Saturday, December 29, 2012

Galaxy Science Fiction, August 1951

An average issue, where most stories are well past their sell-by date.

Beyond Bedlam • novella by Wyman Guin
A story about a world where everyone is schizophrenic which is written by someone who apparently didn't know anything about schizophrenia. At least I find it hard to believe that schizophrenia would have meant multiple personality disorder in the fifties.
Everyone has a side personality. Everyone is using compulsory drugs to separate and control the personalities. Apparently going to this kind of lifestyle prevents all wars and violence. The two personalities everyone has are called hypoalter and hyperalter and the prevalent personality is switched every five days. Both personalities of the protagonist are married to the same woman (to her separate personalities), which in itself is uncommon and is considered to be slightly perverted. And what is really kinky is that the hyperalter of the personality has an affair with the wife of the hypoalter. That kind of perversion can't end well. The characters of the story spend extraordinary time explaining details of their society to each other’s. There are also some very extraneous parts in the story, for example there is a space ship race which comes from nowhere. The idea itself isn't the worst ever, but the writing is pretty bad and rambling, and the story would have benefited from a drastic shortening. **½
Operation Distress • shortstory by Lester del Rey
The first man who has landed in Mars is returning. In the middle of voyage he gets sick. Is there some pathogen he caught from Mars? A pretty stupid story with a stupid protagonist. There are several stupidities which should have been avoided even in -51. There apparently is "a little gravity" in space ship which travels in free fall. And when the ship is on a trajectory leading to earth and you should get there faster you just turn on your engines. I wonder why they weren't in use in the first place? And calculating the trajectory with all course changes and breaking burns would have been something very complicated. The reason why the astronaut got sick? The ship used cat's fur to gather dust and he was allergic to cats. Writing on par with the plot. **
The Pilot and the Bushman • novelette by Sylvia Jacobs
An alien ambassador slips that the aliens have technology to transfer all kind of matter and reconstitute it at will. It is a kind of cross of Star Trek's transfer beam and food reconstitution tech. That naturally causes a lot of interest - too much as matter of fact. He hires an advertiser to counter the damage. Soon the ad man has managed to make everyone think that the matter transmitter was a hoax. And he also manages to sell earth as a primitive vacation spot for the aliens. An amusing story which should have been somewhat tighter. ***-
Pictures Don't Lie • shortstory by Katherine MacLean
A scientist has captured TV transmissions from an approaching star ship. They are sent as tight, speed up bursts. Then the communication is established, and the ship starts to land. For some reason it doesn't seem to appear to the landing strip, even though the aliens say that have landed and are experiencing some serious trouble. Why? Think about the aliens in a famous Carl Barks Donald Duck / Uncle Scrooge story. These are similar ones, only more so. Another story which could have tighter. And with less stupid aliens. **½
The Fire and the Sword • novelette by Frank M. Robinson
Why there have been so many suicides of earth representatives on a planet which so perfect with so perfect and happy habitants, that it seems almost unreal? Two men are going to spend six months to find out. The reason is less complicated and more stupid than you might imagine. The inhabitants and the planet really are perfect, but the habitants will never really accept outsiders. They are friendly enough, but they will never make friends with humans. And that's apparently tragic enough to be a reason to kill yourself. The writing was tolerable. ***-
A Little Journey • shortstory by Ray Bradbury
An old woman comes to Mars because a fraudulent travel agent offers a “trip to heaven”. She and other members of her traveling group find an extremely battered and derelict rocket which was supposed to be used for the last part of the trip. And it is used for that trip, in a pretty literal sense. Nice story which was well written as could be expected. Little plot, a lot of style. ***+

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Uplift War (The Uplift Saga, Book 3) by David Brin

Second Hugo award winner from David Brin’s Uplift universe. Continues the story which begun in Startide Rising. Unfortunately, the exactly same story doesn't continue, rather the story happens at about the same time on another planet and explores the effects Streaker’s find had in human colony worlds. Garth is such new colony planet of humans and uplifted chimpanzee. It is still ecologically recovering of a disastrous reign of a species which uplift had more or less failed and which practically destroyed most of higher life from the planet, before the galactic society was able to stop that. The ecologically frail planet was given to humans as they are considered second class race without “patrons”. A fanatic but technologically powerful galactic race, Gubru, invade Garth and try to use occupations as leverage to get first-hand information Streaker’s find. After they find out that isn’t any new information available, they try to benefit from the occupation in some other way. Most of the humans has been captured, the chips keep up the most functions of the society under close surveillance by the Gubry, but there is at least one group of neo-chimps and one young human who are able offer some sort of resistance.

The book very enjoyable read, even better than Startide Rising. The plot was more coherent, the characters were more interesting and vivid (and often less stupid). The one downside of the book was a shade of old Astounding Science Fiction style of human superiority. The humans, and even the chimps which were uplifted by the humans are much more rational, sensible and intelligent than the Galactics who seem to closer to animals they were before their uplift. On the other that might just be a way to convey the “alieness” of aliens, but it was irritating at places, anyway. The writing was smooth and readable, probably slightly easier to read than in Startide. One of the best books I have read this year.

Hugo reading score 85% read.

672 pp.

Oh Myyy! (There Goes The Internet) by George Takei

A short e-book which describes how George Takei become one of the most followed people in the Facebook. The book contains some of the more popular memes he has introduced, some info about some peculiarities of the Facebook and some details of recent events in his life. The book is extremely recent and some parts of it were apparently written late November this year. It was light, fast reading even though I am very active in Facebook or even very interested of it. n the other hand, I AM in the Facebook, and book was interested enough I started to follow Takei’s updates.

app 100 pages.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Asimov's Science Fiction, February 2013

An excellent novella. Otherwise many of the stories in this issue were more just "episodes" instead of complete stories with a beginning, a middle and an end.

And Then Some by Matthew Hughes
A some kind of bounty hunter comes to retrieve an apparent criminal charged with some sort of swindle. The man he is trying to find has a lot of influence and the bounty hunter finds himself imprisoned and in forced labor. As he is a GOOD bounty hunter, he doesn't take a lot of time to escape. Later he finds himself supervising the works of the same man he tried to catch. Then the story goes metaphysical, stupid and irritating. The first part of the story was very good, the latter half was stupid and seemed to be even worse writing - it almost felt like something by a different author. **½
Outbound From Put-In-Bay by M. Bennardo
A new ice age has started on the late 19th century. Northern part of US has split to independent countries, drought (I wonder why there is drought, I would imagine that lowering temperatures would rather increase the rainfall) has almost dried out the Great Lakes. Canada has somehow managed to keep a resemblance of civilization up. Desperate groups of people smuggle crude oil from Canada to south. The story consists of episodes in the life of such smuggler. There is little coherent plot running through the episodes and the background is too sketchy for the story to work well in so short a form. ***
Best of All Possible Worlds by John Chu
A man has as a friend an apparent alien who can project musical music to his mind - and apparently at times move in physically (or mentally) to a reality of a musical while protecting the protagonist from something. Far too short a story with an extremely scanty background. ***-
The Golden Age of Story by Robert Reed
A medication which increases intelligence by 20 iq points has been discovered. It has a side effects though - a few people commit suicide, but more start to span extremely elaborate lies. A very well written story which could have been longer. ***½
The Weight of the Sunrise by Vylar Kaftan
The Inca Empire never fell. They beat the invaders, learnt to cope with smallpox with severe guaranteeing measures and prospered. A convoy from northern America arrives and offers the secret of vaccination against the smallpox - with a cost: a vast amount of gold. Gold is a sacred metal of the Incas and is usually used only for sacramental purposes. The story is told as memorials of a former peasant who has become minor nobility by surviving a flare up of pox. His grandfather was European and he can speak English. He gets drafted as a translator for the negotiations.
An extremely good story and I would like to see more stories happening in the same world. This was easily the best story in the issue. ****+
The New Guys Always Work Overtime by David Erik Nelson
People of past are used as minimum wage labor to produce products which are “Made in America by Americans”. However, not all past works come from America. Another story where background was fairly sketchy. ***-

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, March 2013

Very average issue with ordinary stories. No award nominees here, I believe.

The Radioactive Etiquette Book by Marissa Lingen
A day of life in the diplomatic corps. There are slight problems: children of an important official is missing, the talks with vacuum dwellers are stalling and an important book which describes the diplomatic protocols and procedures is missing, which doesn't make the talks easier. ( I wonder why the diplomats aren’t expected to know the details of the book by heart - it shouldn’t be an insurmountable task as it is a real book and small enough to be easily carried around. A fairly standard story of its type. Nothing really groundbreaking. ***

The Firewall and the Door by Sean McMullen

An interstellar probe reaches another sun. It is supposed to slingshot to the next sun, but there has been an accident and the maneuverability of the probe is impaired. A planet orbiting the sun seems to have life on it. Suddenly, it turns out that the probe is able to change its directions after all. And it seems that one of the crew who are remotely controlling the probe via a subspace link has sabotaged the probe. The story consists mainly about the hearing detailing the crime – if there was a crime. The story works fairly well for a “court room drama”, which usually isn’t one of my favorite subtypes of story. ***+
It's the End of the World as We Know It, and We Feel Fine by Harry Turtledove
The future world is nice, very nice. And very peaceful, and the people are nice, polite and considerate. They have been bred for that. There are sometimes a few throwbacks to the old type, but those rare individuals are taken care of. Politely, of course. A nice wry story, which is written in a very polite and considerate style. ***½
High Concept by Barry Malzberg and Bill Pronzini
The aliens have arrived; they seem to be very friendly and curious, so curious that it is sometimes annoying. A Sf author proposes a novel story idea for an editor of a sf magazine: why not use the aliens in a humorous story in style of Fred Browns “Martians Go Home!”. Not a good idea. A pretty nice story where the humor works better than usually in stories meant as humorous. ***+
The Paragon of Animals by Andrew Barton
Some unknown species has seeded an earthlike plane with earth animals millions of years ago. A species of birds has apparently become intelligent. I didn't get this story- there didn't seem to be any real plot. **-
The Snack by Bud Sparhawk
Intelligent wardrobe can be a pain in an ass by nagging endlessly about wrong diet, being overweight and alcohol consumption. And everyone is very health conscious, at last appears to be. An OK story in a light vein. ***+
Instinctive Response by Bond Elam
A pair of researchers is studying a new solar system. They encounter an abandoned space ship. As they are idiots they don’t report the finding but rather study it themselves. The ship is orbiting a planet which contains a single habitat. As they really are idiots they still don’t report but study the compound themselves. Soon they find themselves imprisoned by a species which seems to follow its instincts. The story contains an immense amount of technobabble about alien DNA, also the lack of common sense displayed by the characters was disconcerting. **½

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, May 2001

Not very good issue – most of the stories were more or less boring.

My Favorite Robot • [Maggie & Ben] • novelette by Ron Goulart
A part of the series where a detective whose mind is downloaded to a robot body. Another android (she is a copy of a minor celebrity) has committed murder. That should totally impossible, as androids a supposed to be incapable for such acts. An okay story which is meant as a funny one, but doesn't really work. ***
Wound the Wind • shortstory by George Zebrowski
The practically immortal and completely healthy humans are trying to find the last “tribe” of “wild” humans who live in a forest. They plan to civilize them by any means necessary if needed. A very short story with a slightly ambiguous end. ***
The Heights • [Draco Tavern] • shortstory by Larry Niven
A very short Draco tavern story about aliens behaving rowdily. The story didn’t have much point. ***-
Down the Rabbit Hole • shortstory by John G. Hemry
A man gets drafted to pilot a FTL test ship. He is slightly dismayed that this will be the seventh probe and that there haven’t been any signs of the earlier ones. Of course, a new approach will be needed. Short and very standard story. ***-
The Gift of Unbinding • shortstory by Paula S. Jordan
Canisters which contain personal effects of people living at a space station are ready for lift-off. For some reason there are wide spread opposition up to rioting opposing the launch. There is a lot of discussion concerning that, not much else. The writing was ok, though. **½
Hostile Takeover • [InterstellarNet] • novelette by Edward M. Lerner
Interstellar commerce is based on the exchange of information which is brokered by AI front ends of the different alien races. Almost all computer equipment humans use is based in the principles bought from one certain race. They start to extort humans for new payment for the system with a threat that all computers will stop working. A solution will naturally be found. An OK story, one of the better ones in this fairly mediocre issue. ***

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Taro Korhonen: Paskapokkari

This book’s name translates as a ”Shit Paperback”. The name is literal and it tells everything and more you have ever wanted to know about the subject matter.

Kirja, jonka aiheen voi päätellä sen nimestä. Lyhyitä faktapohjaisia juttuja aiheeseen liittyen, sekä erilaisia anekdootteja saman asian tiimoilta. Anekdootteihin on kyllä eksynyt tunnettuja urbaanilegendoja ainakin yksittäisiä mukaan, joten ihan aidoista kertomuksista ei ole kyse. Tämä kirja tuli luettua ihan yksityisesti aiheeseensa liittyvissä tilanteissa, ja sopi siihen käyttöön oikein mainiosti. Huvittavia, viihdyttäviä ja joskus hiukkasen yököttäviäkin tarinoita – ihan oivaa ajankulua.

256 s.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, September 2006

There were only three stories in this issue as a serial takes a lot of space. They were all pretty good ones, though.

A Pound of Flesh • novella by Robert A. Lovett
Magic potions (”nanos”) which are able to do almost anything have become commonplace. They are routinely used to enforce all sorts of contracts including apartment rentals. If you don’t pay your rent in time, a nano which was put in your bloodstream while signing the contract will cause some very uncomfortable results. As all contracts are 100% enforceable most lawyers have become unemployed. (I wonder if that would really happen – are most lawyers really enforcing contracts?) . One recently divorced tries to make the ends meet by working as a private detective. The business isn’t too good, but on one day a mysterious lady comes to visit him… She has a job offer: her business partner who has developed a new style of magic potion…[cough]..nano –machine… which is able to reveal if someone is lying or not, has disappeared with his priceless invention. He must be found. A pretty good and entertaining detective –style science fiction. An enjoyable read. ****
Kyrie Eleison • shortstory by John G. Hemry
Survivors of a space ship accident have lived on a barely habitable planet for a few generations. The bridge crew has established a religion which preached salvation from the planet for worthy – those who obey the descendants of crew in everything. And The Officers and Crew are naturally saved automatically, and the offspring of the passengers who languish with poor food and heavy labor aren’t probably worthy. But then a rescue ship lands and is able to take part of the inhabitants on board... Another good and entertaining tale. ****-
A Million Years and Counting • novelette by Rajnar Vajra
A robot has been found in a cave on the moon. Apparently, it has been there for millennia. After it has been studied for years it has been released and it lives in New York. Then on one day its head (which hasn’t been removable) drop off, and the android starts demonstrate unseen powers. A fairly good story, which was somewhat overlong. There was too far much soapboxing by the author for several things about humanity, evolution and human behavior which were very superfluous. ***+

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?: And Other Reflections on Being Human by Jesse Bering

A book which describes the possible evolutionary origins of several human anatomical details and behavior patterns covering several different factoids from the shape of the human penis to reason why teenage girls tend to be so cruel against each other’s. Entertaining and fascinating details and thoughts from wide variety of things. Mostly they were logical and easy to agree upon, but there were a few details where apparently author’s cultural background influenced his opinions. For example, the chapter where he assumes that people who openly show their religious beliefs (e.g. by having a visible crucifix on a car window) seem to be more trustful than those who don’t show them – even for the author who is an atheist. I really don’t believe that would apply to Finland where religious belief is a very private matter and showing them very openly is unusual and even suspect. I would have picked up the taxi without the crucifix. The writing style was easy to read and light, at places probably slightly too light, but might very well pick up other books by the same author.
301 pp.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Asimov's Science Fiction, January 2013

Not one of the best issues of Asimov's.

They Shall Salt the Earth With Seeds of Glass by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Aliens with an unknown agenda has invaded earth. The make attacks at will for reasons remaining humans don't usually know. For some reason they are very interested in pregnant women and promise good care for everyone who is pregnant. But no one who seeks their care comes back. A young woman is pregnant. She and her sister seeks out a doctor who could perform an abortion. They get caught, and an alien drone starts to take them to a health faculty - and seems to think it is doing them a favor. There is too little backstory for the story really work. Now it is just a pretty blatant allegory for the US invasion/influence of third world countries. ***+
Over There by Will McIntosh
An apparently innocuous experiment causes the world to divide into two separate continuums. The people in those are able to perceive both realties which is very confusing them and most start eventually be very anxious. The story is told as two s narratives describing simultaneous events on both time-lines. I wonder how the story was supposed to be read. There were hardly any natural divides or chapter breaks which would have made it easier to switch reading between two different simultaneous stories involving the same characters. The ending was also fairly weak in my opinion. ***-
Legend of Troop 13 by Kit Reed
A story of a lost group of girls who live or might not live in a forest. Very "artsy" story which I didn't get or really understood. **
Hotel by Suzanne Palmer
A story happens in a hotel on Mars, which for historical reasons is on neutral territory which doesn’t belong to any nation. There are some unusual visitors there, most of them are using the name "Smith" to remain anonymous. And there are a few secret plots going on.. a noirish story where science fictions elements aren't really important for the plot in spite of a few aliens in important roles. Some condensing probably would have made the story better. **½
The Family Rocket by James Van Pelt
A man is coming back to his childhood home with his fiancée. His family has always been space nuts. And his father bought a used space rocket when he was young and refurbished it for an imaginary trip to Mars. A sweet story with a nice mood. ***
Mithridates, He Died Old by Nancy Kress
An experimental and risky treatment for severe brain trauma causes unforeseen effects. A sort of rerun of “A Christmas Carol” by Dickens. Very good, emotional story. One drawback is that the author apparently hasn’t got a clue how scientific studies are really done. ***½

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde

The second Thursday Next novel featuring the Britain’s best (?) literary detective in an alternative world where literature is the most important thing in the world, and where characters from books are able to come to the real world, and where people are able to spend time in books , at least after they have learnt the trick to do it. Thursday has many problems: her husband has been eradicated from history and no one except her has any recollections of him at all, but she is still pregnant without being entirely sure if the father is her non-existing husband or someone she has never met, she is supposed to fetch an obnoxious agent from Poe’s famous poem, “Raven” – and there is a little matter of the end of the world coming in just a few days. An extremely inventive book with many, many literary references using at places even different writing styles. This second part was even better than the first part of the series, and as it ends in the middle of the story I must probably get the next part sooner or later.

384 pp.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, January-February 2013

A pretty good issue with mostly very entertaining stories.

In The Moment • shortstory by Jerry Oltion
A comet is approaching moon. If it hits the moon, it might cause "splatter" which would hit earth with catastrophic consequences. (I am not sure, if that were the case - could that cause SO big effects?) A teenage girl (whose parents apparently are religious nuts) is on a field watching what happens. She meets her male classmate who also has come to watch. A sweet but simple story. ***½
The Exchange Officers • novelette by Brad R. Torgersen
Chinese attack a space station US is constructing on orbit. A pair of building crew who use remote working system unsurprisingly defeat them. A pretty standard Analog-style story. The plot was unsurprising, but the pretty nice writing gave freshness to the otherwise very conventional plot. ***+
The War of the Worlds, Book One, Chapter 18: The Sergeant-Major • shortstory by John G. Hemry
A missing chapter from Well's “War of the Worlds”, where a very British group of soldiers who have no doubt what so ever, that the British people are the best anywhere, defeat a Martian invader. A nice "fan fiction" style addition to a familiar tale. ***+
The Woman Who Cried Corpse • novella by Rajnar Vajra
Computer programmer's mother (who was a famous scientist who had won Nobel price) is dying from a stroke in a hospital. She seems to die, but then revives and does that again, and again. Later she disappears from the hospital. When her daughter arrives at the scene, she is arrested as a suspect for her mother’s murder and for hacking the computer system of the hospital to cover up the murder. While she is still being interrogated on the scene by police officers, they are attacked and most of the agents on the scene are shot. Then there are pages and pages of action. After that there are pages and pages of detailed explanation of fake science, after that there are pages and pages of exposition done by one character explaining what happened, and then the story ends. Without any really good, sane, half believable explanation why the attack in the hospital even took place. The writing as such was ok, but the plot and pacing of the story were not ok. ***-
Descartes's Stepchildren • novelette by Robert Scherrer
A scientist is trying to discover the brain centre for consciousness. He finds that a part of population doesn't have it. Does he refine his methods? No, he concludes that some people aren't conscious - even though there are NO corroborating evidence and no psychological evaluation or any other study can differentiate between those people who have supposedly have consciousness and those supposedly don't have it. And for some strange reason his findings are taken seriously, which leads to the predictable outcome with concentration camps and so on. Writing was ok, but the stupidity of the science was overwhelming. ***
Neighborhood Watch • shortstory by H.G. Stratmann
The dozens of intelligent species of solar system debate if they should still continue to fool humans and pretend that there is no life anywhere in the system - or should they just get rid of those pesky and irritating troublemakers. A humorous story, ok in its class. ***
True to Form • novelette by Kyle Kirkland
There are artificial humans who are used for manual and dangerous work; there is some sort of conspiracy involving something, a death of an important politician in suspicious circumstances and a lot of expositionary dialog. I really didn't get into this story. **
Buddha Nature • novelette by Amy Thomson
A robot arrives at a Buddhist monastery and wants stay there and become enlightened. Is it self-aware? Does it have rights or is it just property? And is it possible that a mere machine really could be spiritually enlightened? A pretty good, enjoyable and well written story. ***½
Time Out • novella by Edward M. Lerner
A story of a "sidekick" (out of work bank employee) of a "mad scientist", who invents a working time machine. There are naturally paradoxes and a threat of serious butterfly effect. And it all ends in flames. (That is not a spoiler, as the main story is told as a flashback after the fire). Another well written very good story. Probably the best of the issue. ****-

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Galaxy Science Fiction, July 1951

An average or even slightly above average story. Quaintly entertaining stories – most of them probably weren’t meant to funny at the time of writing.

Venus Is a Man's World • novelette by William Tenn
The world is ruled by females and there is a shortage of eligible husbands. There are more men in Venus and a shipload of hopeful brides-to-be is flying to Venus. A young boy, who is a ward of one of the women, finds a stowaway: a Venusian man who is returning from the Earth after a failed mission to find a wife. The end is just what you would expect of a sf story from the beginning of the fifties: of course the most feminist and confident woman must have A Real Man to be happy. Attitudes in the story almost seem to be irony, but probably weren’t meant to be. ***
Common Denominator • shortstory by John D. MacDonald
Humans encounter aliens, who are really pleasant, but also mellow and their civilization has been on the same level for centuries if not more. On the other hand they apparently haven’t had wars and have little violent crime. The chief of the bureau of racial maturity travels to their home world to find out how they have managed that. It turns out that they have a really novel approach: everyone is able to commit totally painless and fast suicide at will. That has removed all mental instabilities out from the race. ***-
Syndrome Johnny • shortstory by Katherine MacLean [as by Charles Dye ]
Several plagues have ravaged earth. It seems that they are spread by the same man – even when several decades have passed. There is an explanation and an ulterior motive for that, of course. A fairly stupid story – the wring wasn’t too good, either. **½
Pen Pal • shortstory by Milton Lesser
An old spinster (about thirty and almost already getting too old to marry) finds an intriguing (it is hard to understand why she finds the ad so interesting – it reads like something written by an egoistic idiot) corresponding advertisement. She is so fascinated by it that she isn’t satisfied by just writing a letter but drives to meet the man who wrote the add. She gets captured for a night, but is eventually released as she doesn’t believe what the man tells her. An extremely stupid story at so so many levels. **+
Appointment in Tomorrow • novelette by Fritz Leiber
Two factions compete for power in a post nuclear world: Thinkers (scientist) have had a lot of power and popularity due to fantastic inventions (some of those might be only a deception), but there are opposing forces. Little happens in the story. The writing was pretty good, but the story was excruciatingly boring and there was far too much idle talking. **

Friday, October 26, 2012

Kathrin Passig, Aleks Scholz: Tietämättömyyden sanakirja / Lexikon des Unwissens

Short essays about things science can’t yet explain. The essays are fairly light and are sometimes written in irritating light style. I found most of essays to be too shallow and short and I would have liked a more detailed approach. An ok light read, though.

Lyhyitä kertomuksia asioista joiden laatua tiede ei vielä tunne ainakaan kirjoittajien mielestä. Artikkeleiden aiheet ovat hyvin vaihtelevia ankeriaiden lisääntymisen salaisuudesta matematiikan perusongelmien kautta siihen miksi juomarahaa jätetään. Kirjoitustyyli on kevyttä, välillä ärsyttävän kevyttä viisastelevine tekohauskoine puujalkavitseineen. Myös artikkeleiden ylimalkaisuus ja lyhyys oli jonkin verran häiritsevää, perustiedot asioista tuli selville, mutta ei mitään syvällisempää. Ihan mukiinmenevä kirja, joka on ehkä kuitenkin hiukan nuoremmalle yleisölle suunnattu.

256 s.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Asimov's Science Fiction, Decmber 2012

A pretty nice issue with mostly good stories.

The Caramel Forest by Chris Beckett
A planet with new colonists is inhabited by alien "goblins" which are able to project at least feelings to the minds of humans. Most of the feelings are negative: anxiety, uncertainty and other negative feelings, but one child experiences them as positive. The goblins seem to be interested in her, and eventually they seem to be able to influence her. A pretty good story, but the ending was too open for my taste. ***+
The Waves by Ken Liu
A generation ship which is travelling to another star receives a transmission from earth: the secret for immortality has been discovered and it is so simple that even the colonists on the ship are able to achieve it. But the life on the ship was planned to depend on new generations replacing the old ones. A sort of decision is reached. Eventually, the ship arrives to the planet it was supposed to, but the mankind has already arrived there by new, better and faster ships, and they are getting near to the singularity.
The story has far too many ideas for a novellette and is pretty fragmented as a result.***
The Wizard of West 34th Street by Mike Resnick
Just like an episode from the Twilight Zone TV series. A man befriends with a bit tattered and shaggy man who seems to be able to see everything which happens to other people and what kind of choices they should make. Is that a blessing or a curse? ***+
The Pipes of Pan by Robert Reed
A taxonomist starts to propose a new taxonomical name for Homo sapiens, as so many aren't so sapient. That causes great controversy and there are even several attempts against his life. Eventually, he becomes a kind of guru for peace and cooperation, but when situation turns bad there might be some hard choices to be made. A pretty good story, another one where a longer form might have worked better. ***
The Black Feminist’s Guide to Science Fiction Film Editing by Sandra McDonald
Movies are being re-edited to remove chauvinistic male dominated influences to give women the starring roles. A film which has never been publicly shown which has been written by Leight Brackett has been found in the remains of old time movie producer. His demented widow will let someone to edit it and make it presentable for public showing. A woman whose has been successful on several re-edits and a male who has made edited "feminist" movies (for example Handmaids Tale) to NOT to be o feminist compete for the rights. A pretty good story, well written. ***½
Sudden, Broken, and Unexpected by Steven Popkes
Ex-girlfriend hires an embittered musician (who was an one hit wonder years ago with a song he himself didn't really appreciate) to enhance songs performed by "teeny-popper", who is in reality a sophisticated computer software programmed to give most engaging performances possible. Would any of them have possibilities to grow as persons or in case of the singer who is "just" software to grow to a person? An extremely good story, which might well find itself from the award shortlists next year. The only nitpicks are far too many song names mentioned at the end part of the story and somewhat too convenient and easy ending. ****

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dorsai! by Gordon R. Dickson

The first part of the Dorsai-series. Dorsai is a planet which produces the best mercenaries of the galaxy. Donal Graeme was a fairly unremarkable youngster, but when he started his career as a mercenary he turned out to be the most talented tactician, leader and solder ever. He is so tough, that he is able to walk on air (literally), but he decides that he won’t bother. And that is apparently presented with a completely straight face, not as a parody. The book is presented as episodes where Donal rises higher and higher in the hierarchy until his is the leader of all known human worlds. The basic plot was audacious and as stated, apparently seriously presented. It would offer a lot of material for parody…The writing was fairly fluent, typical for its time, and there was nothing especially special. The structure of the book was very fragmented and sometimes it was hard to keep track of all characters. I don’t believe that I am going to read the rest of the series not being a great fan of military science fiction.

236 pp.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Liza Marklund & James Patterson : Postikorttimurhat (The Postcard Killers)

A very light mystery about two serial killers rampaging through different cities of Europe. Extremely short chapters made the book feel like a novelization of a movie with a very fast cutting style. A light read which wasn’t as good as Marklund’s solo efforts.

Kahden suositun ruotsalaisen dekkaristin yhteisteos.
Ympäri Eurooppaan on tapahtunut samankaltaisia nuorten parien rajuja murhia. Jokaisen murhan jälkeen murhaaja on vaihtanut kaupunkia ja maata, ja on lähettänyt enemmän tai vähemmän umpimähkään valitulle toimittajalle ennakkoviestin tulevasta murhasta. Nyt murhaava kaksikko on siirtynyt Tukholmaan kintereillä amerikkalainen poliisi, jonka tytär oli yksi ensimmäisiä sarjamurhaajien uhreista. Kirjassa seurataan sekä poliisityötä että murhaajien toimintaa erillisissä luvuissa. Kirjan luvut ovat erittäin lyhyitä, pisimilläänkin vain muutaman sivun mittaisia, ja kirja vaikuttaa ylinopeaksi leikatun elokuvan kirjaversiolta. Nopeasta kioskikirjamaisesta tyylistään huolimatta tai ehkä juuri sen takia kirja oli nopeaa ja mukavaa luettavaa, kirjan uskottavuus luonnollisesti ei ollut kaikkein korkeimmalla tasolla. Ei mitään suurta kirjallisuutta, ja selvästi huonompaa ja kevyempää tasoa kuin Liza Marklundin yksinään kirjoittamat teokset.

318 s.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, December 2012

An above average issue.

The Moon Belongs to Everyone • novella by K. C. Ball and Michael Alexander
The story happens in an alternate reality where US is preparing a flight to Mars at end of 70s. Water ice is transported from a moon base to the space ship which is being built on lunar orbit. a dead man is found on one ice block. A former police woman who has been fired from her old job and arrives to the moon as an ordinary worker is drafted to investigate. A pretty standard science fiction mystery. A slightly overlong in novella form. Not bad, but nothing unforgettable, either. ***+
From An Antique Land • novelette by Shane Tourtellotte
A group of people arrives to a small village in post-apocalyptic America. They are trying get to an old large telescope and confirm that humans once visited moon. There pictures of moon landing are still around in old books, but everyone knows that they were faked. A well written pessimistic story with good characters. Maybe it was slightly too downbeat. ****-
Hearing Impairment • shortstory by Stephen L. Burns
The aliens have arrived and they are bringing gifts. But conservative politicians in US refuse to believe even the existence of any aliens. They are not even mentioned in the bible...Finland already has short distance teleportation and inertial dampeners running, but in the US the discussions are still going on and without very much progress. But there some very concrete approaches which can be used.. A fun little tale where Finland is nicely and positively mentioned. ***½
The Perfect Book • shortstory by Ken Liu
A very short story about a future where books are always personalized to the reader by computer. ut there is something even more personal…Nice writing but just “an anecdote” ***-
Garden Spot • shortstory by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff
The explorers have landed on alien planet. It seems empty of life and desolate, but it turns out not to be so barren after all. Reminds me about the movie “planet 51” – even if I haven’t even actually seen it. ***+
Cats Know • shortstory by Richard A. Lovett
An elderly widow befriends with a holographic advertisement. The advertisement uses a personality template as basis for its programming. The personality used to belong to a beautiful model. At first the program uses the personality only in most limited way, but slowly the old widow manages to get past of the limits. A nicely written story which could have been longer. ***+
Scary Monsters • shortstory by Liz J. Andersen
A vet who is in call gets an interesting mission: she must humanely euthanize a pet dragon who has become too dangerous to keep around. That is quite large task..a short light story, the writing is nice and easy to read. ***+
Silent Mode • [Claude & Friends] • novelette by Paul Carlson
A part of a series involving a truck driver who has made friends with robots. He gets an order to remove some industrial robots from an abandoned factory and ends helping them. There are a few other plotlines also. I haven’t been fan of these stories, and I didn’t like this one either. It was too long with too much going on. **

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Wool - Omnibus Edition by Hugh Howey

A self-published book which mainly marketed as an e-book and which has risen to extremely high place on Amazon’s selling charts. The book consists of five separate short stories/novellas, which happen in the same setting and partly with the same characters. The setting is an underground silo where people have lived as long as anyone can remember. The outside world is barren, grey and extremely poisonous and can only be seen from monitors from the top floor of the silo. The worst punishment is a “cleaning” – you are sent to clean the cameras which are sending the real-time feed to the monitors. The worst crime is even hinting that you would like to go outside of the silo. That will always be punished by a cleaning. And no matter how strongly those who are banished swear that they won’t clean the cameras, for some reason they always end up doing it. The stories slowly reveal more and more of the background and give hints what has happened and what the silo really is. The first short story was excellent; the latter longer ones were very good, but felt slightly too prolonged at places. The characters were interesting and had a refreshing degree of shades of black and white. Writing was also very good – something which made me pleasantly surprised. (One always approaches self-published works with some trepidation). The plot was also good and creative, but somewhat depressing at times. An extremely good book, one of the best self-published books I have ever read and something which apparently has made the author at least moderately wealthy.
550 pp.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, April 1971

An average issue. Schmidt’s novelette was pretty good, the other stories less so.

The Unreachable Stars • novelette by Stanley Schmidt
A construction foreman has found ancient books from an old tomb they were demolishing. The books seem to claim that people used to be able to travel in space. He hopes that space travel could be used to ease the severe population problem, and shows what he found to government officials. They don’t seem to like too much that idea, and soon he finds himself running and hiding. And then a voice starts to speak directly to him in his mind. It turns out that an aliens ship is orbiting the earth and trying to find out why humanity has forgotten the space travel. A pretty nice story, where the characters were not black and white, even when at first they might have seemed to be so. At place the story was more than a little preachy about the necessity of space exploration. ***½
Heart's Desire and Other Simple Wants • [Ravenshaw] • novelette by W. Macfarlane
A man who is studying paranormal phenomena learns how travel to different alternative realities. He briefly visits several with a beautiful woman and then returns. A somewhat fragmented story without a real point. **
Higher Centers • [LaNague Federation] • shortstory by F. Paul Wilson
Apparently belongs to a series: The background was pretty sketchy, but an investigator arrives to a fishing city on an alien planet. A strange malady seems to be spreading: people have trouble sleeping and have to use copious amounts of stimulants to be able to function. The investigator works out what has happened: a sort of Ondine’s curse (taking far too much time to figure it out) due to an extremely implausible explanation. And that malady is supposed to very ironic for some reason a casual reader of the story can’t really fathom out. **½

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Vernor Vinge: Taivaan syvyydet (A Deepness in the Sky)

Another Hugo-award winner. About average Hugo winner in quality. The events among the humans tended to boring and could have been shorter. Those parts of the book which concerned the aliens were much more interesting and readable as were some flashbacks to the history of the human explosion to the galaxy.

Kaksi tutkimusryhmää matkaa lähes yhtä aikaa eriskummalliselle tähdelle, joka sammuu käytännössä kokonaan vuosiksi, ja syttyy sitten taas uudelleen. Tähteä kiertä yksi ainoa planeetta, ja sillä asustaa hämähäkkimäisiä olentoja, jotka ovat juuri ottamassa askeleen joka johtaa avaruusmatkailuun kykenevään sivilisaatioon. Se ryhmä, joka onnistuu saamaan yksinoikeuden kauppaa tämän uuden sivilisaation kanssa todennäköisesti tulee suunnattoman rikkaaksi. Molemmat ryhmät - jotka molemmat koostuvat useista eri aluksista - saapuvat aurinkokuntaan sen pitkän yön aikana. Aluksi näyttää siltä, että olisi ryhmien olisi mahdollista tehdä yhteistyötä, mutta toisen ryhmän, emergenttien (jotka ovat aika uusi ihmisten sivilisaatio) yhteistyön tarjous olikin vain salajuoni, ja ryhmät päätyvät keskinäiseen taisteluun. Taistelun jälkeen molemmat osapuolet ovat menettäneet suurimman osan aluksistaan, ja joutuvat odottamaan hämähäkki-muukalaisten kehittymistä niin pitkälle kehittyneeksi teknologiseksi sivilisaatioksi, että avun saaminen aluksien korjaamiseen on mahdollista. Niskanpäälle jää emigranttien ryhmä, joilla on apunaan ns. fokusoidut. He ovat ihmisiä. joille on saatu aivoja manipuloimalla aikaan kaiken voittava intohimo ja keskittyminen johonkin tiettyyn asiaan. Tämä tila saadaan aikaan virusinfection ja magneettistimulaation yhdistelmällä, eivätkä emigrantit ole turhan tarkkoja kohteena olevan vapaaehtoisuudesta uusia fokusoituja tehdessään. Samalla seurataan planeetan asukkaiden elämää muutamien poikkeuksellisten yksilöiden kautta.

Ne kirjan jaksot jotka tapahtuivat ihmisten parissa, eivät oikein jaksaneet kiinnostaa. Sivukaupalla sekavahkoa juonittelua. Sen sijaan planeetan muukalaisia seuraavat sivujuonet sekä Linnunradan ihmisten historiaa käsittelevät takautumat olivat erittäin hyviä ja kiinnostavia. Myös monet kirjassa esillä olleet ideat olivat hienoja, ja niistä oli saatu aika paljon irti. Loppua kohden myös kokonaisuus tuntui parantuvan, mutta tiivistämisen varaa kirjassa olisi ollut ja melkein tuntuu siltä, että se kiinnostavin osa tarinaa tapahtuisi vasta näiden kirjassa kuvattujen tapahtumien jälkeen. Kirjoitustyylistä on käännöksen perusteella vaikea sanoa mitään kovin tarkkaa, paikoitellen pientä jäykkyyttä tekstissä tuntui olevan, ja muutama tyylillisesti mielestäni väärä käännösratkaisu hiukan kiusasi. Hugo-palkittujen joukossa pidän tätä vakaaseen keskikastiin kuuluvana.

759 s.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Galaxy Science Fiction, June 1951

Only three longish stories + a serial. A pretty mediocre issue.

Hunt the Hunter • shortstory by Kris Neville

A ruthless rich hunter travels to on alien planet to hunt a legendary and dangerous beast. The planet is on the territory of hostile aliens, but the hunter doesn't let that stop him. He is even ready to use one of his aides as bait. But there are baits and there are baits... A nice old fashionable entertaining story with a slightly open ending. ***
Angel's Egg • novelette by Edgar Pangborn
A secret diary of a man who adopts "an angel", which is a member of an incredibly advanced race. The race is also so ethical that it used million year pondering if it is ethical to travel in space. It looks like a small naked fairy. It is able to record and absorb a personality of another being. A badly overlong and boring story where little happens. Writing was adequate. **+
Don't Live in the Past • novelette by Damon Knight
There has been an accident: several items have fallen in the past. A man is sent to make sure they won't cause any harm. He observes when first items appear at inappropriate moment. Eventually he gets stranded in the past and finds that things he has learned about history aren't as accurate as he thought, and that his future isn't such a utopia he had thought. He eventually ends up just where it was certain to end from the beginning. About in the first page he is said to resemble the revered "father" of the future world who naturally turns out to be a mad dictator. All problems the stranded visitor from the past faces are solved by an almost literal deus ex machine style of plot device: just right things fall from the future at just right times. A pretty bad story. **

Monday, September 17, 2012

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, November 2012

At most an average issue. Several stories without a real plot – just a single problem which is solved.

Seagulls, Jack-O-Lanterns, and Interstitial Spaces • novelette by Gray Rinehart
A Halloween themed story. First, a low-level employee on a space ship makes a small Halloween prank which slightly backfires, then they must solve a problem with their ship. A pretty mundane story which isn’t too interesting. **
Strobe Effect • novelette by Alastair Mayer and Brad R. Torgersen
A story of how a couple of scientists make an unusual observation and finally develop a groundbreaking invention. A little boring story where there was no real conflict. ***-
The Information in a Dream • novelette by Sarah K. Castle
A woman who takes care of dogs, which are used as a part of some sort of quantum artificial intelligence computer is faced a hard choice: she must ”volunteer" as an interface for the computer or be fired. She is tied up with taking care of her father who is suffering severe Parkinson's. An excellent, well written story. The background was somewhat flimsy, but that didn't hurt too much. The best story in the issue. ***½
Pictures at an Exhibition • shortstory by Robert R. Chase
A picture exhibition involving a Big Foot, in more than one way. A short and simple story, writing was ok. ***½
Tech Support • shortstory by Richard A. Lovett
Phone-lines get slightly crossed and someone trying to call tech support gets Alexander Bell on the phone line. They discuss some future developments when the caller finally figures out who he is talking with. Writing was ok, but there really wasn't much of the plot. The story was more like an anecdote or prologue for a novel of an alternative world where inventions are made earlier than in our world. ***+
Survival in Shades of Orange • shortstory by Patty Jansen
A newlywed couple goes to work on outpost of an alien planet. They are supposed to research strange plants and animals living upon the planet. The husband has a secret mission - to find out what happened to earlier pair of people stationed on the same outpost. It appears that either they went mad or the station AI malfunctioned in some way. There are interesting details in the story, and the writing is pretty good. However, there are immense stupidities in the plot. Why would the husband withhold extremely critical information from his wife? There might be a lunatic AI, which controls every detail, but one member of the team isn't supposed to know? Totally idiotic and ridiculous. And the author seems to imagine that iodine tablets would somehow be useful for a radiation poisoning caused by a powerful extraneous radiation source?! They are useful only against ingested radioactive iodine – there is no whatsoever effect against any other sort of radioactive exposure. ***
Siege Perilous • novelette by Daniel Hatch
An asteroid where a large group of scientists is developing a ubiquitous AI computing system is sieged by a military spaceship. They are losing, when the invading ship makes demands that are totally ridiculous (apparently the invaders didn’t know who they were invading. An ok story which didn’t really grab me for some reason. ***

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, May 1971

About average issue for its’ time.

Company Planet • [Telzey Amberdon] • novelette by James H. Schmitz
An extremely smart female agent in some kind of underground legal organization, Telzey Amberdon, who also has extremely powerful psychic powers is evaluating a planet where cosmetic surgeons perform very elaborate operations. They are so effective that no one seems to return from the planet without extensive surgery. As usual, she is ends up as kidnapped, but naturally she easily beats all adversaries. An overlong and pretty tedious story. By far the worst I have read in this series. **½
Not Stupid Enough • shortstory by George H. Scithers
One of the first visitors on an alien planet starts to preach against the vile sexual habits of the inhabitants: they routinely have group sex and routinely swap partners. The story goes about the way you would expect. ***-
Culture Shock • novelette by Perry A. Chapdelaine
Aliens have come to earth. The trade of ideas has given many fine inventions for humanity, but there are factions who vehemently oppose the aliens. The story is mainly extremely longwinded discussion between several people about the situation and it is extremely boring. Very overlong story. The writing is ok, but that doesn’t save the story. **-
Peace With Honor • novelette by Jerry Pournelle
A party has ruled US for several years. For the first time in a long time, they are facing severe competition in a presidential election. They scheme how to throw the election and device an extremely unethical way to manage it. I am baffled: were these supposed to be the good guys who are forced to drastic methods to keep the peace, because their party is the only one which is supposed to be able to keep the status quo? Why the main competive party would be so disastrous a choice isn’t stated very convincingly. Or are they supposed to be the bad guys? Or are all politicians supposed to be corrupt bastards ready to sacrifice their daughter to stay in power? Writing was ok, but without knowing the background of the story it felt pretty confusing. ***

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Kurt Vonnegut: Piruparka (Jailbird)

A pretty standard Vonnegut yarn about a man who has failed in life, more or less. Probably the worst book by Vonnegut I have read - but even as such an average or even above average book.

Vonnegutin kirja jonka varmasti olin lukenut aikaisemmin aikoinaan kirjan ilmestymisen yhteydessä. Mitään muistikuvia juonesta ei enää ollut, ja kun kirja sattui vastaan bookmoochin sivuilta ajattelin käyttää aika runsaita ylimääräisiä pisteitäni. Lukiessa sitten jonkinlaisia muistikuvia heräsi: kyseessä on Vonnegutille aika tavanomainen yksinäisen, epäonnisten tapahtumien, huonon onnen ja yleisen saamattomuuden sekä alhaisen kunnianhimon vuoksi elämässään epäonnistuneen miehen muistelmia tajunnanvirtana, joka syrjähtelee edestakaisin, aina välillä mennen sivuhenkilöiden elämään. Vonnegutin tuotantoa kokonaisuutena ajatellen tässä ei ollut kyse mistään varsinaisesti uudesta tai edes hyvin kirjoitetusta tuotoksesta vaan enemmänkin vanhojen teemojen kertauksesta. Kyseessä on varmasti heikoin Vonnegut mitä olen koskaan lukenut - ja olen käsittääkseni lukenut ne kaikki jossain vaiheessa. Käännöksessäkin oli yksittäisiä kömpelyyksiä. Pitää varmaan kaivaa vaikka Teurastamo no. 5 jostain, jotta saa tästä kirjasta aiheutuneen hieman ummehtuneen maun pois suustaan. Tietenkin kokonaisuutena tämä oli ainakin keskitasoinen tai lähes keskitasoa parempi kirja, vaikka nyt kirjoittajansa huonoimmasta päästä sattuu olemaankin.

 269 s.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Digger by Ursula Vernon

A dauntingly thick graphic novel. I got this as a part of the Hugo voter’s package. I usually haven’t read (at least all nominees) of this category. I first just glanced at this: 700+ pages (!) and a drawing style which at the first glance didn’t really seem like my cup of tea. Later when I found more than a few very praising reviews I decided to take a second look. After a few pages I was hooked. A wonderful tale of a very matter of fact and humanistic wombat who finds himself far from home. He befriends several eccentric characters and must partake a quest involving gods and demons. As he isn’t especially religious he tends a have a polite detachment towards various supernatural beings. A fun and entertaining story which is only very slightly overlong. It had some very nice dry humor and more than a few very thought provoking and interesting considerations. This got my vote in the Hugo voting – the only vote I cast in the category. All the other nominees were umpteenth parts of continuing series which didn’t really work as itself.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Anne Holt: Presidentin salaisuus (Death in Oslo)

The first female president of USA disappears without any explanation while she is on her first state visit in Norway. Is this an Islamic terrorist attack or a more domestic conspiracy? Smoothly flowing and exiting book. The person who I thought would be the main character was just a supporting character.

Ensimmäinen tältä kirjailijalta lukemani kirja. Yhdysvaltain ensimmäinen naispuolinen presidentti katoaa Norjassa jäljettömiin huoneestaan kesken valtiovierailun. Onko takana islamistiterroristien juoni vai jokin muu salaliitto? Ja presidentillä näyttää olleen jotain salattavaa, mikä yhteys tällä on mysteeriin? Hiukan hämäävästi kirjasarjan päähenkilö on tässä osassa vain sivuosassa, eikä anna mitenkään sympaattisen henkilön vaikutelmaa. Ehkä muut sarjan osat sitten tulevat muuttamaan vaikutelmaa. Ehkä eniten häiritsevä piirre oli tässäkin kirjassa ajoittain esiintynyt ”best-seller” tyylinen lukujen päättäminen cliff-hangereihin – niin kiusaavaa tämä ei kyllä ollut kuin monessa muussa kevyemmässä teoksessa. Hyvin sujuvaa ja viihdyttävää tekstiä, hyvin kirjoitettua ja paljon mukavampaa luettavaa kuin joillain kotimaisilla naisdekkaristeilla, esimerkiksi sellaisen jonka uusimmat kirjat kertovat idiootin naispuolisen henkivartijan seikkailuista.
419 s.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, October 2012

An average or somewhat above average issue.

The Liars - novelette by Juliette Wade
Two idiots who have not bothered to find out anything about the planet they are visiting (not even that the local intelligent aliens are nocturnal) and meddle with things they really don't understand, anthropomorphise alien behavior and generally make a mess. The writing was ok, but the immense stupidity of the main characters was grating to my nerves. ***-
Nahiku West - novelette by Linda Nagata
A sort of cyberpunk detective story. There is a murder attempt against a man who survives as his has been augmented to withstand low atmospheric pressures. However, that sort of enhancement is against law and punishable by death. The detective's wife also has some improvements, and she is assigned for a genetic review. The writing is pretty good, but the story is hurried and would have needed a longer form. Also the "detective story” part of the story sucked BIG TIME as the solution of the mystery depended totally on technology which wasn't described beforehand. ***-
The Journeyman: On the Short-Grass Prairie - novelette by Michael F. Flynn
Two members of different tribes (both on a journey of sorts) meet on an alien planet where a human colony has reverted to mainly nomadic lifestyle. Good writing but apparently just an excerpt - at least it feels like it and a most of the story is only setting things up. Reminds me a lot of Fritz Leiber's writing. Somehow I am getting flashbacks of "Ill Met in Lankhmar". The best story in the issue. ****-
Ambidextrose - shortstory by Jay Werkheiser
A man crashes during a reconnaissance flight and is a sole survivor. He is rescued by a woman who miraculously seems to be able to survive on alien which was supposed to poisonous - or at least not nourishing - as the amino acids are mirror images of the usual ones. It turns out that there are some possibilities and the life on the planet isn't black and white. Ok, a simple story. ***
Deer in the Garden - shortstory by Michael Alexander
A man tries to sabotage a future society where a computer assisted surveillance covers everything. He tries to beat it using several methods, but doesn't succeed. The reason why he doesn't succeed isn't too plausible, and the story is too short. The writing is fine, though. ***-
Reboots and Saddles - shortstory by Carl Frederick
Horses are fitted with a computer aided control system. It won't work as expected. A short and simple story. ***-
Nothing But Vacuum - shortstory by Edward McDermott
Moon landing ended in disaster and the crew of the space ship isn't able to contact the mission control on earth because their radio transmitter has broken down. A problem solving story, where the title of the story is a hint of a solution. ***
The End in Eden - shortstory by Steven Utley
Smuggling through time is a lot of trouble and can be a bureaucratic nightmare as it involves so many different government agencies, especially when the object of smuggling is a biological sample. A light story with a lot of banter and a pretty sudden end. ***

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Blackout by Mira Grant

The third and final part of zombie trilogy. Fairly smooth writing as in the first two parts of the series, but has the same problems as the earlier installments. The heroine who died on the first part wakes up in a cloned body. CDC's super science not only has been able to grow a clone body which matures in a few months, but somehow they have been able to record the consciousness and memories from scraps of brain tissue blown on the walls of a car. The male hero mainly sits and ponders for the first half of the book. The good readably and nicely fluent writing conceals that little happens in a large part of the book. The flaws in logic are immense, all characters, especially the bad ones behave in extremely stupid ways, and the main secret they have been protecting is laughably inane. It seems that they are bad just because they are evil and want power. Why they want that power and how they would use it is mostly left open. Also, apparently the super evil CDC from the USA is easily able to control the entire WORLD with their conspiracy. Book which was really harmed by the immense stupidity of plot. I hoped that the final act would have given nice explanations for the logic flaws in the earlier parts, but that didn’t happen, on the contrary, everything was made even stupider. Apparently, the young bloggers are SO trustworthy and popular, that even the word of US president wouldn’t be taken seriously if they wouldn’t be vouching for it – otherwise the ending doesn’t make ANY sense. I guess it DOESN’T make any sense…
And Mira Grant HAS to be a millionaire for all that money she must get from the Coca Cola Company, at least the text advertising for Coke was so irritating and blatant that there could be no other reason.

672 pp.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Galaxy Science Fiction, January 1951

The fairly new magazine was still seeking its’ tone. This bunch of stories was mainly pretty bad and from today’s perspective very old fashionable.

Dark Interlude • shortstory by Fredric Brown and Mack Reynolds
A visitor from the future comes to observe what life was like in 20th century earth. He ends up in a rural area, falls in love with a beautiful local girl, and life seems to be pretty good. Until a horrible fact about his heritage is revealed: he is a quarter "nigger". Naturally there is only one thing girl's family can do: kill the bastard. And local sheriff is naturally very sympathetic, what else they could have done? Not a bad story with a small end twist revealing attitudes the visitor from the future could never even have suspected. ***½
Rule of Three • novelette by Theodore Sturgeon
Three aliens who each consist of three subunits come to evaluate earth. They are horrified as everyone in earth seems to be infected by a dangerous space parasite which causes erratic behavior. They divide into subunits and inhabit humans to get a grasp of the situation. Afterward they have a lot of trouble to get together again, as humans tend to pair, and units of three are uncommon. (a slight mishap from the superpowerful aliens...) After a LOT of talking and scheming, they manage to get together again. A badly overlong and very talky story. There are some aspects which are interesting, though: alien parasites which cause all human neurosis and harm thinking, and are the cause of psychological problems, wars and violence, and psychotherapy is an extremely clumsy way of trying to address the problem, but it is possible to get rid of the parasites and clear you thinking. It sounds like the most of the most secret teachings of the scientology were lifted directly from this story and when one considers the time period it is practically certain that Hubbard read this story. Smells fishy to me… **+
Susceptibility • shortstory by John D. MacDonald
An inspector comes to a colony planet which hasn't been in touch for long time. The last inspector who visited the planet sent his resignation taped on the controls of his space ship which was sent to return on automatic drive. All colonists seem to live on countryside living simple life, and no one lives in automatic cities enjoying food made automatic machines and using product made by automatic machines. Soon this inspector sends his resignation as the simple life is so much more enjoyable...not bad, simple story. ***
Made to Measure • novelette by William Campbell Gault
For some unstated reason there are much more women than men. The women live in some sorts of centers, and men can come to meet them in controlled "well lighted" situations. If they like what they see, they get the women they want as a wife - but at any time they can return her to the centre - no questions asked. A man isn't happy with his wife as she isn't perfect. So he returns her to the centre and creates an android using his own mind set as a model. As can be expecting that doesn't work well. A pretty bad story. There isn't a single one half believable character. The story feels like something written by a 14-years old boy with no experience at all about any kind of human relations. *½
The Reluctant Heroes • novelette by Frank M. Robinson
There is a change of shift in a lunar colony where only men are working. There is a LOT of talking, about how wonderful it will be to get back to earth and bickering by one guy whose turn will continue. Little happens except one man gets a "Dear John" letter. There is a good reason for the letter, however. The writing was average. **+

Friday, July 20, 2012

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, April 2001

A pretty average issue.

May Be Some Time • [Captain Titus Oates] • novella by B. W. Clough [as by Brenda W. Clough ]
A member of Scott’s Antarctic exploration team (who disappeared without trace) is snatched to the future to escape a certain death as a test drive of alien technology. Not much happens in the story – it tells more about his adjustment to a radically changed world. A pretty nice and well written tale. The best in issue. ****
What Weena Knew • shortstory by James Van Pelt
Well’s “Time Machine” from the viewpoint of Teela, the young and innocent Eloii the Time traveler encounters in the future. She might not have been as degenerate as she seemed for the traveler. Another pretty good story. ***½
The Wanderlust • [Wally Mason] • shortstory by Brian C. Coad
A retired patent attorney gets a visitor who seems to be somewhat unbalanced. He doesn’t seem to be able to make any choices anymore. Too bad that everyone must make so many choices as all computer programs and appliances offer some many option to choose from. Probably best I have read in this story-series, but not especially good. Far too many different ideas for such a short story. ***-
Pressure Gradient • novelette by Pete D. Manison
A space ship has dropped on a Venus-like planet and a drone with a personality transfer style of AI is trying to find if anyone survived – or even was on the ship when it crashed). The AI in the drone is from a man who is in love with a woman who probably was in the ship.
The story is told at several time levels, and it turned out to be somewhat confusing. The short form didn’t allow enough space for the romance flow naturally or believably and the story felt too fragmentary. ***-
The Rise and Fall of Paco Cohen and the Mariachis of Mars • novelette by Ernest Hogan
The “suits” of a commercial Mars colony draft a singer to improve the sentiments of the colonists. He becomes pretty popular, but when he has served his purpose, he may go away. Not one of my favorites, fairly confusing and fragmentary, I didn’t like the writing too much. **
Talking Monkeys • novelette by Rob Chilson
Life on a colony planet where a significant percentage of the surface consists of diamonds. Machines break and wear easily, but most of the problems are caused by “monkey problems” i.e. human emotional problems. Another extremely fragmentary story, just “glimpses” of the colony life. Clearly better than the two former ones, though. ***

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, July-August 2006

A large double issue. A varied bunch of stories, some good, some less so.

Witherspin • novelette by Alexis Glynn Latner
A man and woman are on a leisure space station. The man is some sort of superhuman modified for military purposes who has run away from his creators, the woman with for some reason. For some reason they are attacked (or they at least assume so) and they try to escape through different zones of the station. For some reason Coriolis Effect affects them a lot, even though the habitat must be gigantic, miles in diameter, to include all the zones which are described, so I can’t believe that it would be that great. Naturally the couple falls in love and most of the story is spent in describing that love story. And for some reason the story ends without real resolution to the main story. The story felt like an excerpt from a novel, but it isn’t branded as such – it started from the middle and ends in the middle, and writing at places is like something from a romantic novel. I really didn’t like it all. **
Total Loss • shortstory by James Hosek
A man who has been in a car accident is declared to be “a total loss” by his insurance company. So it isn’t worth to continue his treatment and any body parts which are salvageable can be used for organ transplants. An ironic “if this goes too far” style of story, not bad. ***½
The Keeper's Maze • novelette by Joe Schembrie
A freelance spaceship crew gets a mission: they have to retrieve a genemodified unicorn from an abandoned research facility. There is a reason it was abandoned though, and none of earlier attempts have been successful. An entertaining story, but nothing ground shaking. ***
Kremer's Limit • [The Black Hole Project] • novella by C. Sanford Lowe and G. David Nordley
A story about a gigantic project to create an artificial black hole. The project spans for years and years, and there is a lot of opposition to it, and all opposing factions won’t play nice. A somewhat overlong and fragmentary story with a too large cast of characters. **+
The Software Soul • shortstory by Brian Plante
A robot priest continues its’ virtual services even though there are no real people taking part any more. Eventually, it turns out that humans have been exterminated by aliens who are politely apologetic of it all. A nice little tale which leaves a lot open. ***½
Willies • shortstory by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff
A psychiatrist is treating a binge eater (who apparently is allowed to call doctor at will, even at weekends! Probably not the best treatment strategy for someone with issues on control). There are some novel treatment strategies, though. A simple, but well written story. ***+
The Teller of Time • shortstory by Carl Frederick
A scientist has returned to his home village to test his hypothesis involving church bells ring in perfect harmony. It should cause a sort of time slippage effect. He meets a childhood sweetheart who has married another guy, their common friend. As young the scientist had never courage to ask her out. They wonder how things might have gone. After that the ending is fairly obvious. ***+
Environmental Friendship Fossle • novelette by Ian Stewart
An undercover inspector who tracks downs the trade of illegal animal parts finds a mammoth tusk from one old man who used to ramble about hunting mammoths. The trade with fossil animal parts is legal but this tusk seems to be fresh. The secret I is what you are expecting, but it certainly takes time for the protagonist to get there. And then the ending of the story just leaves hanging. ***-
String of Pearls • novelette by Shane Tourtellotte
A man works for aliens on an alien planet. The alien's language is very hard and they haven't been very helpful in teaching it. A secondary (or in reality the primary) goal for the man is to learn the real grammar of the language. The aliens have a scrabble-like game they use to play. The man uses that to learn the language and challenges the father and daughter of the family he lives in. A pretty good and well written story. There are problems, though. The protagonist pouts like a five year old when he loses in the game, feels like an irritating brat, and it is totally, completely unbelievable when he finally wins. In language he just has really learnt he is supposed to beat someone who has played the game for years in his native language. No way, never, ever. (said by someone who can understand a foreign language practically completely, is able to write it at least in some manner and has tried a few language games). ****-

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Anu Kaipainen: Kun on rakastanut paljon

A short autobiography of a Finnish author which was written soon after the death of her husband apparently as a part of healing process.

Puolison suosituksesta luettu kirja. Anu Kaipaisen lyhyt omaelämänkertakirja, joka etenkin alkupuoleltaan on hyvin ulkokohtaisen tuntuinen ja elämää kursorisesti kuvaileva. Myöhemmin, puolison äkkikuoleman jälkeen ote on hieman persoonallisempi, tosin samalla sekavampi – mutta sekavaa kirjailijan elämäkin siinä vaiheessa nähtävästi oli. Siihen, mikä kirjailijaelämänkerroissa tavallisesti on se kaikkein kiinnostavin asia, eli kirjojen syntyyn, puututaan vain hyvin kursorisesti. Vaikutelmaksi tulee, että kyseessä on usein psykoterapian aloittamisen yhteydessä kirjoitettava elämänkerta, eikä välttämättä ensisijaisesti kirjalliseksi tuotokseksi tarkoitettu teos. Rivien välistä lukien alkoholiongelmia perheellä nähtävästi oli, ja mahdollisesti tällä oli omat vaikutuksensa puolison kuolemaan ja kirjoittajan rajuun reaktion tähän.

134 s.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi

A story which could be said to be the viewpoint of the ”redshirts” in a Star Trek like TV-series. When ensign Andrew Dahl gets assigned to the Universal Union flagship Intrepid, he is first thrilled. Soon he finds that the younger crew is very nervous and tries very hard NOT to get drafted to away missions as in every mission a junior crew member seems to die in gruesome manner while the senior crew survives either without any injuries or with injuries which seem to unbelievably fast without leaving any permanent marks. Also, the laws of nature seem to bend strangely when it is dramatically appropriate or for example the survival of a senior crew member hangs on a discovery of a new “counter-bacterial” for a lethal plague in 30 minutes. Is there any way a new crew member can survive more than a few weeks? And even more importantly, what the hell is going on?
The idea was very nice and engaging. The novel consists of the main tale which is intentionally badly written with short and sparse sentences apparently imitating the run of the mill media novelizations and from three separate” codas” which add detail to the main story and tell the story of a few more peripheral characters. The three codas were by far the best part of the story, and the writing there was totally different than in the main story. Probably one reason why Scalzi added those was to tell: “Yes, I CAN write well and writing of the main part of the novel WAS intentional”. The bad quality of the beginning went somewhat too far – it took some time to get used to it as it tended to be sometimes even distractingly bad. In spite of that an entertaining and fast book to read. I didn’t exactly get the absolute end of the main part of the book – what was the meaning of that?

320 pp.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Startide Rising by David Brin

A triple award winner (Hugo, Nebula and Locus) and deservedly. A second part of series, but apparently the first part of the series has little to do with this book aside of the same background. The background as such is extremely inventive and interesting: the galaxy is filled by alien races and every one of them has been “uplifted” by another race from presentience. A race which has been upflifted owes a 100 000 years of service for the uplifting race. As humans don’t seem to have mentors they are looked upon with suspicion and even hatred. Humans themselves have uplifted dolphins and chimpanzee to intelligence. The book starts when a scout ship mainly staffed by dolphins has escaped to a sea planet called Kithrup which hasn’t been visited by anyone in millions of years. Most of galaxy’s more conservative older races are trying to catch them as it seems that they have stumbled upon the remains of mythical “founders” the species there has ever been and which has started the uplift practice. The ship and its’ crew hides underwater, while a gigantic space battle is taking place all over the whole solar system where Kithrup is as entire fleets of alien battle out who gets to capture the earthlings. While the earthlings repair their ship and try to find out a way to escape from there the planet they are on appears to be somehow strange with the planet itself. Also, the stress is starting to affect the dolphins and some of them are reverting to mentally unstable presapient form and there might be a mutiny brewing among the crew.
A very enjoyable book which had some very exiting parts. It wasn’t without flaws, though. The mutiny subplot came as a surprise and not in a good way. There didn’t seem to be a foundation for that kind strife among the crew. Also, some of the Galactics felt like caricatures of intelligent animals. It is hard to believe how such creatures would have survived millennia as apparently is a standard for a Galactic race. The writing was nice, but the cast of characters was very large and sometimes it was kind of hard to remember who was who, at least for someone with a poor memory for names like me. A book which is well worth of reading and one of the better Hugo-winners around. (now I have read 81.7 % of all Hugo award winners)
496 pp.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Galaxy Science Fiction, September 1951

An average issue for its’ time.

The Sense of Wonder • shortstory by Milton Lesser
A man in a generation ship is showing a little bit initiative and sometimes looks out from a view-screen. When the ship eventually lands, he takes some action. Unbelievably stupid characters, it is hard to think that no one would have no interest at all on anything. Writing was subpar. ** 1/2
If You Was a Moklin • novelette by Murray Leinster
It should be very easy to have a trading station on a planet where the natives are extremely friendly and want to imitate humans in everything up to in 100% accurate in appearance. If it wouldn't start to be more than a little bit creepy. A pretty nice and fun story. The ending is just about what you would expect. 100 % mimicry, mind you? ***+
Cabin Boy • novelette by Damon Knight
A cabin boy (really an ameba like creature, living in a very alien spaceship with very alien ways, all his actions are “simplified” to human analogues) meets some strange creatures (humans) and is thrilled by them. A pretty fun story which could have been tighter. ***
What Is Posat? • shortstory by Phyllis Sterling Smith
A scientist, an unemployed man and a cat lady read an advertisement about a secret society from a magazine. They all answer it for various, different, reason and get somewhat different return mailings. It turns out that there really IS a real ancient secret society with scientific secrets, and it is drafting new researchers. A simply story, writing was average. ***-
The Biography Project • shortstory by H. L. Gold
Scientists are spying the past masters of science and art and wonder why they all go paranoid and mad. Because they are spied, of course. A short and stupid story. **-

Thursday, July 5, 2012

My Hugo votes 2012, part 5: Related works

Related works was a very heterogeneous category. The nominees mostly had nothing to do with each other’s: a collection of essays about science fiction film, a coffee table book about steam punk, a net site containing the new Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, a collection of songs by a science fiction author and a podcast series about writing science fiction.

The encyclopedia of SF seems to be very much work in progress. The first article I checked (about Finland) was apparently written about twenty years ago, and has never been updated after that. It really didn't give a very flattering impression.

I tried the music album by Seanan McGuire. I am a very unmusical person, I practically never listen to any music by choice and even while driving a car if I don't happen to have any podcast to listen I try to find a radio channel without any music or sports (usually an extremely hard task) . It isn't probably surprising that I really don't even understand why the music album was nominated. Even the lyrics seem to have hardly anything to do with sf. If a singer is a sf author, that shouldn’t be a reason for a nomination. This was something which was really easy to put under ”no award".

The “writing excuses” is a podcast about writing speculative fiction. It isn't the only one on that subject, and after I had listened a few episodes it doesn't seem to be the best one. The actual books in the category were both at least ok, so it was easy to put them at the top positions. My voting order is probably going to be:

1. Jar Jar Binks Must Die...
2. The Steampunk Bible
3. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Third Edition
4. Writing Excuses
5. No Award
6. Wicked Girls

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, March 1974

A fairly average or below average issue for its’ time.

High Justice • novelette by Jerry Pournelle

Seems to continue an earlier story. The former confident of the US president has apparently blown the whistle in a wide spread corruption scandal and has become a persona non grata. He goes to Mexico where a former lover has established an empire of space transportation. The beginning has a lot of discussion about the evils organized labor and improvement of the work conditions and long lectures of the economics of private space exploration and the evilness of governments. In addition there is an added on plot about a murder in a space station, which is finished in about three pages in the best of libertarian style. The writing is ok, but the background isn't very clearly presented and the overall philosophy of the story is mainly appalling if you really think about it. ***
Walk Barefoot on the Glass • shortstory by Joseph Green
A leader of a moon observatory is trying to get a budget approved for the next few years without real success as the people of the US have turned inside and apparently think that they must feed the people of Brazil (for free?) rather than use money for exploration. He also meets his family and overreacts badly when there is some difference of options. A very black and white story with naive caricatures as characters and an unbelievable ending. If the public opinion is what the story describes and as strong, would anyone really have cared about what happened in the moon? ***-
Closing the Deal • shortstory by Barry N. Malzberg
A father tries to sell a daughter who can levitate to a company and isn't getting enough money. A simple and simplistic story. **+
Some Are Born to Sweet Delight • shortstory by Wayne Barton
People of the future are happy and adjusted. If they aren't, they will be adjusted to be happy. For some reason everyone isn't too ready for that, and have escaped the civilized world. Officials are trying to find a leader of the refugees... There is a nice surprise at the end, but not really special story. ***-
Fourth Reich • shortstory by Herbie Brennan
A monastery of some kind has the only complete historical database. They find that history is cyclical, and a new Hitler is rising. They advise a preventive strike against his country. Ok story, but the almost supernatural nature of the inevitability of repeating history is irritating (all attempts to murder the "new Hitler" fail, as it is so certain that he will get to power.) **+