Monday, May 21, 2018

Liza Marklund: Rautaveri (Järnblod/The Final Word)



The last of the series tells about a Swedish journalist who specializes in crime reporting. One of the better parts of the series, which cleverly returns to the beginning, was when Annika returns to her hometown and she also returns to the first murder she was reporting.

Tätä kirjaa en varsinaisesti lukenut, vaan se on kuunneltu äänikirjana automatkoilla. Viimeinen osa Annika Bengtsönistä kertovaa sarjaa ja on sille pätevä lopetus.

Kirja palaa osittain sarjan alkuun, mutta samalla kuvaa useita juonia rinnakkain. Annika alkaa tutkia uudelleen ensimmäistä murhaa, josta hän raportoi. Nämä tapahtumat kuvattiin kirjassa Studio Sex ja samalla hänen traagiset nuoruudenkokemuksensa ovat alkaneet vaikuttaa häneen entistä enemmän. Hän käy psykologilla juttelemassa kokemuksistaan saamiensa paniikkikohtauksien vuoksi. Lehti, jossa Annika on ollut töissä oikeastaan koko kirjasarjan ajan, aiotaan lopettaa - tai ainakin sen paperiversion julkaiseminen on tarkoitus lopettaa lähitulevaisuudessa. Viimeisimmissä kirjoissa lähes toiseksi päähenkilöksi kohonnut poliisi Nina Hoffman viimeistelee edellisessä kirjassa vangitun murhaajan tutkintaa. DNA-näyttö syyllisyydestä on lähes (mutta ei täysin) aukoton, mutta epäillyn olisi ollut erittäin vaikeaa päästä murhapaikalle ajoissa. Kaatuuko tuomio tähän? Kaiken muun lisäksi Annikan sisar näyttää olevan kadonnut, vai onko hän paennut puolisoaan?

Kirjan useat eri juonikuviot punoutuvat lopulta yllättävänkin hyvin toisiinsa. Kyseessä on selkeästi sarjansa paremman pään kirjoja, muutaman loppupään heikomman teoksen jälkeen. Kirjassa mennään syvemmälle Annikan elämään ja ajatuksiin kuin aikaisemmissa teoksissa - ja samalla palataan alkuun ja Annikan lapsuuden ja nuoruuden maisemiin mielenkiintoisella tavalla. Aikaisemmin olin melkein sitä mieltä, että sarja ei todellakaan jatkoa enää kaipaa, ja tämän viimeisen kirjan tulisin lukemaan vain täydellisyyden vuoksi, mutta nyt tämän kirjan jälkeen ei mahdollinen uusi kirja varmasti lukematta jäisi.

333 s.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Sujata Massey: Rei Shimuran ensimmäinen tapaus (Salaryman's Wife)


Sarjansa ensimmäinen osa. Englantia Japanissa opettava Rei Shimura on käyttämässä melko vähäistä vapaa-aikaansa ja vielä vähäisempiä rahojaan uuden vuoden lomaan majatalossa maaseudulla. Majataloon on kokoontunut erilaisia ihmisiä, mm. amerikkalainen rouva, teollisuuspomo puolisonsa kanssa ja heidän avustajansa, brittiläinen varsin kiinnostavan oloinen lakimies. Viikonlopun aikana teollisuuspomon puoliso kuolee. Kuolemaa epäillään ensin tapaturmaksi, mutta Ray alkaa epäillä murhaa ja lopulta poliisitkin ovat samaa mieltä, tosin alkavat epäillä lakimiestä, johon Rei on jo vähän ehtinyt ihastua. Mutta kuka oikeasti on murhaaja? Oliko naisella jotain salattavaa?
Ray alkaa selvittämään murhatun naisen taustaa ja sieltä vähitellen selviää kaikenlaista joka ehkä voi olla murhan syynä.

Kirjan on hiukan liian pitkä - nopeamminkin ja vähemmillä keskusteluilla tämän tarinan olisi kyllä voinut kertoa. Itsellä oli jo varsin varhaisessa vaiheessa varsin vahvat epäily murhaajasta - tosin motiivi puuttui vielä siinä vaiheessa. Kirja oli aika selvän tuntuisesti kirjoitettu naislukijoita ajatellen, siinä määrin se sisälsi komean miehen perään kuolailua ja tarkkoja kuvailuja kauniista vaatteista ja menee mieslukijalle ehkä aavistuksen liikaa chicklitin puolelle. Kirjassa myös hiukan liikaa seliteltiin japanilaisen kulttuuriin tiettyjä piirteitä ärsyttävyyteen asti. Joo - kyllä se, mistä salaryman-sana tulee on kuultu ja luettu monen monituista kertaa, ei kai sellaista tarvitse rautalangasta vääntäen selittää? Saa nähdä tuleeko seuraaviin osiin tartuttua.

Rei Shimura tries to find out who murdered the wife of a Japanese businessman. A bit too talky, too long and too chicklit for me, but readable in spite of all that. Irritatingly explains very carefully some pretty obvious aspects of Japanese culture. It feels like the author talks down to the reader.

433 s.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, May-June 2018


A fairly nice issue.

The Last Biker Gang • novella by Wil McCarthy
An elderly man in his eighties is in tolerable physical condition due to new treatments. His wife has had dementia for 10 years. She has been cured by a breakthrough. When she comes to her senses, she leaves him. With poor relations with his sons, he feels very useless. He starts to repair his old Harley and eventually becomes a member of a bike gang of eighty-year-olds picking fights and boozing. Seems like a fun story, but it isn’t. It’s tragic, moving, and a very well written tale of a man who isn’t able to feel a part of changed society. Perhaps he has never really been able to be part of society. ****-
Hubpoint of No Return • [The Hub Gates] • novelette by Christopher L. Bennett
Continues a story where an eager young man works on a “hub” which enables instant travel between different points in the galaxy. The downside is that there isn’t a way to predict where a certain movement vector will lead without trying it out. He is trying to find a way to change that and has bought a fish-like biological computer to help him in his calculations when a cat-like alien steals the fish. And then he finds himself kidnapped by space pirates. A pretty fun story with a lot of fast talking. ***½
Finding Their Footing • short story by Marissa Lingen
A divorced mother with her children is on the way from the Oort cloud to Callisto. They use their savings to have a little adventure and go to see the ice volcanoes of Triton. There is a problem on the ship and their ticket is canceled. Should they use the rest of their savings to change the booking and go for the adventure? Of course they do. Nice story, in spite of totally irresponsible and stupid behavior. ***+
Finding Their Footing • short story by Marissa Lingen
A colony planet is inhabited by humans and green aliens. One time when the parents are at the market an alien comes to visit a farm with a strange basket. A short, nice and heartwarming story.***+
Two Point Oh • short story by Robert Reed
A shady person (a criminal mastermind?) is hired for a job as he is known to be able to “persuade” people to do almost anything. He is paid very well, and his employer is apparently one of the aliens who live in the mountains of Bolivia. A pretty good story, but I just wonder if it is a part of some series, as there seemed to be little to no backstory and at first it wasn’t easy to figure what was going on, and who the main character was. ***+
The Willing Body, the Reluctant Heart • short story by Marie Vibbert
An alien seeks out a lung, a brain and a heart (they apparently are separate things who live in symbiosis) to meet strange creatures, humans. A short story with poetic language. ***
While You Sleep, Computer Mice™ Earn Their Keep • short story by Buzz Dixon
Mice (mice – or rats? The story first calls them mice but for some reason switches to rats at the end) with a computer chip implanted in their brains take care of household chores. They encounter a problem, but solve it with cool efficiency. A short, lightly-told story. ***
My Base Pair • short story by Sam J. Miller
Cloned celebrity sperm is readily available on the black market. Children born that way have limited rights and mostly live undercover. A man who has worked for law enforcement tracking illegal DNA suppliers tries to find a childhood friend and lover who ran away as a youngster and is the “child” of a celebrity. A pretty nice story which is well written. ***+
A Borrow for the Living • short story by Alison Wilgus
A few women who comprise the first expedition to Mars struggle after apparently having several accidents. A supply drop lands some distance away. They must get to it. A short scene-like story without much background. Good as such, but just a short glimpse of the whole story. ***-
Shooting Grouse • short story by Ian Creasey
Environmentalists use holograms to prevent grouse-hunting. A pretty well-told story which doesn’t describe the hunters as totally evil. ***
Mission Accomplished • short story by Stephen L. Burns
Political prisoners in fairly near future US work in a run-down satellite defense faculty shooting down satellites (as they are about the only ones capable of working with computers that demand scientific k-knowledge). A good story, an unfortunately too-realistic glimpse of the future. ***½

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty


The first Hugo-nominee novel that I've read knowing it is a nominated work. I have already read two novels from the ballot before. The story happens in a world where cloning is commonplace and it is used to extend life. One’s mind can be recorded, and in case of death, a new adult clone body can be easily grown and the recorded personality can be uploaded to it. There are strict regulations concerning cloning, almost all modifications are forbidden and only one copy of the same person is allowed to be alive at one time. There is a very illegal underground for these modifications, even the personality can be edited if desired.

Six people awake in a spaceship in new clone bodies. The gravity is off, and there appear to be multiple dead bodies floating around, all apparently brutally stabbed. When the newly awaken clones are able to break out of their cloning vats, they notice that the dead bodies are theirs. And apparently, it has been twenty years since they left for their several-decades-long trip to another solar system. They have no recollection at all of that time. The clones have been uploaded with a very old memory recording, which was done when they started their trip. And the ship seems to be following a new course. What has happened?

The setup is very good, but the book has a few problems - both in points of plot and in the point of writing. The characters are not supposed to know what has happened for twenty years, but they have intense suspicion of each other. Even if one of them is a murderer, he/she wouldn't know it, and the personality which is twenty years younger wouldn't essentially even be exactly the same anyway as the one who committed the murders. Why such strong suspicions? There was one, apparently fairly unimportant point, which was brought to readers' attention many times - so many times that it was very clear that this would have some special meaning later in the book. Perhaps one or two mentions, at most, would have been enough, especially when the point was so stupid and contrived (the food synthesizer is able to analyze from a saliva sample, what the food preferences of a person is - and one character (who has lost the memory of the last twenty years) is totally sure that she has a backup file of those preferences. Well, I really don’t believe that a genetic profile would explain one's food preferences: the favorite foods of identical twins, when one lived his childhood India eating curries and another in Germany eating pork chops and sauerkraut certainly wouldn't have been the same tastes. And wouldn’t it easier to choose foods from a menu anyway? That capability is mentioned at least three or four times; pretty clumsy foreshadowing. The food synthesizer is also able to synthesize _anything_, up to living tissue, but capsaicin (actually a fairly simple molecule) is hard to synthesize and the synthesizer really doesn’t manage THAT? Also, the author seems to imagine that spinning in space takes energy. The ship spins for gravity. After a power failure, the spinning starts to slow down, but doesn’t stop right away due to “inertia”? And candles readily available? In a spaceship? And in exactly the same place as twenty years ago? The ending of the book almost felt like a cheat; everything folded up nicely, thanks to miraculous technology which really wasn’t convincing. The book was a nice pastime, but the faults were also clear, and it won’t be among my top choices in the voting.

364 pp.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Terry Pratchett, Stephen Baxter: Pitkä maa (The Long Earth #1)



The discovery of a very simple device which enables travel to alternative realities changes the world. Most of the book tells the story of an expedition to alternative Earths which are increasingly different from our own. This is not a bad book, but it isn’t very good, either. The first part is pretty fragmented and the characterization wasn’t very strong. The writing was average, at least in translation.

Internetiin ilmaantuu rakennusohjeet yksinkertaisesta (perunasta voimansa saavasta) laitteesta, jonka lapsikin osaa rakentaa, ja jolla voi hypätä vaihtoehtoisia maailmoihin. Vaihtoehtoisia maailmoja on kahteen suuntaan “itään” ja “länteen”, nähtävästi lähes rajattomasti. Ne näyttävät olevan asumattomia, mutta maantieteellisesti ne ovat hyvin samanlaisia kuin oma maailmamme. Keksintö aiheuttaa kansainvaelluksen, jossa kaikki ne joilla, on ollut koettelemuksia elämässä, jättävät tämän maailman ja etsivät uusia, asumattomia paikkoja joihin muuttaa ja joissa rakentaa uusi elämä itselleen. Hallitukset eivät tästä ainakaan aluksi kovin innoissaan ole, mutta kun keksintö on julkinen, ei sitä voi takaisinkaan vetää.

Osa ihmisistä oppii nopeasti siirtymään maailmasta toiseen ilman laitteen apua, ja he eivät kärsi voimakkaasta pahoinvoinnista, jota esiintyy useimmilla laitetta käyttävillä. Osa taas ei pysty vaihtamaan maailmaa edes laitteen avulla, mutta toisen ihmisen kantamana heiltäkin yleensä siirtyminen sujuu.

Maailman ainoan keinoälyn (joka väittää olevansa uudelleen syntynyt ihminen) suunnittelema ilmalaiva lähtee tutkimaan pitkän maan kaukaisimpia vaihtoehto maailmoja. Uuden tekniikan avulla ilmalaiva pystyy siirtymään hyvin nopeasti maailmasta toiseen, ja kaukaisissa maailmoissa löytyy sekä kiinnostavia että uhkaavia asioita.
Juonellisesti kirja oli pääosin kiinnostava. Etenkin kirjan alkupuoli tuntui kovin hajanaiselta, yhtenäisempi tarina oikeastaan alkoi vasta ilmalaivan matkalle lähdettäessä. Kyseessä ei ehkä ole kaikkein parhaiten kirjoitettuja kirjoja, mitä olen lukenut, mutta ihan viihdyttävä tarina sinällään oli. Henkilöt eivät ole kaikkein parhaiten kuvattuja ja tuntuvat jäävän aika yksiulotteisiksi. Pakko ei jatko-osia ole heti luettavaksi haalia, mutta ei se mahdotontakaan jossain vaiheessa ole.

355 s.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, October 1971


Hierarchies (Part 1 of 2) • [Interstellar Security] • serial by John T. Phillifent
I was reading this magazine from a kind of shady digital file which, for some strange reason, didn’t contain titles at all. This is the first part of a serial; if I had known that, I most likely would not have read it at all. Two agents are on a mission on an old planet which used to have high technology but has stagnated and most of the inventions have been forgotten. Now, Earth has contacted the planet, and things are changing. The monarch, who has absolute power, sees that things are changing and must change and work together with Earth’s representatives. It happens that the crown jewels are some sort of still functioning relics of extremely high technology and the monarch conspires with the agent for the jewels to be transported to Earth for careful study. In return, he gets a major program of financial and schooling aid for his planet. As a cover up, the duo gets another present: a rare breed of pet which formerly had been owned only by the royal family and they are supposed to take that to Earth as a gift. A human young woman who has a detailed knowledge of the animal joins them. She is very beautiful, but has a very plain speaking voice, so she must be very stupid and simple-minded. When they leave for the spaceport (a long surface travel), someone seems to follow them and eventually even manages to kidnap the woman. She is easily recovered with the use of modern weapons and armor though. Not bad, but the attitudes are pretty strange. I really, really hope that the arrogant and fairly stupid males will be shown their places by the woman. ***+
The Golden Halls of Hell • novelette by John Paul Henry
A woman, who is a neglected housewife and almost forgotten mother who had to abandon her studies when she got married is contemplating a suicide. She has planned everything very meticulously so that her death will look like an accident. Then a strange, very distraught man arrives to her doorstep babbling something strange. It almost seems as if he comes from past and claims to have been in hell after committing suicide. The next day, another man arrives, looking for the first one. And he comes from the future, and apparently knows the woman very well by her reputation. But, as she has no reputation whatsoever, not many people know her and even fewer seem to care about her, so how she could have a reputation in the future? A very good story with nice characters and good writing. ****
Moon Spore • short story by G. I. Morrison
A strange disease seems to be spreading. It seems to be related to the moon dust brought by a moon mission. People are getting sick and there might be mass panic. A lot of discussions, fairly little action, and a fairly stupid ending. (The sickness makes people smarter and the political leaders get themselves infected.) **½
The Crier of Crystal • [Conscience Interplanetary] • short story by Joseph Green
All of a planet’s animal and plant forms are based on silicon, not carbon. They form crystalline forms and are mostly very toxic to humans, and humans are toxic to all of the animals on the planet. That doesn’t stop the predators, however. They haven’t yet learned that humans are not edible. There are strange sounds coming from the woods at nighttime - almost like unclear speech. That is something that must be investigated. Might there be some sort of intelligent life on the silicon planet? Not bad, in spite of the total implausibility of silicon life at room temperature. ***
Mr. Winthrop Projects • short story by Stephen Robinett [as by Tak Hallus]
A man has created a machine which projects mind waves which would cause people to buy things. A shady politician kidnaps him and wants to use the invention in elections, with the presidency in his mind. The inventor finishes his invention (with very much soldering - pretty quaint) then tests it. Testing a machine that affects the mind might have some small possibilities if you are forced to work on it in threat of violence. A pretty nice story. ***
Motion Day at the Courthouse • short story by Theodore L. Thomas [aka Ted Thomas]
A mobster is facing a trial. The mob boss is convinced that someone was informing the police, but no one but him was even aware of the job. It turns out that a young woman who works for prosecutor's office is able to read minds. Is her testimony admissible? Mostly a courtroom drama. Not bad, but some very anti-science attitudes left an extremely bad taste to my mouth. ***

Monday, April 9, 2018

Albert Camus: Rutto (The Plague)


A famous, Nobel worthy book, which tells the story of the occupation of France as a metaphor. A plague spreads around a city. People react all in their own way. The book is written with extremely beautiful, but strangely laconic, language. A book well worth its reputation.


Tarina kaupungista, johon iskee rutto-epidemia. Alussa juuri kukaan ei usko mitä on tapahtumassa. Asukkaiden mieliala ja suhtautuminen kehittyy vähitellen apatiasta auttamiseen yhdistyneenä apatiaan, mutta vähitellen elämä jatkuu sen minkä eristetyssä kaupungissa voi jatkua siinä määrin tavallisena kuin se voi jatkua.
Joku kaupungissa sattumalta eristyksen alkaessa ollut haluaisi karata, mutta päättää myöhemmin muuta ja jää auttamaan sairaudesta kärsiviä. Kaupunkilaiset kaiken kaikkiaan reagoivat eri tavoin, kukin omallaan. Vähitellen vallitsevana mielialana on alistumisen ilmapiiri. Lääkärit tekevät työtään, yrittävät taistella tautia vastaan ja ovat uupumisen partaalle, mutta muut jatkavat elämäänsä lähinnä jatkavat elämäänsä, mikäli eivät sairastu ja joudu karanteeniin.

Hienolla kielellä ja hitaalla tyylillä kirjoitettu tarina, joka kertoo kuvainnollisesti Ranskan miehityksen tarinan. Laajempaakin vertauskuvallisuutta kirjassa voi ajatella olevan, ehkä jopa ilmastonmuutokseen tai mihin tahansa muuhun suuren katastrofiin asti. Mieleenpainuva ja mukavan hitaan filosofisesti etenevä teos, joka on maineensa arvoinen. Tarina on ulkopuolisen, asioiden yläpuolella asettuvan ja kertomuksen lopunkin tietävän kertojan näkökulmasta kuvailtu, joka antaa kylmänviileän suhtautumisen varsin dramaattiseen sisältöön.

413 s.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman


A collection of stories - most of them have been published somewhere earlier. Due to the number of the stories, I am not going to review all of them. As a whole, the collection was very good as can be guessed (is there anything by Neil Gaiman which isn’t at least fairly good)?
Some of the more memorable stories were “That Thing About Cassandra”, which tells a story of a teenage boy who made up a girlfriend - only to have her contact him years later with memories of encounters he invented for his peers. The ending was a kind of surprise.
“The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains..." is a very good story of a sweet revenge of a father whose daughter was killed.
“Nothing O'Clock” was Dr. Who “fanfiction”, which was very well done and would have worked nicely as a very creepy episode.
“The Sleeper and the Spindle“ was a modern, a bit feministic take on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale with some Snow White thrown into the mix. Another excellent story.
The final story, “Black Dog“, happens in the universe of “American Gods” and was slightly slow to start, but was excellent by the end.

As a whole, in spite of a few more uninteresting stories, it is a very good collection.

311 pp