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The Year's Best Science Fiction: 17th Annual Collection
Gardner Dozois
St. Martin's Press, 640 pages

The Year's Best Science Fiction: 17th Annual Collection
Gardner Dozois
Gardner Dozois is the editor of Asimov's Science Fiction magazine and the annual anthology series The Year's Best Science Fiction, now up to its 17th annual volume, as well as many other anthologies. He has won more than 10 Hugo Awards as the year's best editor, and 2 Nebula Awards for his own short fiction. His short fiction appears in Geodesic Dreams: The Best Short Fiction of Gardner Dozois. He is the author or editor of better than 70 books, including the anthologies The Good Old Stuff and The Good New Stuff. He's also edited such theme anthologies as Dinosaurs! and Dog Tales!. He lives in Philadelphia.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Isaac Asimov's Solar System
SF Site Review: Isaac Asimov's Werewolves
SF Site Review: Future War
SF Site Review: The Good Old Stuff
SF Site Review: Nanotech
SF Site Review: Isaac Asimov's Detectives
SF Site Review: Roads Not Taken: Tales of Alternate History
SF Site Review: The Year's Best Science Fiction: Fifteenth Annual Collection

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Charlene Brusso

One of the pleasures of summer is catching up on all those genre magazines we never seem to get around to throughout the rest of the year. Fortunately those with neither the money to subscribe to (nor the time to read) everything can usually count on anthologies such as this one to distill the best of the lot. Getting the statistics out of the way first: of the 31 stories here, 9 appeared first in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, which Dozois edits (and usually wins a Hugo for editing every year); 4 each came from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and Interzone; 2 each from original theme anthologies Moonshots and Not of Woman Born. Finally, one story each from much mourned Amazing Stories and SF Age, as well as Altair, Analog, Tesseracts, and Absolute Magnitude.

All in all the selection here is broad ranging enough to satisfy nearly every reading taste, from the surreal originality of Dave Marusek's Sturgeon Award winner, "The Wedding Album," to the well-travelled terrain of Fred Pohl's HeeChee-based "Hatching The Phoenix," from the touching humanity of James Patrick Kelly's Hugo Award-winning novelette "1016 to 1" to the powerful chill of Richard Wadholm's "Green Tea."

Marusek's story of artificial realities and stored memories opens The Year's Best Science Fiction on a strong note, continued later in "Daddy's World," by Walter John Williams. Both ask the reader to consider one of SF's greatest questions: what makes us human? The Cuban Missile Crisis is the backdrop of James Patrick Kelly's story about a boy faced with a choice that could determine the fate of the human race.

Robert Reed's "Winemaster" and Chris Lawson's "Written in Blood" examine some of the consequences, both minor and major, of genetic manipulation. The planetary explorers in Ben Bova's Mars-based "Mount Olympus" and Hal Clement's "Exchange Rate" will keep fans of old-fashioned hard SF adventure well-entertained. Mike Resnick's "Hothouse Flowers" is a grimly predictable little piece about quality-of-life issues in a world of advanced medicine.

For adventure seekers, there are "People Came From Earth," by Stephen Baxter, and Paul J. McAuley's "How We Lost The Moon: A True Story by Frank W. Allen," a black comedy of space colonization and technology run amok. Readers who crave bleeding edge tech will get a charge out of the telepresent exploration of one of the most dangerous places on Earth, in Karl Schroeder's "The Dragons of Pripyat."

At the other end of the scale, the far-future setting of Greg Egan's "Border Guards" provides a stark backdrop to some thought-provoking questions on friendship and immortality. Meanwhile Alastair Reynolds' time-and-space spanning "Galactic North" compresses enough history and plot for a novel into a whip-fast novelette. Fans of so-called "soft SF" will enjoy Robert Silverberg's look at an alternate Roman Empire and the entertaining and multi-layered "Dapple: A Hwarhath Historical Romance" by Eleanor Arneson.

On the biotech side of things, Charles Sheffield's "Phallicide" takes some good shots at fundamentalist religion while exploring some intriguing ideas about biology and gender. "Hunting Mother" by Sage Walker gives us a look at some of the potential consequences of readily available genetic modification.

As Dozois points out in his intro to this story, not many authors seem interested in writing about utopias any more, but maybe more will after reading Geoff Ryman's "Everywhere"; this story will definitely get under your skin. Likewise Wadholm's arresting "Green Tea" -- about love and revenge, not utopias. The flexible, not to say downright slippery, nature of reality and its consequences are the central questions behind Tanith Lee's phantasmagorical "The Sky-Green Blues" and M. John Harrison's masterful "Suicide Coast."  "Evermore," Sean Williams' story of the crew of a damaged space probe and their quest for freedom, echoes similar themes.

Last but not least, no SF anthology would be complete without the time travellers: High-energy physics is the motive and the means in Robert Grossbach's detective story, "Of Scorned Women and Causal Loops." Michael Swanwick's Hugo-winning short story "Scherzo With Tyrannosaur" gives us a lively setting and a nasty moral dilemma -- with a twist ending that really works. After all this marvellous bounty, the anthology closes with Kage Baker's powerful "Son Observe The Time," another story of the Company and its efforts to save artifacts, lost in past disasters, by sending agents back in time.

No reader is likely to enjoy every story in any single anthology, but there's so much good stuff here, you're bound to be pleased with a high percentage. In these days of high cover prices, and with too many copycat novels, cutesy themed anthologies and media tie-ins crowding the shelves, it's good to know you can count on assemblages like The Year's Best Science Fiction to challenge and entertain.

Copyright © 2000 Charlene Brusso

Charlene's sixth grade teacher told her she would burn her eyes out before she was 30 if she kept reading and writing so much. Fortunately he was wrong. Her work has also appeared in Aboriginal SF, Amazing Stories, Dark Regions, MZB's Fantasy Magazine, and other genre magazines.

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