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The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume 4
by Jonathan Strahan

Overview - The depth and breadth of what science fiction and fantasy fiction is changes with every passing year. The two dozen stories chosen for this book by award-winning anthologist Jonathan Strahan carefully maps this evolution, giving readers a captivating and always-entertaining look at the very best the genre has to offer.  Read more...

 
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More About The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume 4 by Jonathan Strahan
 
 
 
Overview
The depth and breadth of what science fiction and fantasy fiction is changes with every passing year. The two dozen stories chosen for this book by award-winning anthologist Jonathan Strahan carefully maps this evolution, giving readers a captivating and always-entertaining look at the very best the genre has to offer.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781597801713
  • ISBN-10: 1597801712
  • Publisher: Night Shade Books
  • Publish Date: March 2010
  • Page Count: 500

Series: Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year

Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Science Fiction - General
Books > Fiction > Fantasy - General

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 34.
  • Review Date: 2010-02-08
  • Reviewer: Staff

Strahan’s introduction calls 2008 “a good but not exceptional year for short fiction,” and in accurate reflection, all 29 stories collected here are good, but few are great. The standouts are memorable in a variety of ways: for sheer power of narrative voice, Pat Cadigan’s “Truth and Bone”; for human connections to inscrutable aliens, Damien Broderick’s “This Wind Blowing, and This Tide”; for humor amid life-and-death peril, Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear’s “Mongoose.” Hard SF fans should seek out the imperiled far future Earth of Stephen Baxter’s “Formidable Caress,” while a sense of wonder and menace permeates Peter Watts’s “The Island.” A few stories don’t feel as strong as they might have been, but there are no real wrong turns. (Apr.)

 
BookPage Reviews

Sense of Wonder: Exploring artificial intelligence

This month’s picks take us from the exciting world of artificial intelligence to that of a criminal genius to the very best best-of-the-year collection.

 

One of the most wildly anticipated technological feats possible in our lifetime is the development of genuine artificial intelligence. Luckily for us, Robert J. Sawyer has written a series covering a wide range of the issues and obstacles surrounding AI, including perception, tactility, beauty, language, game theory, neurophysiology and morality. In WWW: Watch, the second book in a trilogy, teenager Caitlin Decter continues to discover the visible world after receiving her eyePod implant. Webmind, the emergent AI she has awakened, grows into a full being of its own, but is discovered by American spook agencies and the military—who, ironically, are determined to destroy any entity with the potential for evil, regardless of actual intent or action. As the agencies close in, Webmind announces its existence and demonstrates its beneficence. Sawyer covers an astonishing breadth of concepts, but perhaps does so at the expense of depth; for instance, Webmind’s massive social engineering comes with surprisingly little cost. If Sawyer is a bit overly optimistic about the future of AI, his writing is still a welcome breath of fresh air after decades of machine intelligences portrayed as necessarily inimical to human existence. Webmind may never exist or may arise under vastly different circumstances, but Sawyer has given us a wonderful primer for our potential future.

Twin trouble

Gene Wolfe has always written eloquently about the plasticity of identity and the subjectivity of the narrator—indeed, his last name is now an adjective describing such stories—but never has he so thoroughly entwined these two things as in The Sorcerer’s House. In a series of letters, the book’s narrator, Bax, tells us he is a recently released, exceptionally well-educated convict who has been given a house haunted by, among other creatures, a Japanese shape-shifter, a werewolf and twin brothers. But Wolfe being Wolfe, the story is not as obvious as it first appears. Bax is himself a twin whose brother George is the ‘good’ one—though with a short and violent temper—while Bax has always been the ‘bad seed.’ Such duality also exists in the brothers who haunt Bax’s house, but at one point the mysterious brothers’ behaviors make us wonder if George and Bax’s roles are perhaps reversed. Bax writes of the fantastic events only to his brother and his brother’s wife, while he mentions nothing of these odd occurrences to a friend from prison; the pedestrian tone in these letters is in sharp contrast to those written to George. Since everything Bax tells us must be viewed with suspicion, his apologetic and contrite narrative is almost certainly a fabulous invention intended to cover up real-estate fraud. Or is it? While The Sorcerer’s House is not the best of Wolfe’s stories, it is nevertheless an important addition to a giant’s oeuvre.

Pick of the month

An anthology of the best of the year is more a reflection of its editor’s vision of which stories are important than it is an objective collection. While there are a few traditional stories in Jonathan Strahan’s The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume Four involving first contact, time travel and so forth, it is the stories that directly address sexuality and gender that make this a must-have volume. The science fictional and fantastical aspects of Nicola Griffith’s “It Takes Two,” Andy Duncan’s “The Night Cache” and Ellen Klages’ “Echoes of Aurora” are less important than the three stunningly beautiful love stories between women that are depicted within. Besides a powerful exploration of identity, Kij Johnson’s graphically sexual story “Spar” is unlike any other first-contact story. Sara Genge’s “As Women Fight” extrapolates sex roles in a dichogamous species, while Kelly Link’s “The Cinderella Game” examines gender type in fairy tales. And Rachel Swirsky’s “Eros, Philia, Agape” combines parental roles, robotic free will, identity, sex and love into a bittersweet broken romance tale. It is a rare feat for one story to use genre tropes to radically rewrite Western assumptions; to have multiple such stories in one volume is a singular, priceless accomplishment. Quite frankly, this is a book that should top every science fiction and fantasy fan’s need-to-read list.

 

In alphabetical order, Sean Melican is a chemist, father, husband and writer.

 
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