This science fiction collection will delight and amaze

May 7, 2000
Elisabeth Sherwin -- gizmo@

Readers of science fiction may already know about this wonderful book, but it was a happy new discovery for me.

"The Year's Best Science Fiction: The 16th Annual Collection" edited by Gardner Dozois (St. Martins, 1999, $29.95) is a treasure with more than 250,000 words of fantastic fiction in 25 short stories and novellas. I found it at the Davis Public Library.

As important as the fiction is, Dozois' masterful summation of sci fi trends in movies, magazine publishing, book publishing and on the Internet is alone worth the price of the book. You couldn't ask for a more complete source of information about science fiction including descriptions of where to find it and descriptions of who is writing it.

And then you have the pleasure of reading it.

I am awed by the flights of imagination demonstrated by these writers. In the sketches that precede each story, Dozois tells us something about the writer, where he or she lives, awards won, and other publications to their credit. The word that he most frequently uses to describe many of these writers is "prolific," which amazes me even more.

It's hard enough to come up with one original story idea, but these writers make a habit and perhaps even a living coming up with myriad ideas, researching them, and making them come alive.

Consider the complex "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang of Kirkland, Wash. This tale realistically describes the technical approach a linguist might take when attempting to communicate with aliens. But it's also the story of a mother's rich relationship with her daughter and the two stories are woven together almost without a hitch.

Of course, no collection would be complete without something from Ursula LeGuin and her "The Island of the Immortals" will give anyone wishing for a long, long life serious second thoughts.

I dived into this collection and read and read until suddenly I'd finished all 250,000 words. And then as the days passed I was curious to see which stories came back to me, which stories I couldn't stop thinking about. Some sneak up on you.

I didn't think I was particularly moved by "Voivodoi" by Liz Williams of Brighton, England, but I haven't been able to get her story out of my mind. I can't tell you anything about the plot without giving it away, so you'll just have to read it. OK, I'll tell you this much: a teen-age boy in Eastern Europe comes down with a mysterious illness. That's all I'll say.

Not all the stories in the collection are fantastical or scary.

"Craphound" by Cory Doctorow of Toronto is about something as pleasant and mundane (I would say all-American, but it's set in Canada) as garage sale junkies. Doctorow adds a sympathetic alien and turns this story into a buddy road trip.

Another British writer, Ian R. MacLeod, has written an alternative history of Britain after World War I called "The Summer Isles." Great Britain is now called "Greater Britain," Jews are relocated, and homosexuals are invited to come forward for treatment. A certain Oxford don is privy to secrets about the country's ruler that eventually get him in trouble.

Another alternative history, this by Howard Waldrop of Washington state, focuses on the many "what ifs?" that could be asked about the famous Baby Lindbergh kidnapping case. The result is four different scenarios in a story called "US."

A ghost story is included in the collection, but it's the story of a ghost who lives. In "Jedella Ghost" by Tanith Lee of the south of England, a woman is raised in comfort and kindness but some simple truths about the world are kept from her. She knows nothing of death. So what kind of a woman does she turn out to be?

"Sea Change, With Monsters" by England's Paul J. McAuley is a more traditional sci fi thriller where the hunter hero finds herself hired to do a job, kill a dragon, at a Gothic monastery on the far side of the solar system. The only trouble is, the monks weren't expecting a woman.

I was sorry when I finished reading these stories. I'm only happy now because I can go back and read the 15 earlier annual collections. Out of my way, I'm headed to the library.

To inquire about ordering any of the above mentioned books from an independent bookstore,
Bogey's Books at discounted prices [ Click Here ]

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