Monday, September 28, 2015

Gather in the Hall of the Planets by Barry N. Malzberg

An alien visits an almost-past-his-prime science fiction author and tells him that one of the visitors of the upcoming Worldcon is an alien in disguise. He is supposed to find out who the imposter is, or humanity is doomed as the aliens will then destroy humanity as unworthy. The alien is supposed to be someone he knows very well. Unfortunately, most people he meets at the Worldcon are pretty strange – but they are being their normal selves. How will it be possible to find the alien? Or since his career is nothing really spectacular, should he even bother? Why should he even care about humanity? A very cynical book with a cynical protagonist and cynical outlook towards fandom. The author seems to hate fandom and conventions and lets it show. On the other hand, the protagonist is clearly unstable and all events may only be figments of his imagination. A fairly short book, but could have been shorter – a novelette might have been the best length for this plot.

121 pp.

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Robert Galbraith: Silkkiäistoukka (The Silkworm)

A detective novl which was written by J. K. Rowling with a pen name. A very good and smoothly running book – the writing was more adult and better that in the Potterverse. All characters were interesting with well-formed personalities. An enjoyable read.

J.K. Rowlingin salanimellä kirjoittama aika klassisen tyylinen dekkari. Kyseessä on toinen osa sarjasta. Ensimmäistä en ollut lukenut, mutta se ei juuri haitannut tarinaan sisään pääsemisessä. Afganistanissa jalkansa menettänyt sotaveteraani toimii yksityisetsivänä. Häntä avustaa tarmokas sihteeri, jolla on haaveita enemmästä kuin pelkästä sihteerinä olosta, vähintään avustavana etsivänä toimimisesta – ehkäpä ainakin tiedostamattomasti myös etsivästä itsestään – vaikka kihlautuminen poikaystävän kanssa on ihan tuore.

Hermostunut nainen palkkaa etsivän etsimään puolisonsa. Puoliso on kirjailija, joka kadonnut julkisuudesta kokonaan. Onko kyseessä julkisuustemppu ennen uuden kirjan julkaisua vai onko kyse jostain muusta? Pian paljastuu, että uusi tulossa oleva kirja on aiheuttamassa skandaalin, sillä siinä pilkataan armotta käytännössä kaikkia kirjailijan ystäviä ja muita kirjamaailmaan liittyviä henkilöitä. Ja sitten kirjailija löytyy kuolleena, erittäin kuolleena. Kuka ärtyi käsikirjoituksesta niin pahasti?
Erittäin hyvä ja hyvin kirjoitettu dekkari, jossa oikeastaan kaikki henkilöhahmot olivat persoonallisia ja kiinnostavia, kaikilla oli oma historiansa ja oma luonteensa sopivilla harmaan sävyillä. Toiminta on vetävää, paikoitellen yllättävänkin rajuja piirteitä omaavaa tällaiseen tyylillisesti aika klassiseen dekkariin. Rowling tuntuu kyllä osaavan kirjoittaa muutakin kuin nuortenfantasiaa – tämä on paremmin ja sujuvammin ja selkeästi aikuisemmalla kielellä kirjoitettu kuin Harry Potterit. Oikein viihdyttävä ja suositeltava kirja.

459 s.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, November 2015

A pretty nice issue for a change.

Season of the Ants in a Timeless Land • novelette by Frank Wu
Ants are behaving strangely in Australia. They are forming large swarms with several species working together in an unprecedented manner. A pair of scientists are studying them and trying to defeat the apparent threat. The ants travel to autonomous areas governed by aborigines. There they start to build something. The story starts pretty well, but seems to decay towards the end. It is too hurried and eventually very implausible. The romance parts felt pretty awkward, but the participants were awkward people. ***½
Exit Interview • shortstory by Timons Esaias
An insurgent of some sort is kept in a super-secure prison in solitary confinement. One day the prison's automatic systems say that he should be ready for his exit interview. That sounds slightly ominous. Then the cell door unlocks. A pretty good and even haunting story. ***½
Baby Steps • shortstory by Lettie Prell
A recently deceased woman is being uploaded to a computer. There seems to be some trouble and a higher level of technician must get involved. After a fair amount of work, everything seems to be going smoothly, but…A short, pretty open ended story. ***
The Story of Daro and the Arbolita • shortstory by Shane Halbach
A man on an alien planet must go to trial, when he inadvertently destroys some trees, which are considered holy. The trial involves some stories. A very short, ok story, the writing as such was ok but the plot might have benefitted from a few more details. ***-
Building, Antenna, Span, and Earth • shortstory by Ken Brady
A BASE jumper jumps from a tall building. The building AI stops him midair as it is designed to prevent suicides. (By the way - you don't "feel the acceleration" when you jump from a building, that is by definition free fall.) They have a nice discussion about life and its meaning. Short, but pretty good story. ***+
Evangelist • shortstory by Adam-Troy Castro
Man who has had a lot of problems in his life lately seeks help from a missionary run by an alien species. They promise that he will be fed, no strings attached. But if he wants, he could help the aliens in their religion. He could just get a little brain stimulator which would create actual, real religious ecstasy for the alien god. A tempting offer... A pretty good story. ***½

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, November 2004

A pretty good issue with nice stories.

The Ghost Within • novelette by Rajnar Vajra
A private detective is hired to find out if “a ghost” in a virtual reality really is a ghost or some sort of computer glitch or something. That is found out by uploading to the computer. The strange thing turns out to be something…something potentially very dangerous. The “problem” solves itself far too easily, otherwise a pretty nice story. ***+
Gun Control • shortstory by Edward Muller
A junior diplomat has some problems with an intelligent gun and a proud tribe of aboriginal warriors. There is a lot of backstory which just implied and the story feels like it were a part of a series. It works fairly well, though. ***+
The Strange Redemption of Sister Mary Ann • shortstory by Mike Moscoe
A woman is dying from cancer in a nunnery. The souls of children she miscarried start to speak to her. The writing as such is pretty good (vastly, VASTLY better that those over-religious stories which were nominated for Hugo this year) but I don’t really accept the ideology presented in the story – as I don’t believe in souls, especially not in souls which inhabit embryos at conception. ***+
Extra Innings • shortstory by Robert Scherrer
A man and his friend play an extremely detailed baseball simulation game. It is very slow to play, and they don’t finish even one season as children. But life turns out to be very long and there are chances to return to game at some point during the next few billion years. A well written and nice story. ***+
Paparazzi of Dreams • novelette by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
A detective is working undercover. He is trying to find out if the dream recorders infringe copyrights. It is apparently possible to capture people’s dreams even from pretty far. Especially the celebrity dreams may be very valuable, but it is still in the grey zone actually owns the copyright to the dreams. The most famous male actor of (almost) all times seems to have a recurring dream of a murder. He used to live pretty crazy life as a young man. But did he commit a murder? Is it possibly to find out who was the girl in the dream? Should the dream even be used in such way? An excellent story in spite of some plausibility issue. ****

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Galaxy Science Fiction, June 1955

A pretty average or below average issue. Sheckley’s story was pretty fun.

The Necessary Thing • [AAA Ace] • shortstory by Robert Sheckley
Interplanetary decontamination service has acquired a new tool, which is going to save them a vast amount of money: a replicator which produces a copy of everything which is asked. No more buying things and carrying them around in expensive storing space! How convenient! Until they notice that the machine is able produce only ONE piece of everything. No repeats! Soon their food choices start to be fairly limited and very exotic. And the need of spare parts is getting severe. Fun and well-written story, even after 60 years. ****
The Princess and the Physicist • novelette by Evelyn E. Smith
A some kind of elected god with some sort of apparently supernatural powers takes care of a planet. Earthmen "guard" the planet in more or less colonialist way, but don't believe in the god of the planet. Some scientists come to study the native customs and supposedly powerful god, though. A pretty talky, disjointed and badly overlong story. **½
Picture Bride • shortstory by William Morrison
A young man falls in love with a girl from future. The story is seen from the viewpoint of a little brother. Very short and simple, more of an outline of an actual story. ***-
Grandy Devil • shortstory by Frederik Pohl
A family of immortals has some disagreements. The story is written in a light vein. Is very short and not very special or impressive. ***-
Inside Story • novelette by Richard Wilson
A newspaper man decides to make a scoop and goes to a colony where people with a severe communicable disease live. The sickness seems pretty strange as on the other hand it is described as something which is easily transferable, but on the other hand it described as something which is mostly due to laziness. The newspaper man has a new totally invisible and totally impenetrable shield against all disease. There are some strange lights floating around the "leper" colony, and it turns out that an alien attack is going on. A pretty stupid story with a fairly convoluted and hard to believe plot with average writing for its' time period. ***-