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Year's Best SF 3
edited by David G. Hartwell
HarperPrism Books, 448 pages

Year's Best SF 3
David G. Hartwell
David G. Hartwell is an editor at Tor Books, as well as being a highly-respected author in his own right. He wrote Age of Wonders (1984), and has been editor/anthologizer of such works as The Dark Descent, Masterpieces of Fantasy and Enchantment, Northern Stars (with Glenn Grant), and the new annual volume, Year's Best SF.

David Hartwell Website
ISFDB Bibliography
The New York Review of Science Fiction
The Golden Age of Best SF Collections: A Chronicle

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

Science fiction has a long tradition of annual best of the year anthologies, starting with Judith Merril as editor in 1956 and continuing on through Donald A. Wollheim, Terry Carr, and, for the last 15 years, Gardner Dozois. Indeed, for those 15 years Dozois' annual The Year's Best Science Fiction has loomed large in number of stories selected, reputation, and sheer physical size. The appearance of a competing anthology, such as Year's Best SF 3, edited by David G. Hartwell, inevitably raises the question of whether there is enough good science fiction published each year to justify another collection of stories worth calling the best of the year. The low number of duplication (i.e., stories appearing in both volumes) and the fact that several of the most memorable stories in Year's Best SF 3 are contributed by relatively new writers, argues that there is indeed room for more stories on the list of the year's best.

Year's Best SF 3 contains stories that appeared in 1997, mostly from magazines. There are stories by such revered figures as Ray Bradbury and Jack Williamson, alongside newer names like Paul Levinson and Tom Purdom. Unfortunately, Bradbury's "Mr. Pale" is among the least effective stories here. Jack Williamson's "The Firefly Tree" is better, as it affirms that childhood tragedies can be the worst of all.

Among the other big names represented here, William Gibson's "Thirteen Views of a Cardboard City" shows the lessons learned from J.G. Ballard, but lacks the emotional commitment that characterizes Gibson's best work. Greg Egan's "Yeyuka," in contrast, demands just such a commitment both from the reader and the main character, as a 21st century doctor learns a lesson in frontier medicine. Robert Silverberg's "Beauty in the Night" is also engaging -- a chapter in a near-future war against invading aliens with an overwhelming advantage. Gene Wolfe is included with a rare work of humor. "Petting Zoo" is a sly, satiric look at dino-mania. Nancy Kress's "Always True To Thee, In My Fashion" is another enjoyable satire, this time of the price to be paid for always having the correct fashion statement.

Newer writers are well represented in Year's Best SF 3.  R. Garcia Y Robertson contributes an old-fashioned adventure story in which the virtual reality actually complements the rest of the story.  S.N. Dyer's "The Nostalginauts" is a time-travel story with an enjoyably acerbic narrator. "Universal Emulators" by Tom Cool captures some of the atmosphere of "Fondly Fahrenheit," with an appropriately reality-shifting ending.

A strength of this collection is that it ends with some of its best material. Kim Newman's "Great Western" is a classic Western, set in an alternate England. "The Mendelian Lamp Case," by Paul Levinson, is a taut thriller, with high-tech biological warfare in a deceptively low-tech environment. Hartwell then saves the very best for last. Michael Moorcock's "London Bone" is a fabulously written tale of a London promoter who knows he's doing wrong, but just can't help himself -- there's too much money to be made. These three stories finish Year's Best SF 3 on a high note, and raise expectations for number 4. Looks like there's room for more than one annual best of the year anthology, after all.

Copyright © 1998 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L. Johnson lives in Minneapolis, where, though it is still mid-Summer, he and his friends have already started laying in a supply of books for the Winter.

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