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The Year's Best Science Fiction, Thirteenth Annual Collection
Gardner Dozois, editor
St. Martin's Press, 592 pages

Best SF
Past Feature Reviews
A Look at SF's Annual Report by A. John O'Neill

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Like the ubquitous end-of-year glossies from corporate America, Dozois' annual report arrives with a carefully balanced mix: a quick history of the company, grumbled warnings about the coming year, fact and opinion in roughly equal proportion... and last year's earnings, trumpted with professional enthusiasm. For industry watchers, the best part comes first: Dozois' lengthy and entertaining summations, always worth mining for anecdotes and recommendations on recent novels, anthologies, movies, and authors. A really trustworthy reviewer -- one who can steer you towards emerging new writers, and the break-out works from the ones who've been around a while -- is an invaluable resource, and a prolific one is doubly so. And in the field of short fiction, there is no one harder working (or more influential) than Dozois.

And there we come to the true value of the series for the busy SF reader of the nineties. The gaudy tonnage at the science fiction section of your local supermegaplex can be a little overwhelming, even to someone who's been reading it for decades. To a newcomer it's substantially worse, so we can forgive her if after a bewildered moment or two she shrugs and reaches for that Star Trek novel.

What's needed is an SF Almanac. Or (to get a bit more current with our metaphors) a shareware disk. "Whew, heard a lot about that Maureen McHugh. And there's her latest, in hardcover. What to do, what to do." Enter Dozois, your waiter for the evening, with a bubbling appetizer platter and a whispered recommendation or two.

Now you know why your shelves should be groaning under the weight of the last twelve volumes -- a nearly unparalled reference library of modern short science fiction showcasing over a hundred authors in nearly three hundred works. But how does the latest entry weigh in? It is, predictably, a worthy addition to its predecessors, and perhaps that's what's nagging me most about this latest installment. It's just a little too predictable.

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