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The Year's Best Science Fiction Vol. 1:…
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The Year's Best Science Fiction Vol. 1: The Saga Anthology of Science… (2020. Auflage)

von Jonathan Strahan (Herausgeber)

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Titel:The Year's Best Science Fiction Vol. 1: The Saga Anthology of Science Fiction 2020
Autoren:Jonathan Strahan (Herausgeber)
Info:Gallery / Saga Press (2020), 608 pages
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The Year's Best Science Fiction Vol. 1: The Saga Anthology of Science Fiction 2020 von Jonathan Strahan (Editor)

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The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Volume 1 is a huge anthology of science fiction short (and not-s-short stories) that was refreshing in its breadth and speaks to a bright future for science fiction. With twenty-eight stories, it’s about twice the size of most anthologies. That is a mixed blessing in that I sometimes felt it was taking me too long to read. There’s Mount TBR piled so high and I am spending days and days on one book. However, I can’t think of a story that I wish I had not read.

There are a few stories that will haunt me, though. “Song of the Birds” by Saleem Haddad had me sobbing as I began to realize what the song revealed. It was one of the more heartbreaking stories I have read in years, in part because it projects a future where we don’t even try to solve our hard problems. Of course, it’s not the only story that predicts an entirely predictable grim future where today’s metropolises are underwater and scarcity is everywhere.

There are stories that seem like they are just the day after tomorrow. “Thoughts and Prayer” by Ken Liu was heartbreaking, but seemed very much of today, a family tragedy made worse by social media trolls and deep fakes. Others are farther afield, a couple going to the moon for their honeymoon and a woman leading an investigation of what went wrong at a failed interplanetary colony. One of the most affecting was the story of sentient machines taking measurements deep at sea and suddenly realizing they have been cut off…and one of them’s desperate and bold effort to find her way home. “Painter of Trees” by Suzanne Palmer is a simple story, but probably will stick with me the longest, about how colonization can lead to extinction even when you wish it would not.

I loved most of the stories in The Year’s Best Science Fiction and didn’t dislike any of them. It really is an outstanding collection of short stories and from a widely diverse group of authors. The only thing I disliked was the Introduction which seemed more like a State of the Union of Science Fiction address, with far too much detail on the ins and outs of publishing, books published, speeches given, writers passed, and awards given than an introduction to an anthology. I would much rather just get to the excellent stories.

I received an e-galley of The Year’s Best Science Fiction from the publisher through NetGalley

The Year’s Best Science Fiction at Gallery | Saga Books
Jonathan Strahan

https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2021/03/10/the-years-best-science-fi... ( )
  Tonstant.Weader | Mar 10, 2021 |
Originally posted on Tales to Tide You Over

Anthologies can be hit or miss depending on the editor’s vision. I picked this one up on NetGalley hoping to see a glimpse of the current short fiction world. What I didn’t expect was how many of the twenty-eight stories would win me over. These stories provide a diversity of voices and narrative styles, along with authors from many nations and/or ethnicities. The stories overall have more of a literary and sociological feel than the pulpy roots of the genre, but for every surreal tale, there is one more plot driven.

Jonathan Strahan begins the anthology with an essay on the state of the genre not only in short stories but across all mediums including non-fiction. This essay has enough examples you could easily use it as a reading list for the year. He also names the short fiction venues that he considers top markets.

The purpose of this volume, according to Strahan, is to honor works by stellar authors whether established or still becoming known. The theme celebrates diversity and the impact of culture. Rather than attempting to constrain speculative fiction into a narrow definition, Strahan aims to reveal how the genre can be both timely and interesting.

He succeeded on behalf of this reader. I am posting my review in two parts so I can call out all the stories that spoke to me, whether my favorites or those that came close. So, with no further ado, on to the stories:

These two were my favorites in the first half, a purely personal reaction. However, there is no question they are strong, well-written tales.

Kali_Na by Indrapramit Das
While I appreciated other stories, in Kali_Na I found my first favorite. It’s hard to articulate why without spoilers, so I’ll say only this: When Internet trolls come out in force to greet a newborn AI version of the Goddess Durga, the caste system might not be the only tradition to survive to modern day. It’s a cyberpunk-like vision of future India seen from the bottom looking up.

Sturdy Lantern and Ladders by Malka Older
I usually tidy my notes for the review, but here’s a direct quote: “Okay, wow. This is just wow.” I love this story for how it begins, because I’m sympathetic, then it takes us somewhere fascinating and new. Besides, it stars an octopus. I’d say more, but better you experience it on your own.

The below stories all had something about them I enjoyed, and/or which made them stand out. Appreciation is personal. While the missing stories did not catch my attention, they might still earn yours.

The Bookstore at the End of America by Charlie Jane Anders
The Bookstore at the End of America begins this volume with a glimpse down the path America is currently walking. The story has an almost magical realism tone. It looks at bias and the consequences of same, but more in raising questions than forcing answers on the reader. I like how it makes me think about these questions while reminding me of reading about a real-world library that exists on the U.S./Canadian border. I hope that library never faces what Charlie Jane Anders’ one does.

The Galactic Tourist Industrial Complex by Tobias S. Buckell
As you might have guessed from the title, this short story offers a quick glimpse of a future where alien tourism wins. It’s something we’ve seen in smaller scales on our planet, but this is planetwide. But how our world has changed because of this commerce is only part of the story. Seen through the eyes of a taxi driver, the struggle to anticipate alien demands is both compelling and thought provoking.

Song of the Birds by Saleem Haddad
This story didn’t speak to me in part because of the focus on suicide. However, the strong imagery was compelling enough to warrant a mention. Nor is it the only story to include suicide as an aspect.

The Painter of Trees by Suzanne Palmer
This is an odd story, but a powerful one about ambition, arrogance, and claiming what is not your own. The author plays on the anonymity of first person, shared with a third person point of view (POV), to create a sense of mystery. There were enough clues to give me the answer before the reveal, but I still needed confirmation. It’s not only the mixed POV that makes this story stand out, however. I found the first-person narrator unsympathetic to the point of arguing with the page. In terms of engagement, this story earns a place, and I appreciate the questions it raises for all the method leaves me frustrated.

The Last Voyage of Skidbladnir by Karin Tidbeck
This story doesn’t have a firm plot, which is bizarre in a lot of ways since it’s a spaceship passenger vessel and has many of the older tropes mentioned. Instead, it’s beautiful for what it says and shows for both the speaking characters and those without a voice. The story didn’t go quite where I expected, but living ships and mechanically inclined, fix-it characters are some of my favorites.

Contagion’s Eve at the House Noctambulous by Rich Larson
The story sucked me into the moment with its sensory detail, so I accepted the strange happenings around me without question. And what’s happening is strange beyond question. This is the first one I’d classify as horror, and I don’t read horror because of the ability to be sucked in rather than despite it. I can safely say this is a strong horror offering, in part because it had the possibility of being something different had it made another choice.

Submarines by Han Song Translated by Ken Liu
As an example of the diversity within these pages, this story has two names attached, the author and the translator. It’s another odd story of unknowns and unknowables told through the perspective of an ignorant narrator. There are no answers to the many questions raised, and as a reader, I’m left trying to find meaning where none is offered. I don’t know whether this makes it more powerful a story or less. The imagery lingers, as does the tantalizing possibility of answers far beyond the life of our narrator.

As the Last I May Know by S. L. Huang
This is a powerful story of understanding war. It asks the same question covered in the movie War Games but puts it into more personal terms. The practice that serves as the story’s backbone is horrific, but that very quality makes it the best and possibly only way. The story offers a deep dive into another culture and the conflict between old and new ways. It plays with the reader’s emotions and pushes us to ask what we would do in the same situation.

A Catalog of Storms by Fran Wilde
This is a neat, surreal concept. It turns a story of lists into something emotional that plays with the reader’s sympathies tangibly. I enjoyed the imagery, the concept, and ultimately the question between desire and cost.

Dune Song by Suyi Davies Okungbowa
The narrative voice in this story is powerful and the description strong. I found the story to turn on belief and choice. Nata is trying to find her mother and find other civilizations. She rejects the ways of her village, choosing to reach for freedom rather than huddle in the dark and let fear swallow their voices whole. This makes it powerful.

(The next bit posted as Part 2.)

As I read through the second half of this book, I found the editor’s focus on current concerns led to several stories with themes and elements in common. I’d expect something like this in a themed anthology, but it surprised me here where the publication date is what brings these stories together. While this repetition could have disadvantaged the later stories, their approaches had enough originality to counter the downsides. The included stories explore a variety of differences whether or not sharing a theme. Narrative style, plotting, and even perception of time proved flexible in these tellings, something intriguing while it asks a lot of the reader at times.

As with the first section, I’m only mentioning the stories I connected with, which doesn’t mean there’s nothing interesting about the others. My choices result from personal taste, whether in content, characters, style, or theme. The other stories could be someone else’s favorite, despite not speaking to me.

Once again, two stories stood out from the rest of the second half.

Soft Edges by Elizabeth Bear
This is a beautiful story about philosophy and human nature running alongside a police procedural. It shows how to respect people’s choices and contrary positions without compromising the bigger picture. It also demonstrates how personal pronouns can become part of a normal introduction without awkwardness or stopping the narrative. Nicely done.

The Archronology of Love by Caroline M. Yoachim
This story is right in my sweet spot. It mixes alien contact with neat technology while still making the characters approachable. It’s both personal and immense with real learning and change.

While not my absolute favorites, as you can see from the blurbs below, these stories were strong contenders.

Emergency Skin by N. K. Jemisin
This is a strange story with an odd but perfect narrator. It’s mostly told sideways from the collective voice embedded in the main character’s head as it tries to explain away everything the character encounters as a false narrative. The meaning and plot are obvious from the start but that doesn’t matter. A fun read with deeper implications.

Thoughts and Prayers by Ken Liu
This story focuses more on the timely and less on the speculative element, though when it appears, the element is critical. The tale explores the problematic nature of media consumption on the internet through the window of gun violence. Thought provoking, the story is painful in its circumstances. The narration cleverly mirrors the characters’ progress through the story.

At the Fall by Alec Nevala-Lee
This story grew on me as I read it. I found the narration through an advanced research vehicle (?) creature (?) fascinating. The plot itself was predictable first in the cause and then by design as the narrator undergoes a long, dangerous journey. Her method of experiencing space and memory informs her discovery path, but the reader knows little and not much happens actively. It’s a gentle story, an odd adjective considering the circumstances she faces, but one I learned to appreciate.

Reunion by Vandana Singh
This is a story of becoming rather than doing. While the main character accomplished a lot in her attempt to restore the planet, it is her growth in connection and understanding that form the foundation. This is a fresh approach to the theme of climate repair and one that speaks to me. I enjoyed the vision she has of humans as part of the world, not controlling it. But the small glimpses of her interactions with people and the frailty of her own body made this story work for me.

Secret Stories of Doors by Sofia Rhei
The beginning of this story didn’t grab me, but I’m glad I kept going. In a surreal narrative, this tale takes the premise of “history is written by the victors” a step further. It offers a warped future with more twists to discover.

And there you have it. I clearly found many stories to enjoy. This anthology tackles questions we face in modern times through the lens of speculative fiction. Most fell into the science fiction category, though often near future, and didn’t shy away from the more painful topics of suicide, rape, and gun violence either. Climate reconstruction seems the most common element taken on. The differing proposals spoke not just to the science but also to the underlying cultural and social elements, much to my delight.

I’m happy I plucked this anthology from the list and plan to track down more by authors I “met” or was reminded of here.

P.S. I received this Advanced Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review. ( )
  MarFisk | Dec 8, 2020 |
Some good, some not so much

What can I say, it's an anthology. Some stories are good, some are bad, with one or two standing out at either end. It's always good to read new authors.

I was going to post this review the other day but when I opened the Amazon review page, the one-star review by Futurearrival caught my eye. Futurearrival writes that except for a few, the stories here are full of biggotry and hate. These are strong words so I went back and reevaluated the collection.

I'm not a short story reader and I don't have Futurearrival's history with the earlier editions of this anthology series edited by the late Gardner Dozois. So I have no notions about Dozois' legacy and how that might affect Futurearrival's opinions.

There are 28 stories in the collection and while there is a lot of anger in these stories, I don't see it as bigotry and hate. Most of anger is about caste oppression and the fight against it. Many of the rest of the stories reflect anger at damage to the environment. A few express anger about bad men and the havoc they cause. All in all I don't see that Futurearrival's reflective anger is warranted.

I received a review copy of "The Year's Best Science Fiction Vol. 1: The Saga Anthology of Science Fiction 2020" edited by Jonathan Strahan from Gallery Books through NetGalley.com. ( )
  Dokfintong | Sep 28, 2020 |
A high-quality collection with a number of stories I’d encountered elsewhere. Inequality, climate collapse/apocalypse, and even online trolling show up in multiple stories. Suzanne Palmer’s The Painter of Trees is probably the bleakest (through much competition) of the apocalypse/species wipeout stories, about a few enhanced beings overseeing the death of the last of another intelligent species whose planet they’ve colonized. Ted Chiang has a short story that only manages to sketch out his usual depths. Alec Nevala-Lee has a good story about an explorer robot trying to find its way home. There’s also a useful introductory essay and list of recommended reading. ( )
  rivkat | Aug 22, 2020 |
Review of eGalley

An eclectic mix of science fiction and speculative fiction from 2019. Fans of the genre will find much to appreciate in this showcase of twenty-eight diverse stories considered the best of the year. All are eminently imaginative, but “The Bookstore at the End of America” by Charlie Jane Anders and “The Work of Wolves” by Tegan Moore are stand-out, especially memorable tales.

Recommended for readers of science fiction as well as for aficionados of imaginative, out-of-the-box stories.

I received a free copy of this eBook from Gallery Books / Saga Press and NetGalley
#TheYearsBestScieceFictionVolume1 #NetGalley ( )
  jfe16 | Aug 17, 2020 |
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AutorennameRolleArt des AutorsWerk?Status
Strahan, JonathanHerausgeberHauptautoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Anders, Charlie JaneMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Bear, ElizabethMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Buckell, Tobias S.MitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Chiang, TedMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Das, IndrapramitMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Egan, GregMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Haddad, SaleemMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Huang, SLMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Jemisin, N.K.MitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Kim, Alice SolaMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Larson, RichMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Lee, FondaMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Liu, KenMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Menon, AnilMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Moore, TeganMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Nevala-Lee, AlecMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Okungbowa, Suyi DaviesMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Older, MalkaMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Onwualu, ChineloMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Palmer, SuzanneMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Rhei, SofiaMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Singh, VandanaMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Song, HanMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Tidbeck, KarinMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Watts, PeterMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Wilde, FranMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Yoachim, Caroline M.MitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Yu, E. LilyMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
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