THE YEARS BEST SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY FOR TEENS
Edited by Jane Yolen &
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Despite the title The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy for Teens, Jane Yolen and Patrick Nielsen Hayden's first (presumably) annual anthology is filled with stories which should appeal to readers of all ages. In fact only two of the stories (Kelly Link's Hugo nominated "The Faery Handbag" and Delia Sherman's "CATNYP") appeared in sources aimed at a young market. The rest of the stories were gleaned from the traditional science fiction and fantasy sources; Asimov's, F&SF, and various anthologies.
As Yolen explain in her preface, there is actually very little science fiction and fantasy currently being published specifically for the teenage market. While this may be true in the short fiction market, the tables and shelves at the local bookstores seem to be groaning under the weight of thick fantasy novels for young adults before they make the jump into thick fantasy novels for adults.
Yolen and Nielsen Hayden, however, have done an excellent job in selecting shorter stories which will appeal to the teenage reader, as well as the more adult reader. Their choices cover a broad range of the science fictional and fantastic spectrum and the editors have made the wise decision to include suggestions for further reading not only in their honor roll at the end of the anthology, but in each of their introductions.
S.M. Stirling's "Blood Wolf," is about a young barbarian in a more civilized land. Not only does Kreuha have to deal with coming of age, but he also finds himself coming to terms with knowing less of the world than he originally thought, a common issue for teenagers. However, Stirling is not interested in preaching, which is one of the strengths of this story. His focus is on telling Kreuha's story and allowing his character find his way into and out of trouble.
Similarly, "Dancer in the Dark" is David Gerrold's look at coming to terms with a world which is suddenly larger, and scarier, than the one a child has grown up in. Gerrold has written several stories for/about young protagonists lately, and it is no surprise that Michael, an orphan on a farm in the dark protected against the brilliance of the brightlands, is a well-written character who quickly gains the reader's sympathy as an everyman facing a strange new world.
Drawing from other works, Leah Bober tackles "The Wizard of Oz" as the flying monkeys must deal with the loss of their protectress and mistress, the Wicked Witch of the West. Bober's story is clever and in many ways deals with the same issues as Stirling and Gerrold's stories do.
In fact, despite the title of the book, most of the stories in The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy for Teens are fantasies. Robert Heinlein, however, who was known for writing science fiction for young adults, would easily recognize "Sergeant Chip" as a science fiction story. This is the tale of an enhanced dog and his activities in a war. There is little in the story which identifies is as being for teens, and it, along with most of the tales in the book, are readily enjoyable by adults.
|Kelly Link||The Faery Handbag|
|S.M. Stirling||Blood Wolf|
|Lynette Aspey||Sleeping Dragons|
|David Gerrold||Dancer in the Dark|
|Adam Stemple||A Piece of Flesh|
|Theodora Goss||The Wings of Meister Wilhelm|
|Leah Bober||Displaced Persons|
|Bradley Denton||Sergeant Chip|
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