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The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-First Annual Collection (No. 21) Paperback – July 1, 2004

4.3 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With stories that run the gamut from alternate history to strange admixtures of SF and fantasy to bizarrely inexplicable worlds, and with authors ranging from big names to first-timers, Hugo-winner Dozois shows off the dazzling range of the genre in his annual compendium. Several authors deal with the loneliness of humans in the galaxy. In William Barton's "Off on a Starship," young Wally accidentally leaves Earth on an automated spaceship, only to discover that there are no other people out there—and when he finally comes home, it's not as a boy but as a god. Walter Jon Williams's bittersweet "The Green Leopard Plague" explores the economic and social consequences of conquering world hunger. Geoff Ryman's timely "Birth Days" follows a gay researcher as he finds a way to "cure" homosexuality, with unexpected results. Other standout stories include Kage Baker's rollicking "Welcome to Olympus, Mr. Hearst," where the Company takes on Hearst, and loses; and Michael Swanwick's fantastic "King Dragon," where the dragon's lackey strikes back. This hefty tome has enough content for a summer of reading, and the range of stories indicates that SF still doesn't know the meaning of the word "boundaries."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The most prestigious of the several best-of-the-year fantasy and sf anthologies never fails to enchant and to showcase sf's leading edge. In it, high-quality contributions by a generous cross section of veterans, rising stars, and newcomers--29 authors in all-- constitute a balanced mixture of ideas and voices. In William Barton's "Off on a Starship," a 1960s-era adolescent and fan of B-grade space opera is swept onto a bona fide flying saucer, with unexpected results. Newcomer Jack Skillingstead contributes an electrifying tale about an astronaut exploring other worlds by robotic proxy; his emotions are stripped away in the process. The genre's humorous side is represented by Paul Di Filippo's jocular tale of household objects becoming too artificially intelligent for their own good, and Michael Swanwick explores the border between fantasy and sf in "King Dragon," in which dragons rule the skies above England, albeit with a little help from rocket-powered technology. As usual, the ample volume includes summations of the year's sf activities and Dozois' informative story introductions. Indispensable for every library's sf collection. Carl Hays
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Series: Year's Best Science Fiction
  • Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; First Edition edition (July 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312324790
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312324797
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #493,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Brad Shorr on August 2, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Off On a Starship, William Barton. Raunchy account of hormonal `60's teenager accidentally whisked away to distant yet eerily familiar points unknown. Clever parody of old pulp sci-fi, complete with crazy cosmic ending. B

It's All True, John Kessel. 1940's cinema legend wooed by time traveling 2048 talent scout. Sizzling narrative doused by lukewarm ending. B

Rogue Farm, Charles Stoss. Future farmer harassed by bizarre genetically engineered squatter(s?). B

The Ice, Steven Popkes. Does a man's past determine his future? This question takes on new complexity for a clone of Gordie Howe in this richly textured character study. A

Ej-Es, Nancy Kress. For the strangely afflicted colonists on a remote planet, the line is sharp between disease and cure...but which is which? B

The Bellman, John Varley. Serial killer of pregnant women pursued by pregnant cop on the extensively colonized Moon. Gore galore. B

The Bear's Baby, Judith Moffett. Environmentally correct aliens clean up Mother Earth, but play dirty with humans. Snappy narrative, intriguing plot. A

Calling Your Name, Howard Waldrop. Droll widower pops into an alternate reality where everything's the same, except completely different. Comically composed, elegantly ended. A

June Sixteenth at Anna's, Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Melancholy widower deteriorates watching his wife in a holographic history. Melancholy. C

The Green Leopard Plague, Walter Jon Williams. Intrepid widower, this one a brilliant academic, postulates a new world order after some mayhem over a breakthrough in bioengineering. Long tunnel, no cheese. C

The Fluted Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi.
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Format: Paperback
All of these stories are well-written, in the English-major sense. Rather fewer of them are of much interest as science fiction. I found myself reading dutifully but without excessive enjoyment; the "wow!" factor is largely absent.

Further, most of the stories are remorselessly downbeat. I don't claim that we need to return to 100% naive technological "Ralph 124C41"-style optimism, but this much gloom and doom smacks of Conventional Wisdom at work.

Most of the stories made little or no impression on me, for better or worse. A few of the exceptions:

William Barton's "Off on a Starship," the first story, has an interesting setup but a truly pointless ending. It's perhaps unfortunate as a tone-setter in that it mentions quite a lot of classic SF works, most of which very noticably outshine both this story and the rest of the collection.

Not one but two of these stories deal with time travelers cutting deals with 20th-century media figures: Orson Wells in _It's All True_, William Randolph Hearst in "Welcome to Olympus, Mr. Hearst." The first has some point but is not very original. The second is witty and amusing; however, it's weakened by the sense that (reading between the lines) the events of the story are predestined to happen.

Nancy Kress's "Ej-Es" is well-written, needlessly depressing, and a bit too predictable. A little more work could have made it into a stunner, but you'll probably guess what's going to happen as soon as the situation is made clear. Good idea, indifferent execution.

"June Sixteenth at Anna's," by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Boring, boring, boring. Mainstream fiction dressed up with SF sauce.

"The Green Leopard Plague," by Walter Jon Williams, was a Hugo nominee last year. Why? I don't know.
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Format: Paperback
I've been a fan of these collections since number four lo those many years ago. 21 is a good, thick set of readings. Dozois does a very good job of rounding up the year with his cogent "summation" essay (again scifi is not dead). His choices for best writing last year lean heavily on material published by several of the big names and only a few new voices, but the picks are here for good reasons.

William Barton's wonderful "Off on a starship" leads off and Terry Bisson's longish but good "Dear Abbey" bookends the set of 29 stories. Several of these are more than short stories -- why is novella a bad word these days? Turtledove, Vinge and Varley turn in excellent work here but without covering all the stories the math should be obvious... 29 stories, a high quality review essay, and for how much? Less than a bad movie and popcorn (and wow are there some bad movies out there).

Buy this, read some stories, find an author you like, buy their books, support the genre.
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I wouldn't even consider this Science Fiction. Almost all the stories (one exception of a dozen) are stories clearly written outside of science fiction, with very obvious changes to add a science "word" in to try to resell it as a Science Fiction story. What is astounding to me is neither the authors, nor Dozois thought we would notice. My guess is either it costs someone money to put a story into his anthology and no one with a decent story thought it worth the cost or, Dozois publisher has to pay for the stories and they couldn't afford to buy real stories. However it works, these are not even close to being considered Science Fiction ... and yes, I have *all* the other Years Best editions.
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