NLB Call No.: BES – [SF]
ISBN: 031233656X (paperback)

If you’re a fan of the annual Year’s Best Science Fiction series, edited by Gardner Dozois, then you can skip this post. If you’re curious why some people rave about Science Fiction, then reading an anthology like this might just give you a glimpse. I can’t say the reading experience would be the same for everyone. I can say you can’t go wrong with Dozois’ selection. At least I haven’t. He’s consistently picked the best of the published Sci Fi, with many from popular magazines like Asimov and Analogy.

The 37 stories in this book does not disappoint.

Of course I’m disappointed that Nancy Kress’ “Beggars In Spain” didn’t appear in this compilation. But Dozois explained, in the preface, that he didn’t want to pick stories that were already widely read and popular (which might end up with a book with stories that’s aleady widely duplicated). And he anticipated that if he didn’t pick the famous ones, then many readers would be disappointed (like me).

So in the end he decided that his selection criteria would be stories that had made the strongest impression on him as a reader:
… stories that really moved or excited or impressed me, both on first reading years ago and on rereading them now, stories that made me put down the book when I finished them, and stare off through the air, and shiver, remember the wonders I’d just experienced…

He basically summed up, much more eloquently, why I like Science Fiction.

There are lots of good stuff in this anthology. I’ve not read all 20 years worth of compilations, so some stories were new to me. I recognised a few (some I’d forgotten until I re-read them in the book). There’s Greg Bear’s “Blood Music”; Lucius Shepard’s “Salvador”; Nancy Kress’ “Trinity”; Howard Waldrop’s “Flying Saucer Rock and Roll” (Waldrop has a way with words in describing the rock and roll music); Mick Resnick’s “Kirinyaga”; Terry Bison’s “Bears Discover Fire”.

I particularly enjoyed Lucius Shepard’s “Salvador” and Tony Daniel’s “A Dry, Quiet War” (this one’s new to me). Both are Military-Sci Fi stories, but the pieces of the story reveal themselves slowly and subtly. Like Daniel’s character, “Colonel Henry Bone of the Eighth Sky and Light” (who turned out to be… something fierce once he got pissed off).

For several of the stories, when I’ve reached the end, I went back and reread passages and excerpts…

And I stared off through the air. And shivered, as I savoured the wonders I’ve just experienced.