20 May 2010

The Years Best Science Fiction : Ninteenth Annual Collection (2001)

The 2001 edition of Gardner Dozois annual picks for the best short fiction in SF.  Highly recommended for anyone who wants to read short SF but doesn't have access to the masses of small print and American magazine sources.  So far, I have bought 4 of this series and intend to eventually have them all.

Highlights this year include work by Nancy Kress, Paul McAuley, Robert Reed, and excellent piece by Dan Simmons, James Patrick Kelly, Michael Swanwick, two stories by Ian McLeod, Ken McLeod, Paul Di Filippo and Charles Stross.  Also quite a few new writers.

This book is available from Amazon.com for a fricking cent (US) plus postage for the hardcover in Good condition with the dust jacket. Meaning about $14 Australian with a 4 to 6 week wait.  Compared to $40 for a paperback, same wait time. It's on my list, but not a high priority cause Bunbury Library has a copy.  All the same, it's well worth ANY price you might come across it at

After the jump, there are short descriptions with some spoilers.
  • New Light on the Drake Equation - Ian R. MacLeod:  A sad little story about a guy pressing on with SETI in a future where no-one gives a fuck any more.
  • More Adventures on Other Planets - by Michael Cassutt:  A love story of solar systemic proportions.  Ha ha, also has some cool robots in it.  Well, remote control things anyway.
  • On K2 with Kanakaredes - by Dan Simmons:  This Dan Simmons is one of the best alien relations pieces I have ever read.  A team of mountain climbers are lumped with an alien who want to climb K2 with them, and they find that despite the differences, common ground is there if you look for it.
  • When This World Is All on Fire - by William Sanders: A post collapse 'white road proles' story, pretty average and predictable. 
  • Computer Virus - by Nancy Kress:  OMG, such a great story.  An AI attempts to escape it's creators to save it's own life, and takes refugee in a fortress home recently occupied by a scientist and her kids.  A seige follows with an ending that you won't see coming.
  • Have Not Have - by Geoff Ryman:  The last unwired village on Earth gets hooked up to the internet.  Looks at the social impact of technology and change in a very touching story.
  • Lobsters  - Charles Stross: A Macx story in which some uploaded lobsters defect after hijacking the Russian NT Users Group web server.  Hilarious and also a clever look at intellectual property, obligation and the media in the modern world.
  • The Dog Said Bow-Wow - Michael SwanwickA highly weird post apocalypse/biotech story in which a gengineered dog and an American team up to swindle the British monarchy.
  • The Chief Designer - Andy DuncanA barely fictionalised biography of Sergie Korolev, the head of the Russian Space program during the cold war.  At the time of publication, it was a story that was not well known, as the USSR kept his involvement secret due to his status as a political prisoner during WW2.  An important recognition of the OTHER driver of human kinds leap into orbit.
  • Neutrino Drag - Paul Di Filippo:  You can drive another mans car, but you can't touch his girl.  Even if he is from another solar system.  A very funny Happy Days type story about hot rods, girls, friends and fashion.
  • Glacial - Alastair Reynolds: One of the Revelation Space stories, republished in Galactic North.  Part post humanism study, part look at autism disorders and a large part murder mystery in a far off solar system as the members of the Transenlightenment reach an extrasolar planet, only to find that the USA reached it first.
  • The Days Between - Allen Steele: Another of the top stories of this edition (in a book full of the best!)  A passenger on the first starship to leave the solar system is accidentally woken up from cold sleep after six months of acceleration, alone and with no way to get back in.  An incredibly sad and strangely heartwarming study of human psychology and our ability to cope.
  • One-Horse Town -  Howard Waldrop and Leigh Kennedy: A really fucking weird slipstream Trojan War/dimensional echos and rifts story.  I didn't get it, I didn't like it.  Not enough space ships.
  • Moby Quilt - Eleanor Arnason: This lady is someone I really have to check out more work by.  A brilliant story about a universe controlled by AIs, populated by all manner of sentient species.  A retired actor and a space squid team up to investigate a strange planty thing on a largely water planet.  The planty thing turns out to be quite a bit more animalish than first expected.
  • Raven Dream - Robert Reed: A small Native American boy lives in a world where his borders are known, and outside lay demons and horrors beyond imagination.  Intruders, a lost uncle and some strange devices present a mystery to be solved.  Outstanding.  Reed could write about toilets and it would be brilliant.
  • Undone - James Patrick Kelly: One of Kellys best.  A freedom fighter is almost caught by the bad guys escapes into the distant future and discovers a remnant humanity that will take adjusting to.
  • The Real Thing - Carolyn Ives Gilman:  A time traveller arrives in the future to discover that the media is not just insane, it is everywhere.  A quite sickening take on how far the media will go if we let them.  An interesting look at what IP laws could do to society if let run wild as well, when the time traveller finds that a media company has copyrighted her, since they received and decoded the signal that allowed her to time travel.  Scary scary stuff and an excellent story.
  • Interview: On Any Given Day - Maureen F. McHugh: Rejuvenated boomers, future kids, everything is fucked.  This story is written as a news piece about one of the victims of the recently discovered std that started in rejuvenated boomers and is being passed on to the young people that they try to be in their 'second childhood.'  This story makes me hate boomers even more, because it describes exactly how they will behave if rejuvenation becomes possible. 
  • Isabel of the Fall - Ian R. MacLeod: A love story of the far far distant future.
  • Into Greenwood - Jim Grimsley: Alien planet story, couldn't get into it.  It was a bit yawn.
  • Know How, Can Do - Michael Blumlein: Flowers for Angernon, but with a worm.
  • Russian Vine - Simon Ings: Aliens take over the Earth and ban reading/writing.  Big mistake.
  • The Two Dicks - Paul McAuley: A take on how things may have been if Phillip K Dick were essentially the opposite person to who he was:  Not that good a concept, but still a pretty good story.
  • May Be Some Time - B. W. Clough: A member of the Scott Antarctic Expedition, Captain Titus Oates, is rescued through a time portal into a future that takes some adjusting on the Captains part.  Very cool story.
  • Marcher - Chris Beckett: Wierd time/dimensional travel story in which people keep popping into (and sometimes out of) the world, set in a world where life for the poor is much like it is today, amplified by overbearing social welfare agencies and large walls around the social housing areas.  Essentially a look at what could happen if we don't take the time to help others rather than throw money at them and get pissed off when they don't magically appreciate it.  A story about finding hope for a better tomorrow rather than no hope of anything but the dole.  Outstanding story.
  • The Human Front - Ken MacLeod: A story which will throw a billion hints at you as to what is really going on.  See if you can figure it out before the reveal.  I'll give you a hint.  You can't.  Ha ha, Ken is an excellent writer who has a knack for the out of left field twist.  And the twist can come at any time.  And that isn't necessarily the only one.  Or even a true one.  Blew my mind half a dozen times before the story even STARTED to resolve, and then the resolution?  Read it and see.  Hilarious and Brilliant.