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Hannu Rajaniemi: Collected Fiction (2015)

by Hannu Rajaniemi

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2619101,991 (3.68)2
Hannu Rajaniemi exploded onto the SF scene in 2010 with the publication of his first novel The Quantum Thief. Acclaimed by fellow authors such as Charles Stross, Adam Roberts and Alastair Reynolds and brilliantly reviewed everywhere from Interzone to the Times and the Guardian he swiftly established a reputation as an author who could combine extraordinary cutting edge science with beautiful prose and deliver it all with wit, warmth and a delight in the fun of storytelling. It is exactly these qualities that are showcased in this his first collection of short stories. Drawn from antholgies and magazines and online publication and brought together in book form for the first time in this collection here is a collection of sixteen short stories that range from the lyrical to the bizarre, from the elegaic to the impish. It is a collection that shows one of the great new imaginations in SF having immense fun.… (more)

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I had never read anything by Hannu Rajaniemi before I read this collection and I was a bit doubtful in the beginning because the two first stories didn't really rock my boat. Actually, I found myself a bit confused. It felt a bit like I had missed something and I had a bit of trouble understand what was going on. But by the third story, it started to get better.

I will not list all the stories in this collection instead I thought I would mention some of them that were really memorable.

The Haunting of Apollo A7LB - A tragic love story that includes a haunted space suite.

Elegy for a Young Elk - Kind of hard to explain this story, but I loved the ending. It showed that despite everything a father would do anything for his child despite that the child has evolved into something new.

Fisher of Man - One of my favorite story in this book. Nothing to do with AI or technology, but instead, it's a story about the daughter of the Sea that catches men in her net. I was intrigued with the story and with the Finnish mythology, a subject that I'm not at all are familiar with.

Ghost dogs - What happen with dogs that die? If they don't go to heaven, are they still in the house? A very good story and the one with the saddest ending.

Paris, in Love - A very unusual love story between a Finnish man and Paris.

Topsight - The death of a friend is the topic here and was it really an accident or was it murder? I wish this story had been longer, it was such an interesting story.

The Oldest Game - A man against a god in a drinking contest. More Finnish mythology. I really need to read more about the old Finnish Gods.

Shibuya no Love - Another interesting take on love. Heartbreaking ending.

Satan's Typist - A very short story, but honestly it didn't need more to tell its story. Being a typist is really not a fun job when your boss is Satan himself.

In the end, I just want to say that despite the fact that I was a bit doubtful in the beginning of this book did it turn out to be a really good collection. There were some stories I didn't that much and some were a bit confusing, but most of the stories were good. I really loved the mix of stories about technology and Finnish mythology. It gave a good balance to the collection.

Thanks to Tachyon Publications and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! ( )
  MaraBlaise | Jul 23, 2022 |
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.

Invisible Planets

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.

Ghost Dogs

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.
( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
A truly eclectic and oft times bizarre collection of stories. Part surreal, part sublime, part cyberpunk - with some stories touching base with Finnish mythology/folklore and some stories having an almost light playful feel to them. There is even a sort of tribute to Calvino's Invisible Cities - but with planets which I found delightful (aptly titled "Invisible Planets").

The first few stories were a bit so-so for me, but it started picking up with "The Haunting of Apollo A7LB" - and then I really enjoyed "His Masters Voice", "Elegy for a Young Elk" & "The Jugaad Cathedral" - as they all reminded me of Tad William's Otherland series.

(... to be continued... sigh, I wish GR had a draft/publish feature. Lol.)

Ok, where was I? Oh yes. Did you know there is actually an MMORPG recently released based on Tad Williams' Otherland series? Yeah, great series. I really enjoyed reading it. Doesn't appeal to everyone though, it is notoriously doorstopper-ish in nature and fairly prone to being confusing and meandering in parts. (Mmmm, I should write a review for those books, but I am more than a bit apprehensive O_O at the thought of re-reading it, occh)

Which brings me back to Rajaniemi's collection of short fiction. Also prone to being confusing and meandering! Leaves you wondering whether you are just too obtuse or whether it really is as addled as it seems. But I guess when stories blur reality lines like those in this collection - then its a given.

I didn't care much for the twitter story though. And the Snow White story I feel would probably be more interesting on the medium it was originally laid down for ('twas mainly written for an interactive choose your own adventure with choices made based on neurological feedback from readers - such an interesting concept!)

Some of the other stories I enjoyed were "Shibuya no Love" & "Paris, in Love".

The collection has definitely pushed Quantum Thief up my TBR pile.

Source: Netgalley digital ARC
First Finished: 16sep2015
Would consider buying physical copy: Yes. ( )
  kephradyx | Jun 20, 2017 |
Neurofiction: “Hannu Rajaniemi: Collected Fiction” by Hannu Rajaniemi

Disclaimer: I received an advance reader's copy (ARC - Uncorrected Manuscript Proof) of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own, and no monetary compensation was received for this review.
(The book is due to be published on May 12, 2015; review written 10/04/2015)

Contents (in bold typeface):

Deus Ex Homine
The Server and the Dragon: “These days, the nerd rapture is like the flu: you can catch it. The godplague is a volition-bonding, recursively self-improving and self-replicating program.” Narrative taking place in the span of millennia and feeling like a dream-quest. My favourite story.

Tyche and the Ants

The Haunting of Apollo A7LB: “The moon suit came back to Hazel the same night Pete was buried at sea.”

His Master's Voice: “Before the concert, we steal the master’s head.”

Elegy for a Young Elk: “No point in being a poet: they had already written all the poems in the world, up there, in the sky. They probably had poetry gardens. Or places where you could become words. But that was not the point. [ ] Bright words from dark matter, that’s what poetry was about. When it worked.”

The Jugaad Cathedral: “They did something right when they made her, up there. [ ] She lives in many worlds at once, thinks in qubits. And this is the world where she wants to be. With me.”

Fisher of Men: “The summerhouse was his, his alone. He hadn’t built it, of course, but the vision was his. He had built a 3D version of it out in Second Life.”

Invisible Planets: “In the lives of darkships, as in the journeys of any ambassador, there always comes a time that is filled with doubt. As the dark matter neutralinos annihilate each other in its hungry Chown drive heart and push it ever closer to the speed of light, the darkship wonders if it truly carries a cargo worthy of the Network and the Controller.” À la Italo Calvino, Rajaniemi follows the concept of a dialogue between two entities, but in his story the characters are spaceship with embedded AI. Their dialogue is centered around inhabitants of various planets, leading to a reflection on society. This is another fine example of providing backstory without infodumping (there’s a passing mention of a much known and central theorem in the field of Quantum Physics, though it isn’t called by its own name in the story; can you name it? Hint: it has to do with Teleportation…).

Topsight: “The night before Kuovi was supposed to fly home, the four of them went to bring back Bibi’s soul.”

Ghost Dogs

The Viper Blanket

The Oldest Game

Shibuya no Love: “They were eating takaoyaki by the statue of Hachiko the dog when Norie told her to buy a quantum lovegety. [ ] A what? , she managed to ask. [ ] You don’t have them in Finland? How do you meet boys there? Oh, I forgot, you have the sauna!”

Paris, in Love

Satan's Typist: “Tap tap tap tap tap, said the typewriter.”

Skywalker of Earth: “Twelve hours before the rain of ships. I am four years old and
wearing my best dress. The last man on the moon is on TV. He moves in slow, deliberate bounds and leaps next to a long-legged spidery craft wrapped in tin foil.”

You can read the rest of the review on my blog. ( )
  antao | Dec 10, 2016 |
A nice collection which could be a good introduction to Rajaniemi's work. Mainly science fiction with a splash of Finnish folklore thrown in, the book showcases a greater breadth to the author's talents than I'd expected, having only read one of his novels previously.

*** Deus Ex Homine
The world is recovering (?) from an AI plague... Computing viruses symbiotically meshed with human intelligence, creating 'gods.'
Now, a 'nerd' who was once a god and now relies on another kind of artificial symbiont, meets up with an ex-girlfriend who has devoted herself to the military battle against monsters like what he once was. Talking out how things ended, unexpected revelations ensue...
Definitely one for those with an interest in transhumanism.

*** The Server and the Dragon
In a distant, lonely reach of space, an isolated AI node follows its programming and sets up shop. However, a corollary of intelligence may be the desire for companionship. Although this 'server' is powerful enough to create universes, it may find that it has a very human vulnerability.

*** Tyche and the Ants
A little girl is trying to survive alone in a hostile environment; a desolate moon. She's trying to follow the last instructions her parents gave her. But an infestation of self-replicating, antlike machines may bring about a paradigm shift... as well as a shift in the reader's perception of the situation.

****The Haunting of Apollo A7LB
A woman who worked crafting the spacesuits for the 1960s moon missions is nonplussed when one very particular spacesuit turns up at her doorstep one night... with someone in it.
A touching tale of dreams deferred.

***His Master’s Voice
Alone on a floating raft-habitat, a brilliant engineer 'adjusts' the intelligence of his pet dog and cat. But tinkering with his animals isn't what gets him in trouble with the authorities, in this transhumanist future. Funny and truly bizarre.

***Elegy for a Young Elk
A man who has chosen to live in a primitive way, following ancient traditions of hunting - well, except for the fact that he keeps company with a genetically modified bear - receives a visit from his ex-wife, who has chosen another path. She, like most of the people of this future, has chosen a tranhumanist path, after the manmade disaster that destroyed the world we know. And now, she has a favor to ask...

***The Jugaad Cathedral
Reminded me of 'Ready Player One' in many of its themes. A young man feels forced to choose between his immersive online role-playing game and his 'real-life' friends and social status. The story makes a good argument, that goes against today's 'mainstream' narrative about this kind of issue.

***Fisher of Men
A modern Finnish man comes up against powerful natural forces out of folklore. The story vividly evokes both modern Scandinavian life, and the chthonic forces of ancient tradition.

****Invisible Planets
Written in homage to Italo Calvino's 'Invisible Cities.' I haven't yet read Calvino's work, but this reminded me very much of Angélica Gorodischer's 'Kalpa Imperial,' (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/672505523) which has also been compared to Calvino. The piece consists of descriptions a few vividly imagined and disparate societies, connected by a framing device of an ancient and fractured probe ship, having collected data on its journey for so long that it is no longer sure what is real. Very nicely done.

*** Ghost Dogs
Black dogs are a classic horror element - this story brought to mind both Peter M. Ball's, “Black Dog: A Biography” and and other tales using this legend (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_dog_(ghost)).
Normally I'm not a big fan of horror stories that use their supernatural elements as an ambiguous metaphor for the traumas of childhood or strained family relationships - but this story pulls it off with aplomb.

***The Viper Blanket
This is another piece where modern Finnish life meets dark and ancient magic. An elderly man picks up his brother from the nursing home for an annual family reunion. But this event is most likely not like YOUR family reunion (I hope.)

***Paris, in Love
Magical realism/surrealism. A rural Finnish man visits Paris for the first time - and then dreams of the city when he returns home - with remarkable & absurd results.

Almost a 5-star story - but only half of a story. This reads like the first chapter of a brilliant cyberpunk thriller. A group of edgy young people... an exotic, futuristic setting... a suspicious death, and clues left in a startlingly original online environment. I wanted to read the rest!

***The Oldest Game
A man returns to his childhood home, thinking only of death. But in an encounter with the ancient forces of nature that he goes to meet, the result he experiences is unexpected. Nicely contrasts bleakness and vitality.

***Shibuya no Love
Mixed feelings here... on the one hand, I liked the idea of the 'virtual dating' gadget/app. It was original, thought-provoking, and believably Japanese. On the other hand, the portrayal of Japan seemed informed by a superficial visit rather than deep knowledge, and although the setting is at a minimum 20/30 years in the future, the fashions and behaviors described seemed very 5-years-ago, rather than futuristic.

****Satan’s Typist
Very brief, but I liked it! There's a very Clive Barker-esque feeling to this vignette featuring a secretary in Hell.

** Skywalker of Earth
My least favorite in the collection. I felt like this was intended to be a clever, modernized take on Golden Age space opera... but it dragged on a bit, and I just wasn't that interested in which megalomaniac (if either) would control the Earth.

****Snow White Is Dead
Fascinating concept - this story was originally presented as a 'Choose Your Own Adventure' presentation based on individual readers' neurological feedback. [http://andrewblackman.net/2014/03/the-future-of-books-reactive/]
The 'version' printed here was the one most popular with 'test' readers.
From a purely literary perspective, I actually liked it a lot - I enjoyed the update to the classic fairy tale based on a modern scenario involving cosplaying teenagers from broken homes.
I do wonder what the other 'options' were, though...

**Unused Tomorrows and Other Stories
I understand that authors sometimes enjoy the challenge of trying to produce meaningful work within the limits of artificial constraints. However, I have serious doubts about the actual worth of bothering to write a 'serial' Twitter story, and the other 140-character "stories" here didn't really do it for me, either. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rajaniemi, HannuAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lasahido, LiusCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Michniewicz, SueCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Silvonen, SariannaKääNtäJä.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Story, ElizabethDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Hannu Rajaniemi exploded onto the SF scene in 2010 with the publication of his first novel The Quantum Thief. Acclaimed by fellow authors such as Charles Stross, Adam Roberts and Alastair Reynolds and brilliantly reviewed everywhere from Interzone to the Times and the Guardian he swiftly established a reputation as an author who could combine extraordinary cutting edge science with beautiful prose and deliver it all with wit, warmth and a delight in the fun of storytelling. It is exactly these qualities that are showcased in this his first collection of short stories. Drawn from antholgies and magazines and online publication and brought together in book form for the first time in this collection here is a collection of sixteen short stories that range from the lyrical to the bizarre, from the elegaic to the impish. It is a collection that shows one of the great new imaginations in SF having immense fun.

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Book description
1. Deus ex Homine
16. The Server and the Dragon
27. Tyche and the Ants
44. The Haunting of Apollo A7LB
53. His Master's Voice
68. Elegy for a Young Elk
86. The Jugaad Cathedral
103. Fisher of Man
119. Invisible Planets
128. Ghost dogs
137. The Viper Blanket
147. Paris, in Love
152. Topsight
165. The Oldest Game
177. Shibuya no Love
184. Satan's Typist
186. Skywalker of Earth
225. Neurofiction: Introduction to "Snow White is Dead"
227. Snow White is Dead
238. Introduction to "Unused Tomorrows and Other Stories
240. Unused Tomorrows and Other Stories
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