Sunday, October 15, 2017

Kjell Westö: Rikinkeltainen taivas


A story of a lower middle-class boy who befriends another same age boy, whose summerhouse is nearby, and who belongs to a family with “old money”. The book follows them until they are middle-aged and explores the stormy love-story between the fairly poor boy and the sister of the rich kid. The book dwells far too long on the adolescence of the characters but gets better when they become adults. The ending is extremely quick and seems forced, though. The writing was good, but the plot felt a bit clichéd and didn’t really engage me.


Luettu lukupiirin kirjana.
Kirja kertoo alemman keskiluokan pojan tarinan. Hän tutustuu mökkinaapuruuden kautta ruotsinsuomalaisen suursuvun saman ikäiseen poikaan, Alexiin. He ystävystyvät ja päähenkilö oppii tuntemaan koko perheen. Poikien välinen suhde säilyy vuosikymmenten läpi ollen välillä lämpimämpi ja välillä viileämpi. Yhteiskuntaluokalla ja rahalla on aina jonkinasteista erottavaa tekijää heidän välillään, eikä vuosikausia tai vuosikymmeniä jatkunut on/off seurustelusuhde Alexin siskoon, Stellaan, välttämättä aina välejä ainakaan lämmittänyt. Pienen ystäväpiirin elämää seurataan lapsuudesta myöhäiskeski-ikään asti. Tarinan yksi kantava voima on kertojan ajoittain myrskyinen, lopulta keskinäiseksi ystävyydeksi muuttuva suhde Stellaan.

Kirja oli kirjoitettu sujuvalla kielellä, mutta olisi voinut kyllä lyhentää sellaiset 50–100 sivua - etenkin sitä alkupuolen teinisäätöä olisi voinut kyllä rajusti leikata ja siinä vaiheessa kirjan lukeminen oli kaikkein raskainta. Ilmeisen tarkoituksellisen ärsyttävät päähenkilöt kävivät välillä hermoon. Loppupuolella kirjassa nopeasti käväisevä Arabi-hahmo oli kliseinen ja tarpeeton ja tuntui ajankohtaisuuden vuoksi kirjaan lisätyltä - kuten kyllä muutama kirjan kohtauksistakin. Loppua kohden kirja parani selvästi, kun hahmot ja heidän suhteensa tuntuivat lopultakin kypsyvän, mutta viimeiset 40 sivua olivat hyvin hätäiset. Vaikutti melkein siltä, kuin kustantaja olisi ilmoittanut kirjailijalle kesken kirjoittamisen, että kirjan PITÄÄ olla viikon kuluttua valmis ja piti nopeasti kyhätä jonkinlainen lopetus. Myös arabihahmon uusi ilmaantuminen kirjan lopussa oli tarpeeton ja ”tyhjästä tullut”. Monissa arvioissa on kehuttu kirjan antamaa tunnelmaa paikallisuudesta ja hyvästä paikallisväristä. Itsellä paikat ja kadut olivat pääosin täysin outoja, eivätkä ulkopaikkakuntalaiselle aiheuttaneet minkäänmoisia tuntemuksia tai väristyksiä.

Kirjapiirissä useimpien mielipiteet olivat samansuuntaisia; kukaan ei erityisesti ihastunut kirjaan ja tarinankuljetusta pidettiin hiukan löysänä ja juonikuviota jopa kulahtaneina. Joku mietti sitäkin, että jos kirjassa käydään jossain eurooppalaisessa kaupungissa, niin miksi sen pitää aina olla Berliini? Ja toinen lukupiiriläinen oli sitä mieltä, että tämä kirjan paransi hänet tarpeesta lukea Westöön uudet kirjat jatkossa.

459 s.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Long List Anthology: More Stories From the Hugo Award Nomination List by David Steffen (Editor)



A collection of stories that just missed a Hugo nomination in 2015. A varied bunch of tales, some very good, some a little less good.


The Breath of War • [Universe of Xuya] • (2014) • short story by Aliette de Bodard
The women of the world apparently sculpt a some kind of golem out of stone and, with a breath, turn it alive. When a woman gives birth to a child, the stone being must breathe on the newborn or it will die. A woman, whose Stoneman was left behind in the jungle and is heavily pregnant, tries to find it before her labor started. It turns out that she had sculpted a spaceship, which is alive.
The writing was very good but the story didn't make any sense whatsoever. Even fantasy should have some degree of believability and internal consistency. I can't imagine how the method of conception that was described could evolve, or what the benefits would be. If it is an artificial construct, why would anyone create such dependency? And waking up a stone statue is a pretty common trope. It is even harder to believe that you could sculpt a spaceship out of stone and then wake it up and end with a self-conscious, actually flight capable, vehicle. ***+
When It Ends, He Catches Her • (2014) • short story by Eugie Foster
A former professional dancer met her former dance partner, after the fall of civilization. He is a zombie (though, this word is not mentioned) but dancing restores his mind. They will have one last dance. A well written, bittersweet story. ***½
Toad Words • (2014) • short story by Ursula Vernon [as by T. Kingfisher ]
A man is cursed. Everything that he says comes out of his mouth as toads or frogs. When he learns that amphibians are dying out, he finds a way to capitalize on his curse. A fun little story. ***½
Makeisha in Time • (2014) • short story by Rachael K. Jones
A woman is pulled into the past and lives whole lifetimes there. She returns to the present when she dies in these lifetimes and no time has passed for anyone she was with before her time travel. As it has been decades for her, she tends to be slightly disorganized and has problems with her relationships. She is distressed, as her work in the past seems to disappear and is sometimes attributed to men. The end is slightly confusing but it was otherwise a pretty good story. I also wonder why she valued her life so much in the "present" that she was willing to commit suicide repeatedly in the other lifetimes. She apparently was able to have fully satisfying relationships in other times, the problems were only relationships in the present. ***½
Covenant • (2014) • short story by Elizabeth Bear
A psychopath is given a choice: he may go to prison or be cured. As he believes that his mind is strong enough to resist any tampering, he takes that choice. But more than his mind is changed; and soon to hunter becomes prey. A pretty good story, especially and beginning and end, the middle was a little less successful. ***½
The Truth About Owls • (2014) • short story by Amal El-Mohtar
A Lebanese girl has moved to Britain. She takes an interest to an owl that lives at a local owl sanctuary. She seems to have some sort of psychic powers that she can’t completely control, which she uses when she feels threatened. Nice writing but bit too vague for me. ***+
A Kiss with Teeth • (2014) • short story by Max Gladstone
A vampire pretends to be a husband who takes care of his family. His wife is aware of what he is and helps him. But it is very hard for him to pretend to be clumsy and slow like humans. His son has problems in school, so he starts to work with his teacher. But will he be able to control his urges? A pretty good story. ***+
The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family • (2014) • short story by Usman T. Malik
The terrorism and desperate lives of people in Pakistan is compared to different states of matter. A woman who has lost a lot tries to find her brother after years of separation. The writing was pretty good, but the story felt fairly disjointed and very hard to follow. ***
This Chance Planet • (2014) • short story by Elizabeth Bear
A woman works herself almost to death as a waitress, as her boyfriend is about to make a break in the music business. The problem is that he has been "about to" for a very long time already. He even suggests that she should volunteer to raise spare organs inside of her body to get more money, so that it would be easier for him to start touring. One day, on the way to her job, she encounters a stray, very pregnant, dog and eventually makes a connection with her. An excellent and well written story, with some magic realism happening in the fairly near future. ****-
Goodnight Stars • (2014) • short story by Annie Bellet
Something has hit the moon and it has shattered into pieces. The pieces are falling down and causing widespread destruction. A young woman, whose mother was on the moon working on a telescope station (and is most likely dead), journeys to her father's home. A pretty good, very well written, and moving story. But I didn't really believe the premise – just like I didn’t buy the premise of the Hugo nominated novel, Seveneves. ***½
We Are the Cloud • (2014) • novelette by Sam J. Miller
A young gay man lives on a world where poor people rent out their brains for computing, risking severe brain damage in the process. Some nice ideas, but they are a side note, while the emphasis is on relationships. I didn’t really get into the story, it was ok, but nothing really special. ***
The Magician and Laplace's Demon • (2014) • novelette by Tom Crosshill
An artificial intelligence that has appeared spontaneously encounters magic. Magicians are able to bend the probabilities but only when no one sees them do so and if the situation is such that the magic can't be proved. The AI starts hunting the magicians, as they are the only ones able to limit its powers. Centuries later, the AI is chasing the last one, who is extremely powerful. A very good and well written story with an interesting brand of magic. ***½
Spring Festival: Happiness, Anger, Love, Sorrow, Joy • (2014) • novelette by Xia Jia
Episodes of life in China, with heavy touches of magic realism. Intriguing fragments of life that open a window to another culture. To really get the stories, one probably should have some familiarity with the Chinese culture. ***
The Husband Stitch • (2014) • novelette by Carmen Maria Machado
A young woman meets a young man who she wants to marry. She seduces him, submits to all of the sex he ever wanted and more, but she refuses to take a ribbon off of her neck, not even when her husband and, later her son, asks her to. A well written, allegorical story with a really stupid ending. ***
The Bonedrake's Penance • (2014) • novelette by Yoon Ha Lee
A human has been raised by an alien queen, who is revered by people who serve her and bring occasional gifts. There are secrets and choices which must be made. A very good and entertaining story. I would love to read other stories set in the same world. ****-
The Devil in America • (2014) • novelette by Kai Ashante Wilson
A story of a young black girl from the 19th century who can ask for help from "angels." However, they aren't so easy to control as she thinks. But there is always a possibility of making a deal with a demon... and white people are hunting blacks. At places, the story was hard to follow and pretty slow moving. I didn't get into it at all, but I don't usually like this kind of magical realism. ***
The Litany of Earth • (2014) • novelette by Ruthanna Emrys
Apparently, this story continues some of the classic Chulthu-stories. Inhabitants/survivors of a town that was invaded by the “old ones” have lived in camps for years. As I am not a fan of these stories (nor am I familiar with them), I didn’t get into the story at all. As a matter of fact after, a few days, I'm having a lot of trouble recalling anything about it. **
A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai'i • (2014) • novelette by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Vampires have conquered humanity. The remaining humans are practically raised as cattle, in kind of concentration camps, and are used as a workforce and bled to sustain the vampires. A few select ones get special treatment, and there is a competition for who will be the most favored one. Less dark of a story than one might imagine from the subject matter; an excellent and well-written tale. ****
A Year and a Day in Old Theradane • (2014) • novelette by Scott Lynch
A gang of rascals is blackmailed to perform an impossible heist: they are supposed to steal an entire city street. A lot of banter, which was possibly meant to be funny, but I didn’t get into this story at all, and it was a struggle to read through. All of that banter felt mostly stupid and silly. The story was very boring to me, possibly because it is connected to a series I am totally unfamiliar with. **½
The Regular • (2014) • novella by Ken Liu
A hooker is killed and her eyes are dug out. The police blame gangs. The hooker’s mother hires a private detective, who has some bionic augmentations and still has issues with the death of her own daughter. Her ex-husband works for the police and they combine forces. An extremely well-written and interesting story, but it is more of a detective story than science fiction. ****
Grand Jeté (The Great Leap) • (2014) • novella by Rachel Swirsky
A young girl is dying from cancer, only a little while after her mother died, also from cancer. Her distraught father uses a new technology to create an android that looks like his daughter and has all of her memories. The story is told in three chapters, from three different viewpoints. The basic plot and writing are pretty good, but far too much of the storyline is spent on Jewish habits. ***½

498 pp.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Emmi Itäranta: Teemestarin kirja (Memory of Water)


A book that has received rave reviews everywhere. It tells a story of a future where water is rare and strictly controlled by a police state. The heroine of the book conducts Japanese-style tea ceremonies and controls the secret of one of the last springs. Nice and fluent writing, but the details of the world and society didn’t make much sense.

Kovasti kehuja saanut kirja, joka tapahtuu epämääräisessä, ilmeisesti kohtalaisen kaukaisessa tulevaisuudessa. Ilmasto on muuttunut huomattavasti lämpimämmäksi, meri on kohonnut ja peittänyt suuria alueita ja juomakelpoinen vesi on muuttunut jostain syystä erittäin harvinaiseksi. Jonkinlainen tarkemmin määrittelemätön totalitaarinen diktatuuri pitää valtaa. Kirjan päähenkilö, Noria, on nuori nainen, jonka isä on teemestari, joka järjestää tarkkaan perinteen säätelemiä teeseremonioita yleensä varakkaille vieraille. Noria auttaa häntä ja on mitä ilmeisimmin perimässä saman seremoniallisen tehtävän sukupuolestaan huolimatta. Vanhalta kaatopaikalta Noria ja hänen ystävänsä Sanja löytävät kummallisia kiiltäviä levyjä, joiden sisältämät äänitykset he onnistuvat toistamaan. Sisältö saattaisi järkyttää maailman perustuksia ja olettamia siitä missä juomakelpoista vettä voi olla olemassa.

Kielellisesti kirja on erittäin hienoa työtä, mutta muuten siinä on ongelmia. Päähenkilö on hyvin naiivi - toisaalta kun kyseessä on nuori (alle 20 v?) nainen, niin naiivius on osittain ymmärrettävää. Perusjuoni ja koko maailma ovat epäuskottavia. Mikä ihme sen makean veden on hävittänyt niin, että kuitenkin on suuri ja vuolas salainen maanalainen koski olemassa? Ja paarmoja ja muita hyönteisiä vaikuttaa olevan aivan suunnattomat määrät, niin paljon, että käytännössä mihinkään ei voi liikkua ilman hyönteisiltä suojaavaa huppua. Miten tämä on mahdollista jos on niin kuivaa, että metsät ovat kuolleet pystyyn? Melkein loppuun asti toivoin, että tässä olisi takana jokin ovela kirjailijan laatima juonenkäänne, mutta ei. Myös kasvit, mitä Noria kasvattaa olivat pääosin ihan samoja ja vanhoja tuttuja kasveja karviaisista alkaen - missäs vaikka viinirypäleet jotka lämpimässä ja kuivassa ilmastossa kasvaisivat hienosti. Maailman yleinen taloudellis-ekonominen toimivuus muutenkin jäi auki - mitä kyläläiset oikein tekivät? Viljelivät maata? Täydessä kuivuudessa? Olivat työssä jossain? Tekemässä mitä? Norian teknisesti lahjakas ystävä, Sanja, mietti laittoman vesijohdon rakentamista kotiinsa - mistä ihmeestä se vesi siihen johtoon olisi tullut? Kokonaisuutena kirja antoi kyllä hyvin nuortenkirjamaisen vaikutelman - naiivi nuori päähenkilö eikä ihan loppuun asti ajateltu juoni. Yhteiskunnallis-taloudellinen logiikka ei kirjassa ollut edes Nälkämaailman tasolla - ja senkään taso ei ollut kovin korkea. Hienon, soljuvan kielen vuoksi kirjaa kuitenkin jaksoi lukea, mutta jäi pettymykseksi aika koviin ennakko-odotuksiin nähden. Loppu oli kuitenkin varsin hyvä ja aika tulkinnanvarainenkin. Olisiko eräs henkilö ollut petturi melkein alusta alkaen? Vai ei?

329 s.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, September-October 2017



A pretty good issue; most of the stories were at least pretty good, a few were very good.

My Fifth and Most Exotic Voyage • novelette by Edward M. Lerner
Gulliver describes his latest travel - to the future. Future scientists wanted to capture a person from the past, and they got the Gulliver, who claims he himself wrote the famous book about his travels. The scientists don't believe him, as he clearly isn't Jonathan Swift. And he claims that his travels are true, not fiction. Did they capture a madman? A very good story, once you get past the oldish writing style. There was one very stupid scientific mistake, though. The carbon dating tells the age of an object - not the year it comes from. There is a difference, especially if your dealing with time travel. An object brought from the past should seem new, if it were tested by C14 dating. It is almost a spoiler for me to say that very a similar plot idea was used earlier by Larry Niven. ****-
I Know My Own & My Own Know Me • novelette by Tracy Canfield
The story is told as chat logs. An expedition tries to find out why a colony of humans has reverted to almost mindless animals, whose brains don't even accept brain implants. Someone has used an implant for a cat, who can now take part in the discussions in broken language. And it has eaten all of the lab rats. A pretty nice story, but perhaps a tad too long for the idea. ***+
Ghostmail • short story by Eric Del Carlo
A man is connected to his wife, who is fighting in a war, through some sort of direct subspace link. Then his wife is killed in action. To his surprise, he continues receiving messages. Is he mad? A pretty good and moving story. ****-
The First Trebuchet on Mars • short story by Marie Vibbert
A short story about what the title says. It turns out that there is a use for such a thing in Mars. A short and amusing story. ***
Climbing Olympus • short story by Simon Kewin
Another story about Mars. A man whose father was an avid mountain climber also used to climb mountains, but they never did it together, as they were never at the same skill level. Now he is taking part on a Mars expedition, and tries to climb Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in the solar system. A pretty good story, which explores a failed father-son relationship. ***+
A Tinker's Damnation • short story by Jerry Oltion
The nano-machine which was supposed to create all of the required high-tech items on a colony on another planet is broken beyond repair. It was supposed to be able to create almost anything, with the correct instructions. But, as it isn't working, the colony must use old-fashioned methods to survive. An apprentice for the mechanic of the colony has tinkered with it, but it seems to be beyond repair. A good story, but with such strong Luddite overtones that I wonder why such people would have moved to another planet. ***½
The Old Man • novelette by Rich Larson
A criminal is thawed out from cryostorage. He is made an offer: if he hunts down an even worse criminal, he will get a pardon. He knows the criminal intimately and hates him; the criminal in question is his father. Not bad story, first seemed like a retreated old movie, but ended up being something really different. ***+
Orphans • novelette by Craig DeLancey
A mission to Betelgeuse 2 is approaching a planet. It appears to bear a lot of life, but there are no signs of intelligence. They discover subterranean lines, which appear to be artificial, but there are no other signs of civilization. Several probes they sent to the planet failed soon after landing for unknown reasons. And then there is an accident. Another pretty good story, where the "enemy" is unexpected, but the crew is very clueless and makes extremely stupid risks. ***+
The Absence • short story by Robert R. Chase
A smart man has succeeded in almost everything. Now he is building a space elevator. It turns out that, as a student, he took part in an experiment which was designed to boost brain activity. It seemed to be a failure, but now some participants have reported some strange and worrisome effects. A bit of a fractured story. I didn't really get the connection between the drugs and impending catastrophe. ***-
Arp! Arp! • short story by Christina De La Rocha
A marine biologist examines why a sea farm, which is supposed to produce high-quality algae extract that can be fed to animals, used as food, or even as fertilizer, is failing. She finds what is going on, by a very big coincidence. And the guilty ones apparently did what they did mainly because they are evil. ***
The Mathematician • short story by Tom Jolly
Life among aliens who are essentially immortal, but are able to combine their bodies, but usually lose their memories and knowledge in the process. One manages to circumvent that partially. A too-short story, which was fairly hard to get, as a lot of the pretty unusual life cycles were crammed into too few pages. **+
The Sword of Damocles • novelette by Norman Spinrad
The Galactic Eye is a giant telescope which is built in space. It is tended by people who have been modified to live in free fall. The main purpose of the telescope is to find alien civilizations. And it finds several of them, but all seem to be restricted to their own solar systems. There are no interstellar empires. Why? There isn't a lot of story here. The novelette is mainly fairly philosophical discussions of the main theme, but it was good, nevertheless. ****-
Heaven's Covenant • novella by Bud Sparhawk
A planet has been colonized by humans possibly centuries ago. They ready to use the old colony ship to send a new colony on another star. The government is apparently ruled by religious fanatics, who are pushing for the extermination of a "lesser" race who is apparently used for menial tasks who are called Folk. Even the moderate factions have not the slightest doubt of their inferiority. A woman whose family has died is tending a large farm. She takes good care of her Folk, but she meets a man with whom she falls in love. She is also asked to take part in the new expedition. At the same time, the more strict factions are pushing for the genocide of the Folk. A well-written story, but a bit too long, and the racist and narcissistic husband was very grating. There were some hints that the normal humans were Folk, and the protagonists were members of a “better” race, but that was not stated explicitly. ****-
Abductive Reasoning • short story by Christopher L. Bennett
An advanced alien must land on Earth to make repairs to her ship. She encounters a UFO fanatic conspiracy theorist whose theories about aliens make her think that humans must be lunatics. A fun little story. ***½
Coyote Moon • short story by James Van Pelt
A poor couple, who works at several jobs at the same time and still can't make the ends to meet, sells everything to get a place on a clandestine flight to the Moon. They hope that, since they will be some of the first people there, they will be in a better position. Well, the exploited usually will be exploited. The story could be slightly longer. The emotional attachment to the characters isn't powerful enough. ***
Invaders • short story by Stanley Schmidt
A man goes to a remote hotel to watch a total eclipse of the Sun. Some of the other inhabitants of the hotel seem slightly strange. It turns out that a total eclipse is really rare, and some of the watchers come far away. A nice humorous story. ***½


Saturday, September 30, 2017

Anne Holt, Even Holt: Äkkikuolema (Sudden Death)


Two cardiologist friends try to find out if a football team is using doping to improve running speeds or not. In the same mix is an art robbery which happened a few years earlier and a retired Mossad agent. A fairly good medical detective story, but perhaps with too many side plots.

Eräänlainen osittain lääketieteeseen pohjautuva dekkari. Tunnettu ja loistoluokan kardiologi, Sara, on enemmän tai vähemmän sattumalta jalkapallostadionilla, kun yksi palaajista lyyhistyy maahan sydänkohtauksen saaneen. Kardiologin ammattitaidolla elvytys onnistuu ja pelaaja selviää. Hänet kutsutaan jalkapallojoukkueen omistajan, upporikkaan arabin kotiin illalliselle. Arabi kerää huippuluokan taidetta ja häneltä on ryöstetty joitain vuosia aikaisemmin useampia mestaritason taideteos. Saran ystävä, Ola, työskentelee jalkapallojoukkueen yhtenä lääkäreistä. Hän huomaa, että yllättävän moni joukkueen pelaaja on saanut sydänoireita viime vuosien aikana. Ja yllättävän moni on parantanut juoksuaikaansa paljon enemmän, kuin millään tavanomaisella harjoittelulla olisi mahdollista. Voisiko kyseessä olla doping? Mutta kaikille pelaajille tehdään jatkuvasti hyvin tarkkaa doping-seurantaa – miten mitään dopingia voisi olla käytössä? Ola ja Sara alkavat selvittää mistä on kyse ja peli lopulta muuttuu kovin kuumaksi, ehkä jopa vaaralliseksi. Mutta miten tuo aikaisempi taideryöstö liittyy asiaan? Ja vielä kummallisempaa on, mitä eläkkeelle jääneellä Mossadin agentilla on asioiden kanssa tekemistä.
Ihan kohtalainen kirja, jossa oli hiukan liikaa hajanaisuutta ja ehkä muutama sivujuoni liikaa; pieni tiivistys olisi voinut tehdä terää. Nopeaa luettavaa, mutta etenkin alussa oli hiukan vaikeaa pysyä henkilöistä perillä, varmaan osittain koska en ollut edeltävä samaan sarjaan liittyvää kirjaa lukenut.

443 s

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Tommi Kinnunen: Lopotti


Continues the story of an earlier book which was both critical and commercial success in Finland. Tells the story of two people who were more or less side characters in the first book. The book had extremely good writing, but the life stories of the main characters were fairly depressing, and they lived very much life of outsiders.

Neljän tuulen tien jatko-osa, joka jatkaa ja syventää edellisen kirjan joidenkin hahmojen tarinaa ja osittain jatkaa siitä mihin edellinen kirja loppui.
Kirjan päähenkilöinä ovat Helena, tyttö joka Neljän tuulen tie- kirjassa tuli sokeaksi ja lähetettiin sokeainkouluun ja jäi kirjassa tämän jälkeen lähinnä sivuhenkilöksi.
Toinen päähenkilö on Tuomas, Helenan veljenpoika, joka aluksi lähtee kylältä armeijaan ja jä myöhemmin etelään opiskelemaan.
Aikaisempi kirja oli kotikylässä asuvien näkökulmasta, tämä kylästä olosuhteiden pakosta muuttaneiden näkökulmasta. Molemmat muuttaneet kokevat enemmän tai vähemmän irrallisuutta eivätkä täysin kotikylästänsä eroon pääse, mutta lyhyiden lomien yhteydessä ovat siellä yhtälailla ulkopuolisia, elämä kun pohjoisessakin on edennyt omaa rataansa.
Sokean tytön, Helenan elämä vaikutti aluksi menevän olosuhteisiin nähden hyvin, kunhan hän ottaa oman elämänsä hallintaansa rankkojen kouluvuosien jälkeen. Hänen kohtalonsa lopulta ei ollut mikään miellyttävä. Tuomaksen tarina oli osittain samantyyppinen: alkuvaikeuksien kautta näytti elämä kääntyvän hyväksi, kunnes asiat eivät sujuneet kuin henkilö olisivat toivoneet

Tämä elämän yleinen surkeus oli jopa ahdistuksen tunnetta aiheuttavaa, jotain positiivisempaa kirja olisi mielestäni tarvinnut – nyt meni vähän liikaa suomalaisen ”kurjuus-realismin” puolelle. Osaltaan kirja myös tuntui hiukan turhalta - ei Neljän tuulen tie mielestäni mitään jatkoa olisi kaivannut, se oli hyvä ihan sellaisenaan. Toisaalta kieli oli kirjassa niin hienoa ja nautittavaa, että sen luki mielellään ihmiskohtaloiden kovuudesta huolimatta. Juonellisesti tarina oli hiukan liian hajanainen. Päähenkilöitä seurataan ajassa hyppien melkein, mutta ei kuitenkaan kokonaan, kronologisessa järjestyksessä ja etenkin alussa tarina vaikutti hiukan sekavalta.

364 s.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Necessity by Jo Walton



The last part of a trilogy. The setting of the book is completely different from the earlier books. It doesn’t happen in ancient Greece, but in a future on a distant planet. When Zeus heard of the experimental city Apollo and Athene had set up based on the principles of Plato’s Republic, he was not too happy about it. He decided to transfer the town (which, by that time, had already split up into several sub-towns, each following its own interpretation of The Republic) in time and space.

When the book starts, several decades have passed. Most of the characters of the earlier books have died, including Apollo, who had been living in the town in corporeal form. After his body died, he regained his godly powers. As a god, he learns that Athene has disappeared and she can’t be found anywhere in time and space.

Life has settled on the new planet, even if it is much colder than Greece, with the temperature hovering around the freezing point of water for half of the year. (That doesn’t sound very bad, by the way; way better climate than I have in my hometown.) But the supposedly smart philosophers still wear chitons or togas. One would imagine that they would have learned to make some warmer clothes in a few decades. The inhabitants of the planet have already made contact with a couple of alien races, with some aliens living in the towns as full citizens. A human ship shows up in the orbit. They came from a human colony and want to trade. How are they going to explain to these new humans how they ended up on the planet? The story about a divine intervention might sound slightly odd. Many people think that they should tell the truth, as it wouldn’t be believed anyway, but the new arrivals might refrain from other questions, being afraid of offending religious sensibilities.

The setup is very interesting. Unfortunately, most of the book consists of more or less philosophical discussions, and fairly little actually happens. The aliens, the new human visitors, and even the disappearance of Athene have a pretty minor role and are underdeveloped in the book. The writing was very good, just like in the earlier parts, and even if the discussions were interesting as such (and the book was good and enjoyable), it was a slight disappointment after the two earlier excellent installments.

336 pp.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tove Jansson: Muumilaakson Marraskuu (Moominvalley in November)


The last of the Moomin books. One of the few I didn't read as a child. On the other hand, there are no moomins in this book at all. Several inhabitants of the Moominvalley want to meet the moomins and travel to the Moominhouse late at autumn. It turns out, that the house is empty and there is no trace of any of the Moomins. The characters almost start to imitate the life of the moomin family and they move in the house. The writing is excellent and gives powerful feeling of the autumn stillness. A very good book and a proper goodbye for the moomins.



Luettu kirjapiirin syksyyn sopivana kirjana. En ollut tätä muumikirjaa aikaisemmin lukenut, en edes lapsena. Lastenkirjasta tosin ei oikeastaan edes ole kyse. Eikä oikeastaan tarkkaan ottaen edes muumikirjasta – muumeja ei tässä kirjassa tavata.

On syksy. Monet muumilaakson asukkaat päättävät mieli enemmän tai vähemmän haikeana lähteä muumitalolle muumeja, etenkin muumimammaa, tapaamaan. Mutta muumitalo onkin tyhjä. Ovet ovat auki, mutta kukaan ei ole paikalla. Jokainen erikseen tullut pikku olento: Hemuli, joka on yhtäkkiä tuntenut elämänsä jotenkin tyhjäksi, Vilijonkka, joka on menettänyt halunsa siivoamiseen, yksinäinen ja hieman pelokas homssu, ikivanha ja huonomuistinen Ruttuvaari ja kaunis, itsevarma pikku Myyn isosisko, Mymmeli. Kun muumit eivät ole paikalla, vieraat asettuvat asumaan muumitaloon ja jopa ottavat osittain muumien rooleja itselleen.

Ajallisesti kirja ilmeisesti liittyy kirjaan Muumipappa ja meri, jota en muista lukeneeni. Lopussa ilmeisesti muumiperhe on palaamassa tuolta merimatkaltaan – tai sitten ei, asia jää lopulta hiukan auki.

Kirja on hyvin kaunista kieltä, joka välittää syksyn haikean ja jotenkin melankolisen ja jopa hitaan tunnelman hyvin voimakkaana. Kirjan yhtenä henkenä on myös muutos, yhden aikakauden päättyminen. Kirjan loppuun mennessä oikeastaan kaikki kirjan henkilöt olivat jollain lailla muuttuneet ja ehkä hyväksyneet itsensä paremmin.

Muumit eivät kirjan kirjoittamisen aikaan tainneet olla ihan yhtä suosittuja kuin nykyään, mutta onkohan kirjan juonessa mukana jonkinlaista metakirjallista kommentointia muumien kovasta suosiosta? Kaikki kirjan hahmot ihailevat muumiperhettä, haluavat tavata heitä ja jopa alkavat käyttäytyä ja osittain jopa melkein muuttua muumien kaltaisiksi. Onko tämä kirjailijan kannanotto muumifaneihin? Ei ehkä sentään.

Kokonaisuutena kyllä hieno kirja, ja houkuttaa lukemaan muut muumikirjat, muista suurimman osan olen lukenut, mutta vuosikymmeniä sitten ja muistikuvat ovat enemmän tai vähemmän hämäriä.

161 s

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Aleksis Kivi: Seitsemän veljestä


This is one of the oldest Finnish novels and by far the oldest that is still being read. Everyone has read this in school. It's a story of seven brothers who live in the countryside. They try to learn to read, escape to a forest to live more or less as hermits, and are later rehabilitated to society. It's written mostly in play format, with oldish but very inventive language. It's still worth reading for the writing and the vivid descriptions of the different personalities of the brothers.

Lukupiirissäni päätettiin lukea Seitsemän veljestä hiukan Suomi 100 teemaan liittyen. Kirja kun on oikeastaan ensimmäinen oikeasti merkittävä suomalainen romaani, ainakin ensimmäinen joka ei ole unohtunut. Tarinahan on kaikille tuttu, todennäköisesti ei ole montaa ihmistä, joka ei tätä ainakin koulussa olisi lukenut – tai tunne ainakin jotain teatteri-, ooppera- tai elokuvaversiota. Tai ainakin Seitsemän koiraveljestä lastenkirjaversion, jos ei muuta. Omasta edellisestä lukukerrasta oli kulunut varmasti ainakin parikymmentä vuotta ja muistikuvat olivat päässeet jossain määrin haalistumaan. Kirjan pituus ja kaksijakoisuus oli vähän yllätys lukiessa. Kun kaikki kohtaukset, jotka kirjasta muistin, olivat tapahtunet (Toukolan poikien kanssa tappelu, lukkarin kanssa lukemaan opettelu, Impivaaraan muutto, talon palaminen jouluna ja kivellä härkiä paossa oleminen), oli kirja vasta puolivälissä. Loppuosan tapahtumista, joissa veljekset ryhdistäytyvät ja alkavat kunnon kansalaisiksi ei ollut mitään muistikuvia. Jonkinlainen muistikuva oli, että tämä olisi kuvattu ”pikakelauksena” sivulla tai kahdella.
Kielellisesti kirja oli hieno, vaikka vanhojen paikoitellen osittain murteellisten sanojen ymmärtäminen ei aina ollut helppoa. Usein sanojen äänen ”makustelu” auttoi asiaa. Uskottavaa kieli ei ollut ollenkaan, ei ole mitenkään mahdollista että lukutaidottomat metsämökin suurelta osin keskenään kasvaneet pojat puhuisivat sellaista kieltä! Aikanaan kirja tyrmättiin arvosteluissa juuri ”ruman” kielen vuoksi – tätä on vaikea ymmärtää, sillä jos jotain, kieli on ihan liian kaunista. Huumoria kirjassa myös oli enemmän kuin muistin, aika nokkelaa ja enemmän kuin vähän ironista sanailua kirjassa oli paljon. Ihan mukava lukukokemus kaiken kaikkiaan kyllä.

405 s.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, July-August 2017


A pretty good issue in which most of the stories were enjoyable. However, there were some less-good ones, too.
¨

Not Far Enough • novella by Martin L. Shoemaker

The second expedition to Mars arrives. As there were some problems with the first one, the current mission is controlled in part by artificial intelligence. It turns out to be extremely badly designed and is partially responsible for a catastrophe that almost destroys the party. There are deaths and one member of the expedition loses a leg. (I wonder why—the severed leg is described in detail and it seems to be perfectly fine.) The psychological profiling of the expedition is apparently of the same "high" quality as the AI design and causes some problems. A fairly good "survival" story. Andy Weir did survival on Mars so much better, though. ***
The Fool's Stone • short story by Aubry Kae Andersen
A magician/alchemist finds a stone that can actually transmute metals. Unfortunately it turns gold into lead and not other way around. It also apparently makes people very sick. A caliph who murdered the previous caliph believes the alchemist has valuable secrets and isn’t telling everything he knows. It's a very good story that happens in an eastern setting. The “MacGuffin” of the story is an intriguing substance that is clearly radioactive, but otherwise doesn't really seem to obey the laws of nature. ****-
The First Rule Is, You Don't Eat Your Friends • short story by Robert R. Chase
A monastery raises pigs and the abbot has noticed they are really intelligent. Should they be used as meat? Or should their capabilities be enhanced? A scientist also seek asylum at the monastery. Not bad, but not much backstory and then the story just ends. ***-
Alouette, Gentille Alouette • short story by Andrew Barton
An ancient satellite with historical value is being rescued from orbit. It has parts that don't fit into the docking bay—should they be broken? A very short story—more of a scene than a real story. It was perfectly nice, though. ***
Fat Bubble • short story by Thomas A. Easton [as by Tom Easton]
An overweight couple invests heavily into gut bacteria that make you thinner. A very short, but fairly good, story—and it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. ***
Perspective • short story by Kyle Kirkland
A retired expert of direct brain stimulation is enlisted to examine the president. He has misused brain stimulation in his youth and there is a chance of brain damage. A pretty good story with unlikely, but certainly possible, type of brain injury. ***+
For All Mankind • novelette by C. Stuart Hardwick
A joint mission of Americans and Russians is sent to intercept an asteroid that will hit Earth in a few decades. To deflect it, the asteroid must be reached as soon as possible. A joint mission of two women (they weigh less than men and consume less food and oxygen) is sent to the asteroid. Their payload is enough bombs to slightly shift the asteroid's trajectory. And the mission is one-way only—there will be no return or rescue. An excellent and moving story. ****+
Clarity of Signal • short story by Holly Schofield
A woman studies alien animals on an interstellar mission. She is convinced they are intelligent and intends to prove it at all costs. A fairly short story with a main protagonist who somehow manages to be very irritating. ***-
Belly Up • novelette by Maggie Clark
A story I didn’t really get at all. The backstory is pretty scant: there is apparently some sort of racing, space ships, a war going on, and there is some sort of revenge. The plot felt pretty confusing and I found the language hard to read and understand. Didn’t like it at all. **-
Pitch • short story by Bruce McAllister and Patrick Smith
A plot proposal for a movie in the future with some prophetic undertones. Short and OK—probably contained references to something I didn’t get. **½
Phuquiang: A History • short story by Uncle River
A sort of folk tale of a post-apocalyptic future (or a feral colony planet). Cousins discover some sort of hot vents that can be useful and which turn out to be important. A pretty short story, but not bad.***-
Blinking Noon and Midnight • short story by Tim McDaniel
User interfaces tend to be hard to use, especially for elderly people. It always has been so, and it probably will always be so. A pretty fun story about an old man in a future “smart house” with a confusing UI. ***
Teamwork • short story by Eve Warren
The kids who live in a Martian colony have fun in dangerous ways. A very short story, but not a bad one. ***
Often and Silently We Come • short story by Ron Collins
Aliens with truly different physiology examine samples of beings with a more ordinary physiology. As they don’t really understand what they are doing, they first make some grave errors. Not bad, but a bit short. ***+
Galleon • novelette by Brian Trent
A space ship with a very powerful AI takes an active interest in its occupants. It has some very advanced and sometimes unpleasant ways to influence its occupants. It turns out that all other ships like it have been decommissioned. A very good, well-written, and fresh story, where the main character (the AI) is very well drawn with sufficiently “alien” thought patterns. ****-
Across the Steaming Sea • novelette by Rob Chilson
I have loathed the previous installments in this series. The characters have extremely irritating speech patterns that make them seem like brain-damaged half-wits. Did not read. Not rated.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Jennifer Egan: Sydäntorni (The Keep)


A man has had to escape his old life for undefined reasons. He goes to work with his cousin, who has become very rich and has bought a castle in Europe. Their relationship in childhood ended with some very bad blood, but now past is past, and they are renewing their relationship. The events slowly turn almost surrealistic. At first, the book felt at best mediocre, but rarely has the ending of a book changed my conception of the book to such a degree.


Mies, joka on joutunut jonkinlaisiin tarkemmin kuvailemattomiin vaikeuksiin ja joutuu käytännössä pakenemaan, saa työtä rikkaalta serkultaan. Serkku on rikastunut osakevälityksellä ja on nyt nuorena eläkkeelle jäämisen jälkeen ostanut Euroopasta vanhan linnan. Hän on remontoimassa sitä kovan tason retriittihotelliksi. Serkukset olivat olleet lapsena kaverukset, kunnes välit rikkoutuvat osittain ryhmäpaineesta aiheutuneen aika rajun kiusaamisepisodin jälkeen. Mutta mennyt on mennyttä ja serkkujen suhde on lämpiämässä uudelleen. Tosin etäällä oleva linna, jonka alueella ei ole kännykkäverkkoa ja kaikki sähköiset laitteet toimivat heikosti, ei ole välttämättä kovin auvoisa paikka miehelle, joka on addiktoinut kännyköihin ja yhteydenpitoon. Linnan keskellä on vanha sydäntorni, jossa vielä asuu linnan omistajasuvun vanha jäsen, joka ei ole suostunut muuttamaan pois. Linnan aluetta kunnostamassa on melko sekalainen ryhmä ihmisiä, mukana myös kesätyössä olevia opiskelijoita. Pikkuhiljaa tapahtumat muuttuvat kummallisemmiksi ja melkein surrealistisiksi. Tämän kirjan päätarinan välissä on lukuja, jotka kertovat vankilassa olevan vangin kirjoitusharjoituksista ja hänen kehittyvästä suhteestaan vankilassa käyvään luovan kirjoituksen opettajaan.
Kirja vaikutti alussa melko kömpelösti kirjoitetulta sekä hiukan sekavalta ja epäloogiselta ja jotenkin ärsyttävältä. Loppuratkaisu oli kumminkin sen verran yllättävä ja hyvä, että nämä virheet voi antaa anteeksi (ja oikeastaan ne jopa selittyvät). Aika harvoin on alustava mielipide kirjasta muuttunut niin paljon niin nopeasti kuin nyt, kun matto vedettiin jalkojen alta siihen malliin, että sama kappale piti lukea muutamaan kertaan, jotta oikeasti ymmärsi mitä juuri tapahtui. Kirja melkein pitäisi lukea uudelleen, nyt kun tietää, mistä milloinkin on oikeasti kyse. Lopputuloksena kirja oli kuitenkin hyvin mielenkiintoinen lukuelämys.

347 s.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Salla Simukka: Valkea kuin lumi (As White as Snow)


A Finnish YA-book which has gotten some international fame. The main character of the series is spending some vacation time in Prague after the events in the first book. She is approached by a young woman who claims to be her sister. Could that be true? A smoothly going book with some hard to believe plot points, but it was nice light reading anyway for young spirited people of all ages.

Toinen osa kansainvälistä huomiota saaneesta suomalaisesta nuortenkirja-sarjasta. Kovien koettelemuksien jälkeen Lumikki on matkustanut Prahaan lomalle. Siellä hänelle aikaisemmin tuntematon nuori nainen lähestyy häntä ja kertoo olevansa hänen siskonsa. Puhuuko hän totta? Onko Lumikin perheessä salaisuus, josta ei ole puhuttu? Tämä ainakin jotenkin tuntuisi olevan totta, mutta onko Lumikin isä joskus yli kaksikymmentä vuotta sitten käynyt Tsekeissä, ainakaan ennen Lumikin matkaa asiasta ei ollut mitään puhetta. Lumikin siskoksi esittäytynyt nainen näyttää elävän osana kummallista uskonlahkoa. Lumikkia näyttää alkavan vainota joku, joka oikeasti haluaa tappaa hänet. Mitä ihmettä oikein on meneillään?
Sujuvasti kirjoitettu nuortenkirja; tosin joten vaikutti hiukan heikommalta kuin ensimmäinen osa. Kyseessä tietysti osaltaan voi olla trilogioiden toisen osan vaikeus – henkilöt ja tausta on esitelty, mutta loppuratkaisuja ei vielä päästä tekemään. Juonen uskottavuudessa oli jonkin verran epäuskottavuutta, mutta vetävästi kirjoitettu kirja oli, ja siinä jäi ihan mukavasti auki asioita päätösosaan. Eiköhän sekin jossain vaiheessa pidä lukea.


237 pp.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Dark Forest and Death's End (Remembrance of Earth's Past #2 and #3) by Liu Cixin


I read these two books back to back. I already have some trouble remembering what happened in which book, as they continue almost directly from the same story. Aliens are going to attack Earth. Luckily it is going to take a few centuries, so Earth will have time to prepare. Unfortunately, aliens have been able to prevent all high energy particle physics, so it is likely that humans will run against a technological barrier at some point. But as centuries pass, humans have built a huge space navy and are practically sure they will easily beat the invaders. But the science gap turns out to be vastly greater than almost anyone on Earth anticipated.
A lot happens in these novels – and I mean a LOT. The structure of one book is such that it leaps even centuries at a time, while the main characters spend their time in suspended animation. And then it is carefully explained what has happened; this book mostly tells things, doesn’t actually show them, except the most crucial moments. It is hard to give a very detailed plot description without spoilers, and because of the really vast scope the book covers.
There were some strange details, like smoking in a future restaurant (which had android waiters who looked completely human, but with such bad programming and pattern recognition that they are not able to recognize a removed table). And the behavior of some characters is incredibly stupid: after several failed murder attempts, one character casually orders drugs for very mundane reason, and almost takes them without a second thought.
Also, the strategies used by humans are completely insane. An unknown enemy probe with unknown capabilities arrives. Oh, let's arrange the whole human fleet in close proximity at STRAIGHT LINES very close to each others.
There were many problems with science; for example, interstellar dust is so dense that it slows spaceships which move at relativistic speeds by “drag” significantly? Electromagnetic pulse caused by a nuclear detonation causes such a heavy vibration of the space ship hull that it kills everyone inside?
The motives of many the characters are often very strange and hard to understand, and some actions even the nations took were very strange. There was no mention at all about opposition, which is active in all western countries; all political decisions were apparently unanimous with no one opposing sometimes very strange decisions, like classifying all attempts to build ships to escape the solar system and the coming invasion as “escapism” and extremely criminal – I didn’t get that at all (there was an explanation in book for that, but it was a ridiculously stupid one).
There is a lot of lecturing, explaining pretty basic scientific things, and if something isn't explained, there is a translator's note which explains it.
As a whole, the plot was interesting, but the writing style and behavior of many of the protagonists was pretty infuriating. However so much happened - sometimes pretty surprising (but depressing) things - that the books were an easy reads in spite of hefty page counts.

512 + 604 pp.

Monday, July 17, 2017

My Hugo award votes 2017 part 4: novels

I have read all the nominees in the novel category. As I have been traveling and been both busy and sick lately, I haven’t had time to write a blog post about Cixin Liu’s "Death’s End", but I will in a few days. I also read the second part of the trilogy, which had been published earlier. They were entertaining books, but not without faults. All nominees were pretty good, at last, on some level, and it wasn’t easy to put them in order. None of the novels was totally unworthy of an award. The "Ninefox Gambit" felt most innovative, and I put it in first place. "Like the Lighting" was a bit too hard to read for my taste, even though it was a fair book, also. Altogether, I can accept any of these books as a winner; most of them were very literary works, perhaps even a bit too much.

My voting order was:

1. Ninefox Gambit
2. The Obelisk Gate
3. A Closed and Common Orbit
4. All the Birds in the Sky
5. Death's End
6. Too Like the Lightning

Sunday, July 9, 2017

My Hugo award votes 2017 part 3: short stories


In this category, the rabid puppies chose the third alternative action: self-gratification and pushed for the nomination of a story that was written by their leader – who “ordered” the nomination of his own story by his loyal gamergate henchmen, who live in their parent’s basements. The overall quality was fairly average: better than the last few years, but that wasn’t hard to do. The stories were mostly very literate, with somewhat experimental writing styles. The first place was easy to decide – I preferred the story with the most traditional writing style. The order of the other stories was less easy to decide, except for the last place – there was no contest for that. That story is below “no award.”


“Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, Saga Press)
A story of two women with an at least partly self-imposed punishment/task. One is supposed to wear down seven pairs of metal shoes; another is supposed to stand on a glass mountain. They meet, discuss their fates, and choose to escape their punishments together. A very allegorical story, which makes certain that you understand the allegories. Not bad, after I got into it, following a few fairly demanding first pages.

“The City Born Great” by N. K. Jemisin (Tor.com, September 2016)
A young man is drafted to work as the “midwife” for the city of New York. The city is going to be born, apparently, as a conscious being and there are powers that oppose this. A poetic and fairly confusing story, not really my cup of tea.

“Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine, November 2016)
A serial murderer kills a woman, but that woman happens to be a god of sorts, who has been in corporeal form for a while. She and her sisters avenge her death. A very short revenge fantasy, which is written very well, almost poetically, but it is too short to work really well.

“That Game We Played During the War” by Carrie Vaughn (Tor.com, March 2016)
A nurse arrives at a former enemy country soon after the armistice has come into force. She knows a man who is being treated for his wounds in a hospital. She had taken care of him when he was a prisoner, and later, she was his war prisoner. They formed a friendship and played chess; which might be a bit of a different game if one player can read the other’s thoughts. A nice story, with nice characters, but a bit too scene-like.

“A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers” by Alyssa Wong (Tor.com, March 2016)
A story of two sisters who are apparently able to control reality. One kills herself and the other tries to undo it. Or everything is just in her mind, as she runs through scenarios of how the death could have been prevented. A pretty good literary story about facing sorrow. If I read the story correctly, there are hints about the reason that the sister killed herself.

“An Unimaginable Light” by John C. Wright (God, Robot, Castalia House)
A robot (or rather an android) and a sort of robot inquisitor have a discussion. A pretty bad and very illogical story, which is written in a ponderous language, with inane digs at modern egalitarian culture and openly sadistic violence toward women. A bad story on all levels.


My voting order is:

Short Story:
1. "That Game We Played During the War"
2. "Seasons of Glass and Iron"
3. "The City Born Great"
4. "A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers"
5. "Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies"
6. No award

Thursday, July 6, 2017

My Hugo award votes 2017 part 2: novelettes


Novelettes is the second category I have finished. The overall quality of the stories was fairly good, but somewhat worse than in novellas. In this category, the evil leader of the rabid puppies went for trolling and nominated a lizard sex story, again. Otherwise, the order was fairly easy to decide. The only thing that was a little harder to decide was the order of the two best stories, but eventually, I went for the more straightforwardly science fictional story. Similarly, when deciding the order of third and fourth places, I went for the science fiction, even when the actual speculative content of the story was fairly minor.

"Alien Stripper Boned From Behind" by The T-Rex by Stix Hiscock

Last year, the rabid puppies and Vox Day, along with his minions, nominated a gay sex story involving a Tyrannosaurus Rex. This year, their contribution to the nominations was a straight sex story involving a Tyrannosaurus Rex. I wonder what kind of pervert is so captivated by lizard sex? In this story, a three-breasted alien stripper, who shoots laser beams out of her nipples when she has an orgasm, hooks up with a tyrannosaurus and has a lot of steamy sex. The tyrannosaurus is extremely well endowed for a lizard (which usually don’t really have much external genitalia at all). This was much worse than last year’s porn story, which at least managed to be pretty funny. This wasn’t even arousing and the writing was pretty bad. It lands below “no award” for me.

“The Tomato Thief” by Ursula Vernon

An old woman lives alone and raises the best tomatoes anyone has ever tasted. She is waiting for one especially juicy tomato to reach peak ripeness, when it disappears during the night. And then the next one is also stolen. And the next. Clearly, something must be done. It turns out that the old lady (and the world itself) were not so simple as they first seemed to be. The quest for the tomato thief turns out to span several dimensions and is a very dangerous adventure, which involves space shifters and some even more strange creatures. A fun fable-like story, which turns more and more fantastic it goes on and is very well told.

“You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay” by Alyssa Wong

Young orphan boy and girl live on a whorehouse and help with all of the chores there are to be done. The boy has some strange powers: he can animate the dead, up to and including the chicken legs that are being cleaned for cooking. A group of strange men comes to the town. They demand that the boy come with them to examine a mine that was destroyed in an accident. He does, but things don’t go as planned. Nice writing, but a bit of an over-surrealistic end for my taste, which doesn’t really explain any of the fantasy elements.

“The Art of Space Travel” by Nina Allan
The first Martian expedition ended in disaster over twenty years ago. A new one will be launched soon. A young woman takes care of her mother who suffers from an Alzheimer's-like disease. It turns out that her unknown father just might be one of the members of the first expedition. A well-written story, but with fairly minor science fictional plot elements.

“Touring with the Alien” by Carolyn Ives Gilman
Aliens have arrived in impenetrable domes around the world. After a short time, humans who were apparently kidnapped as children, exit from the domes. They are supposedly translators for the aliens. Then one of them asks for a bus. A young woman works as a driver for him and an alien, and they mainly just drive around. A very good story, which is refreshingly real science fiction, not fantasy with irritatingly unexplained mystical events.

“The Jewel and Her Lapidary” by Fran Wilde
Pretty generic fantasy, where jewels have mystical and magical properties. The story involves a member of the royal family and her “lapidary”, a person who is able to command the stones. Their country is invaded and they must try to survive and protect some of the most powerful and important jewels. I didn’t get into this story at all. The characters spent most of their time discussing the magical properties of the jewels and little seemed to happen. Overall, the story felt like pretty generic fantasy, which was well written, but fairly boring.

My voting order is:

1. "Touring with the Alien” by Carolyn Ives Gilman
2. "The Tomato Thief” by Ursula Vernon
3. “The Art of Space Travel” by Nina Allan
4. “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay” by Alyssa Wong
5. “The Jewel and Her Lapidary” by Fran Wilde
6. No award
7. Alien Stripper Boned From Behind" by The T-Rex by Stix Hiscock

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Kari Häkämies: Presidentin murhe


The husband of Finnish president disappears and later he is found murdered. Is the murder connected to the murder of shady businessman from Iceland, whose body was found nearby somewhat earlier? An easy to read crime story, where the description of the political life is top notch, but the characterization might have been better.


Poliittisessa maailmassa tapahtuva dekkari. Naispresidentin hiukan epämääräisen taustan omaava puoliso aluksi katoaa ja löytyy myöhemmin kuolleena. Onko hänen kuolemallaan jotain yhteyttä hiukan hämäräperäisen islantilaisen liikemiehen kuolemaan? Asiaa selvittelee sekä poliisi, että Helsingin Sanomien toimittaja, joka on siirtynyt rikostoimitukseen taloustoimituksesta. Ja onko presidentinkin taustoissa jotain epäselvää? Mutta kumpi löytää syyllisen ensin, toimittaja vai poliisi?
Kirjassa ei ole varsinaista päähenkilöä, vaan tapahtumia seurataan useammasta tai ainakin kahdesta eri näkökulmasta. Tämän vuoksi kirja vaikutti hieman hajanaiselta eikä henkilöiden kuvaus ei myöskään ollut mielestäni mitenkään erityisen hyvää. Kovin paljoa vihjeitä murhaajasta ei myöskään saatu eikä ”arvoitusta” itsenäisesti käytännössä olisi pystynyt ratkaisemaan. Se, mikä kirjassa oli parasta ja kiinnostavaa sekä ilmeisen asiantuntevasti kirjoitettua, oli poliittisen taustan kuvaaminen. Ihan mukava välipala kumminkin raskaamman ja englanninkielisen kirjallisuuden välissä vaihteluna, enkä pitäisi mahdottomana, että lisää saman sarjan kirjoja lukisin.

278 s.

Friday, June 30, 2017

My Hugo award votes 2017 part 1: novellas

Novellas are the first category of the Hugo nominations that I finished. After the changes in the nomination process, the trollers had less of an impact this year. As a drawback (or bonus) there was more to be read, as there are six nominees in each category.

All of the stories were at least fairly good, none was bad, not even the rapid puppies nominee, the story by China Miéville. Apparently that nomination was mostly a “human shield” style of nomination: nominating something which most likely would be on the list anyway. The order of the stories wasn’t too easy to determine, but I read the story by Seanan McGuire first and it pretty much remained my favorite. None of the stories was something that wouldn’t be award-worthy at all. None of the stories will be below “no award.” After some pondering, I chose my voting order. (This year’s voting system is extremely nice to use and it made putting the stories in right order very easy).

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire


Young teenagers, mostly girls, have gone to alternative worlds where they felt at home. The alternative worlds are mostly different, some are fantasy lands, others are based on logic, some are based on some kind of horror motive, and so on. In the most cases, the youths felt at home on those worlds. For some reason, some of them have been cast out. Time has moved at a different rate for them in many cases. It might have been years in our world and their parents assumed that their children had been abducted/run out and are most likely dead. The relationships between the children and their parents are usually very strained – and usually they were strained even before the youths went away. The victims are gathered to a special school, which is run by an old woman who herself had the same fate as a teenager. She looks middle-aged but is possibly much older. A young girl goes to the school. Soon other pupils start to die - gruesomely. The other pupils naturally first have some suspicion toward the new pupil, especially as she comes from a world where death himself is an important figure.

A pretty good story with a new look at what Alice in Wonderland and Narnia (according to the novella, Lewis didn’t really know anything, he just used stories he had heard - badly) might actually mean. A nice and interesting story, with unusual characters and excellent writing.

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson

This story is kind of the reverse of the one above. This story happens in a dreamland, where the sky is patterned and close to the ground, and it is ruled by several gods. Most of the gods are not benevolent and they are ready to destroy whole towns for minor infringements, or even just to annoy another god. A pupil from a women’s university has escaped. Apparently, she has fallen in love with a man who comes from the waking world. A teacher, who as a young woman had many adventures, must bring her back, as her absence threatens not only the school, but the whole town. But it isn’t easy for someone, who is from the dreamland to go the waking world…

The beginning and the end of the story were excellent, but the middle part consisted mostly of a travelogue of the dreamland and all of the action pretty much stopped. Due to that, the story felt too long. However, both the beginning and the end were excellent.

Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold

This novella continues the story of Pendric and his demon, Desdemona. It has been a few years after the last story and Pendric has grown accustomed to the demon he carries, at least more or less. He must interrupt his studies for a while, as he and his ward are needed to a shaman, who apparently not only murdered his friend but destroyed his soul, as it was nowhere to be found. (In this world the souls are very real and they literally go to the gods at the funeral rites). Eventually, they naturally find what they were looking for. A pretty good story, but it was a bit overlong and there was far too little of Desdemona. Not as good as the first part of the series.

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle

At the beginning of the 20th century, a black man from Harlem delivers a strange book for a peculiar old woman who lives in an affluent part of the New York City, which is written in an unknown language. He has left away the last page of the book as a precaution. Soon, he gets an offer he can’t decline from a strange man and is chased and bullied by a plain clothes detective. And then everything starts to be more and more strange and dangerous. A story, which is an homage to the Cthulhu stories. In the beginning of the story, the slight horror elements were pretty good; the later part, with more surrealistic bloody horror, was much less appealing - but I have never been a great fan of horror and even less of the Cthulhu stories. The writing was very good, though.

A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

The story happens at different times. One part of the story is a romance between two males in the vaguely fantastical medieval style world. Another part of the story happens much later and shows that the two lovers didn’t get each other. This latter part of the story has science fictional elements. Apparently, the world is a colony world and there are “gods” or people with access to high technology who have very long life spans. The romance parts took the bulk of the story, and there was nothing really special there: two lovers from different ladders of the society who eventually can’t be together. How many times has this story been told? The sexes of the partners had no real significance; the same story could have been told about a male and a female just as well. Perhaps that was a part of the point the story was making, but the romance parts felt very dull and they had no scifi or fantasy content at all. And the ending, if I understood it correctly, was a cheat.

This Census-Taker by China Miéville

A young boy lives with his parents on a mountain side. The father is a “keymaker,” who makes keys for the villagers. The keys apparently have some supernatural properties. The father sometimes kills animals. Then the mother disappears and the boy claims that the father killed her. The villagers examine their house and don’t find any proof of the crime: but the mother supposedly has written a letter which states she has run away. The boy must return to his father, but he is afraid that he will be killed. But then a man, a census taker, arrives and he interviews the boy and believes his story. The story has very beautiful language, but the plot has a lot of vague unexplained mysticism, and the story seemed to end a bit too soon. The point of the story is also left more or less open and the slightly mystical points are not explained at all.

My voting order is:

Novella:
1. Every Heart a Doorway
2. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe
3. Penric and the Shaman
4. This Census-Taker
5. The Ballad of Black Tom
6. A Taste of Honey

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer



This book is another Hugo nominee. It's a sort of future history that supposedly tells a story that happened decades or centuries ago. To show that the story takes place in the past, it is written in a very old style of language and storytelling (the book actually happens hundreds of years in the future from the real current time). One of the narrative devices is a narrative voice that comments on events and sometimes even argues with itself about details of the book, like about who is the main character of the book.
Religion has been all but outlawed after a devastating war that was caused by religious beliefs. Religion cannot be publicly discussed, if a professional called a sensayer isn’t present. The nations have also vanished, and they are replaced by clans of sorts that bind people who have similar interests. The clans take care of their members, and most people belong to very tight families that usually consist of several people of different sexes. And the mere mention of sexual differences or even gender is very much taboo.
The main character, Carlyle Foster, is a sensayer. His friend, Mycroft Canner, is a slave of sorts, due to crimes he has committed. The crimes he committed are very extreme, but he has been “adjusted”, and he isn’t able to harm even insects anymore. They are taking care of a very special child who apparently can perform real miracles — like waking up toy soldiers as real, intelligent, and self-aware creatures.
The language and the structure of the book are pretty heavy, hard to read, and exhaustive, and at places very irritating. The plot itself was pretty good, but the fairly experimental narrative technique made the book pretty hard to follow, and it was a struggle to read at places. This is a book that might be easier to understand on a second reading, and I probably didn’t get everything out of it after the first reading. Also, the capabilities of the child were slightly too much on the fantastical side for a book that otherwise is very science fictional. This won’t be one of my top choices in the Hugo voting.

432 pp.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, May-June 2017


A lot of short stories in this issue – many of them lacked proper beginning and end.

The Girls with Kaleidoscope Eyes • novella by Howard V. Hendrix
An FBI detective arrives at a small town where a teacher has apparently tried to kill and burn several of his young female students, rescuing them at the last possible moment and endangering his own life. The teacher seems to have a history of failure of sorts. He has had some pretty good positions, but has had some unorthodox opinions and eventually he has fallen back to teaching at the high school at his old home town. The town has an NSA data center, with some very secret and advanced data processing faculties. The children who almost were killed are all girls; all look very similar and inhabit some very strange thought patterns.
A pretty good story; a digital take on Midwich Cuckoos. There were some irritating jabs on “SJW”-style of thinking which were unnecessary for the story. ****-
To See the Elephant • novelette by Julie Novakova
An animal psychologist has arrived to find out why a young male elephant is behaving very strangely. As elephants are dying out, due to widespread disease, every single one counts. She is able to create an almost telepathic connection with EEG electrodes which are attached to the bull. A story that is written to showcases a couple novel ideas. A fair one as such, but otherwise not very memorable. ***
The Chatter of Monkeys • short story by Bond Elam
The ecosystem has apparently pretty much fallen. The nations are still battling for some pretty unspecified reasons. An alien robot has arrived on Earth and is able to offer a solution for the catastrophe. But humans don’t seem too interested in the solution. Scant backstory and caricature-like characters make this pretty average story. ***-
A Grand Gesture • short story by Dave Creek
A man who inadvertently caused the death of several people faces an ethical dilemma on a foreign planet. Should he save possibly sentient aliens at cost of human lives? A pretty nice story. ***
Decrypted • short story by Eric Choi
Digital encryption falls down, causing severe unforeseen consequences; among others, a loss of the secrecy of previously unknown messages. Another story that is a bit too short and cursory; more of a scene than a real story. ***
Seven Ways to Fall in Love with an Astronaut • short story by Dominica Phetteplace
A love story of sorts, between scientist/astronauts who work in space and study Martian micro-organisms. The story goes more for a mood than a plot. ***
Focus • short fiction by Gord Sellar
Students in Vietnam revolt against scrupulous factory owners, but the government apparently has some plans. Not really a story, but just a short scene. There was not much backstory, and the story just ends on an emotional scene with no real resolution. ***
Ténéré • short story by Manny Frishberg and Edd Vick
A caravan finds out that an oasis has dried out. There is a new structure nearby and they go there to get water and to find out what has happened to the oasis. The factory uses solar energy to scrub CO2 from the air and uses the carbon to produce carbon nanotubes. A fairly good story, but unreasonably unreasonable nomads, especially considering who financed their caravan. Also, the science of the "problem" doesn't make any sense at all. As the carbon dioxide content of the air is pretty low as a percentage, and one molecule of carbon dioxide produces one molecule of oxygen, it simply isn't possible that there would be significant oxygen surplus around the factory. ***+
The Final Nail • novelette by Stanley Schmidt
A country doctor notices that there are more and more cases of meat allergy, a known syndrome that is usually spread by ticks, but there are no such ticks where he lives. Then his doctor friend who practices at nearby town notices the same thing. Apparently, someone is spreading the disease intentionally. Everything is pretty obvious and the reader knows what is going on earlier than the characters in the story. The end is a bit simplistic: the impact of widespread veganism has been discussed time and time again. But it is nice to read a story with a clear beginning and end. There have been far too many stories lately in this magazine which lack those. ***½
The Speed of Faith in Vacuum • short story by Igor Teper
The powerful "immortals" visit a struggling colony every few hundred years. They offer continuity and sometimes solve problems. The colony has encountered a new, very serious disease. The immortal, who is visiting seems to very frightened of the disease. Are they so powerful after all? A pretty nice story, could be just the beginning? ***½
Facebook Screamed and Screamed, Then I Ate It • short story by Sam Schreiber
An AI emerges on the Internet and invades Facebook. The writing was ok, but once more, too short and scene-like story to have real impact. ***
Vulture's Nest • short story by Marissa Lingen
A family of "scavengers" finds derelict space ships that are tainted by some kind of plaque and breaks them up into parts. One time, the family who used to own the ship objects. Short, but pretty nice simple story.***
In the Mists • short story by Bill Pronzini and Barry N. Malzeberg
A man has been living alone on a planet for seventeen years. He is writing a journal, and wonders if he is sane. Another short, but pretty nice story. ***+
The Return • short story by Bud Sparhawk
A very short story about an old astronaut who goes back to space on an anniversary of space travel. Okay, but too short. ***
Lips Together • short story by Ken Brady
A woman spreads a genetically engineered Streptococcus mutant by kissing select men. So? ***-
The Banffs • short story by Lavie Tidhar
A writer befriends a member of a powerful group who apparently are aliens (or journeyer from another timeline). He works as a housekeeper and lives at vast mansions in the most interesting parts of world. But then the aliens go home, and then the story pretty much ends. Okay, but somewhat unsatisfying. There really wasn’t much of a point anywhere, the writing itself was pretty good. ***+
Where the Flock Wanders • short story by Andrew Barton
A derelict hull of a war ship which possibly had a pivotal role in a conflict between Earth and colonies in space is found. The safe in it has sealed orders, unopened. Those are most likely very important historical documents. Or are they? A pretty nice story, which is actually a fairly self-contained story, not a scene, like so many others in this issue.***+
Proteus • short story by Joe Pitkin
A spy goes to a floating city on Venus to find out if illegal gene manipulation is done there. Everyone seems to be beautiful and the life seems nearly utopian. Is it too good to be true? A nice story, which could have been longer with a bit more detail, as the motivation of the main character wasn't entirely shown. ***+
Kepler's Law • novelette by Jay Werkeiser
A colony ship arrives at a planet in another solar system. They land several exploratory shuttles (manned by idiots; one manages to crash, as the pilot pushes it in order to be the first one landing). The most passengers of the crashed ship die horribly, soon after landing (as they truly are idiots they almost all go together outside without any real protective suits). As all the members are idiots there is some nationalistic quarreling and they even seem to hate foods that aren’t native to their own countries. The planet also has some plants that are in suspicious straight lines (which were not detected in a “thorough” survey they made before landing). A fairly good story, but with irritatingly stupid characters. It might continue an earlier story, it rings some bells, but I didn't find the first part. The setup is pretty generic though; there are probably dozens of stories where ships leave Earth after some catastrophe. ***+

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders


The story of two unusual youths. One is a boy with unparalleled technical skills, and another is a girl, who is a witch. The boy had already built a time machine when he was still in elementary school (the machine had a small drawback - it enabled only three-second jumps to the future) and a bit later he designed a computer with artificial intelligence, as an after school pastime. The girl has been able to talk with animals - at least sometimes - and had a deep discussion with a powerful tree while she was lost in the woods as a little child. They are both outcasts, and they are drawn together. Their parents are negligent in different ways, and they don’t get any support from them. An assassin is apparently trying to kill them, as he has foreseen that they might contribute to the destruction of the world. Later they are separated by events and time, but they meet again as adults, and they are drawn together, again. Soon they find themselves on opposing sides when the world is falling down, but will they find a way to work together?

The book was a fairly uneven mixture of science fiction and fantasy. The first quarter of the book reads just like a young adult book, or rather almost like a parody of a typical YA book, where the protagonists are 'special', and everyone is against them, everyone popular at school just hates them, and the adults don't understand them at all. Their parents were so dysfunctional that they seemed to verge on parody. Later the themes matured very much. The pacing of the book was a bit off, after a fairly fast beginning, everything pretty much stopped for a long time, until the events really took off, and then a lot seemed to happen in the last few dozen pages. The ending was very sudden and more than a little 'Deus ex machina' like and somewhat open. The world is ending, but at least the lovers found each other, and who cares what happens then?

320 pp.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Erkki Tuomioja: Häivähdys punaista


A biography of Hella Wuolijoki, one of the most renowned playwrights in Finland. Her life was very unusual and even contradictory; she was born to a middle-class family in Estonia. Later she emigrated to Finland and worked as a very successful business woman, who turned to Stalinist communism (and at the same time she owned a very large country estate). She was imprisoned during the war as she was suspected of espionage. When she was released from prison after the Second World War, she worked as the chairman of Finnish radio for several years. And during all that, she wrote plays that are still being produced, and one has even been filmed as a Hollywood movie. This biography concentrates on her political career and is written in a very matter-of-fact style and doesn’t tell us much about her personal life.

Luettu lukupiirin kirjana.
Elämänkerta Hella Wuolijoesta, naisesta joka eli elämän, joka vaikkapa elokuvan aiheena olisi niin epäuskottava, ettei sitä kukaan uskoisi. Virossa syntyneestä porvariperheen tyttärestä tuli kova liikenainen, kartanon omistaja, stalinisti, rauhanneuvottelija, mahdollisesti vakooja, Yleisradion pääjohtaja ja samalla maan johtava näytelmäkirjailija. Tämä kirja painottui paljolti hänen poliittiseen toimintaansa ja herätti mielenkiintoa siihen, mitä muuta hänen elämässään tapahtui – sillä ne muut asiat jäivät tässä kirjassa pahasti sivurooliin. Ehkä osittain aihepiiriin liittyen teksti oli jotenkin kovin kylmän kliinistä, sisältäen huiman määrän faktaa henkilönnimien ja vuosilukujen muodossa. Mielenkiintoiset anekdootit ja ”mieltä lämmittävät” tarinat kohdehenkilön elämästä jäivät tässä kirjassa varsin pienelle huomiolle. Kielellisesti teksti oli selkeää ja välillä ehkä hiukan tylsän puoleista. Tuomiojan omassa ajatusmaailmassa kiinnitti huomioita mm. se, että Yrjö Leinon erottamista hallituksesta hänen luovutettuaan Suomen kansalaisia Neuvostoliittoon nimitettiin ”sattumien ohjaamaksi tapahtumaketjuksi”; oikeastihan tuollainen teko olisi lähinnä elinikäisen vankeustuomion ansaitseva toimi. Kirjassa käsiteltiin myös Hella Wuolijoen siskoa, joka asui Englannissa ja oli perustamassa Englannin kommunistista puoluetta. Nämä jaksot olivat turhan liitännäisen oloisia ja sinällään hänen toimintansa oli viime kädessä aika merkityksetöntä ja jäi lähinnä kuvaukseksi nimilistoista henkilöistä joita he tapasivat ja lehdistä joita he julkaisivat. Mitään tarkempaa analyysia toiminnasta ei esitetty ja muista lähteistä selvitellen toiminta jäi kokonaisuuden kannalta aika yhdentekeväksi. Kirja oli aika puhtaasti historiakirjoitusta eikä viihdyttäväksi ”lukuromaaniksi” tarkoitettu elämänkerta. Kirjapiirin mielipide oli aika pitkälle samanlainen kuin omani. Kirjoitustyyliä pidettiin kuivana mutta informatiivisenä, ja kirja herätti kiinnostuksen siihen, mitä laajemmalti Hella Wuolijoen elämässä tapahtui.

425 s.

Monday, May 8, 2017

A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers #2) by Becky Chambers


The second book I read for the Hugo voting.
For the most part, the book has two separate stories. One is about a young girl who escapes from a "factory" where she and many other young girls work to salvage usable parts from trash. She has never been outside of the factory, and has spent her entire life in a dormitory with other girls. The children are supervised by robots. She escapes and is rescued by an AI that travels in an almost destroyed spaceship. She and the AI decide to repair the ship so that they’ll be able to escape the country-sized junkyard they are in.

Another thread of the book follows an AI who is uploaded to an android body, and who tries to adjust to life as a “human.” She is cared for by a woman, who was raised by an AI when she was young. (It isn’t hard to guess who she is...).

Apparently, the book is the second part of a series, but it works perfectly well as a separate piece. In fact, it is fairly difficult to imagine what the first book might be about - perhaps how the ship became abandoned?

Particularly in the beginning of the novel, the scenes which occur in the past are vastly more interesting. I almost was tempted to skip the “boring” parts to find out what happens to “Jane” (the girl) and “Owl” (the AI). The parts that are set in the "present" are nowhere near as gripping, but slowly, as the personality of the AI grows, they become more and more interesting.

The stories pretty much converge at the end. The book was very well-written and entertaining. Its only weakness is the pacing, which is slightly off. The last chapters were a slight let-down compared to the intensity that had built up previously. But it was a very enjoyable book, nevertheless.


365 pp.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Joss Whedon: Geek King of the Universe - A Biography


This is a biography of Joss Whedon that covers his life pretty well. As I am fairly familiar with his career, there were few real surprises here, but it was still a very interesting read. I might have liked a more detailed take on some of his more famous works, like Buffy. There is some stuff on his earlier years that might have been shortened to give room for that. Also, the book felt pretty impersonal for the most part; apparently, Whedon himself didn’t have much influence on the book.

448 pp.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Astounding Science Fiction, March 1954


Only three stories as a pretty unremarkable serial by Isaac Asimov take a lot of space. The stories are fairly tolerable examples of their time.


Immigrant • novella by Clifford D. Simak

A man has gotten the permission to emigrate to Kimon. That is rare, as only the smartest applicants, who are able to pass very demanding tests, qualify. It is supposed to be a land of opportunity with very high wages (and mastery of instantaneous travel with the power of mind alone). When he arrives at the planet, he finds out that he hardly qualifies for any position. Not bad, but the blurb at the beginning of the story spoils the end (everything is just “training” to be something bigger), and the man who is supposed to be one of the smartest on Earth is incredibly stupid and dense. ***
I Made You • short story by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
An automated battle robot is guarding his perimeter at the moon. There is one organic thing hiding in a deep cave he must still destroy, but he can’t get to the cave, and the puny thing that claims stupid things – like that he has designed the robot – can’t escape. A fairly good but a bit dated story. ***
Final Exam • novelette by Arthur Zirul
An alien ship is wrecked over Earth. Its crew is stranded on different parts of the world. The Earth had seemed very civilized, but the behavior of the people seems to be less so. The story is somewhat overlong, but otherwise not bad. A bit of an untypical story for the Analog of the time, as humans aren’t the most smartest people of them all. ***-

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Ninefox Gambit (The Machineries of Empire #1) by Yoon Ha Lee


The first book I read from this year’s Hugo nominees.
The book is science fiction, which happens, apparently, in the far future. The book really throws you to the deep end at the beginning. There are many very strange and unfamiliar words and concepts which aren’t explained at all, and the book is very hard to read and to get into, especially at first. It does get a little easier, but not much, and there were many different characters, who were very hard to keep track of, especially for someone with the bad memory I have for names.

A major part of the book is figuring out what actually is going on, and a detailed explanation might be considered to be a spoiler.

The main protagonist makes an unorthodox decision during the battle. She gets ordered to the headquarters and isn’t sure if she is going to be rewarded or punished. In a way she is both; she gets an important mission but is implanted with a war criminal, who killed his own troops hundreds of years ago. His mind has been recorded and it can be implanted on another person. He is a brilliant strategist and has never lost a battle, even with very bad odds. But he is apparently crazy, and there is a chance that his lunacy will infect the person who is carrying him. It is unknown why he attacked his own troops.

The protagonists are battling against heretics with a different calendar and way of calculating time. It seems that has a profound effect on what sort of technologies work and can be used. I had some trouble with that, as I identified with that side where the protagonists are the bad guys. If someone is called a heretic, that implies that there is some sort of dogmatic belief system which persecutes people that believe something else, so someone who is accused of being a heretic always gets some sympathy from me. So I had a feeling right from the start that we are looking things from the viewpoint of the “bad guys”. I am not saying the feeling was right, but there were shades of gray...

One aspect of the book was very strange and imaginative; technology with intelligent, self-aware helper “bots” and weapons with extremely unpleasant but imaginative effects. All in all, pretty good, but a complex book which was not an easy read.
384 pp.

Proofreading by eangel.me.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Goblin War (Jig the Goblin #3) by Jim C. Hines


The book continues the story of a hapless goblin, Jig. The goblins are once again threatened by humans as human adventurers invade their lair and steal a valuable, powerful magical artifact. Jig finds out that that a huge army of monsters is being assembled. The human army and the army of goblins, orcs, and kobolds are heading into a huge battle. Jig isn’t a big fan of battles of any kind, as they usually are dangerous.

As he has been about the only follower (and the only prophet) of a forgotten god, he is able to heal some wounds, but war? Battles? You could get seriously hurt. Unfortunately, the god he is following has some goals of his own, some of them involve battling other gods. That is pretty scary until the god does something extremely cruel: he removes all of Jig’s fear.

It had been many years since I read the second part of this series, and it took some time to get into this one. I had fairly hazy memories of Jig’s earlier exploits and especially about “his” god. Probably the best parts of the book were the segments that told the backstory of the god and how he wound up with one puny and cowardly goblin as his sole follower. Otherwise, the book was pretty entertaining and witty, but slightly less so than the second part, which is the best of the series – at least if I am remembering the details accurately. But it was entertaining to follow a hero with a healthy dose of cowardice and a very strong will of self-preservation – at any cost.

352 pp.