- File Size: 697 KB
- Print Length: 496 pages
- Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0060521821
- Publisher: HarperCollins e-books (October 13, 2009)
- Publication Date: October 13, 2009
- Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
- Language: English
- ASIN: B000FC1V9W
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
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- #5245 in Fantasy Anthologies
- #4095 in Fantasy Anthologies & Short Stories (Kindle Store)
- #200929 in American Literature (Books)
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Year's Best Fantasy 4 (Year's Best Fantasy Series) Kindle Edition
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About the Author
David G. Hartwell is a senior editor of Tor/Forge Books. His doctorate is in Comparative Medieval Literature. He is the proprietor of Dragon Press, publisher and bookseller, which publishes The New York Review of Science Fiction, and the president of David G. Hartwell, Inc. He is the author of Age of Wonders and the editor of many anthologies, including The Dark Descent, The World Treasury of Science Fiction, The Hard SF Renaissance, The Space Opera Renaissance, and a number of Christmas anthologies, among others. Recently he co-edited his fifteenth annual paperback volume of Year's Best SF, and co-edited the ninth Year's Best Fantasy. John Updike, reviewing The World Treasury of Science Fiction in The New Yorker, characterized him as a "loving expert." He is on the board of the IAFA, is co-chairman of the board of the World Fantasy Convention, and an administrator of the Philip K. Dick Award. He has won the Eaton Award, the World Fantasy Award, and has been nominated for the Hugo Award forty times to date, winning as Best Editor in 2006, 2008, and 2009.
Kathryn Cramer is a writer, critic, and anthologist, and was coeditor of the Year's Best Fantasy and Year's Best SF series. A consulting editor at Tor Books, she won a World Fantasy Award for her anthology The Architecture of Fear.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Famous Neil Gaiman contributes a well-written little story about a group of men in a London club that builds well to a mediocre ending. Terry Dowling writes about a "sciamantium", a mirrored room from that supposedly leads to supernatural revelations. Another really good one is "Moonblind" by Tanith Lee, in which the hunters of a village conducts periodic hunts of werewolves. One of the hunters finds a baby werewolf, and contrary to all tradition, decides to hide it and nurture it. Brendan Duffy's story is another strange one - about a spritelike creature created by a scientist in a previous century. There are discussions of "ovism vs. preformation" and the church's views on science. "Fable from a Cage" by Tim Pratt was another good, strange chiller. Lucius Shepard was part of the cyberpunk movement, and he writes in an overblown style that has its charms. He contributes a weird, violent piece set in South America. In Ellen Klage's story, a girl gets picked on and pushed around by her bitchy, trophy wife stepmother. A black maid befriends her and shows her some old school magic spells and tricks, which turn out to work all too well. In Robert Sheckley's "The Tales of Zanthius", the author creates an interesting rural community populated by people, zombies, werewolves, and witches. In a story by Gene Wolfe, an insane psychiatrist travels thru a violent dream world - pretty good.
All in all, this was a good collection - more interestingly bizarre than I had expected. Looks like I should add some occasional fantasy to my reading diet.
Now, all kidding aside (I love Baker, but I'm definitely exaggerating above), the stories in Year's Best Fantasy 4 did not grip me like they have in past years. In fact, going back and writing out the story titles and authors for the list below, I'm having trouble remembering what a few of them are about. Some are charming in their own way, but didn't excite me. Others left me with disturbing images (and not the pleasurably disturbing ones that good horror novels leave). "Catskin," by Kelly Link, is about a witch's son and the cat that has become the dead witch's revenge. The cat creates a cat suit for the boy out of the skin of all the other dead cats that the witch had taken care of, and they go out to avenge the witch, dealing with the other witch who poisoned her. Not my cup of tea. Even the mostly reliable Michael Swanwick's story isn't up to his usual standard, though it is mildly entertaining. "King Dragon" is about a world of elves and dragons, but this world is brutally technological. The dragons are intelligent, but they are also mechanical constructs. In an attack on a village, one of the dragons crash-lands, demands that the village cater to him in order to eventually fix him, and takes a boy to be his eyes, ears, and feet. The boy becomes very powerful in the village, a resistance group forms and the boy has to eventually decide whether he likes the power he has (despite the horror of his master) or if he is loyal to his village. It's an interesting story, but I found I didn't really like the atmosphere that much.
So what's good about Year's Best Fantasy 4? There are three really good ones. "Basement Magic," by Ellen Klages, is about a young girl with a horrible stepmother, and a maid who knows just a little bit of that voodoo that you do so well. She quickly befriends the girl and, after seeing how the stepmother treats the girl, decides to help protect the girl with a couple of spells. The girl takes things just a little too far, however. This tale was very sweet, but not too sweet. The characters are interesting and I just loved the friendship that grew between these two people. The ending is actually quite surprising, and sad in a way. I loved it.
Another good one is "Dragon's Gate," by Pat Murphy. In this one, a girl tells a story of the ice women in a bar near the glacier. They are upset and her mother goes into a coma-like state. The girl must travel up the mountain pass and get some blood from the dragon there, the dragon that has killed every expedition that has gone after it. Upon getting there, the girl finds things a lot different then she expected. The story has a nice twist to it, with the dragon being a credible character in its own right. The little bit of history of the area is interesting, also tying directly into the outcome of the story, which is nice too. Excellent stuff.
Finally (both in this review and the book itself), there is "Almost Home," by Terry Bisson. This story is a voyage of discovery and the beginning of a new life. Troy and Bug are two boys who enjoy fishing in "Scum Lake," a big pond that's out by the old horse track. Troy discovers that various aspects of the track (the announcers' booth and other bits) are beginning to form what looks like an aeroplane (you know, one of those older types). When it finally forms, they are able to take Troy's deformed cousin for a ride. They discover, past the seemingly endless desert, a community that is almost, but not quite, exactly like theirs. The story only contains these three characters, and Bisson captures the wonder and the fear of kids going on an exploration of the unknown vividly. It's kind of sad, but contains an uplifting ending. It's also quite imaginative, with this plane being powered by electrolytes from soda pop. This was an excellent ending for the book.
Very few of the stories in Year's Best Fantasy 4 left me cold. There's "Catskin" as mentioned above, but also Neil Gaiman's story ("Closing Time") also did. Perhaps this is because I'm getting tired of the motif of people within the story telling a weird story themselves. It's starting to get a bit old, and since the story that was being told didn't inspire me, it just sort of fell flat. Others were ok, but nothing special. Surprisingly, Tanith Lee's story ("Moonblind") was one that I actually enjoyed, which just may indicate that my feelings about a Year's Best Fantasy book may be inversely proportional to how much I like Lee's story. The past two books have contained Lee stories that I didn't like, and I liked those volumes a lot better than this one.
Still, my disappointment with this year's edition does not mean it's not worth picking up. It's still a great collection, just not as good as past years'. If you're a short fantasy fan (as in a fan of short fantasy, not meaning a height-challenged fan), I would definitely recommend that you pick this book up. Just make sure you pick up the first three as well. There's some good stuff there.
One Thing About the Night" by Terry Dowling, a creepy ghost story involving a mirrored room; and "Dragon's Gate" by Pat Murphy, a well-told high-fantasy quest adventure. There are also some good stories by Lucius Shepard and Terry Bisson. I should also mention the editor's introductions to the stories often contain plot spoilers so I recommend reading those after reading the story.