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 and The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year #8 from Jonathan Strahan.
Next we have The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Volume 2, edited by Gordon Van Gelder, which brings together 432 pages of stories from throughout the magazine's illustrious history. This was more a matter of revisiting some classics than discovering new favorites, but that doesn't make it any less of a must-read.
Surprisingly, a lot of the stories contained here are of the comic variety. Even more surprisingly, they are a strong bunch of stories. The Third Level by Jack Finney is a fun tale of portals through time and one man's attempt to finance a personal paradise; The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything by George Alec Effinger shares with us alien observations on the 'best' of everything; while The Attack of the Giant Baby by Kit Reed is pure slapstick absurdity.
On the flip side, there are a larger number of dark, disturbing, creepy, grotesque tales that probably consumed most of my reading time. Salvador by Lucius Shepard offers up a grim exploration of future super soliders; Rat by James Patrick Kelly is a cyberpunk tale that falls into the drug-abuse trap (why does every cyberpunk tale seem to center around an addiction of some sort?) but which does a superb job of it; The Country of the Kind by Damon Knight is an interesting exploration of cultural deviants and societal outcasts; while The Friendship Light by Gene Wolfe takes a different sort of approach to revenge that I probably enjoyed far too much.
Favorites that I've enjoyed before include All You Zombies by Robert A. Heinlein (one of the few Heinlein stories I've liked); The Prize of Peril by Robert Sheckley (something about his short fiction has always appealed to me - so subversive and inappropriately amusing); Echo by Elizabeth Hand (I really do need to read more of her work), and The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates by Stephen King (a favorite from his Just After Sunset collection).
Overall, what I liked about Van Gelder's approach is the way he put the authors front-and-center, prefacing each story with a quick biography, rather than burying those blurbs somewhere in an appendix at the back. It's just an added little touch that I think helped me connect (and reconnect) to the stories within.
Paperback, 432 pages
Published July 15th 2014 by Tachyon Publications