Title: Hannu Rajaniemi: Collected Fiction
Author: Hannu Rajaniemi
Genres: Dystopia, Post-Apocalyptic, Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Short Stories
Length: 240 pages | 4591 locations
This is a short story anthology which gathers all sorts of science fiction tales, particularly with post-apocalyptic and cyberpunk twists.
I had never read anything by Hannu Rajaniemi nor by anyone finnish, as far as I know. I loved reading about all the finnish snow, saunas, swearing, myths, and all else.
It’s also been a while since I read any short story collection, so this was a very refreshing read in more ways than one.
The formatting was pretty good! The only thing I can recall is that in Tyche and the Ants some dialogues were not properly identified with a hyphen or inverted commas. Any other mistakes were so subtle I either didn’t notice or did not care.
The main issue I had with most stories was that I had a very hard time understanding what I was reading, as most of the concepts were unfamiliar to me. I am not a hard sci-fi fan or even connoisseur so I felt lost most of the time and kind of wished there had been a glossary or something.
However, the way Rajaniemi writes almost completely obliterated that feeling of not really getting what was going on.
First of all, his opening lines. After so many books of blatant tell instead of show, these stories were the exact opposite. From the first line I could get a great idea of the setting and main character(s). Often times, it depicted a perfectly normal notion along with something utterly crazy (Before the concert, we steal the master’s head; The moon suit came back to Hazel the same night Pete was buried at sea; The night before Kuovi was supposed to fly home, the four of them went to bring back Bibi’s soul; On the day they finally got the Cathedral’s mermaid bone factory working, Kev told Raija he was not going to come back.), and it would take the rest of the story to fully grasp what happened. Rajaniemi wastes no time setting the scene and getting the important information out in a completely natural way; previous information (backstory) is organically embedded in current sequences. He makes it look so easy and it really is not.
He would then weave a tale which would at times lose me, but somehow was always able to grip me, right till the end, where he would baffle me with a plot twist.
Not all the tales brought me the closure I had hoped. Some stories just seemed to want to show a world riddled with crazy, unbelievable stuff and for the most part I was fine with that.
I read about godplagues, when humans wanted to be more than that and almost destroyed the world.
Enhanced, sentient pets, all geared up, with prosthetics even, who will do anything to recover their master.
A wannabe poet woodsman with a bear for companion (one who can talk and loves to drink booze).
Sentient buildings/objects/entire cities.
All sorts of crazy phone apps, like ones which can actually keep track of what you do, giving you a sort of popularity score, which will determine if you can get into places, for instance – and how about one that keeps liking the stuff you would like, even after you are dead?
Then there’s stories which hint more on the fantasy/folklore side but never stop being sci-fi. Some are actually pretty emotional. I love it when a story makes me feel, which is particularly difficult with short ones.
All stories had something I liked, but if I had to mention any favourites I would go for:
The Haunting of Apollo A7LB: The main character is an elderly woman who used to sew space suits, how cool is that? A quaint notion, granted, but it is the premise to a wonderful tale full of suspense which I really enjoyed.
As in the other stories, no information is dumped, everything flows in such a fluid manner that I did not even realize I was getting back story. And then there’s these wonderful analogies (like her heartbeat sounding like her sewing machine, eheh) and things that come together in the end, and it is just a lovely, lovely ride and the ending was just right, coming back to our main character after such a great ride.
Shibuya no Love: Not sure if it qualifies as a flash story, but it was really short and it is absolutely baffling that the author managed to convey such feeling into something that small. The concept of a device which can simulate an entire relationship in a matter of seconds or minutes blew me away. Un-freaking-believable.
And that ending. Wow. Definitely did not see it coming, and it thoroughly reinforced the crazy speed at which things happen in that world.
Skywalker on Earth might be considered a novella, not sure, but boy what a masterpiece. This is an Earth conquering story done right. And I loved how there were no obvious good guys.
And then the author mentions creating, along with a friend, a story where the development entirely depends on how the person reacts to what they have read before – neurofiction. There are dozens of different paths the story can take. I thought that was sci-fi!
So all in all this collection of short stories is very well achieved and, though I recommend it especially to hard sci-fi fans, I do think everyone can enjoy it to some extent. The worlds are complex, riddled with unique concepts, the writing is remarkable, and it was just a lovely, thrilling experience.
Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Read from May 02 to May 11, 2015