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.