Ellen Datlow has a fine reputation as an editor of original anthologies, both solo (Little Deaths
, Sirens and Other Daemon Lovers
) and with Terri Windling (their adult fairy-tale series includes Black Heart, Ivory Bones
). With Windling she also edits the annual reprint volume The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror
. This collection, fifteen stories and one poem, is unusual in that the pieces are a mix of originals and reprints.
The central theme is that of endangered species: plant and animal, human and alien, real and imagined. The seven pieces that stand out include all four reprints. Bruce McAllister's "The Girl Who Loved Animals" and Karen Joy Fowler's "Faded Roses" are both set in near futures bereft of most of the mammal species we love. Both cultures try different solutions. Both stories are unbearably sad. Also poignant but uplifting in its theme of the redemptive power of music is Suzy McKee Charnas's "Listening to Brahms." M. Shayne Bell's "The Thing About Benny" is a more dispassionate examination of the practical impact of reduced biodiversity, and Mark W. Tiedemann gives us a cautionary tale of difference--and possibilities wrenched from our grasp. Interestingly, it is the oldest piece in the book, Avram Davison's "Now Let Us Sleep," that perhaps comes closest to mirroring third-millennial angst, cynicism, and despair. The last story, however, is the utterly delightful "Seventy-two Letters," a new novella from Ted Chiang, that allows the reader to close the book feeling hopeful about the perpetual self-renewal of life. --Luc Duplessis
From Publishers Weekly
Long-time fiction editor of Omni and editor (with Terri Windling) of the annual Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, Datlow is one of the most respected anthologists of speculative fiction. Here she assembles a diverse and thoughtful array of 16 stories written around the theme of endangered speciesAbe they human or animal, mythical or alien. In her introduction Datlow writes, "The stories that most influence me are the gentle persuaders... those that are so engrossing and well-told that the reader doesn't realize they've been poleaxed until the story is done." That philosophy is borne out by such compelling works as Suzy McKee Charnas's "Listening to Brahms," where the last remaining humans find themselves preserved as "living history" by a race of benevolent and all-too imitative aliens. In "The Girl Who Loved Animals" by Bruce McAllister, a retarded girl's determination to carry a gorilla fetus to term becomes a powerful story about motherhood. Refusing to be exploited, Nature fights back in Paul J. McAuley's "The Rift" and Brian Stableford's "Tenebrio." David Schow's dark little "Blessed Event" and M. Shayne Bell's "The Things About Benny" lend a bit of humor to the proceedings. Karen Joy Fowler's marvelously subtle "Faded Roses" evokes a world of sadness in a single scene, while Avram Davidson's "Now Let Us Sleep" tells the woeful tale of alien Yahoos with biting, Swiftian skill. The stories here range from good to unforgettable, and constantly ask readers to question the value and fate of vulnerable species, as well as the true differences between man and animal, human and alien. (June)
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