As we pass the halfway mark of the year, we find the first of the new 'best of' anthologies flooding the market. Currently I have 4 monster tomes that I've been reading through, jumping around between favorite authors and intriguing titles. I'm not one to read an anthology from cover-to-cover, but I try to give the bulk of the stories a fair shot.
First up was Space Opera from Rich Horton.
Next we have The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year #8, edited by Jonathan Strahan, which collects 624 pages of stories from an absolutely stellar cast of authors. That selection alone would have been more than enough for me to pick this up for a read, but it certainly helps that Strahan has developed a reputation with me of being a consistently dependable editor. I'd read just about anything he puts together, and come away from it amazed and entertained by the stories chosen.
Some Desperado by Joe Abercrombie reminds me I really need to get around to reading his First Law trilogy - this was a weird bit of violent, western style fantasy with a strong heroine.
The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman was pretty much everything you could expect from a fairytale retelling with his unique twists - a new version of Sleeping Beauty (with an appearance from Snow White), that focuses more on the dark side of things.
Water by Ramez Naam was a story I initially thought was trying too hard, but which I came to really enjoy - - it's a really interesting exploration of invasive technology, the ethics of advertising, and the dangers of ad-supported cerebral software that already has access to your thoughts and emotions.
The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling by Ted Chiang was another favorite, and a story that pairs very well with Water - Chiang looks at our memories, how we form them, how we capture them, and how we distort or sanitize them. Pair that with an exploration of how new technology so often frightens those who don't understand it, and you've got a great tale.
The Book Seller by Lavie Tidhar was another mixed concept kind of story, this time with vampires, robots, genetic engineering, and the musty, dusty appeal of old books.
The Sun and I by K J Parker was a fun tale the ultimately takes itself too seriously, but which I still enjoyed. Here, Parker looks at what happens when a gang of criminals set up a false religion to bilk the ignorant, only to find that they're really onto something, leaving them stuck running a Church.
Entangled by Ian R Macleod was one of the collection's harder science fiction tales, a fascinating look at a far future world in which we've evolved into a sort of hive-mind, with one man futilely flitting around the outside.
In Metal, In Bone by An Owomoyela takes a hard look at the morality, the victims, and the consequences of violent warfare, with a disturbing focus on how the never-ending cycle of violence can make victims of even those who've come to offer their aid.
Being a general collection, rather than one built around a theme, The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year #8 had more misses than I'm used to from Strahan's editorial pen, but the hits are more than strong enough to make up for them.
Published May 8th 2014 by Solaris