While one could argue that such and such a seminal story is omitted, or the absence of novel-length work misrepresents the...

BEST OF THE BEST

20 YEARS OF THE YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION

Two decades’ worth of The Year’s Best Science Fiction.

The title is no idle boast. Anyone who follows SF and fantasy knows the names here, from ’60s veterans (Robert Silverberg, Ursula K. Le Guin) to today’s hottest names (Charles Stross, Ted Chiang). Among the Hugo and Nebula winners are Greg Bear’s “Blood Music,” Terry Bisson's “Bears Discover Fire,” Chiang's “Story of Your Life,” Joe Haldeman’s “None So Blind,” Connie Willis’s “Even the Queen,” Mike Resnick’s “Kirinyaga.” Even more of the stories were finalists for one or more of the genre’s awards. The volume is also a mini-history of short SF from the cyberpunk/humanist wars of the mid-’80s to the alternate history boom of the ’90s and the eclectic approaches of the youngest generation. Not surprisingly, Dozois was the original editor for nearly half the selections: his tenure at Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine shaped an era as clearly as John W. Campbell shaped the 1940s from the helm of Astounding magazine. But this is no self-promotional anthology; there are exciting tales from Omni, Fantasy and Science Fiction, and from original compendiums such as Starlight and Legends—a few were even originally published electronically. The tone ranges from ominous (Bear) to playful (Bisson), and the subjects are an epitome of the hot scientific topics of recent years, from genetic engineering to nanotechnology to fractal geometry and theories of dinosaur evolution. Dozois’s knowledgeable introductions put the pieces in perspective for readers new to the genre.

While one could argue that such and such a seminal story is omitted, or the absence of novel-length work misrepresents the character of the era, any attempt to assess recent short SF and fantasy will have to begin with this well-edited and essential anthology.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2005

ISBN: 0-312-33655-1

Page Count: 672

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2005

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THE THINGS THEY CARRIED

It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers...

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EXHALATION

Exploring humankind's place in the universe and the nature of humanity, many of the stories in this stellar collection focus on how technological advances can impact humanity’s evolutionary journey.

Chiang's (Stories of Your Life and Others, 2002) second collection begins with an instant classic, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” which won Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette in 2008. A time-travel fantasy set largely in ancient Baghdad, the story follows fabric merchant Fuwaad ibn Abbas after he meets an alchemist who has crafted what is essentially a time portal. After hearing life-changing stories about others who have used the portal, he decides to go back in time to try to right a terrible wrong—and realizes, too late, that nothing can erase the past. Other standout selections include “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” a story about a software tester who, over the course of a decade, struggles to keep a sentient digital entity alive; “The Great Silence,” which brilliantly questions the theory that humankind is the only intelligent race in the universe; and “Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny,” which chronicles the consequences of machines raising human children. But arguably the most profound story is "Exhalation" (which won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Short Story), a heart-rending message and warning from a scientist of a highly advanced, but now extinct, race of mechanical beings from another universe. Although the being theorizes that all life will die when the universes reach “equilibrium,” its parting advice will resonate with everyone: “Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so.”

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers in a big way.

Pub Date: May 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-94788-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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