Monday, October 12, 2015
Books: The Year's Best Science Fiction: 32nd Annual Collection, Edited By Gardner Dozois
These and more questions are the topics of "The Year's Best Science Fiction: 32rd Annual Collection", edited by Gardner Dozois (published in July 2015 amazon). The anthology offers a kaleidoscope of plots, ideas and styles. Dozois caters to a lot of different tastes and shows the state of art in science fiction. His compilation has been the market leader for 3 decades and seems now to be the only pure sci-fi anthology (the competitors offer a mixture of fantasy & science fiction).
The book harvests the science fiction year 2014 and contains about 30 short stories from prominent authors and newcomers. I enjoyed around half of them:
My favorite is "The Regular" by Ken Liu - a futuristic cat-and-mouse play. A woman, who´s body is enhanced by new technologies, like a cyborg, uses her enhancements in order to catch a serial killer, a cooly & analytical thinking man who also employs new technologies to catch his victims and to escape the law enforcement. Crime noir meets science fiction - a masterpiece.
The collection has more fascinating futuristic thrillers:
In Jérome Cigut`s elegantly written "The Rider " the protagonist, who has a symbiotic relationship with an artificial intelligence (AI), has deadly fights with his peers. The slick and elegantly written story is set in a near-future Hong Kong.
In "Shadow Flock" by Greg Egan a woman fights against hostage takers using sophisticate software and drones.
"Pirates of the Plastic Ocean" by Paul Graham Raven tells an elaborate story about criminals and genetic engineering.
"Blood Wedding" by Robert Reed describes how the wedding of a mega-billionaires daughter´s gets spoiled by an vicious an equally rich enemy. I enjoyed the fanciful and kind of baroque style.
"Convenant" by Elizabeth Bear is about a former serial killer who gets into dangerous situations because now he is restrained by pharmacies as a result of his resocialization.
There is another story about the topic of AIs, which is becoming more and more important.
"In Babelsberg" by Alastair Reynolds. The story is told in first person, but the narrator is an
AI who reports about his role in a dramatical event. Are AIs really objective?
The issue of possible alternate universes is covered by one story:
"White Curtain" by Pavel Amnuel (translated from the Russian original) is a philosophical play with the idea that life - like a tree - can develop in alternate branches (quantum physics).
Tradition Of Robert Heinlein
There also is group of tories in the tradition of Robert Heinlein - physics & engineering combined with an entertaining plot:
"West to East" by Jake Lake reports about astronauts who are stranded on an uninhabitable planet.
In "The Fifth Dragon" by Ian McDonald we follow a woman who works as an engineer on the moon in the near-future. The author describes precisely the joys and the perils on earth`s planet combined with a love story. Romance meets hard science fiction.
In Nancy Kress`s elaborated and ambitious novella "Yesterday`s Kin" a female scientist communicates with Aliens who had arrived in the harbor of New York and has also to deal with her complicated grown up children.
In "The Prodigal Son" by Allen M. Steele a young man reunites with his parents who are obsessed with sending a spaceship to the stars.
"Passage of Earth" by Michael Swanwick. Aliens, who look like giant worms, arrived on earth. What do they want?
Some of the stories don´t fit into any of the above mentioned sub-genres, but they are also interesting:
The story "The Long Haul, from the Annals of Transportation, the Pacific Monthly, May 2009" by Ken Liu happens in an alternate universe where people travel by Zeppelin.
"The Man Who Sold the Moon" by Cory Doctorow is a kind of stoner story about 2 nerds who create an autonomous and self-developing 3D printer which transforms earth into piles which is can be used for constructing. The novella was interesting but a bit too long for my taste and I got overwhelmed by the abundance of ideas and sub-stories.
I also liked 2 rather odd ones:
In "Weather" by Susan Palwick parents are communicating with their passed away child via the Internet. Is this real or a sham? The story - set in winterly near-future Californian mountains - is not really science fiction and not much happens here, but enjoyed the atmospheric & precise style.
"Thing and Stick" by Adam Roberts is a psychological tale about 2 men who are spending the long polar night on antarctica together. Also not really science fiction, but has some intense & thrilling parts.
The book is a must for any connoisseur of science fiction.
PS In the moment of writing the Kindle version is offered for $10.99.