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The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Five Paperback – October 27, 2020
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“Readers should savor the stories a few at a time to get the most out of Clarke’s superior selections . . . but there are no inferior pieces here. This is a fine, thoughtful book.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review for Not One of Us
“Well-known SF authors grace this . . . top-notch selection of imaginative and thought-provoking stories.”
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review for More Human Than Human
“Clarke’s stellar reprint anthology explores the expansive variety of space exploration stories. . . . Outstanding works in which extreme environments bring out the best and worst of human nature.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review for The Final Frontier
“Masterful editor Neil Clarke has assembled an exotic, bountiful treasure chest of reprint tales dedicated to that mode of SF that can arguably be said to constitute the very core of the field, the space opera.”
—Asimov’s on Galactic Empires
“Over all this anthology is mostly hits, remarkably few misses. Highly recommended.”
—New York Times on Galactic Empires
About the Author
- Publisher : Night Shade (October 27, 2020)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 624 pages
- ISBN-10 : 194910222X
- ISBN-13 : 978-1949102222
- Item Weight : 1.6 pounds
- Dimensions : 6 x 1.9 x 9 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #200,823 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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There are perhaps a tiny handful of enjoyable stories in this entire volume; The Work Of Wolves, and In The Stillness Between Stars stand out, but sadly, so many others are trite exercises in social consciousness, lacking in both subtlety and style. And endings. How is it possible to have some many stories with astonishingly weak endings?
It's difficult to believe that there weren't better examples of good speculative fiction to have chosen, because these are enough to make one give up on the genre.
I've been reading sci-fi for forty years, and I've become a bit picky. There are some tropes in sci-fi that I will still fall for (the military sci-fi where the hardened soldier outwits both the evil aliens and the incompetent generals to find out we all, in fact, should get along), but in general, I need something new or interesting to get me to finish a five page story, much less a book.
I've watched sci-fi expand from sort of a white male power fantasy to a more diverse and interesting genre (Arkady Martine's "A Memory Called Empire" or Nnedi Okorafor's "Binti"). However, I've also seen where some of this diversity is reduced to stereotyped tropes and themes, and unfortunately there are a few stories in this collection that follow this trend, rather than actually developing unique and characters.
For example, one story has a troubled lesbian protagonist, which is fine, even if it's kind of common now in sci-fi (I am reading two novels at the same time as this collection, every female in them is a lesbian, and half the men are gay as well), working in a moon station. They discover something interesting possibly alien, possibly mind-control, "2001"ish, and I was thinking "this is going to be pretty good". Then they start talking about the 1% (they actual said 1%) and how evil they were (a trope), then the protagonist turns out to be both not-liked-but-also-sympathized-with (a trope), and the boss is an a-whole (trope again). Then the characters start seeing dead relatives from a disaster that befell earth recently (hence the 'troubled', but they ALL are troubled, we now discover). Their reaction? Take off their helmets while outside the station. What? If I'm driving a car down the road and see my dead mother or brother, I don't jump out the window, I stop the car. I thought the story would develop into some sort of mind control, but no, it's something much simpler. And the worst part, it apparently killed a whole other team before (and also before the disaster, so not sure why it affected that previous team), except, somehow, the leader of the current team. Who said nothing. To anyone. And nothing was done to fix the issue, apparently because the 1% couldn't be bothered with the poor female/non-white males who make up the team (?). Even when the team told the supervisor they were working in the area of the anomaly, she took no action (even though it killed her previous team and almost killed her) and it was never clear why (the bottom dollar?).
So, I thought, is this a bad story, or are the tropes overshadowing the story and I'm just being cynical? So I did the Hawkeye Project approach. The Hawkeye project is from comics, and it shows how stupid and degrading female superheroes are depicted in art. Take a female superhero artwork, do the same artwork with Hawkeye, and if it looks ridiculous, it is. So I did that with this (and a couple other) stories: I changed all the characters into SWMs (straight white males), and the story(ies) completely fell apart.
This is kind of a long review for what is, after all, still four stars, but I find myself reading more short story complications at the end of the year because I don't have the energy to immerse into a full fledged novel, sometimes I can't read for weeks, and I forget the story. In doing so, I'm finding myself skipping stories, because they are falling into the same patterns for the characters. So I focus on 'end of the year' compilations, because they have 'the best of the best', but even these now are seeing the same trend of "establish a popular worldview, and cram some story in there as well". It's like the "Gor" novels in reverse.
In this time of increased diversity, where reviews always seem to say "a unique perspective with unique characters" in actuallity they seem to all be exactly the same, with the same development, the same 'bad guys' and no story. Yet, if some of the details had been made more universal (like, no one knew Rico was Filipino in Starhip Troopers until like the last two pages), and more focus was on the actual story, I think the diversity of the characters would come more naturally, and the stories would be better.