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The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy, 2016

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This eighth volume of the year s best science fiction and fantasy features over thirty stories by some of the genre s greatest authors, including John Barnes, Elizabeth Bear, C.C. Finlay, Yoon Ha Lee, Kelly Link, Ian McDonald, Seanan McGuire, Vonda N. McIntyre, Geoff Ryman, Catherynne M. Valente, Genevieve Valentine, and many others. Selecting the best fiction from Analog, This eighth volume of the year s best science fiction and fantasy features over thirty stories by some of the genre s greatest authors, including John Barnes, Elizabeth Bear, C.C. Finlay, Yoon Ha Lee, Kelly Link, Ian McDonald, Seanan McGuire, Vonda N. McIntyre, Geoff Ryman, Catherynne M. Valente, Genevieve Valentine, and many others. Selecting the best fiction from Analog, Asimov s, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Meeting Infinity, and other top venues, The Year s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy is your guide to magical realms and worlds beyond tomorrow."


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This eighth volume of the year s best science fiction and fantasy features over thirty stories by some of the genre s greatest authors, including John Barnes, Elizabeth Bear, C.C. Finlay, Yoon Ha Lee, Kelly Link, Ian McDonald, Seanan McGuire, Vonda N. McIntyre, Geoff Ryman, Catherynne M. Valente, Genevieve Valentine, and many others. Selecting the best fiction from Analog, This eighth volume of the year s best science fiction and fantasy features over thirty stories by some of the genre s greatest authors, including John Barnes, Elizabeth Bear, C.C. Finlay, Yoon Ha Lee, Kelly Link, Ian McDonald, Seanan McGuire, Vonda N. McIntyre, Geoff Ryman, Catherynne M. Valente, Genevieve Valentine, and many others. Selecting the best fiction from Analog, Asimov s, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Meeting Infinity, and other top venues, The Year s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy is your guide to magical realms and worlds beyond tomorrow."

30 review for The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy, 2016

  1. 4 out of 5

    Althea Ann

    **** “Mutability” by Ray Nayler (Asimov’s) On the face of it, it's a rather sentimental story - but it's also thoughtful speculative fiction; showing us the possible ramification of what might happen if humans do finally conquer death. The characters here do not except to die; they and their contemporaries have lived for hundreds of years. But although they might live forever, their memories do not. A chance encounter in a cafe and two souvenirs from the forgotten past leads two people to realize **** “Mutability” by Ray Nayler (Asimov’s) On the face of it, it's a rather sentimental story - but it's also thoughtful speculative fiction; showing us the possible ramification of what might happen if humans do finally conquer death. The characters here do not except to die; they and their contemporaries have lived for hundreds of years. But although they might live forever, their memories do not. A chance encounter in a cafe and two souvenirs from the forgotten past leads two people to realize that they were once terribly important to each other. But in this future, what does that mean? **** “And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead” by Brooke Bolander (Lightspeed) Hard-bitten, tough mercenary finds herself in a tough corner when a deal goes bad and a bunch of mobsters have her hacker partner's consciousness trapped in a machine... To try to save him, she'll have to face not only her real and physical opponents, but will also have to win a virtual battle against a security system that resembles herself... and not herself now, but herself at her hardest, most invulnerable peak. An action-packed, violent, gritty cyberpunk adventure. *** “Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld) Previously read, in 'Clarkesworld.' Clearly, many people have been more impressed by this story than I was. (I continue to prefer the Bruce Sterling piece that it's a response to.) "Inspired by Bruce Sterling's 'Maneki Neko'. (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) In this story we meet an AI who just wants to help people, like the computer system in Sterling's story does. All it wants in return for its help is pictures of cute cats (this explains the preponderance of this genre on the Internet.) However, it's awfully frustrated by people's seeming insistence on ignoring its obvious suggestions. Why would people rather be self-destructive and unhappy, rather than seeking out the help that's put right in front of their faces? Nevertheless, the AI persists... The story is cute and optimistic, however, I felt that it was weakened by the fact that every response the AI came up with to alleviate people's problems was the obvious suggestion that any reasonably socially liberal American in 2015 would immediately jump to. Perhaps the humor of the piece rests in part in that the AI is behaving exactly like what one would imagine a well-meaning do-gooder with an affinity for cat memes would. But I still felt that it was a missed opportunity; because I think that an AI would come up with some much more unexpected solutions than "therapy sessions."" ***** “Capitalism in the 22nd Century, or AIr” by Geoff Ryman (Stories for Chip) The anthology this originally appeared in was dedicated to Samuel Delany, which is why I skipped it - I've just never been able to become a fan. I'm not sure how this story relates to Delany, though. Rather, it seems to be a sequel, of sorts, to Ryman's short story/novel, "Air: Or, Have Not Have." The novel shows us the inception of a totally wireless Internet. In this story, we jump ahead and see where that innovation has taken the world. The theme: The artificial intelligences that humans create to serve us will eventually become our masters. It's an arguably over-done theme, but this is a very well-done, excellent iteration of it. Two Brazilian women have scrimped and saved and had irreversible medical procedures done in order to be able to join a secret, illegal colony mission to a distant planet. The story itself follows their frantic, fearful journey to the spacecraft. Along the way, though, we explore power structures, interconnectivity, and cost/benefit relations. The most obvious is that between human and the AI networks that they depend on. The second is more traditional, political power structures, between a dominant economy and the smaller ones surrounding it. And finally, we also find out that the relationship between two individuals that we initially saw as cooperative equals are not quite that, either. Subtle and thought-provoking... I thought it was excellent. * “The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild” by Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld) There is a certain type of nonsense story for children that I really disliked, even when I was a child. I suspect that Valente loved those stories. Here we take an absurdist journey through the colors of the rainbow, following a girl called Violet Wild through a series of alternate universes on an allegorical Pilgrims' Progress/quest of self-discovery with musings on love and depression. It's also extremely meta- just as much about language & the function of storytelling as about the plot, told in intentionally over-the-top, florid, poetic prose. Valente is very hit-or-miss for me. She's written some things that I just love to death - and others, well, I feel more like I do about this one. She is undeniably a brilliant writer, and I can see that some people will love this, for wholly valid reasons. However, I really, really didn't like it. *** “My Last Bringback” by John Barnes (Meeting Infinity) Medical advances in genetics have caused a sudden shift in society. Perhaps the people of tomorrow are not quite transhuman - but neither are they "natches," a derogatory term spun off from "natural." Among a society of long-lived, physically superior individuals with superbly well-balanced brains, one of the last-born natches has lived a life of bitter resentment - and once committed a shocking crime. She's also become a renowned geneticist. This is her story... **** “Please Undo This Hurt” by Seth Dickinson (Tor.com) Previously read on Tor.com. "Since 'The Traitor Baru Cormorant' was one of my absolute favorite books of the year, I'm not at all surprised that this short story was also excellent. As someone who despises 'It's a Wonderful Life,' I liked it even more. Through an interaction between two friends, Dickinson explores the irony that life is harder for those who make life more bearable. It's also those who are more compassionate who are more likely to have compunctions about hurting those around them by contemplating suicide. But what if you could simply make it so that you'd never been born and none of the pain had every happened? Would you, or anyone you know, take that option? Might it be a better choice? (Although I very much appreciated the story, it didn't speak to me as directly as I suspect it might to others. Probably because I'm just not that nice.) " ** “Time Bomb Time” by C.C. Finlay (Lightspeed) Don't date a selfish and unethical grad student researcher. You could get caught in a distressing time loop. ***** “The Graphology of Hemorrhage” by Yoon Ha Lee (Operation Arcana) Previously read in 'Operation Arcana.' Re-read, upgraded to 5 from 4 stars because it's just so perfect, beautiful and sad. And I love writing. "I really enjoy Yoon Ha Lee's takes on the ideas of lexical magic. I found echoes here of some of her other work: 'Effigy Nights' and 'Iseul's Lexicon' - but this is a piece that works on its own. A brilliant magician has been forced into a dangerous military position in official retribution for the groundbreaking - but status-quo-threatening - ideas she came up with in university. Now, her mission will require her to explore even more radical ideas - and may demand the ultimate self-sacrifice." ***** “The Game of Smash and Recovery” by Kelly Link (Strange Horizons) Previously read, in 'Strange Horizons.' "Anat lives with her beloved brother Oscar, alone on an alien planet. The small base they're on has enough to keep them alive - although not in any kind of luxury. Anat knows They do, however, have the robot 'handmaids' which can do just about any task one sets them to. Oscar and Anat are waiting for their parents to return, although she doesn't remember them. All she remembers is Oscar taking care of her, although he's shown her pictures of them with their parents. She depends on Oscar, and obeys his rules, which help keep her safe from the alien vampires who lurk outside. To pass the time, they play a hide-and-seek-type game which they've come up, which they call 'the game of smash and recovery.' But one day, in the process of playing that game, Anat will unexpectedly recall that the one she's playing isn't the only game in town that could be described by that phrase. Eerie, bizarre and masterfully-crafted; this short story is taking its place among the ranks of Link's best." *** “Acres of Perhaps” by Will Ludwigsen (Asimov’s) A Twilight-Zone-esque tale about a writer for a Twilight-Zone-esque TV show. The writer reminisces about the days when he was just starting out in his career - and frustrated that his alcoholic colleague, he was convinced, was a much more brilliant and inspired writer than he would ever be. But one day, the bride his co-writer had abandoned shows up - entire backwoods-hick family in tow - to collect him from the TV studio and bring him back to his "proper" place as an employee at her daddy's feed store. When asked why he left his wife and changed his identity, the man has a truly unusual tale to tell... ***** “Little Sisters” by Vonda M. McIntyre (Book View Cafe) Previously read - purchased from Book View Cafe. "Boy, did this one squick me out. I think that's why I started out with 4 stars, but after letting it coagulate, I think it deserves 5. The fact that's it's truly disturbing is a good thing. At the outset, we see a soldier, retrieved and brought back home long after a dangerous and successful solo mission. He anticipates congratulations, honor, and tangible reward for his accomplishments... but not everything transpires as he expects. Saying too much would be spoiling the well-crafted way in which McIntyre reveals the deeper aspects of the story, but with lean and concise prose, she conjures a strikingly original alien species with a social agenda, power structure and ideals that a reader is likely to find both troubling and believable. Vonda McIntyre, in my opinion, is an author who has not received the prominence she deserves - and this story shows that she's still at the top of her game. " ***** “Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang (Uncanny) Visually, the shifting skyscrapers of 'Folding Beijing' brought to mind the film 'Dark City,' but the mechanics of this scenario are all-too-human, and underlaid with a cynical observation that "they would do this if they could." Europe has taken one approach to the 'problem' of automation advances making menial jobs practically obsolescent. Here, Hao Jingfang theorizes what China might do. This future city, a technological marvel, has a strict caste system, which the reader sees through the eyes of one waste worker, who's willing to flout the law in order to try to earn some money to better his adopted daughter's future. As we gain insight into the perspectives of people in each of three very different Beijings, the parallels with our real-life society become clear. And oh, it's also a heart-wrenching tale, vividly illustrating how the scale of people's dreams can differ exponentially, and how the few at the top sit comfortably on a throne crafted from the misery of the many. The one thing, though, that made me feel positive about this story is that I couldn't help seeing it as a sequel to Kelly Robson's "Two-Year Man" (http://kellyrobson.com/two-year-man/). I know, none of the details match, but it does have the lowly worker adopting a foundling, and well, the outcome here is undoubtedly better that it is bound to have been in Robson's story! I also think that any fans of Paolo Bacigalupi's short fiction, especially, perhaps, "Yellow Card Man" will particularly enjoy Hao Jingfang's offering. **** “Today I Am Paul” by Martin Shoemaker (Clarkesworld) Here, the author invites us to consider the perspective of a robot designed as a home healthcare aide. The android emulates the family members of an Alzheimer's patient, providing emotional services as well as performing medical tasks. It's a believable projection - and also very sad. *** “The King in the Cathedral” by Rich Larson (Beneath Ceaseless Skies) Would make a good opening chapter for a novel... The rightful king has been imprisoned for years - possibly decades. Alone in his jail, he passes the time playing strategy games against the robot that is both his caretaker and his guard. When a daring and idealistic rebel arrives with ill-thought-out plans of rescue and revolution, what she finds is not quite what she expected of her hero. I enjoyed the dark fantasy/sci-fi mix, and the surreal mood of the piece, but felt that it would work best if expanded on... ** “Drones” by Simon Ings (Meeting Infinity) In a near-future where we've wiped out the bees, British society has reshaped itself in strange and disturbing forms. Because, oh yes, the bee plague pretty much wiped out women, too... and men have learned to get along (although, arguably, not 'well') without bees or females. I liked the dystopic, Handmaid's-Tale-esque feel to the story, but its intentional opacity didn't really work that well for me. ** “The Karen Joy Fowler Book Club” by Nike Sulway (Lightspeed) Perhaps I'd have appreciated this more if I was more familiar with the work of Karen Joy Fowler? I'm not, so I can't say how it comments on her oeuvre. As it was, I didn't really enjoy this story of doomed-to-extinction rhinoceroses puttering about, planning book club meetings, buying things on eBay, checking facebook, and trying to find comfort in each other. Rhinos or no rhinos, this felt like the sort of supposedly-meaningful banal and quotidian chick-lit that I just don't care for. *** “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro (Analog) A reclusive art collector isn't interested in much except spending time with his favorite painting. His manservant sees to his needs, negating the need for him to even leave his home. But the prized masterwork, the pinnacle of the "evolutive" genre, has developed a flaw, and the collector becomes obsessed with it. When a mysterious colleague offers him a solution in return for his curatorial services, he accepts the offer. *** “This Evening’s Performance” by Genevieve Valentine (The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk) In a time of peace a surplus of androids intended as soldiers must be repurposed. The latest fad is for android actors - and plays cast wholly of robots have been the death of "live" theater. One small company is the last to keep plugging along. Once great stars, now they find themselves aging and wrinkled, in progressively shabbier surroundings, as glittering, forever-young robots supplant them in their signature roles. Theater isn't where we usually worry about 'the robots taking our jobs!' but this is a good exploration of possibilities, and of human ways of handling change. The crises facing this theater company are not only technological: human relationships and interactions present challenges that are just as great. I think that Connie Willis would enjoy this story a lot. *** “Consolation” by John Kessel (Twelve Tomorrows) Extremely timely-feeling socio-political commentary, with just enough twists and reversals to keep it feeling fresh and fun. A government agent, privileged intellectuals, a couple of different types of terrorist... and a near-future where a good chunk of the USA has opted to join Canada, putting an entirely new spin on the 'immigration' debate. *** “The Heart’s Filthy Lesson” by Elizabeth Bear (Old Venus) Previously read in 'Old Venus.' While it's not bad, it wasn't one of my favorites in that collection. "I'm not getting the connection to the David Bowie song referenced in the title... Other than that, this is a pretty good sci-fi adventure. An exo-archaeologist goes on a dangerous solo mission in an attempt to find a lost city: and, in the process, 'prove' herself to her over-achieving lover. A fight with alien megafauna features prominently. I loved all the details here - the setting, the 'throwaway' details about technology, future social attitudes, plant and animal life. However, the central psychodrama involving the main character and her lover didn't really grab me." **** “The Daughters of John Demetrius” by Joe Pitkin (Analog) This is another 'short story' that feels very much like a chapter from a book - but in this case it's a book I'd very, very much like to read! The scenario is intriguing, and I really want to get to know these characters. In a post-apocalyptic (?) future, genetic enhancements have divided society into more than just haves and have-nots. Certain guided mutations have given some individuals super-human abilities, opening up privileged realms to them. But these 'gods' are also enmeshed in some kind of bloody internecine conflict, the details of which we do not learn here. Rather, we see just an incident where a 'god' visits a poverty-stricken village, and plans on plucking a child with the required genetic markers from her home and bringing her to where she can receive an education. But not all goes exactly as planned. ***** “Unearthly Landscape by a Lady” by Rebecca Campbell (Beneath Ceaseless Skies) Wow - Rebecca Campbell is going to be an author to watch, if she decides to pursue speculative fiction. This story is gorgeously written, full of vivid imagery and with characters that your heart breaks for. It's not so much a science fiction story (well, there are a few hints that the other world might be visions, not just imagination), as a story about the urge toward science fiction; and also about the strictures that society places on all of us (but perhaps especially women) that prevent us from wholly realizing our dreams. Told from the point of view of a governess, we see a young lady of wealth and talent, who has, it seems, a not-altogether-unsatisfying life. Indeed, by the social standards of her day, she is more than successful. But she has always dreamed of travelling far, and always had the knowledge that she will not. Her lucidly imagined (or glimpsed?) science-fictional worlds are seen as disturbing, even by the narrator, and although the young woman continues to pursue a hobby as an artist, she squeezes her bizarre space warriors and aliens into the margins and details of paintings which seem on the face of it to be subjects entirely suitable for proper ladies. *** “Hello Hello” by Seanan McGuire (Future Visions) Previously read in 'Future Visions.' "An advanced videophone interface with a built-in, adaptive translation feature helps the protagonist here stay in touch with her deaf sister. But when children start getting odd phone calls from a total stranger, a parent's instinctive alarm bells start ringing. Interesting ideas here related to how technology often turns out to have utility far beyond what was planned - but the story itself was just OK." *** “The Astrakhan, the Homburg, and the Red, Red Coal” by Chaz Brenchley (Lightspeed) A government agent on Marsport approaches a certain kind of gentlemen's private club, in order to recruit - or blackmail - them into being the next to test a new device. The goal: to be able to communicate with the aliens they're sharing Mars with - and on whom humanity has become dependent in certain ways. The story feels very much like it was written for George R.R. Martin's 'Old Mars' anthology, with its retro British Colonial-meets-pulp sci fi style. I liked the setup, but the ambiguity of the ending was a bit of a letdown. SEE REVIEWS OF THE LAST SIX STORIES IN THE COMMENTS!!! THIS ANTHOLOGY IS TOO LONG! :-) See more at: http://www.prime-books.com/shop/print...

  2. 5 out of 5

    RJ - Slayer of Trolls

    Better than 2015's edition which had way too many pieces that fell flat. - Mutability by Ray Nayler - 2/5 - never delivers much and takes too long to get there - And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead by Brooke Bolander - 4/5 - cyberpunk dipped in acid - Cat Pictures Please by Naomi Kritzer - 3/5 - the internet finally makes sense - Capitalism in the 22nd Century, or Air by Geoff Ryman - 2/5 - too wordy without enough story - The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild by Catherynne M. Valente - 5/5 - Better than 2015's edition which had way too many pieces that fell flat. - Mutability by Ray Nayler - 2/5 - never delivers much and takes too long to get there - And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead by Brooke Bolander - 4/5 - cyberpunk dipped in acid - Cat Pictures Please by Naomi Kritzer - 3/5 - the internet finally makes sense - Capitalism in the 22nd Century, or Air by Geoff Ryman - 2/5 - too wordy without enough story - The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild by Catherynne M. Valente - 5/5 - exhaustingly creative, heartbreakingly beautiful - I can mean both; it's allowed - My Last Bringback by John Barnes - 2/5 - interesting ideas about Alzheimer's and genetically improved humans but too much info dumping - Please Undo This Hurt by Seth Dickinson - 1/5 - pointless riff on "It's a Wonderful Life" - Time Bomb Time by C.C. Finlay - 4/5 - read while listening to TMBG's "I Palindrome I" - the graphology of hemorrhage by Yoon Ha Lee - 2/5 - military fantasy meets the art of caligraphy - The Game of Smash and Recovery by Kelly Link - 3/5 - outer space kids, handmaids, and vampires - Acres of Perhaps by Will Ludwigsen - 5/5 - not even sure if this is fantasy but just a solid story set in the end of the first golden age of television - Little Sisters by Vonda N. McIntyre - 3/5 - very, uh, unique male version of McIntyre's Nebula-nominated Little Faces - Folding Beijing by Hao Jingfang translated by Ken Liu - 3/5 - very similar to The City & the City with an undercurrent of class struggle - Today I Am Paul by Martin L. Shoemaker - 4/5 - robot caretaker for Alzheimer's patient - The King in the Cathedral by Rich Larson - 4/5 - a unique look at an exiled prince - Drones by Simon Ings - 2/5 - the life and times of a world without bees - The Karen Joy Fowler Book Club by Nike Sulway - 2/5 - OK...so, the daily lives of rhinos? - Endless Forms Most Beautiful by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro - 4/5 - life as art - This Evening's Performance by Genevieve Valentine - 2/5 - curtain call for human actors - Consolation by John Kessel - 3/5 - not much on plot but explores the latest trends of cli-fi and posthumanism - The Heart’s Filthy Lesson by Elizabeth Bear - 3/5 - another mediocre plot but some good action in the middle and interesting ideas - The Daughters of John Demetrius by Joe Pitkin - 3/5 - vaguely interesting but seems like part of a larger work - Unearthly Landscape by a Lady by Rebecca Campbell - 3/5 - young lady misses her opportunity to illustrate SF novels by 100 years or so - The Astrakhan, the Homburg, and the Red, Red Coal by Chaz Brenchley - 1/5 - unfocused and boring - Hello, Hello by Seanan McGuire - 4/5 - clever ramifications of AI translation programs - Twelve and Tag by Gregory Norman Bossert - 3/5 - games people play in outer space - The Deepwater Bride by Tamsyn Muir - 5/5 - Lovecraft meets...Legally Blonde? - Botanica Veneris: Thirteen Papercuts by Idea Countess Rathagan by Ian McDonald - 2/5 - more Old Venus, this one with a twist that should surprise no one - Asymptotic by Andy Dudak - 1/5 - interesting ideas but the writing is awful - The Two Paupers (2nd in the Dark Breakers series) by C.S.E. Cooney - 2/5 - The stone it called to me and now I see the things the stone has shown to me

  3. 5 out of 5

    Marcheto Marcheto

    3.5 stars A solid and varied anthology. Although there were a few stories I didn't enjoy, I'm aware that some of them were among the most popular stories in 2016, so I suppose most of the readers will like them even if I didn't. There were also a few 4-5 stars stories for me here, and although I had already read some of my favorites (McDonalds and Kritzer), I've also discovered a few that made the book worth reading (Shoemaker, Zinos-Amaro, Ludwigsen and Brenchley among them). But, in spite of th 3.5 stars A solid and varied anthology. Although there were a few stories I didn't enjoy, I'm aware that some of them were among the most popular stories in 2016, so I suppose most of the readers will like them even if I didn't. There were also a few 4-5 stars stories for me here, and although I had already read some of my favorites (McDonalds and Kritzer), I've also discovered a few that made the book worth reading (Shoemaker, Zinos-Amaro, Ludwigsen and Brenchley among them). But, in spite of that, I found most of the stories were just OK. In any case, this book will be perfect for any SF/fantasy fan wanting to read a few of the best and also quite a few of the most popular/most awarded science fiction/fantasy short stories of 2016.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alan

    You already know (well, you know if you've been reading my reviews for any length of time) that I love a big ol' SF anthology. In particular, I've been enjoying Rich Horton's annual "Year's Best" series since 2011, and The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2016 is another excellent entry. This volume starts with Horton's reaction to the so-called "Sad Puppies" controversy that engulfed the Hugo Awards a couple of years ago, and then goes on to prove by example after example that the Puppies You already know (well, you know if you've been reading my reviews for any length of time) that I love a big ol' SF anthology. In particular, I've been enjoying Rich Horton's annual "Year's Best" series since 2011, and The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2016 is another excellent entry. This volume starts with Horton's reaction to the so-called "Sad Puppies" controversy that engulfed the Hugo Awards a couple of years ago, and then goes on to prove by example after example that the Puppies (an epithet which unjustly maligns canines, by the way) were wrong: modern speculative fiction is not just alive and well, but is immensely improved and enhanced by embracing writers from all available perspectives. "Rich," to put it another way, isn't just the editor's name but also a description. I was impressed again this year by the mix of talents Horton balances, familiar names alongside ones who were (at least to me) entirely new. This time, I think it'll be fun to go through every story—briefly, I promise!—just to hint at the depth and range of Horton's selections... Ray Nayler: "Mutability" This was apparently Nayler's first published SF story, though he'd worked in other genres, and it seemed at first to be an inauspicious beginning to the anthology, with its awkward pacing (the abrupt introduction of "NEM" stood out, in particular), but Nayler's story evolves into an interesting meditation on what humanity might hold onto when thrust into an augmented, mostly simulated future. Brooke Bolander: "And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead" Like Richard K. Morgan but with even more F-bombs (!). I was a little surprised by the graphic content coming so soon in the book, but I warmed to the heart beating at the center of this cyberspatial love story. Naomi Kritzer: "Cat Pictures Please" I'd already run across this one elsewhere, but Kritzer's story of an awakening AI (definitely not based on anything remotely Googlish, honest) was still brilliant on second reading. Geoff Ryman: "Capitalism in the 22nd Century, or Air" So richly detailed yet matter-of-fact... sometimes I think Geoff Ryman has a direct line to the future—or a future, anyway. Catherynne M. Valente: "The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild" "You have to be careful what you write in Plum Pudding. An accidentally glorious grocery list could net you twins." (p.67) This one ran a little long for my taste, but I appreciated the inventive characteristics of the color-based lands. John Barnes: "My Last Bringback" It's justifiable to be angry, at least a little bit, at age-related memory issues like Alzheimer's. "My Last Bringback" embodies that anger. It's plausible SF—focused perhaps more than it should be on the negative, and hence typically Barnes—but I liked the glimmer of hope it provided (also typically Barnes) as well. Seth Dickinson: "Please Undo This Hurt" Make it didn't happen... I thought this Jack Finney-esque story of a way out was one of the stronger ones in the book. C.C. Finlay: "Time Bomb Time" An obvious gimmick, perhaps, but really well-crafted. Yoon Ha Lee: "The Graphology of Hemorrhage" A magic system based on calligraphy is such a neat conceit... It's always a pleasure to read more Lee, and I'd not run across this one before. Kelly Link: "The Game of Smash and Recovery" Hard-edged SF sent straight from a little girl's heart—and Link's dedication at the end is entirely appropriate. Will Ludwigsen: "Acres of Perhaps" This is not your parents' Twilight Zone... but Ludwigsen (a heretofore unfamiliar name to me) certainly is perceptive: "The saying goes that to be great is to be misunderstood, and most people assume this also means that to be misunderstood is to be great. But there are lots of misunderstood people who are a long way from greatness." (p.169) Vonda N. McIntyre: "Little Sisters" McIntyre's career longevity is impressive; I remember running across Dreamsnake in my high-school library. This one has a great opening line {"Damaged near to extinction by a war it had won..." (p.187)}, as well as McIntyre's characteristic audacity. Hao Jingfang: "Folding Beijing" Translated by powerhouse Ken Liu, this is an elegant portrait of endurance within dystopia, with a space-sharing workaround for population pressures that reminded me just a little of "The Sliced-Crosswise Only-On-Tuesday World" by Philip José Farmer. Martin L. Shoemaker: "Today I Am Paul" An extremely touching last line, which redeemed what had struck me as a thoughtful but otherwise not very adventurous AI-as-caretaker story. Rich Larson: "The King in the Cathedral" An entertaining fantasy of exile and revenge amid shifting sands. Simon Ings: "Drones" Something of a cosy catastrophe—life goes on, during alterations. The word "drone," after all, has multiple meanings... Nike Sulway: "The Karen Joy Fowler Book Club" You should already be familiar with Karen Joy Fowler, but "The Karen Joy Fowler Book Club" has very little to do with Fowler's own work, and it does not wander anywhere you'd expect it to. That's not a bad thing... Alvaro Zinos-Amaro: "Endless Forms Most Beautiful" Baroque, decadent, and most delicious—like George R.R. Martin back when he was in science-fiction mode (and if you haven't read GRRM's SF, do go back and treat yourself). Genevieve Valentine: "This Evening’s Performance" Automation strikes even The Theatuh, making human actors obsolete. Overly-mannered, perhaps, but eventually quite touching. John Kessel: "Consolation" A near-future romance set in a terribly disunited North America—bleak and inconclusive {"Listen, no Jesus supercomputer is going to save you from the crises around us." (p.350)} but somehow ultimately hopeful. Elizabeth Bear: "The Heart’s Filthy Lesson" A tropical Venus (or is it our own system's planet at all? I was never quite sure) is the setting for this story of an intrepid scientist against a hostile environment. This one seemed as if it might have been just part of a longer work. Joe Pitkin: "The Daughters of John Demetrius" A post-apocalyptic, post-human myth from a fellow Portlander, set in Mexico (where Pitkin has lived, according to Horton's bio). Rebecca Campbell: "Unearthly Landscape by a Lady" Clairvoyant Victorian visions—are they of a real and distant place, and if not then why do they captivate the narrator so? Chaz Brenchley: "The Astrakhan, the Homburg, and the Red, Red Coal" Like H.G. Wells mashed up with Samuel R. Delany, if you can imagine that juxtaposition... but somehow it works. Seanan McGuire: "Hello, Hello" The more SF you've read, the more likely you are to guess wrong—as I did—about where this brilliant and plausible SF story is going. Impressive. Gregory Norman Bossert: "Twelve and Tag" Just a game in a spacers' bar... like "Truth or Dare," but much more complex—and with a much higher price tag. Tamsyn Muir: "The Deepwater Bride" Can you be lighthearted and Lovecraftian at the same time? Muir actually manages that feat. A sassy teenager in a seaside town has to deal not just with the rising of the dread Old Ones, but also with her mom, a dental hygienist... this one was probably the most fun to read of Horton's choices. Ian McDonald: "Botanica Veneris: Thirteen Papercuts by Ida Countess Rathangan" "Sunburn, melancholy, and alcoholism: the classic recipe for Honorary Consuls system-wide, not just on Venus." (p.468) Another tropical Venus, and another harking back to Victoriana. But this one is by McDonald... Andy Dudak: "Asymptotic" Great word choice for a title, but I'm not sure how it fits the story, which is about the cost of faster-than-light travel and about the Bureau which enforces the payment of that debt. C.S.E. Cooney: "The Two Paupers" An awkward beginning to the end of this book, but "The Two Paupers" turned out to be a fantastical steampunk tale, featuring something like golems, something like faery, and something like redemption... "This is the Orchid Age. We have automobiles. Trains. Electric light. The diphtheria vaccine. Even if... even if there used to be such a thing as Gentry magic, and, and traffic once flourished between our worlds, we live now in cities of concrete and steel." (p.525) Oh, and don't miss Horton's biographical sketches (from which I learned at least two important bits) and to-read list, a couple of bonus clips you'll want to read after all the stories...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Alex Sarll

    Generally when I review a short story collection I like to find threads, themes, correspondences; just listing each story can all too easily devolve into some guy on the Internet telling you 'I like this one but I do not like that one', exactly in the way that encourages proper critics to argue they can never be replaced no matter how annoying they get. Besides, it's just somehow inartistic. Yet with a designedly compendious grab-bag like this, sometimes one is left no choice. If you want the sh Generally when I review a short story collection I like to find threads, themes, correspondences; just listing each story can all too easily devolve into some guy on the Internet telling you 'I like this one but I do not like that one', exactly in the way that encourages proper critics to argue they can never be replaced no matter how annoying they get. Besides, it's just somehow inartistic. Yet with a designedly compendious grab-bag like this, sometimes one is left no choice. If you want the short version: this is a pretty good selection, very little of which I would otherwise have encountered, but maybe give yourself more than the couple of months which ARC expiry dates gave me to read the whole thing, eh? Mutability, by Ray Nayler A beautiful and strange start to the collection, revisiting one of the great, haunting themes – what if the fallibility of the body can be conquered, but the fallibility of human memory cannot? Not as in senile struldbrugs, just the usual fuzziness regarding people you used to know a long, long time ago? And I’m a sucker for stories set in cafes of the cosmopolitan Middle East as it once maybe was and hopefully might one day be again. And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead, by Brooke Bolander Generic cyberpunk nastiness, and the only story in the collection I thought genuinely bad; its early placement made me fear the hit rate would be much lower than was in fact the case. I note that the contents list as I’ve seen it online is heavily reordered as compared to my Netgalley version, so the effect might be less pronounced if it ends up somewhere in the middle. Cat Pictures Please, by Naomi Kritzer Years ago, Bruce Sterling wrote a story in which he sort of predicted the Internet. Well, he’s written a fair few of those, but this one was particularly interesting, in that he didn’t quite get the Net itself (more common than you might think – John Brunner hit on spam filters without quite forecasting email), but he did get the prevalence of those little waving Japanese cats and the idea of loosely linked networks working towards common goals, goals which might be revolutionary but equally could just be plain daft. Running with this, and mixing in the Gibson idea of the Internet waking up, Kritzer suggests what the Internet might be like if it woke up now, rather than in the eighties’ idea of nowish. As the title suggests: basically really nice, so long as you keep giving it cat pictures, but a bit frustrated by humans’ failure to act in their own best interests. Obviously this is based on a somewhat optimistic assessment of the Internet, which makes for an extra-resonant irony when you consider this was one of the very few shorts to get past the latest attempt to game the Hugo nominations by the Puppies, who are as good an example of any as to why I am myself utterly terrified by the idea of the Internet waking up. Capitalism in the 22nd Century, or Air, by Geoff Ryman One of the toughest tricks in SF is creating a future that doesn’t feel noticeably better or worse than now, just very different. So here inequality persists, the outward urge is still stifled, the distractions have changed, the whole structure has changed…but the human condition remains much the same mix of frustration, annoying co-dependencies and hope. Interesting, too, how with the current rise of China, it’s easy for modern projections of the future to end up with a world which would in some respects be recognisable by the old purveyors of Yellow Peril sensationalism. The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild, by Catherynne M Valente I love Valente’s writing, but given how lush and florid and whimsical she can be, I can also understand why some people really don’t. And for me, this story is too much – like drinking the pure syrup, rather than the refreshing glass of squash. It’s not the first time she’s gone with a colour theme (ah, the wonderful Green Wind of Fairyland!) but this allegorical journey is essentially one of those wonderful pages, over and over, and that’s past my tolerance levels. My Last Bringback, by John Barnes You know all those people who object to processed food on principle? Or vaccinations? When we gain the ability to eliminate most of the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to, those same Luddites will object to that too. But whereas now their children still mostly survive, in the future they’ll be consigned to a nasty, brutish and short life, quite unnecessarily. And this is a splendidly vicious tale about how that will feel. Please Undo This Hurt, by Seth Dickinson Oh, now this one is amazing. Incredibly bleak, mind. At its heart is one fabulous idea about why the world is the way it is, and what that might mean, and how that knowledge might enjoin us to respond. The beautiful thing is, that idea’s not even confirmed; it’s proposed in a late night bull session, the way these ideas are. Some things seem to confirm it, but never conclusively. This might all be taking place in consensus reality, and I know some fans of speculative fiction don’t like that sort of thing on genre territory. But ever since I had an English teacher who was down on SF and fantasy, I’ve been all about the expansionism. Shakespeare? Ours. Dickens? Ghosts, mate. Goblins even. Ours. Chaucer? You’re kidding, right? Talking birds, afterlife visions, magic. Ours. There’s even one Iris Murdoch novel which I strongly believe to be an unspoken part of the Cthulhu Mythos. I don’t want to leave those snobs a single damn thing except boring middlebrow issue novels which’ll be forgotten in 30 years time. So yes, I’m happy this is in an SFF anthology instead of my needing to hunt it down hiding in some collection of tedious litfic shorts. Time Bomb Time, by C.C. Finlay Formally ingenious in a way I hesitate to reveal, while also successful as a story. Exactly the sort of thing I’d expect to find in a battered old copy of Analog. And that’s no bad thing, for all that a longing for good old-fashioned SF has lately become associated with some right arseholes. The Graphology of Hemorrhage, by Yoon Ha Lee Despite the title of the collection, there’s not all that much fantasy here, and what there is is mostly pretty non-traditional (or harks back to older traditions, like the Valente) - which seems odd when epic fantasy is in such rude health these days compared to 15 or 20 years ago. This may be as close as the collection comes, and it’s not that close at all, using an ingenious and novel magic system as a fine metaphor for colonialism’s effect on conquered cultures, and on the conquerors. The Game of Smash and Recovery, by Kelly Link A story about two children on an alien planet, waiting for their parents to return. Another which could have come from an old Analog, but in this case it would have been one of the filler tales. Not bad per se, but nor did it have any particular impact on me. Acres of Perhaps, by Will Ludwigsen A weird tale about the goings-on behind the scenes of a TV show modelled on The Twilight Zone. Powerful and eerie, let down only by that terrible name (which is also the name of the show. Which reminds me, is there a word for a story which shares its name with a book existing inside that story? The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The King in Yellow. Ones like that. There really ought to be, but I’ve never found one). Little Sisters, by Vonda M. McIntyre Vernor Vinge’s Deepness in the Sky took an alien species who should have revolted me, and made them sympathetic leads. If he’d been trying to creep me out with them instead, the result may well have been something like this. Thank goodness it wasn’t likewise hundreds of pages long, because I definitely couldn’t have handled that. Folding Beijing, by Hao Jingfang Confirmation that there is indeed more to Chinese SF than the bafflingly overrated Cixin Liu. The set-up is not dissimilar to Philip Jose Farmer’s Dayworld, except far more depressing because – being extrapolated from modern China ('Capitalism's perfected state: Communism' - how prescient Vaneigem was) – it’s so much more unequal. The details may be a little off (Heath Robinson meets Roland Emmerich), but the overall thrust is fearfully plausible. Today I Am Paul, by Martin Shoemaker A heartbreaking small-scale piece about AI and Alzheimer’s. There’s one incident which broke the tone for me, simply by being too much of an incident and thus feeling forced, but otherwise this is the sort of thing out of which many people would happily have got a novel (which would then later be adapted into a schmaltzier but likely award-winning film version). The King in the Cathedral, by Rich Larson Again skirting a little closer to conventional fantasy, the collection offers us the usurped and imprisoned ruler, his inhuman gaoler, and the daring rescue attempt – but Larson upends them all. If Seth Rogen ever adapted Clark Ashton Smith, it might end up a bit like this, which makes it a shame that he almost certainly won’t. Drones, by Simon Ings Somewhat didactic, this envisions a world without bees in which their passing has (because of some science, and also a bit of politics) left human society considerably more hive-like. And I just don’t buy it. But this has reminded me how many more bumblebees I’ve been seeing this year, and how awesome they are. Much nicer than honeybees, and I don’t especially like honey anyway. (I wrote that review before the referendum result came in and made this tale's scenario at least 3% more plausible) The Karen Joy Fowler Book Club, by Nike Sulway In which a group of frustrated housewives are gradually revealed to be rhinos. That’s the sort of reveal which can work brilliantly on a Radio 4 comedy sketch, but those are generally both shorter and funnier. Nevertheless, I can’t deny this had a certain elegiac power. Endless Forms Most Beautiful, by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro You know when you see a painting that’s so perfect part of you just wants to stand staring at it, even somehow become part of it? This Evening’s Performance, by Genevieve Valentine The concept here – the last troupe of human actors in a world where robots have taken over the stages – is wonderful. The characters really fizz. But for reasons I don’t begin to understand, Valentine has thrown a massive hurdle in her own path by setting the tech level just that bit too low, such that the robots’ theatrical dominance seems much less likely than it would be were they more capable. Most odd. Consolation, by John Kessel The vision of a fragmented future US, with the boot of immigration on the other foot, is fine (if perhaps not massively new). The plot mainly feels like something to hang that off, which perhaps weirdly I find more of a problem in a short story than a novel. The Heart’s Filthy Lesson, by Elizabeth Bear In the jungles of Venus, a lone explorer, stymied by bureaucracy, must fight off the lethal local fauna while hunting a lost city. Exactly the sort of retro adventure SF the Puppies would probably love if only the lead were a nice manly man instead of a lesbian (and she’s the sort with feelings and stuff at that, rather than the sort they like to watch online). The Daughters of John Demetrius, by Joe Pitkin Post-human, post-apocalyptic SF Western which, if I’m honest, rather passed me by. How jaded we become. Unearthly Landscape by a Lady, by Rebecca Campbell Like the Dickinson, another story which you could argue is about someone gripped by a speculative fiction idea, without necessarily itself being speculative fiction. Like the Dickinson, plenty eerie enough that I’m happy it’s here. Not least because it finds a new angle on the somewhat mined-out territory of the corsets (literal and figurative) within which half the population were for so long constrained. Hello Hello, by Seanan McGuire The speech synthesiser a woman uses to let her deaf sister communicate with her young kids starts playing up…I thought I knew exactly where this one was going, and it was going to be terrible. I was entirely wrong, and it’s not bad at all. The Astrakhan, the Homburg, and the Red, Red Coal, by Chaz Brenchley Oscar Wilde in exile on Mars instead of France was enough to get me interested, but turns out to be only a prelude to one of the most ridiculous, brilliant premises I’ve seen in a while: because of some very carefully constructed parameters, it turns out that humanity’s last hope of communicating with alien life is…homosexuals! Twelve and Tag, by Gregory Norman Bossert If you want to bring out a whole world and a host of characters in a comparatively short pagecount, throw them together in a setting where they tell each other stories. I can imagine James Corey’s Expanse setting might have evolved into something like this hardscrabble, hard-SF future if it weren’t for that pesky protomolecule, and life is similarly cheap here. The Deepwater Bride, by Tamysn Muir At first I took this tale of a teen witch whose family labour under a terrible geas for the sort of gentled Lovecraft pastiche Ruthanna Emrys only barely gets away with. But then it built into something very different and strangely heartening, which I finished with an ‘awwww'. Botanica Veneris: Thirteen Papercuts by Ida Countness Rathagan, by Ian McDonald Like the Elizabeth Bear, another tale from Old Venus, the Dozois and GRRM-edited anthology about our sister planet as it was meant to be. Our aristocratic lead here, Ida, recalls some intrepid hybrid of Gertrude Bell and Mary Anning as she uses the excuse of botany to track down her black sheep brother on a lawless frontier world. Asymptotic, by Andy Dudak Space cops? Passe. Time cops? Been done. Space-time cops? Now that's a new one. This reminded me of Charlie Stross' 'Palimpsest', one of my favourites of his, but it's a very different beast - at once a grand, science-heavy sense-of-wonder piece, and an insight into addiction and the abuse of authority, all in less than 20 pages. The Two Paupers, by C.S.E. Cooney I don't know why, but fantasy and SF collections often seem to end with the longest piece. This novella has something of Jonathan Strange about it in its mixture of snobbish mortal gentry and the other, scarier sort of Gentry - though here it's not York and London being touched by strangenesses thought politely put away in the past, but the city of Seafall (something which for me slightly impedes the spell - I find this stuff most powerful when it feels like it's just around the corner of our own world). Still a great story, though, mixing an unwillingly Promethean sculptor, the horrors of flatsharing, and the annoyance of grown men who still react to girls they like by pulling their figurative pigtails with its grand sorceries and mortals stealing otherworldly hearts. Beautifully fluid prose, as befits something largely concerned with the unique qualities of mortal art.

  6. 4 out of 5

    tyto

    I received this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Overall, a good collection of current science fiction pieces that included some authors I was already familiar with as well as many authors I wasn't. I didn't care for all of the stories, but in a collection of this size and varying styles and subgenres of science fiction, I don't really expect to. My favorite stories included 'Folding Beijing' by Hao Jingfang, 'Today I Am Paul' by Martin L. Shoemaker, and 'The Deepwater Bride' by T I received this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Overall, a good collection of current science fiction pieces that included some authors I was already familiar with as well as many authors I wasn't. I didn't care for all of the stories, but in a collection of this size and varying styles and subgenres of science fiction, I don't really expect to. My favorite stories included 'Folding Beijing' by Hao Jingfang, 'Today I Am Paul' by Martin L. Shoemaker, and 'The Deepwater Bride' by Tamsyn Muir. If you're interested in current science fiction, I would definitely recommend this collection.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Anusha Narasimhan

    "The Year's Best" anthologies are usually pretty good and this one was also great. I loved the variety of stories offered. Highly recommended! Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. This has not influenced my review in any way. "The Year's Best" anthologies are usually pretty good and this one was also great. I loved the variety of stories offered. Highly recommended! Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. This has not influenced my review in any way.

  8. 5 out of 5

    J. Roslyn

    Rich Horton packs this anthology to the brim with bite size stories with unexpected plot twists and surprise endings. Artificial Intelligence (AI) plays a lead role in many of the stories. There are AIs that love humanity, such as the android in "I am Paul, Martin," by L. Shoemaker, where a future android provides medical and sweet empathetic care to Mildred, an elderly woman with Alzheimers disease. And in "Cat Pictures Please," by Naomi Kritzer, there is a caring AI who wants only to help you Rich Horton packs this anthology to the brim with bite size stories with unexpected plot twists and surprise endings. Artificial Intelligence (AI) plays a lead role in many of the stories. There are AIs that love humanity, such as the android in "I am Paul, Martin," by L. Shoemaker, where a future android provides medical and sweet empathetic care to Mildred, an elderly woman with Alzheimers disease. And in "Cat Pictures Please," by Naomi Kritzer, there is a caring AI who wants only to help you since it knows everything about you, and wants cat pictures in return. In some stories, time travel happens in unique, surprising ways. For example, in "Time Bomb Time," by C.C. Finlay, the author cleverly poses the implied question, what if you read a story about time travel and find yourself reading the same conversation twice? Is it a typo? An heuristic device? Or have you traveled back a few minutes in time? A science fiction and fantasy anthology would be incomplete without a few dystopian futures, and Mr. Horton does not disappoint. In Ray Nayler's, "In Mutability," two strangers, Sophia and Sebastian, reside in a future world where death apparently is no longer inevitable, but neither stranger has many memories. One day, at the cafe in which Sebastian spends his days, an unknown woman, Sophia, befriends him and shows him a photo of the two of them, centuries old. Neither remembers each other or the photo, but why not? In "Folding Beijing," by Hao Jingfang, (translated by Ken Liu), a future Beijing has become so crowded the population is divided into three spaces where First Space contains the rich and well educated, and Third Space contains the poor and lower classes. As each class awakens, another space rotates and folds up. Lao Dao, a Third Space waste processor, wants to enroll his daughter in a music and dance kindergarten. To do so, he must get more money by illegally carrying messages and goods to and from First Space. Author Hao Jingfang's story, however, is more than a glimpse at a possible dystopian future based on class and privilege. Rather, it is an Aesopian tale about love and friendship, and where true contentment lies. Most of the writers in this anthology are exceptionally talented, and a few will take your breath away. In "The Karen Joy Fowler Book Club," by Nike Sulway, an older female, who loves her solitude and her library room, walks alone in a Serengeti-type outdoors and fears that her type will be extinct because the daughters do not see the need for procreation. In this beautifully told tale, are the women human? Another author who captivates is Will Ludwigsen, whose channeling of a 1940s pulp science fiction writer and his writing for a 1960s, "Twight Zone"-type of television show, "Acres of Perhaps," is sheer genius. As the writer grieves for his lost love who has died of cancer after 50 years together, he remembers the 60s and the two other writers for the show, one of whom believed he was living in an alternate universe. The story is a loving homage to rural America, 1960's science fiction and two great romances. Ludwigsen is an award wining author and this story demonstrates why. (In return for an honest review, I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.)

  9. 4 out of 5

    Akkisuitok

    A very interesting collection of various short stories, all by different authors, from the year 2016. I've never read this anthology series before, but the 2016 year definitely skews more towards the "science fiction" than towards the "fantasy" part of the title. For me, that was actually good since I normally read sci-fi less than fantasy. In terms of author, this year happens to contain stories from a lot of authors whose work I already love (Tamsyn Muir, Yoon Ha Lee, Seanan McGuire, Kelly Lin A very interesting collection of various short stories, all by different authors, from the year 2016. I've never read this anthology series before, but the 2016 year definitely skews more towards the "science fiction" than towards the "fantasy" part of the title. For me, that was actually good since I normally read sci-fi less than fantasy. In terms of author, this year happens to contain stories from a lot of authors whose work I already love (Tamsyn Muir, Yoon Ha Lee, Seanan McGuire, Kelly Link, Seth Dickinson), so I was excited to get to their stories and ended up loving them. (Except for Yoon Ha Lee's entry, which I did not enjoy as much, though it's masterfully written). In terms of new authors whose work I'm interested in now, there are: Martin L. Shomaker, Rich Larson and C. S. E. Cooney. I read this over a long period of time, and rated each story in a simple 3-category system: loved it, liked it, meh. There are 30 stories in total, and interestingly enough, they divide almost evenly into my 3 categories. For such a mixed anthology, I would consider that a good turnout. Additionally, some of the stories in the "loved it" category are actually more like "OH MY GOD SO EXCELLENT", so I consider the anthology worth reading just for their discovery. Loved it: - Please Undo This Hurt, Seth Dickinson - The Game of Smash and Recovery, Kelly Link - Today I am Paul, Martin L. Shoemaker - The King in the Cathedral, Rich Larson - This Evening’s Performance, Genevieve Valentine - Hello, Hello, Seanan McGuire - The Deepwater Bride, Tamsyn Muir - The Two Paupers, C.S.E. Cooney Liked it: - Acres of Perhaps, Will Ludwigsen - Cat Pictures Please, Naomi Kritzer - Endless Forms Most Beautiful, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro - The Graphology of Hemorrhage, Yoon Ha Lee - Little Sisters, Vonda N. McIntyre - Mutability, Ray Nayler - The Heart’s Filthy Lesson, Elizabeth Bear - The Karen Joy Fowler Book Club, Nike Sulway - The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild, Catherynne M. Valente - Twelve and Tag, Gregory Norman Bossert - Unearthly Landscape by a Lady, Rebecca Campbell Meh: - And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead, Brooke Bolander - Capitalism in the 22nd Century, or AIr, Geoff Ryman - My Last Bringback, John Barnes - Time Bomb Time, C.C. Finlay - Folding Beijing, Hao Jingfan, translated by Ken Liu - Drones, Simon Ings - Consolation, John Kessel - The Daughters of John Demetrius, Joe Pitkin - The Astrakhan, the Homburg, and the red, red coal, Chaz Brechley - Botanica Veneris: Thirteen Papercuts by Idea Countess Rathagan, Ian McDonald - Asymptotic, Andy Dudak

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jaffa Kintigh

    As the title promises, this annual anthology solidly delivers. A broad swath of fantasy and science fiction sub-genres fill out the collection with my favorite 4 inclusions, each earning 5 stars, representing widely different fields: Off-Planet Sci-Fi, Artificial Intelligence Sci-Fi, Automaton Steampunk, and Rogue-and-Fae Fantasy. As different as they are, they're all profoundly moving in their telling of the human condition through non-human and ultra-human means. Vonda N. McIntyre's "Little Sis As the title promises, this annual anthology solidly delivers. A broad swath of fantasy and science fiction sub-genres fill out the collection with my favorite 4 inclusions, each earning 5 stars, representing widely different fields: Off-Planet Sci-Fi, Artificial Intelligence Sci-Fi, Automaton Steampunk, and Rogue-and-Fae Fantasy. As different as they are, they're all profoundly moving in their telling of the human condition through non-human and ultra-human means. Vonda N. McIntyre's "Little Sisters" dashes traditional notions of gender and sexuality in this brutal tale of war, violence, rape and conquest set among stars and species not exactly human. Martin L. Shoemaker's short story, "Today I Am Paul", depicts an artificially intelligent medical companion bot as it realizes its humanity while helping the family tap into their own as their matriarch struggles with Alzheimer's Disease. This Evening's Performance , a novella by Genevieve Valentine, mirrors the golden age of silent films in its steampunk-tinged tale of automatons displacing actors on the London stages. C. S. E. Cooney's novella, The Two Paupers , depicts two starving artists trying to be true to themselves and their friendship despite the machinations of family and life-or-death multidimensional politics. [The Fae do not play nicely.] I've reviewed all of the included tales: Bear, Elizabeth--"The Heart's Filthy Lesson"--4 stars Finlay, C. C.--"Time Bomb Time"--4 stars Jingfang, Hao [w/ Ken Lui, trans.]--"Folding Beijing"--4 stars Larson, Rich--"The King in the Cathedral"--4 stars Ludwigsen, Will--"Acres of Perhaps"--4 stars McGuire, Seanan--"Hello, Hello"--4 stars Muir, Tamsyn--"The Deepwater Bride"--4 stars Nayler, Ray--"Mutability"--4 stars Bolander, Brooke--"And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead"--3 stars Bossert, Gregory Norman--"Twelve and Tag"--3 stars Dickinson, Seth--"Please Undo This Hurt"--3 stars Dudak, Andy--"Asymptotic"--3 stars Ings, Simon--"Drones"--3 stars Kessel, John--"Consolation"--3 stars Kritzer, Naomi--"Cat Pictures Please"--3 stars McDonald, Ian--"Botanica Veneris: Thirteen Papercuts by Ida Countess Rathangan"--3 stars Pitkin, Joe--"The Daughters of John Demetrius"--3 stars Sulway, Nike--"The Karen Joy Fowler Book Club"--3 stars Barnes, John--"The Last Bringback"--2 stars Brenchley, Chaz--"The Astrakhan, the Homburg, and the Red, Red Coal"--2 stars Campbell, Rebecca--"Unearthly Landscape by a Lady"--2 stars Lee, Yoon Ha--"The Graphology of Hemorrhage"--2 stars Link, Kelly--"The Game of Smash and Recovery"--2 stars Ryman, Geoff--"Capitalism in the 22nd Century, or A.I.R."--2 stars Valente, Catherynne M.--"The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild"--2 stars Zinos-Amaro, Alvaro--"Endless Forms Most Beautiful"--2 stars I received my copy of the anthology directly from Prime Books. I've previously read The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2015 , also edited Rich Horton.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    What makes a great story? Plot? Suspense? Characters? Dialogue? Each of these is present in The Year's Best. Some of the stories are perfect snapshots of an unseen world. Others develop like flowers: bud swelling and expanding, bursting open into an explosion of petals, and then the whole thing folding in on itself. Dark, violent tales like Vonda N McIntyre's Little Sisters and And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of the Dead by Brooke Bolander. Those are balanced by cheerful, sweet stories such What makes a great story? Plot? Suspense? Characters? Dialogue? Each of these is present in The Year's Best. Some of the stories are perfect snapshots of an unseen world. Others develop like flowers: bud swelling and expanding, bursting open into an explosion of petals, and then the whole thing folding in on itself. Dark, violent tales like Vonda N McIntyre's Little Sisters and And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of the Dead by Brooke Bolander. Those are balanced by cheerful, sweet stories such as Cat Pictures Please by Naomi Kritzer. My favourite story was Catherynne M Valente's remarkable The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild. Valente's writing is rich and delicious; she takes the dictionary, rips all the pages out and replaces them with her own. The countries in Valente's world are described and delineated by their colours: blue, red, yellow, orange, green, and purple. Violet Wild has grown up in the country of purple with her wealthy parents on their estate, but after a tragedy occurs when she is watching the herds one day she abandons her home to search for healing in the country of red. Her journey takes her through each of the other colours and their exceeding strange customs and wildlife. Valente deftly straddles the line between an overwhelmingly complex fantasy, and one you can flip through with only half your brain registering sentences. It's a truly magical universe. The rest of my favourite titles were (in no particular order): Cat Pictures Please by Naomi Kritzer -a helpful AI discovers its favourite thing about people. LGBTQ characters. Mutability by Ray Nayler -wherein people live centuries but don't get better at chess. This Evening's Performance by Genevieve Valentine -explores the possibility of robots replacing actors. Endless Forms Most Beautiful by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro. -wealthy art collectors vie to create the most perfectly beautiful painting. Only male characters, fails the Bechdel test. The King in the Cathedral by Rich Larson -classic fantasy with an exiled king who plays war games with his robot guard. LGBTQ main character, fails the Bechdel test. Hello, Hello by Seanan McGuire -a scientist and her deaf sister are fine-tuning the ASL-speech translation program they created, when they discover it has unexpected abilities. LGBTQ main characters, majority female characters. The Heart's Filthy Lesson by Elizabeth Bear -a bitter scientist denied funding to find ancient aboriginal settlements on Venus strikes out on her own. LGBTQ characters, disdains binary gender systems. The Deepwater Bride by Tamsyn Muir -Lovecraftian fantasy with a twist. All female characters, LGBTQ. Botanica Veneris: Thirteen Papercuts by Ida Countess Rathangan by Ian McDonald -the lost diary belonging to a famous artist is finally found. LGBTQ characters. Gets my award for most complicated title. The Two Paupers by CSE Cooney -an author and a sculptor team up to stop a coup in the fairy realm. Content warnings for the following: And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of the Dead by Brooke Bolander -a mercenary and a programmer take a job rescuing a mob boss' kid whose consciousness has gotten trapped in cyberspace. As the title suggests, there's violence and gore. Fails the Bechdel test. My Last Bringback by John Barnes -a neuroscientist specializing in rebuilding the brains of Alzheimer's sufferers reconstructs her own memories. Not just violence, but reveling in the commission thereof. Please Undo This Hurt by Seth Dickinson -a burned out paramedic looks for a reason to keep going. Depression, some gore, and suicides. Fails the Bechdel Test. The Game of Smash and Recovery by Kelly Link -a brother and sister on a lone planet discover the real reason for their existence. One instance of violence against a child. Little Sisters by Vonda N McIntyre -a galactic conquerer returns disgraced and bankrupt to the company that bankrolls his expeditions, where the chairman makes him an offer he can't refuse. Coercive reproduction/childbearing scenes. Only male characters. Drones by Simon Ings -a dystopian future where bees and women don't exist. Respect and honour are shown through spitting in someone's mouth and drinking pee. Only male characters. The Ashtrakhan, The Homburg, and the Red, Red Coal by Chaz Brenchly -a group of men join an experiment to try to contact an alien species. Only male characters. Drug use. Asymptotic by Andy Dudak -in an era of space travel, speed traps have evolved to stop violations in faster-than-light travel, in case they collapse the universe. One instance of murder. One female character, fails the Bechdel test. Acres of Perhaps by Will Ludwigsen -a washed-up writer of a once popular television series reminisces. Alcoholism. LGBTQ characters, fails the Bechdel test. Consolation by John Kessel -an activist questions her support for a cause. Bombings. Other Interesting Notes: The Karen Joy Fowler Book Club by Nike Sulway -anthropomorphized animals grapple with finding value in life, knowing their species is going extinct. LGBTQ characters. Unearthly Landscape by a Lady by Rebecca Campbell -a governess remembers a student's childhood and her unsettling artwork. All female characters. The Graphology of Hemorrhage by Yoon Ha Lee -a magician and her trainee work to cast a spell to crush a rebel army. Reverses the traditional mentor-trainee dynamic: male trainee and female mentor. Stories that didn't fit in other lists: Capitalism in the 22nd Century, or Air by Geoff Ryman -twin sisters embark on a long-awaited escape to a different planet, when one backs out at the last minute. Time Bomb Time by CC Finlay -a university student experiments with social activism by creating a bomb that loops time. Folding Beijing by Hao Jingfang, translated by Ken Liu -a pauper smuggles messages into Beijing's upper class regions. Today I Am Paul by Martin L. Shoemaker -AI provides homecare for dementia patients The Daughters of John Demetrius by Joe Pitkin -a mysterious wanderer searches Mexico for the children of a god Twelve and Tag by Gregory Norman Bossert -Ice miners on Jupiter's moon Europa swap stories and play word games in the bar to unwind after work And that is it! If you want any more information on a particular story, you'll have to read this yourself.

  12. 4 out of 5

    JJacy1

    Another year... I am sure now, that reading these has become a habit of the best kind. I want engaging tales and they are provided. And every year I hit some gems and only the occasional "mehs." If you have been enjoying these on a yearly basis as I have, keep going with this one. If it's new to you go ahead and start, or better yet start with years past and catch up. Another year... I am sure now, that reading these has become a habit of the best kind. I want engaging tales and they are provided. And every year I hit some gems and only the occasional "mehs." If you have been enjoying these on a yearly basis as I have, keep going with this one. If it's new to you go ahead and start, or better yet start with years past and catch up.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Klaus Varias

    2016 war kein gutes Jahr in der Phantastik.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dr. Ann Coker

    A complete must read This year's anthology is certainly the best of the best. World class writers and award winning stories that capture your imagination throughout. A complete must read This year's anthology is certainly the best of the best. World class writers and award winning stories that capture your imagination throughout.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    I'm going to try something new (to me) here, and comment on each story in this anthology as I read it. 1. "Mutability," by Ray Nayler. No score - I had no response to this story. I read it, but it left no impression whatsoever. 2. "And you Shall Know her by the Trail of the Dead," by Brooke Bolander. Two stars - There's a decent cyberpunk/transhuman story in here, high-tech low-lives, what-does-it-mean-to-be-human, but the language is ridiculously coarse. Don't get me wrong, I effectively grew up I'm going to try something new (to me) here, and comment on each story in this anthology as I read it. 1. "Mutability," by Ray Nayler. No score - I had no response to this story. I read it, but it left no impression whatsoever. 2. "And you Shall Know her by the Trail of the Dead," by Brooke Bolander. Two stars - There's a decent cyberpunk/transhuman story in here, high-tech low-lives, what-does-it-mean-to-be-human, but the language is ridiculously coarse. Don't get me wrong, I effectively grew up in truck stops and can turn the air blue on occasion, so I'm not a shrinking violet, but this was like that edgy 11-year-old who suddenly learned how to say "fuck" a lot. 3. "Cat Pictures Please," by Naomi Kritzer. Four stars - A fun short piece about an emergent AI who wants to help out the humans it gets to observe, sometimes with unintended consequences. 4. "Capitalism in the 22nd Century, or Air," by Geoff Ryman. Two stars - as the rating mouseover says, it was okay. Well. That didn’t work out. Again: an anthology. Some very good, some okay, some not to my liking at all.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Armel Dagorn

    So, for starters, a few words on the rating. I read the 2014 issue of the series, and rated it 3 stars too. Which in this case, for such a chunky anthology, means I would recommend it. I think the editor has to be praised for the really wide net he cast, including SF and Fantasy of different "hardness" or "highness". Some of these stories I really didn't like (I actually stopped reading a couple of them after 5-7 pages, for one of them because the voice really irritated me, the other because it So, for starters, a few words on the rating. I read the 2014 issue of the series, and rated it 3 stars too. Which in this case, for such a chunky anthology, means I would recommend it. I think the editor has to be praised for the really wide net he cast, including SF and Fantasy of different "hardness" or "highness". Some of these stories I really didn't like (I actually stopped reading a couple of them after 5-7 pages, for one of them because the voice really irritated me, the other because it just didn't pull me in at all), but I really loved some of them. I came out of it with a few names to look out for, just as I had with the 2014 one, which is I think one of the main raison d'etre of such an anthology. A few highlights: “The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild” by Catherynne M. Valente: This is quite a love-it-or-hate-it story, I think, but it mostly worked for me (I wonder if I might have hated it if I'd read it in a different mood...). An absurdist fantasy through different alternate world, in which Valente stretches language to breaking point. A challenging read, and, especially as a writer, an encouragement to dare mistreat words to see how far they can go and still function. “Please Undo This Hurt” by Seth Dickinson: I really liked the way the speculative element only comes in late in the story. “Acres of Perhaps” by Will Ludwigsen: I really enjoyed this story told by a former writer for a Twilight Zone-type show, the vintage vibe. “Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang: A great story of a Beijing of the future, where the population has to take turns living in tis ever re-arranging architecture. [I receive this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review]

  17. 5 out of 5

    Pamela Scott

    I was given an ARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2016 is a pretty decent, diverse collection of fiction. I preferred the fantasy stories to the science fiction ones. I didn’t enjoy every story which is only to be expected in such a massive collection. There are only a handful of authors I’m familiar with including Elizabeth Bear and Catherynne M. Valente. Most of the authors are new to me so it’s always fun to find new I was given an ARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2016 is a pretty decent, diverse collection of fiction. I preferred the fantasy stories to the science fiction ones. I didn’t enjoy every story which is only to be expected in such a massive collection. There are only a handful of authors I’m familiar with including Elizabeth Bear and Catherynne M. Valente. Most of the authors are new to me so it’s always fun to find new authors. My favourite stories include Mutability by Ray Nayler, The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild by Catherynne M. Valente, And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead by Brooke Bolander, The Karen Joy Fowler Book Club by Nike Sulway and Please Undo This Hurt by Seth Dickinson. This is the perfect collection for science fiction and fantasy fans who want the cream of the crop.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Paula

    I reviewed this book for NetGalley. I've read a number of anthologies by Rich Horton, all of which were very good. This one, a compilation of some of the best sci-fi and fantasy of 2016, did not disappoint. The stories range from hard cyberpunk noir to Victorian fantasy. Some of these were Hugo nominees/winners (such as my favorite, "Cat Pictures, Please") and representative of this genre in the present day. An excellent read - a little long, but since most of these are short stories, you can stop I reviewed this book for NetGalley. I've read a number of anthologies by Rich Horton, all of which were very good. This one, a compilation of some of the best sci-fi and fantasy of 2016, did not disappoint. The stories range from hard cyberpunk noir to Victorian fantasy. Some of these were Hugo nominees/winners (such as my favorite, "Cat Pictures, Please") and representative of this genre in the present day. An excellent read - a little long, but since most of these are short stories, you can stop and start again easily without losing your place. A lot of fun and I look forward to the 2017 edition.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    Either what I consider the best sci fi is very different from the editors, or I just don't like modern sci fi. Of the six or so stories I tried, only two caught my interest, and by the end, both of those made me regret reading the whole story. Didn't bother to try any more. I guess I'll stick with YA or MG sf/f, or re-reading classics that I know I'll enjoy, or rare recommendations from trusted friends Either what I consider the best sci fi is very different from the editors, or I just don't like modern sci fi. Of the six or so stories I tried, only two caught my interest, and by the end, both of those made me regret reading the whole story. Didn't bother to try any more. I guess I'll stick with YA or MG sf/f, or re-reading classics that I know I'll enjoy, or rare recommendations from trusted friends

  20. 5 out of 5

    Iver

    For the most part a great collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy short stories by new authors. A few of the stories were, in my opinion, overly surreal but, that's my tastes, for someone else they may be fantastic. All in all, definitely worth the purchase and the read. For the most part a great collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy short stories by new authors. A few of the stories were, in my opinion, overly surreal but, that's my tastes, for someone else they may be fantastic. All in all, definitely worth the purchase and the read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Cybercrone

    Another one of those collections where the majority of the 'stories' don't seem like stories to me. No beginning, middle or end - they seem like bits scissored out of the middle of another story just to show off some clever writing - and sometimes there's not even that. Another one of those collections where the majority of the 'stories' don't seem like stories to me. No beginning, middle or end - they seem like bits scissored out of the middle of another story just to show off some clever writing - and sometimes there's not even that.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lynnet

    2016 read. This series tends to be hit or miss for me, and this year was definitely a hit. Only one or two stories I didn't like, and several I loved. 2016 read. This series tends to be hit or miss for me, and this year was definitely a hit. Only one or two stories I didn't like, and several I loved.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Wilson

    Just read Folding Beijing

  24. 5 out of 5

    San

    Nice anthology, my favourite story was Shoemaker's "Today I Am Paul", which dealt with an AI nurse caring for someone with Alzheimers. Nice anthology, my favourite story was Shoemaker's "Today I Am Paul", which dealt with an AI nurse caring for someone with Alzheimers.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Barry Hill

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jessika Uhl

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mr Francis V J Hyde

  28. 5 out of 5

    j rees

  29. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mike

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