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Returning for his second stint editing Prime's annual SF compilation, Horton is faced with a daunting task, at which he doesn't entirely succeed. Out of a dozen stories, the few inspired selections include Robert Reed's gritty A Billion Eves where exploring an infinite number of parallel universes is a godsend for some polygamous pilgrims but a decidedly dire prospect for others; Carolyn Ives Gilman's Okanoggan Falls in which a rural Wisconsin hamlet must fend off alien invaders, who have scheduled it for demolition; and Ann Leckie's Hesperia and Glory a witty homage of sorts to Edgar Rice Burroughs.
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What with sf's current high literary standing, there is no shortage of gifted authors striving to produce outstanding short fiction, and editor Horton is more than happy to encourage them via this annual for which he sets no higher criterion than plain good writing. By sheer happenstance, a handful of this year's selections features religious motifs, including Christopher Rowe's volume opener about a party of wilderness-trekking cartographers espousing uncharacteristic Christian beliefs in a post apocalyptic America. Benjamin Rosenbaum's The House beyond Your Sky visits a virtual universe created by a human god. Other tales explore such themes as machine rights and extraterrestrial invasion. The dozen entries are the work of a mixture of established veterans (Robert Reed, Ian Watson, Robert Charles Wilson, Adam Roberts) and newcomers, such as Jack Skillingstead and Ann Leckie. Dedicated genre fans may find some overlap of this with other genre annuals, but given the hours of mind-bending entertainment it provides, they'll hardly resent it. Hays, Carl