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The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction: Anthology Paperback – September 1, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. F&SF editor Van Gelder has assessed, culled and organized the magazine's best stories to produce this definitive volume of work from speculative fiction's top authors, from Alfred Bester's Of Time and Third Avenue (1951) to Ted Chiang's The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate (2007). Hauntingly sad tales are laid alongside hopeful tales of the far future and heroic tales of honor and duty, but all have an intensity of emotion and draw the reader in with vibrant characters, fully realized settings and ingenious writing. Van Gelder's introductory disclaimer that this contains two dozen of our best stories rather than the best two dozen stories may explain the lack of inclusions from the 1980s. For sheer reading pleasure, this anthology is unparalleled. (Oct.)
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From Booklist

The long-lived magazine Fantasy & Science Fiction has issued many retrospective anthologies but none more vaunting than this one marking its sixtieth anniversary. As editor Van Gelder admits in the introduction, promising the very best is perhaps overreaching somewhat, given the hundreds of outstanding choices F&SF’s archives afford. Yet the results here are more than just satisfying, and the lineup of contributors amounts to a who’s who of speculative-fiction masters: sf geniuses such as Alfred Bester, Theodore Sturgeon, and Harlan Ellison and fantasy legends like Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and Peter S. Beagle. A few particulars: William Tenn’s Eastward Ho! wryly depicts a future in which Native American warriors finally take their lands back from the white man. Daniel Keyes’ heartbreaking Flowers for Algernon watches as a mentally handicapped janitor is granted superintelligence during a scientific experiment, only to find it slipping away when the experiment fails. Every story is a priceless gem showcasing its author’s superlative craftsmanship and ability to engage the emotions while captivating the imagination. --Carl Hays

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 475 pages
  • Publisher: Tachyon Publications; Anv edition (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1892391910
  • ISBN-13: 978-1892391919
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #249,082 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book through the kind offices of the Publicist of the publisher, Tachyon Publications.

The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction, edited by Gordon Van Gelder, is an anthology of stories across the eponymous magazine's 60 year history.

Although I am not a heavy reader of SF magazines (when I read SF stories, its usually in anthologies or collections), it is clear to me, immediately, that F&SF has had a wonderful history of publishing some of the best stories in SF history.

And a swath of those stories are ably collected by Mr. Van Gelder in this collection. The stories range in publication date from 1951 (Alfred Bester's Time and Third Avenue) to 2007 (Ted Chiang's story The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate).

Arranged in chronological order, the stories show the changes and evolution of the SF story with a high quality of selected stories throughout. Its not just a "most famous" story group either. While there are genre-famous stories like Flowers for Algernon, the Deathbird, and Harrison Bergeron, there are stories that are in that class, but much well less known. (Zelazny's This Moment of the Storm, for instance, or Peter Beagle's story sequel to the Last Unicorn, Two Hearts come to mind)

With that in mind, I devoured this book quickly and gleefully. I enjoyed the touchstones to the classics and old favorites, and discovering new (to me) stories as well. Gelder has done an top notch job.

Genres that forget their history are condemned to fail by that forgetting. Collections like this help the genre of SF keep in mind its roots and history. Any serious fan of science fiction would do well to dip their oars into this volume.
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Format: Paperback
Were one young enough not to have read The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction as I have from the late 1950s onward (and published once in it myself) one would gather by the earlier review posted here that this is a good, perhaps even great anthology. It's not. It doesn't even come close. Van Gelder has put together a book that's excellent, but excellent up to a point, and that's about half way through the book when, around 1990 all of science fiction and fantasy being published began to show a marked decline in both quality and writing style. Various critics and writers have written extensively on this topic already, so I won't dwell on it here, but the stories in the latter half of this anthology (with the exception of "macs" by Terry Bisson--an acknowledged, and terrifying, classic) visibly pale in comparison to the previous stories. Stephen King's "Gunslinger" is here, but I'd rather Van Gelder reprinted J.G. Ballard's "Cloud Sculptors of Coral D" or any of the Vermillion Sands stories published in F&SF. And Ballard is only one of 40 writers I'd much have preferred to see here. I suspect that "Gunslinger" is in this book to help sell the anthology, and, I suspect, so is Peter S. Beagle's "Two Hearts". Both stories, while containing tropes of the fantastical, they are nonetheless written in a very realistic, almost Hemingway-esque prose--serviceable, journalistic--that considerably diminishes any fantasy element that someone such as Clark Aston Smith or Fritz Leiber would have easily conjured. (And I am talking about magic here: the magic of new worlds created, a sense of wonder.) The problem is that Van Gelder is playing his favorites (which is allowed--it's his magazine, after all).Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction: Sixtieth Anniversary Anthology is an excellent collection of 23 stories picked from the treasure trove of short fiction that's been published in the eponymous magazine over the past 60 years. Editor Gordon Van Gelder -- also the editor of the magazine since 1997 -- has done an admirable job, picking stories that illustrate the diversity of both the genre and the magazine. As such, this is a great anthology for SF&F fans as well as newcomers looking for a taste.

The line-up of authors in this collection looks like a veritable Who's Who of speculative fiction: Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, Stephen King, Roger Zelazny, Ursula K. Le Guin, Neil Gaiman -- just to name a few of the most famous ones. What's even more impressive is the fact that all the stories collected here saw their first publication in the magazine. It really gave me pause when I realized that a towering classic such as "Flowers From Algernon" by Daniel Keyes first appeared in this digest-sized magazine (and if you haven't read that story yet, you have at least one perfect reason to get this anthology right now!). Every story is preceded by a brief and thoughtful editorial note, often highlighting its author's involvement with the magazine.

The quality of these stories is, as could be expected, almost uniformly excellent. Stand-outs for me were: the previously mentioned "Flowers For Algernon" which is about a mentally retarded man who gains a brief period of brilliance via a scientific experiment; "Solitude" by Ursula K. Le Guin, an exquisite and touching story set in her Hainish Cycle; "Creation" by Jeffrey Ford, about a young boy's attempt to create life; and "Mother Grasshopper" by Michael Swanwick, about how a far-future civilization becomes reintroduced to death.
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