Sunday, November 27, 2011
A pretty good, above average issue.
Boundary Condition • novella by Wil McCarthy
A space ship is recording quantum boundary effects of some sort which only can be detected using the brains of certain individuals as a sort of receptor. This might have something to do with god, religion, meditation and/or prayer. The Pope (the first American pope, Dave the first), comes to visit the space station as a surprise. There are a LOT of discussion about different things and a lot of explaining of different things. A few totally ridiculous situations happen. (The bodyguards of the pope are apparently total idiots with no sense what can be dangerous and what isn’t) The ending is sad and/or ambiguous. The writing is such is very good, but I didn’t get the point of the story. ***
Nothing to Fear But • shortstory by Stephen L. Burns
An inventor who has phobias for almost everything, tries to find a way remove all fear from people. He succeeds only too well. The story is told as a diary which was found from the ruins after a devastating fire. Very enjoyable story, but not really special in any way. ***
The Lowland Expedition • [Old Earth] • shortstory by Stephen Baxter
A part of series which happens on a planet (A far future earth?) where time passes at different speeds on different altitudes. An expedition is sent to explore lowlands where time moves much slower than on the high ground most people live. They encounter a strange town and strange woman who has metallic smell. A pretty good but simple exploration style adventure story. ***+
Lighthouse • [Kristi Land and Greg Cooper] • shortstory by Jack McDevitt and Michael Shara
A young scientist has discovered a new class of strange stars. That type of stars should not be able to exist in nature. She finds an explanation (which is about what could be expected). A well written story which uses flashback format. There isn’t much happening and there isn’t anything surprising, but nevertheless this worked pretty well as a story. ***+
Lady be Good • novelette by John G. Hemry
A story about an old and worn spaceship which has to take slightly suspect cargoes to be able function at all. The first mate rescues passengers from a ship which was destroyed by pirates and he must ultimately make a desperate choice. A very well written story with an emotional ending. There were some things to nitpick though, if two spaceships hit each other, you really are not going to see “structural beams bending”, as speeds would be so great that everything would be over in microseconds and probably so far that nothing could be seen anyway. Aside from that a rare story which made my eyes to mist for a second. ****
Numismatist • novelette by Richard A. Lovett
A pastor has been shot dead after he went on a shooting spree. A psychologist tries to find out what happened to him and why. He seems to have lived very quiet and peaceful life; why he went to the mall and tried to shoot several kids? A well written and gripping story with some emotional scenes. ****-
Thursday, November 24, 2011
A pretty average issue.
Four in One • novelette by Damon Knight
Four individuals who have been exploring an alien planet are digested by a strange creature, which absorbs everything but the brains. They are able to communicate with each other, and they are eventually able to take control of the creature. But as all characters are very different (a scientist, a secretary, a military man and a "moral officer" of an apparently more or less fascist style earth empire) it seems it is impossible to find a common goal? A pretty nice and entertaining story. ***½
Protective Mimicry • shortstory by Algis Budrys
The currency should be completely counterfeit proof. But how there can be several exactly similar banknotes including all stains on them? A fairly stupid story which has below average writing which depends on a stupid final twist. **
Saucer of Loneliness • shortstory by Theodore Sturgeon
A flying saucer touches a young woman and then disappears. Everyone tries to find out if the saucer sent her some sort of message. People suspect her, FBI interrogates her and puts a tail on her. She starts to send messages in the bottles on the shore. The story strives for poetic and beautiful writing and even succeeds in it at least for a measure. Pity that the “plot” doesn’t carry the writing – there hardly is any. **
Watchbird • novelette by Robert Sheckley
Thousands of robot planes which are able to generalize and learn are launched to prevent murder. Not only they are self-learning, they are able spread information between every unit, and soon they generalize the concept of "murder" a bit too much…Ok story, clearly below average for Sheckley. ***-
Know Thy Neighbor • shortstory by Elisabeth R. Lewis
A single girl who lives alone in an apartment and worries of not getting married - after all, she is already 27 - starts to suspect her neighbor is an alien. Well, she is right, she just is wrong about which neighbor. A pretty well and fluently written story, but the plot has holes and isn't very creative. ***-
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
A Hugo award winner from 1968.
A book which throws the reader directly to the deep end of the pool. The book starts in the middle of action with no explanations or background information. The next chapters tell as semi-independent stories how the situation of the first chapter was set up.
The book happens on a planet which has been colonized centuries earlier. The crew of the space ship has established themselves as the “gods” of the world and has created mythology and religion which is loosely based on Hinduism. They use technology and reincarnation using a sort of mind transfer to stay in power, while the rest of the colonist stay on about medieval technology level. Any significant scientific advancement is crushed to preserve the power of the “gods”. One former crew member and former “god”, Mahasamatman (or Sam for short) wants to change that and establishes Buddhism as a rival to “god-run” Hinduism placing himself at the role of Buddha hoping to undermine rigid social structure imposed by the old “gods”. He also drafts the “demons” who were the originals inhabitant of the planet and who have been banished for centuries.
I was somewhat ambivalent about this book. Parts of it were very good, parts were written in fairly complex language which wasn’t too easy to understand (especially under fairly heavy medication against pain. A frozen shoulder is something I DON'T recommend). Perhaps a little better knowledge of religions described in the book would have made the content easier to understand. The independence of the separate chapters which happened sometimes with very long time-spans between them didn’t help and it took some time get into a new chapter with totally new situation. The book is excellent in spite of those little shortcomings I have mentioned.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Fairly nice issue, perhaps slightly above average.
With Unclean Hands • novella by Adam-Troy Castro
An incredibly advanced alien race which is thousands year ahead of humans is dying out. As herbivores, they are so timid that when they first encountered other species in space they just retreated and basically slowly dying from the shock as a race. For some reason they are trying to find the worst murderers mankind has and they are ready to pay practically anything for them. Why would they want them? A very good and well written gripping story. ****-
Dig Site • shortstory by Jack McDevitt
A very strange statue is found in an island in Greek. It looks very different from other statues, is in modernistic style and appears to depict a space suit or a diving suit. Writing is pretty nice, but the story ends just when it is starting to get interesting. Is it even science fiction or not? ***½
The Buddy System • shortstory by Don D'Ammassa
A pair of friends develops an AI based expert system which co-ordinates almost everything. It seems to be a success and the world seems to be a better place. Until things go wrong.. Shortish and fairly simple and not too unpredictable tale, but is very entertaining and well written anyway. ***+
Rocket Science • shortstory by Jerry Oltion
A man is waiting in a cabin of his self-made suborbital space ship for the launch. Another man who has attached weather balloons to a lawn chair causes a dangerous situation during the launch. And man on the top of the self-made rocket wonders how some people are cranks? Nice, a very short and ironic story, but the irony is spelled out a little too clearly. ***
Chumbolone • shortstory by Bill Johnson
The story goes from fixing an election with a computer system to finding intelligent radio signals from interstellar noise with the same computer system. I wasn’t too impressed, the story felt somewhat disjointed and didn’t make any lasting impression - I had trouble remembering it only after a few days. ***-
Ian, Isaac, and John • novelette by Paul Levinson
A man travels back in time to make small adjustment in a David Bowie music album. He may have also another motive. (to warn John Lennon about his coming murder). An ok story, not bad. ***-
The Boneless One • novelette by Alec Nevala-Lee
A ship which is doing biological research finds a colony of unusual biolumescent octopuses. The stop to study them, but soon the leader of the expedition is murdered and the motor of the boat is sabotaged. The first part of the story was pretty good, but the plot and even the writing seemed to decay towards the end. From a scientific viewpoint the plot was totally, totally, ludicrous. A virus which could infect both humans and octopuses with similar mental effects - no way. **+
Friday, November 4, 2011
Continues an”autobiographical” story of a Finnish artist. The events in the book might be true, but then again they very well might not be. The book has creative language which is written mostly in stream of consciousness style.
Jatkaa Hannu Väisäsen aikaisempaa muistelmakirjaa. Kun aikaisempi kirja, Toiset kengät, käsitteli lähinnä lapsuutta tämä kirja kattaa kursorisesti lukioajan Savonlinnassa ja taideopinnot Helsingissä. Ote on vähemmän elämänkerralliselta vaikuttava ja tyylilajina on enemmän anekdotaalinen tajunnanvirta, jonka todellinen elämänkerrallisuus on ehkä hieman epäilyksiä herättävää. Kirjan minä-hahmo Antero ajelehtii enemmän havainnoijana kuin aktiivisena tekijänä epämääräisestä asunnosta ja omalaatuisesta tuttavuudesta toiseen valmistuen sinä samalla kuvataitelijaksi ja pitää ensimmäisen oman näyttelynsä. Kielellisesti ja tyylillisesti tosiaan kirja vaikutti toisentyyppiseltä kuin aikaisempi lukemani osa, enkä tästä ihan yhtä paljoa pitänyt, ihan luova ja omaperäinen luettava kuitenkin.
Thursday, November 3, 2011
This issue was read from my phone during lunch hours, so that might have hurt my concentration somewhat. A bulk of the issue is taken by a serial and there are only three stories.
The Missing Man • [Rescue Squad] • novella by Katherine MacLean
An underwater dome is destroyed in an apparent bomb attack causing a lot of destruction. A youth gang/terrorist cell is one suspect, but who did they do it? The story was felt fairly unstructured and went from a catastrophe tale to a police procedural to an engineering problem solving story to an action piece. Pretty overlong, writing as such was ok. ***
The Operator • [Federation of Humanity] • novelette by Christopher Anvil
Most women have died in a fairly new colony world. A shipload of women land there... and then there are twists and turns aplenty. A part of series and I have no knowledge of any of other parts, so there wasn’t enough back story and I didn’t get really into the story. It felt more than a little overlong. ***-
May the Best Man Win • shortstory by Stanley Schmidt
A man who has returned as a hero from an interstellar expedition is the most popular candidate for US presidency. He has some doubts, as due to time dilation he is only 34.5 and not required 35 years (when his calendar age is well past that) and almost declines. The party officials talk him over eventually. A fairly stupid story. If the candidate is so serious about such a small “technicality”, why bring it up when the votes from the primary are already being counted and not earlier? ***-
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
A fairly average issue. Not exceptional. No real stinkers except the Williamson story. I have yet to read something by him I would enjoy.
Relic of Chaos • [Hartigan O'Reilly and Gwen Chryse] • novella by G. David Nordley
A police detective who is working on a space station which is orbiting Saturn must find a sacred relic which has been stolen from Vatican. The thief is extorting the Catholic Church and demanding some very secret information. I couldn't really get into the story, as the premise sounded SO ridiculous: the relic is a common wooden box owned by Mother Theresa (the world would probably be a better place without her, anyway – preaching against birth control in India - that is lunacy if anything) so it has no real historical or other value. I would imagine that the Catholic Church has truckloads upon truckloads as valuable or more valuable relics. Why would they give a s*it for one which doesn't even sound very special in any way? There is murder and mayhem, all for that box? I really couldn't accept that. The writing itself is competent; maybe the story could have been somewhat shorter. ***+
Vibes • novelette by Laurence M. Janifer
Beings which consist of vibrating noble gas atoms are dying on a strange planet. What is killing them? A story which is written in extremely verbose and meandering style. I really didn't get it at all. It felt like a parody of something I didn't recognize, or it was supposed to be humorous and I failed to get the point. **½
Resurrection • shortstory by James Van Pelt
The crew of a generation spaceship wakes up on 100 year rotation. A girl is afraid to go to cryosleep and stays awake. A man who has been in love with her wakes up after a hundred years to find out that the love is still alive. An emotional story which has a few problems with logic. ***
Augie • shortstory by George Zebrowski
People are using AI "butlers" which takes years and years of training to work properly. And even then they may malfunction like the Angie" of this story and behave like spoiled eight year olds. Would that kind of AI helper really be worth all the trouble no matter how efficient it would finally be, I wonder. ***
A Singular Clone • shortstory by Marie Ming
A medical story in the best James White / Sector general style. How to cure cancer from protoplasmic life form who is fragile, can't tolerate any anaesthetics and shoots poison as involuntary reflex against pain. A pretty nice story, only downside was that there was no background for the characters at all. It felt like a middle piece from a larger story arch. ***
The Nth Step • novelette by Jack Williamson
Continues the story from Dec 2000 Analog. The clones return to earth only to find that all humans have disappeared. I couldn't really get into the story. Writing felt longwinded, not very good, the story telling was detached and not compelling. The ending just fizzled out.**-
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Not too bad issue, amusing tales which are quaintly old fashionable.
The Defenders • novelette by Philip K. Dick
The ultimate war has been going on for seven years. Americans have retreated to subterranean habitants while very intelligent and sophisticated robots wage the war above on the earth which has turned to an inhabitable wasteland. A group of soldiers would like to see the earth by their own eyes. The robots are very reluctant to allow that as the radioactivity is very lethal for humans. Or so they say. If I say that the story ends with very positive and optimistic way, it is easy to guess what is happening in the world above the caves. ***+
Teething Ring • shortstory by James Causey
An alien anthropologist who is doing field work on an American suburb makes a mistake and thinks that earth is much more advanced than it is. He leaves a neural amplifier behind him and an infant uses it. It is a pretty ineffective model though, it only cubes the iq score… nice little amusing simple tale reminiscent of Sheckley. ***
Life Sentence • shortstory by James V. McConnell [as by James McConnell ]
A man has murdered his wife and her lover. It was first murder for years and society finds a new way to punish him: it won't let him die. As frail and old, he has one more new year’s day without even knowing how long he has spent in a hospital. A fairly good story which strives for literate writing - doesn't quite make it – but is not bad. ***
The Inhabited • novelette by Richard Wilson
An alien invader inhabits minds of different people and likes it a lot. Until it goes to the mind of a schizophrenic and finds it is not able to get out and such people would trap his people if they were to invade. A fairly good story, very “oldstyle” but still entertaining. ***+
Prott • shortstory by Margaret St. Clair
A man is studying strange creatures resembling a poached egg. They appear in the space when the space ship travels at a certain speed. He manages to make telepathic contact with them, and they send strong messages about “-ing the –“, without really specifying what that means. The story is presented as a diary which has been recovered from space. The man has decided never to return to earth so that the aliens won't find the way there. Of course he doesn't manage. Not much point in this story, or I wasn't able to find it. **½