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The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume Eleven

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Jonathan Strahan, the award-winning and much lauded editor of many of genre’s best known anthologies is back with his 11th volume in this fascinating series, featuring the best science fiction and fantasy. With established names and new talent this diverse and ground-breaking collection will take the reader to the outer-reaches of space and the inner realms of humanity wit Jonathan Strahan, the award-winning and much lauded editor of many of genre’s best known anthologies is back with his 11th volume in this fascinating series, featuring the best science fiction and fantasy. With established names and new talent this diverse and ground-breaking collection will take the reader to the outer-reaches of space and the inner realms of humanity with stories of fantastical worlds and worlds that may still come to pass. Contents Introduction by Jonathan Strahan The Future Is Blue / Catherynne M. Valente Mika Model / Paolo Bacigalupi Spinning Silver / Naomi Novik Two's Company (The First Law Universe) / Joe Abercrombie You Make Pattaya / Rich Larson You'll Surely Drown Here If You Stay / Alyssa Wong A Salvaging of Ghosts (Universe of Xuya) / Aliette de Bodard Even the Crumbs Were Delicious / Daryl Gregory Number Nine Moon / Alex Irvine Things with Beards / Sam J. Miller Successor, Usurper, Replacement / Alice Sola Kim Laws of Night and Silk / Seth Dickinson Touring with the Alien / Carolyn Ives Gilman The Great Detective (Cwmlech Manor #2) / Delia Sherman Everyone from Themis Sends Letters Home / Genevieve Valentine Those Shadows Laugh / Geoff Ryman Seasons of Glass and Iron / Amal El-Mohtar The Art of Space Travel / Nina Allan Whisper Road (Murder Ballad No. 9) / Caitlín R. Kiernan Red Dirt Witch / N. K. Jemisin Red as Blood and White as Bone / Theodora Goss Terminal / Lavie Tidhar Foxfire, Foxfire / Yoon Ha Lee Elves of Antarctica / Paul J. McAuley The Witch of Orion Waste and the Boy Knight / E. Lily Yu Seven Birthdays / Ken Liu The Visitor from Taured / Ian R. MacLeod Fable / Charles Yu Honorable Mentions: 2016 -- essay


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Jonathan Strahan, the award-winning and much lauded editor of many of genre’s best known anthologies is back with his 11th volume in this fascinating series, featuring the best science fiction and fantasy. With established names and new talent this diverse and ground-breaking collection will take the reader to the outer-reaches of space and the inner realms of humanity wit Jonathan Strahan, the award-winning and much lauded editor of many of genre’s best known anthologies is back with his 11th volume in this fascinating series, featuring the best science fiction and fantasy. With established names and new talent this diverse and ground-breaking collection will take the reader to the outer-reaches of space and the inner realms of humanity with stories of fantastical worlds and worlds that may still come to pass. Contents Introduction by Jonathan Strahan The Future Is Blue / Catherynne M. Valente Mika Model / Paolo Bacigalupi Spinning Silver / Naomi Novik Two's Company (The First Law Universe) / Joe Abercrombie You Make Pattaya / Rich Larson You'll Surely Drown Here If You Stay / Alyssa Wong A Salvaging of Ghosts (Universe of Xuya) / Aliette de Bodard Even the Crumbs Were Delicious / Daryl Gregory Number Nine Moon / Alex Irvine Things with Beards / Sam J. Miller Successor, Usurper, Replacement / Alice Sola Kim Laws of Night and Silk / Seth Dickinson Touring with the Alien / Carolyn Ives Gilman The Great Detective (Cwmlech Manor #2) / Delia Sherman Everyone from Themis Sends Letters Home / Genevieve Valentine Those Shadows Laugh / Geoff Ryman Seasons of Glass and Iron / Amal El-Mohtar The Art of Space Travel / Nina Allan Whisper Road (Murder Ballad No. 9) / Caitlín R. Kiernan Red Dirt Witch / N. K. Jemisin Red as Blood and White as Bone / Theodora Goss Terminal / Lavie Tidhar Foxfire, Foxfire / Yoon Ha Lee Elves of Antarctica / Paul J. McAuley The Witch of Orion Waste and the Boy Knight / E. Lily Yu Seven Birthdays / Ken Liu The Visitor from Taured / Ian R. MacLeod Fable / Charles Yu Honorable Mentions: 2016 -- essay

30 review for The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume Eleven

  1. 5 out of 5

    Basia

    My, my ... what an ANTHOLOGY!!! On the whole, there seemed to be many more SF stories than fantasy, but that is pretty representative of the field, maybe? In any case, it's not really a complaint; I loved the stories that were selected for inclusion. Some of my very favorites? Bacigalupi's Mika Model gave an awesome execution to an idea we have seen before. I loved how he made it so new again! The man is a master at short works. Novik's Spinning Silver was ephemeral. It actually felt like 2 stories My, my ... what an ANTHOLOGY!!! On the whole, there seemed to be many more SF stories than fantasy, but that is pretty representative of the field, maybe? In any case, it's not really a complaint; I loved the stories that were selected for inclusion. Some of my very favorites? Bacigalupi's Mika Model gave an awesome execution to an idea we have seen before. I loved how he made it so new again! The man is a master at short works. Novik's Spinning Silver was ephemeral. It actually felt like 2 stories, rather than 1. I love her lyrical style! Larson's You Make Pattaya was so much fun! It's about a grifter working in Thailand, and an opportunity of a lifetime that presents itself. One of the best of the best, this one. Alyssa Wong had a wonderful western short story, about witches of all things! A snapshot of the human condition, I suppose, in a most brilliant sense. Only, with a very unusual backdrop. I'll pick one more to highlight: Seth Dickinson's Laws of Night and Silk. If I could give this one story ten stars, I would. The book more than pays for itself, with the inclusion of this precious, MOST precious blue diamond, atop an already gorgeous corona. As an anthology, it's the best one I have read since Dozois's 2016 Best Of annual collection (and I admit, I'm completely biased when it comes to Mr Gardner Dozois). Wonderful. A great balance, even though I'd have been a tad bit happier with a couple more fantasy stories. Still, a PERFECT anthology. Not one complaint. That fantasy comment? A mere QUIBBLE. IF that! Thank you to the publisher for the review eARC!

  2. 5 out of 5

    RJ

    The annual anthology, this year including the following stories: The Future is Blue by Catherynne M. Valente - 3/5 - Valente is such a good writer she can make Cli-Fi enjoyable Mika Model by Paolo Bacigalupi - 4/5 - Bacigalupi is much better when he focuses on a good idea, such as this one, instead of eco-shaming his readers, as in The Water Knife Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik - 4/5 - Rapunzel as a money-lender Two's Company by Joe Abercrombie - 4/5 - a female twist on Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser Yo The annual anthology, this year including the following stories: The Future is Blue by Catherynne M. Valente - 3/5 - Valente is such a good writer she can make Cli-Fi enjoyable Mika Model by Paolo Bacigalupi - 4/5 - Bacigalupi is much better when he focuses on a good idea, such as this one, instead of eco-shaming his readers, as in The Water Knife Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik - 4/5 - Rapunzel as a money-lender Two's Company by Joe Abercrombie - 4/5 - a female twist on Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser You Make Pattaya by Rich Larson - 3/5 - con men of the future You'll Surely Drown Here if You Stay by Alyssa Wong - 2/5 - like if Stephen King write Blood Meridian A Salvaging of Ghosts by Aliette de Bodard - 2/5 - reality diving? Even the Crumbs Were Delicious by Daryl Gregory - 5/5 - like if PKD had written the Big Lebowski Number Nine Moon by Alex Irvine - 2/5 - like The Martian, but boring and with less profanity Things With Beards by Sam J. Miller - 3/5 - John Carpenter's The Thing in the age of AIDS Succession, Ursurper, Replacement by Alice Sola Kim - 1/5 - strangers in the night, exchanging glances Laws of Night and Silk by Seth Dickinson - 3/5 - when the children cry, let them know we tried Touring With the Alien by Carolyn Ives Gilman - 3/5 - on the road again The Great Detective by Delia Sherman - 2/5 - steampunk Sherlock Everyone From Themis Sends Letters Home by Genevieve Valentine - 2/5 - Games people play Those Shadows Laugh by Geoff Ryman - 2/5 - feminist utopian throwback Seasons of Glass and Iron by Amal El-Mohtar - 2/5 - it's gotta be the shoes The Art of Space Travel by Nina Allan - 3/5 - Back at Ground Control, there is a problem Whisper Road (Murder Ballad No. 9) by Caitlín R. Kiernan - 2/5 - one-paragraph story, but it's one LONG paragraph Red Dirt Witch by N.K. Jemisin - 4/5 - southern civil rights story told with fantasy elements Red as Blood and White as Bone by Theodora Goss - 4/5 - Fairy-tale style fantasy set in an imaginary pre-WWII European country Terminal by Lavie Tidhar - 2/5 - long, ponderous, boring Foxfire, Foxfire by Yoon Ha Lee - 2/5 - fox on the run Elves of Antarctica by Paul McAuley - 3/5 - Elfstones of Shantarctica? The Witch of Orion Waste and the Boy Knight by E. Lily Yu - 2/5 - no good deed goes unpunished Seven Birthdays by Ken Liu - 3/5 - that's a lot of candles The Visitor from Taured by Ian R. MacLeod - 4/5 - when worlds collide Fable by Charles Yu -3/5 - is ordinary life really so ordinary?

  3. 5 out of 5

    Alina

    ***Note: I received a copy curtesy of Netgalley and Solaris / Rebellion Publishing in exchange for an honest review. The tales feature a large and varied range of sub-genres and styles: standard and hard SF, space opera, dystopia, alternate history, steampunk, magic, retellings of fairy tales, etc. Some of the stories can be read for free online, I linked them in my review for a taste of the collection. Below, each of the stories rated with its own stars and a few words of each, trying to avoid ***Note: I received a copy curtesy of Netgalley and Solaris / Rebellion Publishing in exchange for an honest review. The tales feature a large and varied range of sub-genres and styles: standard and hard SF, space opera, dystopia, alternate history, steampunk, magic, retellings of fairy tales, etc. Some of the stories can be read for free online, I linked them in my review for a taste of the collection. Below, each of the stories rated with its own stars and a few words of each, trying to avoid spoilers. The Future is Blue by Catherynne M. Valente - 4+/5★ A dystopian short story in the form of an allegory, about global warming destroying the world and what remains of life after that. Mika Model by Paolo Bacigalupi - 4.5/5★ (Read it HERE). Even if the subject of the robots' humanity has been plenty developed in Asimov’s Robots, Bacigalupi did a great job reiterating it. Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik - 4.5/5★ Intended seemingly as a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, it gets far from the original, but the writing is magical, the female lead is strong and clever and cunning, and it has good teachings. Two’s Company by Joe Abercrombie - 4.5/5★ (Read it HERE). Nice little piece, with sarcasm, gore and plenty of laughs. You Make Pattaya by Rich Larson - 3.5/5★ (view spoiler)[A con man being conned by a better con :D (hide spoiler)] clever twist. I would have probably rated it higher but for the language/jargon that kind of killed my reading pleasure: I had to look so many terms that it really fractured my reading.. You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay by Alyssa Wong - 4.5/5★ (Read it HERE). A boy of the desert, necromancers, a sweet love story in the wild west - the 2nd person narration is magically enthralling. A Salvaging of Ghosts by Aliette de Bodard - 5/5★ (Read it HERE). Superbe writing, interesting subject: a touching space opera, where the spaceships are sentient entities, and the people onboard scavenge in space for gems that are much more than just jewels. Even the Crumbs Were Delicious by Daryl Gregory - 3.5/5★ Whoa, this was kind of crazy, in a high way :)) Hänsel and Gretel mixed with a hint of SF and lots of drugs. “Maybe, just maybe, it had been a mistake to paper the walls with edible drugs.” Number Nine Moon by Alex Irvine - 3.5/5★ During an evacuation from Mars, things don't go as planned - well written, real-seemingly characters, but I couldn't stop comparing it to The Martian.. Things with Beards by Sam J. Miller - 2.5/5★ (Read it HERE). An alien story (?) with a man who misses time and finds himself in some pretty weird situations. Successor, Usurper, Replacement by Alice Sola Kim - 2/5★ (Read it HERE). It did not manage to really grip me because of the jerky rhythm; on the other hand, the characters are well written and there were some good philosophical reflections. Laws of Night and Silk by Seth Dickinson - 4.5/5★ (Read it HERE). A fantasy story about two rival nations fighting over water rights with magic and abnarchs (view spoiler)[feral children with huge magic powers "[…] seal a few of their infants into stone cells. They grow there, fed and watered by silent magic, for fifteen years. Alone. Untaught. Touched by no one. And on nights like these their parents decant them for the war." (hide spoiler)] My big problem: this should be a full length novel; as it is, everything is new (world, people, magic, names, conflicts) and 70% in, you still struggle to understand it all and when you finally reach the end.. you want more! Touring with the Alien by Carolyn Ives Gilman - 4/5★ (Read it HERE). A story about aliens that landed their ships on Earth and use human translators (abducted some 20 years or so ago, for exactly this purpose) to secretly communicate with the government. It kind of reminded me of Story of Your Life (the story on which the movie Arrival was based on), especially the ships, that seem to be taken from the movie. Even if it lacks action, I found it interesting and it poses some interesting question about conciousness and life experiences. The Great Detective by Delia Sherman - 3+/5★ (Read it HERE). A steampunk story with Welsh flavours, set in 1880s' London, includes both a detective story and a ghost living in an automaton fighting for mechanicals to have rights, although there are no discussion about laws or ethics. This is kind of a sequel to The Ghost of Cwmlech Manor (it can be read on its own without any problem), but the timing unfortunately doesn’t add up, as 19 years passed since (1861->1880), but they aged only 2-3 years (Tacy was 16-17 and now is 18-20).. I really liked the Sherlock implications :) Everyone from Themis Sends Letters Home by Genevieve Valentine - 4.5/5★ (Read it HERE). It starts as a colonization story of Themis, a planet of Proxima Centauri (very funny this first part, I snorted a few times), but develops in something completely different (view spoiler)[ – all is in fact a beta testing of a VR game, with unknowing convicts as the subjects (hide spoiler)] – I simply loved the twist! "The sun’s different than back home—they told us about particles and turbulence on the way over and I was too stupid to understand it and too afraid to tell them, so just pretend I explained and you were really impressed." The whole story is written in epistolary form (letters or reports of the colonization crew, which I very much liked), and it poses some good questions about VR/gaming and especially ethics. Those Shadows Laugh by Geoff Ryman - 2.5/5★ An utopian society of women who reproduce by parthenogenesis – wow, the description sounds exactly as if we were talking about Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland. Unfortunately, besides the ‘borrowing’ of the subject, it seemed to me that the author used the setting for long descriptions, causing me to lose interest several times. Unfortunately, besides the ‘borrowing’ of the theme, it seemed to me that the author used the whole story for long descriptions, causing me to lose interest several times. What I did like was the tackling of issues like desire, gelosy, ownership of things and persons. Seasons of Glass and Iron by Amal El-Mohtar - 3.5/5★ (Read it HERE). An interesting mix of fairy tales and feminism, packed in a beautiful narration. The Art of Space Travel by Nina Allan - 3.5/5★ (Read it HERE). Apart from the astronauts, not really SF-ish and clearly not about space travel, being more of a psychological/sociological work, about relationships and family and dreams, with a predictable but ok ending. Whisper Road (Murder Ballad No. 9) by Caitlín R. Kiernan - 1.5/5★ Two girls running after one of them commited something awful. I don’t really understand why this was added to the collection - ok, they are followed by something strange, but really? just that? no explanations, no nothing, why bother? Red Dirt Witch by N.K. Jemisin - 5/5★ Excellent story about segregation, obtaining of civil rights and liberation of black people, all under the umbrella of a fantasy with herbalist witches and dreamers/voodoo people. Red as Blood and White as Bone by Theodora Goss - 3/5★ (Read it HERE). An interesting mix between a kind of Cinderella fairytale and fiction during WWII, set somewhere in CE Europe; although I found it rather naive in some places, it has some interesting turnabouts. Terminal by Lavie Tidhar - 4+/5★ (Read it HERE). A psychological work, powerful and emotional, about loneliness, grief, hope, love wrapped in a story where cheap single-person shuttles are heading for Mars for a kind of colonization. Foxfire, Foxfire by Yoon Ha Lee - 4+/5★ (Read it HERE). This was one of those stories that are both strange and very good, with a shapeshifting fox in a fantasy/SF setting. "The ability to instantly absorb someone’s skills by ingesting their liver had made me lazy." I definitely need to read more stories from Yoon Ha Lee, especially as this story seems to be part of a universe / series. Elves of Antarctica by Paul McAuley - 3/5★ Global warming combined with elf-runes mystery in a static setting, not very impressive and the mystery is never revealed. The Witch of Orion Waste and the Boy Knight by E. Lily Yu - 3/5★ (Read it HERE). A fairy tale that isn't really a fairy tale, although it involves dragons, knights, witches and spells. Seven Birthdays by Ken Liu - 4.5/5★ (Read it HERE). I truly enjoy Ken Liu’s writing. The first part is oriented mostly on family and psychology, the second is much more hard sci-fi, focused on technology and space. The Visitor from Taured by Ian R. MacLeod - 4/5★ Set sometime in the future, when classic paper printed and non-interactive books are viewed as an eccentricity, this story is a mix between a romance and a mystery based on the Visitor from Taured subject. Fable by Charles Yu - 5/5★ (Read it HERE). A powerful and moving story about a father describing his life to a psychologist as a fairy tale allegory. Overall, a total rating of 3.71, rounded up to 4 stars. I enjoyed this collection very much and I heartly recommend it to fantasy and SF lovers.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Andreas

    Summary: 28 stories spread over some 600 pages, no novellas this time. There is something in it for everyone and I recommend buying it. This year, Strahan seems to love fairy tales - with five of them included, it was a bit too much for my taste. Overall quality was better than last year's, though. As with nearly every anthology, you probably won't like each and every story, but there are gems in it, some of them outstanding. Many of the stories are available online, but if you're like me, I'm n Summary: 28 stories spread over some 600 pages, no novellas this time. There is something in it for everyone and I recommend buying it. This year, Strahan seems to love fairy tales - with five of them included, it was a bit too much for my taste. Overall quality was better than last year's, though. As with nearly every anthology, you probably won't like each and every story, but there are gems in it, some of them outstanding. Many of the stories are available online, but if you're like me, I'm not willing to hunt down the best of them and just let Strahan lead my way. On a personal note, I didn't like the inclusion of horror stories at all - I don't like them or even hate them. It would be fair at least to mark the story's genre such that I could simply skip them. At least, this time only two such stories where included. Outstanding stories were Foxfire, Foxfire • SF&F crossover novelette by Yoon Ha Lee Laws of Night and Silk • High Fantasy short story by Seth Dickinson Everyone from Themis Sends Letters Home • SF short story by Genevieve Valentine Contents: 17 • ★★★★ • The Future is Blue • dystopic SF novelette by Catherynne M. Valente • review 39 • ★★ • Mika Model • SF short story by Paolo Bacigalupi • review 53 • ★★★ •  Spinning Silver • Fairy tale Rumpelstilchen retold by Naomi Novik • review 81 • ★★★ •  Two’s Company • First Law fantasy short story by Joe Abercrombie •  review 101 • ★★★★ • You Make Pattaya • Near Future con-man short story by Rich Larson •  review 117 • ★★★★ • You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay • Weird novelette by Alyssa Wong • review 143 • ★★★+ • A Salvaging of Ghosts • SF short story in Xuyan universe by Aliette de Bodard • review 155 • ★★★ • Even the Crumbs Were Delicious • Hänsel und Gretel turned to SF short story by Daryl Gregory • review 173 • ★★★ • Number Nine Moon • Hard SF short story by Alex Irvine • review 195 • ★ • Things with Beards • Weird short story by Sam J. Miller • I didn't get at all what this story was about, couldn't get into it 209 • ☆ • Successor, Usurper, Replacement, Alice Sola Kim • Horror - didn't read 227 • ★★★★+ • Laws of Night and Silk • High Fantasy short story by Seth Dickinson • review 247 • ★★★ • Touring with the Alien • First contact SF novelette by Carolyn Ives Gilman • review 281 • ★★+ • The Great Detective • Steampunk novelette by Delia Sherman • review 317 • ★★★★+ • Everyone from Themis Sends Letters Home • SF short story by Genevieve Valentine • review 343 • ★★+ • Those Shadows Laugh • Geoff Ryman • review 369 • ★★★ • Seasons of Glass and Iron • fairy tale short story by Amal El-Mohtar • review 385 • ★★★ •  The Art of Space Travel • SF novelette by Nina Allan • review 417 • ☆ • Whisper Road (Murder Ballad No. 9) • Caitlín R. Kiernan • I despise horror. For those that like that genre, this story might also be pointless. Especially within an anthology called "Best SF and Fantasy of the Year" - this story doesn't contain SF, nor fantasy at all. Just (one? or) two girls on a road trip after having shot an elderly couple. 429 • ★★★★+ • Red Dirt Witch • Urban Fantasy short story by N.K. Jemisin • review 449 • ★★ • Red as Blood and White as Bone • Fairy tale novelette by Theodora Goss • review 471 • ★★★ •  Terminal • SF short story by Lavie Tidhar • review 487 • ★★★★★ •  Foxfire, Foxfire • SF&F crossover novelette by Yoon Ha Lee • review 509 • ★★+ • Elves of Antarctica • CliFi short story by Paul McAuley • review 527 • ★★★ • The Witch of Orion Waste and the Boy Knight • fairy tale shor story by E. Lily Yu • review 543 • ★★★★ • Seven Birthdays • SF short story by Ken Liu • review 561 • ★★★★ • The Visitor from Taured • SF novelette by Ian R. MacLeod • review 585 • ★★★ • Fable • Fairy taleish metafiction short story by Charles Yu • review

  5. 5 out of 5

    Carly

    ~4.5 2016 may not have been a barrel of laughs, but it did produce some quality scifi and fantasy. As always, I found Strahan's collection to be vivid, varied, and thought-provoking. In his introduction, Strahan comments on the absence of general themes, other than a preponderance of climate-change-related dystopias. I was initially struck by how free these stories are of themes of authoritarianism, populism, isolationism, and bubbles, but of course, most of them were written before Brexit, the U ~4.5 2016 may not have been a barrel of laughs, but it did produce some quality scifi and fantasy. As always, I found Strahan's collection to be vivid, varied, and thought-provoking. In his introduction, Strahan comments on the absence of general themes, other than a preponderance of climate-change-related dystopias. I was initially struck by how free these stories are of themes of authoritarianism, populism, isolationism, and bubbles, but of course, most of them were written before Brexit, the US election, or the rising tide of populist movements around the world. Even so, I saw a few common themes: stretching the definition of humanity, irrevocability of change, viewing ourselves as monsters, and feminism, as well as a series of folklore retellings whose themes are less easy to categorize. I adore everything that Yoon Ha Lee writes, and "Foxfire, Foxfire" is no exception. Easily one of my favourite stories in the collection, the story is narrated by a gumiho who seeks to be human and is one death away from the one hundred murders he must commit to achieve his goal. It takes place in a rich world of endless mechanized warfare between a monarchy and rebel parliamentarians, complete with the giant war machines called Cataphracts, tiger sages, and the small gods whose energies power the world. The story explores the definition of humanity and uses the metaphor of the gumiho to express the sense of not quite fitting in either world and of seeking a form to fit one's soul. Several other stories also stretched the definition of humanity. Paolo Bacigalupi's "Mika Model" is a short vignette in which a sexbot turns herself in for the murder of her owne. If she is a murderer rather than a defective machine, then she is also a person, and who is to be held responsible for her enslavement and torture? While I'm not normally a fan of Sherlock Holmes retellings, Delia Sherman's "The Great Detective" was an exception: I thoroughly enjoyed the steampunk worldbuilding, the Illogic Engines and Reasoning Machines, and even the sly mentions of beekeeping. "Everyone from Themis Sends Letters Home" by Genevieve Valentine is a trippy story about the lasting effects of virtual reality, experimentation without consent, and a world that is literally what you make of it. "Terminal" by Lavie Tidhar deals with the titular word in two senses. It is about terminally-ill colonists making a one-way space voyage to a new world. Dreamy and philosophical, it explores what it means to be human through short vignettes of those who choose to make the voyage. The last of the stories exploring this theme, and by far the creepiest, is Carolyn Ives Gilman's "Touring with the Alien", where the protagonist finds herself acting as the bus driver to an alien and its once-human translator. I saw it as a horror story made all the creepier by the protagonist's inability to see it as such, and it definitely opens up questions about helper species and the definition of humanity and consciousness. Another popular theme was the story that reveals the apparent protagonists as villain or monster. My favourite from this horror-tinged genre was, as usual, Alice Sola Kim. Her "Successor, Usurper, Replacement" is about a group of want-to-be writers writers who meet on a night where "the beast" has been sighted in their area. In the midst of a thunderstorm, a mysterious girl turns up at the door. It is deliciously creepy and comedic, made all the more vivid by her ironic, informal writing style. In Sam J. Miller's "Things with Beards," the monsters are both literal and figurative, from alien beasts trapped in ice to family members who casually spew hatred: "The horror of human hatred-- how such marvelous people, whom he loves so dearly, contain such monstrosity inside of them." I loved how he used the horror elements as a metaphor for social commentary: "Maturity means making peace with how we are monsters." Seth Dickinson's "Laws of Night and Silk" is radically different, a high-fantasy story about an endless war between rival countries, where each side sacrifices its children to stamp out the evil of the other. It is poignant and thought-provoking and begs the question of what war makes of us. "Spinning SIlver" by Naomi Novik tells the tale of a Jewish moneylender who gets caught up in fairy tale when her boast about turning silver into gold is taken literally. The most interesting aspect to me was the way that the protagonist floats between the protagonist and villain of the story. The narrator of Caitlin R. Kiernan's "Whisper Road (Murder Ballad No. 9)" is an unabashed villain, and the story is both colorful and gruesome. Similarly, Rich Larson's "You Make Pattaya" is an entertainingly twisty heist story that is told from the perspective of the thief and takes place in a near-future Thailand. Strahan notes that many of the stories deal with the impact of global warming, but I saw a broader theme: the irrevocable consequences of our actions and the irreversibility of change. For me, the most memorable such story was "The Future is Blue" by Catherynne M. Valente. The story takes place on a world irrevocably changed by global warming, where survivors live on islands of garbage in a rising sea and want to bring back a past that lives on only in myth and folklore. It is gritty and vivid and twisted and entertaining, with Valente's trademark disturbing notes. Aliette de Botard's "A Salvaging of Ghosts" is a gorgeous, haunting story about a space crew who salvage the remnants of other voyagers, transmuted into precious strings of "gems" of memory and experience, in the weird expanses of deep space. The protagonist is on a quest to very literally recapture her lost daughter's memory through the gems that are all that remains of her. Paul McAuley's "Elves of Antarctica" is a far more straightforward take on the theme. It takes place on a nearly ice-free future antarctic where refugees from the drowned world come to eke out a living. The protagonist becomes fascinated with rune-inscribed "elf stones" and the idea of primacy, that the land will eventually return to its pre-human state when global warming is reversed. A story about change and permanence from a different angle is Alex Irvine's adventure story, "Number Nine Moon"where a group of scavengers are left stranded after the Earth turns from exploration to isolation and cuts support for the Mars base. Nina Allan's "The Art of Space Travel" also takes place in the near future, but the issues the protagonist faces feel very familiar. The protagonist works at a hotel where a group of astronauts are due to stay before heading off to Mars. It is about change, but also about parents, about irresponsible actions and responsibility for the consequences. "The Visitor from Taured" by Ian R. MacLeod is told by a rare student of Analogue Literature--ie, physical books-- in a future where everything has been transmuted into the virtual. Testing the line between virtual and physical, it also explores the idea of alternate timelines, yet another way of changing the unchangeable past. Last, Ken Liu's "Seven Birthdays" is perhaps the most explicit story on this theme. Imaginative yet ponderous, it follows a girl's birthday in powers of seven, testing the boundaries of human and machine and exploring the long-term impact of easy solutions and the human desire to restore what is lost. A surprising fraction of the stories took the theme of feminism head-on, executed with varying levels of skill. My favourite of the stories with this theme was "Seasons of Glass and Iron" by Amal El Mohtar", a lovely blending of several fairy tales, primarily "The Enchanted Pig," where a woman who betrays her shape-changing husband must wear out seven pairs of iron shoes to get him back, and "The Glass Hill," where a beautiful princess is placed upon the top of a glass mountain and the prince who scales the summit wins her hand in marriage. With lyrical writing and a rather beautiful little love story, El Mohtar explores the double standards and abuse that make the backbone of fairy tales: "She recalls shoes her brothers have worn: a pair of seven-league boots, tooled leather; winged sandals; satin slippers that turned one invisible. How strange, she thinks, that her brothers had shoes that lightened the world, made it small and easy to explore, discover. [...] Perhaps, she thinks, what's strange is the shoes women are made to wear: shoes of glass; shoes of paper; shoes of iron heated red-hot; shoes to dance to death in. How strange, she thinks, and walks." The rest of these feminist stories struck me as rather less well-executed, and most also failed the Bechdel test. "The Witch of Orion Waste and the Boy Knight" by E. Lily Yu starts as a rather generic fairy tale about a witch and a knight who brings her on his dragon-slaying quest. The themes were interesting, but I think the message was rather muddled by attempts to explain abusive sexism and by the femme-fatale characterization of the only other female character. I'm not a huge fan of Joe Abercrombie, and sadly, "Two's Company" was no exception. What with the Amazonian warrior traveling with another female until they meet up with a Conan-the-barbarian sort, it's a bawdy, comical tale of warrior-man-versus-warrior-woman, and I feel like that theme got beat to death in the 1960s. Easily my least favourite story in the collection was Geoff Ryman's superficially feminist story, "Those Shadows Laugh." In the story, the Taino women, aka Colinas, are asexual and reproduce through parthenogenesis. Of course, they are universally obsessed with babies--women, naturally!-- and are technologically backward and require the aid--and tourist dollars-- of the "normals." The story is supposedly narrated by a woman, but the possessive male gaze is so strong that I had to keep checking the narrator's supposed gender. I found his alternate history despicable: it is the lessening of a society where women had significant agency into a people he so clearly sees as inhuman, as though lack of sexual desire makes them something "other." But naturally, how would you get a matriarchal society unless you eliminate the men? (Eyeroll.) I admit this struck a nerve, and maybe it will work better for other readers. Twisted fairy tales seemed to be a favourite this year. Like many of the stories already mentioned, Alyssa Wong's "You'll Surely Drown Here If You Stay" is a wild fairytale retelling, in this case a bizarre spin on "Cinderella" that takes place in a dusty American Western town that becomes a battleground between the clash of cultures and demigods, life and death. As always, Wong's writing is gorgeously, vividly lyrical. "Red Dirt WItch" by N.K. Jemisin takes place in Alabama during the Civil Rights era, when a fairy queen comes after a local healer and her children. Jemisin turns the fairy kidnapping into a vivid portrait of everyday savage racism and a clear-eyed yet hopeful exploration of civil rights. Daryl Gregory's psychadelic "Even the Crumbs were Delicious" takes place in the world of Afterparty and as with the latter, there are a lot of drugs involved; in fact, the walls are papered with them. It is an odd, comedic, hallucinogenically twisted take on "Hansel and Gretel." "Red as Blood and White as Bone" by Theodora Gos is a story about stories, told by a maid who longs to be in a fairy tale. When a mysterious stranger falls through the door during a snowstorm, the narrator assumes a prince-meets-princess-at-the-ball ending, while the reader is conscious of a wholly different story at work. Possibly my favourite of the fairytale retellings was Charles Yu's "Fable", the last story in the collection. It is a sharp-edged, self-aware tale of a man asked by his therapist to tell his life story in the form of a fable. So he starts again and again, and his own story is slowly revealed in all its pathos and humanity:"Once upon a time, there was an angry guy, who hated the story he was in." Yet again, Strahan put together a wonderfully diverse collection. No matter your taste in stories, you're bound to find something of interest in his "Year's Best" collection, and as for the rest, speculative fiction is all about expanding your horizons. If you're looking for a new author or just a new viewpoint, his "Year's Best" collections are well worth a look. ~~I received an advanced reader copy of this ebook through Netgalley from the publisher, Rebellion/Solaris, in exchange for my honest review. Thanks!~~ Cross-posted on BookLikes.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    Introduction, Jonathan Strahan Long & worrisome. I'm always on the fence with Strahan. Our tastes certainly don't always mesh, so he worried me when he went on about celebrating the diversity of the authors, how so many were women, etc. I don't want stories picked because they're by a woman or someone halfway around the world in a 'Best of' collection. I just want well written stories that make good points because that's what I got the book for - The Stories - not the authors. Too often this Introduction, Jonathan Strahan Long & worrisome. I'm always on the fence with Strahan. Our tastes certainly don't always mesh, so he worried me when he went on about celebrating the diversity of the authors, how so many were women, etc. I don't want stories picked because they're by a woman or someone halfway around the world in a 'Best of' collection. I just want well written stories that make good points because that's what I got the book for - The Stories - not the authors. Too often this 'celebration of diversity' is as bad as the lack of it in earlier eras. I'm not sure if that was the case here. There were a lot of pretty bad stories, but more good ones. Most were worth listening to, but a couple were duplicates from another collection of his. Too many of the stories were remakes of old fairy tales. “The Future is Blue”, Catherynne M Valente (Drowned Worlds) 2 stars. Kind of an interesting world, but it didn't make much sense. The end was underwhelming. Obviously Valente has never had her nose broken. Seriously, write what you know or at least research it. “Mika Model”, Paolo Bacigalupi (Slate) 5 stars. The uncanny line has been crossed, sort of. Amazingly well done. “Spinning Silver”, Naomi Novik (The Starlit Wood) 4 stars. A fairy tale from the moneylender's point of view. Very good. “Two’s Company”, Joe Abercrombie (Sharp Ends) 3 stars. Fun & funny. Not very fulfilling after the previous two, though. “You Make Pattaya”, Rich Larson (Interzone 247) 3.5 stars. Con artist in a grimy future. Interesting tech with a good, if typical story. “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay “, Alyssa Wong (Uncanny 10, 5-6/16) 1.5 stars. If there was a myth that this updates, I don't know it. I could almost of empathized with the characters if I'd understood it better. As it stands, it seemed like a pointless horror show. “A Salvaging of Ghosts”, Aliette de Bodard (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 01/03/16) 1.5 stars - see above. Mining unreality seemed kind of cool, but I just didn't get the drug effect or why I'd want to take it. That cut the legs out of the story. “Even the Crumbs Were Delicious”, Daryl Gregory (The Starlit Wood) 3 stars - Interesting & somewhat comical in a dark way. “Number Nine Moon”, Alex Irvine (F&SF, 1/16) 4 stars - An escape from Mars which shows a much larger world with a sad, if fairly typical, engagement with space colonization. “Things with Beards”, Sam J Miller (Clarkesworld 117, 6/16) 1 star. Just seemed like a way to make biracial homosexuality, AIDs, & terrorism acceptable using "Who Goes There?" as a platform. I couldn't care less about the first & the last 2 are just tragic & stupidly tragic. I'm tempted to bump it up a bit since it would obviously send John W. Campbell Jr. spinning in his grave, but it was so poorly done. I read it before & didn't care much for it the first time. After second read, I think it's a waste of time. “Successor, Usurper, Replacement”, Alice Sola Kim (Buzzfeed, 10/26/16) 1 star. It made no sense, just sort of a weird horror thing. “Laws of Night and Silk”, Seth Dickinson (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 26 May 2016) 3 stars, barely. Reminded me of LeGuin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas". Sort of the same premise done with war & sorcery. “Touring with the Alien”, Carolyn Ives Gilman (Clarkesworld 115, 4/16) 2 stars. Interesting for the ideas about consciousness, but I really didn't get the gal's thinking at the end. From the way the character was built, the final decision didn't make any sense. “The Great Detective”, Delia Sherman (Tor.com) 2.5 stars. Kind of a weird, steampunk first case for Sherlock Holmes. “Everyone from Themis Sends Letters Home”, Genevieve Valentine (Clarkesworld) 3.5 stars. I don't want to say what it is about, but it's pertinent & I probably would have rated it higher if one of the narrators wasn't so annoying. I'm pretty sure it's Lisa Renee Pitts which is weird because her voice usually isn't grating, but sometimes she uses a voice that's just awful. “Those Shadows Laugh”, Geoff Ryman (F&SF, 9-10/16) 2 stars. Heavy-handed foreshadowing & just sort of dumb after that. Interesting idea on society & species that a lot more could have been done with. “Seasons of Glass and Iron”, Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit wood) 3 stars. Fairy tales collide & create something better. “The Art of Space Travel”, Nina Allan (Tor.com) 2 stars. The reveal at the end was obvious very early on & the rest of it was just kind of interesting “Whisper Road (Murder Ballad No. 9)”, Caitlín R. Kiernan (Sirenia Digest 125, 7/16) 2 stars. Kind of eerie, but it was too much like another old SF classic. “Red Dirt Witch”, N.K. Jemisin (Fantasy/PoC Destroy Fantasy) 2 stars. A black (skin color) white (moral bend) Christian witch in the 1950s making a deal with an evil fairy that furthers the cause of combating racism. There was a good point stuffed in there, but I didn't like the narrator (same as before). Given the weird witch & the heavy handed racial thing, the best part was kind of smothered. “Red as Blood and White as Bone”, Theodora Goss (Tor.com) 3 stars. Another remake of a fairy tale, but a bit more fun. I thought the ending synopsis was a bit much. “Terminal”, Lavie Tidhar (Tor.com, 04/16) 1 star. A colonization of Mars that didn't make any sense. “Foxfire Foxfire”, Yoon Ha Lee (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, March 2016) 3 stars. Another bit of mythology with an old point. Sometimes it's best not to get what you want. “Elves of Antarctica”, Paul McAuley (Drowned Worlds) 1 star. I remember this from a previous anthology & I didn't care for it much then. Skipped through it this time. No good even in abbreviated form. “The Witch of Orion Waste and the Boy Knight”, E Lily Yu (Uncanny 12) 4 stars. Another retold fairy tale, but better than most. Excellent point with a neat twist at the end. Made me want to read a sequel. “Seven Birthdays”, Ken Liu (Bridging Infinity) 3.5 stars. A driven woman who managed to work things out the way she wanted eventually, but in such a cool way. Great scenery & thoughts along the way. “The Visitor from Taured”, Ian R. MacLeod (Asimov’s, 9/16) 3.5 stars. An interesting love story with a great ending. Great world building, too. “Fable”, Charles Yu (The New Yorker, 5/30/16) 5 stars. As the father of 3 healthy kids, I've known others who didn't. Wow. Well done. Heart wrenching. Wrong edition. Mine is an audio version from Recorded books. I had to go to this site: https://www.greatwriterssteal.com/201... to find the table of contents in proper order. Stahan couldn't be bothered to do that even on his site. Jerk. I hate it when I can't find a decent Table of Contents.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Gray

    “As the unreality readings spike, the ghost by her side becomes sharper and sharper,” - “A Salvaging of Ghosts” by Aliette de Bodard, (Loc 2088) Jonathan Strahan’s latest collection of the best science fiction and fantasy stories of the year features 28 short stories from 2016. His selected stories include works of hard sci-fi, space opera, dystopia, alternate history, future noir, cyberpunk, steampunk, fantasy, grimdark, and reimagined fairy tales. Such a wide range of short stories makes this an “As the unreality readings spike, the ghost by her side becomes sharper and sharper,” - “A Salvaging of Ghosts” by Aliette de Bodard, (Loc 2088) Jonathan Strahan’s latest collection of the best science fiction and fantasy stories of the year features 28 short stories from 2016. His selected stories include works of hard sci-fi, space opera, dystopia, alternate history, future noir, cyberpunk, steampunk, fantasy, grimdark, and reimagined fairy tales. Such a wide range of short stories makes this an ideal collection for readers who are looking for variety in their speculative fiction. And the talent on display is quite staggering. Volume Eleven includes two Nebula Award-nominated short stories: “Things with Beards” by Sam J. Miller, and “Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar. It also contains the Nebula Award-nominated novelette: “You’ll Surely Drown Here if You Stay” by Alyssa Wong. The remaining 25 stories are by Catherynne M. Valente, Naomi Novik, Paolo Bacigalupi, Joe Abercrombie, Rich Larson, Aliette de Bodard, Daryl Gregory, Alex Irvine, Alice Sola Kim, Seth Dickinson, Carolyn Ives Gilman, Delia Sherman, Genevieve Valentine, Geoff Ryman, Nina Allan, Caitlin R. Kiernan, N.K. Jemisin, Theodora Goss, Lavie Tidhar, Yoon Ha Lee, Paul McAuley, E. Lily Yu, Ken Liu, Ian R. MacLeod, and Charles Yu. In his introduction, Strahan writes about some of 2016’s SF&F short story trends including the “reaction to climate change,” “the novella boom,” as well as more exposure for “writers from Asian and African nations”. It was nice to see the editor including stories by some of these writers whose names and works I am now familiar with. This has led to a more diverse and entertaining reading experience for me, and gives us some idea of just how much quality there is out there. I have kept my summaries very short and spoiler-free, and refrained from giving each story a rating. All I will say is that every story in this volume is worthy of your attention. Here are some brief comments on each one: “The Future is Blue” by Catherynne M. Valente – On a flooded Earth, a 19-year-old girl sets off on a journey across “garbage towns” to find her name. For some reason, the people she encounters on her journey seem to hate her. “Spinning Silver” by Naomi Novik – An intelligent retelling of the fairy tale “Rumpelstiltskin” in which we discover if “fairy silver” is worth more than gold. With a strong and intelligent female lead, this is a fine reimagining. The descriptions of the Elf King are particularly memorable. “Mika Model” by Paolo Bacigalupi – An attractive female robot confesses to a murder. The investigating detective struggles to keep his protective feelings in check. “Two’s Company” by Joe Abercrombie – An amusing and bloody tale of a female warrior and her companion. They meet a male warrior on a narrow rope bridge and neither party wants to give way. “You Make Pattaya” by Rich Larson – Set in a near-future Thailand, a con man and his girlfriend have a plan to get rich at the expense of a holidaying celebrity. Worth reading twice to fully appreciate the plot twists and turns. “You’ll Surely Drown Here if You Stay” by Alyssa Wong – Set in the American West sometime in the past. A young boy is drawn to the desert and mesas where the ghosts of dead miners are rumored to wander. Beautifully written with a second-person narration. “A Salvaging of Ghosts” by Aliette de Bodard – “The Azure Serpent” is a “mindship” whose crew dive for “gems” which are more than just jewels. One of the crew is a mother searching for her daughter. The deeper underwater they travel, the more reality distorts. “Even the Crumbs were Delicious” by Daryl Gregory – A bizarre and funny story with a memorable opening line: “Maybe, just maybe, it had been a mistake to paper the walls with edible drugs.” Two friends, Tindal and El Capitan, try to get rid of “two white teenagers” who have wandered into their apartment and licked the walls. “Number Nine Moon” by Alex Irvine – Three people get stranded on Mars after problems with their lander. Can they find shelter before a deadly sandstorm hits? “Things with Beards” by Sam J. Miller – MacReady returns from working in Antarctica after a terrible accident at his base. He experiences strange dreams and seems to be missing time. Uses characters and themes from John Carpenter’s movie The Thing. “Successor, Usurper, Replacement” by Alice Sola Kim – Four writer’s group friends are sitting out a rainstorm in Lee’s apartment, debating the news that “the beast had been sighted” nearby. When a fifth member shows up, Lee has trouble remembering her name. Fine character writing in this one. “Laws of Night and Silk” by Seth Dickinson – Imagine using a magical weapon that takes years to produce. What would you do if that weapon used to be your child? Strong roles for female characters and some atmospheric prose. There is a distinctive feeling of otherness to this fantasy tale. “Touring with the Alien” by Carolyn Ives Gilman – The aliens have arrived but hardly anybody has seen one. What do they want? This story poses some deep questions about sentience, consciousness, need, and experiences. It also puts the “alien” into aliens. “The Great Detective” by Delia Sherman – A steampunk detective story set in 1880s London. Can Mycroft Holmes solve the mystery of the missing “illogic engine”? “Everyone from Themis Sends Letters Home” by Genevieve Valentine – Told in a series of letters to and from “Themis”, this story has some interesting ideas about gaming, virtual reality, and greed. “Those Shadows Laugh” by Geoff Ryman – Set on a small, self-sufficient island of women. Ms. Vargas, a genetic specialist, wishes to help the women with their reproduction problems. But can she follow the strict rules? “Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar – A brilliant reimagining of two lesser-known fairy tales. Tabitha is on a quest to wear out seven pairs of iron shoes. Amira sits alone on a glass hill waiting for the right “suitor” to climb it. “The Art of Space Travel” by Nina Allan – A human story involving a sick mother, her hardworking daughter, and a mysterious father. The daughter works in a hotel which becomes famous thanks to the impending visit of two Mars-bound astronauts. “Whisper Road (Murder Ballad No.9)” by Caitlin R. Kiernan – After a dark act on a farm, two women are pursued by something unknown. In this strange road trip, there is a gradual reveal of the characters’ stories. I got drawn into this one by its movement and eerie atmosphere. “Red as Blood and White as Bone” by Theodora Goss – A young girl working in the kitchens of a baron’s house gives shelter to a beautiful woman with long, black hair. The woman plans to dance with the prince at the upcoming ball, but does she have an ulterior motive? “Terminal” by Lavie Tidhar – A “swarm” of single-pilot spacecraft leaves Earth on a one-way trip to Mars. The pilots’ loneliness is broken by radio chatter as they begin to share their motivations for taking this journey. “Foxfire, Foxfire” by Yoon Ha Lee – In the middle of a war-torn city, a fox is searching for one more kill in order to become “fully human”. Jong, the pilot of a giant mech-fighting machine, has other ideas. “Elves of Antarctica” by Paul McAuley – Global warming is melting Antarctica’s ice revealing a number of stones covered with strange carvings. Mike believes they are written in the language of Elves. “The Witch of Orion Waste and the Boy Knight” by E. Lily Yu – In this story of a young witch seeking adventure, the physical cost of magic and spells plays an important role. It also has a creepy depiction of dragons, as well as a warning about ignoring advice freely given. “Seven Birthdays” by Ken Liu – Hard sci-fi with a family twist. Liu’s tale starts with geo-engineering as a reaction to global warming. It then expands to the solar system. The author explores ideas concerning consciousness, machines and families. “The Visitor from Taured” by Ian R. MacLeod – This story was inspired by an urban myth about a possible traveller from another universe. MacLeod examines multiple universes, the double-slit experiment, and the importance of a good library. “Fable” by Charles Yu – Attempting to tell his therapist a story, a man travels the path of his life and discovers heroes can be angry, too. This is a lovely, moving story to close the collection. Well, if you’ve made it this far I salute you! What do I think about Strahan’s latest collection? After reading this brilliant anthology, I am a changed reader. This is the kind of book I was never really interested in before. I rarely read short stories, preferring to focus on novels as I saw them as a longer, more rewarding reading experience. But this book has opened my eyes to the potential, as well as the quality, of short stories. Having a variety of authors is a definite plus here, as I am sure that reading 28 stories by the same author would not have made the same impression on me. As I mentioned earlier in this review, this book has introduced me to a number of new-to-me voices from the world of speculative fiction, and for that I am very grateful. Very highly recommended. [Many thanks to Rebellion Publishing and NetGalley for providing an eARC. All opinions are my own.] Originally reviewed here: https://biginjapangrayman.wordpress.c...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Cameron Sant

    LOOK I FINISHED A BOOK This is the first SFF short story anthology I've read as an adult and easily my favorite short story anthology. Either SFF is the place for me to be or Strahan knows how to pick 'em. Even a lot of the ones that I did not love either had interesting endings or interesting ideas, and most of the stories I loved. Maybe I'll shout out a few favorites later.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nikki "The Crazie Betty" V.

    This was another anthology that felt super-duper ridiculously long. That being said, of 28 stories there were only 7 that I enjoyed, so I’m giving this collection 2.5 stars. -You’ll Surely Drown Here if you Stay – Alyssa Wong – This was kind of magical realism story, which I don’t normally like, but I appreciated how dark the story was. Death is very much the key item in this story. -Even the Crumbs were Delicious – Daryl Gregory – Freaking hilarious! It’s hard to describe this story, but essenti This was another anthology that felt super-duper ridiculously long. That being said, of 28 stories there were only 7 that I enjoyed, so I’m giving this collection 2.5 stars. -You’ll Surely Drown Here if you Stay – Alyssa Wong – This was kind of magical realism story, which I don’t normally like, but I appreciated how dark the story was. Death is very much the key item in this story. -Even the Crumbs were Delicious – Daryl Gregory – Freaking hilarious! It’s hard to describe this story, but essentially is about a guy whose roommate he believes to have died because he hasn’t been home in over 2 weeks. So, he decides to throw a big party in his remembrance where all who are invited get to partake in the dead roommate’s job. Which happens to be making drugs that can be licked off the wall like wallpaper. Yeah, trust me, there’s no way to explain this story without it being confusing. -Touring with the Alien – Carolyn Ives Gilman – A man is adopted by aliens that are sentient but not self-aware. This was an interesting story that really makes you question what the term “alive” really means. An alien invasion may also be in the future. -Seasons of Glass and Iron – Amal El-Mohtar – A folklore type of tale where a princess is trapped a top a glass hill, while another has to wear out 7 pairs of iron shoes before she can break the spell on her bear by day man by night husband. A story on choosing our own destinies, and finding friendship in the unlikeliest of places. -Terminal – Lavie Tidhar – About a fleet of personal-sized ships for people to go to Mars, on a one-way trip. -The Witch of Orion Waste and the Boy Knight – E. Lily Yu – Another folklore type of story where a woman becomes a witch, and in goes about trying to fix problems for people. Essentially a story about how you can’t carry someone through life or they will never be strong enough to carry themselves. -Seven Birthdays – Ken Liu – 7 birthdays from the same girl from the age 7 to age 823,543, as the author shows how our struggles as humans never go away, because we are human. A constant redoing of putting minds in computers and imagining that we are really all just simulations and don’t know it. This might have been my favorite of the collection. All-in-all, not a bad collection, but did feel to me to steer more towards fantasy than sci-fi, which really put me off. I was surprised that there were as many fantasy stories I liked as I did, but most likely I won’t read further collections within this series. Received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

  10. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    I had a hard time rating an anthology so good in parts, and so awful in parts. Ultimately, I highly recommend reading most of this book, and skipping a few stories. While there were a few awful stories, the vast majority were lovely, and the book is worth reading for the many many beautiful stories. Must Read: There were so many great stories in this book. The vast majority of the rest of the stories, I adored. That said, here's a few favorites. They are truly inventive, beautiful stories. - The Fu I had a hard time rating an anthology so good in parts, and so awful in parts. Ultimately, I highly recommend reading most of this book, and skipping a few stories. While there were a few awful stories, the vast majority were lovely, and the book is worth reading for the many many beautiful stories. Must Read: There were so many great stories in this book. The vast majority of the rest of the stories, I adored. That said, here's a few favorites. They are truly inventive, beautiful stories. - The Future is Blue by Catherynne M. Valente Everything I read by Valente is so inventive and creative. I love this exploration of coping in a world destroyed by climate change. It's a wildly interesting world she has created. - Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik It's so rare to have a fantasy world or sci-fi world that envisions Jews as part of their fantastic or their future! A delight of a story - Everyone from Themis Sends Letters Home by Genevieve Valentine This subject matter should be boring by now, done to death (not going to say what, so as not to spoil it the twist). Yet someone, Valentine presents a new, emotional twist. - Red Dirt Witch by N.K. Jemisin I don't have words. This was such a beautifully written story. What it means to come of age, dealing with racism and a crappy world, the meaning of hope, and family. Skip: - You Make Pattaya by Rich Larson A mediocre story which is transphobic and extremely objectifying of women. - Those Shadows Laugh by Geoff Ryman This story is trash. Terrible writing, sexual assault that several characters immediately write off as "not actually assault", abuse of the racist trope of sexy, exotic "generic tropical indigenous women", a white author writing people of color as "not quiet human". No redeeming qualities. Maybe Skip: -Mika Model by Paolo Bacigalupi I think explorations of "is the AI a person" are really interesting. However, I'm tired of "is the female sex-bot a person". It's fairly well written, it's just a trope I'm bored of. The world often treats human women like sex-bots, and so it always feels to me a bit like a story using this trope is passing judgement on the humanity of women. Why is the story of "is the female sex-bot a person" separate from "is the AI a person" necessary? Why is it a story only men write? As a trope, it always feels objectifying, and this instance of the trope was no better (or worse) than any other of its type.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Flavia

    1 The Future is Blue: 3.75 stars 2 Mika Model: 3 stars 3 Spinning Silver: 4.5 stars 4 Two's Company: 2.5 stars 5 You Make Pattaya: 3.25 stars 6 You'll Surely Drown Here If You Stay: 2 stars 7 A Salvaging of Ghosts: 3 stars 8 Even the Crumbs were delicious: 3.5 stars 9 Number Nine Moon: 3 stars 10 Things With Beards: 2.25 stars 11 Successor, Usurper, Replacement: 3.25 stars 12 Laws of Night and Silk: 4.25 stars 13 Touring with the Alien: 5 stars 14 The Great Detective: 2.5 stars 15 Everyone from Themis sends l 1 The Future is Blue: 3.75 stars 2 Mika Model: 3 stars 3 Spinning Silver: 4.5 stars 4 Two's Company: 2.5 stars 5 You Make Pattaya: 3.25 stars 6 You'll Surely Drown Here If You Stay: 2 stars 7 A Salvaging of Ghosts: 3 stars 8 Even the Crumbs were delicious: 3.5 stars 9 Number Nine Moon: 3 stars 10 Things With Beards: 2.25 stars 11 Successor, Usurper, Replacement: 3.25 stars 12 Laws of Night and Silk: 4.25 stars 13 Touring with the Alien: 5 stars 14 The Great Detective: 2.5 stars 15 Everyone from Themis sends letters home: 3.5 stars 16 Those Shadows laugh: 2.25 stars 17 Seasons of Glass and Iron: 4.5 stars 18 The Art of Space Travel: 4.25 stars 19 Whisper Road(Murder Ballad No. 9): 2.5 stars 20 Red Dirt Witch: 4 stars 21 Red as Blood and White as Bone: 3.75 stars 22 Terminal: 2.75 stars 23 Foxfire, Foxfire: 3 stars 24 Elves of Antartica: 3.25 stars 25 The Witch of Orion Waste and the Boy Knight: 3 stars 26 Seven Birthdays: 3.75 stars 27 The Visitor from Taured: 4.25 stars 28 Fable: 4.25 stars Average: 3.38 stars

  12. 4 out of 5

    Viola

    A well chosen collection of interesting stories. Maybe it was a bit too long and there could have been more fantasy stories but oh well, I liked most of them. The stories that stood out to me the most are: A Salvaging of Ghosts by Aliette de Bodard: haunting, impactful, dark, set in an intriguing world, Red as Blood and White as Bone by Theodora Goss: everything I want from a fantasy story, fairytale elements in a real world context, storytelling, interesting choice of narrator, Everyone from A well chosen collection of interesting stories. Maybe it was a bit too long and there could have been more fantasy stories but oh well, I liked most of them. The stories that stood out to me the most are: A Salvaging of Ghosts by Aliette de Bodard: haunting, impactful, dark, set in an intriguing world, Red as Blood and White as Bone by Theodora Goss: everything I want from a fantasy story, fairytale elements in a real world context, storytelling, interesting choice of narrator, Everyone from Themis Sends Letters Home by Genvieve Valentine: often used concept done well, in a interesting way, gives you a lot to think about. I also loved: Red Dirt Witch, The Future is Blue, Spinning Silver, Seasons of Glass and Iron, The Great Detective. Even with the stories I didn't enjoy, it was mostly because they didn't work for me not because I thought they weren't well written. Exceptions: Those Shadows Laugh, You Make Pattaya, I don't think these are very good and I also wasn't a fan of how Things with Beards was written to the point that I couldn't get into the story. I had another writing related issue with Laws of Night and Silk: great concept but the 21 page story throws an entire epic fantasy novel worth of wordbuilding on the reader and this makes appreciating it difficult. I don't have a problem with in medias res and things not being explained but I felt the characters/narrative were constantly giving exposition and describing things instead of dealing with was was happening. Everything else is somewhere between good and meh.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    I can definitively give this book 2.82/5 stars. I know this because I actually rated every single story, then found the average. Here's a list of authors that wrote one star stories (some were even DNF to me): Abercrombie, Irvine, McAuley, Sherman, Tidhar, Kiernan. I didn't like stories about aimless space travel, complex descriptions of aliens or robots, or stores that drag (you only have 15-20 pages? How can you still have filler?) Abercrombie's story was next level bad. Was his story accepted I can definitively give this book 2.82/5 stars. I know this because I actually rated every single story, then found the average. Here's a list of authors that wrote one star stories (some were even DNF to me): Abercrombie, Irvine, McAuley, Sherman, Tidhar, Kiernan. I didn't like stories about aimless space travel, complex descriptions of aliens or robots, or stores that drag (you only have 15-20 pages? How can you still have filler?) Abercrombie's story was next level bad. Was his story accepted just to give the collection some variety? My favourite stories (5 stars, def will check out their other work) are: You Make Pattaya by Larson. Some white guy's adventure in Thailand (it gets better but I don't want to give anything away). Takes place some time in the future. I liked how futuristic technology was mentioned in passing but wasn't explained in too much detail. Fable by C. Yu. A sort of allegory about a guy trying to deal with what's going on in his life. I think I was a little soft on this because it was the last one and I felt bad about only giving 4 5 stars for 28 stories. Touring with the Alien by Gilman. Out of all the 5 stars this one in the best. An alien invasion story that in no way resembles The War of the Worlds. I liked the slow-ish burn. I loved every character. Seasons of Glass and Iron by El-Mohtar. I really appreciated that this was written as a more "classical" style fairy tale. Yeah there was a part in the middles that was a bit heavy handed, but as a whole I really liked it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    *copy from Netgalley in exchange for a review* This is the eleventh annual collection of SF&F curated by Jonathan Strahan. Previous entries in the series have included some absolutely stellar work, and the opportunity to explore some great new authors, so I had high hopes for this one – and, generally speaking, they were met. Much like the last couple of years, this is a very diverse collection of material. There’s sharp, punchy , grimy fantasy from Joe Abercrombie – bringing us a dynamic duo *copy from Netgalley in exchange for a review* This is the eleventh annual collection of SF&F curated by Jonathan Strahan. Previous entries in the series have included some absolutely stellar work, and the opportunity to explore some great new authors, so I had high hopes for this one – and, generally speaking, they were met. Much like the last couple of years, this is a very diverse collection of material. There’s sharp, punchy , grimy fantasy from Joe Abercrombie – bringing us a dynamic duo, a thief and a fighter, and unleashing them on the world with acerbic humour, and a low tolerance for mistakes. There’s the creeping body horror wrapped around modernity of Sam Miller’s “Things with Beards”. There’s sweeping epic fantasy, new worlds defined alongside personal triumphs, and more often personal tragedies – like Seth Dickinson’s “Laws of Night and Silk”, and there’s fantasy like folk tales, pulling on half remembered truths to shape something new. There’s big questions on display throughout the collection, though their answers differ. “The Great Detective”, for example tackles the idea of what it means to be sentient, cloaking the query in a delightful blend of steampunk and Holmesian period drama. The mystery is intriguing, and the protagonist charming, and we rattle through the streets of a London laced with ghosts and clockwork mechanicals whilst pondering the meaning of their existence. Then there’s Yoon Ha Lee’s “Foxfire Foxfire” – where worryingly intelligent animals cut deals with gods and men, examining who they are and who they wish to be, and occasionally cutting the odd throat. This feels like another strand – a narrative with the feel of a legend, mixed with something new. The chatacters claw their way off the page, compelling, often dark, sometimes deadly. There’s stories here which can be disquieting – watching three friends and a new arrival sit around a table and tell stories, reveal something of themselves, their vulnerabilities in Alice Sola Kim’s “Successor, Usurper, Replacement” feels like teetering on the edge of a cliff, unable to warn someone stepping off. There’s also N.K. Jemisin’s “Red Dirt Witch”, a meditation on class, race and family, with a supernatural twist to it. The prose is evocative, bringing a small town of the American South to life, as we watch Emmaline, single mother, only occasionally supernatural, try and preserve her family from otherworldly influences. The supernatural here accentuates the questions of class, race and family that Jemisin explores, and makes for a very powerful story. On the other hand, it’s notll serious - there’s the wry comedy of “Even the Crumbs Were Delicious”, a story somewhat reminiscent of Phillip K. Dick – watching the well meaning, bumbling protagonist try and hunt down the parents of two lost teenagers is entertaining and rather sweet; that they’re high as kites on 3d-printed designer drugs is an added bonus, and often rather funny. As with last year, there’s always going to be some stories you like better than others. That said, the range on display here means there’s something for everyone, and the aggregate level of quality continues to be very high. There’s a lot going on here – stories that challenge, that delight, tradgedies and comedies, broken worlds, aliens and fairy tales, all inside an extremely imaginative package. On that basis, I’ve no hesitation in recommending it to lovers of sci-fi and fantasy–and also to everyone else. It’s packed with imaginative, ingenious stories, and is very, very difficult to put down. Thoroughly recommended. Contents list (If you're wondering if you've read one of them before): “Two’s Company”, Joe Abercrombie “The Art of Space Travel”, Nina Allan “Seasons of Glass and Iron”, Amal El-Mohtar “Mika Model”, Paolo Bacigalupi “A Salvaging of Ghosts”, Aliette de Bodard “Laws of Night and Silk”, Seth Dickinson “Touring with the Alien”, Carolyn Ives Gilman “Red as Blood and White as Bone”, Theodora Goss “Even the Crumbs Were Delicious”, Daryl Gregory “Number Nine Moon”, Alex Irvine “Red Dirt Witch”, N.K. Jemisin “Whisper Road (Murder Ballad No. 9)”, Caitlín R. Kiernan “Successor, Usurper, Replacement”, Alice Sola Kim “You Make Pattaya”, Rich Larson “Foxfire Foxfire”, Yoon Ha Lee “Seven Birthdays”, Ken Liu “The Visitor from Taured”, Ian R. MacLeod “Elves of Antarctica”, Paul McAuley “Things with Beards”, Sam J Miller “Spinning Silver”, Naomi Novik “Those Shadows Laugh”, Geoff Ryman “The Great Detective”, Delia Sherman “Terminal”, Lavie Tidhar “The Future is Blue”, Catherynne M Valente “Everyone from Themis Sends Letters Home”, Genevieve Valentine “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay “, Alyssa Wong “Fable”, Charles Yu “The Witch of Orion Waste and the Boy Knight”, E Lily Yu

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bill Dauster

    This is good collection of 2016 sci-fi short stories, with several surprises and charms. Catherynne Valente’s “The Future is Blue” spins a wonderful novella about post-global-warming life on a trash mound the size of Texas riding on the ocean; Paolo Bacigalupi’s “Mika Model” asks whether a sentient android can commit crime or be victimized; Joe Abercrombie’s wonderfully irreverent “Two’s Company” humorously retells the knight errant tale with a feminist twist; Alice Sola Kim’s nicely structured This is good collection of 2016 sci-fi short stories, with several surprises and charms. Catherynne Valente’s “The Future is Blue” spins a wonderful novella about post-global-warming life on a trash mound the size of Texas riding on the ocean; Paolo Bacigalupi’s “Mika Model” asks whether a sentient android can commit crime or be victimized; Joe Abercrombie’s wonderfully irreverent “Two’s Company” humorously retells the knight errant tale with a feminist twist; Alice Sola Kim’s nicely structured “Successor, Usurper, Replacement” does a fine twist on a drinking game at a writers’ group; Carolyn Ives Gilman’s splendid “Touring with the Alien” reports a road trip with an alien that raises questions about consciousness; Genevieve Valentine’s “Everyone from Themis Sends Letters Home” does an interesting twist on beta-testing a virtual reality game; Geoff Ryman’s “Those Shadows Laugh” thinks outside the gender box; Lavie Tidhar’s “Terminal” imagines the thoughts and communications of solo passengers on a swarm of jalopy spacecrafts headed for Mars; Ken Liu’s “Seven Birthdays” lovingly unfolds aging mothers’ minds confronting change. Not every story is a hit, but the proportion of hits to misses in this collection is high.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dtsuneo

    Superb storytellers and skilled writers! Inspiring, really. After spending recent weeks plodding through anthologies which were compiled by editors who didn’t edit, and perhaps didn’t proofread, I was elated with this collection. Stories were detailed, believable, logically plotted, and humane, but were also written by writers with a mastery of syntax, grammar, punctuation, and diction. And no story appeared to be a patent (blatant) promo for a novel sold by the author as a three-book series. Tha Superb storytellers and skilled writers! Inspiring, really. After spending recent weeks plodding through anthologies which were compiled by editors who didn’t edit, and perhaps didn’t proofread, I was elated with this collection. Stories were detailed, believable, logically plotted, and humane, but were also written by writers with a mastery of syntax, grammar, punctuation, and diction. And no story appeared to be a patent (blatant) promo for a novel sold by the author as a three-book series. Thank you, editors and authors, for reviving my enjoyment of a genre that has been my favorite for over half a century.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Katy Wilmotte

    The stories I liked and the stories I didn't balance this anthology out to 3 stars. Maybe 3.5, because the audio version from Recorded Books had such excellent readers. Favorite stories: 'Laws of Night and Silk'-Seth Dickinson 'Spinning Silver'-Naomi Novik (how have I not read any of her books before?!) 'A Salvaging of Ghosts'-Aliette de Bodard 'The Great Detective'-Delia Sherman 'Fable'-Charles Yu (I'm not crying, you're crying) Least favorite: 'The Art of Space Travel'-Nina Allan (boooringgg) 'Those Sh The stories I liked and the stories I didn't balance this anthology out to 3 stars. Maybe 3.5, because the audio version from Recorded Books had such excellent readers. Favorite stories: 'Laws of Night and Silk'-Seth Dickinson 'Spinning Silver'-Naomi Novik (how have I not read any of her books before?!) 'A Salvaging of Ghosts'-Aliette de Bodard 'The Great Detective'-Delia Sherman 'Fable'-Charles Yu (I'm not crying, you're crying) Least favorite: 'The Art of Space Travel'-Nina Allan (boooringgg) 'Those Shadows Laugh'- Geoff Ryman (everything about this story was terrible) 'Things With Beards'-Sam J. Miller (didn't get it at all)

  18. 4 out of 5

    Great Writers Steal

    Mr. Strahan has assembled a diverse roster of stories and seems to have taken great pains to search beyond the Big Three magazines. I've always thought of the O. Henry collections of literary short stories as the literary, experimental cousins of the slightly more staid Best American series. Perhaps Mr. Strahan's collections are where you can turn when you are more in the mood for poeticism than plot or in a time when you have a hungrier heart than mind.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sandra

    Adventure, romance, good guys, bad guys, and dragons From the.story of people headed to Mars in rickety ships, to the vengeful shapeshifter, to the sad lawyer/blacksmith.and his wife. Characters you'll love, wild and strange stories. Each story was terrific. I could not put the book down. I hope you'll love it, too.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lbech

    Excellent as always It is a distinct pleasure to read Strahan's choices in best stories. Some I recognized as award nominated, but all were good. They remind me why I read in this genre. Some are just fun, but others make you think. I did so love Paul McAuley's story on emerging Antarctica that I bought the book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Dee

    There were a lot of queer characters, and some writers of color, and some emerging writers. That was nice to see. I liked some of the stories in this, but it was so damn long (over 600 pages) that none of them ended up being particularly memorable.

  22. 4 out of 5

    David Zachariason

    Great stories A wonderful collection of stories. More fantasy than science fiction. Not a bad story in the bunch, and they make you think! What a concept. So, get this book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Valdez

    Had to read this for a Speculative Fiction class. None of the stories were phenomenal to me and I barely remember most of them. It may be something to pick up again later.

  24. 4 out of 5

    John V Lucchese

    Good reading 8 of 10 of these short stories were well worth it. I very much recommended volume 11. Just buy it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Theuns Greyvenstein

    Some good, some bad.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Burgoo

    Great collection by some of the biggest names in the field. Highly recommended. http://fedpeaches.blogspot.com/2017/1...

  27. 4 out of 5

    Zachary Barber

    Broad scope, hit or miss in quality. Worth the effort, though. I'm not usually crazy for the fantasy stories, but Spinning Silver was easily the best story in here.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Philip Hollenback

    I need to stop reading so many of these best of collections - too many duplicate stories.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ken

    The Future is Blue, Catherynne M. Valente - the writing is fluid, sentences nicely constructed , but hard to follow story. DNF. Mika Model, Paolo Bacigalupi - enjoyed this one. '50s robot detective story with modern twists 4/5* Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik - very good take on a German fairy tale. 4/5* Ken Liu 's story - started off as near future father/ mother / child story then whoosh! Off to the future, then far future, further and further ....Liu's strong writing ability keeps the story together The Future is Blue, Catherynne M. Valente - the writing is fluid, sentences nicely constructed , but hard to follow story. DNF. Mika Model, Paolo Bacigalupi - enjoyed this one. '50s robot detective story with modern twists 4/5* Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik - very good take on a German fairy tale. 4/5* Ken Liu 's story - started off as near future father/ mother / child story then whoosh! Off to the future, then far future, further and further ....Liu's strong writing ability keeps the story together somewhat. 3/5*

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ralph Blackburn

    The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of The Year 2016, Jonathan Strahan Ed.- This is Strahan's eleventh book in the Best of series and it has a lot of good material. I used to read Gardner Dozois's Best Science Fiction of the year for at least thirty years and it's good to see Strahan keeping up the tradition and quality and also adding a welcome Fantasy element in the offing. There is a lot to choose from here and as with most anthologies, not everything might be to your taste. But there are so The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of The Year 2016, Jonathan Strahan Ed.- This is Strahan's eleventh book in the Best of series and it has a lot of good material. I used to read Gardner Dozois's Best Science Fiction of the year for at least thirty years and it's good to see Strahan keeping up the tradition and quality and also adding a welcome Fantasy element in the offing. There is a lot to choose from here and as with most anthologies, not everything might be to your taste. But there are some definite gems. On the Fantasy side, Joe Abercrombie (Two's Company) has two sword carrying parties meet on a narrow bridge over a deep gorge and it's a fight to see you can pass. While Yoon Ha Lee (Foxfire, Foxfire) writes of a magical fox who aspires to human form in a tech ridden society and must partner with a lone human for survival. Alex Irvine (Number Nine Moon) tells a tale of three people stranded on a deserted Mars, and Lavie Tidhar (Terminal) describes hundreds of pioneers traveling to Mars, each in their own little self-contained ships, talking across the vast gaps of space to each other in a celebration of discovery and loss. If you're like me and haven't got the time or inclination to hunt down all the best stories from the various markets, this is an easy way to get a sample of the best.

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