23 March 2010

The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fourth Annual Collection (2006)

The 24th Annual by Gardner Dozois is the essential guide to the best short fiction in the SF field, an absolute must have for any SF reader.  I particularly appreciate these volumes simply because I can't get access to most of the short fiction markets due to geography and economics.  (ie, Australian and Poor).  This volumes stories are:
  • I, Row-Boat - Cory Doctorow: I absolutely love Cory Doctorow as a writer and as a culture commentator.  This story about a sentient rowboat, an uplifted coral reef and the relationship between mother and son is a laugh a line and an interesting comment on responsibility.  You can read this story by clicking on this link.
  • Julian: A Christmas Story - Robert Charles Wilson: Was OK, but not earthshatteringly brilliant.
  • Tin Marsh - Michael Swanwick: Such an unusual approach to this kind of story, of torment and redemption.  Swanwick is such a quality writer and his vision of prospecting in hell terrifies the claustrophobe in me.  
  • The Djinn’s Wife - Ian McDonald: Another of the River of the Gods universe stories by Ian McDonald.  I really like the way he blends the radical tech into the culture of his subject nations (he does the same thing with Brazil in Brasyl), acknowledging the power of tech to enhance rather than change the culture. Imagine Bollywood soaps in 3d holography with AI actors who really live the scripts inside a machine, and a hundred million devoted fans.  That contrast of wealth and extreme  poverty that exists in India today is really well extrapolated into this almost Gibsonian future, but without the cyberpunk style prose.  I could write about this stuff for pages and pages, and probably will when I finally get around to writing about River of the Gods.
  • The House Beyond Your Sky - Benjamin Rosenbaum: Alright, but I am not really a big fan of this guy.  It is perfectly competent fiction, just not that exciting.
  • Where the Golden Apples Grow - Kage Baker: Set in The Company/Empress of Mars universe, this story is a clever take on the "grass is always greener" lesson while expanding the vista of The Company universe.Her characters are so real, you empathise with them to the point of heartbreak when things go wrong.  So beautifully written, I could read Kage Bakers prose for the rest of my life. 
  • Kin - Bruce McAllister: I NEED TO FIND MORE Bruce McAllister books, he is so clever and this story very nicely sets up the beginnings of a very cool space opera.  I wonder if he wrote any further in this universe?  I really hope so because the final image in this story really is the perfect setup.  A great story about alien culture, human decency (and how it is a fallacy that requires a vested interest to be made real) and the comfort of finding a kindred soul.
  • Signal to Noise - Alastair ReynoldsA philosophical look at coping with loss and the parallel universe/multiverse theory cross when a quantum doorway allows a man to visit a nearby parallel universe to spend time with his alternate wife shortly after his real wife dies.  Clever look at the theory while dealing with the emotional pain of loosing a loved one.  The idea itself made me feel a little ill, because I wouldn't know what to do myself.  I'm not sure that it would help me at all, and more likely would drive me insane at having to leave.  
  • The Big Ice - Jay Lake and Ruth NestvoldThis partnership write really well together, and their story "The Canadian Who Almost Came All The Way Back from the Stars" (I think that was it's name) really worked for me, but this one was not so strong.
  • Bow Shock - Gregory Benford: A bit too hard sf for me, the story came complete with JPL radio telescope images and graphs (yawwwwnn) but was still pretty well written.
  • In the River - Justin Stanchfield I don't even remember what this one was about now, so it can't have been that good, cause I only read it yesterday.
  • Incarnation Day - Walter Jon Williams: The ethics and risks of the virtual child.  The risks especially if they are smarter than you, and can run parallel instances!!  I really like Walter Jon Williams, his stuff always makes me laugh with it's wryness.
  • Far As You Can Go - Greg van Eekhout: Not that good.
  • Good Mountain - Robert Reed: Robert Reed is either completely brilliant or completely weird.  This story falls into the weird end of the scale.  It seemed to have been about a bunch of transhumans (but they might not have been) travelling on a bus made out of a giant worm (but it might not have been) around a planet (but that wasn't entirely clear either).
  • I Hold My Father's Paws - David D. LevineA slightly sad story about family and transhumanism, because everyone needs a good dog.
  • Dead Men Walking - Paul J. McAuley: Set after the Quiet War, the story of the attempt at and the end of the life of one of the Daves, who instead of being recalled after the war chose to sneak off and try to live like a real human.  He ends up as a prison guard and champion cricket breeder, with friends, community, a sense of freedom.  Sad that he dies, but I'm glad he died where he was and not in some military hospital.  McAuley is one of my absolute favourite writers because of the way he can make me feel about some screw from space who isn't even entirely human and I don't really even know anything about him anyway except that he was a bad guy in a war that I wish had turned out the other way around because I HATE the bad guys.  Absolutely brilliant.
  • Home Movies - Mary Rosenblum: This story is one of the saddest I have read in a long time.  I felt robbed on the characters behalf at the end.  I have not read anywhere near enough Mary Rosenblum, but I intend to.
  • Damascus - Daryl Gregory: If a virus made you hallucinate your own personal Jesus, who would yours be?  I mostly liked this for Kurt Cobain as the main characters Jesus.
  • Life on the Preservation - Jack Skillingstead: Jack writes these interesting Native American in the future stories, but this one was obvious and a bit hackish.  I think he can do ALOT better than this.
  • Yellow Card Man - Paolo Bacigalupi: This guy has a massive future ahead of him.  Post energy crisis world where calories are everything, nationalism is rife, gene-hacked bugs kill all crops that aren't registered IP products.  Scary and vivid look at a world where corporate greed and biotech combine to make slaves of us all.  Outstanding.
  • Riding the Crocodile - Greg Egan: Let me say first of all that I am not a fan of Greg Egan.  I find his work often requires a level of knowledge that I just don't have.  I often find that his explainations of his concepts make no sense, and I think he often stops short of actually explaining.  That said, I really enjoyed this story about seeking out mystery in a universe where not much mystery left.  And about accepting that sometimes, you just won't find the answer you're looking for.  The problem with immortality is that eventually, everything gets old.
  • The Ile of Dogges - Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette:
  • The Highway Men - Ken MacLeod: One of his post climate change/energy crisis stories set in Scotland, with squatters freecyclers and the like trying to break loose of a system that really just makes a bad situation worse by not letting people explore possibilities outside government policy and dogma.
  • The Pacific Mystery - Stephen Baxter: Baxter is often a bit waffley for my taste, but this althistory/ww2punk tale of and endless surface to the earth is pretty neat.
  • Okanoggan Falls - Carolyn Ives Gilman:
  • Every Hole Is Outlined - John Barnes: One of my favourite John Barnes stories.  In the distant future, the crews of a starships spend almost their entire lives on board, recruiting as much for relationships as for roles.  A crewmember of the ship in this story dies and is by consensus replaced by a slavegirl who is then freed and raised to take over the deceased crewmembers role.  The story looks at relationships, history and ritual, and the value of the lessons we learn from the people who teach us how to be human.
  • The Town on Blighted Sea - A. M. Dellamonica:
  • Nightingale(Revelation Space) - Alastair Reynolds: Another epic work by Reynolds.  Post war, a formerly lost hospital ship is located, and a wanted war criminal is believed to be onboard.  Can this party of oddball mercenaries get on board and capture him without waking the ships AI, which may well be insane?  I really don't want to spoil this one for anyone, so I end it here.
The introductory rant once again laments that there is tonnes of stuff coming out, but most of it is not any good and the good stuff is published by magazines that go broke because no-one buys them anymore.  I would buy them, but alas lack the money to commit to several $50 a year subscriptions. Gardner Dozois compiles these volumes simply by choosing his favourite stories of the year up to the page limit.  I have read almost all of them over the last few years (including this one twice before) and always find some new writer in amongst a guaranteed wrist buster collection.