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

Galaxy Science Fiction, January 1956

A pretty bad issue, with mostly mediocre stories that were past their time.

Brightside Crossing • novelette by Alan E. Nourse
A group tries to cross to sun side of Mercurius while it is closest to the sun. An old-timer, who once attempted the same thing, tries to warn them and tell his story. It was very bad (and apparently there was on psychological screen or training whatsoever before the trip). But it is so glorious and manly and brave that he wants to take part in the next attempt, also. A pretty standard adventure story, with some stupid overtones. ***
The Dwindling Years • short story by Lester del Rey
Immortality treatments have been in used for a while. A man goes for his treatment and it turns out that there is a limit for how many treatments can be done for one person and he is one of the first people to reach the limit. A lot of discussion and pondering, but family (which had been partly forgotten) comes first. The writing was okay, but some condensing would have been welcome. ***-
Junior • short story by Robert Abernathy
Aliens who resemble sea anemones discus their son, who is still carefree and swimming around. They think that it is high time that he finds a nice rock, decorate it so that it would catch a nice girl and settle down on the rock for rest of his life. But he has a plan… He assembles a platform on wheels so that he isn’t confined to one place. A pretty stupid story, but I have read worse... ***-
The Body • short story by Robert Sheckley
A man who has been critically ill was transferred to a dog’s body. There are some adjustments needed for everyone involved. A pretty stupid and short story, but the idea couldn’t have carried anything longer, but there was some humor to be found. ***
The Gravity Business • novelette by James E. Gunn
A family of four generations (only men are counted, apparently there are no daughters in the family and wives apparently don’t count) is stranded on the planet. The spaceship runs on some sort of a gravity drive, which was invented by the grandfather of the family. Somehow, he managed to lose the family fortune and now the entire family is looking for metals for other solar systems. One planet looks very promising, but when they land on it, the gravity drive stops working. There is one very strange looking alien on the planet, though. A really, really bad story with vast, vast amount of discussion of the intricacies of the imaginary gravity drive. Who cares? *½
The Snare • short story by Richard R. Smith
A group of explorers finds an alien probe on the moon. It locks down, and leaves for the alien’s home planet. An AI informs them where they are heading and tells them that there is no way to reverse the course. For some reason, the humans are very reluctant to go to meet the aliens (what a chance that would be!). Is there a way to get back to the moon? The writing was at best average; the plot was on the same level than the writing.**½

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Qiu Xiaolong: Musta sydän (When Red is Black)

Kolmas osa sarjaa, joka kertoo kiinalaisen poliisipäällikön tutkimuksista. Tällä kertaa tutkimuksia hoitaa pääosin Chen Cao:n alainen, Yu, kun poliisipäällikkö itse on lomalla. Häntä on pyydetty kääntämään uuden kauppakeskusalueen liiketoimintasuunnitelmaa niin, että se vetoaisi ulkomaisiin sijoittajiin. Palkkio, mikä hänelle on työstä luvattu, on ruhtinaallinen, niin suuri, että Chen Cao epäilee jopa jonkinasteista lahjontaa. Mutta palkkio on tosiaan suuri ja työ vaikuttaa niin kiinnostavalta, että Chen päättää hyväksyä sen. Avukseen Chen saa nuoren kauniin naisen, “sihteerikön”, joka oikeasti osaa auttaa sekä käännöstyössä, että myöhemmin jopa hiukan poliisityössä.
Aika tavanomaisessa usean perheen asuntokompleksissa asunut nainen on tapettu. Nainen on kirjoittanut kirjan, joka kertoo kulttuurivallankumouksen ajasta: kahden jälleenkoulutusleirille joutuneen ihmisen rakkaustarinan. Kirja ei mitenkään erityisen kummallinen ollut eikä iso menestys kotimaassa, mutta kun se oli saanut jonkin verran kuuluisuutta ulkomailla ja kun se kertoi Kiinan nykyhallinnolle melko kiusallisesta ajanjaksosta, kirjailija oli päätynyt toisinajattelijoiden listalle. Toisinajattelijan selvittämätön kuolema on hallinnolle kovin epämukava asia, koska se saattaa herättää ikävää huomioita ulkomailla, joten rikos pitää ratkaista pikimmiten - tai ainakin joku syyllinen pitää saada teosta pidätettyä. Koska Chen on lomalla, hänen alaisensa, Yu aloittaa murhatutkimukset, vaikka kokee olevansa hiukan liian suuren tehtävän edessä.

Kirja on enemmän viehättävää kulttuurin kuvausta dekkaria. Murhajuoni on melko pienessä osassa, vaan tärkeämpää on arkipäivän, arkiolojen kuvaus ja politiikan vaikutus lähes kaikkeen, sekä kulttuurivallankumouksen varjo vielä kymmeniä vuosia sen tapahtumisen jälkeen. Erittäin tärkeää kirjassa on myös ruoka, sitä kuvillaan erittäin tarkkaan, sitä mietitään ja siitä puhutaan. Myös runous - osaltaan siksikin, että murhattu nainen oli ollut myös runoilija - on kirjassa tärkeässä osassa ja kerronnassa on mukana useampia kiinalaisia runoja. EI ehkä ihan samalla tasolla kuin sarjan ensimmäiset kirjat, mutta hyvä ja lukemisen arvoinen teos oli joka tapauksessa kyseessä.

A detective novel which happens in communist China. A female author of a controversial book, which tells a love story of two people living at a re-education camp during Mao’s Cultural Revolution has been killed. As it is embarrassing for the authorities, a guilty person must be found fast. Or at least someone must be arrested for the crime. The book is more about the culture, food, and poetry than about the crime. A very nice story, but perhaps not at the same level as the two earlier parts of the series.

332 s.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Haruki Murakami: Suuri lammasseikkailu

An early book by Murakami, which has many themes of his later books. There is some fairly nice magical realism, but the book is not on the same level as some of the later works. The third part of a trilogy (which was not stated in the Finnish version of the book), which probably explains a few peculiarities.

Pienessä mainostoimistossa työskentelevä mies, joka on äskettäin eronnut, tutustuu nuoreen naiseen, jolla on maailman ihanimmat korvat. Korvat peitossa hän on varsin keskinkertainen, mutta paljastaessaan korvansa kaikki ympärillä pysähtyvät eivätkä voi tehdä muuta kuin katsella häntä. Kertoja on saanut vanhalta ystävältään, ”Rotalta”, hiukan suttuisen valokuvan, joka esittää lampaita niityllä. Ystävä toivoo, että mies käyttäisi kuvaa jossain, niin että se näkyisi julkisuudessa. Kun sopiva tilanne tulee, hän käyttääkin valokuvaa jonkin tavanomaisen mainoksen taustana. Tuota pikaa häneen ottaa yhteyttä salaperäinen pohatta, joka tiettävästi hallitsee Japanin oikeistoa ja myös koko maan mainosmaailmaa. Hän tekee tarjouksen josta on vaikea kieltäytyä: mainos pitää vetää pois, ja miehen on löydettävä kuvassa näkyvä, erikoinen, vähän muista poikkeava, lammas. Jos näin ei käy, hän tuhoaa pienen mainostoimiston ja pitää huolta, että sen osakkaat eivät saa mitään työtä mistään. Jos taas ehdot toteutuvat, palkkio tulee olemaan suuri. Siinä ei kovin suurta valinnanmahdollisuutta jää; ja kertoja lähtee kauniskorvaisen tyttöystävänsä kanssa omituiselle etsintäretkelle.
Murakamin varsin varhainen teos, jossa on yllättävän monia samoja teemoja kuin myöhemmissä kirjoissa. Erikoista, aavistuksen tunneköyhää rakkautta, suuri tila/kartano eristyneessä paikassa, johtava, salaperäinen henkilö, joka ehkä on osittain mystisen voiman hallinnassa. Juoni on murakamimaisen polveileva ja outo ja loppua kohden mystiikkaa saa enemmän ja enemmän tilaa kerronnassa.
Jälkikäteen minulle selvisi, että kirja on kolmas osa löyhää sarjaa. Tämä ehkä selittänee erittäin irralliselta vaikuttaneen esinäytöksen, jossa päähenkilö käy vuosia sitten tunteneensa nuoren naisen hautajaisissa, sekä myös sen mistä päähenkilö tuntee Rotan (yhtäkään kirjan henkilöä ei mainita nimellä, muutama, kuten Rotta, mainitaan lempinimellä), miehen joka lähetti lammaskuvan. Kirja oli hyvä, mutta ei ehkä aivan samaa tasoa kuin Murakamin myöhemmän teokset. Tässä kirjassa muuten tupakoidaan ihan suunnattoman paljon, niin paljon että kiinnitti huomiota.

352 s.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Farmer in the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein

Heinlein’s juvenile story, which won the retro Hugo for 1950. It tells the story of a Boy Scout who moves with his father and his new wife to the moon of Jupiter, which has been terraformed and is available for farming. There are several adventures and all - or most - of them end well (apparently everything significant that happens on the moon, happens to him). In the end, he decides that there is nothing better than frontier life and he doesn’t even return to Earth to finalize his training. I wonder why this won the retro-Hugo? This is very much a young boy’s book, based on some extremely dated attitudes and with strange faults. In the colony, the food is very cheap and everything else is extremely expensive, but still, everyone seems to want to get a farm of their own, which requires a lot of hard labor. Why? Wouldn’t it be much easier and more profitable to start to producing consumer goods? The main character apparently is supposed to be about 15-16, but he behaves mostly like a 12-year-old, especially in the beginning. Also, apparently, the only possible answer to population increase is war. Birth control anyone? Well, that might have been a tad sensitive a subject for a book meant for young boys in 1950. Not one of Heinlein’s best – and certainly not one of the Hugo-winners. For example, The Dying Earth by Jack Vance would have been a nominee… maybe the voters didn’t read the books, but went by the more familiar name.

224 pp

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Dennis E. Taylor: All These Worlds (Bobiverse #3) by

The third and final part of the series. “Bob” was a nerd who died in a car accident and was later revived as an intelligence in von Neumann probes. He has replicated himself several times, as the tasks he/they have faced have been major: humanity was facing extinction after the final war. There was a new, emerging sentient race on another planet, also facing extinction from natural causes. And there was a small matter of a space-faring, ruthless alien race, which was destroying solar systems for metal and using viable ecosystems for food. This is the final book of the series and the problems were mostly solved. The Bobs have been able to develop new techniques to an almost ridiculous level - including faster-than-light communication with FTL “internet” (“bobnet”), practically unlimited energy and even the capability to turn stars to novas. Luckily, they are the good guys... even if some of them are getting bored with being in the service of humanity. More of the same than the earlier parts: an entertaining, easily readable and fun book. Nice reading for lunch breaks and commutes.

260 pp