Saturday, March 2, 2013

Science Fiction: Year`s Best SF 17, edited by David G. Hartwell & Kathryn Cramer.

What if you could travel back in time to terminate serial killers before they started their murderous spree? What if you could see the future? What if androids committed murder? What if you fell in love with an AI?

These and more questions are the topics of "Year`s Best SF 17", edited David G. Hartwell & Kathryn Cramer, published in summer 2012 ( The anthology harvests the Science Fiction year 2011 and collects 23 short stories from prominent authors and newcomers. I have been collecting this series of SF compilations since its beginnings because the row represents cutting edge Science Fiction.

This edition, the latest so far, displays a lot of strange, alien and thought inspiring ideas. The assembly has 3 favorites of mine. My number one is Gregory Benford´s "Mercies": In a near future a very wealthy man uses a self developed time machine to jump some years back in time where/when he shoots serial killers before they start their murderous run. There exists already a legion of time travel stories, but Benford found new ways to deal with the implications & paradoxes of moving back and forth in time. I like the author`s ideas and enjoy the style of the story. "Mercies" is a kind of philosophical thriller that combines science with entertainment: Raymond Chandler meets Heisenberg.

 "Dolly" by Elizabeth Bear is another highlight of the collection. It´s about a female robot with an almost human like brain who is used as a high-tech sex toy. This android had killed a man. Now a detective wants to find out if this incident was murder or just an accident caused by a machine. The tale is an intelligent play of thoughts with questions that arose by the onset of artificial intelligence (AI). Maybe a view into the near future?

My 3rd favorite is "Thick Water" by Karen Heuler. Some scientists are exploring a strange alien world which seems to have a life of its own. Slowly they get influenced by this planet and start adapting to this environment. The plot is methodical & analytical with a creepy touch.

Different futures

There are some other stories which I gave a "like":
 "Six Months, Three Days" by Charlie Jane Anders is about a couple who can see the future, but she sees a different future than he. The cool & slick tale plays with paradoxes, probability theory, quantum physics and philosophical questions. The plot also is a speculation about how relationships could develop in the near future.

"Tethered" by Mercurio Rivera deals with very friendly aliens, who are addicted to humans and have just one goal: Pleasing them. Strange and a bit funny.

There are more interesting,stories, so the alternative history story "Our Candidate" by Robert Reed. The author describes the career of a dictator in a parallel world USA. It´s cynical written and delivers some political insights.

"Home Sweet Bi’Ome" by Pat MacEwan offers an fascinating view on the perspectives of bioengineering. We learn about a woman who lives in a house that is organically grown and has the same DNA as the owner with causes unpleasant results.

"The Nearest Thing" by Genevieve Valentine is about a company who produces artificial intelligent beings (AIs), that are "the nearest thing" to humans. There is not much of a plot, by the speculative thoughts about relationships between humans and AIs are interesting. I also liked the slick style.

"Altogether Elsewhere, Vast Herds of Reindeer" from Ken Liu reports about a teenager who lives in a world where humans had given up their bodies and exist as self created virtual realities. This is not my favorite life style but the story gives something to think about.

I finished reading 13 of the 25 stories. I consider this percentage as a solid value for an inexpensive anthology. The Kindle edition is at the moment offered for $6.99 on (amazon).

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