2017 sci-fi experience


Stand-alone time travel novel.

Publication year: 1955
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1987
Translator: Aulikki and Markus Lehkonen, with a foreword by Juhani Hinkkanen
Format: print
Page count: 190
Publisher of the Finnish translation: Ursa

Eternity is an organization which oversees time travel which is only possible through devices held by Eternity. All Eternity’s employees (called Eternals) are male humans and for the most part they are supposed to live umarried and never have kids. A few can apply for a relationship with temporal (normal) women (who don’t know much or anything about Eternity) from the council. The council chooses the women in question. Eternity’s offices start from the 27th century and stretch all the way until the Sun goes nova and beyond. However, there are some centuries which aren’t accessible to the Eternals. They can go past them but not visit them.

The men have strict hierarchies according to their jobs. Their main job is to increase humanity’s harmony and wellbeing through small changes in reality. These changes are calculated very carefully in advance. Unfortunately, individual humans’ lives don’t count. That’s why the Eternals are supposed to live apart from the normal humans. However, the general populace, or the upper class, on some centuries do know about the general existence of Eternity and even buy or sell stuff from other centuries, under the strict supervision of the Eternals.

The Eternals are originally normal men from various centuries who were picked around age 15 and educated in the Eternity. They were chosen because the fact that they’re missing from reality didn’t cause temporal changes.

Finnish cover

Finnish cover

Andrew Harlan is a Technician, one of the people who do the actual reality changes and are despised by the other Eternals because of it. Harlan has grown pretty emotionless over the years and he’s also caught the eye of Laban Twissell who is the leader of the council. However, right at the start of the book, Harlan is doing something forbidden and we’re quick shown why: a woman.

The concepts in this book are very interesting and I can see how the story has influenced a lot of writers. Unfortunately, the characters didn’t appeal to me at all so, emotionally the book left me cold. Indeed, even though this book spans history until the very end, there’s apparently not a single reality where women are engineers or scientists. That makes me very sad and angry. Apparently, in this world women can only be seducers or objects of lust. The book has only one named female character. I’m reminded of why I don’t generally read these older SF books.

We saw small glimpses into several centuries and they seemed pretty similar. Of course, Eternity’s job is to iron out all big negatives, like wars, famines, and slavery so that’s intentional. The characters talk about, and experience, nearly all time travel paradoxes imaginable, such as seeing themselves. In this book, time travel can affect the past.

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The first book in the six-part Double Helix series. A Star Trek: TNG series.

Publication year: 1999
Format: print
Page count: 226 + an excerpt of Vectors, the next book in the series
Publisher: Pocket Books

Infection is set in the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. In fact, it’s stated that this adventure happens only one month after the Enterprise-D crew gets together, so the characters are still getting to know each other and Tasha Yar is the security chief.

Archeron III is a remote agricultural planet. It was settled simultaneously by religious extremist group of humans and peaceful human-like Peladians. Ever since, it has been a hotbed of racial intolerance. Now, a very virulent disease has struck and its victims are all mixed-race people. The Purity League is attacking hospitals and saying that the disease is a judgement from their god.

Enterprise-D is sent with a shipment of drug which will lessen the symptoms, and Dr. Crusher has to work with Archeron’s Dr. Tang to find out a cure. Meanwhile, Dr. Crusher and Captain Picard strongly suspect that the disease has been engineered. But by who and why?

For such a short book, the entire cast is used very well. (Except Wesley. He doesn’t appear.) Riker, Yar, and Data are sent covertly down to the planet to investigate the Purity League, Dr. Crusher works around the clock, and Picard has to deal with the planetary government. La Forge and Worf also get their own assignments.

But the characters felt a bit strange. For example, Crusher has “two cup problems” meaning how many cups of tea she needs. That’s not from the show. There were a few other inconsistences, too, and the ending is pretty strange, wrapped up too quickly, and full of coincidences. Also, we got to see a glimpse of who is responsible for the disease but the characters didn’t.

A stand-alone thoughtful science fiction book about what could happen if, when, people’s personalities are digitized.

Publication year: 2016
Format: ebook
Page count: 248

LiveAfter is a firm that specializes in digitalizing people’s minds. It’s a new concept and technology. So they’re giving incentives for people to sign up and advertising planned benefits even before their programmers make them. Of course, the leaders and investors of the corporation want to make a hefty profit. They’re promising that the digitized people can still interact with their families and friends, and that’s the biggest draw: that death doesn’t separate people anymore.

Thea and Max are a young couple deeply in love. They’re musicians and because they made music for LiveAfter, they got a discount on their digitalization deal. Of course, because they’re young, they don’t think they’ll need it but Thea makes the deal anyway. When she dies is in a fatal accident, it’s up to Max to decide if she’ll be digitized. Max allows it.

At first Thea seems to be almost the same person as before. She can even play the flute and compose. Legislation is changed so that the stored people can vote. Thea hasn’t been politically active before but now she becomes interested in politics. Did she really choosing to change or was is imposed by the firm?

What makes a human… a human? If your memories are altered, are you still the same person? What if your opinions and worldview can be changed against your will? These are all questions explored in this book.

Max and Thea are very sympathetic characters. They both struggle with loss and grief in a very human way. But they’re also intelligent and curious people. Thea’s parents also struggle with their loss. We also see the people on the other side of the conflict: the people running LiveAfter and their affiliates. However, they are left purposefully vague: most of them don’t even have names.

The focus is on Thea, Max, and their friends.

This is a very thought provoking read, as is usual for Ms. Wyle. Highly recommended.

A stand-alone post-Apocalyptic book.

Publication year: 1969
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1990
Translator: Leena Peltonen
Format: print
Page count: 172
Publisher of the Finnish translation: Book Studio

Hell Tanner is a not a nice man. He used to be a smuggler and the leader of a violent biker gang and by his own admittance, he’s a rapist and a slaver. He might also be the last hope for many people.

The world is a destroyed wasteland (or at least the US is): filth, fish, and stones rain down during storms, many areas are very radioactive, many animals have mutated into giant man-eaters, and many, many people have died. Some of the survivors have banded together into violent gangs. But a few cities still stand and people still live in them.

One such city is Los Angeles and another is Boston. Each have declared themselves independent states. LA gets word that there’s a plague in Boston. LA still has medicines and the ability to make more of them. Someone just needs to get to it to Boston. It’s not possible to fly anymore because of unpredictable storms and winds.

Tanner is given the choice of either driving to Boston and getting a full pardon or spending the rest of his life in a tiny cell. He tries to run away but is caught. So, without another choice he climbs into a heavily fortified moving vehicle and heads towards Boston, with two other cars. The hope is that at least one of them would get through.

Tanner loves to drive and so he set to Boston but he hates anyone else telling him what to do and that he’s forced into accepting this deal. The other drivers make it clear that they have nothing but contempt for Tanner and so does California’s Minister of Traffic who gives Tanner the deal. No wonder, Tanner doesn’t care of the people or situation. But along the way, he encounters other people and has to decide if he can trust them or not. We also get short glimpses of the people in Boston. They struggle to live with the plague which kills lots of people every day. Some few still hope that the medicine will come.

This is a short and quick read. The imagery and the atmosphere of the story is great, creating a paranoid and claustrophobic feel.

The first in a science fiction series but can be read as a stand-alone.

Publication year: 1985
Format: print
Page count: 346
Publisher: Baen

This series is set far into the future where humanity’s Dominion of Man has spread to several planets. But they’re at war with an alien race, the Trofts, who have just invaded two human planets at the start of the story.

Jonny Moreau is young man who wants to help people and he thinks that the best way to do it, during a wartime, is to enlist to Army. His parents are concerned but allow him to do that. He’s one of the few who are selected to be a new kind of soldier, a Cobra. Cobras undergo a lot of surgeries which make their bones unbreakable, put in servos, and even a nanocomputer which gives them far better reflexes and ready responses to dangerous situations. These enhancements can’t be seen so the Cobras are sent to the occupied worlds, to blend in with the civilians already there and to lead the resistance. For years, they do just that and some of them die there, too.
When the war finally ends, the government is wondering what to do with these new kinds of humans. Some of them want to leave the army and return to civilian life, but not all of their enhancements can be taken out. Jonny returns home, too. While his family is welcoming, almost everyone else seems to be afraid of him or at least wary of him. He can’t find a job, except as a laborer using his enhanced strength which other men resent. Both he and the government are looking for a solution.

While parts of the book are action adventure, underneath are more serious themes like how humans will treat people different from themselves and just who should have power over other people. Most of the book follows Jonny but we get small flashes of the government workings, as well. The storyline jumps ahead from time to so we get to see Jonny at different times in his life and in different roles, as well. The secondary characters change, too, quite a lot.

This turned out to be quite a different, and more thoughtful read than I anticipated, which is good. We don’t really get to know the Troft, though.

A stand-alone time travel book.

Publication year: 2010
Format: Audio
Running time: 11 hours and 43 minutes
Narrator: John David Krygelski

It’s the eve of John Augur’s marriage to Gail and he steps out from his bachelor party. Outside, he meets an older man who yet seems strangely familiar. He calls himself Jack… and is John from thirty years into the future. Apparently, Gail is a narcissist and a borderline psychotic. Life with her was almost unbearable. Luckily, Jack’s best friend Cal is an inventor and he has invested a time machine. Call has given the time machine to Jack so that Jack can warn his younger self not to marry Gail. Cal has warned Jack from changing anything else, but shortly an accident happens which kills Cal, years before he invents the time machine.

Jack, John, and his best friend Kurt have to try to figure out what to do. Things take a turn to the worse when John tells Gail that he’s going to cancel the wedding and she starts to plot revenge. Meanwhile two detectives are trying to find out what’s going on.

This isn’t an adventure book. Instead, the characters talk and theorize about time travel, paradoxes, and alternate realities which was quite interesting at first. Unfortunately, it got somewhat repetitive. There are some mysteries and twists, though.

John hasn’t seen how manipulative Gail is even though his friends and parents have seen it and tried to talk John out of marrying her. It takes Jack’s horror stories from his past (John’s future) to persuade John. Yet, I didn’t see John really loving Gail; he wasn’t devastated or anything, more like relieved. Indeed, he found a new love interest literally on the same day. So, I wondered why would he stay with her? But I guess that’s her manipulative side. Otherwise, John read a lot and has a beloved miniature train set.

Kurt is the best friend who jokes a lot and Jack is very determined, bitter man. All the four named female characters have romantic or family ties to John.

Carl invites all of us to take part in his Sci-Fi experience:

The Sci-Fi Experience will hopefully give people an opportunity to:

a) Continue their love affair with science fiction
b) Return to science fiction after an absence, or
c) Experience for the first time just how exhilarating science fiction can be.

If you have ever wanted to give science fiction a try, or are already a fan of the genre and are looking for a group of kindred spirits, this is the event for you.

This is the most laid back of the events I host here. There are no challenges to meet, no limits to how little or much you can participate. You can read short stories, novels, comics, art books…anything with a science fictional bent. You can read nonfiction about space, space travel, other planets, etc. You can watch television shows, films, YouTube series. You can play video or table top games.

The event runs from start of December to end of January.

I’m gleefully joining again. I have a lot of SF books to read both on my on shelves and from libraries. I just finished watching the Expance at Netflix so I’m thinking of reading Leviathan Wakes by James R. A. Carey. But I have five Leigh Brackett books which I managed to recently acquire, Karen Wyle’s thoughtful near-future book Who, Ann Leckie’s Ancillery Justice, and many others.

The first books I’ll read for this event is likely Timothy Zahn’s Cobra and John David Krygelski’s Time Cursor. I’ve haven’t read anything from Krygelski and only Star Wars novels from Zahn but not his own fiction before.

Books read:
1, John David Krygelski: Time Cursor
2, Timothy Zahn: Cobra
3, Karen A. Wyle: Who: a novel of the near future
4, Roger Zelazny: Damnation Alley
5, John Gregory Betancourt: Infection
6, Isaac Asimov: End of Eternity
7, Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Vectors
8, Leigh Brackett: The Sword of Rhiannon
9, Star Wars: Mara Jade: By the Emperor’s Hand
10, Kristine Kathryn Rusch: the Falls
11, Leigh Brackett ed.: The Best of Planet Stories #1
12, Leigh Brackett: The Ginger Star

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