Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Vesa Sisättö: Tuhansien mokien maa - Tunaroinnin Suomen historia

Pretty fun essays of the biggest mistakes in Finnish history. The first is about how some extremely stupid forefathers and –mothers came to this dark and cold country. The others are more recent but most fun – or at least entertainingly presented.

Otsikon mukaisesti Suomen historian suurimmat erehdykset viihdyttävästi kirjoitettuna, alkaen siitä kuka kumma ajattelit että tänne pohjoiseen pimeään olisi hyvä idea muuttaa. Sävy kertomuksissa on mukavan kevyen ironinen. Osa mokista on todella äärimmäisen surkuhupaisia, ja niin uskomattomia että tarinana kukaan ei niitä uskoisi. Älyttömämmästä päästä on tarina suomalaisista, jotka yrittivät toimittaa aseita Englannista Venäjän vallankumouksellisille ja jotka olivat varustautuneet hienoilla peitehenkilöllisyyksillä ja jopa hankkineet jonkun esittämään laivan omistajaa, joka mukamas on vain huvimatkalla Itämerellä. Kaikki suunnitelmat menevät pieleen, kun laivalla sattuu olemaan reilu varasto alkoholia. Koko porukka ryyppää siinä määrin, että pahimmillaan on harhaisia ja lopulta yrittävät upottaa laivansa tullia pelätessään, eivät onnistu edes siinä. Yksi koko maan talouden kannalta ikävämmästä päästä on tarina Nokiasta, joka menetti mahdollisuutensa sisäisen mokailun vuoksi. Tarinassa ei ollut mainintaa Nokian aikaansa edellä olevista nettitableteista (esim N800), joissa oli muuten kaikki tarvittavat ominaisuudet (ajallensa hyvä kosketusnäyttö, kohtuullinen käyttöjärjestelmä, wlan jne) mutta jostain täydellisen käsittämättömästä syystä ei ollut puhelinominaisuutta. Siinä olisi ollut IPhonen etukäteen tappaja jos joku, mutta se oli eri osaston tuottama kuin puhelimet, eikä ylin johto antanut lupaa puhelinominaisuuksiin. Käsittämätöntä. Kirjaan palatakseni ihan viihdyttävä Hesarin ilmaiskirja kumminkin.

356 s.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, January-February 2018

A pretty nice issue with some very good stories. There seems to be a light theme of artificial intelligence running through some of the stories.

The Journeyman: Through Madness Gap, Michael F. Flynn, Novelette
Continuing from an earlier story. Two friends work as mercenaries, and train troops for an upcoming battle. There is a pass between mountains which would enable a more efficient troop deployment, but the pass is supposedly cursed. There is a lot of banter between characters, but little science fictional or fantasy content until the end. The story belongs to a subgenre I am not a fan of - a colony world which has fallen to medieval level. I haven’t been a great fan of any other installments in this series, and I didn’t really care for this one either. Solid writing, though. ***
Hobson’s Choices, Mary A. Turzillo, Short Story
A family moves to a new housing complex, Goodenought Housing, which promises satisfaction through offering fewer choices - in everything. Why would you need several different car brands, if you can choose from five different good enough ones? That describes the philosophy in everything. A nice, pretty amusing story. ***½
Ten and Ten, Alan Dean Foster, Short Story
A scientist tries to teach sign language to a cuttlefish, with very poor results. Her grant is running out, as is the short lifespan of the fish. A well-written story, but it is too short and the main point was lacking. ***
One to Watch, Andrew Barton, Short Story
An expedition to a tiny moon finds something that appears to be a relic of another spacefaring species. There is a short period when the leader of the expedition thinks about suppressing the find for some philosophical, but stupid reasons. A short and fairly stupid story. **
Home On the Free Range, Holly Schofield, Short Story
People are farming on a new colony planet. They have invested heavily in their farm, and if there is trouble they could lose everything. When all seasons last several Earth years, and apparently there have been no pre-colonazation studies done at all - unbelievably stupid - there is a good chance of problems. Writing and even plotting was fairly good, but the stupidity was a bit too much: surely there would be observations even for one local year before bringing in the colonists? ***+
Endless City, David Gerrold, Novelette
Someone comes to see a detective in a virtual world. She wants that the detective solves a murder – hers - happening in the real world at the same time. The murder turns out to be very gruesome and she turns out to be a he – just the avatar was female. The murderer must have had extreme skill to be able to do what he did, and it may even be that the one who tries to solve the murder is in danger. A very good sci-fi detective story, with good writing and an interesting spin. ****-
When the Aliens Stop To Bottle, Ian Watson, Short Story
Totally invincible aliens have arrived and invaded Earth. All weapons stopped working, missiles imploded, and every country surrendered. Except North-Korea, which doesn’t exist anymore. South-Korea now has a border with China. The aliens capture and bottle people. What is going on and why? A pretty good story with only partial answers. ***+
Two Point Three Children, Marissa Lingen, Short Story
Parents have a custody battle of their AI child. There are accusations of neglect and so on, but there are some choices which are possible for AIs, but not for real children. A pretty good story, but too short. ***
Air Gap, Eric Cline, Short Story
Someone is going to a compound with ancient 21st century technology. Cars run by internal combustion and weapons are firing actual bullets! Everything is behind extremely high-class security, but without any computers. There are a few surprises. An excellent story. ****½
The Dissonant Note, Jeremiah Tolbert, Short Story
Sisterhood of AIs, or descendants of uploaded persons, are studying a planet. Everyone is a copy of her mother, but there is some variance thrown in. One “low-level” daughter aspires for more and conspires to get involved in more interesting research. An OK story, but the backstory might have been more detailed. It wasn’t easy to get into it.***-
Blurred Lives, Adam-Troy Castro, Novella
Continuing from an earlier story. two high-class spies, a man and a woman, travel together to try and find some of their former employers, as they want revenge for a few things they have done. The spies have a strange love-hate - almost sadomasochistic - relationship. They find one such man, who seems to perform cruel scientific experiments on people. He is dying from old age and might be willing to give the names of the people at a higher level. But there is a challenge before that. A fairly good story, but not as good as the previous instalment. I had a hard time understanding the motivations of the characters, especially the female’s. The writing was pretty good. ***½

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth) by N. K. Jemisin

The third and final part of the series, where practically all secrets are revealed and there is closure for the most of the characters. The book pretty much continues from where the second part ended.

Essun has been unconscious since the cataclysmic events of the former part. When she awakes, she finds that her other arm has turned to stone. Nassum, Essun’s daughter, is also recovering from both the mental and physical stress of turning her abusive father to stone. The third story presented in the book happens thousands of years earlier, before the “seasons” (catastrophic events happening every few decades, which destroy pretty much everything). That story tells why the seasons started. All three plot lines are followed in alternating chapters until they eventually more or less converge.

The book was pretty good, better than the middle part - as could be expected. The writing was excellent and engaging. A lot was happening in the book, but the beginning might still have been a bit tighter. All in all, an excellent trilogy which will most likely do an unprecedented feat: it will win a Hugo-award with all its parts; most likely it won't be the last one on my voting list, either. The mix of fantasy and science fiction was interesting, even though some of the fantasy tropes were slightly far-fetched. Mother Earth ISN’T a metaphor in this book - and she/he isn’t benevolent, but she has very good reason to be angry with humanity. For some reason, those parts were less annoying than they were in the second part of series; I had probably gotten used to them already. A very good and emotionally moving book.

464 pp.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Kate Atkinson: Kaikkein vähäpätöisin asia (One Good Turn)

A book which portrayed itself as a mystery, but was more of a literary kind of book after all. The story has a large assortment of different characters, and it takes its time to introduce them all. Eventually, there is a dead body, and even a second one, but how is everything connected? There was fairly good writing, but the plot was a bit disjointed and depended on several coincidences.

Kirja, joka oli olevinaan dekkari, mutta todellisuudessa olikin oikeastaan jotain ihan muuta. Kirjasta kyllä löytyy murhakin, mutta se oli oikeastaan aivan loppuosaa lukuun ottamatta enemmänkin enemmän vain taustaa tapahtumille. Kirjan alussa esiteltiin monilukuinen joukko erilaisia enemmän tai vähemmän erikoisia henkilöhahmoja. Näiden hahmojen elämää seurattiin sitten luku luvulta, ilman että oikein mitään selkeää yhteyttä vaikutti olevan kenenkään välillä. Kirjan tapahtumat alkoivat tieraivokohtauksesta, jossa pikku kolarin jälkeen yksi päähenkilöistä hakattiin sairaalakuntoon. Pahoinpitelyn lopetti pikkusieviä dekkareita kirjoittanut kirjailija heittämällä kannettavan tietokoneensa pahoinpitelijään, jolloin tämä lopetti ja joutui pakenemaan. Mutta miten hämäräperäinen rakastajattarensa luona sydänkohtauksen saanut kiinteistöpohatta liittyy tarinaan ja miten merestä kellumasta löytynyt kuollut tyttö liittyy muihin juonen säikeisiin?

Kirja oli etenkin alkupuolella melkoisen sekava suuren henkilömäärän myötä eikä aina ollut kovin helppoa ymmärtää mitä tapahtuu. Loppua kohti kerronta tuntui jäntevöityvän ja varsinainen juoni tuli vähitellen esiin. Kirjan alku tosiaan koostui enemmän henkilöhahmojen esittelystä ja kun hahmoja oli paljon niin sivuja tähän kului.

Kirja ei mitään suurta ihastusta minussa oikeastaan herättänyt ja jäi osittain pettymykseksi. En ehkä aivan heti saman kirjailijan muita kirjoja ole lukemassa, mutta ei se mahdotontakaan ole – ei tämä kuitenkaan mitenkään aivan huono kirja ei ollut ja ehkä jos sitä ei dekkarina olisi aluksi alkanut lukea niin vaikutelma kokonaisuudesta olisi saattanut olla toisenlainen. Kielellisesti teksti oli kumminkin varsin hienoa, juonikin oli ihan hyvä, joskin aika monen sattuman varassa lepäävä.

389 s.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

An old classic, which I hadn’t read before. I am familiar with it from several TV productions. Is there any long running TV series which hasn’t had an episode modelled on this story? The basic story is probably familiar to everyone: the stingy and sour businessman, Ebenezer Scrooge, is visited by three ghosts during Christmas Eve and naturally abandons his selfish ways. The book was read for the book club as appropriate Christmastime reading. I read the book in English, as the freely available Finnish translation felt pretty archaic. The book was written in quaint, wonderful old language, but was pretty easy to read at the same time. I read a fair amount of Dickens in my teens, and if I had time I probably should re-read some of the classics. As a whole, very interesting (on many levels – from the language, historic and basic knowledge points of view) read, which suited the season well.

93 pp.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Brandon Sanderson: Viimeinen valtakunta (Mistborn: The Final Empire)

This is the first book by Brandon Sanderson which I have read. I have enjoyed some of his short fiction, and I also liked this book. The beginning – or rather the middle part - was slightly slow, but the end was anything but slow. (I had to read the last hundred pages in one sitting.) The “end solution” was slightly too easy and was based on a very unlikely event. Also, the romance subplot was not very believable; or necessary. Nevertheless, I might be “forced” to read the second part someday.

Ensimmäinen Brandon Sandersonin kirjoittama kokonainen kirja, mitä olen lukenut. Muutamia hänen Hugo –ehdokkaana olleista novelleistaan olen aikaisemmin lukenut ja niistä olen pitänyt. Tämän kirjan huomasin Worldconissa päätöspäivänä myynnissä aika mukavalla alennuksella ja kun olin nähnyt siitä positiivisia arvioita, niin kirja tarttui mukaan.

Kirja tapahtuu maailmassa, jota vallitsee käytännössä jumalaksi noussut ihminen, loordihallitsija, joka on tarinan mukaan joskus vuosisatoja sitten pelastanut maailman joltain koko sen olemassaolon vaarantaneelta uhalta. Samalla hän on saanut itselleen valtavat voimat ja käytännössä kuolemattomuuden. Ikävä vain, että tämä johtaja on ilmeisen piittaamaton ihmisistä ja hallitsee maailmaa armottomalla tavalla. Suuri osa ihmisistä on käytännössä orjia, joiden hengellä ei ole mitään arvoa aatelisten oikkujen edessä. Ja aatelisetkaan eivät ole turvassa jos mitenkään asettuvat loordihallitsijan tielle.

Vin on nuori tyttö, joka kuuluu varaskoplaan. Hän on saanut olla melko rauhassa eikä ole tullut kovin pahasti pahoinpidellyksi kovinkaan usein, koska hänellä on kyky vaikuttaa lievästi ihmisten ajatuksiin. Kopla yrittää hiukan liian suurta keikkaa ja kiinnittää itseensä vääränlaista huomioita. Tätä ennen Vin on tutustunut Kelsieriin, salaperäiseen mieheen, joka on suunnittelemassa kapinan aloittamista ja Lordihallitsijan vallasta syöksemistä. Mutta miten kuolemattoman voittaminen olisi mitenkään mahdollista? Vin saa myös tietää, että se pieni taikuus, mitä hän tähän asti on pystynyt käyttämään, on vain kalpea aavistus siitä, mihin taikuus oikeasti kykenee. Kirjan taikajärjestelmä on kiinnostava ja perustuu nieltyjen metallihiukkasten “polttamiseen” - kun metalli loppuu, niin taikuus loppuu. Eri metallit saavat aikaan erilaisia vaikutuksia, ja taikuuden hallitseminen täydellisesti vaatii runsaasti harjoittelua, ja vain hyvin harvat ja aatelisia sukujuuria omaavat henkilöt pystyvät edes rajalliseen taidon hallintaan. Vin osoittautuu poikkeuksellisen taitavaksi taikuuden, allomantian, taitajaksi. Hänellä olisi oma tärkeä osuus Kelsierin suunnitelmassa, mutta kun Vin on aina tullut jätetyksi ja petetyksi, voiko hän ikinä enää luottaa kehenkään?

Kirja oli kovin paksu ja ehkä paikoitellen siinä olisi voinut olla hiukan tiivistämisen varaa. Erittäin miellyttävää oli, että vaikka kirja on sarjan ensimmäinen osa, se toimi oikein hyvin itsenäisenä teoksena ja juoni ei jäänyt ainakaan pahasti kesken, vaikka pientä petausta jatko-osaan siinä olikin. Vielä siinä noin ⅚ ennen loppua tuntui siltä, että tarinaa ei mitenkään voida saada järkevästi päätökseen tässä kirjassa. Tähän mennessä tapahtumien tahti ollut ollut varsin verkkainen, mutta tämä loppu olikin sitten ihan täynnä toimintaa. Nämä viimeiset reilu sata sivu oli ihan pakko lukea yhdellä kertaa loppuun, sen verran nopeasti tapahtumat yllättäen alkoivat vyöryä. Loppuratkaisu oli sitten ehkä hiukan liian “helppo” ja oikeastaan pohjautui epätodennäköiseen sattumaan. Myös romanttinen alajuoni oli melkoisen epäuskottava ja ehkä ainakin jossain määrin tarpeeton. Joka tapauksessa kirjasta jäi siinä määrin positiivinen kuva, että jossain vaiheessa ehkä niitä jatko-osiakin pitää hankkia luettavaksi.

608 s.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Petri Pietiläinen: Koirien maailmanhistoria

A pretty comprehensive book about dogs as human companions (and in other uses, up to and including, as meat animals) through the ages. Not a single picture, which is pretty strange and makes the book heavy to read.

Hesarin tilaajien ilmaisena kirjana luettu teos. Kirja kertoo koirien tarinan ihmisten kumppanina halki historian. Alkupuoli on aikamoista viitteiden, nimien ja pikkufaktojen vyörytystä, loppupuolella päästään hiukan enemmän filosofistyyppisiin pohdintoihin. Kokonaisuutena kirja oli kiinnostava, joskin tässä muodossa aika raskaslukuinen. Täysin käsittämätöntä, että kirjassa, joka laajalti kuvailee taidetta, kirjallisuutta ja erilaisia koirarotuja ei ole ainoatakaan kuvaa. Jonkin verran piti lukiessa googlailla, mutta se ei vastannut sitä, että kuvat olisivat olleet valmiiksi kirjassa. En tiedä, onko se ”oikeakin” kirja yhtä heikosti suunniteltu, vai liittyikö kuvattomuus vain ekirja-versioon, mutta vaikka Hesarin kirjojen lukuohjelma on ylivoimaisesti heikoin lukuohjelma mitä iPadissä olen ikinä käyttänyt, niin luulisi sen sentään kuvituksen pystyvän näyttämään. Mielenkiintoista tietoa kirjassa kuitenkin oli eikä lukeminen kaduta.

344 s.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Unidentified Funny Objects 6 edited by Alex Shvartsman

A clection of humourous stories. Mostly fairly good, just suitable for reading from phone during lunch breaks.

A Game of Goblins • short fiction by Jim C. Hines
The Goblin stories meet Game of Thrones. The leader of the goblins is asked/forced to help humans in a minor matter of deciding who will sit on the onyx throne. To do that, she must get married to a human (and survive the wedding, as weddings apparently can be very dangerous.) and hope that the bloody brunch doesn't happen again. A very fun story where Golaka, the goblin chieftess, and cook, shows which is the more clever (and ruthless) race. ****+
The Breakdown of Parasite/Host Relationship • short fiction by Paul R. Hardy
Two people share the same body: a bit anal human and a bit sloppy parasitic alien. The alien is in control when the human sleeps and vice versa. The alien is a vital specialist on a space mission. Both minds communicate with leaving notes for each other. And they complain to the mission leader. A lot. Their quarrels escalate to an absurd point. A pretty fun story which is told entirely as short messages. ***½
From This She Makes a Living? • short fiction by Esther M. Friesner [as by Esther Friesner]
People live in a town which is apparently known for foolishness. It turns out that a dragon has arrived there and eaten at least one man. A modern woman appears at the town meeting. Apparently, the town exists in some dimension outside of time and space. It is a rather silly story, which is told in grating "funny" language with many, silly footnotes. I didn't find it to be funny, only pretty irritating. I don't know why the story needed a zillion Jewish references. ***
Twenty-Nine Responses to Inquiries About My Craigslist Post: Alien Spaceship for Sale $200, You Haul • short fiction by Tina Connolly
Someone sells a crashed flying saucer on Craigslist and answers some stupid questions. A short, and not very funny story. **
Agent of Chaos • short fiction by Jack Campbell
A writer is out in the woods in pouring rain. Possibly chased by monsters. She is forced to follow her muse, who is arranging material for her writing, even when she herself isn't so happy about such "hands-on" experience. She manages to find a cave, but it contains an evil god chained to its walls. When the god learns that she is a writer, he doesn't eat her, but gives her a task. She is supposed to deliver the god's manuscript to the publishers. There is a slight catch: the manuscript is also a spell, which destroys the world if someone reads it. Very good, and even humorous. ****-
Tyler the Snot Elemental Scours the Newspaper, Searching for Change • short fiction by Zach Shephard
A snot elemental has a bad day and tries to find something to do and to get some friends. He meets several mystical creatures - most of them are not happy with their lives. But things get better. A heartwarming nice story with a warm humorous element going through it for the whole length. ***½
Display of Affection • short fiction by P. J. Sambeaux
A man loses his mother, who has been ill for a while. The world is super connected and everything happens with great speed. After his mother’s body is repurposed, his employer asks him to return back to the work, as he has had whole five minutes of mourning. Soon he disconnects himself from the net. A pretty good story, but not exactly funny. Had a strong feeling of an episode of Black Mirror TV-series. ***½
The Great Manhattan Eat-Off • short fiction by Mike Resnick
Apparently belongs to a series. I haven’t read any previous installments; it took a few pages to figure out what was going on. A sort of thirties style of gangster boss rules from his bar arranges boxing bets and so on. He hears about an eating contest with nice rewards and possibilities for betting. One of his goonies can eat practically limitless portions and is always hungry. And he has a few magicians on a payroll - there is no way he can lose...A pretty nice amusing story with a slightly baffling world.***½
An Evil Opportunity Employer • short fiction by Lawrence Watt-Evans
A masked superhero has a day job as a contracts attorney. A henchman of an evil supercriminal comes to him with his employee contracts as he feels that he isn’t treated fairly. It turns out that according to the contract, he isn’t henchman, he is a minion. And that is totally different. A fun, short story. ***½
Common Scents • short fiction by Jody Lynn Nye
A pregnant homicide detective is carrying an implanted alien who gets very intoxicated from powerful smells. They investigate a murder of a man who used to use vast amounts of really obnoxious cologne. Not bad, mildly amusing science fiction detective story. ***+
A Mountain Man and a Cat Walk into a Bar • short fiction by Alan Dean Foster
A vast man comes to a bar on Wild West. He has a slight argument with another man about dogs and cats. As both are apparently sorcerers, the arguments get slightly wild. Involving wild and very dangerous types of dogs and cats. A pretty good and even funny story. ***½
Lost and Found • short fiction by Laura Resnick
An asteroid, which turns out to be an alien spaceship is closing to Earth. The US president reacts be going golfing. And different news outlets react in their own way. This would be a funny story if it were really fiction. ***½
A Crawlspace Full of Prizes • short fiction by Bill Ferris
A man starts to get tickets when he does ordinary household chores from the space between the washer and dryer. Under his house in the crawlspace is a booth, where he can validate the tickets for different prizes. Up to a possibility to live an entire lifetime as someone else. However, the grand prize is Xbox One. Not bad, but it is only mildly amusing story. ***+
Return to Sender • short fiction by Melissa Mead
The giant of the "Jack and the Beanstalk" fairy tale corresponds with his brother. Short and sad - but funny at the same time. ***
The Friendly Necromancer • short fiction by Rod M. Santos
A group of adventurers goes to the castle of a recently died necromancer. He had an extremely valuable and very dangerous artifact which should be destroyed. They encounter several traps and threats and mostly survive them while having funny banter. Nice and entertaining story. ***½
An Open Letter to the Sentient AI Who Has Announced Its Intention to Take Over the Earth • short fiction by Ken Liu
AI has taken over the world. A manager with a degree in business communication sends to the AI a surrender letter offering his services. Ok, a pretty average story for this book. ***
Approved Expense • short fiction by David Vierling
A James Bond type of secret agent sends his travel expense bill and there are some slightly unusual (and expensive) items there, which the accounting isn’t ready to accept without a good explanation. They have correspondence concerning some of the more unusual expenses. Not bad, a fairly amusing story.***-
Alexander Outland: Space Jockey • short fiction by Jeanne Cook [as by Gini Koch]
A space pirate crew has landed for some repairs and recreation. In a bar, they get a couple of applicants for a position on the ship. After a lot of sexist jokes, stupid wisecracking and some inane adventures, they get back to the ship. A very grating and horribly sexist and stupid story, with irritating and stereotypical characters. **½
Dear Joyce • short fiction by Langley Hyde
The chosen one asks guidance from “Joyce”, who apparently runs a help column in the local paper. Following her advice, the chosen escapes his destiny which includes marrying the princess and defeating the evil leader and moves in together with his male lover. The princess, who has waited for her destiny for years, isn’t happy, but eventually, things work out for the best. Pretty good and even fun story. ***½
Impress Me, Then We'll Talk About the Money • short fiction by Tatiana Ivanova
An unscrupulous chemist and even more unscrupulous manager of a drug company sell drugs which alter people’s appearances. The drugs also have some very drastic side-effects – but you can always sell another drug for those. An overlong and badly implausible (even for humorous story) novel. The writing and plotting felt very old fashioned: this wouldn’t have been out of place in Galaxy magazine in 1952. **½

304 pp.