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 we have Space Opera, edited by Rich Horton, which offers up 576 pages of space opera science fiction from authors both familiar and new. I have a definite soft spot for space opera, having grown up on the likes of Star Wars, Buck Rogers, and the original Battlestar Galactica, so this was a must-read for me, especially since there were so many instantly recognizable authors.
Ironically, while it was the fun, light, action-packed space opera that I was looking forward to here, what really struck me was how powerful (and entertaining) the political and social themes really were. There's a lot of sexism and racism buried in these stories, not to mention some deep exploration of what it means to interfere with other civilizations, regardless of the reason or justification. Environmental and religious themes are prevalent in many of the stories as well, and while I often find that particular nice a little overbearing and heavy-handed, it was actually handled very well within these stories.
Favorites for me in Horton's collection were THE KNIGHT OF CHAINS, THE DEUCE OF STARS by Yoon Ha Lee (a great story of strategy and gamesmanship), SAVING TIAMAAT by Gwyneth Jones (a fascinating exploration of the ethics of civil war, and the moral choices involved in choosing sides), FINISTERRA by David Moles (an exploration of the ethical dilemmas involved in hunting an endangered alien species), SEVEN YEARS FROM HOME by Naomi Novik (another that explored the ethics and agendas of taking sides in a civil war), BOOJUM by Elizabeth Bear & Sarah Monette (with a different sort of take on deep-space pirates), HIDEAWAY by Alastair Reynolds (a tale of aliens, ethnic cleansing, and one last chance for salvation), and TWO SISTERS IN EXILE by Aliette de Bodard (which actually made me care about the friendship between faiths).
Space Opera was higher concept and less pulp than I expected, but I think Horton did a fantastic job of choosing stories that did something powerful within the bounds of the genre.
Published April 28th 2014 by Prime Books