Hannu Rajaniemi: Collected Fiction by Hannu Rajaniemi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I am so thrilled to be finally reading this book that I have to put in a disclaimer that I'm a huge fan of Mr. Rajaniemi. My expectations are set very high, and as a result, I'm worried that the readings will fall far below it.
We'll see. I'll review stories as they affect me, and skip the ones that don't.
Deus ex Homine
It's just a freaking short story, and yet I got enough info running through my head to make one hell of a great novel, including a blow-you-out-of-the-water feel-good ending. If this is a sample of things to come, I'm probably going to burst into tears of joy.
Me, biased? Perhaps. But one thing I appreciate the most out of his works is the way he can make my imagination sing with all of the spoken and unspoken possibilities. It just lights my mind up. The babies of god.
Hell, this story is drowning me. It's got my mind fixated on mid-air battles between nano angels and baby gods. My heart is racing for mommy's furlough and daddy's heartbreak. And in the meantime, the gods ravage the Earth. Fantastic.
The Server and the Dragon
From start to finish it felt like a children's tale, and by hell, I know I'll be reading it to my daughter when she gets a little older. It's a fairy tale, plain and simple, about creation and destruction, advancement and freedom, solitude and travel, with the birth of a universe, a holographic dragon, and a transformed solar system housing a singular AI. If you don't believe my word when I say it's a classic, thought-provoking tale, then read it for yourself and wonder where the hell you're sitting and how far away you just traveled from your cozy little life. It sparkled with so much quick imagination that I was lost for a time.
Tyche and the Ants
I didn't get into this one as quickly as the first two stories, but by the end I was fine. It just didn't grab me. Perhaps throwing an emotional imperative at the beginning would have made me enjoy the galavanting across the moon's surface a bit more. Still, once I knew the secret, that this tale was more psychological than anything else, then I could really begin to appreciate it. And I do. After the fact. I found myself wishing for more starfish and dragons during the reading, though.
The Haunting of Apollo A7LB
Short and sweet haunting of an astronaut's spacesuit and how his old flame got to get into space. Pretty mainstream if magical.
His Master's Voice
Fucking brilliant. Obviously set in the same universe as QT/FP/CA, these are some of the most unique characters I've ever come across. Meet dog and cat. Loyal to their master. Fierce musician/gladiators.
Not enough? Try entering the microcosm of fast and slow time, raiding the Necropolis, blowing up dance floors while millions of fans' avatars get hacked, and the simple kindness of a cat finding a dog's lost ball. Like I said, Fucking Brilliant.
Elegy for a Young Elk
I can see how this fits into the histories of the Earth after the singularity. It brings in the god-plague and squarely places a drunk poet living with a drunk bear into the position of being the husband and father of gods. If that isn't elegant, then I don't know what is. And as always, the descriptions and logic gates in the antlers of the elk gave us, finally, not death, but freedom for both gods and god-plagues to find their destinies in the snow. Does this sound like fantasy? Oh no. It's hard sci-fi at its most delicious. This is why I write. This is why I imagine. Great stuff.
The Jugaad Cathedral
This one hits closer to home, combining close approximates of twitter/fashionworld/rpg with minecraft and phantom limb hackers into an indictement on corporate copyright.
Fisher of Men
Thank goodness this wasn't a Christ parable. It was a much more traditional fisherman story about the daughter of the sea and her many husbands, updated slightly to our modern age, but still timeless. I loved the last line and how it twisted the whole meaning of the original tale. The story was all about Finnish mythology and it was well crafted and dark.
Tie-in to The Server and the Dragon, from the point of view of a darkship and its sub-mind, almost beginning like an echo of Scheherazade, but quickly forming into an oh-so-rich backdrop of many worldbuildings rife with flaws and glories, cumulating in a sun-drenched embrace of the one thing that makes the filling of a universe eventually worthwhile. This story is truly crammed with great worldbuilding, each one worth a novel's exploration, but crammed into a tiny story instead.
Being a dog lover, this one hit me pretty good, but the story is only a light fantasy. I was getting into the rules right as the story ended, leaving me feel dreamy and sad.
The Viper Blanket - The underworld is calling to its own in this mostly sedate and strange view of an extended family of the dead.
Paris, in Love - Humorous and magical personification of Paris traveling to meet her love in Norway.
Topsight - A sad and realisticish tale of death among friends and how a little overview and oversight connectivity might not, in the end, be right for anyone, especially if the dead girl can continue to change the world. The little connections with others hint at being the very best that life can offer.
The Oldest Game - Gods still roam the Earth, but this time it has a modern fantasy feel revolving around the god of grain, and by extrapolation, alcohol. It's very dark, and everyone in the tale accepts the darkness with open arms. Are Finnish people as pessimistic as the Russians? Good story though. Very fine read.
Shibuya no Love - Japanese teenage subculture meets zoku tech. Talk about romance in a bottle! It was funny and I had no problems laughing at the main character, even if I kinda felt like I oughtn't have.
Satan's Typist - Short and sweet and more of a short short for other writers. What a cool and dark implication it had.
Skywalker of Earth
OMG this was so cool. Think thirties rip-roaring space adventures or buck-rogers with Rajaniemi's screaming modern science toolbox and you'll get true galaxy screaming monsters out of old-time heroes and thoughtful master-villains who retired peacefully on pensions. I cannot, and I repeat, I cannot imagine a world where this short novella wouldn't make a FANTASTIC movie. The pacing is perfect, it's lead-in's are hokey, just like the old stories they emulate, and when the science gets full-blown wacky with q-dots and gravitational lenses taking out the sun, it's based on real theory. It's awesome, squared.
Snow White is Dead
I respect the story for the concept behind it: a choose your own adventure written through reactions in brainwaves, and respect it more that it still felt coherent and dual-layered as well, but it was only a so/so story. I respect the process, but not so much the final product.
Unused Tomorrows and Other Stories - Another one that I can appreciate because it's TwitterFiction. Not exactly my cupa, but I can approve of it. A few of the single pieces, I thought, were better than the longer, continuation of the 140 character stories. I kinda wish this collection hadn't ended on this note.
All said, this is one of my absolute favorite short story collections, and by far and away I was catching a lot of flies. I heartily recommend for every die-hard sci-fi fan and/or modernized fairy-tale consumer. The fanboy has spoken.
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