Friday, February 13, 2009

Mammoth Book of Best New SF 21 - Gardner Dozois (ed)

This is a very superior collection. I've had a few gripes about short stories in the last few years as the art seemed to be declining, but I have only good things to say about this book, which contains a whole lot of fantastic stories by some of the biggest names in SF today. The range of styles and subjects is impressive, from near-future dystopia to far-future posthumanity, post-apocalypse and pre-apocalypse, time travel and alternate history, though the recent trend of stories about Jupiter's moons (and other in-system exploration) seems to have dried to a trickle. While there are only a handful of female authors represented, there is a whole host of good female protagonists, and some decent antagonists too.

Rather than review all the stories individually, I'm just listing them below, but there are a few outstanding pieces that get special mention. My pick of the crop, fighting off some strong competition, is Ian McDonald's Verthandi's Ring, a gorgeous piece of far-future cyberpunk with a South Asian flavour. Runners up are Neal Asher's Alien Archaeology, which is an enormously fun adventure story (think Indiana Jones In Space), and Ted Chiang's Arabian-Nights-Meets-Time-Travel story The Merchant And The Alchemist's Gate. Also worthy of note are the pieces by Robert Silverberg, Bruce Sterling, Michael Swanwick and Kage Baker, though there's hardly a dud story in the batch. The only ones I didn't really get on with were, firstly, Love and Other Monsters by Vandana Singh, which I started off enjoying but then got bored with halfway through, and secondly Tom Purdom's The Mists of Time; the story is interesting enough but the blatant "PC Gone Mad!" agenda is just irritating. In general, though, this is one of the best multi-author anthologies I've read in a long while.


List of contents

Finisterra - David Moles;
Lighting Out - Ken MacLeod;
An Ocean is a Snowflake, Four Billion Miles Away - John Barnes;
Saving Tiamaat - Gwyneth Jones;
Of Late I Dreamt of Venus - James Van Pelt;
Verthandi's Ring - Ian McDonald;
Sea Change - Una McCormack
The Sky is Large and the Earth is Small - Chris Roberson;
Glory - Greg Egan;
Against the Current - Robert Silverberg;
Alien Archaeology - Neal Asher;
The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate - Ted Chiang;
Beyond the Wall - Justin Stanchfield;
Kiosk - Bruce Sterling;
Last Contact - Stephen Baxter;
The Sledge-Maker's Daughter - Alastair Reynolds;
Sanjeev and Robotwallah - Ian McDonald;
The Skysailor's Tale - Michael Swanwick;
Of Love and Other Monsters - Vandana Singh;
Steve Fever - Greg Egan;
Hellfire at Twilight - Kage Baker;
The Immortals of Atlantis - Brian Stableford;
Nothing Personal - Pat Cadigan;
Tideline - Elizabeth Bear;
The Accord - Keith Brooke;
Laws of Survival - Nancy Kress;
The Mists of Time - Tom Purdom;
Craters - Kristine Kathryn Rusch;
The Prophet of Flores - Ted Kosmatka;
Stray - Benjamin Rosenbaum and David Ackert;
Roxie - Robert Reed;
Dark Heaven - Gregory Benford


Blogger Neal Asher said...

Thank you kindly.

5:25 pm  
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7:47 am  

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