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Best Short Novels 2005
edited by Jonathan Strahan
Science Fiction Book Club, 592 pages

Best Short Novels 2005
Jonathan Strahan
Jonathan Strahan was born in Belfast and moved to perth in 1968. He is the co-founder of Eidolon: The Journal of Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy and is currently the reviews editor of Locus: The Magazine of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Field. He lives in Perth, Western Australia, with his family.

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Through the courtesy of the Science Fiction Book Club, Jonathan Strahan returns for a second anthology of the Best Short Novels. The 2005 volume, which includes ten novellas first published in 2004, provides excellent stories representing a variety of voices in science fiction.

Several of the stories are new looks at familiar themes in science fiction. Gardner Dozois, George R.R. Martin and Daniel Abraham collaborate to present "Shadow Twin," a first contact story. Stephen Baxter shows the early stages of a generation ship in "Mayflower II," and Judith Berman tackles alien invasion in "The Fear Gun."

Others take up a variety of different ideas. Gregory Feeley's "Arabian Wine" is a look at coffee's role in history. Charles Stross turns a satirical eye of bureaucracies in his Hugo Award-winning "The Concrete Jungle." Bradley Denton brings a more serious take on war in the Sturgeon Award-winning "Sergeant Chip," about a technologically enhanced canine warrior. Eleanor Arnason also looks at the military in "Garden," a story about a warrior of her Hwarhath whose actions do not reflect favorably on his family.

The stories included in Best Short Novels 2005 are long enough that the authors can focus their attention on not only the story, but also the setting, the characters, and the ideas behind everything. James Patrick Kelly's "Men Are Trouble" carefully builds a world in which men have been removed by aliens and looks at the consequences, adopting the attitude that women and men form complimentary parts of the species. Perhaps the most purely entertaining story in the anthology is Ian McDowell's "Under the Flag of Night." McDowell does an excellent job of capturing the free-wheeling spirit of traditional stories of pirates without allowing himself to take the story or the events he describes too seriously.

Patricia McKillip takes a look at the need for artists to find a muse who will help bring their ideas and visions to fruition in "The Gorgon in the Cupboard." The story evokes the fairy tale magic so many of McKillip's tales contain to create a story which is both entertaining and enlightening.

With luck, Strahan and the Science Fiction Book Club will continue to publish this annual celebration of science fiction and its novellas, although it would be even more appreciated if Strahan would begin to include a listing of other worthwhile novellas which appear since more and more works of this length are being published by small presses which may elude the readers of the magazines.

Copyright © 2005 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a four-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings (DAW Books, January, February and March, 2003). In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.


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