Friday, December 26, 2008

Ruth Reichl: Tender at the Bone

The first part of Ruth Reichl’s biography. For some reason I have read them in reverse order. This one might have best when read as a first one as much background information about her troubled relation with her mother can been found from here. Book tells the story of her childhood, adolescence and young adulthood, until the first time she finds a writing position as a food critic. Very entertaining and interesting book, much better than the middle part, but probably not entirely as good as the last part. Many interesting recipes waiting for testing.

Analog June 1977

Special ”Women’s Issue” where most things were written by women authors - including editorial and the Reference Library. Some of the stories are very well written.
Eyes of Amber • novelette by Joan D. Vinge
Humans communicate with aliens living in Titan using a probe which landed there. Light speed delay causes some problems. Little happens, but observation has an effect to the observed, and vice versa. Very well and stylistically written, but fairly boring story. Aliens are not alien enough, they are carbon copies of some medieval assassins or highway robbers or royalty (not much difference between those…) ***-
The Screwfly Solution • novelette by James Tiptree, Jr. [as by Raccoona Sheldon ]
Cults which want to kill all the women are forming everywhere around the world. Story follows a man working away from his wife, exchanging letters with her, and ultimately journeying back to visit her. But is he able to resist all more common hatred against women? Very well written story, but the ending is too clearly spelled out. Also, that kind of alien invasion scheme seems overtly complicated - why alter human behavior when a fast spreading disease might have faster and more sure? ****
The Ax • shortfiction by Jayge Carr
Courtroom drama. Is it legal to kill a clone, or something what might be considered a clone? Story depends on legal points which are far too silly and/or improbable for even American courts. **½
Salamander • shortstory by Leigh Kennedy
Workers working in a lunar colony have some trouble with each others, with their leaders, and with the command on earth. Pretty boring, pretty conventional story without many surprises. I had to struggle through it, might have missed something, but was wondering what was the real point of writing this. **
Lord of All It Surveys • shortstory by Alison Tellure
Story follows the evolution of sentient, sea living, life form on an another planet. It evolves to single huge brain. Writing ok, ending anticlimactic. The really interesting part of the story would happen _after_ this ending - this story reads like a bit boring prologue to the _real_, more interesting story. ***

Monday, December 15, 2008

Galaxy May 1954

Average issue. Stories are average, with very non-surprising endings.

Granny Won't Knit • novella by Theodore Sturgeon
Far future story. A easy and cheap matter transplanter has changed society. Stability is valued more than anything, everyone is brainwashed to believe that all development has achieved its’ peak. For some reason body shapes and pare hands are something not to be shown publicly, and everything is covered. The main character seems to get a wrong number on his matter transplanter when going to work on morning, and meets an almost naked (not even wearing gloves) woman before hurriedly continuing to his original destination. Later the same woman seems to pop to his workplace out of nowhere without any kind of matter transplanter at all.
Overlong, loosely written story. It seems that the only piece of technology developed in in a few thousand years is the matter transplanter. There are no explanation why hands are considered indecent, or at least I didn’t notice any. I was more and more “speed reading” towards the end of the story…The society itself has very fifties-like patriarchal values, and even the titular “knitting” is something the titular granny remembers old ladies were doing in her youth. Remember, this is supposed to happen in the year 6000 or something. Condensing _a lot_ might have been a good idea. As such pretty boring stuff. **
Back to Julie • shortstory by Richard Wilson
A man is able to travel through dimensions, and he is finding a secret for his employer and using it for himself at the same time. And to get the girl, of course. Decent little story. ***
Mate in Two Moves • novelette by Winston K. Marks
A disease which makes yourself to fall deeply to love with someone is spreading around the world. Two doctors, a female and male, are trying to find the solution. Plot goes exactly like you would expect, no surprises anywhere. Writing is ok, was nice read, but there _really_ were no surprises of any kind. ***
Open Warfare • novelette by James E. Gunn
A professional golf player has fallen in love with rich man’s daughter. He is given ultimatum - if he is not able to earn 50000 dollars, he will not get the daughter. It seems almost like piece of cake - just win US open, but then a new, unknown, very quiet player who plays very mechanically and without making any mistakes enters the competition. Not too surprising story, either. The player is exactly what you think he is… Very fifties story in attitudes. However, entertainingly written. ***+
Chain of Command • shortstory by Stephen Arr
A mutated, intelligent mouse wants to move a mouse trap to somewhere away from his mouse hole. It isn’t so easy it could be… Simple little story, ok. ***+
Bedside Manner • novelette by William Morrison
Alien (unseen) doctor heals a married couple after disastrous (very disastrous, healing starts apparently about from cellular level) space accident. Story follows the wife, how has always been plain, and ponders if it would good or bad if she will be turned to beautiful due to regrowth process. Nice story, attitudes amusingly old-fashioned. Ending (true to form in this issue) is nothing surprising. ***½

Monday, December 8, 2008

Analog Science Fiction and Fact July/August 2003

This was bad issue, and it took some time to read. Most of the stories were pretty bad, couple real stinkers. Only a few pretty decent ones, and even those had some minor faults.
12 • The Fire and the Wind • novelette by G. David Nordley
A rescue party (from a moon colony) tries to save a stranded exploration (or spying) expedition from Antarctic. More of a spy story than sf. If the rescue wouldn’t come from the space, and the spying “country” wouldn’t be the moon, this story would be just a standard James Bond-style action adventure. A bit on a long side, bit hard to keep my interest up at some places. ***-
52 • The Meeting of Pilgrims • novelette by Robert R. Chase
Continues a story I don’t remember reading. Not really enough background is given to really stand on its’ own. Apparently humans have colonized only the mountaintops of a world where lowlands are filled by local flora and fauna with alien natives. The natives have changed a human child with a child of their own so that the two cultures might learn to understand each others better. In this story the changelings are changed back. A troupe of characters journey to the lowlands meeting several pretty clichéd dangers on the way. As the characters were not familiar to me, and they were not properly introduced, I really couldn’t care very much for them – not mentioning pretty clichéd nature of several of them (noble alien, xenophobic militaryman…). Writing was ok, not nearly as good as in Robert Chase’s later works. **½
73 • The Robot Who Knew Too Much • novelette by Ron Goulart
Continues the story of a robot detective, the detective in a robot body solves a case of missing starlet, while his ex-wife working for ad-agency is trying to get a huge advertising contract. There is material for a short story, but not for something in the novella length. Condensing might have made the fundamentally very simple story into something a bit better. Pretty boring stuff after all. **+
86 • Traveling, Traveling • shortstory by Sarah A. Hoyt
A woman traveling on a some kind of high tech flying path is forced to make emergency landing in backward community. A small story aiming more to mood than plot. Ok writing, nothing special. ***-
94 • Cowzilla • [Probability Zero] • shortstory by Geoffrey A. Landis
Cow + Godzilla = Probability zero story.
100 • Not a Drop to Drink • novelette by Grey Rollins
A colony world is being destroyed by a drought. As a solution a biologist suggests that the new children should be modified genetically, so that they are able to drink salty water. However, the colony seems to consist mainly of religious lunatics, who think that just praying hard enough is the only viable solution. Somehow it is hard too that a sizable portion of colonists could so fixed on their religion, that they would continue this through years of drought. Well written, maybe a bit unlikely, but nice story anyway. ****-
119 • Triumph in the Desert • novelette by Bud Webster
Prequel for a series of stories about Bubba Pritchert. I have read at least one of those, but I don’t remember anything else than generally positive vibe. Mainly introduction, not much happens, but interestingly written, anyway. ***½
136 • A Professor at Harvard • shortstory by David Brin
History lecture, boring as hell, on the last page turns out to be alternative history. There might have been clues earlier, but if there were I missed them, as the complete dryness of the story hurt my concentration, and I am not expert in Anglo-Saxon/American history of 16th century. Struggle to read. **-
145 • Brownian Motion • shortstory by Richard . Lovett
Blind dates by virtual reality. Pretty simple story, where the protagonist meets several women, seeking for the “right one”. Science fictional content pretty slight, not entirely convincing explanation of why the dating happens in VR. Nice read anyway. ****-
154 • The Spacemice Incident • shortstory by Carl Frederick
Mice are used as “biological warfare” in two space habitats which are competing of tourists. Writing is ok, simple, short story. Doesn’t irritate, doesn’t leave anything extra positive to mind. ***
163 • Agent • shortstory by Shirley Kennett
Crooked hacker who is a serial killer (using computer hacking to murder) sends his self-aware avatar to a generation ship’s computer. Pretty simple, not too surprising, not too bad. ***½
170 • Linda's Dragon • shortstory by Brenda Cooper
Epidemic is killing space ship crew. Two doctors left are pushed to desperate and illegal action: they make computer uploads of themselves to help beating the infection. Solution is finally found (which doesn’t make a slightest sense from medical viewpoint). Pretty nice, but the end solution is extremely stupid and the internal logic of the world isn’t most solid, but ok anyway. ***½
180 • Home on the Range • shortstory by Pat York
Buffaloes have come so common that they are nuisance to property owners. Not too surprising ending and end solution. (bring up some wolves, too). There just might be a few minor problems there…which of course are not thought up be characters in the story or mentioned anyway. Well, then there might have been a better story – this sucks. Not to mention that most of story is boring dialog and not much happens. *½
194 • Trinity Bay • novelette by Alexis Glynn Latner
A glider flies over industrial accident involving nanotechnology. Long infodumps, bad, clumsy, writing, plot which is not too interesting, pretty unlikely premise, ending is practically deus ex machine. Pretty bad story. **
210 • Still Coming Ashore • novelette by Michael F. Flynn
Lecture of the water ape theory of evolution, then a fable-like story within story, then another lecture of evolution. Pretty boring, overlong story, could have been a bit better if that all exposition would have been cut. ***-

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Analog Science Fiction and Fact February 1993

Mourning Blue • novelette by Jayge Carr
A crew member who is disliked by other member of the spaceship crew due to different temperament and body structure, befriends blue amphibious aliens, and even would like to leave his ship to stay with them. The rest of crew doesn’t like that idea too much, and take action. Reads like a poor juvenile story, with very, very clearly spelled out lesson and moral. Story is told as a ”tale of old times”, but that doesn’t remove irritation caused by the simplistic nature of the story. **
Hydra • shortstory by Ian Stewart
Van Neuman machine lands near an asteroid mining station. A lot of discussion follows, a lot plotting, ending which is far too easy and not too logical. **+
Beyond the Big Circus • novelette by Daniel Hatch
A Asian fishing fleet has gone astray and is found near Alaskan coast in a fairly poorly defined future, where even an oldish coast guard boat has two fusion plants. Some things happens, a lot of discussion happens, police almost attacks, and fleet returns home. The background isn’t defined well enough, there isn’t much of a plot. **
The Boy Who Wanted To Be A Hero • shortstory by Geoffrey A. Landis
A boy dreams about the space, and wants as an adult to do something helping humanity to reach stars. However, idealism tends to disappear…melancholy, nice story. ****-
Match Point • shortstory by David L. Burkhead
A tennis player who got a disease which slows reflexes tries to learn to compete in games organized in the moon, as the fast reflexes aren’t supposed to be as important there. Predictable, but not too bad. Usually I don’t like sport stories, but this was pretty well written, nice one. ***½
A Touch of Diptheria • novelette by Roger MacBride Allen
A detective is trying to solve a murder on a planet which is mostly radioactive. Only problem is that the most likely perpetrators arrived to the planet only after the crime. Good, well written story, entertaining. Best of issue. Some small logic and physics problems (hard to imagine that any nuclear war would cause so high radioactivity, that it would be lethal in a few minutes even after a few hundred years, and is able to make other objects radioactive, also - that would need neutron radiation which isn’t typical long term end result of nuclear explosions. ****

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Analog Science Fiction and Fact January/February 2009

Haven’t stated on Wake yet. Pretty good issues, the both novellas were fine, some of the shorter fiction weren’t among the best published.

Doctor Alien • novella by Rajnar Vajra
Aliens invite a psychiatrist from earth to find out what is wrong with three very strange and strangely behaving aliens from previously unknown species, which all were rescued after an apparent accident in space.
Very nice story. For some reason I haven’t usually been very keen on Rajnar Vajra’s stories, but this is a fine one. Well written, interesting premise in manner of James White. ****
Zheng He and the Dragon • novelette by Dave Creek
Chinese general on exploratory journey meets a real dragon, who hatches from large egg falling from sky. He doesn’t look just like a dragon, and he claims that he isn’t one, but what else could fly from the skies? A bit too long story, not enough to support the fairly thin storyline. ***½
To Leap the Highest Wall • novelette by Richard Foss
Alternative history. Apollo project did get delayed by a year or two, and the Russians are getting ready to land to the moon first. But just as their ship is passing to the far side of moon, they send a distress call to Americans.
Far too much discussion about cold war - as we know how it ended. The ending of the story is sickeningly patriotic. In my opinion, by the way, patriotism is the root of all evil. This could have been a fine story if published in 1967, but not now. **½
Rocks • shortstory by John G. Hemry
Mainly just a history of weapons development, starting with throwing rocks - ending with throwing rocks from orbit. Contains one whoopingly stupid mistake: you just can’t “drop” warheads from an orbiting space ship - there must be acceleration to stop orbital velocity. Writing ok, not much plot, error leaves bad taste. **-
Small Business • novelette by Edward M. Lerner
A small band of insurgents use high-tech micro machines to beat evil EU’s monopoly of making very efficient spaceship hulls which are driving independent spaceship operators to bust. A bit disturbing in a way: Evil EU, copyright theft glorified…Writing ok, pretty exiting, might have been a few pages longer - seemed a bit like an overview for a longer story. ***+
Excellence • shortstory by Richard A. Lovett
An athletic getting past his prime gets an offer too good to decline: modified muscles, years shaved of from performance - with no chance of getting caught in doping tests. There is just a small catch, after a few years muscles run out, and even walking might be too much for rest of his life. As a true sportsman he naturally takes that offer. Well told, nice, entertaining story. ****-
The Recovery Man's Bargain • novella by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
A recovery man (someone who recovers lost items) fails in important recovery, and is forced to recover (or in practice, kidnap) a woman who is wanted by an alien species for an alleged mass murder. That’s kind of work he _really_ doesn’t want to do, but due to circumstances he doesn’t have any choice. Of course, everything doesn’t go as planned. Very good, well written story. None of the characters were too sympathetic - in fact most of them were anything but sympathetic, but the writing managed to pull that out, and the story was enjoyable. I kept expecting for that just too familiar ”surprising” reveal that someone have been just faking being obnoxious, but that never came. The end part is a bit rushed and a few plot points were left a bit open. I also got an impression that at least some of the characters have been introduced earlier, but that didn’t harm the story too much. ****½

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Matti Yrjänä Joensuu; Harjunpää ja pahan pappi

As this is a Finnish police procedural I have read in Finnish, I'll write this blog post in Finnish.

Uusin Harjunpää-romaani, pitkän tauon jälkeen.
Tällä kertaa poliisi tutkii metrojunien eteen työnnettyjen viattomien sivullisten arvoitusta. Taustalla on otsikon paha pappi, joka harhoissaan palvelee Jumalaansa uhraamalla lokkeja, ja päästämällä päiviltä luuloteltuja syntisiä. Kirjassa seurataan paitsi Harjunpäätä itseään ja poliisin tutkimuksien edistymistä ja tappoihin syyllistynyttä pappia, myös eronnutta kirjailijaa, joka ei ole pystynyt kirjoittajan blokkinsa vuoksi vuosiin kunnolla enää mitään kirjoittamaan, ja hänen poikaansa, joka asuu vähemmän miellyttäväksi kuvatun äitinsä kanssa. Kirja on hieman erilainen kuin aikaisemmat Harjunpäät. Tällä kertaa varsin suuri osa kirjasta seurataan muita hahmoja kuin poliisia. Etenkin hullun papin tajunnanvirtaa saadaan lukea enemmän kuin tarpeeksi - ihan samanlaista tekstiä on keskusteluryhmissä saanut jonkin neon tai sinenmaan kirjoittamana lukea ihan kyllikseen, näitä jorinoita olisi voinut kyllä karsia. Positiivista sinällään on, että Harjunpää itse ei vaikuta tässä kirjassa ihan niin hermoheikolta luuserilta, kuin joissain aikaisemmissa sarjan kirjoissa. Väillä tuntuu, että moisen henkilön ammattivalintaa poliisiksi on mahdotonta ymmärtää. Huono ratkaisu mielestäni on pahuuden lähes yliluonnollisuuteen asti viety personifikaatio yhteen henkilöön - “pahan pappi” pystyy vaikuttamaan toisiin lähes pelkällä ajatuksen voimalla. Fantasiakertomuksessa se menisi, mutta tämä kirja on kuitenkin tyylilajiltaan lähinnä realistinen rikosromaani. Kirja kertoo myös pahoista ja/tai itsekkäistä äideistä, niitä tavataan monenlaisia, ja he tuntuvat olevan viimekädessä syynä oikeastaan kaikkeen pahuuteen mitä kirjassa tapahtuu. Ei mielestäni ihan aikaisempien Harjunpää kirjojen tasoa, mutta ihan kohtalainen luettava kuitenkin. Tiivistys olisi tehnyt hyvää.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction January-February 1978

Ok issue. Couple excellent, couple bad, and couple very forgettable, stories.

Barbie Murders by John Varley
If there is a cult where every single member looks exactly alike, and there is a murder where one member murders another, there might be some slight problems to find the guilty. One of the better science fiction detective stories in existence, a well written, excellent story *****-
True Love by Isaac Asimov
A man creates a computer simulation of himself, to help him in finding a woman of his dreams. But the simulation is too perfect, with too similar tastes. Pretty predictable, standard Asimov story. ***½
There will be a Sign by John M. Ford
Space shuttles are being phased out, and all space exploration is closing down. The astronauts on one of the last shuttle missions make a sign to sky to make people remember sky and space - or something. Didn’t completely get this one, concentration drifted. Not too interesting story. **
Panic by Stanley Schmidt
Aliens are attacking, but they hear from a radio than an another alien attack is underway - aliens with much more powerful weapons. They make hasty retreat, and miss the ending of Orson Welles’s fine audio production. Ok story, no surprises anywhere, ***
Birthday Party • shortstory by Keith Laumer
Lifespan have been expanded to fifty times longer. The first man who have had the treatment celebrates his 50th birthday - and he even might soon be out of diapers. Not too surprising surprise, after been heavily hinted from first paragraph on. Ok, very short one joke story. ***
A Mother's Heart: A True Bear Story • shortstory by Lisa Tuttle
A fable about a selfish mother, hardworking father and two children, who might rather want to be bears than children. ”Magical realism”, very nice, poetic writing style, but a type of story I hate. Something fantastic happens for no reason at all. **
A Delicate Shade of Kipney • shortstory by Nancy Kress
A spaceship bringing colonists to a new world is wrecked to a almost livable misty planet. The last few surviving colonists try to keep earth’s ”heritage” as precious as before, but the younger generation has been adapting to the new life and hopes to create new, more suitable art styles and customs. Very good, well written story, touching. ****+
They'll Do It Every Time • shortstory by Cam Thornley
Very short shaggy dog story. Stupid and bad even for such. **
African Blues • shortstory by Paula Smith
Spaceship with an alien in labor drops near African village. Black american (a bit helpless) peace corps (or something like that) worker, and a resourceful native self-though midwife/vet help her. Very nice, entertaining story. Pity that the writer has written practically nothing else than this story. ****
The Thrill of Victory • shortstory by Jack C. Haldeman, II
Robots play baseball, or football, or something. Spirit of victory should be important, or something to strive for, or something. It is important to compete, or win, or something. This story is not interesting in the slightest bit, maybe one should care even a bit about sports to appreciate it. **
The Witches of Manhattan • novelette by L. Sprague de Camp
Balloon falls on an island inhabited only by woman. After a narrow escape from death several other deus ex machinas happen and it is revealed that everything happens in a colonized planet, which has forgotten its’ roots. Is just like something from Galaxy magazine in beginning of the 50s. Simplistic, is extremely heavily depending in several coincidences. Simplistic adventure story, not even too well written. **+

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Analog Science Fiction and Fact March 2003

This is issue has also a serial by Rajnar Vajra, Shootout at the Nokai Corral. I didn’t read it from this issue, I have read first part earlier and skimmed through the third part and wasn’t too impressed. As a whole pretty nice issue.
Equalization • novelette by Richard A. Lovett
Everything is equalized for everyone by using mind swapping. E.g athletic with a very competitive mind get a bit weaker body, than someone with less will to win. One day a very competitive persons wakes in a very powerful body, as there is a plan discredit the current system with an individualistic, unbeatable hero. Everything doesn’t go according to the plans, of course. Well written, even exiting story. The system isn’t too logical, and it is hard too see how it could have been created. But the story is very good, anyway, I enjoyed even though it told about sports - usually a no-no for me. ****+
The Human Dress • novelette by David Alexander
An escaping religious dictator hijacks a spaceship where an experimental A.I is been tested. Un-human intelligences are of course something god hates…so A.I and ships human crew must take some, eventually drastic, action. Story starts a bit of nowhere - I don’t know if there are some other stories in the series or not. Could have been bit longer, the main characters weren’t introduced well enough. ***
Persistent Patterns • shortstory by Shane Tourtellotte
New thought patterns are written to brain. Method is tested for criminals, but when one researcher wants to heal his stutter, there are some mainly political complications. Why there are so many complications isn’t really explained, however. Not too bad story, however. ***½
The Pristine Planet • shortstory by Lloyd Biggle, Jr.
IPR agent visits a holiday planet which has faced several catastrophes. He is able to prevent a couple more, but is used by a scrupulous businessman or something. Not very well motivated story, not very significant in any way, pretty boring. **

Monday, November 3, 2008

Analog Science Fiction and Fact April 1993

Pretty "standard" issue. Nothing really bad, but nothing really good, either.

The Invariants of Nature novelette by Charles Sheffield

McAndrew gets himself in bad trouble. Not much of science fictional contents at all, more of an adventure story. As such ok story. ***½
Hit and Run • shortstory by Jerry Oltion
A Mars rover hits something which runs away. When the rover follows the tracks there is a really pissed off mama with some family waiting. Pretty simple premise, nicely written story. Nothing too surprising. ***
Conspiracy Theory • shortstory by Ben Bova
Conspiracy to keep quiet of life on Mars, jungles on Venus and so. Amusing little story, reads like a ”probability zero” story, but is longer than the norm, so isn’t branded as such. ****-
Spoiled Rotten • novelette by Grey Rollins
Pair of detectives, human and alien (with long bendable tongue) solve a kidnapping case. Also not very science fictional story (aside of the alien), but okayish detective story. ***
Squatter's Rights (Part 2 of 2) • serial by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff
Ending isn’t in par with the beginning. Decays to a very predictable story. Aliens have several genetic “keys” by which they are able to find their “legacy” on planet. When it is found, that one “key” is missing, it isn’t too much of a surprise, that humans/human is able to function as a missing key. Oh, surprising. Not. Well written, but the plot isn’t too original. **½

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Analog Science Fiction and Fact - December 2008

Analog gets a new size, not too different from the old one. Pretty poor issue. I haven’t read the Sawyer’s serial yet, waiting for at least one more part before starting.

Misquoting the Star
David Bartell

Asteroid hit destroys earth, and colonies are established to moon to make the survival of the humanity possible. Continues a story I haven’t read - once again something that doesn’t really stand on its’ own. Some totally silly and unbelievable plot points (if there really are only a few hundred humans surviving, I don’t think that screening process would have been so lax that a HIV-positive person would have been able to get through it.) The main characters are irritating, stupid and not too likeable. **
Moby Digital
Joe Schembrie

Moby Dick virtual simulation goes wrong. All the clichés of virtual simulation stories - you can’t get out of the simulation and it may kill you. (Seems pretty silly way to design one…). Haven’t read Moby Dick, haven’t even seen any of the movies. (Probably should some day - if only to find out why Americans are so fascinated with it - the main plot seems quite stupid, telling about extremely stupid main protagonist). Writing ok, but plot isn’t too interesting or entertaining. ***-
Where Away You Fall
Jason Sanford

Communications are done by high floating aerostats instead of satellites, for some fairly poorly defined or explained reasons. Former astronaut is taking care of one aerostat. Not entirely logical story, for some reason more than a bit irritating. ***-
Rick Norwood

Probability Zero story. Not entertaing, not surprising, not enough prob. zero, too preachy. ***-

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Eric Brown: Kethani

110 000 high towers appear out of nowhere evenly spaced around the world. The Kethani have arrived, and they come bringing a gift of immortality for all humans. Everyone who wish can be implanted with a little device which monitors life functions. If that person dies, it “saves status” and calls for a “ferryman” who transports the body to a tower of Kethani. Six months later the former dead is able to return in perfect health in both body and spirit. Of that period the returnee has only vague memories involving living in house surrounded by meadows studying many different things with emphasis on philosophy. At the end of that period everyone is given a choice: To return back to earth and to the one self’s former life, or to go to the stars and help the Kethani in their work. If one chooses the space, there are practically limitless opportunities from exploration to sociology and archeology.
Everyone returning from the death is a better person, even the worst sociopath or dictator is a whole, empathic human being. No-one, not even the returnees has ever knowingly seen any of the Kethani race.

All this just the background of the story. The book tells stories of several people from a small village frequenting the same pub. Stories of how the change in the world affects them and their families and friends. The main character changes in every chapter, with his own problems and tragedies. Not all of the characters get through their stories without dying, but for most people death is just a phase of life. However, not for everyone, as there are people who for religious or other reasons don’t want to have the implant

The real, ultimate motives of the Kethani are left open - there are however a few glimpses that everything might just not be so simple they have told for the humanity, but at least there doesn’t seem to be any sinister plot to destroy the humanity.

This is a good, well written, very enjoyable, enthralling and even moving book. The characters are fascinating and some who you really care about. And there is really a lot of food for a thought to be found. This is one of the best, if not THE best book I have read this year. Something which will be found on my Hugo nominations next winter.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Analog Science Fiction March 1993

Pretty solid issue.
Squatter's Rights (Part 1 of 2) • serial by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff
A Human colony has habited a planet for over twenty years, when a fleet of aliens ships arrive demanding the planet for themselves. Pretty standard first part for a very Analogish serial. Very well written, the plot isn’t one of the most original. Promising start, anyway. ***½
The Worting's Testament • shortstory by Rob Chilson
Humans misunderstand planets original inhabitant’s purpose, and they misunderstand humans' purpose. After all, misunderstandings maybe easy, when it’s normal to slaughter one’s offspring. The story is a ”testament” of an alien. Purposefully irritating style, but nice story. ****-
The Ghost in the Machine • novelette by Grey Rollins
Making films by computer graphics with at least semi self-aware characters. Not entirely logical story, already after 15 year a bit past its’ time. Not too well written, bit stiff. ***-
The Return of the Golden Age • shortstory by Jeffery D. Kooistra
A ”spacetug” driver hijacks his vessel and drives it to the moon. Old fashionable, tries to imitate Heinlein? If it would by _so_ easy to fly to the moon someone would have done it earlier. Predictable, okayish. ***
The Alicia Conspiracy • novelette by Doug Larsen
A recently widowed man goes for ”peace corps” work in 3rd world dictatorship. After he gets over his grief, he is able to plant seed for a better health and future for the people of the land. Good, exiting and moving story. The plan for the better nutrition is a ”bit” too easily achieved, but the story is very good nevertheless. ****

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer

A scientist who was testing his quantum computing device in an alternative reality where Neanderthals survived (and homo sapient died out sometime close to the last ice age) “drops“ to the our world. The idea is excellent, the book is written fairly interestingly, but the quality of the writing isn’t one of the best. Some of the plot points and characters are fairly clichéd. The world of Neanderthals is overtly utopic. No overpopulation, no violence (they are so powerful, that a single strike by them almost always kills, so their culture abhors all violence), no religion, no extinct animals (mammoths walk around in the forests of Canada - to my understanding the reason for their extinctions wasn’t so much hunting by humans as climate change after the ice-age. The human main character is also pretty much a cliché: as an opposing force for a atheist, nonviolent Neanderthal male is a religious woman (who at one point rationalizes her faith by Pascal’s wager. Wasn’t that proved as logically totally unsound in 15th century or something?) who has faced violence (a rape ) conveniently just hours before asked to take part in proving that the visitor really is a Neanderthal. There are couple of more books in this series, haven’t decided yet if they are worth of reading or not. This book is a Hugo-winner - one more proof that the other things beside quality of scincefictional writing (besides this years winner) have an effect to many voters. Of course a Canadian Worldcon gives an award for a Canadian writer…

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Analog Science Fiction December 2002

As a whole very nice issue, the last story is the almost the only one I didn’t like.

Slow Life • novelette by Michael Swanwick
An expedition studying Titan meets very different kind of life.
Good, not entirely no surprising first contact story, well written. ****
Witness • shortstory by Jerry Oltion
When immortality is achieved, the only way to have a child is to have a life willed to you by someone committing suicide. But when that might happen? Another good one, interesting premise. ****
Swap-Out • shortstory by Shane Tourtellotte
When direct brain enhancing is norm, maybe someone wants even more direct approach to be able to compete at work and otherwise. But when it goes too far there may be consequences. Good, but not as good as the first two. Pretty standard addiction story. ***½
Green Light, Red Light • shortstory by Stephen L. Burns
A pair of scientist develop a machine capable of finding fanatics of any sort. But all fanatics are not necessarily terrorist. Thought provoking , interesting story, well writing. Would be very interesting to see aftermath of this technology. ****+
You Gotta See This! • shortstory by Ian Randal Strock
Probability zero story about a prank done by moon miners. Not even entirely impossible, not much of a point in a story anyway. Very much ”meh”. *½
Voices • shortstory by Charles L. Harness
Short story about a story told/playacted by semi self aware play-dolls. Nicely told, even moving story, but not much of a point. **½
The Hunters of Pangaea shortstory by Stephen Baxter
Intelligent, evolving, but ultimately doomed, dinosaurs hunt and follow a pack of diplodocus. Very nice, even exiting story. ****
Generation Gap • novelette by John G. Hemry
Generation ship arrives to target planet. But is social system which is designed for stability even too stable? Moving to the surface of a planet from controlled environment of a space ship is after all something which demands a lot of flexibility. Maybe a bit clichéd, but overall pretty good take on the generation ship genre. ***½
Garbage Day • novelette by Wil McCarthy
Future where there is longevity and perfect health through a matter transplanter system. A kind of a generation gap, or youth rebellion, story. Premise is fairly good, but the storytelling sucked. A LOT of telling what kind of the word is, a lot of idle dialog, but the motivations of characters are left open. Characters were dis-likable. I must confess that I just skimmed after about half way, and even that was a struggle. *

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Analog July/August 2002

Okay issue. Not great, not bad. A lot of stories which continue earlier stories, and which don't always completely work alone.

Unseen Demons
Adam-Troy Castro

An alien has been brutally dismembered by an earthman. A official of central government is called to investigate. But how to have a trial for the guilty, when the alien species doesn’t notice humans or any observers of other alien species, or haven’t even noticed the crime.
Ok story, a bit overlong and some condensing might have been very good. Ending is a bit weak, part of the end reveal was fairly obvious, partly just implausible and strange, unnecessary for the sake of the story (as is the whole backstory of the investigator)
Mammoth Dawn
Kevin J. Anderson and Gregory Benford

Mammoths and other extinct animals have been cloned in a remote research facility by millionaire and his wife. Nutso ecofasists stage a practically military grade attack to kill all the “unnatural” animals. Lots of very implausible fighting ensues, and also half-sad ending intended to open tear ducts. Not too well written, much action, but all of it boring. **-
The Great Prayer Wheel
Rajnar Vajra

Tibetan monk encounters an alien vessel - and a bit of surprise why the vessel was visiting. Okayish story, doesn’t make very great impact to me. **½
Iniquitous Computing
Edward M. Lerner

If ubiquitous computing goes too far…
Short short story, entertaining, funny in its’ own way. ****
Falling Onto Mars
Geoffrey A. Landis

Martian “love” story. Excellent story, though too short. ****+
The Convergence of the Old Mind
Larry Niven

Draco tavern story. Pretty simple, short. Older “civilization” than chirpsithra is gathering, and chirpsithra are recruiting travelers for a visit. Less than average Draco tavern story. **½
A Green Thumb
Tobias S. Buckell

Alternative history, where due to metal shortage, cars and appliances are grown, not build. Teenager really wants to have a car. Another very short, ok story. Not bad, not great. ***
Jack McDevitt

Explorers try to save alien books from destruction after an accident in takeoff. A bit “meh” for this also. Seems like a piece from a larger whole. ***-
Shane Tourtellotte

How much more fun movies would be without spoilers from word of mouth, previous screenings or stupid trailers? Very good story, and an invention, which would be really wonderful. ****
The Lone Granger
Jayge Carr

Aliens kidnap a whole village. A lone women decides to be practically catatonic as she doesn’t want to “co-operate” with the enemy. But is there a way get her out of her self-imposed shell. Good story, but not much (or at all) back-story. The motivations of the aliens are left completely open. ****
The Robot Who Came to Dinner
Ron Goulart

Problem solving / being private investigator might be just a bit harder if you happen to be uploaded to a robot body. Another store where back story is missing, and it doesn’t completely work alone. Nothing special, humor isn’t so funny. ***-
Tiptoe, on a Fence Post
B. W. Clough

What if you are transported from 1912 to 2045? Another story which continues an earlier one - however, this works better as a stand alone piece. Well written, but it is funny to see how the year 2045 already feels like it would be something a few years in the past :-). Not much mention about net, computers or cell phones… ****

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Väärän jäljillä, Leena Lehtolainen

This is detective /police procedural by Leena Lehtolainen. She one of the best writers in that genre in Finland. There isn't English translation, so I am not going to review it in English.

Uusi Maria Kallio romaani. Maria on viime kirjan lopputapahtumien jälkeen jäänyt pois poliisityöstä, mutta kun tarpeeksi merkittävä henkilö kuolee, ja tutkimuksien johtaja ei henkilökohtaisten syiden vuoksi pysty täysipainoiseen työhön, löytää Maria itsensä taas Espoon poliisista. Tällä kertaa kirjan aiheena ovat urheilupiirit, ja ajankohtaisuus on varsin hyvää, jopa huumepoliisin sotkut saavat oman pikkumainintansa. Jos aikaisemmista sarjan kirjoista on pitänyt, pitää kyllä tästäkin. Juoni on todella hyvä, jotenkin kirjoitustyyli ei aivan samaan ehkä yllä kuin joissain aikaisemmissa kirjoissa. Pieni tiivistys ja uudelleen kirjoittaminen olisi ehkä tehnyt hyvää.

"Star Trek" Movie Memories

More memories by Shatner, this time the focus is on Star Trek films. Many others, among them Leonard Nimoy and Nicholas Meyer get their chance to give their insights of events. Other actors beside Nimoy won't get their turn, which isn't too surprising for anyone knowing anything about behind the scenes relationships between the actors. The book is told in nice, self-mocking way, although there is always an undertone "I mock myself, but I am not serious about it - in reality I am excellent actor, director and scriptwriter." Especially this can be seen in everything connected with Star Trek V. There is a lot of explaining about that movie. :-) Everything connected with Roddenberry is also interesting. It seems, that he had really "lost it" by the time they started to make movies. His influence was greatest in the first movie. Apparently it was significant also in Star Trek - Next Generation for first two or three seasons. Does anyone see any connection between those? As a whole this was very interesting book, and worthwhile read.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Galaxy Science Fiction - April 1954

I got a nice pile of old Galaxy magazines from Ebay. I have been reading through them slowly, starting from 1954 volume. My short reviews for issues January to March can be found from Librarything.

This was a quite good issue, none of the stories was horrible, couple were very good.

The Midas Plague
Fredrik Pohl

What if production of goods and energy is so high, that consuming it all is hard work? In this world it is so, and “poor” people must really work to meet their consumption quotas. The poor hero has married a daughter of a rich family, and the new family has trouble to consume everything they have to. Luckily a they found a solution.
Very entertaining, well told story, but a bit overlong. Novelette length would probably been enough. There are some serious problems in the economy described in the story, if you think about it too much - as not only products and services made by robots must be consumed, some services which are produced by humans must be consumed. E.g. the protagonist must take part in the group therapy - where he is treated by a group of psychiatrists. If everyone - or almost everyone - are treated weekly by several psychiatrist, there would be some minor practical problems, especially as there seems to other occupations beside psychiatry. Also, the ending isn’t logical at all: if throwing away products or intentionally destroying them is horrible and not allowed (everything must be really used personally) why it is so different if robots consume products by doing nothing productive? And if almost all production is done by automatic machines, why they can’t produce less - it is not like the unemployment is a major problem in this world. ****-
Limiting factor
Theodore R. Cogswell

There has been a mutation, and some people have gotten powerful psi-like powers, enabling them to fly or pilot ftl-spaceships to another worlds. They plan to leave ordinary people on their own, but on the way the encounter a polite gentleman dressed to suit floating in front of them in space. Who and why? Small, nice story, writing is adequate. ***+
Hands off
Robert Sheckley

Human criminals try to capture nonviolent alien’s nice, powerful spaceship. However, they get a lot more than they bargained for… Very good, classic story. Probably best story in this good issue. *****-
Michael Shaara

Life story of a man who wasn’t able to take brain augmentation like most at his time, and so retains his original creativity unlike the modified humans. Ending goes to unexpected direction - in bad way - there were no logical reason for it, and it didn’t suit the story. Also, in the story practically everything is told, not shown. Nothing special, weakest in the ‘zine. **
Black Charlie
Gordon R. Dickson

Interplanetary art dealer meets alien “artist”, but isn’t impressed by the quality of his works. A few years later he visit’s the same planet again, and now the situation of the artist has changed. He is moved deeply, and gets one work. Good, well written, moving story. ***½
Special Delivery
Damon Knight

Expecting mother starts to communicate with the fetus which slowly gains major influence in her life. Pretty well written, but very much fifties story. Doesn’t hurt the story as much it might, as the story happens in the fifties, afterall. The resolution isn’t much of a surprise. But the most disturbing thing of the story (in hindsight from the present time) is that the pregnant mother smokes all the time, and that is something taken as granted, and it is not something that is intended to give impression of being bad mother or something. ***½

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Accelerando by Charles Stross

A collection of closely linked novellas. The central theme of the stories is a approaching, and in the later stories, passing technological singularity. The book follows one very special family through three generations, more or less. The real central character who is a major influence (at least behind the scenes) in most of the stories is a somewhat of a surprise, and is revealed only somewhere through the halfway of the book. That character is also by far the most interesting one in the book, even though its’ significance might be hard to recognize, or even believe after a first few stories.

By definition what happens after the singularity can not be known. The stories and characters are not exactly taking part of the singularity, but rather they are close to it, or it could be said that they are riding on the wake of it. The real postsingularity beings are mainly hinted at, and it/they are something with incomprehensive motivations and actions even for main characters who are almost post singularity beings themselves, they are “evil offspring” of humanity, who are slowly - or not so slowly - dismantling the whole solar system and changing its’ total mass to the computronium, to all powerful microprocessors. The stories grow more chaotic story by story, as the speed of change increases by the passing time, and it hard, or even impossible to tell which events happen in the “real world” and which are computer simulation of the real world. However, that distinction has little meaning for story, even less for the characters in the story. There are enough ideas and new concepts for several books. The readability suffers a bit in some stories due to chaotic manner of concepts and change. However, the book is almost always entertaining and intriguing, well worth of read.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Norman Spinrad - Iron dream

Read as a Finnish translation - an overview in finnish is included.

A book Hitler might well have written if he really had moved to US.
Not one of the most uplifting reading experiences I have had. This was a book I had to read in pieces as the overtly racists attitudes and “Tom of Finland” style of latent gay porn (every other sentence describes well fitting, handsome uniforms, and blond handsome young men marching in them). Writing was also intentionally bad and clumsy, and larger doses of it at one time were a bit hard to for that reason, also. The most interesting part of the book was postscript written by “literature professor”. This not a book which can be enjoyed (if you really enjoy the contents of this book, I wholeheartedly recommend contacting the nearest psychiatrist - sooner rather than later. ) but nevertheless it is very interesting read as a whole.

Kirja jollaisen Hitler olisi hyvinkin voinut kirjoittaa mikäli olisi muuttanut Yhdysvaltoihin. Ei mikään piristävä lukukokemus, kirja piti lukea paloissa, kun mutanttien halveksunta ja piilohomous jatkuvine mainintoineen upeista, ryhdikkäistä, uniformuista alkoi välillä pursua korvistakin ulos - tuntui, että kirjassa ei ollut yhtäkään lausetta jossa jompaakumpaa - mieluummin molempia - ei olisi korostettu. Kirjoitustyyli oli myös tahallisen kömpelöä, joka sekin suurina annoksia pyrki aavistuksen rasittamaan. Joistain arvosteluista olin saanut sen käsityksen, että Hitlerin “kirja” olisi ollut vain osa kokonaisuutta, jonkinlaisen kehyskertomuksen sisällä, joten pieni yllätys oli, että loppusanoja lukuun ottamatta muuta sisältöä ei sitten löytynytkään. Kirjallisuustutkijan loppusanat olivatkin ne kaikkein kiinnostavin osa koko kirjaa. Tämä kirja ei ole ihan heti uudelleen luettavien listalla, mutta on kyllä yleissivistykseen kuuluva kaikille sci/fantasia-faneille.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Analog November 2008

Average issue. I haven’t yet read the serial written by Robert J. Sawyer (Wake), as I am waiting for at least one or two more installments before starting on it.

64 • Greenwich Nasty Time • novelette by Carl Frederick
An experiment on quantum mechanics and multiworld theory goes wrong.
Good, exiting story. ****-

81 • Cold Fire • shortstory by Alan Dean Foster
A man lost in the artic night is rescued by a trapper who lives with his teenage daughter. Short, nice ”mood” piece. Not too much happens, but nice story anyway. Makes one wish a bit more. ***+

90 • Bug Eyes • shortstory by Richard A. Lovett
Io exploratory rover sees a bug eyed monster. Someone has obviously hacked the data stream - or something. Also nice, entertaining simple story. ***½

99 • Mea Culpa • shortstory by Stephen L. Burns
Writing by using doping. Short short, told as a letter to the editor. Not much of a point, after all. **

106 • Re\Creation • shortstory by Oz Drummond
Antics in the virtual world. A bit jumpy, a bit clichéd story. Not much happens. Writing is fine, but the plot is quite lacking with no real surprises. **

116 • Unburning Alexandria • novelette by Paul Levinson
Trying to save scrolls from Alexandria’s library - and trying to find a cure for Socrates who is apparently somehow, for some reason, somehow been moved a few hundred years to the future. Story doesn’t give enough back-story - it is based to a novel published earlier. It doesn’t really stand on its’ own, there are too many characters for a shortish novella, and it is very hard to understand the motivations of the characters without any prior knowledge of them. Also the idea that a cure for a brain disorder of Socrate’s (which can’t apparently be cured by future medicine) might be found from some ancient scroll is by far more unlikely than time travel itself. **

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Analog Science Fiction December 2004

One of the less good issues.
• 8 • Baby on Board • novella by Kenneth Brady
Man hijacks SUVs and drives cross-country with them, to show AIs in those cars what that kind of cars are really meant to do. He is also running a kind of net site for gaming - meant mainly for car AI:s. Quite strange and illogical story. I can’t think any reason why someone would equip cars with self-conscious AI, or would want their cars to speak - as seems to be a norm in this world.. I had to give up at about half way. Writing was not too good, plot stank, I found myself really hating the car stealing, holier than you, extremely unlikeable main character, who is supposed to be a conservationist, but likes SUVs. *+

• 48 • Fruitcake Genome • shortstory by Carl Fredrick
A SETI scientist finds signal from space that seem artificial. He tries to convince his superior that transposing the signal to sound might be useful. It sounds like music - but so does fruit fly genome he uses as comparison when testing method used for sound transposition. ***½
• 56 • The Bambi Project • shortstory by Grey Rollins
Bambis - or at least gene modified deer - strike back. Fun little story. Hunters get what they ask for. ****
• 61 • The Test • [Probability Zero] • shortfiction by Kevin Levites
Aliens take Randi^H^H^H^H^H Mystical Michael challenge. OK, not one of the best prob zero stories. ***
• 68 • Savant Songs • shortstory by Brenda Cooper
AI and its’ owner trying to contact other dimension. A bit confusing, not engaging. **
• 78 • Small Moments in Time • shortstory by John G. Hemry
A timetravel story. A time traveller collecting seed samples from 1918 finds an another time traveller, who seems to be spreading Spanish Influenza. Pretty good, well told story, not too fresh, but well worth reading. ***½
• 90 • A Plague of Ruins • novelette by Joe Schembrie
A group is studying a planet where civilization was destroyed for unknown reason a few millennia ago. Suddenly their technology starts to fail. Too bad there are a lot of extremely ferocious cat-like animals who just love to have nice snack every once a while. Good story, could have been even a bit longer, ends fairly easily, after all. ****-
• 110 • What Wise Men Seek • novelette by Mike Moscoe
Missionaries are trying to make contact to very strange aliens, whose customs are poorly understood, and who take any insult with bloody seriousness. As such I am heavily biased against missionary work, but this is after all fairly good story. Even a bit longer one could have been possible. ***½

My reading diary

I have kept a reading diary in Librarything since January this year. I am transferring it to blogger, as I want more variety and flexibility. I might also comment some movies, TV-series episodes and whatever comes to my mind.