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Twentieth Annual Collection

edited by Gardner Dozois

Pub Date: July 16th, 2003
ISBN: 0-312-30859-0
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Without question, the Dozois SF annuals deserve rosettes.

Editor Dozois’s usual exhaustive retrospection on the year’s events in SF was missing from our galley, but as in last year’s thought-provoking, at times lighthearted collection, Dozois kicks off here with a long story by Ian R. MacLeod (The Great Wheel, 1997), among the most literary of SF stylists. The present tale, “Breathmoss,” is an elegant masterpiece of moist landscape and world-building that turns on the coming-of-age of Jalila on Habara in the Season of Soft Rains. Jalila must now leave her dreamtent on the high plains of Tabuthal, where the breathmoss first grew in her lungs and allowed her to breathe, and, with her three mothers, enter Habara’s busy coastal city to prepare for her part in populating the Ten Thousand and One worlds beyond the Gateway, entering the Pain of Distance as she crawls “across this particular page of her universe.” Appearing again also is Hugo and Nebula winner Nancy Kress, this time with the moving “The Most Famous Little Girl in All the World,” which tells of Kyra, who at ten walked up into a spaceship that landed in the pasture and after an hour came out again. Then the spaceship left. Throughout Kyra’s long and varied life, her cousin Amy and the rest of the world want to know what the aliens looked like and what they told her or did to her. Although she doesn’t remember too clearly, the reader comes to wonder whether it might not be that she was engineered to have no fear of aliens. Not to be missed: Alastair Reynolds’s “Turquoise Days” and what lies beneath the utter serenity of a quiet, peaceful little planet. Other outstanding contributions come from Gregory Benford, Charles Stross, Paul McAuley, and Robert Reed.

For all libraries, absolutely.