Sunday, March 31, 2013

Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold

Another Miles Vorkosigan book with a Hugo award. The main protagonist of this book isn’t Miles himself, but his clone brother, Mark. Miles himself spends most of the book as dead, as he is shot when he tried to rescue his clone brother from a mess he had gotten himself by posing as Admiral Naismith, who is an alter ego of Miles. Luckily, Miles was packed in a cryochamber soon after his death, so it is supposed to be possible to revive him. Not so luckily the cryochamber then went missing in the heat of the battle. The book is a story of the personal growth of Mark and how he comes to accept himself and his place in society and how is overcomes the harsh upbringing he had while he was trained as an assassin to destroy Miles and Miles’s family.

A pretty good book – not the best of the series though – there was too little Niles. The writing was good and readable as always. The beginning of the book was somewhat slow when compared with the last quarter when the pace was even too fast and Mark seemed to grow up very suddenly. On the other hand what he faced was something really unusual and unnerving, which could have totally wrecked any man with less personal strength. By the end of the book Mark turns out to be an interesting and well described character – something he really wasn’t in the “Brother’s in Arms”.
592 pp.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Galaxy Science Fiction, February 1951

A pretty average issue for this era of the magazine.

The Fireman • novella by Ray Bradbury
A novella which served as a basis for Bradbury’s most famous novel. Firemen burn books instead of extinguishing fires. One fireman starts to read the books he has been burning and soon starts to doubt his actions. His wife isn’t interested in anything but watching her TV shows and chatting idly with her friends about inane things. A good novella which can’t compete with the excellent later novel, which incorporates much of the same plot. The characters aren’t as well developed, the plot seems very hurried and the conversion of the main character doesn’t seem to be really motivated. A good story anyway. ***½
. . . and It Comes Out Here • interior artwork by Don Sibley
A man gets a visitor from the future who tells exactly what will happen - they will travel to the future and steal an early model of a device which produces limitless energy. The device was originally invented by the same using the design stolen from the future. A pretty standard time travel story. It is amusing how common smoking is in the future - it is mentioned several times. ***
The Protector • shortstory by Betsy Curtis
Stream of consciousness storytelling, a lot of made up words and apparently young women talking about dating or something. I didn't understand this story at all. Was there a point (or a story) somewhere? *½
Second Childhood • shortstory by Clifford D. Simak
One of the oldest men in the world where everyone is immortal is bored with his life. There is nothing new anymore for him. He decides to revert to childhood and apparently it is enough just to pretend to be a child to lose all your memories become a child again. Writing tolerable but the plot was stupid. **
Two Weeks in August • shortstory by Frank M. Robinson
A normal fifties office has one guy who always manages to be better in everything. Especially his vacations are always better and in fancier places than anyone else's. One time his workmates make up a dream vacation in the Mars imagining that that one cannot be topped. They are wrong, of course. A pretty silly little story. **+

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Reijo Mäki: Lännen mies

Another book from a series about a boozing and womanizing private detective in Turku. He is hired to investigate a serial murderer who is killing men on affluent area of Turku. There is apparently some connection with a former terrorist who has been released from prison in Germany and who broke the terms of his parole immediately after his release. A very readable and fast paced detective story.

Tässä kirjassa Vares palkataan selvittämään Turussa tapahtunutta sarjamurhaa, jossa useampi samalla asuinalueella asustellut mies on päässyt hengestään. Poliisi tuntuu olevan täysin ymmällä ja huhujen mukaan murhiin liittyy erityisiä ja epätavallisia piirteitä, joita ei ole annettu julkisuuteen. Rinnakkain tämän juoneen kanssa seurataan Saksassa vapautunutta ja ehdonalaisestaan karannutta terroristia, joka jostain syystä suuntaa matkansa Suomeen. Kuten tavallista Vareksella on myös naisongelmia, satunnainen baarituttavuus kun osoittautuu paljon hankalammaksi ja vaativammaksi tapaukseksi kuin olisi voinut kuvitella. Enemmän tai vähemmän sattumalta kaikki juonet, jopa baarituttavuus mukaan luettuna lopulta nivoutuvat toisiinsa.
Erittäin menevällä tyylillä kirjoitettu, sarjallensa tyypillinen teos, joka on kevyttä ja menevää luettavaa. Kyseessä on mielestäni sarjansa keskitasoa parempi kirja, paras Vares mitä olen vähän aikaa lukenutkaan. Kielenkäyttö on notkea ja hauskaa. Kuten näissä kirjoissa on aika tavallista, asiat ratkeavat lopulta osittain sattumalta. Paha saa myös palkkansa varsin dramaattisella tavalla, kuten Vares-kirjoissa on tavallista. Mukava ja kevyt nopeasti luettava välipala, joka oli hankittu Elisa-kirjasta hiihtolomatarjouksena erittäin järkevään muutaman euron hintaan, vielä kun vähäisellä askartelulla kirjan sai siirrettyä Kindleen luettavaksi drm-suojaus poistamalla.

398 s.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Asimov's Science Fiction, April-May 2013

A large double issue with a varied bunch of stories – some pretty good, some which are so closely connected with other stories in the same series that they were hard to read as individual stories, and some not so good stories.

The Other Gun by Neal Asher
A far future story which belongs to longer series I am not familiar with. The story was pretty complex with super powerful and super intelligent aliens fighting against themselves with humans as soldiers in the fight. Some more or less human, some with bodies (and appetites) of tyrannosaur rex. A lot happens in the story, but as the background wasn’t familiar to me, the story felt somewhat confusing. ***
Through Your Eyes by Linda Nagata
A young man gets the latest communications implants. He has implanted smartphone like device and contact lenses which are able to record what he sees in real time. He gets involved with an anti-war demonstration which is ruthlessly crushed and people who part to it are imprisoned and interviewed very harshly. And he is recording everything…Somewhat too short a story which reminded me of “Little Brother” by Cory Doctorow. The writing was better, though. ****-
Writing in the Margins by Joel Richards
Apparently it has been proven that reincarnation is a fact. And it is sometimes possible to recover some of the memories of the past lives with special techniques. And apparently has made a HUGE impact to everything. People are commonly committing suicides “to get a fresh start”, death penalty has been abolished as a "too easy punishment” and so on. Really? Why would anyone care about reincarnation without the real preservation of self? But that background is hardly even used in the story, which consists mainly of extremely boring discussion about personal relationships and other things. The story tries to be literary but ends up being overwritten and unmemorable. **
Gray Wings by Karl Bunker
A woman who has modified to have wings is taking part in a flying competition over Africa. She falls down and breaks a few bones. She has nanomodifications and is able to heal in a few hours. She meets a family and a young man who takes care of her overnight. A very well told story with extremely well described characters. The only fault is that the story is so short, more just a scene rather than a complete tale. ****
Julian of Earth by Colin P. Davies
A man who lives on the outback of an alien planet has been living on a story how he was kidnapped as a child by a lone soldier still fighting a war which had ended years ago. A film crew arrives and wants to film a documentary of the lone fighter and hires him as their guide. There are slight problems, however. A fairly run of the mill story, writing was nice but there was nothing really new. ***
The Wall by Naomi Kritzer
A young woman is visited by an older woman who claims to be her future self. The old woman urges her younger counterpart to buy a flight ticket to Berlin as the wall will be falling down soon. The young woman is more than a little skeptical and suspects that her overbearing mother would never tolerate such trip anyway. A very good story, where the believable personal growth of the young woman surprises even her older counterpart. ****-
Distant Like the Stars by Leah Cypess
A method of instantaneous transportation has been discovered. One man really hates it, because in a world with gates you can’t go to an unfamiliar place, or can’t be anywhere really away. Apparently, a life time is enough to see on the worthwhile new sights of several planets, and with instantaneous nontraceable travel it is impossible to just to run away and never be found. The basic neurosis of the main character was hard to believe and irritatingly stupid, but the story was pretty readable in spite of that. ***+
Spider God and the Periodic Table by Alan Wall
A scientist is found as dead in front of his computer. His brain stem is crystallized. By a remarkable leap of reasoning investigators draw a conclusion that neutrinos have started to interact with matter inside victim’s brain. There is no background at all how or why they thought of THAT, or how such implausible mechanism even occurred to someone. Then the story has a vast amount of metaphysical discussion and the theories. I thought that the story was almost unreadable, extremely disjointed and very dull. **-
The Oracle by Ken Liu
People may use a device which sometimes gives them a glimpse of their future. The sight is usually from a significant event, and it is invariably always true, it will happen no matter what. A man used the device as a teenager and saw himself being executed as a murderer. Apparently as an idiot he told everyone about that and as a consequence has lived all his life in a special housing meant for outcasts, like former prisoners, child molesters and so on. One day a young woman seeks his company. The woman has had her own true glimpse of the future. A very good story – the logic isn’t the strong point (why would anyone ever want to use such device?) but mood and writing are excellent. ****-
Warlord by Tom Purdom
This story appears to be a serial in disguise. The beginning has a very short synopsis of what has happened before, but the story seems to directly continue from an earlier part (which I haven’t read). It happens in a planet with two intelligent species which have been hostile against each other, and a group of humans has apparently supported one faction which has been enslaved by the other. I didn’t get into a story at all, as the characters weren’t familiar and the short synopsis was too sketchy to really understand (or care) what was going on. I didn’t finish this one.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, May 2013

A below average issue. I haven’t started the serial, yet.

Not Close Enough by Martin L. Shoemaker

A multinational Mars expedition is orbiting Mars. As an actual landing is considered too hazardous all exploration is done by remote robots. Apparently, the expedition has an unlimited number of shuttles which are capable of landing, and apparently they are designed by a committee of idiots and the crew members are easily able to redesign and improve them by themselves. Naturally someone tries to land on Mars himself and the exploration by humans is important for human spirit and yada yada. A story which felt pretty juvenile in a bad way and without any really exceptional qualities. The writing itself was competent, but the plot was more than worn with severe implausibilities. ***-
Sentinel Chickens by David W. Goldman
A couple of friends go to mountains to take care of chickens which kept there as part of a study of Eastern equine encephalitis. One of the friends has studied different mass delusions. There turns out to be something connecting those two things. The story has no real and proper plot; it has just some discussion and some speculation.**½
Enjoy the Fishing by Walter F. Cuirle
Two friends are on a fishing trip in a planet which is owned by an extremely rich people. Everything is pastoral, and there are plenty of fish in lakes. However, there is a three fish limit per day. It is enforced rather strictly…Nice, short, lighter story. ***+
Prometheus by H. G. Stratmann
Intelligent dolphins try to contact strange aliens who live above water in prehistoric times. They try to give them a gift as a token of good faith to promote future co-operation. It goes without saying that everything doesn’t go well. A short simple story. I wonder where the super intelligent dolphins went. ***-
Geospermia by Patty Jansen
A young couple goes to Mars to find out why an uncle hasn’t been in touch with the rest of family. He has a potato farm on the mountains of the Mars, but now the farm looks abandoned and a bamboo forest has taken over. And there seems to be some large animals roaming in the forest…A story which is written with a light tone – it didn’t entirely works but the image of giant pandas attacking in the bamboo forest of Mars WAS pretty funny, even when it was extremely stupid at the same time. ***-