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The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Sixth Annual Collection Paperback – June 23, 2009
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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From Publishers Weekly
Veteran editor Dozois, 15-time Hugo winner, offers 30 stories, several of them Hugo-nominated. The table of contents is dominated by familiar names like Michael Swanwick and Greg Egan, but occasionally leavened with relative newcomers like Hannu Rajaniemi and more obscure authors like James Alan Gardner. Settings range from the present-day (Nancy Kress's The Erdmann Nexus) to the distant future (Ian McDonald's The Tear) and alternate history (Aliete de Bodard's Butterfly, Falling at Dawn). Similarly the moods range from relatively upbeat (Dominic Green's Shining Armour) to pessimistic (Swanwick's From Babel's Fallen Glory We Fled). In some entries the SF elements appear to be almost an afterthought, but most earn their inclusion. Dozois also provides short biographies, a detailed overview of the year in SF and a lengthy list of honorable mentions. This is a worthy addition to a venerable series. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
“This is a worthy addition to a venerable series.” ―Publishers Weekly
“The 25th installment of editor extraordinaire Dozois's annual collection packs a wallop.” ―Publishers Weekly
“For more than a quarter century, Gardner Dozois's THE BEST SCIENCE FICTION OF THE YEAR [25th Annual Collection] has defined the field. It is the most important anthology, not only annually, but overall.” ―Charles N. Brown, publisher of Locus Magazine
Top customer reviews
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My six favorites from this year's collection all deal with our humanity, skillfully using the innovations of technology and the wonders of other worlds to examine our hearts:
Ted Kosmatka's "N-Words" explores love, pain and prejudice in a relationship between a woman and one of modern man's closest cousins.
Karl Schroeder's "The Hero" tells the story of a boy who pays forward a kindness.
Mary Robinnette Kowal's "Evil Robot Monkey" asks whether animals are made more human by increasing their intelligence or increasing our empathy.
Greg Egan's "Crystal Nights" shows that the evolution of a new species can be more effective and efficient if the right man is in charge.
Garth Nix's "Old Friends" shows us that our roots are at home, even when we don't want to return there.
Ian McDonald's "The Tear" is an action- and concept-packed tale of childhood friendship under change--after change, after change.
This collection is highly recommended. I enjoyed it all the more as a "guilty pleasure" read on my iPhone Kindle app while those around me assumed I was scheduling or engaging in some other grown-up activity.
WARNING: The thirty stories in this collection are exactly the same 30 stories found in The Mammoth Book of Best New SF 22. In fact, these two books seem to be the same except for different titles and covers. Don't buy both expecting them to be separate books.
As usual, Dozois has rounded up mostly excellent stories, whether or not one can ever objectively define "best" (average story quality, in my judgment, comes out to 4.13 out of 5, in this anthology). Also, as in previous years, the huge Summation at the beginning lays out the current condition of science fiction in exquisite detail. For that, I'm adding a bonus to the 4.13 story-average, bringing the final rating up to 5 out of 5.
++ = 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!
"Turing's Apples." Stephen Baxter. Sibling rivalry and first contact. One of Baxter's best so far. ++
"From Babel's Fall'n Glory We Fled." Michael Swanwick. A man among bug-eyed aliens who deal in trust. Typically Swanwick: full of irony and a boatload of postmodern literary tricks. Quite entertaining, though. +
"The Gambler." Paolo Bacigalupi. News reporter takes big gamble on writing social-justice piece in hyper-capitalized information economy. Good character piece, less of a downer than the usual Bacigalupi. +
"Boojum." Elizabeth Bear & Sarah Monette. Seat-of-your-pants swashbuckler on living pirate ship in outer space! Complete with a plucky heroine and a ship weirder than anything in Pirates of the Caribbean. +
"The Six Directions of Space." Alastair Reynolds. Space-faring, multiverse-exploring Mongol Empire! Reynolds does it again: mind-blowing vastness of space and time, awesome scientific speculation, fine and subtle characterization. ++
"N-Words." Ted Kosmatka. Neanderthal clones suffer racist slurs. Kosmatka is a fine writer, but this one tries too hard to win my pity for the Neanderthals. o
"An Eligible Boy." Ian McDonald. Jane Austen for guys in near-future India. Another fine writer turns to boring (though occasionally funny) social commentary. o
"Shining Armour." Dominic Green. Boonie village has one huge secret weapon. I found myself cheering at the end. ++
"The Hero." Karl Schroeder. Young man goes on quest to save the world(s). Eye-popping descriptions and skilful plotting keep this one moving to an explosive finale. Adventure space-opera at its absolute best. ++
"Evil Robot Monkey." Mary Robinette Kowal. Evil Robot Monkey throws around... The End. -
"Five Thrillers." Robert Reed. A thrilling story full of wonder and excitement, in five parts. The protagonist is bad-ass x5. Robert Reed is too: this guy gets a story published every two weeks (on average), including this rather long novella, and they're all either good or great. ++
"The Sky That Wraps the World Round, Past the Blue and Into the Black." Jay Lake. Yeah.. the title makes more sense than the story. Lake is usually good, and maybe this is "good," but I couldn't wrap my head around it. -
"Incomers." Paul McAuley. Bildungsroman on a moon of Saturn. Fast-paced, but affords plenty of room for thought: in other words, an average McAuley story. +
"Crystal Nights." Greg Egan. Billionaire creates virtual species, but he's no god. To quote Paul Di Filippo, Egan writes "quantum poetry." Beautiful story. +
"The Egg Man." Mary Rosenblum. Dude smuggles eggs into Mexican village in climate-changed future, but witnesses his old friends' sad decline. As always, Rosenblum succeeds in creating more atmosphere than a Ridley Scott film; and her characters really get to you. +
"His Master's Voice." Hannu Rajaniemi. Dog and cat team up to be man's best friends. Excellent writing and charming story make this entry from new writer Rajaniemi one of the best in this volume. ++
"The Political Prisoner." Charles Coleman Finlay. Political officer ends up in prison on Soviet-inspired isolationist colony world. Finlay has a knack for interesting characters; this a fine example. ++
"Balancing Accounts." James L. Cambias. Robots! In Space! I've never seen robots more convincingly rendered (that includes you, WALL-E). ++
"Special Economics." Maureen McHugh. Chinese girl gets job at evil corporation: the kind you can't really quit. McHugh creates an unlikeable character, but somehow kept my attention. +
"Days of Wonder." Geoff Ryman. A Million Years From Now: equine matriarchs roam the plains. Like most stuff Ryman writes: so much unthinking emotion that I stopped caring pretty soon. o
"City of the Dead." Paul McAuley. Crazy old biologist has strange bond with mutant ferrets. Surprisingly good combo of the modern western (think "The Three Burials of Melquiadas Estrada") and hard sci-fi. ++
"The Voyage Out." Gwyneth Jones. Woman on mysterious space voyage discovers some unsettling secrets about herself and her lover. Lyrical and intimate, and ultimately quite chilling. Very effective. +
"The Illustrated Biography of Lord Grimm." Daryl Gregory. Iron Men rule the skies in alternate-world Baltic lands. Rip-roaring war story with a kind-of superhero ethos hanging around the edges but affecting everyone. +
"G-Men." Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Alternate-history mystery starring J. Edgar Hoover, RFK, and LBJ! Never saw a more crooked bunch... an entertaining who-dunit. +
"The Erdmann Nexus." Nancy Kress. Ageing physicist faces psycho mystery. The idea feels at least 60 years old, but it gives steady proof of Kress's never-faltering quality. ++
"Old Friends." Garth Nix. Arborial samurai! Simultaneously depressing and entertaining story from an author I'd never read before. +
"The Ray Gun: A Love Story." James Alan Gardner. Boy meets Ray Gun, etc. Truly astounding coming-of-age tale; probably THE best of the year. ++
"Lester Young and the Jupiter's Moons' Blues." Gord Sellar. Who knew aliens would like jazz? This is a toe-tappin' good read and a convincing argument for the appreciation of jazz (yes, I said it...). +
"Butterfly, Falling at Dawn." Aliette de Bodard. Another alternate-history mystery: a "Mexica" magistrate searches for both a murderer and her own soul in Fenliu (=Los Angeles, I think). An unexpectedly moving story; I *really* hope this French writer shows up more often in English-language publications. +
"The Tear." Ian McDonald. Manifold personality on a literally cosmic scale. McDonald never does anything small, does he? This story is almost too rich, too dense for the human mind to encompass. A work of genius, nonetheless. +