Saturday, December 29, 2012
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
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.
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
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
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
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. ***