying to help two alien species coexisting on a planet which will be turned inhabitable by solar emissions (or something) in a near future. There are some schisms between the species, there is some tension among humans and so on. A fairly light piece. ***-
The Impossibles • novelette by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
A story from the “Disappearance Artist” universe. A young attorney is working on a court which handles interspecies affairs. The work is very stressful and there never are any cases where you could get an acquittal, at best you can make some slight plea bargains on the punishment. The attorney gets a case where a pregnant young female is going to be punished for theft by cutting away her hand, most certainly killing her in the process. A very good, well written and enjoyable story. There will probably be more stories involving the same main character, at least I hope so. ****
Not for Ourselves Alone • novelette by Charles E. Gannon
Aliens are approaching Jupiter after annihilating a human colony on the Barnard’s star. An international group faces them mainly in order to gather some intelligence and if possible to delay their attack agains the earth. A LOT of info dumping and details of orbital mechanics, otherwise an adequately presented fairly ordinary story about heroism. The attack is prevented far far too easily in about two lines at the end of the story.***-

Monday, October 17, 2011

Alexander McCall Smith: Kalaharin konekirjoituskoulu miehille

A mma Ramotswen “mystery”. Not much detecting here. A light book where problems tend to solve themselves. A depression can disappear between books by itself, there are no really unfortunate events at all anywhere. A slightly better than the previous book, I might even pick up the next one in the series at some time.

Mma Ramotswe romaani. Etsiväntyö jää kirja kirjalta vähäisemmäksi tässä sarjassa. Kirjassa kuvataan lähinnä tavallista elämänmyönteistä elämää Botswanassa. Tällä kertaa ongelmina on kilpailevan etsiväntoimiston ilmaantuminen, etsivätoimiston sihteerin mma Makutsin rakkaushuolet ja perustama miehille tarkoitettu konekirjoituskoulu sekä mma Ramotswen ja hänen kihlattunsa kasvatuslapsen huono käytös. Kuten vähän pelkäsin, kihlatun, J.L.B. Matekonin masentuneisuus on kadonnut yhtä äkillisesti kuin se ilmaantuikin. Todennäköisesti ottolapsen käytösongelmat ovat seuraavaan kirjaan mennessä samanlaisesti sormianäpsäyttämällä kadonneet. Suhteellisen naivia, äärimmäisen hyväntahtoista, mutta elämänmyönteistä kerrontaa, jota on nopea lukea, etenkin kun kirjat ovat kovin lyhyitä. Sen verran paremman tuntuinen kuin edellinen osa, että en ihan vielä taida sarjaa hylätä, vaan luen seuraavankin osan taas kevyenä välipalana raskaampien kirjojen välissä.

285 s.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Analog Science Fiction and Fact October 2011

A pretty good issue for most part.

Of Night • novelette by Janet Catherine Johnston
A story of a spaceship which seems to be haunted. Told as a campfire tale by unknown women who just happens to stroll to a camping place. After the crew (everyone, nobody stays on the ship) visits a planet the ship seems somehow strange and eventually people start to disappear. A few first pages were pretty good (in spite of the story inside a story structure which seldom works very well) but then the story went sharply downhill. It is supposed to be fairly common that spaceships have lunatic crews who abandon their ships without even the pilot staying behind? Doh.
The story falls fairly badly apart towards the end and writing seems to go in a worse direction. **
The Last of Lust • shortstory by Jerry Oltion
Scientists find out where lust is located in the brain and how to turn that off. Religious fanatics manage to turn off lust in everyone in the world. That leads to some unforeseen consequences. Pretty nice story. ***½
The Bullfrog Radio Astronomy Project • shortstory by Brad R. Torgersen
A man who runs a small community FM radio stations gets on offer that cannot be refused: he'll get all the funding he needs if he lends his signal o rich eccentric neighbor who wants to send it to space through a giant radio telescope he has built. It seems like a pretty good deal until the aliens appear...some problems with plausibility, otherwise an entertaining story which could have benefitted from considerable expansion. ****-
The Lycanthropic Principle • shortstory by Carl Frederick
A professor gets his email spammed by some extremely rude spam. He asks help from an internet whiz working in the same school, who claims to be werewolf. A pretty nice and entertaining story. ***½

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Energized by Edward M. Lerner

A novel which was published as a serial in Analog. There will be spoilers in this review, so be aware!

A group of Russian terrorists hijacks an American power satellite and uses its microwave transmitter to destroy alternative energy establishments. Russians have a near monopoly of the oil production and can ask about any price they want for their oil. They want to ruin the reputation of the power satellite, stop its use and harm the alternative sources of energy. So that they can have a monopoly of oil production, and ask any price they want. Wait, didn't they already have those? Yeah, but they are eeevill Russians. The plot of the book was an extremely black and white story with unreasonably mad Russians. Who cares about climate chance and alternative forms of energy, let’s destroy everything so we can hike the oil price for a little while. I was expecting that there would have been some sort of twist and the stupid evilness of the bad guys would have been some sort of clever ruse, but no such luck.
There was at least one very stupid mistake: a radio astronomer (who really should know better) thinks that aurora borealis might be visible in the sunlight and the daylight only "sometimes" washes them away. I would be extremely surprised if anyone has ever seen northern lights at daytime. They are fairly dim at the best and hard to see even at night time near cities as even moderate light pollution overcomes them.
The writing wasn't too good. I started to read this straight away after the Snow Queen (which had very eloquent writing) and the effect was pretty jarring and took some time to get used to “slightly” less literate writing style. At the beginning of the story there were too much exposition and too detailed explaining of everything, and the end had too long action scene. As a whole, some condensing might have served the story.

app. 340 pp. (a little over 100 000 words, I believe)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Analog Science Fiction and Fact December 2000

One of the less good issues. Almost all stories are below average.

The Ultimate Earth • novella by Jack Williamson
A group of clones who live in the moon have apparently seeded earth with new life after some sort of catastrophe. Millennia have passed and a new generation of clones travels to earth. Earth is a pastoral world with very strict population control with near immortality. Then a colony ship which supposed to go to a new colony returns. The colony has been destroyed and all life there has disappeared. As there is no room for the clones on earth, they take part to an expedition to find out what happened to the colony. Very little is found out there.
The story starts from nowhere and ends nowhere. There is very little real content, the writing is pretty bad and characterization is appalling. It is totally unbelievable that this story won a Hugo. It is probably by far the worst Hugo winning novella I have read. **
Snowball in Hell • novelette by Brian Stableford
Some sort of radical group is using some sort of genetic tweaking to produce human offspring from some farm animals, for example from pigs. A raid to faculty goes wrong resulting to shootings and a fire. One of attacking force is rescued by a girl whose parents were pigs, and who seem to be very humane in all ways. Ridiculous genetics and writing in par with science. **+
It's the Thought That Counts • shortstory by Jerry Oltion
Two visitors on alien planet are trying to bypass some trade regulations by asking for Christmas presents.It backfires, of course. Short and pretty stupid story. **
The Missing Mass • [Draco Tavern] • shortstory by Larry Niven
A Draco tavern story. A discussion with aliens about the missing mass in the universe. Worse than average Draco story. **
Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele • novelette by Christopher L. Bennett
Robots which were sent on an alien planet to prepare for human colonization didn’t turn themselves off as they were supposed. Instead they have evolved to various sorts of “animals” filling several evolutionary niches on the planet. There are some arguments which are more valuable, the real life forms they are replacing or the new mechanical life. Not very convincing ones. The best story in a mediocre issue. ***-
Eden Tag • novelette by Stephen L. Burns
A small moon colony and its sheriff face an attack by terrorists. The tone of this story felt a little strange – it couldn’t decide if went for comedy, action or drama. It didn’t really work as any of them, mainly it aimed at being a light-hearted story. A light hearted story about terrorism? **½