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The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume 4 Paperback – March 1, 2010

3.3 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Strahan's introduction calls 2008 a good but not exceptional year for short fiction, and in accurate reflection, all 29 stories collected here are good, but few are great. The standouts are memorable in a variety of ways: for sheer power of narrative voice, Pat Cadigan's Truth and Bone; for human connections to inscrutable aliens, Damien Broderick's This Wind Blowing, and This Tide; for humor amid life-and-death peril, Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear's Mongoose. Hard SF fans should seek out the imperiled far future Earth of Stephen Baxter's Formidable Caress, while a sense of wonder and menace permeates Peter Watts's The Island. A few stories don't feel as strong as they might have been, but there are no real wrong turns. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

As for previous volumes of this annual, Strahan picks a stellar array of stories, the best of an apparently very good year. With authors including Nicola Griffith, Damien Broderick, Peter S. Beagle, Diana Wynne Jones, and Robert Charles Wilson, it’s impossible for a reader to go wrong, and there’s something here for every taste, as well. From Griffith’s unnerving story of emotions and chemicals, “It Takes Two,” to Beagle’s “By Moonlight,” a variation on the old Scots ballad “Tam Lin,” this year’s best contain both the simple things we take for granted about being human and the most luminous impossibilities that we might imagine. There are intelligent dinosaurs, steampunk gyrocopter air-chases, magic, alternate universes, technology that’s almost magic, and everything else one could ask of a collection of the fantastic. And if they’re not enough, a list of stories that “would appear in this volume if space permitted” concludes. --Regina Schroeder
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Product Details

  • Series: Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year (Book 4)
  • Paperback: 500 pages
  • Publisher: Night Shade Books; 1 edition (March 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597801712
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597801713
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,782,915 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A. A. Chapman on December 16, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the first Strahan "Best of..." that I've read. Previously, I've been reading Gardner Dozois's "Year's Best" anthologies. I decided I wanted some good fantasy with my good sci-fi. I see that Strahan has different tastes from Dozois (although the two do overlap somewhat), but I would consider his taste just as good. There is, in fact, a remarkable consistency of quality work in this volume: on the 5-point scale, the story average here comes out to 4.28. Since I like a good whole number, I'll say that my overall enjoyment of the volume, including the variety of subject-matter and the artful arrangement of stories, bumps up the rating to a 5.

Challenge: count the number of Teenage-Girl protagonists.

Key:
++ = Excellent story, would unhesitatingly include it in my own "year's best"... if I had one.
+ = Thought it was good, certainly worth reading, maybe not a definite pick for my own "year's best"...
o = Not bad, but had little effect on me.
- = Actively disliked it.
-- = Wish I hadn't read it!

"It Takes Two." Nicola Griffith. Jet-setter and stripper find love, but not the kind anyone expects. The sci-fi love is less surprising than the uncommon viewpoint. +

"Three Twilight Tales." Jo Walton. Three discrete fairy tales, all with moonlight magic. Interesting structure: three tales, loosely connected. Prose so beautiful, it hurts. ++

"The Night Cache." Andy Duncan. Teenage girl's treasure hunt begins (unwitting) in a bookstore and goes to more mundane places from there. There's a spiritual quest in there somewhere. o

"The Island." Peter Watts. A lonely, increasingly dysfunctional crew, laying interstellar highways, encounters a star of unknown properties.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Some of the first stories were almost deal-breakers for me, but I did finish the book. I can't figure out why the author didn't put better stories at the beginning. Some of the stories were awful, some ok, and a few were very good. I'm glad I got it at a discount or I'd have been very disappointed.

One warning: if you're strongly opposed to the gay lifestyle then you might want to skip this one, as some of the stories have gay main characters. Personally I didn't mind those stories as they were well written, but I'll admit I was bewildered by the one called, "Spar." I just couldn't see the purpose of an entire story about a human female - alien blob sex orgy. I skipped most of it so maybe I missed it's redeeming quality? Oh, well.

I recommend it if you love Sci-fi and find it discounted, but not at full price.
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This is an anthology, so the 4 "pick a box" ratings don't really apply. I'm split between 3 and 4 stars, but since there are enough good stories here to rate 4 stars I decided not to penalize the entire volume just because it also included some weaker pieces. There are some very good stories here in a variety of subgenres, ranging from sword and sorcery to steampunk to old school hard SF, with particularly strong entries in classical fantasy and modern fantasy/paranormal. There are also a surprising number of stories that have no science fiction or fantasy elements at all, but are simply character sketches or a single dramatic scene that feels like it is part of a longer piece, and still others where the setting seems forced, almost as if the author had a stoiry ot tell that didn't fit the style in which they normally write, but they were unwilling to depart form their chosen niche, or in a couple of cases the author is very strong in one style and was trying to work in a new, less comfortable style and it didn't quite work out.

A couple of stories have a dark, almost gothic, mood, but just because the protagonist is afraid of shadows doesn't make it fantasy. Others were vaguely surreal, in the manner of Mark Helprin, which, while interesting, is also neither fantasy nor SF. On the bright side, if you find these sorts of stories not to your taste you can always just skip over them and there were some that I wound up wishing I had done exactly that as I was still waiting for the plot twist that would make it all worthwhile when the story ended. The quality of the writing itself is also a bit spotty for a "Best of" collections, with a few stories reading more like someone still learning their craft, That said, this volume is a great way to sample a lot of writers you may not have encountered, or see some familiar names working outside of, or on the edges of, their usual genres.
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Format: Paperback
I end up ordering most of Mr. Strahan's anthologies in the editions from Nightshade Books and I was a bit put off here due to the duplication.

The Pelican Bar and It Takes Two were originally published in Eclipse 3. Mongoose saw print in Lovecraft Unbound. The Island by Peter Watts (easily the best story here) was in The New Space Opera 2. Readers should check the table of contents against their library.

I am also beginning to think I would prefer a single genre anthology as it were, all scifi or all fantasy. The juxtaposition didn't always work well. Of the other stories, there were a few that ended in medias res as far as I was concerned, no doubt striking a chord with the editor but not with me, for example, Dragon's Teeth and This Wind Blowing, and This Tide. I did quite like the feel of Three Twilight Tales by Walton and By Moonlight by Peter Beagle.

A mixed bag then, but that probably means something for everyone and not everything for any one reader.
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