Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Fire Upon The Deep by Vernor Vinge

A group of human explorers have found an ancient and valuable data archive. While they study it, they accidentally wake up a powerful artificial intelligence with apparently very malicious goals. One of the human ships manages to escape and eventually lands on an unknown planet. The natives are dog-like creatures with a group intelligence of sorts. A single unit is slightly smarted than a common dog, a group of five or six is at least on the human level. All the adults of the ship are killed in a surprise attack and two young children survive in care of two different and opposing groups of aliens. Meanwhile, the newly woken intelligence seems to be spreading. At first it is assumed to be a “normal" transcended “evil” AI, which appear about once every century and usually run their course in about a decade and generally destroy only a few dozen civilizations at most - nothing really significant from the galactic viewpoint. But it seems that something more might be going on.
The universe where the book happens is an interesting one: there are zones which enable different levels of technology and thought. Near the core of the Milky Way there are areas where all intelligence is impossible, a little farther (where the Earth is situated) the birth of intelligent species is possible, but true artificial intelligence, faster than light travel and antigravity are impossible. Farther out those are possible and common and there are god-like supers intelligences which usually have little interest on the affairs of lesser races.
The book was slightly overlong and especially those parts, where the rescue ship was slowly approaching the planet felt pretty slow. And the parts which happened on the planet involving the dog creatures and children felt far too short and too far apart, those were the interesting bits. This was probably my least favorite book by Vernor Vinge, but it was by no means a bad one, but I was expecting more from it – I had read so many positive reviews of it. Hugo winners: three to go – the completion of that reading challenge might happen during the next year.

624 pp.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

I Think You'll Find it's a Bit More Complicated Than That by Ben Goldacre

A collection of mostly fairly short critical and skeptical essays. Most of them have been published on Goldcare’s column on Guardian (apparently the best newspaper in Britain). There were a few pretty random and not so readable or interesting ones (like a foreword to a book about small railroads – what did that have to do with this book?), but most of the essays were very good, even when some of them concerned pretty local details like some intricacies of NHS, while many have wider interest. Especially interesting were a couple articles about the “Medical Hypothesis” journal, the chosen journal where the Finnish scammer, Valkee, publishes its’ “studies” about how an ear light “cures” seasonal fatigue. The quality of that journal seems to be even worse than I imagined. Certainly there would be a dire need for a similar journalist in Finland, who is capable of critique stupid misuses of numbers, statistics and mathematics in journalism and in “public” science reporting which is made government and other official or semi-official organizations. Bad reporting and poor grasp of numbers is truly international. As a whole this is not as good and interesting book as “Bad Science” was, but very interesting one anyway. The book contains exhaustive references, so many them that I was surprised when the actual book ended – as according to the reading app there was still a significant percentage of the book left.

496 pp.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Mauri Sariola: Susikoski ottaa omansa

A detective tries to find out who killed a beautiful young wife of a rich businessman. A smoothly written book which was fast to read. No a great literary work, but entertaining.

Olen viimeksi Mauri Sariolan kirjoja lukenut joskus noin 20 vuotta sitten. Niistä oli jäänyt ihan kohtalaisen hyvät mielikuvat, mitään suurta kirjallisuutta en niiden muistanut olevan, mutta viihdyttäviä letkeää kevyttä viihde luettavaa kuitenkin. Elisa kirjaan oli tullut Sariolan vanhoja dekkareita varsin edullisesti myytäväksi, ja ostin sieltä yhden aikalailla umpimähkään luettavakseni. Valitsin sellaisen, jonka nimi tuntui oudolta ajatellen, että näin ainakaan en lukisi uudelleen sellaista kirjaa, jonka olin jo aikaisemmin lukenut. Tämä kirja oli mitä siltä odotinkin, eli kevyttä varsin sujuvasti kirjoitettua ja viihdyttävää ja samalla melko perinteistä salapoliisi kirjallisuutta. Etsivä Susikosken nuori työtoveri lähtee alkoholin huuruisen illanvieton päätteeksi mukaan käytännön pilaan, jossa hän kutsuu jo tunnetun etsivän Kulosaarelaiseen hienostohuvilaan keksityn murhan varjolla. Yllättäen tuo ”keksitty” murha sitten osoittautuukin todeksi ja rikkaan teollisuuspampun nuori ja kaunis vaimo on myrkytetty vauhdikkaan illanvieton päätteeksi. Aluksi kenelläkään ei oikein hyvää motiivia tunnu olevan, paitsi vuorineuvoksen kauniilla tyttärellä, joka ei montaa vuotta äitipuoltaan nuorempi ollut, ja joiden keskinäiset välit vähemmän yllättävästi eivät kaikkein parhaimpia olleet olleet. Mutta voisiko fiksu, kaunis (ja rikas) tyttö, joka erittäin helposti kietoo kymmenkunta vuotta iäkkäämmän rikostarkastajankin pikkusormensa ympärille voinut syyllistä tällaiseen tekoon – ja etenkin mikä motivaatio hänellä olisi voinut olla pian tapahtuvaan toiseen murhaan? Voiko etsivä Susikosken objektiivisuuteen luottaa?
Tosiaan nopealukuinen ja viihdyttävä kirja, jonka loppuratkaisu olisi ehkä hiukan lian helppo, eikä välttämättä täysin looginen. Itse lukiessani keksi parikin muuta mahdollista syytä ja motiivia murhiin, jotka ainakin oman arvioni mukaan olisivat jopa toimineet paremmin.
272 s

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Mammoth Book of Science Fiction

A large (and pretty good) collection stories read piece by piece during the last 12-14 months. The overall quality was pretty good; most of the stories were well worth reading. There from a wide variety of source and time periods giving an interesting cross section of science fiction.

Ulla, Ulla • (2002) • shortstory by Eric Brown
The first expedition to Mars returns. There was a strange break-up of transmission during a Mars-walk, and rumors abound that the expedition made some strange discovery. The members of the expedition naturally deny everything and tell that to breakup was due from one member of the group dropping into a chasm. But there was really a find – something really unexpected. A very well told story. There was perhaps too little drama, but otherwise excellent story. ****
Deathday • [Confederation Universe Stories] • (1991) • novelette by Peter F. Hamilton
A man, whose wife has died from a disease on a new, very sparsely habited colony planet, hunts an alien beast as a way to cope with his grief. A well-written story with a twist which was surprising on other hand, but on the other was a pretty well know sf trope. ***½
The Infinite Assassin • (1991) • shortstory by Greg Egan
An assassin is able to perceive the countless (countless like the real numbers, not just countless like integers) alternative realities. His goal is to stop the spread of a vortex of slippage between realities, caused by dreams of a drug user. As he gets closer, the reality is shifting more and more. As he is the same in all the realities he, or at least some version of him, is able to get closer…A very good, well written alternative realities story. ****
Anachron • (1954) • shortstory by Damon Knight
A man discovers a way to make a sort of time portal. He starts to steal antiques through it. It seems that there are some strict natural laws preventing paradoxes. The story is fairly confusing, and even the protagonist has some trouble understanding what exactly is going on. A pretty average story. ***
Firewatch • [Time Travel] • (1982) • novelette by Connie Willis (variant of Fire Watch)
A story from the Oxford time travel series. As usual all characters are bumbling idiots and the organization of time travelers is totally incompetent. A student who was supposed to study the actual St Paul at Middle East journeys to the St. Paul Cathedral during the Blitz. I wonder if the world of these stories suffered some sort of plague, which lowered everyone’s IQ by 30-40 points? The “hero” of the story is a very good example of a typical whiny and stupid person, who is the common protagonist in Willis’s stories. ***
At the 'Me' Shop • (1995) • novelette by Robert Reed
A young boy is taking care of a shop, where you can’t book “a date” with yourself at earlier age. There are different people who meeting different age versions of themselves for different purposes. A poetically written story, but seems to lack something. ***
Vinland the Dream • (1991) • shortstory by Kim Stanley Robinson
A dig which studies the remains of the Vikings in the presumed site of Vinland. It is starting to seem that all the ruins are a very elaborate hoax from the 19th century. The writing is pretty good but aside some philosophical points I really didn’t get what was the meaning of the story. ***+
A Ticket to Tranai • (1955) • novelette by Robert Sheckley
A well known classic about a man who hears about a nice planet where life is really free. There are no taxes, there ample opportunities for everyone and women are young and beautiful. But it turns out that there are some catches. And then some more catches. And then even more. An excellent ironic story, one of the funniest and best science fiction novelettes ever. *****
The Exit Door Leads In • (1979) • shortstory by Philip K. Dick
A man takes part to a lottery and “wins” a compulsory military college education. The school and education seem kind of surreal and there might be a hidden agenda behind everything. Not one what could be expected, though. A pretty good story which felt a bit rushed, a slightly longer form might have been better. ***+
What Have I Done? • (1952) • shortstory by Mark Clifton
A man is able to “see” inside anyone almost instantly. He can tell what kind of person anyone is. He is working as an employment agent and is perfectly suited for the job. One day he meets a man who feels empty inside. He turns out to be an alien and the aliens are planning to conquer the Earth. The employment agent is more or less blackmailed to help the aliens in their assimilation. But he has a plan, a pretty nihilistic one. A pretty dark story considering that aliens are most likely defeated. Mark Clifton apparently really hated humankind. ***½
Finis • (1906) • shortstory by Frank Lillie Pollock [as by Frank L. Pollock ]
End of the world story. The light of the giant sun at the exact centre of the universe finally arrives at Earth. The scientific background was very quaint and likely implausible even from the standard of 1906, but the writing was surprisingly readable and even moving. I wonder if Larry Niven was familiar with this story – there is a major similarity with “Inconstant Moon”. ***½
The Last Days of Earth: Being the Story of the Launching of the "Red Sphere" • (1901) • shortstory by Geo. C. Wallis [as by George C. Wallis ]
Another end of the world story. This time the sun is running out, and the few last humans are waiting for the failure of last human machines. For some reason they are allowed to leave only then in a ball shaped space ship, which is apparently run by magic. Clearly less good than the former story and more dated. **½
Approaching Perimelasma • (1998) • novelette by Geoffrey A. Landis
A trip through a black hole. The protagonist is an AI copy of a human who is loaded to a very tiny robot onboard a tiny experimental ship. A first part was kind of slow, but the second half gave a lot of wonderful sense of wonder. A nice story. ***½
The Pen and the Dark • (1966) • novelette by Colin Kapp
An expedition to a strange alien artifact, which seems to absorb everything, both matter and energy which hits it, and seems to suck out all energy which even comes near. A pretty talky and pretty stupid story, with fairly fascinating alien object, but with horribly inane science. So absurd, that it could have been written in the 30s. Badly overlong and with weak finish. **
Inanimate Objection • (1954) • novelette by H. Chandler Elliott
Physical objects have malicious effort against people, or at least a mental patient thinks so. His doctors might be persuaded to think so, also as the evidence seems to be mounting. Pretty unlikely, but okayish story. ***-
The Very Pulse of the Machine • (1998) • novelette by Michael Swanwick
A woman is trying to survive on Io. She is the lone survivor of an accident which left her friend dead. There is a fair chance that she is able to hike to a base where there is oxygen and supplies available. But then someone or something establishes a radio contact with her. Who is talking to her? Or is it only a hallucination? And should she do what the voice suggests? A well written and excellent story with interesting main character. Could have been longer. ****
High Eight • (1965) • novelette by Keith Roberts [as by David Stringer ]
People burnt to crisp are found more and more near electric installations. A maintenance boss of an electric company tries to find out what is going on. There doesn’t seem to be any god explanation why people suddenly electrocute themselves. A badly overlong and rambling story with a downbeat ending. **½
Shards • (1962) • shortstory by Brian W. Aldiss
The start is confusing and very fragmented, just a stream of feeling and sights. The end explains everything pretty well. A nice story which works pretty well. ***½
Except My Life³ • (1991) • novelette by John Morressy (variant of Except My Life, Except My Life, Except My Life)
A group of clones (who works as a private detective) tries to solve a crime involving the best actor/actress (also cloned) ever have existed. A pretty inventive and well written story, but some tightened might have made it more effective. A fascinating way to indicated what clone was doing and saying what. They were all “I”, but with different superscripts, like I1 and me3. ****-
Into Your Tent I'll Creep • (1957) • shortstory by Eric Frank Russell
An emissary of alien visitors finds that he can hear the thoughts of dogs. Dogs are apparently the real masters of the earth, subtly influencing humans via mind control. And humans have already donated a breeding pair of dogs for the aliens. And the dogs seem really, really cute and something which should be pampered…A fun little story. But I was slightly disappointed that the REAL masters of Earth were not mentioned. Not a word about cats. ****
A Death in the House • (1959) • shortstory by Clifford D. Simak
A lonely farmer rescues a ship wrecked alien. He tries to get help from someone, but doesn’t find anyone who would be able and/or ready to offer any. When the alien dies the local priest refuses burial in the cemetery. The farmer respectfully buries the alien on his own property. He is due for a surprise, but he must also make a sacrifice. A wonderfully story thematically very close to Way Station, one of my all-time favorite novels. This might even be a prequel of sorts? ****+
Refugium • shortstory by Stephen Baxter
Humans have started to explore other solar systems with remote probes. No intelligent life has been found, but there are a lot of ruins which seem abandoned. There are some strange looking bubbles orbiting many of those worlds. Then similar bubbles are found on Oort Cloud making it possible to get to them. Two men with severe financial trouble are more or less forced to go inside one by a fairly disrespectful business man. (I believe there would be a few million volunteers...). And there is a solution for the Fermi paradox. An excellent story, but too short. Well, _nothing_ would long enough to properly convey what might happen next. ****+

498 pp.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, January-February 2015

A pretty good issue, mostly nice, well written stories.

Malnutrition • novelette by J. T. Sharrah
An alien ambassador is almost murdered at a diplomatic reception. The species in question has an extremely strong taboo against eating in public. While he is unconscious he is fed and that causes “some” problems for all concerned. The first half of the story was better than the last half where events “rolled in” fairly fast and fairly unsatisfactorily. Also, I wonder how the diplomatic corps (both alien and human) are so unfamiliar with different customs and can’t really even suspect that the alien habits might be unfamiliar and strange. ***+
The Yoni Sutra • shortstory by Priya Chand
A short story about future India where women wear implants which prevent any men (outside of family) even touching them. And even looking at a woman without permission is punishable – painfully so. Just a glimpse to a fascinating world. A newlywed woman (with no knowledge of sex) is coping with different pressures and attitudes. Good writing, but too short. ***+
The Great Leap of Shin • novella by Henry Lien
A prequel (?) for a story which was published in Asimov’s. A scientific advisor of the emperor of China is trying to trigger a huge earthquake (by getting almost everyone in China to jump at a harmonic frequency – among other schemes). The resulting earthquake would destroy the island of Pearl, a wonderful island made from extremely slippery material enabling skating everywhere. A group of youngster has come to make the plea for stopping the “great leap” so that their home would be saved. An excellent and well written story. If this were published later in the year, it would have been a strong contender for awards. Now it is going to take more than a year before it is eligible. ****+
Just Browsing • novelette by Stephen Lombard
Aliens have come. They have only limited time, but one thing they want to see is a library in a small town. Why? There is a somewhat good reason and they find something else interesting, another fairly good story, but the relationship stuff somehow didn't ring true. ***
Ulenge Prime • shortstory by Chuck Rothman
An African dictator builds a space station by a rule of terror. When the inevitable coup comes he escapes there with his wife. Is there a reason for his madness? A short, implausible but even sad story. ***
Long Way Gone • shortstory by David L. Clements
A copy of a man despairs on an alien planet. He and his wife were supposed to be copied simultaneously to a ready built (by nano machines) base, but for some reason she didn't do it. He has some trouble adjusting. Another well written story, but it is just a glance, just a "changing point", and something is lacking from the whole. ***
Why the Titanic Hit the Iceberg • shortstory by Jerry Oltion
Earth is almost destroyed. The richest of the rich live at a huge space station enjoying indecent luxury, while the service staff is planning a revolution. A good but nihilistic and pessimistic story. ***½
Fool's Errand • shortstory by Judith Tarr
A horse wakes up from deep sleep during a hyperspace journey. Unfortunately, no living things can survive jumping phase of the trip without proper shielding (except cats and ferrets). Should the magnificent animal be put down or is there a way? A fairly good story with perhaps too easy ending. ***
Samsara and Ice • shortstory by Andy Dudak
Two soldiers have battle which last centuries. The wake up periodically, and one kills another. The is a conditioning to perform like that. But once another put down his weapon. The back story in the beginning was pretty thick, but when the story got going it was pretty good.***+
Unmother • shortstory by Lex Wilson
Sentient white cells/nano machines/alien invaders (?) live inside a human brain. One of the “cells” (or whatever they are) leads a mutiny of sorts against theirs “mother” and helps other to escape probable doom (a brain tumor?). A pretty strange story where it was kind of hard to grasp what really was going on, and what the protagonists were. But surprisingly readable in spite of that. ***
Marduk's Folly • shortstory by Sean Vivier
Aliens are approaching solar system, and miss earth as they believe no habitable planets might be so close the sun. Very short, nothing really special. **
Usher • novelette by Jay Werkheiser
Aliens have landed on Canada. They don't seem to be able to hear anything and they don't respond to any visual means of communication, either. A psychologist with Usher's syndrome (almost blind and deaf, using cochlear implants) tries to establish contact. But the UN troops are arriving to take over. Unreasonably unreasonable UN troops who apparent are able to arrive to Canada by jaunting, or how the takeover is so fast? But the way the aliens perceive the reality is pretty novel. Not bad, but the hint of US paranoia with invading UN troops is irritating. ***+
Defender of Worms • [Floyd and Brittney] • novella by Richard A. Lovett
Continues a series an Artificial Intelligence, who was born more or less accidently. She is on run, as other AIs who live on the Internet want to assimilate her – and as she really values her individuality she really doesn’t want that. She lives inside a chip which is installed in a rich heiress, who is avoiding the politician mother. Together their form a firm friendship and try to survive “off the grid”. A good story, like the other instalments of the series. Probably wouldn’t work alone, as it is an integral (the last one?) part of the series. ***½

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Pekka Matilainen: Kupoli

A murder has been done in 15th century Florence. There are eye witnesses and the sentencing should be easy, even though the obvious murderer denies everything. Early on it turns out that he was framed. But why and by whom? A fairly disjointed book with a fair amount of lecturing. A disappointment.

1400-luvun Firenzeen sijoittuva dekkari. Mies on murhattu, syyllinen on vangittu ja syyllisyys on selvä, onhan tapahtumalla useita silminnäkijöitä. Odotellaan vain paavin erityislähettilästä, jotta oikeudenkäynti voidaan suorittaa ja ilmeinen syyllinen hirttää, vaikka tämä typerästi edelleen syyttömyyttään yrittää vakuutella. Mutta asiaa alkaa selvittelevän hieman salaperäinen mies, jonka avustajana on lahjakas latinaa uutterasti opetellut poika. Asiat eivät niin ilmiselviä olekaan, kuin aluksi on näyttänyt ja vastoin epäilyksiä syytetty vapautetaan – jo varsin varhaisessa vaiheessa kirjaa. Mutta miksi murha tapahtui? Ja miten varsin suunnitellulta vaikuttava lavastus oikein tapahtui? Kirjassa on liikaa jaarittelua, esitelmöintiä, asioiden ja paikkojen kuvailua. En mitenkään erityisen ihastunut teokseen, vaan se oli keskitasoa huonompia tänä vuonna lukemistani. Lisäksi otsikon Kupoli – Firenzen tuomiokirkon pääkupoli - ei kirjassa näyttelyt juuri minkäänlaista merkittävää roolia. Olisin odottanut että se ja sen rakentaminen olisivat tulleet selkeämmin esille. Kirjan juoni on liian hajanainen ja välillä melkein unohtuu. Kirja alkaa murhatarina, mutta muuttuu sitten hiukan sekavaksi kadonneen kirjan suhteellisen laiskaksi metsästykseksi, sisältäen lopulta myös ripauksen melko kornia teiniromantiikkaa.
Kirjassa henkihahmojen määrä on suuri ja nimet eivät helpoiten muistettavia ole. Kirjoitustyyliltäänkään kirja ei mielestäni ollut mitään parhaita, vaan oli jonkin verran yksitoikkoisen tuntuinen. Hajanaisuus myös kiusasi minua, aika monenlaista kirjassa ehti tapahtua, mutta näiden tapahtumien väliset yhteydet eivät olleet aina kovin loogisia, vaan jäivät välillä keinotekoisen tuntuisiksi. Aika monesti juonta edistettiin siten, että joku selitti mitä tapahtui - jotenkin olisi tuntunut paremmalta, että olisi noudatettu ohjetta show, don't tell. Dekkarina kirja ei toiminut siinäkään mielessä, että olisi edes teoriassa ollut mahdollista päätellä kuka murhaan oli syyllinen. Jonkinasteinen pettymys kiinnostavan idean ja kehuvien arvioiden jälkeen.

300 s.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe

A collection of essays from a wide variety of subjects. What would happen if the earth would stop rotating? What would happen if a baseball would be pitched at light speed? What if you would go for a swim in the nuclear waste pool? The scenarios are mainly fairly preposterous, but they are handled seriously, or at least almost seriously. With a nice XKCD twist at places. A very interesting, entertaining and fun book to read. And no apparent mistakes – or at least none I noticed straight away.

320 pp.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, June 2004

A fairly nice issue.

Time Ablaze • novella by Michael A. Burstein
A time traveler goes to the New York of the beginning of the 20th century to see a boat disaster. He moves to live with a family of widower mother and her daughter. The pair of women sees a fairly handsome single and apparently fairly well to do man, as a good prospect for possible marriage. But the daughter finds out that the man doesn’t have the job he claimed on a newspaper, and he has a strange looking book about a horrible disaster which hasn’t happened yet. (Very serious sloppiness for the time traveler) . But can she stop the accident? And should she? Or will she even be able to? A very good story plot wise, the writing was ok, but to as good as the plot. ****-
On the Tip of My Tongue • [Victor and Martin] • novelette by Grey Rollins
A pair of detectives (human who is good looking man but not too smart, and an alien who looks like a banana and loves rotten food)solve a crime involving super rich collector of exotic animals. Light and entertaining story. Nothing really deep, but isn’t meat to contain anything profound. ***+
Blu 97-032D • shortstory by Alexis Glynn Latner
Old satellites start to disappear. And the disappearances seem to follow a set trajectory. What is eating space junk? Another short story with a decent idea, but not much else. ***
The Bistro of Alternate Realities • [Alternitech] • shortstory by Kevin J. Anderson
Different versions (from different timelines) of the same woman meet on a café and change ideas, information and even a boyfriend. There are some problems, though. A pretty good, but slightly too short story. ***+
Caretaker • shortstory by Richard A. Lovett
A man lives alone on a beautiful planet. A colony ship approaches. He isn’t happy about it and tries to persuade the colonists to leave. But what can he do? Quite lot as matter of fact. A pretty good but too short almost solipsist story. ***+
PeriAndry's Quest • [Old Earth] • novelette by Stephen Baxter
Happens on the far future earth where time passes at different speed at different heights. The higher the elevation, the faster time goes. The aristocracy uses people who live higher to cook their food, mend clothes and so on. A young man falls for a beautiful young woman from higher altitude. Not only the class division is something frowned upon, but he must hurry or the young woman won’t be so young anymore. A fairly good story, but I really don’t get the economic system of the world? What kind of influence the slower zones have for the faster zones? Why the faster zones slave away for the slow zones? ***+
Greetings from Kudesh • novelette by J. T. Sharrah
A diary of a young woman, who works as a missionary on an alien planet. The aliens have asked for someone to tell them about human religion. The story is told by a diary recording. The girl is somewhat naïve and a reader can spot some hints of what is to come she doesn’t see. A well written story but a stupid, stupid, but brave girl. ***½

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Hyperion by Dan Simmons

Humanity has spread around the stars. Not only faster than light space travel has been invented, but instantaneous travel through “farcaster” network is commonplace. The same network is used for information exchange, and super intelligent AI:s with partly unknown motives also use that network for their own purposes. A group of pilgrims is on way the meet shrike, a vicious alien who lives around the “time tombs” on a remote planet, Hyperion. The time itself seems to behave strangely in that area. No space ship can approach, as every member of all crew has always vanished without a trace. A war is coming, and “Ousters”, humans who live in deep space are attacking. This expedition might be last for a long time if not ever. The pilgrims start to tell stories of why they a taking the hard and dangerous journey which most likely will kill them. The stories all involve Hyperion and time tombs in some way, mostly very disturbed (and fascinating) way. Those involve immortality (with a cost) and accident which causes a young woman to grow younger day by day until she is an infant.
This is just the first half of the book and it ends when the group arrives at their destination. Practically everything is just setup and shrike and timetombs are left largely as a mystery. The writing was good and the stories itself were very engaging and interesting. The combining parts them were luckily short and a struggle to get through at least in comparison. One of the better Hugo winners.
I have now read 93% of all Hugo award winning novels. Four to go.

482 pp.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Astounding Science Fiction, July 1959

A fairly bad issue with dated stories. The last part of Dorsai! takes a lot of space.

But, I Don't Think • novelette by Randall Garrett
A guesser (who is able to guess the orbits of ships accurately during battle situations) is stranded on an underdeveloped planet after an attempt against his life. The world is very militaristic with extremely stiff class divisions. A light look to a pretty grim world, where the protagonist doesn't show any personal growth – and that is pretty much the point of the story. ***½
Broken Tool • shortstory by Theodore L. Thomas
A man due to space command faces the last test. He must visit his home town and see if he will regret abandoning the earth. He has no need for the Earth; all he wants is to get to space. So he fails the test. A very short bitter sweet story. Not bad. ***+
Straw • shortstory by Algis Budrys
Corruption and shady dealing on some sort of casino. Extremely boring and somewhat confusing. How was this science fiction? There might have been some speculative aspect, by mind was too glazed by total indifference to notice it. *
Leverage • [Federation of Humanity] • shortstory by Christopher Anvil
A space colony has serious problems due mosquito like insects and giant, violent birds. (I wonder why no one uses mosquito nets or helmets; apparently the author wasn’t familiar with areas with severe mosquito infestations). Then a stupid solution is found. A pretty bad and childish tale. **
Vanishing Point • shortstory by C. C. Beck
Man invents a sort of four dimensional device, which seems to suck the parallax out from the world. Or something. A very short and stupid story. **-

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Galaxy Science Fiction, March 1955

An average issue, but not quite as bad as couple previous ones.

Project Mastodon • novelette by Clifford D. Simak
Three men have invented time travel and travelled to a distant past. They try to sell past to military as a source of raw materials and a refugee area in case of the war, but they are laughed away. They return to the past and have an accident. Meanwhile the military learns that there really is a way to get to the past and gets very interested. Fairly little happens in the story and what happens happens very slowly. A pretty overlong but readable story. ***+
The Candle Lighter • shortstory by Frederik Pohl
A man who has been fighting for the human rights of Martians is appointed as the emissary of the humanity. He is keen to making some changes but the first thing he is supposed to do is an execution of a Martian. As he hasn't bothered to learn anything about the Martian culture he faces some hard learning. A pretty stupid story with even stupider characters. ***-
Dulcie and Decorum • novelette by Damon Knight
Two friends start to suspect that spelling mistakes contain information. But what, from where and why? Overlong, but the ending is rushed and the "secret " is just told by the author - the protagonists themselves won't learn it.**
One Way • shortstory by Miriam Allen deFord (variant of One-Way Journey)
The only son of a couple is selected for a secret mission where only top 200 students of the world is selected. His girlfriend and mother have a plan. She will get a child by the son, so the family will have something. But the baby will be born out of marriage! Horrible! An elaborate plan is needed. Pity that the women have forgotten how the government keeps track of its citizens, but thankfully the husband is smart and is able to find a solution. A pretty stupid story with badly outdated attitudes. It is surprising that even in far future the attitudes are exactly similar that those on 1950s US. **+
Who? • novelette by Theodore Sturgeon (variant of Bulkhead)
A man is having the final test before getting the command of interstellar starship. He must endure a long lone space journey. There is another person on the same ship, but he is behind an impenetrable wall. He could contact him by a press of a button. For some poorly defined reason he is supposed to hold out as long as possible before making the contact. When he finally makes the contact he is due to surprise. Not bad, writing good for its’ era, but the story is overlong with too much psychological non sense. **½
Big Stupe • shortstory by Charles V. De Vet
A ship from Earth has arrived at an almost unknown planet. They are supposed to create good relations, as the planet contains some rare elements worth mining. The natives are little apprehensive, but they seem to warm up and even give earthmen a goofy and stupid monkeylike animal as a pet. A short, simple and pretty stupid story which depends on a stupid end “reveal”. **+

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Gillian Flynn: Kiltti tyttö (Gone Girl)

A book where almost everything is a spoiler. A wife disappears and the husband is suspected from a murder. A lot of entertaining plot twists, smooth uncomplicated writing, but unlikable characters. An interesting new author, well worth reading.

Kirja, jonka sisällöstä on hyvin vaikea kertoa yhtään mitään ilman spoilereita. Alkuasetelmana päällisin puolin onnellinen aviopari on muuttanut New Yorkista miehen kotipaikkakunnalle. Molemmat puolisot ovat jääneet työttömiksi ja samalla miehen vanhemmat ovat tarvinneet lisääntyvästi apua, joten New Yorkista poismuutto vaikutti hyvältä ajatukselta. Mies on perustanut sisarensa kanssa (vaimon rahoilla) baarin ja vaimo harjoittelee kotirouvan elämää. Pikkupaikkakunnan elämä on osoittautunut hankalammaksi kuin oli odotettu ja puolisoiden väliset suhteet eivät ole säilyneet hyvänä. Hääpäivänä nainen katoaa ja näyttää siltä että asunnossa on käyty raju kamppailu. Pian aviopuolisoa epäillään murhasta. Kirjaan mahtui todella monta mutkaa, joista osa oli aika selvästi ennakoitavissa, mutta vauhtia tarinassa pääsääntöisesti riitti runsaasti, vakkakin kirjan toinen neljännes oli aika hidas ja tuntui sisältävän hiukan turhaa paisuttelua - tiiviimpi tarinankerronta olisi voinut laatua kohottaa. Kirja oli kuitenkin erittäin vetävää ja viihdyttävää tekstiä. Ongelma oli, että oikeastaan yksikään kirjan henkilöistä ei ollut mitenkään mukava tai samaistumisen houkutteleva. Vaikka lähes kaikki päähenkilöt olivat enemmän tai vähemmän epämiellyttäviä, heidän persoonallisuutensa oli kyllä kirjan sisällä varsin hyvä selitys; molempien puolisoiden lapsuus oli ollut vammauttavaa, tosin täysin eri tavoilla ja käytännössä vastakkaisesti. Sen verran viihdyttävää ja nautittava kirja oli, että pitänee jossain vaiheessa etsiä käsiin saman kirjailijan muutkin teokset.
447 s.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, December 2014

A fairly good issue, clearly above average.

The Anomaly • novelette by C. W. Johnson

A young poor, but brilliant man works himself out from a future ghetto (on an alien planet?). He gets a job mining for “anomalies” which are used for interstellar travel. He gets a chance to return to his birth place, but his family’s and his friend’s expectations aren’t exactly what he wants from the life. A well-written story, which feels more like a beginning of a larger work than a separate novelette. The actual story seems to start from here. ***½
Dino Mate • interior artwork by Andrea Radeck
A couple who dates goes to the past with a time machine to see dinosaurs. Some small drama, a lot of descriptions of dinosaurs and engagement proposal at the end. The writing was ok, but there was little actual plot. ***-
Citizen of the Galaxy • shortstory by Evan Dicken
The aliens have come and everything has changed. A history teacher in Japan tries to connect with her child who has been born to a completely different world. She doesn't really care even talk in human language, but communities by light in the way of the aliens. And the history curriculum is being changed, the emphasis is going to the wider galactic viewpoint rather than provincial earthen things. A short but good story which is able to present different viewpoints very well. The writing is good. ****-
Mammals • shortstory by David D. Levine
The AIs which have destroyed humans might encounter something strange. But will they really notice it? Short and pretty unsurprising, but the writing was interesting. ***
Saboteur • shortstory by Ken Liu
A short story about a trucker who tries to sabotage trucks with AI (without human drivers). He succeeds – with a cost. A very short poignant story. ***
Twist of Coil • shortstory by Miki Dare
The story happens in an alien world - no humans are even mentioned. The aliens have "coils" which contain sensory organs and manipulative appendages. A young female is a fine coil dancer, but her brother is sickly. The don't have money for the operation, but the priests say that if the protagonist lets her coils be cut, the gods will surely grant a miracle. She faces a hard choice. A well written story with moving and very irritating, even frustrating content. Probably too short. ***+
Racing the Tide • shortstory by Craig DeLancey
Sea level is raising and a village is drowning slowly. A mayor’s son is badly sick and needs expensive treatment. There is a plan to save the village which also would give a lot of money, but as often the long term effects might be unknown. The writing was ok, but the story was pretty fragmented- the two plot lines didn't seem to have much to do with each other’s. ***
Humans First! • novella by Kyle Kirkland
A man who services neural network computers is almost fatally stabbed at his work by a computer advocacy terrorist (I wonder why there should be a terrorist organization for that - the story doesn’t give any good answer. ) He isn’t allowed back to work as a computer analysis predicts that he suffers from a severe posttraumatic stress and is too volatile to return to work. Is there a way he can convince the “black and white” computer algorithms that he is able to work? Or are the algorithms right? And why he, who was repairing the computers, was attacked by a group which is pro-computer? A pretty good story in spite of some illogicalities. ***½

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

One of Our Thursdays Is Missing: A Thursday Next Novel by Jasper Fforde

Next in Thursday Next series. This time the protagonist in the book isn’t the actual, original, “real” Thursday Next, but her correspondent from the Thursday Next books. The nice and empathetic one, not the arrogant one from those books which were written with added sex and action to please the readers. Most of the book happens in the bookworld, where the Thursday Next’s literary correspondent tries to find out what has happened to the real Thursday Next, while an understudy takes care of those few readers who are actually reading the book series. The real Thursday was supposed to mediate the peace talks between racy novel and women’s fiction, two genres with a long history of bad relations. At the same time an unknown book has destructed itself over the bookworld and spawn stray phonemes everywhere. As the real Thursday Next isn’t available, the written one must try to find out what is going on. She encounters many strange and surprising threats, like a dangerous mimefield filled with ruthless mimes. And she also gets a change to visit the real world and is astounded by the level of the detail. Even those things which aren’t described exist there!
Another really fun book from a fun series. This instalment was perhaps slightly less manic than some of the previous instalments, but it was a very inventive book filled with loads of fun literary and culture references. Very likely I missed many of them, but there was more than enough for a few chuckles for almost every page. Enjoyable, inventive and entertaining.
384 pp.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, September 2001

An average issue. Somehow felt at least thirty years older than it actually was.

The King Who Wasn't • [Interplanetary Relations Bureau] • novella by Lloyd Biggle, Jr.
An agent on Interplanetary Relation Bureau is on a planet which apparently has a democracy on several city states. But something seems to be wrong - the democracy seems to work unusually poorly and the newly elected officials are always worse than the previous ones. But the there is an apparent revolt, the latest elected officials are stoned and king is selected apparently more or less randomly. And the agent who was supposed to be as unnoticeable as possible finds himself as a vice-king. Sociopolitical science fiction. Not bad but somehow has pretty old fashionable feel in it and felt slightly overlong. ***½
Lost Dogs • shortstory by Christopher McKitterick
A probe returns to find humans after 80000 years. It seeks them from many different places and finally finds them. Overlong and overcomplicated story with a lot of long winded descriptions with a lot of numbers. Hard to follow and pretty boring. **+
The Upgrade • novelette by Brian Plante
A man is trying to manage in his job. His brain implant is fairly old, and his customers and employer is demanding more as well as his wife who tries to live rich life at a country club with rich friends. But the upgrade is very expensive and it will have some other drawbacks, also. Irritating and unrealistic characters and a sudden change from a fairly light tone to tragedy. Haven't they heard about divorce? ***-
A Moment of Integrity • shortstory by Jeffery D. Kooistra
A forth Mars mission makes an astounding discovery: a wreckage of a German spacecraft from the Second World War era. Which was powered by Diesel engines. WTF? Not very plausible but ok story, somehow slightly clumsy. It could have been the first part of a longer story. ***+

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Camilla Läckberg: Majakanvartija

A murder mystery, where the police and an author – the wife of one of the policemen – try to find who killed a very unremarkable civil servant. Due to many subplots (not all resolved) and a really huge array of characters the book is sometimes hard to follow. The police makes a few stupid mistakes which are very convenient plot wise. Ok, entertaining book but I wasn’t overtly impressed.

Nainen pakenee yksinäiselle majakkasaarelle poikansa kanssa. Ystävysryhmä on toipumassa vakavasta onnettomuudesta. Nuhteettomalta vaikuttanut kunnallisvirkamies löytyy kotoaan ammuttuna. Toistasataa vuotta sitten palvelijatyttö muuttaa samalle majakkasaarelle sulhasensa ja tämän työtoverin kanssa. Kirjan alku on hyvin hajanainen ja henkilöiden määrä – etenkin kun samalta kirjailijalta ei ole aikaisemmin mitään lukenut ja kaikki päähenkilötkin ovat outoja - tuntuu melkein tyrmäävältä. Vähitellen kirjaan pääse sisään ja eri tarinoiden väille vähitellen muodostuvat ainakin melko loogiset yhteydet. Jonkinasteinen hajanaisuus kirjaa vaivaa loppuun asti ja osa ehkä hiukan irrallisista juonista jää ilman varsinaista päätöstä. Kovin suuria yllätyksiä kirja ei tarjonnut, itse arvasin murhaajan noin puolenvälin seudussa. Kielellisesti kirja oli aika hyvin kirjoitettu, monipuolista ja luettavaa kieltä, mutta kovin lyhyet tv-sarjamaiset usein jonkinasteiseen cliffhangeriin päättyvät kappaleet olivat paikoitellen ärsyttäviä. Aikamoisia sählääjiä ja ammattitaidottomia ruotsalaiset poliisit tämän kirjan perusteella kyllä ovat: useampia emämokia saivat aikaan. Hupsista vain, laitoinpas tärkeän todisteen epähuomiossa taskuuni ja unohdin sen moneksi päiväksi… Kovin suurta intoa ei ainakaan heti syntynyt kirjailijan muihin teoksiin tutustumiseen.

515 s.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Rupetta by N.A. Sulway

Rupertta is a clockwork woman, who was built by an inventive woman hundreds of years ago. Her heart must be “wound” be a human and the two are closely attached after that. During centuries, she has many different wounders, with different approaches and aims. The story is told from two different viewpoints; from a point of Rupertta herself and from the perspective of a young scholar who examines Ruperta’s life in the “present day” of the story. A strange intolerant religion has risen on the perverted philosophy of the worse winders which doesn’t think twice on destroying “heretics”. But what has happened to Ruperta herself?
The writing is excellent, and the story is fascinating cross between fantasy and steampunk. The ending was by far the weakest part of the story; it was too long and slightly confusing. The first few chapters were some of the best -written things I have read and the story might have worked better as a longish novella rather than a complete novel.
352 pp.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, November 2014

Average issue, there is nothing really memorable.

Flow • novella by Arlan Andrews [as by Arlan Andrews, Sr. ]
Continues an earlier story, which happens apparently on a post apocalyptic earth or on another planet. A man who earlier sold ice goes to visit a larger city with slightly higher level of civilization. The story consists mainly from sightseeing and how the “hero” is trying to find things to steal. There is practically no actual plot at all. The world as itself is fairly interesting, but a good story should be some kind of real plot going on. Little happens here other than descriptions of the world. I didn’t like the first installment and I didn’t like this one. **
Persephone Descending • novelette by Derek Künsken
How to survive on Venus after there has been an attempt against your life and you are stranded in sulfuric acid atmosphere. A very detailed story about survival. The background and possible aftermaths seemed interesting, but there was too little about them and too many details on different ways to use Venusian floating plants. And oxygen tanks with hand pumps as standard? Really? (The given examination seemed stupid, as no pumps are usually used to transfer gases from lager containers with high pressur to small ones with low pressure) ***-
Mercy, Killer • shortstory by Auston Habershaw
An AI is on trial on the murder of several other AIs. It seems clear that he/it is guilty. An attorney is supposed to be on the defense team, but his job seems impossible. He meets the Ai and has a discussion. There are motives of course but not really interesting or surprising ones. The writing was ok but somehow pretty lackluster plot. ***-
An Exercise in Motivation • shortstory by Ian Creasey
An invention makes it possible that autists can change their interest, for example from remembering train tables to analyzing stock market information. ***
Habeas Corpus Callosum • shortstory by Jay Werkheiser
A man is in prison for life for a murder. But immortality treatments have been invented. Should he be released after one lifetime? There are pressure groups advocating the both sides and one case is used for the legal precedent. Nice writing, but I really don’t understand the vindictive process concerning more on revenge that possible rehabilitation. ***
Conquest • shortstory by Bud Sparhawk
Short humorous story about invasion which is slightly delayed. The mighty imperial warship encounters very efficient and powerful immigration bureaucracy. There is only one solution available. A very short fairly amusing story. ***
Elysia, Elysium • shortstory by V. G. Campen
There have been several famines in the world and food is very scarce. A young man inherits a trade route from an older man, who is dying from melanoma. He is supposed to transport some pills to another village. There is a secret which might change the world. A pretty nice but slight too short story, I would have liked to learn more of the world and characters.***+

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Green Mars (Mars Trilogy) by Kim Stanley Robinson

The second part of the Mars trilogy. The first Martian revolution failed in the previous book. People are picking up the pieces, both the rebellious colonists and the giant transnational corporations of Earth. But who will control the future Mars – greedy corporations or people who live there? And how Mars will be terraformed, will there be any areas with original geography left – there are some very bitter disagreements about that even among the colonists. Slowly, Mars turns more hospitable, and slowly the secret organizations of the colonists gain more supporters and more power. But how could they win the giant, all powerful and rich corporations with large private armies? Will the new rebellion end as badly as the first one?
The book has fairly little actual plot. It mainly describes the changes, which happen on the planet - and boy - it describes them in detail, in mind numbing detail. Different characters move around the planet, apparently for no other reason than enabling the author to describe the different features of Martian landscape and terraforming methods very carefully. Omitting the descriptions the page count could have been cut by something like 85-90%. The writing as such was pretty good, but at places it was more than a little dull. The events there were, happened in kind of bursts, followed by a hundred pages of sightseeing trips around the planet. The Martians itself are fascinating – how living on another planet changes people? Are there other ways of organizing society as the traditional free market capitalism while giving wide personal freedom? Those were the interesting parts of the book, not the details of the planet.
The scientific knowledge of Kim Stanley Robinson was slightly suspect, again. According to him the Martian work crews use dowsing to find water on Mars. Really? Why not astrology as well? The prior book had devices which worked against the laws of thermodynamics – this is about as stupid mistake.

I have now read 92% of all novels which have won the Hugo award.

784 pp

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Astounding Science Fiction, December 1958

Pretty old fashionable stories, especially the attitudes of some were “slightly” odd.

Ministry of Disturbance • [Federation] • novelette by H. Beam Piper
A king of an interstellar empire might be threatened by a coup. His childhood friend who is the leader of military forces seems to get troops to places and is gaining influence and power. Then a riot starts for apparently fairly small reason and it seems something fishy is going on. It turns out that there is a coup, but not the obvious one. A talky, slightly overlong story which has quite a few unneeded side-plots. ***
Triggerman • shortstory by J. F. Bone
A lone man sits alone in a room with a red button. He is in charge of an ultimate decision: whether to launch nuclear missiles or not when the country is attacked or seems to be attacked. It seems a lone missile is closing to the Capitol. The antimissile attacks all fail, as the invader moves far too fast. Should the counterattack be launched? It is pretty clear from the start what the “attack” really is. In reality there would have been no question of even an attempt of counter measures – meteors move too fast for any of them. Not bad story, one of the better ones in the issue. ***+
Pieces of the Game • shortstory by Mack Reynolds
Russia has invaded most of Europe. A diplomat goes to Vienna for a cover mission. As Russian allow only very old, very fat or very weak attachés to arrive at their territory a weak man is faced quit a task. A standard James Bond style adventure story. Writing ok and plot adequate but nothing really unique. ***-
The Queen Bee • novelette by Randall Garrett
A small spaceship crash-lands on a new unknown and uncharted planet. Apparently, the space ships are extremely unreliable (or I wonder if they are purposefully rigged?) as there are set rules of conduct for such situations. Every man is supposed to get a child, preferably two children, a boy and a girl, with every woman surviving to ensure as much genetic variation as possible. This expedition has seven members, three women and four men. One of the men is an older doctor who for “obvious reasons” isn’t included in the eugenic plan (if you go by the disturbing logic of the story, that’s totally inexcusable. They are losing one seventh of the genetic variability, which is extremely limited to begin with. There is no set upper limit for male fertility – as he is the oldest and most likely to die first, he should have been the first one to get his chance with the women.) The women are horrible caricatures, one is a young nice girl from an agricultural planet who can sew and cook, one is a neurotic, who is scared of sex and getting children and only after some beating and light raping comes to her senses, and the third one is an extremely rich heiress who has always gotten everything she wants and is used to men following her every wish. And who is very narcissistic or even psychotic person. But what can’t be cured with some prefrontal lobotomy? Just as unbelievable story it sounds. The writing itself is about average for its’ time, but the attitudes and events are EXTREMELY creepy and uncomfortable. *½
Seller's Market • [The War with the Outs • 2] • shortstory by Christopher Anvil
Attack to an alien base through snow. A lot of description of journey and fighting, a few small plot twists. (the aliens are able to influence minds, but apparently not very efficiently) but nothing really special. A longer form with more actual details and not just action might have worked better. **+

Monday, August 11, 2014

Anne Holt: Julkkismurhat

A police procedural about a serial murderer killing celebrities. The beginning of the book was a little disjointed and had far too many hard to keep track characters, but it got much better by the end. A nice summer read.

Tunnettu TV-julkkis kuolee kotonaan omituisella, ritualistisia piirteitä omaavalla tavalla. Parin viikon kuluttua kuolee toinen julkisuuden henkilö ja jälleen murhassa on mukana erikoisia piirteitä. liikkeellä vaikuttaa olevan sarjamurhaaja. Poliisipariskunta on juuri saanut lapsen, ja Inger Johanne Vik on äitiyslomalla. Hänen miehensä on yksi murhaketjun päätutkijoista, ja lomalla ollessaankin Inger hän alkaa selvittää murhia. Koska selvää motiivia ei vaikuta olevan, näyttää siltä, että tutkimuksesta tulee pitkä ja hankala. Ja niin tapahtuukin.
kirjan alku vaikutti hiukan liian löysältä ja henkilömäärä suurelta. (Miksi kirjoissa ei aina voi olla henkilöluetteloa, helpottaisi onnettoman nimimuistin omaavan lukijan lukemista huomattavasti). Loppua kohden kirja jäntevöityi ja ylineuroottisen lapsenhoidon vatvominen vähentyi ja tarina oli kovinkin mukaansatempaava. Viihdyttävää kesälukemista. Yhden mielenkiintoisen faktan neurologi kirjasta oppi: MS-tauti ei kuulemma vaikuta aivojen toimintaan. Mihinköhän sitten?

419 s.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Galaxy Science Fiction, February 1955

A really bad issue with really badly dated stories. Plots were very ridiculous and in a bad way.

Helpfully Yours • novelette by Evelyn E. Smith
The first female of an alien species which has contacted earth has arrived. She goes to work on a newspaper which contains a help column for aliens who are baffled by earth customs. A very strange story with strange characterization. Extremely old fashionable attitudes, especially female ones. The alien looks like a bird, and behaves like a stupid "chick"; she is for example very flattered when her boss is hitting on her. Apparently, the aliens who come to earth know nothing about earth customs and human apparently have almost no interest at all for the aliens or they customs. I even thought if the story was meant as some sort of clever parody, but the writing was so bad, that it is hard believe that the author would have been able to try something so complex. **
The Cave of Night • shortstory by James E. Gunn
Americans have launched the first space ship in secret. It comes to public knowledge after the lone astronaut sends a distress signal - there has been an accident and he can't return to earth. There is a widespread sympathy around the world and a scramble to build a new ship for the rescue effort, which eventually turns out to be futile. The ship is left back as a tomb and mausoleum. Eventually space exploration gains huge popularity and it is truly international effort, which combines nations and eventually leads to world peace. An optimistic story, the end reveal could be seen for miles away, though (it was a scam, just a recording on a ship). ***+
Dead Man's Planet • shortstory by William Morrison
A widower and his son land on an alien planet. They are trying to find animals for a zoo and try to cope with the loss of wife/mother. They find a wild dog on a planet no human is supposed to have visited. The dog seems to be very wild, but the son would like to have it as a pet. A nice, melancholy story, with a small bitter sweet twist. (The dog is immortal, hundreds of years old and has lost all his memories of living with humans, guarding the grave of his master.)***
Open House • shortstory by J. T. McIntosh
Aliens come and bring gifts. No one can really remember what they look like, but things they give were pretty fabulous devices which give limitless energy, dresses which are durable, always warm and comfortable and nicely see through. And a fabulous reading device which can store two million words. (that’s not so impressive today…) But there is a hidden agenda. But as humans are _special_ as almost always in the 50s science fiction, they are able to show to the aliens who is the boss. Moderately readable story, probably made more so by all the stinkers in the issue. ***-
Pythias • shortstory by Frederik Pohl
A secret service agent has killed a man in cold blood, a man who was an old friend of the agent. He is waiting for a trial and almost sure execution. There was a good reason for what he did - the murdered man had made a discovery too powerful to exist. A well-written food story, however, if what the man did were so easy it would have been discovered centuries ago. ***
Blind Spot • shortstory by Bascom Jones, Jr.
Earth has colonized Mars and has established some sort of racist apartheid culture. All dissidents are sent to penal colonies from the slightest offense. A man how works for an office which purpose is namely to increase co-operation but apparently is to mainly keep up the status qua, is dating a beautiful girl. He goes to meet her father, but somehow doesn't notice his is an alien and goes to a forbidden zone and gets punished. Silly and stupid story. I wonder why Martian men would be so enthralled by freakish looking human women with only two eyes? **
Rich Living • novelette by Michael Cathal
A small group of rich people goes to a little planet which reverses aging. You just have to live there for a few weeks, and you are young again. Guess what, as everything is extremely poorly planned they have an accident and are marooned. And they grow younger and younger...another so stupid and badly written story, that it hard to believe. Really rotten plot and almost as bad writing. *½

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Steven Hall: Haiteksti (The Raw Shark Texts)

A story about a man chased by a conceptual shark, which eats memories. A surreal, but fun book, which offers many possible ways to interpret what happens. Not a book you should think too much while reading, that would just cause headache. Just jump in the boat and enjoy.

Mies herää kotoaan muistamatta mitään entisestä elämästään. Hän löytää kirjeen, jossa kehotetaan soittamaan tiettyyn numeroon. Numeroon vastaa psykiatri, joka kertoo, että mies on menettänyt muistinsa jo useampaan kertaan ja nyt sama näyttää tapahtuneen jälleen. Taustalla on traumaattinen tapaus, jossa miehen tyttöystävä menehtyi lomamatkan aikana. Kotoa löytyy myös kirje, jonka mukaan psykiatria ei pidä uskoa ja häneen ei tule luottaa, eikä hänelle missään nimessä saa kertoa tulevista kirjeistä. Myöhemmin päivittäin kotiin tulee kirjeitä, joita mies on nähtävästi itse kirjoittanut. Heti hän ei niitä lue, mutta kun lopulta niihin perehtyy paljastuu, että hän on kontekstuaalisen hain uhri. Hai ahdistelee ihmisiä ja syö heidän muistonsa. Ja kun hain uhriksi on kerran joutunut, ei enää pakoon pääse. Hai lopulta ui jopa kirjan sivuille, kirjaimellisesti.
Hyvin erikoinen kirja, jonka voi lukea monella eri tasolla, dekkarina, fantasiana tai kirjallisuusteoreettisena metafiktiona. Kaiken kaikkiaan kyseessä on hyvin surrealistinen teos, jota ei lukiessa liikaa kannata miettiä, tulee vain pää kipeäksi. Parasta on hypätä vauhtiin mukaan ja antaa mennä ja näin luettuna kyseessä on hieno ja kiinnostava lukukokemus, joka tuntuu paranevan metatekstuaalista loppuaan kohden. Mikä mahtaa olla hainmetsästyksen kultturaalinen idiomi nykyään? Tappajahai-elokuva tietenkin, jota kirjan loppu kopio/varioi hyvin yksityiskohtaisesti. Nopeasti luettava, ajatuksia herättävä kirja.

518 s.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, April 2004

A pretty good issue with entertaining stories.

Tea with Vicky • novelette by Pete D. Manison

A female scientist uses without permission a transdimensional device to have discussions with her daughter, who never was born in this reality. They get along pretty well, until the daughter learns that in the mother’s dimension she was aborted. In the daughter’s reality, an abortion is punishable by death. (I believe that for a such major differences between the realities, everything should be SO different, that it would be impossible for the daughter's counterpoint to exists. Also, a death penalty for an abortion? Not very consistent.) Eventually, the scientist runs into a trouble as her clandestine use of the machine is discovered. But there is more than one way to play this game... A fairly nice story in spite of some antiabortionist tendencies and some logical faults. (if one country would gain an absolute, overpowering technological superiority, how would that lead to a nuclear holocaust?) ***½
In Spare • [Harrison Chuff and Florenzia Higgins] • novelette by J. Brian Clarke
Very much a rip off of the MIB franchise. An agent of an agency which handles Earth's extraterrestrial affairs has started to suspect that his boss is an alien. He turns out to be right, and his boss (who appears to be a fat middle-aged woman) turns out to be a small rat-like creature driving a “meat-suit". He soon finds himself as a part of events involving two alien species. A pretty fun and lighthearted story in spite of less than original premise.***½
Dibs • shortstory by Brian Plante
A man gets an email. There is a second hit for his tissue type by people who are on the organ transplant list. If there is a third hit, he will be broken to parts, as his life would save at least three other lives. Using his government contacts he finds out who the people waiting for transplants are, fully expecting to kill those greedy bastards, who are graving for his organs. But the reality is something else...a far-fetched premise, but nice story.***+
The Liberators • shortstory by Scott William Carter
Earth's military forces are fighting a war against vicious enemy. With a new very advanced full body military suit, it has been lately massively successful and enemy's efforts have been pitiful. Then at one battle one soldier takes his helmet off against the strict regulations. Next day he is found to be a traitor and he is executed. Would he really be working for the resistance, a fringe group which is working against the war? A pretty good story. Maybe slightly too huge conspiracy to be really believable. ***+
The Aztec Supremacist • shortfiction by Sheralyn Schofield Belyeu
Time travelling Aztecs try to influence Columbus that he wouldn’t start his journey to America. Another group tries to undo the damage. Seems to continue an earlier story, but there does not appear to be any precursor for this. Not bad, but starts from nowhere and ends to nowhere. **½
Misunderstanding Twelve • shortstory by Carl Frederick
Trade negotiations with an alien race can be hard, especially when the only translator available works by using another alien language as an intermediator language. A pair of business emissaries have a tough time and manage to get a psychiatric evaluation as the aliens assume that they just HAVE to be crazy to behave like that. A humorous story, not bad at all in its' class.***+

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tommi Kinnunen: Neljäntienristeys

An excellently written novel about the life of one family spanning over hundred years by a first time author. The story of the family is told by short glimpses from pivotal moments, or often just before the pivotal moment. The writing is excellent and the book was one of the best reads this year.

Runsaasti positiivista huomiota saanut esikoiskirja, joka myös tuntuu ansaitsevan saaneensa huomion. Kirja kertoo yhden perheen elämästä useiden perheenjäsenten näkökulmasta, kattaen pitkän ajan, noin 100 vuotta. Luvut kirjassa ovat lyhyitä, ja monet niistä loppuvat juuri siihen vaiheeseen, kun dramaattiset tapahtumat varsinaisesti alkaisivat, ja kertovat enemmän siitä miten tilanteeseen päädyttiin. Perheenjäsenillä on salaisuuksia ja kaikki eivät tule toimeen keskenään kunnolla, mutta eri henkilöillä on eri näkökulmat asioihin ja jokaisen näkökulma on aina ymmärreltävä ainakin jossain määrin. Tärkeä osa kirjaa ovat ihmisten väliset suhteet, se kuinka ihmiset eivät saa kunnolla yhteyttä toisiinsa, vaikka asuvat samassa talossa. Kirjan ehkä merkittävin henkilö on kunnan kätilö, joka aloittaa työnsä 1800-luvun puolella pienessä maalaiskunnassa, ja joutuu ansaitsemaan itse kunnioituksensa seudulla, jossa naiset saavat runsaasti lapsia uskonnon kieltäessä senkin vähän perhesuunnittelun, mikä tuohon aikaan mahdollista olisi ollut. Kätilö saa aviottoman lapsen, ja kantaa ylpeänä ja ympäristöstä piittaamatta vastuunsa. Aikanaan aikuistuttuaan tämä lapsi alkaa myös odottaa lasta ennen avioliittoa. Hänellä taas on miehen löytäminen tärkeää, ja sellainen löytyykin, mies, jolle vieraskin lapsi on äärimmäisen arvokas. Yhteinenkin lapsi parille myöhemmin syntyy. Parin yhteiselo, eikä myöskään taloon myöhemmin tulevan miniän ja anopin toimeen tuleminen ei mitään ruusuilla tanssimista sitten myöhemmin ole.
Kirja oli mukavaa luettavaa ja se oli kirjoitettu nautittavalla ja hienolla, mutta silti helppolukuisella kirjoitustyylillä. Yksi parhaista kirjoista mitä vähään aikaan olen lukenut. Hämmästyttävää, jos kirja ei ole Finlandia-palkintoehdokkaina tänä vuonna, hyvin suositeltava lukuelämys.

335 s.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, October 2014

A slightly above average issue.

"Opportunity Knocks", Joyce and Stanley Schmidt (Short Story)
Apparently continues some earlier story. The first quarter is a very heavy and dense infodump, which was hard to understand. The later part was okay and involves some Halloween trick and treaters meeting an alien. The story might have worked better as a separate one, omitting the force feeding of the details (most of which weren’t even important for the story itself anyway) and slightly rewriting the end part. Even then more of a prequel than an actual story. ***-
"Threshold", Tony Ballantyne (Novelette)
A guide on an alien planet is hired to take a group of three women to see a special feature of the planet: floating swarms, which are “insect” colonies which are on flight all the time and often reacted to environment in fairly predictable manner. It turns out that the women have a more sinister agenda. A pretty good and well written story. I must wonder though: how lax immigration is on the planet if the group was able to get all those things through customs? ***½
"Chrysalis", David Brin (Short Story)
Biologists have been able reprogram human cells, first to produce new organs to replace diseased ones, later grow back limbs. What is the next step? The story is told mainly by expository dialogue, where people tell what they have done or plan to do. It feels more like a transcript than a real story. Readable and even thought provoking, though. ***+
"Each Night I Dream of Liberty", Andrew Barton (Short Story)
A some sort of agent examines shady medical research on some sort of planet. A lot of exposition, some very strange leaps of logic. Someone has aphasia - oh, he must have been a victim of weaponized aphasia some terrorists were using years ago. Someone hasn't slept; oh she must have fatal familiar insomnia - an extremely rare disease with an incidence of something like 1:10000000. I found it hard to keep track what was going on. **
"Unfolding the Multi-Cloud", Ron Collins (Short Story)
A woman misses her loved one, who works in extremely well paid work, where he uploads his consciousness to net to find new or forgotten things. He might not come back as whole. Very well written and good story heavy with metaphors. Better than most of this year’s Hugo - nominees in the short story category, which were also heavily loaded with metaphors, but that is not saying much, though. ***+
"The Hand-Havers", Mary E. Lowd (Short Story)
Underwater intelligent beings give live apparently pretty American style life with central families and strong sex taboos. The unfertilized pregnancies (for both sexes?) produce "hands", some sorts of telepathically controlled beings which help in everyday life. Adulthood comes after the birth of the first hand. A young female creature is fascinated by an older male creature, who has six hands and is very smart and resourceful. He works as a kind of inventor for the community. An ok story, somewhat rushed and too short. Also, the very middle class American values on an alien species felt pretty stupid and irritating. ***+
“The Jenregar and the Light", Dave Creek (Novella)
Continues an earlier story. Insect like aliens are invading earth. The solution which was discovered at the end of an earlier story isn't working well any more. The story is split: one half tells about an attack to Nairobi and devastation the alien hive is causing there, the other half tells about Mike Christopher, artificial man who runs in to another alien infestation. Interspaced are segments about a scientist who is discovering a new method to destroy the aliens. Is total genocide justified? Not bad, but the parts didn't much to do with each other’s. Might have worked better as two separate stories. ***+

Monday, July 21, 2014

Analog Science Fiction -> Science Fact, January 1967

A pretty bad issue with overlong and dated stories.

Supernova • [David Falkayn] • novella by Poul Anderson
A star has gone nova. A some sort of federation, where earth is apparently one of the leaders, tries to help the inhabitants of a relatively close solar system, which will be hit by the nova in a few years. The inhabitants have only spread to a few planets. A lot of political scheming and story concentrates more in how the help is accepted, if it is accepted, than to the actual impact of the catastrophe. Ok, somewhat overlong. ***
A Criminal Act • (1966) • shortstory by Harry Harrison
After you get too many children you are declared to be an outlaw for a day. Someone may volunteer to kill you by any means possible. How many stories with an approximately similar premise are there? Hundreds? This has some semi interesting semi intellectual discussion about if something, which is completely legal, is also automatically a moral thing to do. The main character couple seems to be idiots. Wouldn’t it be easier just use some birth control? **½
The Old Shill Game • shortstory by H. B. Fyfe
A few friends have robovendors, who sell things to people on the streets and on subway. They first star to use robot shills, so that the vendors seem more popular and there would be more customers. In addition there are other schemes, also. Boring as hell, a badly overlong story. *½
The Last Command • [Bolo] • shortstory by Keith Laumer
An old battle robot wakes underground. It has been deactivated after a war. But a mining operation wakes it up. It believes the war is still going on, and it starts to approach inhabited areas...but one old veteran might recognize what is going on. A slightly overlong, but readable story. ***+

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Speculative Fiction 2012: The best online reviews, essays and commentary

A collection of essays, which have been published online 2012 with a wide variety of subjects, which start with book reviews and ending to critical essays and opinion pieces. I had already read a few of them, but a vast majority was unfamiliar. As can be expected some were interesting and some of the essays were less so. Probably the least interesting were a few long critiques about books I hadn’t even heard, while the most fun were a few trashings of apparently rotten books which have written by people who don't have the slightest about the culture there are writing books about (Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff, review by Cynthia Martinez; Fey and Fallen by Stina Leicht, review by Martin Mcgarth). Other memorable assays were “Are Elves Gay?” by Gav Thorpe and “sour grapes” lamentation about the Clarke Awards 2012 by Christopher Priest . There were a few that I disagree with, even when I like them (But, But, But, -Why Does magic Have to Make Sense? By N.K. Jemisin - if it works, it MUST somehow make SOME sort of sense). A few were about subjects I didn’t really understand or care (e.g. The Circus as Fantastic Device – Who cares?). As a whole pretty interesting book. I wonder if there will other collections like this?

340 pp.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, September 2014

A fairly nice issue, slightly better than average.

Plastic Thingy • novelette by Mark Niemann-Ross
A cute young woman comes to a hardware store. She needs some sort of red plastic thingy. She doesn’t exactly know what it is, or how it is supposed to work, or it is supposed to do. At first, it is kind of hard for the young salesman, who first suspects that someone with so stupid request must certainly be a secret shopper. But then the woman shows where the thing is needed. On an alien space ship, of course. A lighthearted, fun, well written story. Easily the best in the issue. ****
Release • shortstory by Jacob A. Boyd
The story is written mostly in second person present tense. Mankind is at war with a savage species. Human ships have as a last resort defense a button which releases a “zero bubble” which is some sort of stasis field which stops all momentum inside. (I don’t understand what that kind of invention isn’t used for other purposes – stick for example a giant bomb inside and send it to the enemy fleet). A pilot has pressed the Button, and is captured inside a field with an alien in another ship. They are so close that they are able to make gestures to each others. Should he release the bubble or not? Interspaced are reminiscences how the pilot was trained and even changed to be able to fly the space ship. Too gimmicky writing, not too logical plot. ***-
Vladimir Chong Chooses to Die • shortstory by Lavie Tidhar
A man goes to a death booth, where he can choose the manner of his death after a long life. He remembrances the deaths and lives of family members. Nice writing, but nothing special in the plot. ***
Artifice • shortstory by Naomi Kritzer
A group of friends meet regularly to play board games. One of them decides to take a humanoid robot as a perfect boyfriend. He even starts to play games with the group, especially Diplomacy, where a computer brain doesn’t have an unfair advantage. Nice writing, but nothing really surprising, including the non-logical ending. ***
Calm • shortstory by Alec Austin and Marissa Lingen
Aliens have arrived and started to uplift humans to truly sentient level. Everyone –or at least those who work with aliens - carry computers which evaluate to what degree imbalanced hormones and nerves affect the ability to make informed decisions. But there is a new race, which seems to have hugely worse problems with bad nerves than humans have ever had. A pretty good light hearted story. ***+
Beneath the Ice of Enceladus • (2009) • novelette by James C. Glass
An expedition is studying the ocean under the ice of Enceladus, a moon of Saturn. A pretty predictable story. There is some personal tension, there is problems during the expedition and guess if they find life on not? A very standard story which is standardly written. ***
Championship B'tok • [InterstellarNet] • novella by Edward M. Lerner
A group of aliens live on a moon of Uranus. They apparently try to invade the Earth, but were defeated. The remnants live on the moon in kind of reservation. They have had some accidents which are being investigated. They might also have some hidden agenda. And there might also be something even more secret going on. Part of a series and feels fairly separate as itself. Ends to cliffhanger. I haven’t been a great fan of this series and I don’t love this instalment, either, but perfectly ok story. ***

Sunday, July 13, 2014

My Hugo votes 2014, part 4, novels

The voting order in the best book category was pretty easy to determinate. There were two good books, one entertaining, but not in any way special pulpy book, which was third in a series; one really, really bad rehash of the author’s earlier series and one nominee was a ridiculously long fantasy series, which represent everything which is very, very wrong in the fantasy literature. My opinion is that the Wheel of Time should not have been nominated. A fourteen books long series can’t be compared with single volumes. There is no way anyone would really need so many books to tell a good, coherent story for any other reasons except self-indulgence and milking fans for the money. To say the truth, I have not read a single works on the series, but after reading many reviews of the books I haven’t even slightest interest in starting to read the series.
Only the two good books will be before the “no award”. I will put Correia’s book next in my voting order, as it is clearly better than the book by Mira Grant. Grant’s book and Wheel of Time are both so horrible nominees, that I am not able to put them in order, so I just leave them away from the ballot. A win for either of them would be utterly preposterous. Probably and hopefully that isn’t a great threat.

So, my votes will be in the following order:
1. Neptune's Brood by Charles Stross
2. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
3. No award
4. Warbound: Book Three of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia

Warbound: Book Three of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia

A book from a series I had never before even heard by an author who is at most only a superficially familiar name. At first I thought that this would be a spoof in manner of Scalzi’s short story which was nominated a few years ago, the title seemed to be so ludicrously preposterous. But no, this is a real series done apparently with an (almost) straight face. The Grimnor is an organization who fights against supernatural threats in an alternative 1930s world. Superpowers are common. There are people who can teleport, mess with gravity, be super intelligent, be unbelievably strong and so on. They tap some sort of “power” and are often able to augment their powers by crossing it with technology. A some sort of alien creature who craves the “magic” for its’ sustenance is coming to earth, to kill and destroy everything. It has sent its first influence ahead and that has infiltrated at least the Japanese government. The Grimnor starts to fight the evil influence. As this was the third part of the series, it took some time to get what was going on and who was who. By the end of the book there was a lot of fighting. And mean a lot. I saw the battle scenes in mind’s eye as an anime. They were so preposterous, that they could only be imagined as cartoons. However, it can be said that they were entertaining, at least at some level. The book had some slightly racist, antigovernment and pro weapon slant. Every single gun was described by the make and the caliber.
The book was fairly entertaining, but nowhere Hugo worthy. It didn’t really work as itself, the writing was ok, but not unique, and the plot wasn’t really surprising or complex.


Monday, July 7, 2014

My Hugo votes 2014, part 3, short stories

There were only four nominees this year. Most of them were short and based more on allegories than on the actual plot. There was no competition for the first place; in my opinion Chu’s story was by far the best one. The order of the others was less easy: I didn’t really like any of them, even though they were all well written. They felt more like poetic mood pieces as actual stories with a real plot and real characters.

“Selkie Stories Are for Losers”, Sofia Samatar (Strange Horizons, Jan-2013)
Two young girls who work at a restaurant bond and ponder about Selkie stories and abandonment issues. Very short, well written sad melancholy story. Didn't really had interest for me. Partly because I am not familiar with the concept Selkies - the first time I ever heard about them was from a last year's nominee - and that apparently wasn't that kind of Selkie story, this story is talking about. Also, there seems to be hardly any actual speculative material in the story.

“The Ink Readers of Doi Saket”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Tor.com, 04-2013)
Villagers from a Thai village pick up wishes people have left floating on the river which flows nearby. They collect gifts people have included in the small paper boats where the wishes are. Some wishes might be granted in some way, sometimes there might be some sort of exploitation of the gifts, and sometimes the wishes the villagers themselves have might come true, but not necessarily in a way they were hoping for. A poetic story.

“If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love”, Rachel Swirsky (Apex Magazine, Mar-2013)
A kind prose poem about how awesome dinosaur the loved one would be, if he would be a dinosaur. Very short, nice language, metaphors, but nothing else really.

“The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere”, John Chu (Tor.com, 02-2013)
Water starts to appear from now where if you lie about anything. A major lie completely drenches you. A guy couple is going to travel to the home of one of them. He hasn’t come out of the closet yet, and the parents believe that they are just good friends. And especially his sister seems lean very heavily to him getting settled, marrying a nice girl from the same ethnic group and starting to have children. How to survive the visit when it is impossible to lie? Another story which is heavy on metaphors. Good writing and moving story.

My voting order will be:
1. “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere”, John Chu (Tor.com, 02-2013)
2. “The Ink Readers of Doi Saket”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Tor.com, 04-2013)
3. “Selkie Stories Are for Losers”, Sofia Samatar (Strange Horizons, Jan-2013)
4. “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love”, Rachel Swirsky (Apex Magazine, Mar-2013)

Sunday, July 6, 2014

My Hugo votes 2014, part 2, novellettes

The stories in the novella category were pretty average for most part. Apparently two of the nominees ended to the list due coordinated voting effort by some readers of righter wing sf-blogs. The stories in question aren’t exactly bad, but not very good either – certainly not worth of an award. At best they can be considered average or at most slightly above average. Kowal’s and Chiang’s stories were the best ones by a good margin and was fairly easy to choose which of them was better one.

“Opera Vita Aeterna”, Vox Day (The Last Witchking, Marcher Lord Hinterlands)
This story was apparently voted into the final ballot by the right wing and bigoted part of US fandom as well as a few other nominees. The author got some notoriety by his extremely racist and misogynist opinions, which were so hate filled that Orson Scott Card started to feel like a moderate liberal free thinker. He got himself kicked out from the SFWA, but apparently collected some sympathy on that part of fandom who lives in the forests of Montana armed to the teeth waiting for the invasion of the UN troops
An elf comes to a monastery to study religious literature. He befriends (or at least comes accustomed with) the monks and decides to stay there studying sacred texts and copies and illuminates a major multipart religious text. He is wooed back to the kingdom of elves regularly, but he refuses. Not as bad I expected, but not very good either. The motivations of the elf were left very vague. As he knew for a FACT that the religion is bogus (he had "magical" abilities which he kept under control) why to spend years on the task? The writing felt slightly clumsy at places, certainly worse than the writing of the most of the other nominees.

“The Exchange Officers”, Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jan-Feb 2013)
Another story which is on the ballot apparently due organized voting. Chinese attack a space station US is constructing on the 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 fairly nice writing gave freshness to the otherwise very conventional plot.

“The Lady Astronaut of Mars”, Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinettekowal.com/Tor.com, 09-2013)
An elderly female astronaut who lives on Mars gets a change to take one last job. She would jump for the change, but her husband is badly ill and will die in a year. They don't even have children as they decided early on their careers, that there would be no room for children in their lives. Should she take the once in the lifetime chance or should her stay home and take care of her husband? A well written, bittersweet, nice story.

“The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling”, Ted Chiang (Subterranean, Fall 2013)
People have been using life recording devices for a long time. It has been very hard to access them, though. Now a new program, which enables pretty comprehensive search faculties, is being introduced. A man is testing the software and examines his own memories - do they correspond with the reality? A story of how technology shapes self-perception. Which is true - what really did happen or you conception and memory of the event? Interspaced with the modern (or future) story is a tale of how writing changed or almost changed tribal life n Africa. A good story, but at places especially at the end, feels more like a pamphlet than a "real" story.

“The Waiting Stars”, Aliette de Bodard (The Other Half of the Sky, Candlemark & Gleam)
Tells a story of a group of women, who have been raised at an orphanage, alternating with a story a group who is trying to find a derelict space ship. At the beginning, the stories don’t seem to have anything in common, but eventually there is a connection. Not very logical from a technological point of view, but not too bad from the emotional point of view. Apparently the world of the author’s Xuya-universe of the Chinese descent _has_ other societies, than the Chinese derivative, repulsive, one.

My voting order will be:

1. “The Lady Astronaut of Mars”, Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinettekowal.com/Tor.com, 09-2013)
2. “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling”, Ted Chiang (Subterranean, Fall 2013)
3. “The Waiting Stars”, Aliette de Bodard (The Other Half of the Sky, Candlemark & Gleam)
4. “The Exchange Officers”, Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jan-Feb 2013)
5. “Opera Vita Aeterna”, Vox Day (The Last Witchking, Marcher Lord Hinterlands)