20 April 2010

The Years Best Science Fiction: 25th Annual Collection (2007)

  • Author: Gardner Dozois - Editor
  • Title: The Years Best Science Fiction: Twenty Fifth Annual Collection
  • Publisher: St Martins Press 2008
  • ISBN: 978-0312378592
The 2007 edition of Gardner Dozois' annual of his favorite science fiction stories in the short form.  This is one of my must reads every year, and also on my must buy list.  Just a matter of the money really.  And of course, I have no money.  As usual.  I first read this edition last year (2009) but didn't get around to making any notes on it.  Or if I did, I can't find them.

This edition features work by the usual suspects, including Ken McLeod, John Barnes, Ian McDonald, Neal Asher,  Al Reynolds, Kristen Rusch, Kage Baker and Chairman Bruce.  Very definately a fantastic year for space opera, which is of course the very best subgenre of SF, and if you don't agree, they you are wrong. 

I wish Gardner Dozois would do two or three of these volumes a year instead of just the one.  I know for certain that there is the work to fill three volumes, and I hate having to wait so long for the next one to be published.  I've been waiting for 10 months for 2009 edition, and it isn't due until June.

If you like scifi and you have never read one of these books, go get one from the library.  Go on.  You won't regret it.  There would not be more that 1 or 2 stories a year that I don't completely love, and they are usually ok too.  Mr Dozois has excellent taste.  I don't know if he tastes excellent though.

Short descriptions of the stories that may spoil the damn things for you after the jump.
  • Finisterra - David Moles:  Gas giant, living islands in the sky, intergalactic politics and Portugese space men?  Very weird in a fun way.
  • Lighting Out - Ken MacLeod:  Very funny story about a girl trying to live around the infectious interference of her post-human mother.  I wanna live on a space station.
  • An Ocean Is a Snowflake, Four Billion Miles Away - John Barnes:  One of my all time favourite writers  This story is about two documentarians who work on the same subjects from different perspectives.  They collaborate on a documentary about the latest event in the areoforming of Mars.  Their personalities contrast as they trek across the landscape recording each other in the final days of pristine Martian wilderness.  Excellent.
  • Saving Tiamaat - Gwyneth Jones:  Brilliant, original space opera about a diplomatic agent tasked with helping new found races the Ki and the An to intergrate into the Galactic civilisation.  Our hero is assigned to the An  male envoy Baal as his guide and guard, her partner to An female envoy Tiamaat.  The main problem is that the minority An, who are the feudal rulers of their system and the Ki race, also like to hunt and eat the Ki.  But they are the same species, which doesn't go down well with the rest of the galaxy.  First published in New Space Opera
  • Of Late I Dreamt of Venus - James Van Pelt: An egomaniac sets out to supervise her longterm project to terraform Venus by coldsleeping through inclreasingly long periods of time, and discovers that plenty of things can change while you are sleeping, if you sleep for long enough.
  • Verthandi's Ring - Ian McDonald:  Hooray for space opera.  Far, far into the future, the human species, in all it's various shapes and modes of existance, is locked in a war for survival against the only other sentient species ever encountered.  A genocidal war with a species that we have never communicated with, that we don't understand, and who hate us as much as we hate them.  Battleship crewmember and combat strategist Rose of Jericho discovers something about the enemies intention as they travel en masse toward Verthandi's Ring, a Cosmic Superstring tied in a loop.  Is this the ultimate weapon?  Should the clade run toward or away?  Rose of Jericho knows, but she isn't telling.  Her co-crew and sisters Harvest Moon and Scented Coolabar attempt to track her down in meatspace amongst a population of billions to find out what Verthandi's Ring is, and what it is for.  Also first published in New Space Opera
  • Sea Change - Una McCormack:  In the future, rich kids will still be assholes.
  • The Sky Is Large and the Earth Is Small [Celestial Empire] - Chris Roberson:  Alternate History in which China conquers the Americas before either are visited by Europeans.
  • Glory - Greg Egan: I am not a massive fan of Greg Egan, but this excellent story about first contact with a new species by a galactic civilisation has some nice hard science bits and a quite sad story about the struggle against the obsession with power and control of others.  Also from New Space Opera
  • Against the Current - Robert Silverberg:  Time is a river, so they say, but what the hell do you do if you find yourself being swept in the wrong direction?
  • Alien Archaeology - Neal Asher:  A Polity story set after the war with the Prador, featuring a retired secret agent, a dead rich guy, a professional thief, an insane AI and a Gabbleduck.  "It means, human, that in resurrecting me you fucked up big-time.  Now go away."  Haha.  Gabbleducks like bacon apparently.
  • The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate - Ted Chiang:  Chiang is one of the most inventive and original SF writers to appear in a very long time. Outstanding.  I am not writing any synopsis of this story because a)I can remember it and b) I don't want to spoil it for you.  Read it.
  • Beyond the Wall - Justin Stanchfield:  This guy is one to watch out for.  Cool space story about a weird artifact on the surface of Titan, and the strange effect it has on time, perception and sanity.
  • Kiosk - Bruce Sterling:  Sterling once again lays out the future path of human kind with the eerie prescient voice of someone who has seen human nature from above and understands finally the motivations of all men. The story of a Kiosk.  Sells papers, milk, stuff like that. How the hell can destiny be tied up in the corner shop? Answer: You are defined by your Consumption, human.
  • Last Contact - Stephen Baxter: The end of the world is nigh, but your mum is still your mum.
  • The Sledge-Maker's Daughter - Alastair Reynolds: Al Reynolds goes post apocalyptic as humans battle against runaway sentient machines beyond the memory of the humans remaining on earth. A young girl inherits an artifact from beyond the sky as they previous holder passes on her knowledge of the real history of the world.
  • Sanjeev and Robotwallah - Ian McDonald: Another of McDonalds excellent tales set in a future India, where a young boy gets work with the gamers hired by the government to run their Combat Robots in the war against a neighbouring state.  Kids used as remote control soldiers, then dumped like stones when they aren't needed anymore.  Children gaming for control of resources for millions of actual people.  Sickeningly probable. 
  • The Skysailor's Tale - Michael Swanwick:  Steampunk fantasy, not to my taste.
  • Of Love and Other Monsters - Vandana Singh: I didn't really like this one either. 
  • Steve Fever - Greg Egan:  Haha, Egan writes about a guy who programmed a bunch of nanobots first do no harm, second to find a way to save Steves life or bring him back from the dead.  What he didn't specify was that he meant it to find a cure for his cancer and was going to freeze himself cryogenically.  Instead, he crashed his car.  Now, the bots have escaped and keep co-opting people to build time machines and other improbable projects in an attempt to fulfil their programming.
  • Hellfire at Twilight - Kage Baker: Louis in Georgian England, trying to locate a supposed mystical document from an ancient sex cult.  Highly hilarious and brilliant.  I heart Kage Baker stories.
  • The Immortals of Atlantis - Brian Stableford:  A dude turns up at a ladies house to let her know that she's actually an immortal princess from Atlantis.  Good story if it's there, but I wouldn't have sought it out.
  • Nothing Personal - Pat Cadigan:  Police detectives in the future will still get stomach ulcers and still be constantly pissed of with politicians and the bosses.  Great cop story with nice little cyberpunk twists now and then.
  • Tideline - Elizabeth Bear:  Sad story about trying to cope, after the war.
  • The Accord - Keith Brooke:  Strange piece about relationships and posthumanism.
  • Laws of Survival - Nancy Kress:  An excellent story about a woman who is forced to struggle to survive against all kinds of wierdness and rediculous demands as aliens invade Earth and everything falls apart.  And it seems the aliens just want a few pets...
  • The Mists of Time - Tom Purdom:  A time travel story that is really about trying to do something that means a lot to you personally, but having to work with people who's agenda is to destroy the very thing that you are trying to do.  (I mean this in the context of telling a story)  It's kinda like, if you wanted to tell the story of your Grandparents struggle against poverty, but the person you had to work with was obsessed with the fact that your Grandfather made all of the decisions.  This story is about, for example, people who will write off the work of someone like Abraham Lincoln, because he used the terms negro and negress, red indian etc.  It's about rewriting history by applying modern values to historical characters.
  • Craters - Kristine Kathryn Rusch:  Such a sad story and an example of why I love Kristine Rusch's writing so much.  Terrorists have started implanting time bombs in babies.  They are undetectable, because the bombs are hidden in the standard id chip that every baby gets just after being born.  No-one can figure out who is implanting them.  Nobody beleives that the parents didn't know.  Seemingly at random, some kid just detonates.  A reporter is trying to make sense of this insantity, trying to find out who is doing this, how they are doing it.  Trying to find out if the parents are involved or innocent victims.  This story made me feel sick.  There are people in the world who would actually do this if they could.  Imagine the terror if any brown coloured child anywhere in the world could explode at any time, and there is no way to detect it.
  • The Prophet of Flores - Ted Kosmatka:  Alt History story in which Darwinian theory is 'disproved' and the world is dominated by creationists.  Scary.
  • Stray - David Ackert and Benjamin Rosenbaum:  A superbeing discovers that the hardest thing about having superpowers is not using them.  Pretty good story.
  • Roxie - Robert Reed:  A man and his dog contemplate life, family, routine and the end of the world.  Outstanding.  Reed is so good at grabbing you emotionally in his stories.  I absolutely fell in love with Roxie.  Behind every great man, there is a spoiled dog.
  • Dark Heaven - Gregory Benford:  Future detective story again:  Bodies are washing up on the beach with weird markings on them.  A police detective is on the case.  Does it have anything to do with the Aliens who have a habitat out off the coast?  Is this some conspiracy or is this cop just paranoid and a little bit xenophobic? 
The end.  For now.