I really enjoy reading short stories. It used to be that I subscribed to just about every science fiction and fantasy magazine on the market, just because of the volume of short stories i could then read. But of course as time went on, my reading time dwindled and about the same time, more and more magazines were hitting the markets. now of course there’s no end to the number of on-line magazines available as well. I still read from all these occasionally, but I’ve found that it helps me a lot if I let some other person spend the time to weed through the volume of short stories and give me the ‘best’ of them. Of course the ‘best of’ is really dependent on that particular editor’s tastes. But as much as I enjoy short stories, I must admit that I tend to look at a collection such as this as a way to find ‘new’ authors for me to
Jonathan Strahan is no stranger to editing and I’ve read some of his edited works before and am comfortable with seeing his name on the by-line.
All the stories here are well written and generally interesting, but there were no stories that made me sit up, take notice, and do a quick google search on the author. In other words, there was nothing so stellar that I had to tell everyone I knew to hurry out and read it. There were, however, a few stand-outs:
The book begins with a Joe Abercrombie story, “Some Desperado” that might make you wonder if you didn’t pick up a western/thriller collection. Almost. In fact, it was this blurring of the genre lines that first appealed to me, and the general story-telling was a heck of a lot of fun (“The world’s a mean bully, alright, and the lower down you are the more it delights in kicking you.” ).
Yoon Ha Lee (who is new to me) has a clever little tale called “Effigy Nights” in which a city (planet?) under siege comes up with a clever means of creating weapons out of paper that disintegrate over time.
Being a theatre professional, I caught on very quickly to the characters in “Rosary and Goldenstar” by Geoff Ryman. There isn’t much to the story about the misunderstandings in language but the cast of characters is fun. Dr. John Dee is a great, little-known source for a character!
Rounding out my personal favorites would be “Water” by Ramez Naam, in which the term “Smart Water” is taken to a new extreme; “Sing” by Karin Tidbeck (an outcast with a beautiful singing voice captures a stranger’s interest); and “Social Services” by Madeline Ashby, which definitely caught me off-guard as a social worker in the future is sent to check up on abused/at-risk children in an abandoned development that once was quite luxurious.
There are many familiar author names here (Neil Gaiman, M. John Harrison, E. Lily Yu, Eleanor Arnason, etc) and you know you aren’t likely to be steered wrong with a collection such as this. But maybe next year we’ll get that stand-out story that everyone is talking about and everyone has to read.
This collection includes:
“Some Desperado” – Joe Abercrombie
“Zero For Conduct” – Greg Egan
“Effigy Nights” – Yoon Ha Lee
“Rosary and Goldenstar” – Geoff Ryman
“The Sleeper and the Spindle” – Neil Gaiman
“Cave and Julia” – M. John Harrison
“The Herons of Mer de L’oUest” – M. Bennardo
“Water” – Ramez Naam
“The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling” – Ted Chiang
“The Ink Readers of Doi Saket” – Thomas Olde Heuvelt
“Cherry Blossoms on the River of Souls” – Richard Parks
“Rag and Bone” – Priya Sharma
“The Book Seller” – Lavie Tidhar
“The Sun and I” – K J Parker
“The Promise of Space” – James Patrick Kelly
“The Master Conjurer” – Charlie Jane Anders
“The Pilgrim and the Angel” – E. Lily Yu
“Entangled” – Ian R Macleod
“Fade to Gold” – Benjanun Sriduangkaew
“Selkie Stories Are for Losers” – Sofia Samatar
“In Metal, In Bone” – An Owomoyela
“Kormak the Lucky” – Eleanor Arnason
“Sing” – Karin Tidbeck
“Social Services” – Madeline Ashby
“The Road of Needles” – Caitlin R Kiernan
“Mystic Falls” – Robert Reed
“The Queen of Night’s Aria” – Ian McDonald
“The Irish Astronaut” – Val Nolan
Looking for a good book? If you enjoy science fiction or fantasy even in the slightest, this collection should be on your ‘must read’ list.
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The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume Eight
editor: Jonathan Strahan
paperback, 618 pages