Year's Best SF 3 & 5

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

After Ancient Enchantresses and Year’s Best Fantasy 2, I continued my short fiction adventures with Year’s Best SF volumes 3 and 5. As I’m not usually a science fiction reader, this was also a genre exploration. In today’s post, I discuss each volume separately, then rate them together, because they’re about equal on the awesomeness scale.

Year's Best SF 3 and Year's Best SF 5 Paperbacks Edited By David G. Hartwell

Year’s Best SF 3

 According to the introduction, “this selection of science fiction stories represents the best that was published during the year 1997.” It was edited by David G. Hartwell and published in 1998 by Harper Prism. This volume includes 22 stories and spans 448 pages. I don’t think any of the stories were long enough to be considered novellas.

The back cover boasts of stories from:

    • Gregory Benford
    • Terry Bisson
    • Greg Egan
    • William Gibson
    • Nancy Kress
    • Robert Silverberg
    • Gene Wolfe

Overall Impressions

While reading this one, I realized that I enjoy more subgenres of sci-fi than subgenres of fantasy. Or at least, my taste in sci-fi aligns better with Hartwell's than my taste in fantasy does. Not all of the stories were my thing, but those that were are spread pretty evenly through the book, so anytime I started to get bored, a new story caught my attention.

Here are my top six:

    • “The Nostalginauts” by S.N. Dyer (loved)
    • “The Voice” by Gregory Benford
    • “The Pipes of Pan” by Brian Stableford
    • “Universal Emulators” by Tom Cool
    • “Great Western” by Kim Newman
    • “Turnover” by Geoffrey A. Landis

Year’s Best SF 5

Much like volume 3, this volume represents the “best” science fiction of its year. In this case, that's 1999. It was also edited by David G. Hartwell and published in 2000 by EOS science fiction (a HarperCollins imprint). This volume includes 25 stories and spans 492 pages. Again, I don’t think any of them are long enough to be considered novellas.

The back cover boasts of stories from:

    • Brian Aldiss
    • Stephen Baxter
    • Terry Bisson
    • Greg Egan
    • Robert Reed
    • Kim Stanley Robinson
    • Hiroe Suga
    • Michael Swanwick
    • Gene Wolfe

Overall Impressions

At first, I thought this one was going to be a dud; for the first 200 pages, I didn’t really find much I liked. Most of my favorite stories from this volume are toward the end. Both books pose interesting ethical questions, but I was more impressed with the variety of story topics in this one.

Here are my top six picks:

    • “Has Anybody Seen Junie Moon?” by Gene Wolfe (loved)
    • “Democritus’ Violin” by G. David Nordley (loved)
    • “Valour” by Chris Beckett
    • “Ancient Engines” by Michael Swanwick
    • “Freckled Figure” by Hiroe Suga
    • “The Queen of Erewhon” by Lucy Sussex

Both Volumes

These books represent a variety of science fiction subgenres, not just stories involving space travel (though there are some of those). The vast majority of the stories are not the sort of thing that would give most people the warm fuzzies. They’re definitely for adults. Violence, sex, ethical conundrums, existential angst, grit—you get the idea.

Because they’re about 20 years old, they also represent a different era of science fiction. Some of the issues and technologies represented in these amazed me; I hadn’t realized what was on the sci-fi radar when I was 3-5 years old. Things with computers, genetic modification, technological implants, virtual reality, etc. Questions I only recently started contemplating were asked by sci-fi writers 20 or more years ago. It made me wonder what the current sci-fi landscape looks like. I have to confess: I have no idea.

Bottom line

I would recommend the Year’s Best SF anthologies to anyone looking to explore science fiction, but if I see other anthologies in this series somewhere, even for cheap, I’m not going to pick them up. While I enjoy some subgenres of sci-fi, the vast majority of the stories in these books weren’t my proverbial cup of tea. For me, these are solidly four-mustache books.

Have you read any of the Year's Best SF books? What did you think of them?
Leave a comment below or my hairless ghost lemur will haunt your dreams.

Year's Best SF 3 & 5 | Lydia Sanders #TwistyMustacheReviews

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