Year's Best SF, 23rd by Dozois, Gardner, ed., 2005

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I have always loved short fiction, especially short science fiction. There was even one year when I read nothing but old anthologies and new magazines, and read not one single novel (1996-1997, my first year of law school, when I could only make short commitments to pastimes). As time has gone by, however, I have noticed that short fiction no longer interests me as much as it did before. This year is no exception, and I am unmoved by Garnder Dozois' newest Year's Best volume, the 23rd annual collection.

Maybe its me, maybe its the quality of the stories that are being produced these days. But for some reason, I long for the quality of years gone by. Save the one recent bright spot of Sergent Chip in 2005, I can't remember the last time I read anything that kept me as interested as Martin's Sand Kings, or Niven's Inconstant Moon, Goldstein's Passengers or Silverberg's Tourists. I can't think of any one short story in the last decade that has made me laugh as much as Steele's The Death of Captain Future. Not even Haldeman has shown as brightly as years past, for example as he did in 1997 with For White Hill. And sadly, not even Robert Reed's most recent generational starship story can capture, much less keep my interest.

So it was with a heavy heart and a trembling hand that I picked up this book. I got not so far into it when I realized that not much has changed since 2006. There are, of course, some interesting stories in this book. Ian McDonald's The Little Princess and Alastair Reynolds Beyond the Aquila Rift were pretty good. McDonald's was a very interesting character study of a young woman who was revered as a Goddess in Nepal, then was cast out into a transformed India to find her own way, then found her own way back to Goddess-hood with the help of some illegal AI. Alastair Reynolds' story is a really interesting twist on the last/lost man in the universe story that involves a vast artifact left by a dead civilization (a particular spin I am getting VERY tired of reading about, by the way). But after that, things just go downhill. I couldn't even make myself read the Turtledove story. I have started a Stephen Baxter story, and I have high hopes. Perhaps most disturbing bit of this book is relatively new author Paolo Bacigalupi's most recent story, The Calorie Man. It could not have been more boring. Especially shocking was the fact that it won a Sturgeon Award, and was, in my opinion, quite a poor follow up to his very strong first short story, The People of Sand and Slag.

Anyway, I guess its just me. I will probably keep trying again though, next year and the next and then the next again. This year just doesn't do it for me though. I give it a 2 out of 5, just because a few stories didn't suck.

Copyright 2007, Gregory Tidwell

Reviewed by GTT · Rating Rating of 2 star(s)

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