REVIEW SUMMARY: Lots of gems, only a few misses.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Anthology of thirty one science fiction stories that first appeared in 2005.
PROS: Twenty seven stories that are good or better; eight of those are exceptionally well done.
CONS: Four stories mediocre or worse; a bit heavy on the posthumanism theme.
BOTTOM LINE: A fine collection bursting with lots of cool science fiction ideas.
David G. Hartwell’s and Kathryn Cramer’s annual Year’s Best SF series makes it to number eleven this year. While other annuals play with the definition of the genre, this series strives to collect stories that clearly lie within the science fiction domain. Thus, science fiction fans will not feel cheated that this series offers a diluted selection. Instead, all the stories are clearly sf.
The only factor that could possibly limit the series’ range is that it is constrained to the mass-market paperback format. (I think that hardback editions eventually appear later through the Science Fiction Book Club, but the target format is MMP.) Because of the smaller form factor, you won’t find the 60+ pages of introduction that you would find in the Dozois anthologies. Nor will you find a large number of novella-sized short fiction. In fact, the story length tally for Year’s Best SF 11 comes in at zero novellas, 9 novelettes, 12 short stories and 10 vignettes. That’s a whopping 31 stories of varying length. That’s a fairly decent story count.
There was one noticeably recurring theme throughout the anthology: posthumanism. (Oddly, there were also a couple of stories where rats played a prominent role.) Before I read this anthology, I had no idea that posthumanism was so prominent in 2005. Actually, it almost got to the level of annoyance as it put a slight damper on the variety that I look for in an anthology. While it’s true that even the posthuman-themed stories provided some diversity amongst themselves, perhaps the story selection could have been chosen to provide more variety overall. Just my 2 cents.
As expected in any anthology, the quality of the stories is not entirely consistent. A small handful of the stories failed to entertain. But the good news is that the large majority of the stories were good or better.
Standout stories in Year’s Best SF 11 are “Second Person, Present Tense” by Daryl Gregory, “Mason’s Rats” by Neal Asher, “The Forever Kitten” by Peter F. Hamilton, “City of Reason” by Matthew Jarpe, “What’s Expected of Us” by Ted Chiang, “Bright Red Star” by Bud Sparhawk, “Beyond the Aquila Rift” by Alastair Reynolds and “I, Robot” by Cory Doctorow.