Friday, June 30, 2017

Books: The Year`s Best Science Fiction - 29th Annual Collection

(Drivebycuriosity) - I like science fiction. Unfortunately most science fiction novels disappoint. Therefore I usually skim collections of science fiction short stories in order to find some gems. For many years I have been reading the anthology "The Year`s Best Science Fiction" edited by Gardner Dozois (amazon). His compilations have been the market leader for 3 decades and offer a kaleidoscope of plots, ideas and styles. Dozois caters to a lot of different tastes and shows the state of art in science fiction.

I just finished reading his "Twenty-Ninth Annual Collection" which harvests the science fiction year 2011 (the print edition, published in July 2012, has 701 pages). As usual Dozois started with a lengthy summation of important events, trends and publications in the world of science of fiction in 2011. For each story the author wrote an introduction where he outlines the background and most important works of the presented author.

I enjoyed at least 10 out of the 35 stories which seems a passable quota to me. I have 5 favorites:

"Dolly" by Elizabeth Bear focuses on a female robot, called "Dolly", with an almost human like brain who is used as an extremely expensive high-tech sex toy. This android had apparently killed a man, a billionaire with the habit of abusing female robots (fembots). A detective is interrogating "Dolly. Has "she"  deliberately committed murder (to defend herself against the abuser) or is the death just an accident caused by a machine? The tale  touches the question, does an AI have a self-interest and if, what are the consequences?

"Earth Hour" by Ken MacLeod is a slick & sophisticated story set in a near term future - which reminds me faintly of the Shogun novel. An assassin has the order to kill an industry tycoon. Both are using cutting-edge technology in a kind of deadly game with many unknown elements. Untypically for science fiction the author includes also elements of economics & politics.

"The Incredible Exploding Man" by David Hutchinson is set in an alternate world which seems to follow the rules of Quantum Mechanics described by Heisenberg & Schrödinger. The author employs cutting edge physics - including string theory - to tell a weird but fascinating story full of contradictions. Fun!

"The Boneless" by Nevada-Lee. A billionaire undertakes a boat tour with a group of scientists to explore the sea life with unintended consequences - a kind of scientific mystery story.

"Digital Rites" by Jim Hawkins. The story is set in a near future where movie producers use advanced technologies - including quantum entanglement - to create their films. This provokes responses by their  competitors who are not shy of murder - an interesting variation of a technology thriller.

I also liked:

 "The Choice" by Paul McAuley. The plot is set in a future England which is shaped by a rise in sea level. The idea is often used, but the author can write & he describes an encounter with an alien artifact with interesting implications.

"The Invasion of Venus" by Stephen Baxter plays in an intelligent & original way with the fears of an alien invasion - set in a very near future which makes it seem very realistic.

"A Response From EST17" by Tom Purdom. In this elaborated story humans are communicating with & aliens on a distant planet.

"The Vorkuta Effect" by MacLeod. The plot - written in the style of the late 19th century - is set in an alternate Russia in the times of Stalin. Strange things happen.

"The Man who bridged the Mist" by Kij Johnson. The atmospheric & dense novella - again set in an alternate universe - follows an engineer who is building a bridge across a very strange & dangerous river. Johnson focuses on the economic, social & personal aspects.

The selection is very subjective of course and the rest of the stories may cater different tastes. In the moment of writing the kindle version is priced with $7,99. With this price & quality the compilation is almost unbeatable.

To be continued.

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