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The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Third Annual Collection Paperback – Bargain Price, July 11, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. The 23rd entry in this acclaimed anthology series from SF maven Dozois, who has won 15 Hugo Awards, showcases 30 tales that demonstrate that the lifeblood of science fiction lies less in new themes than in fresh approaches to old themes. Outstanding selections include Robert Reed's splendid story of a world-sized interstellar spacecraft, "Camouflage"; Liz Williams's "La Malcontenta," set on a most unusual Mars; David Moles's "Planet of the Amazon Women," which puts a new spin on the all-female society; and Mary Rosenblum's "Search Engine," which exploits cyberpunk in unexpected ways. Harry Turtledove pays homage to John James Audubon in "Audubon in Atlantis," an off-beat alternative-world tale, while David Gerrold spins time into "timequakes" in "In the Quake Zone." Dozois provides his usual cogent summation of the year as well as a list of honorable mentions for 2005.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
"Dozois's definitive must read short story anthology series takes the pulse of science fiction today, revealing it to be a genre of breathtaking scope and imagination." Publisher's Weekly"
“Hugo winner Dozois shows off the dazzling range of the genre in his annual compendium.... The range of stories indicates that SF still doesn’t know the meaning of the word boundaries.”
---Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“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---twenty-nine authors in all---constitute a balanced mixture of ideas and voices.”
“Huge multiplicity of first-rate fiction...Is the polished platter underlying a huge layer cake of exquisite reading.”
---The San Diego Union-Tribune
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But let me take a stab at why the book represents more than the sum of its parts: Following Mr. Dozois' absolutely encyclopedic summary of events in the science-fiction world, we first encounter a story by Ian McDonald that treats some timely themes of Artificial Intelligence and the effects of governmental limitations on technology that mirror current attempts to limit internet access. This story has an upbeat and hopeful ending. The theme of the triumph of good over bad continues with Paolo Bacigalupi's story of a dystopic future in which farming is controlled by multi-national corporations--again, a type and shadow of fears concerning control of technological development by virtue of intellectual property rights.
Dozois follows two clearly thematically chosen stories with a first-rate Alastair Reynolds story about a future sailor who gets a bit more than he bargained for that is just excellent science fiction. It is followed by Daryl Gregory's piece about the effects of a future designer drug, an excellent piece of technological extrapolation.
Next are four stories that are surprisingly similar in that they primarily focus on the impact of events upon an individual character: Jay Lake & Ruth Nestvold's superbly rendered story of an eccentric billionaire who develops star travel on his own with fateful consequences to his wife is followed by a Michael Swanwick story about time manipulation and its effect upon the person who understands the ultimate fate of his timeline. Robert Reed's story of a character making his way across the galaxy in a gigantic ship has much to say about the power of one individual to do good. The next story likewise presents Ken MacLeod's tale of a missionary who desires to bring Christianity to an alien lifeform.
Bruce Sterling's story of the Blemmye brings a new perspective to the crusades and thoughfully explores the question of whether our history is everything we believe it to be is followed by a dystopic future-vision of a world destroying itself; William Sanders' Amba. Just as Amba deals with unforseen consequences, so too does Mary Rosenblum's story about a world in which any information is available for a price, Chris Beckett's vision of a world that turns inward to the ultimate rejection of all that is corporeal, and David Gerrold's exploration of the unintended environmental impacts of time travel in Southern California.
He changes gears with a solid work by Stephen Baxter, who has the audacity to present a story of humanity spanning the very life of our Earth but which subtly highlights the interconnection between our civilzation and our environment--albeit on a geologic level. This is followed by a unique future vision by Vonda McIntyre in which humanity exists in a symbiotic relationship with its own technology. Dozois then turns to alternative histories--Gene Wolfe's world adrift and Harry Turtledove's portrayal of Audubon's search for unique birds on a unique continent. These are followed by an utterly unique story by Hannu Rajaniemi about ultimate power and a similar story by Steven Popkes about how the health benefits bestowed by nanobots may come with a price that is not entirely welcome.
Dozois is obviously a believer in saving the best for last because he then throws in two stories that were my personal favorites: Softly Spoke the Gabbleduck by Neal Asher--a story about a hunting expedition gone awry and Zima Blue by Alastair Reynolds which was in my estimation worth the entire volume just by itself, a story about what is truly important. Unfortunately, anything that followed these two stories was bound to suffer by comparison: David Moles' story about a planet where males inexplicably die yet the women are doing just fine; Dominic Green's sobering tale of high technology gone wrong in Africa; Chris Robertson's alternate history in which China is the superpower; and Gwyneth Jones unnecessarily profane and graphic story about space travel.
Peter Watts and Darryl Murphy offer a story about the unintended consequences of creating a conscious program that has a searing ending followed by a likewise emotional story by Elizabeth Bear about the power of expression. The volume ends with a James Patrick Kelly novella that harkens back to Thoreau and asks whether it might be better to live simply and to forego the benefits of modern technology.
I'm convinced that the best way to experience Mr. Dozois' efforts is to start at the beginning and read straight through--despite the fact that the volume presents many different stories and styles, there is an impact carefully designed by the editor that requires this approach. Highly recommended.
and styles, all good. Lots of stuff for a great price. I just didn't like
the typeface they used; that is obviously a personal preference.
As usual, Amazon service is tops.
The Calorie Man, by Paolo Bacigalupi. Even when Earth's energy sources are reduced to plants, Big Business casts its sinister shadow--is all hope lost? Superb speculation with a timely message. A
Beyond the Aquila Rift, by Alastair Reynolds. Humans use abandoned alien technology to comb the Milky Way, but as one ship captain learns the hard way, what they really need is an operator's manual. A
Second Person, Present Tense, by Daryl Gregory. A family tries to heal after the daughter's strange drug overdose, but astounding issues of self-identity and consciousness get in the way. Heartrending and mind bending! A+
The Canadian Who Came ... by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold. An anomaly at the bottom of a remote British Columbia lake suggests a missing space explorer may still be around. B
Triceratops Summer, by Michael Swanick. Dinosaurs cause trouble for humans, but not in the usual way. C
Camouflage, by Robert Reed. Snappily written but routine whodunit aboard an immense space ship full of immortals. C
A Case of Consilience, by Ken MacLeod. Courageous or crazy? A space reverend makes first contact with sentient mud. C
The Blemmye's Strategem, by Bruce Sterling. A monstrous master of the occult stirs up Hell during the Crusades. Dank, Medieval characters and atmosphere. B
Amba, by William Sanders. Against the dismal backdrop of global warming, adventurers live by their wits in sunny Siberia. Near-future speculation seems too true to be good. B
Search Engine, by Mary Rosenblum. When computers record your every move, tracking a suspect is easy. Figuring out what to do with him--a bit harder. C
Piccadilly Circus, by Chris Beckett. A poignant story set in a desolate future London where virtual reality is more real than reality, except for a few lingering old souls. B
In the Quake Zone, by David Gerrold. Brokeback Chinatown. Sexual politics under cover of fiction. D
La Malcontenta, by Liz Williams. The maids on a mystical medieval Mars are merrily minus men, mostly. C
The Children of Time, by Stephen Baxter. Bold predictions about the fate of man over the next seven hundred million years are made stirringly immediate and personal. A
Little Faces, by Vonda N. McIntyre. Another all female society, this one aboard organic ships, grim, and feuding. C
Comber, by Gene Wolfe. Pithy tale of a man who sees trouble ahead, literally, for his geologically unstable city. A
Audubon in Atlantis, by Harry Turtledove. In a barely alternate world, the famed naturalist combs Atlantis for a rare and most peculiar bird. B
Deus Ex Homine, by Hannu Rajaniemi. This one is about artificial intelligence implants, but I need one myself to make sense of it. NR
The Great Caruso, by Steven Popkes. Puff piece about an old woman who smokes her way to stardom, thanks to a cigarette SNAFU. Finally, some (much needed) humor in this collection! A
Softly Spoke the Gabbleduck, by Neal Asher. Unsavory adventure seekers hunt off-limits prey--and their guide--on an exotic planet where danger lurks everywhere. Fast paced and exciting. A+
Zima Blue, by Alistair Reynolds. In the far future, a mysterious artist reveals his secrets to a spunky journalist. One of the most memorable characters I can remember, plus fresh thinking on the meaning of work, art, and self. A+
Planet of the Amazon Women, by David Moles. I'm neither smart nor schooled enough to make heads or tails of this one. NR
The Clockwork Atom Bomb, by Dominic Green. Weapons of mass destruction hijinx in a politically complex future Africa. C
Gold Mountain, by Chris Roberson. Zzz.
The Fulcrum, by Gwyneth Jones. Zzzz.
Mayfly, by Peter Watts and Derryl Murphy. Zzzzz.
Two Dreams on Trains, By Elizabeth Bear. In a submerged and subdued future New Orleans, a poor boy sandwiched between a rock and a hard place tries to make his mark. B
Angel of Light, by Joe Haldeman. Slice of life about a man in the new Chrislam world order who discovers an odd cultural relic in his basement. B
Burn, by James Patrick. Struggles of a young firefighter on planet Walden, where men fight with mixed success for the simple life in a remote corner of a culturally and technologically complex galaxy. C