Friday, August 14, 2015

Science Fiction: Year`s Best SF 18, Edited By David G. Hartwell

(Drivebycuriosity) - How could aliens try to get control over you? How to deal with a murder on an artificial asteroid? What if a bureaucratic computer decides what kind of job you will get? What could you expect on an independent artificial island before the US west coast?

These and more questions are the topics of "Year`s Best SF 18", edited David G. Hartwell  published in December 2013 (amazon). The anthology harvests the science fiction year 2012 and presents 28 short stories from prominent authors and newcomers. Each story starts with a short introduction of its author and describes the basic idea.

I have been collecting this series of SF compilations since its beginnings because the row represents cutting edge science fiction. I enjoyed the 18th edition as much as the former publications:

"Nahiku West" by Linda Nagata. Stories like that are the reason why I collect science fiction. This dark masterpiece, set on an artificial asteroid, combines physics, chemistry, psychology and other sciences with a mysterious detective story and touches a lot of issues including politics, bureaucracy, economics and more. I really cared about the characters and their fate. Science plus Fiction at it bests!

My other favorites are:

 "Electrica" by Sean McMullen. The author, who specializes in steam punk wrote another alternative history, this time set in the English-French war in the early 19th century. It`s a hilarious adventure story about a spy who wants to decipher the messages of the enemy using an exotic technology.

"Liberty´s Daughter" by Naomi Kritzer is a near future story set in a libertarian economy on tiny independent states before the US west coast (on manmade islands like ships and other floating platforms). An amateur detective tries to find a missing woman and comes across a sinister crime. Kritzer wrote an interesting plot with twists and blended it with plausible speculations about alternative economic models.

"The North Revena Ladies Literary Society". Catherine H. Shaffer delivers a hilarious story about terrorists & spies in a very unusual setting.

"The Sigma Structure Symphony" by Gregory Benford focuses on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (Seti). Here the alien messages are sophisticated software programs which work as artificial intelligences (AI) and communicate with the human researchers. Benford  - who is one of my favorite authors - delivered again a fascinating sophisticated blend of science, philosophy and narration.

I also liked:

Old Paint" by Megan Lindholm is a funny & heartwarming story about the relationship of a family with an old car which is equipped with an artificial intelligence (AI). This car is very friendly and behaves almost like a dog.

"Weep for Day" by the Indian author Indrapramit Das focuses on a girl who grows up on tidally locked planet where one side has permanently sunshine and the other stays eternally night. It is an atmospheric story about dealing with the scary unknown.

"The Battle of Candle Arc" by Yoon Ha Lee. An exotic & complex piece of military science fiction.

"Holmes Sherlock: A Hwarhath Mystery" by Eleanor Arnason. An amateur detective on an alien planet tries to solve a murder case with the help of insights gained by reading human literature, Arthur Conan Doyles`Sherlock Holmes stories.

"Application" by Lewis Shriner is an irritating near future story about how computers a computerized bureaucracy could mess with our lives.

"Waves" by Ken Liu is set on a generation space ship on a centuries long journey to another planetary system. The people there can choose if they want to live forever - thanks to mechanical alterations - or to have a normal human life.

"Antarctica starts here" by Paul McAuley is set in a time when most of antarctic glaciers are molten. Some environmental activists are fighting against corporations which want to exploit the almost ice free southern continent.

"Bricks, Sticks, Straw":  Gwyneth Jones tells a melancholic story about virtual personas (avatars) on a Jupiter moon who have to start their own independent life thanks to a catastrophe.

"The Woman who shook the World Tree" by Michael Swanwick tells the story of female genius who finds a congenial partner.

"Houseflies" by Joe Pitkin described a post-apocalyptic world where most species went extinct. A geneticist is cloning some again for a surprising use. 

Most of the rest was readable at least. A good harvest!

There is no "Year`s Best SF 19"  on the market so far. Does the delay mean that series got terminated? I wouldn´t be surprised because there is a strong competitor: Gardner Dozois` "The Year's Best Science Fiction". But Hartwell´s book are more dense, cost less and they have some jewels stories which aren`t in Dozois selection.

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