Another pair of reviews for the “largely a pleasure to read” HANNU RAJANIEMI: COLLECTED FICTION.
Hannu also writes good characters. Some of the stories show this off to better advantage than others, though. Probably this is a function of the story format, rather than anything else – trying to cover plot, world and character all within such compressed form. The story of a man whose family return to life one day a year is a great example of this – the character is well drawn, understated, and feels entirely human. There are other examples, and Rajaniemi managed to make me care about each of his characters, giving them room to breathe, even in such limited narrative space.
The worlds are similarly well-crafted. The reader only has a small window onto them, and typically it isn’t one blaring about the setting. Instead, there’s a quiet whisper, dropped asides by characters, worlds constructed by inference, rather than statement. The majority of the construction is left ot the imagination – and it works well.
The prose is always well done – easily readable, and lots of scientific background is made available without feeling like a technobabble infodump. Rajaniemi gives the words a more liquid, easy-flowing flavour, and they’re largely a pleasure to read. There was the odd awkward construction, but overall, the stories always had me turning pages, and the language always seemed to flow well.
Overall, each of these works, individually, ranges from perfectly good up to excellent little gems of high-concept, high delivery prose. They make the reader think, they provide a new way to do that, and they tell great stories – I couldn’t ask for anything more.
Standing at the foot of the cascade of ideas, the tumbling waterfall of words and images can sweep the unwary off their feet, undercurrents sucking them downstream to an ocean of imagination and intellect where the unprepared can drown. Such it is with the first comprehensive collection of short stories by Hannu Rajaniemi, eighteen principal pieces the majority of which were written during his years as a resident of Edinburgh, his wandering now having taken him to distant shores of sunshine.
The stories are neither arranged chronologically nor thematically, but there are emergent strands, the first of which is high technology, first in Deus Ex Homine as narrator Jukka is reunited with his girlfriend Aileen, an Angel in the Deicide Corps, on leave from the godplague war which conventional language and concepts can’t describe, yet Rajaniemi is deft in outlining all that is needed to intuit a relationship and a situation, his sparse words used with precision.
Moving into space, in Tyche and the Ants he’s able to make the surface of the Moon, likely the most explored body in science fiction, seem wild and alien again. With the rhythm and logic of a fairytale, Tyche heads out on an excursion, running free and without escort despite cautionary regulations but finds a dangerous incursion; the Brain evaluates that the best course of action is evacuation, but Tyche refuses to cooperate.
<Review goes on to discuss very story in the book>
A familiar story retold in a new way for a modern audience, the archetypes and situations are updated and subverted and told in a bold visual prose, stark colours and images and sudden changes of track to invoke a dramatic response in the brain discernible by electrodes in the original presentation; even without the added level of involvement, it remains enjoyable and relevant, a further demonstration of how science fiction is expanding the possibilities of literature and human experience.
For more info on HANNU RAJANIEMI: COLLECTED FICTION, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover art by Lius Lasahido
Design by Elizabeth Story