Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, November-December 2017

A little worse issue than the previous, but there were a few pretty nice stories.

Hybrid, Blue, by Firelight • novelette by Bill Johnson
Time travelers from different time periods and alternative futures hang together. Sometimes someone might disappear when his future turns out to be impossible. There is a lot of scheming and discussing. I didn't look into the story - just I didn't get into any previous installments of this series. **
Keepsakes • novelette by Kenneth Schneyer
People can make copies of their mind which represents the way they think at that moment. As people change when they get older, it is often interesting to go back and see how one thought when he/she was younger. One woman talks with a simulation of her five-year-old self. The little girl version says that her father killed her mother. The adult version doesn’t remember anything like that. Was the memory repressed? Can the copy be trusted? Can what the copy says be used on a trial as a testimony? An interesting story, but it was partly spoiled by totally unnecessary love subplot of two people investigating the alleged crime. There was more than enough plot without it. ***+
Laminated Moose Zombies and Other Road Maintenance Problems • short story by Michael F. Flynn and Dennis M. Flynn
A fungal infection turns everything dead into zombies. They aren’t very dangerous, though, as they move extremely slowly and clumsily and they invade only dead bodies. Or do they? There are strict and very bureaucratic rules how they should be dealt with. Why is the bureaucracy so bad? Not bad, writing is nice but very short, so there isn’t enough plot. ***
Downsized • short story by Bud Sparhawk
A who lives on a luxurious retirement home on a space station gets a notion that he must move to a smaller apartment as his wife died and so he isn’t allocated to have so much space anymore. He tries to appeal to the authorities of the station, but they are not very sympathetic. The old apartment is filled with memories, should he let them go? A good well written and moving story. ***½
New Teeth • short story by James Sallis
A man hunts changed people. Some kind of presence invades humans and takes over their mind. Or so he at least believes. There was little backstory and fairly little real plot and the story goes for the mood. I didn't get it, and it was too scene like for my taste. **½
Luscinia • short story by Robert Reed
The world richest woman lives in an alley pushing old child carriage (filled with the best automatic safety gear money can buy). She doesn't really need anything, but her smart money accumulates itself. A short story (or a political statement) which was ok. ***-
Fermi's Slime • short story by Tom Jolly
An expedition to another solar system finds only planets filled with slime. It appears to have very stable DNA, and the mutation rate is negligible, so there hasn't been any evolution. Are all other worlds in the universe filled with single cellular slime colonies? A short but okay story. ***+
Quirks • short story by Marie Vibbert
Skills can be easily transferred to other people. That has led to heavy unionizing, where unions protect their knowledge. But as there is always some "leaking" of talent to the public domain, it is becoming harder and harder to get jobs with a decent pay. A man gets an offer for his skills. A bit too short, but a decent story. ***
Time Travel Is Only for the Poor • short story by S. L. Huang
Poor people are offered an investment. They are supposed to make a small monetary investment, even cents, and then they put in suspended animation until that investment is grown by compounded interest to a real fortune. And that isn't exactly a voluntary practice. One man fights back and he is supported by a lawyer working pro bono. A pretty good but depressing story. ***+
Papoose Lake • short story by Richard A. Lovett
A man has a friend who is heavily on conspiracy theories. So much that he is very irritating company. He has another friend who is an expert on experimental neurology. Would it be possible to influence thought patterns? A bit short, but good story. ***½
Hot Air • short story by Igor Teper
A scientist has come to China. She meets an old friend, who worked on a similar defense project on the Chinese side. They have a common past and share a secret. A good non-linear story. ***½
Kindle No Flame • short story by Stephen R. Loftus-Mercer
A researcher goes to Oxford library, soon after American newspapers have encountered strange problems with paper. Nicely written story, but I wonder what would have been motivation for such bug. ***+
Two Hours at Frontier • short story by Sean McMullen
Four people wake up in android bodies. They were on a way to study a strange artifact on the fringes of the solar system. It turns out five thousand years have gone and the Earth is silent on all bands. And they then spend two hours arguing about extremely stupid things, like the inability of getting children if you are an android. Like that would be the most important thing in that situation? A fairly stupid story which discusses all the non-interesting points of the setting and glosses over the more relevant things. A nice twist at the end makes the story slightly better. ***
Reentry • short story by Brendan DuBois
A three-man mission has been sent to an asteroid. An accident happens which kills two of three member and damages the ship. The return will take well over thousand days. It is a long time to be alone. The survivor is recuperating in a hospital. The company which sent him on the mission is taking care of him- but not out of kindness. A good story even if the company was unreasonably evil. ***
Weaponized • short story by Jay O'Connell
A man and a woman have dated for a while, they are falling in love. Every time they have sex, she checks something from her phone. A pretty nice, but short story. ***
Housekeeping 100 XP • short story by Brenta Blevins
A technician who repairs the malfunctions of smart houses, has to take her grandmother with her to work. There is a bit of a generation gap and the job in question is hard. A pretty average story. ***-
And Then They Were Gone • short story by Ian Creasey
The rich and famous parents of an eighteen years old girl, tell her that they are going to upload their minds to the virtual world. The girl has mostly been neglected by the parents and she has issues. Will her scars ever heal? An excellent story which could have been longer. ****-
How Val Finally Escaped from the Basement • novelette by Scott Edelman
A man inherits a house from his uncle. He finds an imprisoned alien in its cellar. The alien gives humanity all the technological and medical secrets anyone could have hoped. The man becomes hated and despised as his uncle apparently delayed the revelations. A bitter man whose father was killed a little before the revelations, imprisons him ( I didn't get that point at all - why anyone would blame him? It doesn't make any sense). But then there is a twist. A good, well written and enjoyable story. ****-
Native Seeds • novella by Catherine Wells
There has been a catastrophe – first there has been widespread famine, and then vast flooding and almost everything has been destroyed. Two groups have survived: a group which is descendants of scientist who have lived inside a mountain, and a group which is apparently descendants of Native Americans. Both are small, and just surviving. They encounter. Should the “wilds” move to the mountain? Could they even be supported? Do they even want to move? And both groups are almost too small to survive from the genetic point of view. A very good story, there are nice possibilities for both prequels and sequels. ****-

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Arundhati Roy: Äärimmäisen onnen ministeriö (The Ministry of Utmost Happiness)

This is a fairly chaotic novel about India and about the conflict in Kashmir. There was little actual plot, but the book followed lives of several people. At the beginning of the book the intersex boy/girl was promising, but then the plot spread like a network, following far too many sub-characters in a non-coherent way. The book is filled with violence, rape, and injustice, and is not light reading.

Kirja, joka oli kulttuurillisesti niin outo, että alkupuolella sitä piti lukea ”science fiction” -moodi päällä – harva scifi romaani kuvaa vieraampaa ja kummallisempaa maailmaa. Juonellisesti kirja on kuin Intia, runsas, vaihteleva ja kaoottinen. Kirjassa ei ole varsinaista yhtä yksittäistä juonta, vaan se muodostaa enemmänkin toisiaan sivuavien toisistaan polveilevien juonien verkoston, joka tuntuu laajentuvan koko ajan.
Kirja alkaa hermafrodiitin, Anjumin tarinalla. Hän muuttaa 15-vuotiaana hijrojen taloon. Hijrat ovat ”kolmatta sukupuolta” perinteisesti edustava ala”kasti” Intiassa. (Tämä piti googlata, ja näin tosiaan on, kyseessä ovat etenkin miehet mutta ilmeisesti myös naiset, jotka kokevat olevansa normaalin sukupuolensa ”ulkopuolella”. Heillä on oma asemansa Intian elämässä ja rituaaleissa). Vietettyään vuosia hijrojen talossa ja koettuaan sekä hyviä, että huonoja aikoja hän muuttaa hökkeliin hautausmaalle. Sinne kerääntyy muita kohtalon koettelemia ihmisiä ja osittain näiden ihmisten kokemaan kirjan tapahtumat perustuvat – tosin poimuillen runsaasti eri henkilöiden välillä. Kovin merkittävää ja selkeää yhtenäistä juonta kirjassa ei oikeastaan ollut.
Asiat joita kirja kuvaa ovat pääosin järkyttäviä ja ahdistavia, eivätkä todellakaan saa aikaan mitään mielihalua matkustaa Intiaan. Pistää ihmettelemään minkälainen valta uskonnolla ja kansallistunteella (jotka ovat pitkälti oikeastaan samaa asiaa tai ainakin saman asian kahta eri puolta) oikein on. En oikein ymmärrä logiikkaa, miksi jotain yksittäisen maan osaa – vaikkapa siis Kashmirin Intiassa ei anneta erota emämaasta, jos pääosa sen väestöstä sitä haluaa. Mihin ihmeeseen Intia sitä muka tarvitsi? Miksi sen takia pitää sotia ja sortaa? Mutta tätä kumminkin tapahtuu ja tämän älyttömyyden julkituomissa kirja on tärkeä. Mikään varsinainen lukunautinto se ei ollut, enkä edes pidä sitä erityisen hyvin tai kauniilla kielellä kirjoitettuna, vaikka omat hyvät kohtansa siinä onkin. Tosin sen arvioiminen, onko tässä kyse käännöksestä vai alkuperäistekstistä ei ole helppoa. Suosittelen kirjaa luettavaksi, jos on ihan liian pirteällä ja optimistisella tuulella ja ajattelee, että maailma on kaikkialla hyvä paikka.

478 s.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Liza Marklund: Ajojahti

Second to last of the Annika Bengtzon series. A businessman is tortured almost to his death and his wife is missing. There is nothing in their past (at first glance) which could be the reason for those things. And Annika's boss is in trouble as the TV-documentary he made about twenty years ago is suspected to be false. (Like anyone would really care so much). A lot better than some of the former books – Annika is less irritating and there less dwelling on her personal life.

Annika Bengtzon -sarjan viimeistä edellinen osa. Solsidanin eliittilähiöstä löytyy kotoaan lähes kuoliaaksi kidutettu liikemies. Hän on aikaisemmin ollut mukana politiikassa äärikonservatiivissa puolueessa, mutta on joutunut eromaan yrityksiensä taloudellisten epäselvyyksien vuoksi. Myös liikemiehen vaimo on kadonnut. Samaan aikaan lehden päätoimittaja, Anders Schyman on vaikeuksissa, kun hänen vuosia sitten tekemäänsä TV-dokumenttia on alettu epäillä valheelliseksi, ja tuntematon blogikirjoittaja arvostelee häntä siitä kovin sanoin. Liikemiehen kidutusta tutkii muiden poliisin mukana edellisistä kirjoista tuttu poliisi, Nina Hoffman, joka on saanut uuden työpaikan rikospoliisista. Annikalla itsellään on sopeutumisia uuden avopuolisonsa ja etenkin hänen lastensa kanssa elämiseen. Kirjassa seurataan osajuonia aika tasapuolisesti ja mielenkiintoisesti ja Annikan oman elämän kuviot eivät saa suhteetonta osaa, kuten joissain aikaisemmissa kirjoissa. Hän myös vaikuttaa selvästi vähemmän ärsyttävältä kuin joskus aikaisemmin. Nina Hoffman on hyvä uusi lisä päähenkilöiden joukossa ja hänen osuutensa ovat lähestulkoon kiinnostavimpia koko kirjassa. Tapahtumat etenevät hyvää vauhtia ja seuraavaa, sarjan päättävää osaa, jää odottamaan ihan hyvällä mielellä. Ainoita hiukan häiritseviä osuuksia olivat Anders Schymania koskevat jaksot – oikeastiko joku olisi niin kiinnostunut yksittäisestä parikymmentä vuotta sitten julkaistusta TV-dokumentista, että välittäisi vähääkään, saati sitten, että asiaa koskeva blogi keräsi suunnattoman suosion ja tiedotusvälineet parveilisivat asian tiimoilla niin innostuneina?

382 s.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Markus Bennemann: Himokas härkäsammakko ja muita eläinkunnan seksipetoja

A book which examines many different strategies animals have for procreation. Some very interesting stories.

Mielenkiintoinen tietokirja, joka esittelee eläinkunnan erikoisimpia lisääntymistapoja kattaen osapuilleen kaikki eliöryhmät paperiveneistä hyönteisten (sieltä niitä erikoisuuksia todella paljon löytyykin) kautta nisäkkäisiin. Kaikennäköiset mahdolliset erikoisuudet prostituutiosta erilaisiaan petostyyleihin asti kyllä löytyy. Esimerkkinä vaikkapa kalalaji, jossa urokset ja naaraat ovat erinäköisiä, ja uros puolustaa haaremiaan raivokkaasti. Mutta osa uroksista näyttääkin naaralta ja tässä valeasussa pääsee livahtamaan naaraiden seuraan.

338 s.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Glen Cook: Varjot pitenevät (The Black Company -Shadows Linger)

The second part of the adventures of the Black Company and the work of a mystical and evil woman named Lady. This time, they try to prevent the resuscitation of her husband, who is even more evil than his wife. A pretty dark fantasy book, which looks at things from their evil side, however, this time it was from the side of lesser evil. The best part was the first half, which was more of setup, with a smaller cast than the end, when the war got really hot. I'm looking forward to the next part. (Read in Finnish, reviewed mostly in Finnish.)

Toinen osa sarjaa, joka seuraa Mustan Komppanian seikkailuja. Musta Komppania on palkkasoturi joukko, joka viimeisimmät vuodet on taistellut Ladyn puolesta. Lady on yliluonnolliset kyvyt omaava mystisen paha olento. Osaa palkkasotureista on ajoittain hiukan kiusannut pahan puolella taisteleminen, mutta pääosalle sotilaista säännöllinen palkan maksaminen on ollut kylliksi, siitä viis kenen puolella ollaan. Nyt joukko on komennettu maailmaan ääriin pikkukaupunkiin, jossa Ladyn kuollut puoliso, Alistaja, on heräämässä henkiin. Tämä sitten onkin sellainen kaveri, että Lady häneen verrattuna on hyvin leppoinen ja hyväntahtoinen tuttavuus.

Kirjan alussa viime kirjan lopussa joukosta eronnut Korppi ja hänen suojattinsa Kullanmuru asuvat sattumalta juuri siinä kaupungissa, jonka liepeillä kohoaa musta linnake. Se kerää kuolleiden ruumiita kasvaakseen ja saattaakseen loppuun Alistajan henkiin herättämiseen tarvittavan taian. Kun Mustan Komppanian etuvartio saapuu paikalle, Korppi ja Kullanmuru - joka ilmeisesti on ennustuksen mainitsema neito, ainoa joka saattaa Ladyn voittokulun katkaista, pakenevat kaupungista. Tietysti, jos Alistaja herää henkiin, ennuksella ei ole paljoa merkitystä, kun hän hoitelee sekä Ladyn ja käytännössä koko maailman päiviltä.

Kyseessä oli varsin vetävä kirja, joka oli selvästi parempi kuin ensimmäinen osa. Kirja paras oli sen alku, joka tapahtui suppeammassa ja mystisemmässä mittakaavassa kuin lopun rymistelevämpi osuus, jossa henkilöiden suuri määrä, etenkin huomioiden heidän erittäin huonosti muistettavissa olevat nimet saivat kirjan tuntumaan hieman sekavalta. Mielenkiinnolla odotan seuraavaa osaa, joka ilmeisesti punoo kasaan tämän juonikokonaisuuden. Tässä kirjassa sitten ilmeisesti siirrytään hiukan enemmän ”hyvien” puolelle, joskin kirjankertojahenkilöllä on varsin kyyninen asenne heidän mahdolliseen ”hyvyyteensä” – tosin hänellä on kohtuullisen kyyninen asenne melkein kaikkeen.

303 s

Saturday, October 21, 2017

We Are Legion (We Are Bob) (Bobiverse #1) by Dennis E. Taylor

A young man has just sold his software company for a good amount of money. He used a part of his wealth to buy a deal for cryogenic preservation after his death. Very soon after that, while he is returning from a science fiction convention, he is run over by a car. He wakes in a future which is ruled by a theocratic dictature. The cold war between other current nations is on a brick of becoming hot. All his assets have been confiscated and, according to the current laws, he has no rights at all. He is offered a choice: he could be used as intelligence, used to run a project which needs high-class AI, or he could be terminated. Not much of a choice. It turns out that the job in question was running a Von Neumann probe which will be sent to the stars to find habitable planets. (there were supposed to be several probes, but due to budget constraints and political infighting, only one will be built - I wonder what would have been the point in building several _self-replicating_ probes anyway.) After a few problems, he is headed to space and starts to replicate after he arrives at another star. His copies are not exactly the same as the original, but mostly pretty close in personality to the original Bob.

A book which I read from my mobile phone during lunch breaks and occasional commutes in a bus. It was very suitable for such use - it was easy to read with straightforward language and an engaging and fun plot. It wasn’t any great literature, but sometimes it is fun to read something which doesn’t try to be anything but entertainment and is a kind of nerdish wish-fulfillment fantasy - being almost all powerful and exploring space and finding new planets and even lifeforms.

304 pp.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Kjell Westö: Rikinkeltainen taivas

A story of a lower middle-class boy who befriends another same age boy, whose summerhouse is nearby, and who belongs to a family with “old money”. The book follows them until they are middle-aged and explores the stormy love-story between the fairly poor boy and the sister of the rich kid. The book dwells far too long on the adolescence of the characters but gets better when they become adults. The ending is extremely quick and seems forced, though. The writing was good, but the plot felt a bit clichéd and didn’t really engage me.

Luettu lukupiirin kirjana.
Kirja kertoo alemman keskiluokan pojan tarinan. Hän tutustuu mökkinaapuruuden kautta ruotsinsuomalaisen suursuvun saman ikäiseen poikaan, Alexiin. He ystävystyvät ja päähenkilö oppii tuntemaan koko perheen. Poikien välinen suhde säilyy vuosikymmenten läpi ollen välillä lämpimämpi ja välillä viileämpi. Yhteiskuntaluokalla ja rahalla on aina jonkinasteista erottavaa tekijää heidän välillään, eikä vuosikausia tai vuosikymmeniä jatkunut on/off seurustelusuhde Alexin siskoon, Stellaan, välttämättä aina välejä ainakaan lämmittänyt. Pienen ystäväpiirin elämää seurataan lapsuudesta myöhäiskeski-ikään asti. Tarinan yksi kantava voima on kertojan ajoittain myrskyinen, lopulta keskinäiseksi ystävyydeksi muuttuva suhde Stellaan.

Kirja oli kirjoitettu sujuvalla kielellä, mutta olisi voinut kyllä lyhentää sellaiset 50–100 sivua - etenkin sitä alkupuolen teinisäätöä olisi voinut kyllä rajusti leikata ja siinä vaiheessa kirjan lukeminen oli kaikkein raskainta. Ilmeisen tarkoituksellisen ärsyttävät päähenkilöt kävivät välillä hermoon. Loppupuolella kirjassa nopeasti käväisevä Arabi-hahmo oli kliseinen ja tarpeeton ja tuntui ajankohtaisuuden vuoksi kirjaan lisätyltä - kuten kyllä muutama kirjan kohtauksistakin. Loppua kohden kirja parani selvästi, kun hahmot ja heidän suhteensa tuntuivat lopultakin kypsyvän, mutta viimeiset 40 sivua olivat hyvin hätäiset. Vaikutti melkein siltä, kuin kustantaja olisi ilmoittanut kirjailijalle kesken kirjoittamisen, että kirjan PITÄÄ olla viikon kuluttua valmis ja piti nopeasti kyhätä jonkinlainen lopetus. Myös arabihahmon uusi ilmaantuminen kirjan lopussa oli tarpeeton ja ”tyhjästä tullut”. Monissa arvioissa on kehuttu kirjan antamaa tunnelmaa paikallisuudesta ja hyvästä paikallisväristä. Itsellä paikat ja kadut olivat pääosin täysin outoja, eivätkä ulkopaikkakuntalaiselle aiheuttaneet minkäänmoisia tuntemuksia tai väristyksiä.

Kirjapiirissä useimpien mielipiteet olivat samansuuntaisia; kukaan ei erityisesti ihastunut kirjaan ja tarinankuljetusta pidettiin hiukan löysänä ja juonikuviota jopa kulahtaneina. Joku mietti sitäkin, että jos kirjassa käydään jossain eurooppalaisessa kaupungissa, niin miksi sen pitää aina olla Berliini? Ja toinen lukupiiriläinen oli sitä mieltä, että tämä kirjan paransi hänet tarpeesta lukea Westöön uudet kirjat jatkossa.

459 s.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Long List Anthology: More Stories From the Hugo Award Nomination List by David Steffen (Editor)

A collection of stories that just missed a Hugo nomination in 2015. A varied bunch of tales, some very good, some a little less good.

The Breath of War • [Universe of Xuya] • (2014) • short story by Aliette de Bodard
The women of the world apparently sculpt a some kind of golem out of stone and, with a breath, turn it alive. When a woman gives birth to a child, the stone being must breathe on the newborn or it will die. A woman, whose Stoneman was left behind in the jungle and is heavily pregnant, tries to find it before her labor started. It turns out that she had sculpted a spaceship, which is alive.
The writing was very good but the story didn't make any sense whatsoever. Even fantasy should have some degree of believability and internal consistency. I can't imagine how the method of conception that was described could evolve, or what the benefits would be. If it is an artificial construct, why would anyone create such dependency? And waking up a stone statue is a pretty common trope. It is even harder to believe that you could sculpt a spaceship out of stone and then wake it up and end with a self-conscious, actually flight capable, vehicle. ***+
When It Ends, He Catches Her • (2014) • short story by Eugie Foster
A former professional dancer met her former dance partner, after the fall of civilization. He is a zombie (though, this word is not mentioned) but dancing restores his mind. They will have one last dance. A well written, bittersweet story. ***½
Toad Words • (2014) • short story by Ursula Vernon [as by T. Kingfisher ]
A man is cursed. Everything that he says comes out of his mouth as toads or frogs. When he learns that amphibians are dying out, he finds a way to capitalize on his curse. A fun little story. ***½
Makeisha in Time • (2014) • short story by Rachael K. Jones
A woman is pulled into the past and lives whole lifetimes there. She returns to the present when she dies in these lifetimes and no time has passed for anyone she was with before her time travel. As it has been decades for her, she tends to be slightly disorganized and has problems with her relationships. She is distressed, as her work in the past seems to disappear and is sometimes attributed to men. The end is slightly confusing but it was otherwise a pretty good story. I also wonder why she valued her life so much in the "present" that she was willing to commit suicide repeatedly in the other lifetimes. She apparently was able to have fully satisfying relationships in other times, the problems were only relationships in the present. ***½
Covenant • (2014) • short story by Elizabeth Bear
A psychopath is given a choice: he may go to prison or be cured. As he believes that his mind is strong enough to resist any tampering, he takes that choice. But more than his mind is changed; and soon to hunter becomes prey. A pretty good story, especially and beginning and end, the middle was a little less successful. ***½
The Truth About Owls • (2014) • short story by Amal El-Mohtar
A Lebanese girl has moved to Britain. She takes an interest to an owl that lives at a local owl sanctuary. She seems to have some sort of psychic powers that she can’t completely control, which she uses when she feels threatened. Nice writing but bit too vague for me. ***+
A Kiss with Teeth • (2014) • short story by Max Gladstone
A vampire pretends to be a husband who takes care of his family. His wife is aware of what he is and helps him. But it is very hard for him to pretend to be clumsy and slow like humans. His son has problems in school, so he starts to work with his teacher. But will he be able to control his urges? A pretty good story. ***+
The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family • (2014) • short story by Usman T. Malik
The terrorism and desperate lives of people in Pakistan is compared to different states of matter. A woman who has lost a lot tries to find her brother after years of separation. The writing was pretty good, but the story felt fairly disjointed and very hard to follow. ***
This Chance Planet • (2014) • short story by Elizabeth Bear
A woman works herself almost to death as a waitress, as her boyfriend is about to make a break in the music business. The problem is that he has been "about to" for a very long time already. He even suggests that she should volunteer to raise spare organs inside of her body to get more money, so that it would be easier for him to start touring. One day, on the way to her job, she encounters a stray, very pregnant, dog and eventually makes a connection with her. An excellent and well written story, with some magic realism happening in the fairly near future. ****-
Goodnight Stars • (2014) • short story by Annie Bellet
Something has hit the moon and it has shattered into pieces. The pieces are falling down and causing widespread destruction. A young woman, whose mother was on the moon working on a telescope station (and is most likely dead), journeys to her father's home. A pretty good, very well written, and moving story. But I didn't really believe the premise – just like I didn’t buy the premise of the Hugo nominated novel, Seveneves. ***½
We Are the Cloud • (2014) • novelette by Sam J. Miller
A young gay man lives on a world where poor people rent out their brains for computing, risking severe brain damage in the process. Some nice ideas, but they are a side note, while the emphasis is on relationships. I didn’t really get into the story, it was ok, but nothing really special. ***
The Magician and Laplace's Demon • (2014) • novelette by Tom Crosshill
An artificial intelligence that has appeared spontaneously encounters magic. Magicians are able to bend the probabilities but only when no one sees them do so and if the situation is such that the magic can't be proved. The AI starts hunting the magicians, as they are the only ones able to limit its powers. Centuries later, the AI is chasing the last one, who is extremely powerful. A very good and well written story with an interesting brand of magic. ***½
Spring Festival: Happiness, Anger, Love, Sorrow, Joy • (2014) • novelette by Xia Jia
Episodes of life in China, with heavy touches of magic realism. Intriguing fragments of life that open a window to another culture. To really get the stories, one probably should have some familiarity with the Chinese culture. ***
The Husband Stitch • (2014) • novelette by Carmen Maria Machado
A young woman meets a young man who she wants to marry. She seduces him, submits to all of the sex he ever wanted and more, but she refuses to take a ribbon off of her neck, not even when her husband and, later her son, asks her to. A well written, allegorical story with a really stupid ending. ***
The Bonedrake's Penance • (2014) • novelette by Yoon Ha Lee
A human has been raised by an alien queen, who is revered by people who serve her and bring occasional gifts. There are secrets and choices which must be made. A very good and entertaining story. I would love to read other stories set in the same world. ****-
The Devil in America • (2014) • novelette by Kai Ashante Wilson
A story of a young black girl from the 19th century who can ask for help from "angels." However, they aren't so easy to control as she thinks. But there is always a possibility of making a deal with a demon... and white people are hunting blacks. At places, the story was hard to follow and pretty slow moving. I didn't get into it at all, but I don't usually like this kind of magical realism. ***
The Litany of Earth • (2014) • novelette by Ruthanna Emrys
Apparently, this story continues some of the classic Chulthu-stories. Inhabitants/survivors of a town that was invaded by the “old ones” have lived in camps for years. As I am not a fan of these stories (nor am I familiar with them), I didn’t get into the story at all. As a matter of fact after, a few days, I'm having a lot of trouble recalling anything about it. **
A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai'i • (2014) • novelette by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Vampires have conquered humanity. The remaining humans are practically raised as cattle, in kind of concentration camps, and are used as a workforce and bled to sustain the vampires. A few select ones get special treatment, and there is a competition for who will be the most favored one. Less dark of a story than one might imagine from the subject matter; an excellent and well-written tale. ****
A Year and a Day in Old Theradane • (2014) • novelette by Scott Lynch
A gang of rascals is blackmailed to perform an impossible heist: they are supposed to steal an entire city street. A lot of banter, which was possibly meant to be funny, but I didn’t get into this story at all, and it was a struggle to read through. All of that banter felt mostly stupid and silly. The story was very boring to me, possibly because it is connected to a series I am totally unfamiliar with. **½
The Regular • (2014) • novella by Ken Liu
A hooker is killed and her eyes are dug out. The police blame gangs. The hooker’s mother hires a private detective, who has some bionic augmentations and still has issues with the death of her own daughter. Her ex-husband works for the police and they combine forces. An extremely well-written and interesting story, but it is more of a detective story than science fiction. ****
Grand Jeté (The Great Leap) • (2014) • novella by Rachel Swirsky
A young girl is dying from cancer, only a little while after her mother died, also from cancer. Her distraught father uses a new technology to create an android that looks like his daughter and has all of her memories. The story is told in three chapters, from three different viewpoints. The basic plot and writing are pretty good, but far too much of the storyline is spent on Jewish habits. ***½

498 pp.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Emmi Itäranta: Teemestarin kirja (Memory of Water)

A book that has received rave reviews everywhere. It tells a story of a future where water is rare and strictly controlled by a police state. The heroine of the book conducts Japanese-style tea ceremonies and controls the secret of one of the last springs. Nice and fluent writing, but the details of the world and society didn’t make much sense.

Kovasti kehuja saanut kirja, joka tapahtuu epämääräisessä, ilmeisesti kohtalaisen kaukaisessa tulevaisuudessa. Ilmasto on muuttunut huomattavasti lämpimämmäksi, meri on kohonnut ja peittänyt suuria alueita ja juomakelpoinen vesi on muuttunut jostain syystä erittäin harvinaiseksi. Jonkinlainen tarkemmin määrittelemätön totalitaarinen diktatuuri pitää valtaa. Kirjan päähenkilö, Noria, on nuori nainen, jonka isä on teemestari, joka järjestää tarkkaan perinteen säätelemiä teeseremonioita yleensä varakkaille vieraille. Noria auttaa häntä ja on mitä ilmeisimmin perimässä saman seremoniallisen tehtävän sukupuolestaan huolimatta. Vanhalta kaatopaikalta Noria ja hänen ystävänsä Sanja löytävät kummallisia kiiltäviä levyjä, joiden sisältämät äänitykset he onnistuvat toistamaan. Sisältö saattaisi järkyttää maailman perustuksia ja olettamia siitä missä juomakelpoista vettä voi olla olemassa.

Kielellisesti kirja on erittäin hienoa työtä, mutta muuten siinä on ongelmia. Päähenkilö on hyvin naiivi - toisaalta kun kyseessä on nuori (alle 20 v?) nainen, niin naiivius on osittain ymmärrettävää. Perusjuoni ja koko maailma ovat epäuskottavia. Mikä ihme sen makean veden on hävittänyt niin, että kuitenkin on suuri ja vuolas salainen maanalainen koski olemassa? Ja paarmoja ja muita hyönteisiä vaikuttaa olevan aivan suunnattomat määrät, niin paljon, että käytännössä mihinkään ei voi liikkua ilman hyönteisiltä suojaavaa huppua. Miten tämä on mahdollista jos on niin kuivaa, että metsät ovat kuolleet pystyyn? Melkein loppuun asti toivoin, että tässä olisi takana jokin ovela kirjailijan laatima juonenkäänne, mutta ei. Myös kasvit, mitä Noria kasvattaa olivat pääosin ihan samoja ja vanhoja tuttuja kasveja karviaisista alkaen - missäs vaikka viinirypäleet jotka lämpimässä ja kuivassa ilmastossa kasvaisivat hienosti. Maailman yleinen taloudellis-ekonominen toimivuus muutenkin jäi auki - mitä kyläläiset oikein tekivät? Viljelivät maata? Täydessä kuivuudessa? Olivat työssä jossain? Tekemässä mitä? Norian teknisesti lahjakas ystävä, Sanja, mietti laittoman vesijohdon rakentamista kotiinsa - mistä ihmeestä se vesi siihen johtoon olisi tullut? Kokonaisuutena kirja antoi kyllä hyvin nuortenkirjamaisen vaikutelman - naiivi nuori päähenkilö eikä ihan loppuun asti ajateltu juoni. Yhteiskunnallis-taloudellinen logiikka ei kirjassa ollut edes Nälkämaailman tasolla - ja senkään taso ei ollut kovin korkea. Hienon, soljuvan kielen vuoksi kirjaa kuitenkin jaksoi lukea, mutta jäi pettymykseksi aika koviin ennakko-odotuksiin nähden. Loppu oli kuitenkin varsin hyvä ja aika tulkinnanvarainenkin. Olisiko eräs henkilö ollut petturi melkein alusta alkaen? Vai ei?

329 s.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, September-October 2017

A pretty good issue; most of the stories were at least pretty good, a few were very good.

My Fifth and Most Exotic Voyage • novelette by Edward M. Lerner
Gulliver describes his latest travel - to the future. Future scientists wanted to capture a person from the past, and they got the Gulliver, who claims he himself wrote the famous book about his travels. The scientists don't believe him, as he clearly isn't Jonathan Swift. And he claims that his travels are true, not fiction. Did they capture a madman? A very good story, once you get past the oldish writing style. There was one very stupid scientific mistake, though. The carbon dating tells the age of an object - not the year it comes from. There is a difference, especially if your dealing with time travel. An object brought from the past should seem new, if it were tested by C14 dating. It is almost a spoiler for me to say that very a similar plot idea was used earlier by Larry Niven. ****-
I Know My Own & My Own Know Me • novelette by Tracy Canfield
The story is told as chat logs. An expedition tries to find out why a colony of humans has reverted to almost mindless animals, whose brains don't even accept brain implants. Someone has used an implant for a cat, who can now take part in the discussions in broken language. And it has eaten all of the lab rats. A pretty nice story, but perhaps a tad too long for the idea. ***+
Ghostmail • short story by Eric Del Carlo
A man is connected to his wife, who is fighting in a war, through some sort of direct subspace link. Then his wife is killed in action. To his surprise, he continues receiving messages. Is he mad? A pretty good and moving story. ****-
The First Trebuchet on Mars • short story by Marie Vibbert
A short story about what the title says. It turns out that there is a use for such a thing in Mars. A short and amusing story. ***
Climbing Olympus • short story by Simon Kewin
Another story about Mars. A man whose father was an avid mountain climber also used to climb mountains, but they never did it together, as they were never at the same skill level. Now he is taking part on a Mars expedition, and tries to climb Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in the solar system. A pretty good story, which explores a failed father-son relationship. ***+
A Tinker's Damnation • short story by Jerry Oltion
The nano-machine which was supposed to create all of the required high-tech items on a colony on another planet is broken beyond repair. It was supposed to be able to create almost anything, with the correct instructions. But, as it isn't working, the colony must use old-fashioned methods to survive. An apprentice for the mechanic of the colony has tinkered with it, but it seems to be beyond repair. A good story, but with such strong Luddite overtones that I wonder why such people would have moved to another planet. ***½
The Old Man • novelette by Rich Larson
A criminal is thawed out from cryostorage. He is made an offer: if he hunts down an even worse criminal, he will get a pardon. He knows the criminal intimately and hates him; the criminal in question is his father. Not bad story, first seemed like a retreated old movie, but ended up being something really different. ***+
Orphans • novelette by Craig DeLancey
A mission to Betelgeuse 2 is approaching a planet. It appears to bear a lot of life, but there are no signs of intelligence. They discover subterranean lines, which appear to be artificial, but there are no other signs of civilization. Several probes they sent to the planet failed soon after landing for unknown reasons. And then there is an accident. Another pretty good story, where the "enemy" is unexpected, but the crew is very clueless and makes extremely stupid risks. ***+
The Absence • short story by Robert R. Chase
A smart man has succeeded in almost everything. Now he is building a space elevator. It turns out that, as a student, he took part in an experiment which was designed to boost brain activity. It seemed to be a failure, but now some participants have reported some strange and worrisome effects. A bit of a fractured story. I didn't really get the connection between the drugs and impending catastrophe. ***-
Arp! Arp! • short story by Christina De La Rocha
A marine biologist examines why a sea farm, which is supposed to produce high-quality algae extract that can be fed to animals, used as food, or even as fertilizer, is failing. She finds what is going on, by a very big coincidence. And the guilty ones apparently did what they did mainly because they are evil. ***
The Mathematician • short story by Tom Jolly
Life among aliens who are essentially immortal, but are able to combine their bodies, but usually lose their memories and knowledge in the process. One manages to circumvent that partially. A too-short story, which was fairly hard to get, as a lot of the pretty unusual life cycles were crammed into too few pages. **+
The Sword of Damocles • novelette by Norman Spinrad
The Galactic Eye is a giant telescope which is built in space. It is tended by people who have been modified to live in free fall. The main purpose of the telescope is to find alien civilizations. And it finds several of them, but all seem to be restricted to their own solar systems. There are no interstellar empires. Why? There isn't a lot of story here. The novelette is mainly fairly philosophical discussions of the main theme, but it was good, nevertheless. ****-
Heaven's Covenant • novella by Bud Sparhawk
A planet has been colonized by humans possibly centuries ago. They ready to use the old colony ship to send a new colony on another star. The government is apparently ruled by religious fanatics, who are pushing for the extermination of a "lesser" race who is apparently used for menial tasks who are called Folk. Even the moderate factions have not the slightest doubt of their inferiority. A woman whose family has died is tending a large farm. She takes good care of her Folk, but she meets a man with whom she falls in love. She is also asked to take part in the new expedition. At the same time, the more strict factions are pushing for the genocide of the Folk. A well-written story, but a bit too long, and the racist and narcissistic husband was very grating. There were some hints that the normal humans were Folk, and the protagonists were members of a “better” race, but that was not stated explicitly. ****-
Abductive Reasoning • short story by Christopher L. Bennett
An advanced alien must land on Earth to make repairs to her ship. She encounters a UFO fanatic conspiracy theorist whose theories about aliens make her think that humans must be lunatics. A fun little story. ***½
Coyote Moon • short story by James Van Pelt
A poor couple, who works at several jobs at the same time and still can't make the ends to meet, sells everything to get a place on a clandestine flight to the Moon. They hope that, since they will be some of the first people there, they will be in a better position. Well, the exploited usually will be exploited. The story could be slightly longer. The emotional attachment to the characters isn't powerful enough. ***
Invaders • short story by Stanley Schmidt
A man goes to a remote hotel to watch a total eclipse of the Sun. Some of the other inhabitants of the hotel seem slightly strange. It turns out that a total eclipse is really rare, and some of the watchers come far away. A nice humorous story. ***½

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Anne Holt, Even Holt: Äkkikuolema (Sudden Death)

Two cardiologist friends try to find out if a football team is using doping to improve running speeds or not. In the same mix is an art robbery which happened a few years earlier and a retired Mossad agent. A fairly good medical detective story, but perhaps with too many side plots.

Eräänlainen osittain lääketieteeseen pohjautuva dekkari. Tunnettu ja loistoluokan kardiologi, Sara, on enemmän tai vähemmän sattumalta jalkapallostadionilla, kun yksi palaajista lyyhistyy maahan sydänkohtauksen saaneen. Kardiologin ammattitaidolla elvytys onnistuu ja pelaaja selviää. Hänet kutsutaan jalkapallojoukkueen omistajan, upporikkaan arabin kotiin illalliselle. Arabi kerää huippuluokan taidetta ja häneltä on ryöstetty joitain vuosia aikaisemmin useampia mestaritason taideteos. Saran ystävä, Ola, työskentelee jalkapallojoukkueen yhtenä lääkäreistä. Hän huomaa, että yllättävän moni joukkueen pelaaja on saanut sydänoireita viime vuosien aikana. Ja yllättävän moni on parantanut juoksuaikaansa paljon enemmän, kuin millään tavanomaisella harjoittelulla olisi mahdollista. Voisiko kyseessä olla doping? Mutta kaikille pelaajille tehdään jatkuvasti hyvin tarkkaa doping-seurantaa – miten mitään dopingia voisi olla käytössä? Ola ja Sara alkavat selvittää mistä on kyse ja peli lopulta muuttuu kovin kuumaksi, ehkä jopa vaaralliseksi. Mutta miten tuo aikaisempi taideryöstö liittyy asiaan? Ja vielä kummallisempaa on, mitä eläkkeelle jääneellä Mossadin agentilla on asioiden kanssa tekemistä.
Ihan kohtalainen kirja, jossa oli hiukan liikaa hajanaisuutta ja ehkä muutama sivujuoni liikaa; pieni tiivistys olisi voinut tehdä terää. Nopeaa luettavaa, mutta etenkin alussa oli hiukan vaikeaa pysyä henkilöistä perillä, varmaan osittain koska en ollut edeltävä samaan sarjaan liittyvää kirjaa lukenut.

443 s

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Tommi Kinnunen: Lopotti

Continues the story of an earlier book which was both critical and commercial success in Finland. Tells the story of two people who were more or less side characters in the first book. The book had extremely good writing, but the life stories of the main characters were fairly depressing, and they lived very much life of outsiders.

Neljän tuulen tien jatko-osa, joka jatkaa ja syventää edellisen kirjan joidenkin hahmojen tarinaa ja osittain jatkaa siitä mihin edellinen kirja loppui.
Kirjan päähenkilöinä ovat Helena, tyttö joka Neljän tuulen tie- kirjassa tuli sokeaksi ja lähetettiin sokeainkouluun ja jäi kirjassa tämän jälkeen lähinnä sivuhenkilöksi.
Toinen päähenkilö on Tuomas, Helenan veljenpoika, joka aluksi lähtee kylältä armeijaan ja jä myöhemmin etelään opiskelemaan.
Aikaisempi kirja oli kotikylässä asuvien näkökulmasta, tämä kylästä olosuhteiden pakosta muuttaneiden näkökulmasta. Molemmat muuttaneet kokevat enemmän tai vähemmän irrallisuutta eivätkä täysin kotikylästänsä eroon pääse, mutta lyhyiden lomien yhteydessä ovat siellä yhtälailla ulkopuolisia, elämä kun pohjoisessakin on edennyt omaa rataansa.
Sokean tytön, Helenan elämä vaikutti aluksi menevän olosuhteisiin nähden hyvin, kunhan hän ottaa oman elämänsä hallintaansa rankkojen kouluvuosien jälkeen. Hänen kohtalonsa lopulta ei ollut mikään miellyttävä. Tuomaksen tarina oli osittain samantyyppinen: alkuvaikeuksien kautta näytti elämä kääntyvän hyväksi, kunnes asiat eivät sujuneet kuin henkilö olisivat toivoneet

Tämä elämän yleinen surkeus oli jopa ahdistuksen tunnetta aiheuttavaa, jotain positiivisempaa kirja olisi mielestäni tarvinnut – nyt meni vähän liikaa suomalaisen ”kurjuus-realismin” puolelle. Osaltaan kirja myös tuntui hiukan turhalta - ei Neljän tuulen tie mielestäni mitään jatkoa olisi kaivannut, se oli hyvä ihan sellaisenaan. Toisaalta kieli oli kirjassa niin hienoa ja nautittavaa, että sen luki mielellään ihmiskohtaloiden kovuudesta huolimatta. Juonellisesti tarina oli hiukan liian hajanainen. Päähenkilöitä seurataan ajassa hyppien melkein, mutta ei kuitenkaan kokonaan, kronologisessa järjestyksessä ja etenkin alussa tarina vaikutti hiukan sekavalta.

364 s.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Necessity by Jo Walton

The last part of a trilogy. The setting of the book is completely different from the earlier books. It doesn’t happen in ancient Greece, but in a future on a distant planet. When Zeus heard of the experimental city Apollo and Athene had set up based on the principles of Plato’s Republic, he was not too happy about it. He decided to transfer the town (which, by that time, had already split up into several sub-towns, each following its own interpretation of The Republic) in time and space.

When the book starts, several decades have passed. Most of the characters of the earlier books have died, including Apollo, who had been living in the town in corporeal form. After his body died, he regained his godly powers. As a god, he learns that Athene has disappeared and she can’t be found anywhere in time and space.

Life has settled on the new planet, even if it is much colder than Greece, with the temperature hovering around the freezing point of water for half of the year. (That doesn’t sound very bad, by the way; way better climate than I have in my hometown.) But the supposedly smart philosophers still wear chitons or togas. One would imagine that they would have learned to make some warmer clothes in a few decades. The inhabitants of the planet have already made contact with a couple of alien races, with some aliens living in the towns as full citizens. A human ship shows up in the orbit. They came from a human colony and want to trade. How are they going to explain to these new humans how they ended up on the planet? The story about a divine intervention might sound slightly odd. Many people think that they should tell the truth, as it wouldn’t be believed anyway, but the new arrivals might refrain from other questions, being afraid of offending religious sensibilities.

The setup is very interesting. Unfortunately, most of the book consists of more or less philosophical discussions, and fairly little actually happens. The aliens, the new human visitors, and even the disappearance of Athene have a pretty minor role and are underdeveloped in the book. The writing was very good, just like in the earlier parts, and even if the discussions were interesting as such (and the book was good and enjoyable), it was a slight disappointment after the two earlier excellent installments.

336 pp.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tove Jansson: Muumilaakson Marraskuu (Moominvalley in November)

The last of the Moomin books. One of the few I didn't read as a child. On the other hand, there are no moomins in this book at all. Several inhabitants of the Moominvalley want to meet the moomins and travel to the Moominhouse late at autumn. It turns out, that the house is empty and there is no trace of any of the Moomins. The characters almost start to imitate the life of the moomin family and they move in the house. The writing is excellent and gives powerful feeling of the autumn stillness. A very good book and a proper goodbye for the moomins.

Luettu kirjapiirin syksyyn sopivana kirjana. En ollut tätä muumikirjaa aikaisemmin lukenut, en edes lapsena. Lastenkirjasta tosin ei oikeastaan edes ole kyse. Eikä oikeastaan tarkkaan ottaen edes muumikirjasta – muumeja ei tässä kirjassa tavata.

On syksy. Monet muumilaakson asukkaat päättävät mieli enemmän tai vähemmän haikeana lähteä muumitalolle muumeja, etenkin muumimammaa, tapaamaan. Mutta muumitalo onkin tyhjä. Ovet ovat auki, mutta kukaan ei ole paikalla. Jokainen erikseen tullut pikku olento: Hemuli, joka on yhtäkkiä tuntenut elämänsä jotenkin tyhjäksi, Vilijonkka, joka on menettänyt halunsa siivoamiseen, yksinäinen ja hieman pelokas homssu, ikivanha ja huonomuistinen Ruttuvaari ja kaunis, itsevarma pikku Myyn isosisko, Mymmeli. Kun muumit eivät ole paikalla, vieraat asettuvat asumaan muumitaloon ja jopa ottavat osittain muumien rooleja itselleen.

Ajallisesti kirja ilmeisesti liittyy kirjaan Muumipappa ja meri, jota en muista lukeneeni. Lopussa ilmeisesti muumiperhe on palaamassa tuolta merimatkaltaan – tai sitten ei, asia jää lopulta hiukan auki.

Kirja on hyvin kaunista kieltä, joka välittää syksyn haikean ja jotenkin melankolisen ja jopa hitaan tunnelman hyvin voimakkaana. Kirjan yhtenä henkenä on myös muutos, yhden aikakauden päättyminen. Kirjan loppuun mennessä oikeastaan kaikki kirjan henkilöt olivat jollain lailla muuttuneet ja ehkä hyväksyneet itsensä paremmin.

Muumit eivät kirjan kirjoittamisen aikaan tainneet olla ihan yhtä suosittuja kuin nykyään, mutta onkohan kirjan juonessa mukana jonkinlaista metakirjallista kommentointia muumien kovasta suosiosta? Kaikki kirjan hahmot ihailevat muumiperhettä, haluavat tavata heitä ja jopa alkavat käyttäytyä ja osittain jopa melkein muuttua muumien kaltaisiksi. Onko tämä kirjailijan kannanotto muumifaneihin? Ei ehkä sentään.

Kokonaisuutena kyllä hieno kirja, ja houkuttaa lukemaan muut muumikirjat, muista suurimman osan olen lukenut, mutta vuosikymmeniä sitten ja muistikuvat ovat enemmän tai vähemmän hämäriä.

161 s

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Aleksis Kivi: Seitsemän veljestä

This is one of the oldest Finnish novels and by far the oldest that is still being read. Everyone has read this in school. It's a story of seven brothers who live in the countryside. They try to learn to read, escape to a forest to live more or less as hermits, and are later rehabilitated to society. It's written mostly in play format, with oldish but very inventive language. It's still worth reading for the writing and the vivid descriptions of the different personalities of the brothers.

Lukupiirissäni päätettiin lukea Seitsemän veljestä hiukan Suomi 100 teemaan liittyen. Kirja kun on oikeastaan ensimmäinen oikeasti merkittävä suomalainen romaani, ainakin ensimmäinen joka ei ole unohtunut. Tarinahan on kaikille tuttu, todennäköisesti ei ole montaa ihmistä, joka ei tätä ainakin koulussa olisi lukenut – tai tunne ainakin jotain teatteri-, ooppera- tai elokuvaversiota. Tai ainakin Seitsemän koiraveljestä lastenkirjaversion, jos ei muuta. Omasta edellisestä lukukerrasta oli kulunut varmasti ainakin parikymmentä vuotta ja muistikuvat olivat päässeet jossain määrin haalistumaan. Kirjan pituus ja kaksijakoisuus oli vähän yllätys lukiessa. Kun kaikki kohtaukset, jotka kirjasta muistin, olivat tapahtunet (Toukolan poikien kanssa tappelu, lukkarin kanssa lukemaan opettelu, Impivaaraan muutto, talon palaminen jouluna ja kivellä härkiä paossa oleminen), oli kirja vasta puolivälissä. Loppuosan tapahtumista, joissa veljekset ryhdistäytyvät ja alkavat kunnon kansalaisiksi ei ollut mitään muistikuvia. Jonkinlainen muistikuva oli, että tämä olisi kuvattu ”pikakelauksena” sivulla tai kahdella.
Kielellisesti kirja oli hieno, vaikka vanhojen paikoitellen osittain murteellisten sanojen ymmärtäminen ei aina ollut helppoa. Usein sanojen äänen ”makustelu” auttoi asiaa. Uskottavaa kieli ei ollut ollenkaan, ei ole mitenkään mahdollista että lukutaidottomat metsämökin suurelta osin keskenään kasvaneet pojat puhuisivat sellaista kieltä! Aikanaan kirja tyrmättiin arvosteluissa juuri ”ruman” kielen vuoksi – tätä on vaikea ymmärtää, sillä jos jotain, kieli on ihan liian kaunista. Huumoria kirjassa myös oli enemmän kuin muistin, aika nokkelaa ja enemmän kuin vähän ironista sanailua kirjassa oli paljon. Ihan mukava lukukokemus kaiken kaikkiaan kyllä.

405 s.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, July-August 2017

A pretty good issue in which most of the stories were enjoyable. However, there were some less-good ones, too.

Not Far Enough • novella by Martin L. Shoemaker

The second expedition to Mars arrives. As there were some problems with the first one, the current mission is controlled in part by artificial intelligence. It turns out to be extremely badly designed and is partially responsible for a catastrophe that almost destroys the party. There are deaths and one member of the expedition loses a leg. (I wonder why—the severed leg is described in detail and it seems to be perfectly fine.) The psychological profiling of the expedition is apparently of the same "high" quality as the AI design and causes some problems. A fairly good "survival" story. Andy Weir did survival on Mars so much better, though. ***
The Fool's Stone • short story by Aubry Kae Andersen
A magician/alchemist finds a stone that can actually transmute metals. Unfortunately it turns gold into lead and not other way around. It also apparently makes people very sick. A caliph who murdered the previous caliph believes the alchemist has valuable secrets and isn’t telling everything he knows. It's a very good story that happens in an eastern setting. The “MacGuffin” of the story is an intriguing substance that is clearly radioactive, but otherwise doesn't really seem to obey the laws of nature. ****-
The First Rule Is, You Don't Eat Your Friends • short story by Robert R. Chase
A monastery raises pigs and the abbot has noticed they are really intelligent. Should they be used as meat? Or should their capabilities be enhanced? A scientist also seek asylum at the monastery. Not bad, but not much backstory and then the story just ends. ***-
Alouette, Gentille Alouette • short story by Andrew Barton
An ancient satellite with historical value is being rescued from orbit. It has parts that don't fit into the docking bay—should they be broken? A very short story—more of a scene than a real story. It was perfectly nice, though. ***
Fat Bubble • short story by Thomas A. Easton [as by Tom Easton]
An overweight couple invests heavily into gut bacteria that make you thinner. A very short, but fairly good, story—and it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. ***
Perspective • short story by Kyle Kirkland
A retired expert of direct brain stimulation is enlisted to examine the president. He has misused brain stimulation in his youth and there is a chance of brain damage. A pretty good story with unlikely, but certainly possible, type of brain injury. ***+
For All Mankind • novelette by C. Stuart Hardwick
A joint mission of Americans and Russians is sent to intercept an asteroid that will hit Earth in a few decades. To deflect it, the asteroid must be reached as soon as possible. A joint mission of two women (they weigh less than men and consume less food and oxygen) is sent to the asteroid. Their payload is enough bombs to slightly shift the asteroid's trajectory. And the mission is one-way only—there will be no return or rescue. An excellent and moving story. ****+
Clarity of Signal • short story by Holly Schofield
A woman studies alien animals on an interstellar mission. She is convinced they are intelligent and intends to prove it at all costs. A fairly short story with a main protagonist who somehow manages to be very irritating. ***-
Belly Up • novelette by Maggie Clark
A story I didn’t really get at all. The backstory is pretty scant: there is apparently some sort of racing, space ships, a war going on, and there is some sort of revenge. The plot felt pretty confusing and I found the language hard to read and understand. Didn’t like it at all. **-
Pitch • short story by Bruce McAllister and Patrick Smith
A plot proposal for a movie in the future with some prophetic undertones. Short and OK—probably contained references to something I didn’t get. **½
Phuquiang: A History • short story by Uncle River
A sort of folk tale of a post-apocalyptic future (or a feral colony planet). Cousins discover some sort of hot vents that can be useful and which turn out to be important. A pretty short story, but not bad.***-
Blinking Noon and Midnight • short story by Tim McDaniel
User interfaces tend to be hard to use, especially for elderly people. It always has been so, and it probably will always be so. A pretty fun story about an old man in a future “smart house” with a confusing UI. ***
Teamwork • short story by Eve Warren
The kids who live in a Martian colony have fun in dangerous ways. A very short story, but not a bad one. ***
Often and Silently We Come • short story by Ron Collins
Aliens with truly different physiology examine samples of beings with a more ordinary physiology. As they don’t really understand what they are doing, they first make some grave errors. Not bad, but a bit short. ***+
Galleon • novelette by Brian Trent
A space ship with a very powerful AI takes an active interest in its occupants. It has some very advanced and sometimes unpleasant ways to influence its occupants. It turns out that all other ships like it have been decommissioned. A very good, well-written, and fresh story, where the main character (the AI) is very well drawn with sufficiently “alien” thought patterns. ****-
Across the Steaming Sea • novelette by Rob Chilson
I have loathed the previous installments in this series. The characters have extremely irritating speech patterns that make them seem like brain-damaged half-wits. Did not read. Not rated.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Jennifer Egan: Sydäntorni (The Keep)

A man has had to escape his old life for undefined reasons. He goes to work with his cousin, who has become very rich and has bought a castle in Europe. Their relationship in childhood ended with some very bad blood, but now past is past, and they are renewing their relationship. The events slowly turn almost surrealistic. At first, the book felt at best mediocre, but rarely has the ending of a book changed my conception of the book to such a degree.

Mies, joka on joutunut jonkinlaisiin tarkemmin kuvailemattomiin vaikeuksiin ja joutuu käytännössä pakenemaan, saa työtä rikkaalta serkultaan. Serkku on rikastunut osakevälityksellä ja on nyt nuorena eläkkeelle jäämisen jälkeen ostanut Euroopasta vanhan linnan. Hän on remontoimassa sitä kovan tason retriittihotelliksi. Serkukset olivat olleet lapsena kaverukset, kunnes välit rikkoutuvat osittain ryhmäpaineesta aiheutuneen aika rajun kiusaamisepisodin jälkeen. Mutta mennyt on mennyttä ja serkkujen suhde on lämpiämässä uudelleen. Tosin etäällä oleva linna, jonka alueella ei ole kännykkäverkkoa ja kaikki sähköiset laitteet toimivat heikosti, ei ole välttämättä kovin auvoisa paikka miehelle, joka on addiktoinut kännyköihin ja yhteydenpitoon. Linnan keskellä on vanha sydäntorni, jossa vielä asuu linnan omistajasuvun vanha jäsen, joka ei ole suostunut muuttamaan pois. Linnan aluetta kunnostamassa on melko sekalainen ryhmä ihmisiä, mukana myös kesätyössä olevia opiskelijoita. Pikkuhiljaa tapahtumat muuttuvat kummallisemmiksi ja melkein surrealistisiksi. Tämän kirjan päätarinan välissä on lukuja, jotka kertovat vankilassa olevan vangin kirjoitusharjoituksista ja hänen kehittyvästä suhteestaan vankilassa käyvään luovan kirjoituksen opettajaan.
Kirja vaikutti alussa melko kömpelösti kirjoitetulta sekä hiukan sekavalta ja epäloogiselta ja jotenkin ärsyttävältä. Loppuratkaisu oli kumminkin sen verran yllättävä ja hyvä, että nämä virheet voi antaa anteeksi (ja oikeastaan ne jopa selittyvät). Aika harvoin on alustava mielipide kirjasta muuttunut niin paljon niin nopeasti kuin nyt, kun matto vedettiin jalkojen alta siihen malliin, että sama kappale piti lukea muutamaan kertaan, jotta oikeasti ymmärsi mitä juuri tapahtui. Kirja melkein pitäisi lukea uudelleen, nyt kun tietää, mistä milloinkin on oikeasti kyse. Lopputuloksena kirja oli kuitenkin hyvin mielenkiintoinen lukuelämys.

347 s.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Salla Simukka: Valkea kuin lumi (As White as Snow)

A Finnish YA-book which has gotten some international fame. The main character of the series is spending some vacation time in Prague after the events in the first book. She is approached by a young woman who claims to be her sister. Could that be true? A smoothly going book with some hard to believe plot points, but it was nice light reading anyway for young spirited people of all ages.

Toinen osa kansainvälistä huomiota saaneesta suomalaisesta nuortenkirja-sarjasta. Kovien koettelemuksien jälkeen Lumikki on matkustanut Prahaan lomalle. Siellä hänelle aikaisemmin tuntematon nuori nainen lähestyy häntä ja kertoo olevansa hänen siskonsa. Puhuuko hän totta? Onko Lumikin perheessä salaisuus, josta ei ole puhuttu? Tämä ainakin jotenkin tuntuisi olevan totta, mutta onko Lumikin isä joskus yli kaksikymmentä vuotta sitten käynyt Tsekeissä, ainakaan ennen Lumikin matkaa asiasta ei ollut mitään puhetta. Lumikin siskoksi esittäytynyt nainen näyttää elävän osana kummallista uskonlahkoa. Lumikkia näyttää alkavan vainota joku, joka oikeasti haluaa tappaa hänet. Mitä ihmettä oikein on meneillään?
Sujuvasti kirjoitettu nuortenkirja; tosin joten vaikutti hiukan heikommalta kuin ensimmäinen osa. Kyseessä tietysti osaltaan voi olla trilogioiden toisen osan vaikeus – henkilöt ja tausta on esitelty, mutta loppuratkaisuja ei vielä päästä tekemään. Juonen uskottavuudessa oli jonkin verran epäuskottavuutta, mutta vetävästi kirjoitettu kirja oli, ja siinä jäi ihan mukavasti auki asioita päätösosaan. Eiköhän sekin jossain vaiheessa pidä lukea.

237 pp.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Dark Forest and Death's End (Remembrance of Earth's Past #2 and #3) by Liu Cixin

I read these two books back to back. I already have some trouble remembering what happened in which book, as they continue almost directly from the same story. Aliens are going to attack Earth. Luckily it is going to take a few centuries, so Earth will have time to prepare. Unfortunately, aliens have been able to prevent all high energy particle physics, so it is likely that humans will run against a technological barrier at some point. But as centuries pass, humans have built a huge space navy and are practically sure they will easily beat the invaders. But the science gap turns out to be vastly greater than almost anyone on Earth anticipated.
A lot happens in these novels – and I mean a LOT. The structure of one book is such that it leaps even centuries at a time, while the main characters spend their time in suspended animation. And then it is carefully explained what has happened; this book mostly tells things, doesn’t actually show them, except the most crucial moments. It is hard to give a very detailed plot description without spoilers, and because of the really vast scope the book covers.
There were some strange details, like smoking in a future restaurant (which had android waiters who looked completely human, but with such bad programming and pattern recognition that they are not able to recognize a removed table). And the behavior of some characters is incredibly stupid: after several failed murder attempts, one character casually orders drugs for very mundane reason, and almost takes them without a second thought.
Also, the strategies used by humans are completely insane. An unknown enemy probe with unknown capabilities arrives. Oh, let's arrange the whole human fleet in close proximity at STRAIGHT LINES very close to each others.
There were many problems with science; for example, interstellar dust is so dense that it slows spaceships which move at relativistic speeds by “drag” significantly? Electromagnetic pulse caused by a nuclear detonation causes such a heavy vibration of the space ship hull that it kills everyone inside?
The motives of many the characters are often very strange and hard to understand, and some actions even the nations took were very strange. There was no mention at all about opposition, which is active in all western countries; all political decisions were apparently unanimous with no one opposing sometimes very strange decisions, like classifying all attempts to build ships to escape the solar system and the coming invasion as “escapism” and extremely criminal – I didn’t get that at all (there was an explanation in book for that, but it was a ridiculously stupid one).
There is a lot of lecturing, explaining pretty basic scientific things, and if something isn't explained, there is a translator's note which explains it.
As a whole, the plot was interesting, but the writing style and behavior of many of the protagonists was pretty infuriating. However so much happened - sometimes pretty surprising (but depressing) things - that the books were an easy reads in spite of hefty page counts.

512 + 604 pp.

Monday, July 17, 2017

My Hugo award votes 2017 part 4: novels

I have read all the nominees in the novel category. As I have been traveling and been both busy and sick lately, I haven’t had time to write a blog post about Cixin Liu’s "Death’s End", but I will in a few days. I also read the second part of the trilogy, which had been published earlier. They were entertaining books, but not without faults. All nominees were pretty good, at last, on some level, and it wasn’t easy to put them in order. None of the novels was totally unworthy of an award. The "Ninefox Gambit" felt most innovative, and I put it in first place. "Like the Lighting" was a bit too hard to read for my taste, even though it was a fair book, also. Altogether, I can accept any of these books as a winner; most of them were very literary works, perhaps even a bit too much.

My voting order was:

1. Ninefox Gambit
2. The Obelisk Gate
3. A Closed and Common Orbit
4. All the Birds in the Sky
5. Death's End
6. Too Like the Lightning

Sunday, July 9, 2017

My Hugo award votes 2017 part 3: short stories

In this category, the rabid puppies chose the third alternative action: self-gratification and pushed for the nomination of a story that was written by their leader – who “ordered” the nomination of his own story by his loyal gamergate henchmen, who live in their parent’s basements. The overall quality was fairly average: better than the last few years, but that wasn’t hard to do. The stories were mostly very literate, with somewhat experimental writing styles. The first place was easy to decide – I preferred the story with the most traditional writing style. The order of the other stories was less easy to decide, except for the last place – there was no contest for that. That story is below “no award.”

“Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, Saga Press)
A story of two women with an at least partly self-imposed punishment/task. One is supposed to wear down seven pairs of metal shoes; another is supposed to stand on a glass mountain. They meet, discuss their fates, and choose to escape their punishments together. A very allegorical story, which makes certain that you understand the allegories. Not bad, after I got into it, following a few fairly demanding first pages.

“The City Born Great” by N. K. Jemisin (Tor.com, September 2016)
A young man is drafted to work as the “midwife” for the city of New York. The city is going to be born, apparently, as a conscious being and there are powers that oppose this. A poetic and fairly confusing story, not really my cup of tea.

“Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine, November 2016)
A serial murderer kills a woman, but that woman happens to be a god of sorts, who has been in corporeal form for a while. She and her sisters avenge her death. A very short revenge fantasy, which is written very well, almost poetically, but it is too short to work really well.

“That Game We Played During the War” by Carrie Vaughn (Tor.com, March 2016)
A nurse arrives at a former enemy country soon after the armistice has come into force. She knows a man who is being treated for his wounds in a hospital. She had taken care of him when he was a prisoner, and later, she was his war prisoner. They formed a friendship and played chess; which might be a bit of a different game if one player can read the other’s thoughts. A nice story, with nice characters, but a bit too scene-like.

“A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers” by Alyssa Wong (Tor.com, March 2016)
A story of two sisters who are apparently able to control reality. One kills herself and the other tries to undo it. Or everything is just in her mind, as she runs through scenarios of how the death could have been prevented. A pretty good literary story about facing sorrow. If I read the story correctly, there are hints about the reason that the sister killed herself.

“An Unimaginable Light” by John C. Wright (God, Robot, Castalia House)
A robot (or rather an android) and a sort of robot inquisitor have a discussion. A pretty bad and very illogical story, which is written in a ponderous language, with inane digs at modern egalitarian culture and openly sadistic violence toward women. A bad story on all levels.

My voting order is:

Short Story:
1. "That Game We Played During the War"
2. "Seasons of Glass and Iron"
3. "The City Born Great"
4. "A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers"
5. "Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies"
6. No award

Thursday, July 6, 2017

My Hugo award votes 2017 part 2: novelettes

Novelettes is the second category I have finished. The overall quality of the stories was fairly good, but somewhat worse than in novellas. In this category, the evil leader of the rabid puppies went for trolling and nominated a lizard sex story, again. Otherwise, the order was fairly easy to decide. The only thing that was a little harder to decide was the order of the two best stories, but eventually, I went for the more straightforwardly science fictional story. Similarly, when deciding the order of third and fourth places, I went for the science fiction, even when the actual speculative content of the story was fairly minor.

"Alien Stripper Boned From Behind" by The T-Rex by Stix Hiscock

Last year, the rabid puppies and Vox Day, along with his minions, nominated a gay sex story involving a Tyrannosaurus Rex. This year, their contribution to the nominations was a straight sex story involving a Tyrannosaurus Rex. I wonder what kind of pervert is so captivated by lizard sex? In this story, a three-breasted alien stripper, who shoots laser beams out of her nipples when she has an orgasm, hooks up with a tyrannosaurus and has a lot of steamy sex. The tyrannosaurus is extremely well endowed for a lizard (which usually don’t really have much external genitalia at all). This was much worse than last year’s porn story, which at least managed to be pretty funny. This wasn’t even arousing and the writing was pretty bad. It lands below “no award” for me.

“The Tomato Thief” by Ursula Vernon

An old woman lives alone and raises the best tomatoes anyone has ever tasted. She is waiting for one especially juicy tomato to reach peak ripeness, when it disappears during the night. And then the next one is also stolen. And the next. Clearly, something must be done. It turns out that the old lady (and the world itself) were not so simple as they first seemed to be. The quest for the tomato thief turns out to span several dimensions and is a very dangerous adventure, which involves space shifters and some even more strange creatures. A fun fable-like story, which turns more and more fantastic it goes on and is very well told.

“You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay” by Alyssa Wong

Young orphan boy and girl live on a whorehouse and help with all of the chores there are to be done. The boy has some strange powers: he can animate the dead, up to and including the chicken legs that are being cleaned for cooking. A group of strange men comes to the town. They demand that the boy come with them to examine a mine that was destroyed in an accident. He does, but things don’t go as planned. Nice writing, but a bit of an over-surrealistic end for my taste, which doesn’t really explain any of the fantasy elements.

“The Art of Space Travel” by Nina Allan
The first Martian expedition ended in disaster over twenty years ago. A new one will be launched soon. A young woman takes care of her mother who suffers from an Alzheimer's-like disease. It turns out that her unknown father just might be one of the members of the first expedition. A well-written story, but with fairly minor science fictional plot elements.

“Touring with the Alien” by Carolyn Ives Gilman
Aliens have arrived in impenetrable domes around the world. After a short time, humans who were apparently kidnapped as children, exit from the domes. They are supposedly translators for the aliens. Then one of them asks for a bus. A young woman works as a driver for him and an alien, and they mainly just drive around. A very good story, which is refreshingly real science fiction, not fantasy with irritatingly unexplained mystical events.

“The Jewel and Her Lapidary” by Fran Wilde
Pretty generic fantasy, where jewels have mystical and magical properties. The story involves a member of the royal family and her “lapidary”, a person who is able to command the stones. Their country is invaded and they must try to survive and protect some of the most powerful and important jewels. I didn’t get into this story at all. The characters spent most of their time discussing the magical properties of the jewels and little seemed to happen. Overall, the story felt like pretty generic fantasy, which was well written, but fairly boring.

My voting order is:

1. "Touring with the Alien” by Carolyn Ives Gilman
2. "The Tomato Thief” by Ursula Vernon
3. “The Art of Space Travel” by Nina Allan
4. “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay” by Alyssa Wong
5. “The Jewel and Her Lapidary” by Fran Wilde
6. No award
7. Alien Stripper Boned From Behind" by The T-Rex by Stix Hiscock

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Kari Häkämies: Presidentin murhe

The husband of Finnish president disappears and later he is found murdered. Is the murder connected to the murder of shady businessman from Iceland, whose body was found nearby somewhat earlier? An easy to read crime story, where the description of the political life is top notch, but the characterization might have been better.

Poliittisessa maailmassa tapahtuva dekkari. Naispresidentin hiukan epämääräisen taustan omaava puoliso aluksi katoaa ja löytyy myöhemmin kuolleena. Onko hänen kuolemallaan jotain yhteyttä hiukan hämäräperäisen islantilaisen liikemiehen kuolemaan? Asiaa selvittelee sekä poliisi, että Helsingin Sanomien toimittaja, joka on siirtynyt rikostoimitukseen taloustoimituksesta. Ja onko presidentinkin taustoissa jotain epäselvää? Mutta kumpi löytää syyllisen ensin, toimittaja vai poliisi?
Kirjassa ei ole varsinaista päähenkilöä, vaan tapahtumia seurataan useammasta tai ainakin kahdesta eri näkökulmasta. Tämän vuoksi kirja vaikutti hieman hajanaiselta eikä henkilöiden kuvaus ei myöskään ollut mielestäni mitenkään erityisen hyvää. Kovin paljoa vihjeitä murhaajasta ei myöskään saatu eikä ”arvoitusta” itsenäisesti käytännössä olisi pystynyt ratkaisemaan. Se, mikä kirjassa oli parasta ja kiinnostavaa sekä ilmeisen asiantuntevasti kirjoitettua, oli poliittisen taustan kuvaaminen. Ihan mukava välipala kumminkin raskaamman ja englanninkielisen kirjallisuuden välissä vaihteluna, enkä pitäisi mahdottomana, että lisää saman sarjan kirjoja lukisin.

278 s.

Friday, June 30, 2017

My Hugo award votes 2017 part 1: novellas

Novellas are the first category of the Hugo nominations that I finished. After the changes in the nomination process, the trollers had less of an impact this year. As a drawback (or bonus) there was more to be read, as there are six nominees in each category.

All of the stories were at least fairly good, none was bad, not even the rapid puppies nominee, the story by China Miéville. Apparently that nomination was mostly a “human shield” style of nomination: nominating something which most likely would be on the list anyway. The order of the stories wasn’t too easy to determine, but I read the story by Seanan McGuire first and it pretty much remained my favorite. None of the stories was something that wouldn’t be award-worthy at all. None of the stories will be below “no award.” After some pondering, I chose my voting order. (This year’s voting system is extremely nice to use and it made putting the stories in right order very easy).

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Young teenagers, mostly girls, have gone to alternative worlds where they felt at home. The alternative worlds are mostly different, some are fantasy lands, others are based on logic, some are based on some kind of horror motive, and so on. In the most cases, the youths felt at home on those worlds. For some reason, some of them have been cast out. Time has moved at a different rate for them in many cases. It might have been years in our world and their parents assumed that their children had been abducted/run out and are most likely dead. The relationships between the children and their parents are usually very strained – and usually they were strained even before the youths went away. The victims are gathered to a special school, which is run by an old woman who herself had the same fate as a teenager. She looks middle-aged but is possibly much older. A young girl goes to the school. Soon other pupils start to die - gruesomely. The other pupils naturally first have some suspicion toward the new pupil, especially as she comes from a world where death himself is an important figure.

A pretty good story with a new look at what Alice in Wonderland and Narnia (according to the novella, Lewis didn’t really know anything, he just used stories he had heard - badly) might actually mean. A nice and interesting story, with unusual characters and excellent writing.

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson

This story is kind of the reverse of the one above. This story happens in a dreamland, where the sky is patterned and close to the ground, and it is ruled by several gods. Most of the gods are not benevolent and they are ready to destroy whole towns for minor infringements, or even just to annoy another god. A pupil from a women’s university has escaped. Apparently, she has fallen in love with a man who comes from the waking world. A teacher, who as a young woman had many adventures, must bring her back, as her absence threatens not only the school, but the whole town. But it isn’t easy for someone, who is from the dreamland to go the waking world…

The beginning and the end of the story were excellent, but the middle part consisted mostly of a travelogue of the dreamland and all of the action pretty much stopped. Due to that, the story felt too long. However, both the beginning and the end were excellent.

Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold

This novella continues the story of Pendric and his demon, Desdemona. It has been a few years after the last story and Pendric has grown accustomed to the demon he carries, at least more or less. He must interrupt his studies for a while, as he and his ward are needed to a shaman, who apparently not only murdered his friend but destroyed his soul, as it was nowhere to be found. (In this world the souls are very real and they literally go to the gods at the funeral rites). Eventually, they naturally find what they were looking for. A pretty good story, but it was a bit overlong and there was far too little of Desdemona. Not as good as the first part of the series.

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle

At the beginning of the 20th century, a black man from Harlem delivers a strange book for a peculiar old woman who lives in an affluent part of the New York City, which is written in an unknown language. He has left away the last page of the book as a precaution. Soon, he gets an offer he can’t decline from a strange man and is chased and bullied by a plain clothes detective. And then everything starts to be more and more strange and dangerous. A story, which is an homage to the Cthulhu stories. In the beginning of the story, the slight horror elements were pretty good; the later part, with more surrealistic bloody horror, was much less appealing - but I have never been a great fan of horror and even less of the Cthulhu stories. The writing was very good, though.

A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

The story happens at different times. One part of the story is a romance between two males in the vaguely fantastical medieval style world. Another part of the story happens much later and shows that the two lovers didn’t get each other. This latter part of the story has science fictional elements. Apparently, the world is a colony world and there are “gods” or people with access to high technology who have very long life spans. The romance parts took the bulk of the story, and there was nothing really special there: two lovers from different ladders of the society who eventually can’t be together. How many times has this story been told? The sexes of the partners had no real significance; the same story could have been told about a male and a female just as well. Perhaps that was a part of the point the story was making, but the romance parts felt very dull and they had no scifi or fantasy content at all. And the ending, if I understood it correctly, was a cheat.

This Census-Taker by China Miéville

A young boy lives with his parents on a mountain side. The father is a “keymaker,” who makes keys for the villagers. The keys apparently have some supernatural properties. The father sometimes kills animals. Then the mother disappears and the boy claims that the father killed her. The villagers examine their house and don’t find any proof of the crime: but the mother supposedly has written a letter which states she has run away. The boy must return to his father, but he is afraid that he will be killed. But then a man, a census taker, arrives and he interviews the boy and believes his story. The story has very beautiful language, but the plot has a lot of vague unexplained mysticism, and the story seemed to end a bit too soon. The point of the story is also left more or less open and the slightly mystical points are not explained at all.

My voting order is:

1. Every Heart a Doorway
2. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe
3. Penric and the Shaman
4. This Census-Taker
5. The Ballad of Black Tom
6. A Taste of Honey

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer

This book is another Hugo nominee. It's a sort of future history that supposedly tells a story that happened decades or centuries ago. To show that the story takes place in the past, it is written in a very old style of language and storytelling (the book actually happens hundreds of years in the future from the real current time). One of the narrative devices is a narrative voice that comments on events and sometimes even argues with itself about details of the book, like about who is the main character of the book.
Religion has been all but outlawed after a devastating war that was caused by religious beliefs. Religion cannot be publicly discussed, if a professional called a sensayer isn’t present. The nations have also vanished, and they are replaced by clans of sorts that bind people who have similar interests. The clans take care of their members, and most people belong to very tight families that usually consist of several people of different sexes. And the mere mention of sexual differences or even gender is very much taboo.
The main character, Carlyle Foster, is a sensayer. His friend, Mycroft Canner, is a slave of sorts, due to crimes he has committed. The crimes he committed are very extreme, but he has been “adjusted”, and he isn’t able to harm even insects anymore. They are taking care of a very special child who apparently can perform real miracles — like waking up toy soldiers as real, intelligent, and self-aware creatures.
The language and the structure of the book are pretty heavy, hard to read, and exhaustive, and at places very irritating. The plot itself was pretty good, but the fairly experimental narrative technique made the book pretty hard to follow, and it was a struggle to read at places. This is a book that might be easier to understand on a second reading, and I probably didn’t get everything out of it after the first reading. Also, the capabilities of the child were slightly too much on the fantastical side for a book that otherwise is very science fictional. This won’t be one of my top choices in the Hugo voting.

432 pp.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, May-June 2017

A lot of short stories in this issue – many of them lacked proper beginning and end.

The Girls with Kaleidoscope Eyes • novella by Howard V. Hendrix
An FBI detective arrives at a small town where a teacher has apparently tried to kill and burn several of his young female students, rescuing them at the last possible moment and endangering his own life. The teacher seems to have a history of failure of sorts. He has had some pretty good positions, but has had some unorthodox opinions and eventually he has fallen back to teaching at the high school at his old home town. The town has an NSA data center, with some very secret and advanced data processing faculties. The children who almost were killed are all girls; all look very similar and inhabit some very strange thought patterns.
A pretty good story; a digital take on Midwich Cuckoos. There were some irritating jabs on “SJW”-style of thinking which were unnecessary for the story. ****-
To See the Elephant • novelette by Julie Novakova
An animal psychologist has arrived to find out why a young male elephant is behaving very strangely. As elephants are dying out, due to widespread disease, every single one counts. She is able to create an almost telepathic connection with EEG electrodes which are attached to the bull. A story that is written to showcases a couple novel ideas. A fair one as such, but otherwise not very memorable. ***
The Chatter of Monkeys • short story by Bond Elam
The ecosystem has apparently pretty much fallen. The nations are still battling for some pretty unspecified reasons. An alien robot has arrived on Earth and is able to offer a solution for the catastrophe. But humans don’t seem too interested in the solution. Scant backstory and caricature-like characters make this pretty average story. ***-
A Grand Gesture • short story by Dave Creek
A man who inadvertently caused the death of several people faces an ethical dilemma on a foreign planet. Should he save possibly sentient aliens at cost of human lives? A pretty nice story. ***
Decrypted • short story by Eric Choi
Digital encryption falls down, causing severe unforeseen consequences; among others, a loss of the secrecy of previously unknown messages. Another story that is a bit too short and cursory; more of a scene than a real story. ***
Seven Ways to Fall in Love with an Astronaut • short story by Dominica Phetteplace
A love story of sorts, between scientist/astronauts who work in space and study Martian micro-organisms. The story goes more for a mood than a plot. ***
Focus • short fiction by Gord Sellar
Students in Vietnam revolt against scrupulous factory owners, but the government apparently has some plans. Not really a story, but just a short scene. There was not much backstory, and the story just ends on an emotional scene with no real resolution. ***
Ténéré • short story by Manny Frishberg and Edd Vick
A caravan finds out that an oasis has dried out. There is a new structure nearby and they go there to get water and to find out what has happened to the oasis. The factory uses solar energy to scrub CO2 from the air and uses the carbon to produce carbon nanotubes. A fairly good story, but unreasonably unreasonable nomads, especially considering who financed their caravan. Also, the science of the "problem" doesn't make any sense at all. As the carbon dioxide content of the air is pretty low as a percentage, and one molecule of carbon dioxide produces one molecule of oxygen, it simply isn't possible that there would be significant oxygen surplus around the factory. ***+
The Final Nail • novelette by Stanley Schmidt
A country doctor notices that there are more and more cases of meat allergy, a known syndrome that is usually spread by ticks, but there are no such ticks where he lives. Then his doctor friend who practices at nearby town notices the same thing. Apparently, someone is spreading the disease intentionally. Everything is pretty obvious and the reader knows what is going on earlier than the characters in the story. The end is a bit simplistic: the impact of widespread veganism has been discussed time and time again. But it is nice to read a story with a clear beginning and end. There have been far too many stories lately in this magazine which lack those. ***½
The Speed of Faith in Vacuum • short story by Igor Teper
The powerful "immortals" visit a struggling colony every few hundred years. They offer continuity and sometimes solve problems. The colony has encountered a new, very serious disease. The immortal, who is visiting seems to very frightened of the disease. Are they so powerful after all? A pretty nice story, could be just the beginning? ***½
Facebook Screamed and Screamed, Then I Ate It • short story by Sam Schreiber
An AI emerges on the Internet and invades Facebook. The writing was ok, but once more, too short and scene-like story to have real impact. ***
Vulture's Nest • short story by Marissa Lingen
A family of "scavengers" finds derelict space ships that are tainted by some kind of plaque and breaks them up into parts. One time, the family who used to own the ship objects. Short, but pretty nice simple story.***
In the Mists • short story by Bill Pronzini and Barry N. Malzeberg
A man has been living alone on a planet for seventeen years. He is writing a journal, and wonders if he is sane. Another short, but pretty nice story. ***+
The Return • short story by Bud Sparhawk
A very short story about an old astronaut who goes back to space on an anniversary of space travel. Okay, but too short. ***
Lips Together • short story by Ken Brady
A woman spreads a genetically engineered Streptococcus mutant by kissing select men. So? ***-
The Banffs • short story by Lavie Tidhar
A writer befriends a member of a powerful group who apparently are aliens (or journeyer from another timeline). He works as a housekeeper and lives at vast mansions in the most interesting parts of world. But then the aliens go home, and then the story pretty much ends. Okay, but somewhat unsatisfying. There really wasn’t much of a point anywhere, the writing itself was pretty good. ***+
Where the Flock Wanders • short story by Andrew Barton
A derelict hull of a war ship which possibly had a pivotal role in a conflict between Earth and colonies in space is found. The safe in it has sealed orders, unopened. Those are most likely very important historical documents. Or are they? A pretty nice story, which is actually a fairly self-contained story, not a scene, like so many others in this issue.***+
Proteus • short story by Joe Pitkin
A spy goes to a floating city on Venus to find out if illegal gene manipulation is done there. Everyone seems to be beautiful and the life seems nearly utopian. Is it too good to be true? A nice story, which could have been longer with a bit more detail, as the motivation of the main character wasn't entirely shown. ***+
Kepler's Law • novelette by Jay Werkeiser
A colony ship arrives at a planet in another solar system. They land several exploratory shuttles (manned by idiots; one manages to crash, as the pilot pushes it in order to be the first one landing). The most passengers of the crashed ship die horribly, soon after landing (as they truly are idiots they almost all go together outside without any real protective suits). As all the members are idiots there is some nationalistic quarreling and they even seem to hate foods that aren’t native to their own countries. The planet also has some plants that are in suspicious straight lines (which were not detected in a “thorough” survey they made before landing). A fairly good story, but with irritatingly stupid characters. It might continue an earlier story, it rings some bells, but I didn't find the first part. The setup is pretty generic though; there are probably dozens of stories where ships leave Earth after some catastrophe. ***+