As ever, Dozois leads his anthology with a homerun by Ian R. MacLeod and follows it with a second MacLeod, “Isabel of the Fall.” Two dozen tales give ballast to this voyage into SF and fantastic realism, including MacLeod’s “New Light on the Drake Equation,” which takes place perhaps a century from now. The story turns on Tom Kelly, a fading SETI scientist who’s on a French hilltop radio-scanning the heavens for First Contact and using as his guide the Drake Equation, which helps map the likely areas an alien culture might try to contact us from. The fallible equation is less certain than he is, but Tom has great assurance about contact—for a number of decades. During them, he’s visited by his ex-lover, the star-crossed Terr, a hyperenthusiast who exhausts subjects that interest her and who left Tom to take up flying with wings attached to a newly improved back musculature (Tom took up drinking to pass the time). Aside from descriptions of marvelous scientific advances in personal grooming, little confronts the reader except many pages of fine writing about waiting, waiting, waiting. “Isabel of the Fall” is a future children’s story looking back at the urchin Isabel, who was taken into the Dawn Church, became a Dawn singer, and had to climb the minaret daily to clean the great mirrors that collect light from heaven—until she had a great fall . . . Also outstanding: Dan Simmons’s “On K2 with Kanakaredes,” about a trio of climbers forced to accept the company of a bug-shaped, six-legged alien, Kanakaredes from Aldebaran, when they climb Everest. And not to be missed: Nancy Kress’s “Computer Virus”—about a mother whose home is invaded by—well, check the title.
True fiction. The pure stuff.