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Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine: 30th Anniversary Anthology Paperback – July 1, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In celebration of the 30th anniversary of Asimov's Science Fiction, Williams, editor of Asimov's and Analog for 25 of those 30 years, has compiled a truly extraordinary sampler of tales, including Air Raid (1977) by John Varley (writing as Herb Boehm), an oft-imitated story about time travelers trying to save the human race, and Robert Reed's Eight Episodes (2006), a Hugo-nominated tale of a short-lived TV series that turns out to be a message from an alien race. Every piece in this superlative collection is a nugget of pure science fiction gold.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
This compact retrospective of a leading sf magazine contains 18 stories by a roster alphabetically ranging from its namesake to Connie Willis. Amid the staggering variety proffered are Asimov's last fling with his venerable character Susan Calvin; an Ursula LeGuin story of her home state, which she assures us is not fantasy; John Varley's classic "Air Raid"; and Mike Resnick at his alternate-historical best and soberest. Despite inevitable overlap with the contents of many best-of collections, a gem and a credit to editor Williams. Green, Roland
Top customer reviews
As one of the very best science fiction magazines there is, Asimov's gets stories from -- of course -- the very best writers in the field. And Sheila Williams is respected as one of the best editors around. So the expectations of an anthology from Asimov's, edited by Sheila Williams, are high. And simply put: the stories in this anthology live up to expectations.
Anyone who enjoys good science fiction and fantasy will enjoy reading Asimov's 30th Anniversary Anthology.
There are several goals that a book like this could have. For example, one would be to showcase the kind of work published by the magazine over the years, or another would be to trace the themes and development of the genre over that period. Williams' short introduction is primarily an editorial and publishing history of the magazine and gives little insight into why this anthology was created or how she chose the stories in it. Asimov's magazine itself typically has a brief introduction to each of its stories, a feature that I consider very informative, but this anthology does not even include those introductions.
There are a few good stories in the book. It begins and ends with satisfying offerings by John Varley and Robert Reed about which I cannot say much without ruining the pleasure of the read (Do NOT read the Publisher's Weekly review of this book. It SPOILS the Reed story shamefully.). Isaac Asimov is represented by a decent robot story, although its downbeat tone is not really typical of Asimov's work. James Patrick Kelly also has a robot story that packs an impressive amount of society-building and ideas into twelve short pages. If only all the stories had been this good! Mike Resnick has a nice alternate history tale about Teddy Roosevelt that I could almost believe could have happened! Michael Swanwick also has an interesting tale about humans and "mechs", although I didn't "get" the ending. Connie Willis is represented by a charming speculative story of the sort she can write with one hand tied behind her, but it is far from her best work for Asimov's. That is about the sum total of stories I could recommend.
Of the rest, Charles Stross' story "Lobsters" was so good for most of its pages that I would have put it into the paragraph above if the last few pages had not degenerated into the kind of gratuitous depraved sexuality that so often mars his work.
Several stories (the Robinson and the Baxter) dealt with effects of climate change, but neither was especially credible or clever.
As befits Asimov's, whose title says "Science fiction magazine" but that publishes a far broader scope of fiction, fantasy and more general "speculative fiction" is represented, such as two stories about hell (Lethem and Link), but none of them showcases the genuinely imaginative work that has appeared in Asimov's over the past thirty years. Indeed, Bruce Sterling, who is renowned for cyberpunk, is represented by a story that is not SF, not speculative fiction, and not even very interesting. It made me wonder why he wrote it and why it was published.
I am not completely surprised that there are no reviews of this book. As an admirer of both Asimov's magazine and many of the authors represented, I am reluctant to speak so negatively, but I want to warn readers lest newcomers to the genre pick it up and think this is the best SF and speculative fiction has to offer.
I am not sure why the stories in the book are not better. Many stories by these authors (and many other authors) that were published in Asimov's were nominated for awards, but few of the stories in this collection were so honored. Perhaps the best stories had already been published in other anthologies and these were the only ones for which Williams could get reprint permission. Rather than settle for less than the best, it would have been better not to have published the anthology at all.
I realize there is a fine line separating fantasy from science fiction, often quite acceptable. The well respected editor, Sheila Williams, definitely had a slant to her selection of these stories. Most stories were nearly gratuitous to the term "science". Of the 18 stories, only maybe 4 or 5 were science related. I can't object to reading this because all of the stories were well written and interesting. Just not what I expected.