Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume ThreeThe Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Three by Neil Clarke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thanks to Edelweiss for a review copy of this short SF collection!

Like so many "best of" collections, it's often a grab-bag. Like some, and not so much with others.

Fortunately, there are a number of these I live very much and they all happen to hit the hard SF spectrum for me. Maybe this is just a personal preference and perhaps they were objectively a lot more original and creative than the others. Again, this could entirely be my preference-of-the-moment and not a reflection on the quality of the rest.

Which ones stood out, though?

A Series of Steaks - Vina Jie-Min Prasad - Flesh printing and con-jobs. I was rather amused and thrilled by the scope of this one.

Holdfast - an Alastair Reynolds hard take on Enemy Mine... was brilliant in every way and deliciously hard-core on every level. An easy favorite.

Every Hour of Light and Dark - Nancy Kress - It was an okay treatise on forgeries and time travel. Not my favorite story, alas.

The Last Novelist (or a dead lizard in the yard) - Matthew Kressel - Seemed to have a pretty interesting premise and light tone, but I didn't really get into it too much.

Shikasta - Vandana Singh - Pretty cool biology stuff and exploration tech, but its strength was in the diversity of its intellectual digressions even as they explored a new world and biology... not to mention the interesting AI vs human intelligence.

Wind Will Rove - Sarah Pinsker - This one was probably the most compelling non-hard-SF story of the bunch following a colony that had lost all of the cultures it had brought from Earth, desperately attempting to recreate what they had from memory as they moved forward.

Focus - Gord Sellar - Fairly interesting phone SF... but only mildly.

The Martian Obelisk - Linda Nagata - Building a Mars monument. Cool characters. Colonization. Tragedy :)

Shadows of Eternity - Gregory Benford - Lots of tech, exploration. Decent, pretty creative, wormholes, ancient civs, but mostly all about discovery.

The Wordless - Indrapramit Das - A lot more hard-SF and also quite interesting, dark ending.

Regarding the Robot Raccoons Attached to the Hull of My Ship - Jones and Muhamad-Ali - Good epistolary short full of conversation and interesting world-building and relationships. I think I liked these characters among the best in this collection.

Belly Up - Maggie Clark - I think I wanted to like this one more than I did based solely on the good pacing, but that wasn't enough in the end. I didn't really connect.

Uncanny Valley - Greg Egan - This one really stood out for me. Residual Human consciousness mixed into an old love story, degraded rights, a murder mystery, and great old Hollywood charm.

We Who Live in the Heart - Kelly Robson - This one was probably my favorite of all the stories. It had a fantastic mix of blow-you-away imagination and worldbuilding, brilliant setup, fantastic characters, great theme, and an even greater twist. I'm going to be looking out for more of her work for sure.

A Catalogue of Sunlight at the End of the World - A. C. Wise - A rather introspective piece on saving parts of the future and remembering the past with a solid science bent and decent characterization.

Meridian - Karin Loachee - This one snuck up on me but it was a nice twist of stowaways and brotherhood. Great worldbuilding.

The Tale of Alcubierre Horse - Kathleen Ann Goonan - Probably my second favorite story in the book, it's like a twist of Pohl's Starburst and a kidnapping and a wild psychology lesson with heart... ending with colonization. I really enjoyed the full storytelling experience with this one.

Extracurricular Activities - Yoon Ha Lee - Young Jedao. Need I say more?

In Everlasting Wisdom - Aliette de Bodard - Lots of station and setting, pretty interesting cultural worldbuilding, but it didn't quite strike any chords in me.

The Last Boat-builder in Ballyvoloon - Finbarr O'Reilly - A twist on stories from a bar with a future history and great atmosphere.

The Speed of Belief - Robert Reed - Machine souls and exploration, more focused on immortality versus waterbags, diplomacy, species-killers, and alternate intelligences.

Death on Mars - Madeline Ashby - Very interesting intersection between a Mars trip and inoperable cancer. This one might stick with me for a while.

An Evening with Severyn Grimes - Rich Larson - An almost Noir feel with high tech hijinx. Lots of great descriptions.

Zeros - Peter Watts - For outright great science, fantastic zombie characters turned cyborgs, existential horror with programming, and the ennui of war, I had to debate with myself whether this one was topping the whole list of short stories. It's truely great and I'm totally a fanboy of this author.

The Secret Life of Bots - Suzanne Palmer - I wanted to like this more than I did. Still, pretty fun to see the underbelly of the workforce. Shame there is so much stratification, but I guess it drives a story.

Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance - Tobias S. Buckell - Far future SF that I fairly rocked to. I liked feel of the end. :)




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