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.***+