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The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy, 2014

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This sixth volume of the year's best science fiction and fantasy features over thirty stories by some of the genre's greatest authors, including Yoon Ha Lee, James Patrick Kelly, Ken Liu, Robert Reed, Lavie Tidhar, Carrie Vaughn, and many others. Selecting the best fiction from Asimov's, Clarkesworld, F&SF, and other top venues, The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy is This sixth volume of the year's best science fiction and fantasy features over thirty stories by some of the genre's greatest authors, including Yoon Ha Lee, James Patrick Kelly, Ken Liu, Robert Reed, Lavie Tidhar, Carrie Vaughn, and many others. Selecting the best fiction from Asimov's, Clarkesworld, F&SF, 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 sixth volume of the year's best science fiction and fantasy features over thirty stories by some of the genre's greatest authors, including Yoon Ha Lee, James Patrick Kelly, Ken Liu, Robert Reed, Lavie Tidhar, Carrie Vaughn, and many others. Selecting the best fiction from Asimov's, Clarkesworld, F&SF, and other top venues, The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy is This sixth volume of the year's best science fiction and fantasy features over thirty stories by some of the genre's greatest authors, including Yoon Ha Lee, James Patrick Kelly, Ken Liu, Robert Reed, Lavie Tidhar, Carrie Vaughn, and many others. Selecting the best fiction from Asimov's, Clarkesworld, F&SF, 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, 2014

  1. 4 out of 5

    Hilary

    This is the first such collection which seems to be consciously aware of non-Anglophone writers, and it shows in the incredibly variety of themes and characters. From inadvertent rebellion against a caste system or bodyswapping to the more traditional worlds in danger, these strange stories bring new meaning to the term "liking your drink too much". New moral dilemmas are introduced, new histories are created, unlikely heroes emerge, and finally I found a realistic dragon hunt. As always with an This is the first such collection which seems to be consciously aware of non-Anglophone writers, and it shows in the incredibly variety of themes and characters. From inadvertent rebellion against a caste system or bodyswapping to the more traditional worlds in danger, these strange stories bring new meaning to the term "liking your drink too much". New moral dilemmas are introduced, new histories are created, unlikely heroes emerge, and finally I found a realistic dragon hunt. As always with anthologies there are stories I loved, stories I enjoyed, and some which just made me think, "Huh?". The details in each kept me reading, as the geography spanned countries from China to the U.S. to Iceland, as I moved between alternate pasts to possible futures, as the plots included magic and history and science and mythology, until finally, with disappointment, I reached the end. (I thoroughly appreciate the "Recommended Reading" list though, which did ease the pain somewhat, as well as increasing the books I need to search out.) Disclaimer: I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Althea Ann

    A good - and very extensive - overview of the short SFF published during the year. Recommended for anyone who enjoys quality SFF and is interested in keeping up with the current writers... **** “Soulcatcher” by James Patrick Kelly (Clarkesworld) A woman is on a mission to rescue her sister, who's been made the pet of a charismatic alien. But what is the sister doesn't want to be rescued? Thought-provoking story, which does an excellent job of evoking large and strange worlds, with an economy of la A good - and very extensive - overview of the short SFF published during the year. Recommended for anyone who enjoys quality SFF and is interested in keeping up with the current writers... **** “Soulcatcher” by James Patrick Kelly (Clarkesworld) A woman is on a mission to rescue her sister, who's been made the pet of a charismatic alien. But what is the sister doesn't want to be rescued? Thought-provoking story, which does an excellent job of evoking large and strange worlds, with an economy of language. *** “Trafalgar and Josefina” by Angelica Gorodischer (Trafalgar) Already read, in 'Trafalgar.' If you like this short piece, it's definitely worth picking up the book. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... *** “A Stranger from a Foreign Ship” by Tom Purdom (Asimov’s) A hired investigator with the ability to switch bodies develops some sympathy for the woman who's his target. Sc-fi noir. **** “Blanchefleur” by Theodora Goss (Once Upon a Time) Theodora Goss rocks at creating fairytales. Her stories have everything one expects from the classics, mixed with original twists and a modern sensibility. Here, a traumatized young man has to leave his childhood home and work his way through three odd apprenticeships, with the reluctant aid of a magical cat. Along the way, he heals and learns a lot about what really matters in life. *****“Effigy Nights” by Yoon Ha Lee (Clarkesworld) Already read, in Johnathan Strahan's annual 'Best Of' anthology. "This one is just lovely. A dreamlike city of magical words is under attack by a vicious general. To defend the city, the Warden uses stories of past heroes, brought to (temporary) life through magic to protect their home. On surface level, this is a beautifully realized SF story of conflict - but it's also an ode to the abiding value of the written word; and how there are some things which should never be sacrificed." ** “Such & Such Said to So & So” by Maria Dahvana Headley (Glitter & Mayhem) An allegory about alcoholism, with cocktails personified as alluring dance partners/lovers, in an absurdist-surreal-noir setting. Not really my thing. ** “Grizzled Veterans of Many and Much” by Robert Reed (F&SF) In the near future, a procedure is developed where a person can be put into a kind of hyper-state where the brain works overtime. The drawback is, it kills you after a few days or weeks. However, in subjective time, hundreds of years could pass. Those in the 'transcendent' state push out new scientific discoveries and works of art to the world, changing civilization. It becomes more and more popular, but one young man hates everything about the trend. Interesting ideas, but I felt there were a lot of logical holes in the scenario, and the 'thought-provoking' ending didn't really work for me. ** “Rosary and Goldenstar” by Geoff Ryman (F&SF) Already read, in Johnathan Strahan's annual 'Best Of' anthology. "Hmm. I loved Ryman's 'Air,' and very much expected to love this. But - I didn't. This is precisely the sort of use of historical and fictional characters that just rubs me the wrong way. Shakespeare, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, Tycho Brahe, etc, get together to discuss the stars. There's something about how poetry can be more accurate than math. It just didn't do it for me." *** “The Bees Her Heart, the Hive Her Belly” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew (Clockwork Phoenix 4) In a far-future, a woman traumatized by the loss of the memories of her dearest sister makes some radical decisions and joins a cult based around bizarre and dangerous bio-modification. Gradually, unexpected layers of motivation and intention are revealed. Hmm. That description makes the story sound significantly less weird than it is. It's a very odd and original story. Very good writing, but I found it a little inaccessible, emotionally, where it felt it ought to be strong. *****“The Dragons of Merebarton” by K.J. Parker (Fearsome Journeys) At this point in history, it seems that all possible permutations on the story of the dragonslayer might've been covered. But Parker finds a fresh-feeling angle and fully brings her character to vivid life: an aging, retired knight who's suddenly called upon to gear up and try to rescue his locale from an unexpected scourge. Realistic and touching. ** “The Oracle” by Lavie Tidhar (Analog) A exploration of the idea of emergent AI, and the possibility (and ramifications) of meshing AI with human intelligence. Interesting ideas, but I didn't get into it as a narrative. **** “Loss, With Chalk Diagrams” by E. Lily Yu (Eclipse Online) In a near future, a medical procedure has made it possible to erase feelings of grief and trauma. Most people do this as a matter of course, as needed. However, the two women of this story, Rebekah and Linda, best friends since childhood, have never opted for the procedure. Linda takes a very 'gothic' attitude of embracing her pain as giving meaning to the positive things in her life. Rebekah is more 'mainstream' in attitude. Their two lives take different paths, and when Linda kills herself, Rebekah reassesses her decisions. There is a lot of subtle complexity of emotion here, and the story is a good jumping-off point to evaluate one's own attitude toward life... *****“Martyr’s Gem” by C. S. E. Cooney (Giganotosaurus) Cooney is a new author for me - but I'll be keeping an eye out for her work! This beautiful story has the flow of a fairy tale, but with the feel of a vividly-realized fantasy world. When a bachelor is unexpectedly summoned for marriage by a wealthy woman who's far out of his league, he half-expects that there must be some catch. And indeed, she tells him that this marriage is merely part of her plan for revenge. The way events transpire is emotionally complex - but ultimately satisfying. **** “They Shall Salt the Earth With Seeds of Glass” by Alaya Dawn Johnson (Asimov’s) Very, very nice. A post-apocalyptic Earth has been invaded and occupied by enigmatic aliens who have taken over for unknown reasons of their own. However, one of their agenda items is 'social rehabilitation,' which in practice seems to manifest as casual brutality and incomprehensible laws. One of the 'rules' is that all fetuses must be carried to-term (after which, it is suspected that the aliens may experiment on them.) In this scenario, a woman must help her sister try to obtain a forbidden abortion. The perspectives here are definitely underrepresented in fiction, and although this is a rough read, emotionally, it's also refreshing to see. *** “A Window or a Small Box” by Jedediah Berry (Tor.com) An engaged couple find themselves in a strange and alien world, where nothing is quite as expected. They just want to find their way back home before the impending date of their wedding. After all, the tents are already rented, and the place settings planned... The story works as a metaphor for developing maturity and finding one's place in the world/settling for reality. The surreal style didn't quite win me over, though. *** “Game of Chance” by Carrie Vaughn (Unfettered) This reminded me a bit of Brust & White's 'The Incrementalists' - however, I felt this was better-executed. A secret group of people out-of-time try to use small, indirect magics to shape the flow of history and create a better world. However, their grand plans for revolution do not meet with enormous success. One of their number does not share their grand vision - instead, she concentrates on small improvements judged less than worthwhile by her colleagues... *** “Live Arcade” by Erik Amundsen (Strange Horizons) Playing an enigmatic videogame leads a reluctant youth to grow as a person; to broaden his cultural understanding and social circle. Very contemporary. Recommended for fans of 'Ready Player One.' **** “Social Services” by Madeline Ashby (An Aura of Familiarity) Previously read in Strahan's 'Best of' anthology. "Absolutely a horror story. A future social worker, among her many house calls to check up on abused and at-risk children, is sent out to a creepy house in an abandoned luxury development. What she encounters there may be far beyond what her training has prepared her for. Don't read this if you're planning on going into social work!" **** “Found” by Alex Dally MacFarlane (Clarkesworld) A small community of asteroid-dwellers struggles to survive - and the struggle isn't going well. However, when the community is found and promised 'rescue' by a larger settlement, a lone spice-trader is filled with apprehension rather than joy. Everything known will soon change... A nicely presented depiction of ambiguity on several levels, and difficult decisions. *****“A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel” by Ken Liu (F&SF) This beautiful story starts out as a gentle romance between two middle-aged individuals. It continues as an alternate-history exploration of what might've happened in world politics if, after WWI, Japan and the United States has collaborated on a pneumatic train running under the Pacific. And it further develops into a searing commentary on human rights abuses and the power of individuals' speaking out against injustice. Impressive. **** “Ilse, Who Saw Clearly” by E. Lily Yu (Apex) A creepy fairy tale of a mysterious magician who comes to town one winter, offering replacement eyes at very reasonable prices. It's the story of the young woman who opts not to purchase new eyes, and who then goes on a quest to try to remedy the fallout of her neighbors' decisions. At the end, the reader just has to say, "That figures." * “It's The End of the World as We Know It, and We Feel Fine” by Harry Turtledove (Analog) I have yet to read anything by Turtledove that I've liked. You might as well read this article: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/pri.... This story is a re-statement of the article, written in an annoying, chatty tone of voice. It contains nothing not implied by the original. *** “Killing Curses, a Caught-Heart Quest” by Krista Hoeppner Leahy (Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet) There are some very nice elements here in the fairy tale of a man born to be a curse-killer, and the curse that tears apart his own family... but I felt that in some respects, it tried just a little too hard to be 'weird,' to a point where keeping track of who was what distracted from the story. *** “Firebrand” by Peter Watts (Twelve Tomorrows) In the future, a wonderful innovation has allowed for a solution to the fossil fuel crisis. There's just one drawback: the technology seems to contribute to spontaneous human combustion. Of course, the company tries to cover this up... and the PR reps hired to do so have minor ethical misgivings. Fun, with a clever ending I didn't see coming. *** “The Memory Book” by Maureen McHugh (Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells) A young Victorian witch does some really unethical and selfish magic and causes misery to everyone around her. Creepy; nicely written... but I have very, very high expectations of McHugh, who's one of my favorite authors. This didn't quite meet those expectations. *** “The Dead Sea-Bottom Scrolls” by Howard Waldrop (Old Mars) Several levels of nostalgia are wrapped into this piece, which posits a future Mars settler embarking on a Kon-Tiki style expedition to recreate a legendary journey undertaken by an extinct Martian, eons past. One for the fans of Golden Age sci-fi. *** “A Fine Show on the Abyssal Plain” by Karin Tidbeck (Lightspeed) This is another one that didn't quite live up to my very, very high expectations. I didn't love it as much as anything in Tidbeck's 'Jagannath' collection. It's a dark and surreal meta-meta-fiction piece about a strange theater group acting out supposedly-true stories for an unseen audience... *** “Out in the Dark” by Linda Nagata (Analog) In a universe where people travel by making copies of themselves, rules about one-active-body-per-individual are strictly enforced. When an allegedly new immigrant seeks citizenship, an investigation is opened. Is she really an immigrant - or an illegal copy? A nice exploration of theoretical ethics and compassion. *** “On the Origin of Song” by Naim Kabir (Beneath Ceaseless Skies) Told in the format of a selection of documents from the archives, a story gradually emerges here, of an enigmatic researcher who has travelled to a country to investigate a culture where everything is accomplished through song... something unheard of in his own land. A strange piece, but compelling. *** “Call Girl” by Tang Fei (Apex) (translated by Ken Liu) A schoolgirl moonlights as... is it as a prostitute? Or as something much rarer and more strange? I hope to be able to read more by this author. *** “Paranormal Romance” by Christopher Barzak (Lightspeed) Previously read in Paula Guran's 'Magic City' anthology. "A modern-day witch who specializes in patching up others' romance was never had luck in love, herself. But when her mother insists on setting her up on a blind date, events unroll in a slightly unexpected and rather cute way." *** “Town’s End” by Yukimi Ogawa (Strange Horizons) A woman employed by a matchmaking agency finds herself serving a quite peculiar clientele. Paranormal romance meets Japanese folklore in this cute tale. *** "The Discovered Country" by Ian R. MacLeod In a posthumous virtual reality, a man (or, at least, a consciousness) seeks to rekindle a flame with an ex - a woman whose celebrity and charitable works have endured long past her physical death. An interesting setup, and a few twists I didn't see coming. *** “The Wildfires of Antarctica” by Alan De Niro (Asimov’s) In this future, artists have done Damien Hirst one better. "Artworks" are living, sentient beings: bioengineered and grotesque. But the real evil may lie in the hearts of their collectors... *** “Kormak the Lucky” by Eleanor Arnason (F&SF) Previously read in Strahan's 'Best of the Year.' "A story that reads just like something out of the Mabinogion, or a Scandinavian edda... Indeed, it features Egil, of 'Egil's Saga,' although the main character is an Irish slave who, among many other adventures, has to fetch someone from Faerie, Under the Hill. Arnason does an impressive job of writing a story that does not adhere to the conventions of modern storytelling; but is still entertaining to a modern reader." Merged review: In a near future, a medical procedure has made it possible to erase feelings of grief and trauma. Most people do this as a matter of course, as needed. However, the two women of this story, Rebekah and Linda, best friends since childhood, have never opted for the procedure. Linda takes a very 'gothic' attitude of embracing her pain as giving meaning to the positive things in her life. Rebekah is more 'mainstream' in attitude. Their two lives take different paths, and when Linda kills herself, Rebekah reassesses her decisions. There is a lot of subtle complexity of emotion here, and the story is a good jumping-off point to evaluate one's own attitude toward life...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    I've been reading a lot of anthologies lately, including another of the several "Year's Best" collections (the Jonathan Strahan one). I was pleased to find that, unlike some of the others, this one matched my tastes fairly well for the most part. I enjoy stories in which capable, likeable or sympathetic characters, confronted by challenges, confront them right back and bring the situation to some sort of meaningful conclusion. I was worried when I read the editor's introduction and saw him praisi I've been reading a lot of anthologies lately, including another of the several "Year's Best" collections (the Jonathan Strahan one). I was pleased to find that, unlike some of the others, this one matched my tastes fairly well for the most part. I enjoy stories in which capable, likeable or sympathetic characters, confronted by challenges, confront them right back and bring the situation to some sort of meaningful conclusion. I was worried when I read the editor's introduction and saw him praising Lightspeed and Clarkesworld magazines, because they can often be the home of another kind of story, in which alienated, passive characters are battered by tragedy until the story stops at a thematically significant moment. However, most of these stories are the first kind, not the second. The editor (or someone) has a lot of proofreading work to do. In the uncorrected proof I got from Netgalley (in exchange for an honest review) I marked 55 errors, mostly typos and transpositions, but also homonym errors and misspellings. Hopefully, though, they will all be caught, along with the ones I missed, and if you buy this collection you'll get a clean version. To be fair, it's a large collection with a high word count, so 55 errors is not out of the ordinary, proportionately. Several of the stories I had read before, in other collections, which probably shouldn't be a surprise given how many I've read recently. Oddly, these were in general not my favourite stories either in those collections or in this one. To the individual stories. James Patrick Kelly, "Soulcatcher": Kelly's stories are always well-structured, as you'd expect from an experienced teacher of writing craft, and this is no exception. The protagonist has been assigned by her family to play a role which will entrap the alien who has taken her sister as a pet and wreak vengeance on him. Although it unwinds into tragedy, I didn't feel it was "tragedy for the sake of tragedy"; it had depth. Angelica Gorodischer (tr Amalia Gladhart), "Trafalgar and Josefina": It's difficult to pull off a story in which two people, in conversation, are working through the telling of a story involving other people who aren't present. Gorodischer makes it work, by making the interchange and the relationship between the conversational partners so strong and also by presenting a good second-hand story. Unreliable narrator is unreliable. Tom Purdom, "A Stranger from a Foreign Ship": a man who can swap his consciousness with people nearby gets caught up in a criminal gang's internal problems. It has all the hard-boiled hallmarks, including the violence and the fact that the woman he rescues is selfish and dangerous. Theodora Goss, "Blanchefleur": my favourite story in the whole collection, this is a retelling of the fairy tale of the White Cat (with which I'm not familiar). It has a classical fairy-tale feel, Ivan the Idiot proving that he has more to him than people see by his progress through three apprenticeships, but at the same time the lessons he learns and the abilities he displays have a modern feel. His second apprenticeship involves looking after a family of young (talking) lizards, teaching him care for others and compassion, for example. Yoon Ha Lee, "Effigy Nights": I've read this story twice, once, I think, in Beneath Ceaseless Skies when it was first published, and once in another collection. I skipped it the third time, because it's dark and tragic and depressing and hence not to my taste, though beautifully done. Maria Dahvana Headley, "Such & Such Said to So & So": a surreal tale which seems like it's, to some degree, an allegory of alcohol abuse, in which drinks become characters. Even though it was so odd, I felt it was well done and it worked. Robert Reed, "Grizzled Veterans of Many and Much": the premise of this one is fascinating. It becomes possible to "transcend", to undergo a process in which the brain's activity is greatly speeded up and one can be incredibly productive for subjective years in a virtual environment, though objectively you live for only a short time before the process kills you. This reduces the human population, starting with the rich, who at first are the only ones who can afford it. The protagonist, grandson of a wealthy man, experiences various implications of the new technology. I couldn't quite work out the significance of the ending, but I felt the story was solid. Geoff Ryman, "Rosary and Goldenstar": another story I'd read elsewhere, and skipped here. The author assembles Shakespeare, Doctor Dee, and the originals of Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern, and then doesn't really do a lot with them. Benhanun Sriduangkaew, "The Bees Her Heart, The Hive Her Belly": a strange story of post-cyberpunk and post-humanity, in which the protagonist becomes involved in a scheme to hide a planet from the rest of the universe, using a virus which removes all memory and all record of it. Odd, but I liked it. K.J. Parker, "The Dragonslayer of Merebarton": this one could easily have tipped over into being too dark for me, with its world-weary, disillusioned protagonist and the losses he sustains, but somehow it didn't. I think it was his depth of humanity and the way in which he cared despite himself. An unsentimental view of heroism that nevertheless ends up heroic. Lavie Tidhar, "The Oracle": in the same setting as "The Bookseller", which I've read collected elsewhere, this is another strange post-cyberpunk future, this time in what is currently Israel (the author's home country). The richness of the setting carries it, even though the actual plot is rudimentary. E. Lily Yu, "Loss, With Chalk Diagrams": in this post-cyberpunk future, "rewirers" can remove your grief through neurological means. The protagonist's best friend refuses to have her grief and loss removed, and the protagonist has never felt the need, despite several ordinary losses - until the best friend commits suicide, and she must decide between honouring her friend's wish to be grieved and removing the enormous loss she feels. Emotionally powerful, and raises important questions about the role of grief and pain. C.S.E. Cooney, "Martyr's Gem": the island setting (after a cataclysm in which most of the islands have been lost) recalls Ursula Le Guin, as does the protagonist, a man little thought of by his people but who has a rare depth of caring and a pragmatic courage that wins him the respect of those who look more carefully. I enjoyed the story very much, though I wish that the author hadn't chosen such similar names for the protagonist and his sister (I was confused at least once). Alaya Dawn Johnson, "They Shall Salt the Earth with Seeds of Glass": the agenda of this story should be fairly obvious when I say that it involves a future America struggling under the rule of technologically advanced invaders who use drones and enforce their (to the population, sometimes arbitrary) rules with lethal force. It's pretty clearly intended to make Americans think of what it must be like to be in, say, Afghanistan with Americans doing exactly that. I think that point may be lost for the people who need it most, though, because they'll be distracted by the fact that the protagonist's goal is to procure an illegal abortion for her sister. Jedediah Berry, "A Window or a Small Box": another surreal one, with a young couple in an Alice-like struggle to escape from, or even in, a strange alternate reality. There are hints of it being partly about the experience of illegal immigrants. Carrie Vaughn, "Game of Chance": I'm a fan of Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville series, and hadn't realised that she is also writing a lot of short fiction these days. The Kitty books are urban fantasy of medium depth, but this story goes beyond that. The female protagonist is able to influence probability, but only in small, unobtrusive ways, and struggles with a man with similar powers who believes that they must use their power to bring about large-scale political ends through action that's as direct as they're capable of. Her preference is to make what difference she can to people who don't seem powerful, and she's ultimately vindicated. Erik Amundsen, "Live Arcade": this story about a video game that interacts with real life is beautifully told and well imagined. I did have a moment of disorientation when I realised that, despite the title, the young protagonist isn't playing in an arcade but on his home system, but that's probably just because I'm middle-aged. Madeline Ashby, "Social Services": another that I've read in another collection, and which I didn't think worked all that well (largely because it broke my suspension of disbelief) as well as not being to my taste (it's essentially a horror story in the Twilight Zone mould). Alex Dally MacFarlane, "Found": I found this a lovely, hopeful story about someone who is unusual in their culture discovering that what they are is honoured and accepted elsewhere. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop and for the story to turn dark and tragic, but happily it didn't. The sensory element of the spices is also well done. Ken Liu, "A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel": Liu does beautiful, human stories involving cultural expectations, their human cost, and their revision, and also quite a bit of infodumping. This is no exception. E. Lily Yu, "Ilse, Who Saw Clearly": I just realised that this is the second story in the collection from the same author. It's a fairy tale, of sorts, and a coming of age story, and a story about being different and being brave and helping your community and finding a larger world. I liked it. Harry Turtledove, "It's the End of the World as We Know It, and We Feel Fine": this one deals with an idea I've thought about myself, the idea of changing human nature so that we're able to have more positive social relationships. Even though it's done in a travelogue kind of style which could be very infodumpy, and has almost no plot, the engaging voice in which it's told makes up for that. Krista Hoeppner Leahy, "Killing Curses: A Caught-Heart Quest": this is definitely an author I will be watching out for, based on this story. It reminded me of Roger Zelazny's stranger worlds, and if you saw my bookshelf full of battered second-hand Zelazny for which I've scoured used bookshops over a period of years, you'd know what a compliment that is coming from me. Although it's full of offhand strangeness, I was seldom lost or confused, though I never did quite manage to picture how the curse-killer's metal teeth looked when being used against curses. Peter Watts, "Firebrand": the gummint covers up spontaneous human combustion resulting from big business's screw-ups. A cynical story, but I managed not to hate it. Maureen McHugh, "The Memory Book": my least favourite story in the collection, full of editing errors, with a nasty, petty, spoiled protagonist who abuses her voodoo-like powers in an uptight Victorian England. It's interesting to see these unedited proofs from Netgalley and see which well-known, award-winning writers still confuse "it's" and "its"; turns out, Maureen McHugh, Ian MacDonald and Kaitlin R. Kiernan. And editors still buy them, and even put them in Best Of collections, which amazes me. Howard Waldrop, "The Dead Sea-Bottom Scrolls": a piece of planetary romance, another without much plot but with an evocation of setting that makes up for it. Karin Tidbeck, "A Fine Show on the Abyssal Plain": another surreal story (there are a few in this collection), about a troupe of actors who play to audiences they mostly can't see in strange settings. It managed to take me along for the ride. Linda Nagata, "Out in the Dark": post-cyberpunk again, and this time it's the ethics of multiple incarnation for people who can download their personas into "husks" and use this to travel around the solar system in reasonable timeframes. I liked what the author did with it, and with her protagonist, the honest policeman. Naim Kabir, "On the Origin of Song": a kind of parable of the advance of civil rights, I think, in which stone people strive to be recognised as people. The similarity of the hero's name to "Charles Darwin" looked like it was going to be more significant than it was. Tang Fei (tr. Ken Liu), "Call Girl": beautifully written, though somehow to me it seemed a little thin. Perhaps it was the unemotionality of the protagonist. Christopher Barzak, "Paranormal Romance": I read this in Paula Guran's collection Magic City: Recent Spells, and didn't like it much. The main character shows no protagonism, and there's really not a plot to speak of, certainly no conclusion. There were far better stories in that volume, for my money. Yukimi Ogawa, "Town's End": a lovely urban fantasy with a Japanese setting. Ian R. MacLeod, "The Discovered Country": like the Robert Reed story, this one starts with the idea that the ultra-rich can, by a destructive process, transition into a virtual existence, but it's more cynical; they're doing so in a way that hastens the decline of the world in general, that hogs resources desperately needed by ordinary people, in order to indulge their shallow whims. It's a scenario that arises from the current zeitgeist as naturally as stories of alien invasion rose from the 1950s, and will probably date as badly. Well done, though. Alan DeNiro, "The Wildfires of Antarctica": another story of the ultra-rich being selfish in a failing world. "Art" pieces which are, to some extent at least, living stage a kind of robot uprising. Again, cynical, too much so for my taste, and didn't quite hold together for me. Eleanor Arnason, "Kormak the Lucky": another story which I'd read previously elsewhere, and the only one of those in this collection that I actually enjoyed (though I didn't read it again, in the interests of time; this is a long book). Has the feel of a genuine ancient story (it draws on the Icelandic sagas), but also some modern touches. Overall, then, an enjoyable collection, full of engagingly strange settings and memorable characters. If you mainly read short stories for the plots, probably not one for you, though at least most of the stories do have plots which conclude - not inevitable these days.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alan

    Wishful thinking is a powerful curse, almost as bad as storytelling. —from "They Shall Salt the Earth with Seeds of Glass," by Alaya Dawn Johnson, p.245 I had previously read, and really liked, 2011's entry in Rich Horton's annual anthology series, and am happy to report that I'm just as impressed with The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014. This volume showcases Horton's dedication and wide-ranging taste just as well as, if not better than, the earlier one I read. And the individual stori Wishful thinking is a powerful curse, almost as bad as storytelling. —from "They Shall Salt the Earth with Seeds of Glass," by Alaya Dawn Johnson, p.245 I had previously read, and really liked, 2011's entry in Rich Horton's annual anthology series, and am happy to report that I'm just as impressed with The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014. This volume showcases Horton's dedication and wide-ranging taste just as well as, if not better than, the earlier one I read. And the individual stories—almost all of 'em—are pretty good, too. I won't list all thirty-five, but here are some of the ones that stood out for me most, after the fact... I'm always glad to see a story by Yoon Ha Lee, of course—she's one of the very best short fiction writers working in the 21st Century, and "Effigy Nights," though I'd read it before in her own collection Conservation of Shadows, is no exception. Maria Dahvana Headley's brief story "Such & Such Said to So & So" has a brilliant title, and its boozy, hard-boiled style is perfect for her surreal concept. The same could also be said of Benjanun Sriduangkaew's "The Bees Her Heart, the Hive Her Belly," except perhaps for the hard-boiled and boozy parts. I also really liked K.J. Parker's "The Dragonslayer of Merebarton" for its cynical take on some standard fantasy tropes, and "Martyr's Gem," by C.S.E. Cooney, for its much less cynical portrayal of a faraway Lost Colony's complex societies. I've already called out Alaya Dawn Johnson's post-alien conquest story, "They Shall Salt the Earth with Seeds of Glass." The weird alternities of Jedediah Berry's "A Window or a Small Box" and Carrie Vaughn's "Game of Chance," which appear back-to-back, also deserve at least brief mention, as does Ken Liu's "A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel." The gamification of reality (or is it the realization of a game?) in "Live Arcade," by Erik Amundsen, put me in mind of Ernest Cline's Ready Player One (which is a good thing, in case you didn't know). "Found," by Alex Dally MacFarlane, was a touching, if brief, hard SF story about spice-growers in an extrasolar asteroid belt. Linda Nagata's "Out in the Dark" shares an asteroid-based setting, though it's otherwise a totally different SF story about law enforcement and identity. Harry Turtledove's "It's the End of the World As We Know It, and We Feel Fine," with its title borrowed from R.E.M.'s oeuvre (or perhaps they both borrowed it from some other source), was actually one of the most disappointingly old-fashioned stories in this anthology, strongly reminiscent (at least to me) of C.M. Kornbluth's "The Marching Morons," though building on more recent news from Russia regarding the selective breeding of foxes. I don't think this story's take on eugenics was intended as prescriptive, peaceful as the resulting society may be, but it was more than a little disturbing, at least to me, and Turtledove did display at least one egregious blind spot—it's a lot more likely that Ugh the caveman's wife made the decisions about breeding for more stable character than Ugh himself did. Yukimi Ogawa brings a uniquely Japanese flavor to "Town's End," in a story about a marriage counselor who ends up catering to a supernatural clientele. Close to the end of the book, Ian MacLeod's "The Discovered Country" is a powerful tale about virtual reality and personality uploading, and the concluding story "Kormak the Lucky," by Eleanor Arnason, takes Icelandic and Irish mythology and mixes them to powerful effect. In the end, this anthology's all about boundaries, and crossing over them. It's about looking for—and finding—fascinating stories, wherever they come from. Rich Horton is willing to do the work for us, to seek out speculative fiction that's worth republishing. This is an effort that's worth your attention.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sir He-Man

    Soulcatcher by James Patrick Kelly – A woman tries to find and free her twin, who is a slave. I liked all the artifacts in the antique shop. Really cool ideas there. I don’t generally like the evil Fae as a subgenre. Some cool visuals but I didn’t get enough of a grasp as to why things were happening the way they were. How did she and her sister get separated? Why was her sister enslaved to begin with? Why must the Fae be SO evil? Meh. C Trafalgar and Josefina by Angélica Gorodischer – South Amer Soulcatcher by James Patrick Kelly – A woman tries to find and free her twin, who is a slave. I liked all the artifacts in the antique shop. Really cool ideas there. I don’t generally like the evil Fae as a subgenre. Some cool visuals but I didn’t get enough of a grasp as to why things were happening the way they were. How did she and her sister get separated? Why was her sister enslaved to begin with? Why must the Fae be SO evil? Meh. C Trafalgar and Josefina by Angélica Gorodischer – South American magical realism is always such a wonderful genre. I could see the influence from Borges here, but the sly way that the main storyteller gets away with her trick is the best part. Is she telling a story about a man who somehow traveled to a country in another dimension? Is this her story? Is it his? It is true? With the best stories, it doesn’t matter. A crazy story about a weird hidden kingdom where they do things in a way that doesn’t make any sense to us is still going to be captivating in spite of the fact that we don’t know the answers to any of those questions. B+ A Stranger from a Foreign Ship by Tom Purdom – I will admit that the body switching subgenre is one that is difficult to hook me with. I’m picky and most stories I’ve read in this vein have been horrible. This, though, took a real leap into gritty crime-noir and mixed it up with a body hopping thief who can dig around the minds of his victims. I was riveted. A- Blanchefleur by Theodora Goss – A fairy tale has to have several elements to keep the work from feeling like a stale copy of other folktales and fairy tales, but still keep enough tropes to make it feel solid. This story knocked it out of the park for just those reasons. Very good characters fill this story, who can back up very good metaphors. And they surround a coming of age story of a young farmboy finding himself as he commits to a year of training each as a scholar, a nanny, and a soldier. Did I mention there are lots of talking animals? I liked the mix of grit and whimsy that Goss balances between. It’s refreshing, and she makes it look easy when I know it’s not. A+ Effigy Nights by Yoon Ha Lee – Yoon Ha Lee has a talent for really beautiful ideas. I love the poetry of his work. Little details are important here. The visuals are what I would describe as dark, almost gothic sci-fi. No character really stood out to me, though. Still, the worldbuilding is good. B Such & Such Said to So & So by Maria Dahvana Hedley – Ugh. Yeah. Pass on this one. A man goes to bars and dates embodiments of alcohol who come to life as various men and women. Is this a metaphor? Is this a fever dream of an alcoholic? Who knows? Unclear, muddled, and ultimately unsatisfying. D+ Grizzled Veterans of Many and Much by Robert Reed – Robert Reed is still able to surprise me. I like the subgenre of transcendence scifi, especially with virtual worlds. James Patrick Kelly and David Marusek have created masterpieces in this genre. For this story, I wanted a little bit more, but it was still a really good ride. The worldbuilding about the people left behind in the world that was depopulating quickly was more interesting to me than the virtual environment that people copy their minds into. I love the arc of a man’s life in one story as a concept but I think the story doesn’t really pick up until about halfway through. The ending, after repeated readings, was an appropriately ironic twist. However, I felt that in order for that twist to have worked better, there could have been more attention paid to the character of the grandfather who is introduced at the beginning of the story. B Rosary and Goldenstar by Geoff Ryman – I just couldn’t “buy” the reality of this one. Shakespeare as a shaved headed gay boy twink, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as two jockish Swedish philosophers, etc. etc. It’s historical fiction but it didn’t feel authentically historical. The only part I liked was Shakespeare’s future wife having a cameo and she was more interesting than anyone else. C- The Bees Her Heart, the Hive Her Belly by Benjanun Sridaungkaew – So I knew about the drama surrounding this author before I read the story. Trying to be objective in my analysis of this story here. It didn’t have any huge amount of characterization. The characters are largely unemotional. It’s mostly worldbuilding that isn’t deeply explained. How exactly does someone have a porpoise inside them? Is it just part of the porpoise? Was it shrunk? Whaaaaa? Details like that aside, I hated the main character right off the bat for murdering anyone that portrayed her in art because…??? I guess she’s just a really private person but that aspect seemed to jarring to me without any context or explanation. I like the idea of a hivemind. The mystery of a hivemind split over several bodies all working in tandem together is a good idea. But this story did nothing for me. D+ The Dragonslayer of Merebarton by Tom Holt – A story about a bunch of old timers that has to defend their village from a dragon. Typical story for fantasy with some solid narrating skills. I liked the narrator. The story itself was well written but felt a little bit unoriginal. C+ The Oracle by Lavie Tidhar – Two separate stories taking place at separate points in the future describe how civilization had a jumping off point with artificial intelligence, though the outcome of that artificial intelligence being released into the world remained unclear to me, so the second timeline could have used some more explanation. Still, there was some interesting writing here. B- Loss, with Chalk Diagrams by E. Lily Yu – A very moving story about a world where emotion can be controlled with surgery. The author takes this concept and really explores it well, explores the ramifications, the justifications, and asks what the pros and cons would be of such a decision. What if we could bypass the emotion of loss? The characters totally sold me on this world and their own personal journeys. This would make a great independent film. A Martyr’s Gem by C.S.E. Cooney – A high fantasy story with several elements I really liked. The protagonist is a brave but overweight young man written off by his society until he is chosen as the husband for one of the wealthiest girls in the land. Personality interactions were very fun to watch here. On the worldbuilding side, well there’s a very fun mystery. Theirs is the last land left. The other lands were all destroyed by a massive flood/tsunami/cataclysm. We get tantalizing tidbits on that. Well done there. A few cliché elements, though. The little sister went from telling stories that shamed a group of people to winning those people over. I would have liked to have seen a little bit more of how she accomplished this. I also thought the ending, which I won’t spoil, was a bit deux ex machina. Still. A solid entry. B- They Shall Salt the Earth with Seeds of Glass by Alaya Dawn Johnson – Post apocalypse fiction. The most interesting thing about this was not the journey undertaken by two women to get an abortion, though that subject may unsettle some readers. For me, it was the antagonists. The aliens seemed almost well meaning in this story, though they’ve killed most of humanity and are putting the rest under strictly enforced guidelines for survival. I wanted more, but this was a slice of life bit of writing. We only know as much as our character knows. I would like to find out more about their plans for Earth, their motivations, etc. B+ A Window or a Small Box by Jedediah Berry – This story was amazing. It reminded me of the best of Kelly Link or Jeff Vandermeer. Surreal, funny, absurd, frenetic, fast-paced alternate world insanity. It really pushes the idea of what an alternate universe could look like in an anthropological sense. I love his attention to coming up with catch phrases, sayings, customs, socio-behavioral models that all paint the picture of a totally different culture. A lot of it doesn’t make sense but the tapestry all comes together anyway. Bizarre and wonderful. I can’t believe this guy has only published two short stories. A+ Game of Chance by Carrie Vaughn – Really interesting idea here about changing fate with mild superpowers in an alternate early 20th century Europe. Good narrator. Engrossing. B+ Live Arcade by Erik Amundsen – Terrible. So your video game character is sentient and…this went nowhere. F Social Services by Madeline Ashby – I like some aspects of this story. I like the near future ideas about intrusion of privacy and wearable tech. The story’s theme seems to be intrusion. But this is a story based on the reality of where humans will be in a few decades. I thought the ending was unrealistic. Spoilers: The main character goes to truant children and convinces them to go to school. At the end of this story, the child is evil and he drugs her. Says he’s convinced the AI’s that his parents are still alive and he’s killed them. He thinks she can just quit her job and assume the identity of his mother but I think in a society with this level of technological identification, this plan is not going to work. Someone would investigate. And on top of that the genre switch didn’t work for me, either. D Found by Alex Daily MacFarlane – So in another star system in the far future, a bunch of people live on asteroids because they didn’t make it to some planet due to some emergency/disaster. They finally make contact with the world in the system that got settled and a bunch of people are preparing to migrate there. There is a big theme about spices being the only plants they had to cultivate. Which leads me to wonder what they eat. They don’t have regular food (rice, noodles, bread, any other crops) so I had no idea how they got their food, and since food or flavor is an important theme, I was left wanting more there. I thought most of the ideas in this story were solid up until the end when a very confusing passage on gender fluidity was introduced. I wasn’t sure if there was a gender change or if everyone on the planet does gender changes. And the plot sort of just tacks this on with no previous mention of it, or context. I wasn’t sure what was happening. D A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel by Ken Liu – I wanted to like this story more. Alternate history story about said tunnel being build during the Depression. Again, unrealistic for the tech available at that time. Basic logic problems. Planes and boats are easier, more economical, and any engineer would know that. Trade was not heavy enough to warrant a tunnel at that time. The real story is about labor exploitation and cover-up. C- Ilse, Who Saw Clearly by E. Lily Yu – One of the best stories here. A young girl in a German fairytale you’ve definitely never read before. Yu is my favorite new author in this collection. Writing folktales such as this one and Theodora Goss’ works is a rare talent. A+ It’s the End of the World as We Know It, and We Feel Fine by Harry Turtledove – I had no idea Harry Turtledove could be this funny. Hilarious slice of life from a future that is equally dytopian and utopian. So bravo for accomplishing that. A+ Killing Curses: a Caught-Heart Quest by Krista Hoeppner Leahy – Almost incomprehensible. You have to be careful when introducing vocabulary your audience is supposed to guess the meaning of. Gene Wolfe pulled that off, but this was struggling to make sense. This would definitely be categorized as “weird fiction” but while making all these references, the story elements don’t seem to match the references we know. I am rarely this perplexed while reading anything. So I’ll bump it up from an F to a D- for making an impression, at least. D- Firebrand by Peter Watts – Okay so you have a bacteria causing spontaneous human combustion. Great idea. But then Watts just doesn’t really do anything much with it. There could have been so many possibilities so I was disappointed with the plot, and the characters bored me. I like Watts so this was a disappointment. D+ The Memory Book by Maureen F. McHugh – An increasingly eerie Victorian era story about a young girl sent to be a nanny. I thought I could see where this was going, and I was pleasantly surprised. Very good characterization and minimal language totally evokes the era without referencing it directly. Masterful gothic fiction. A The Dead Sea-Bottom Scrolls by Howard Waldrop – Meh some recordings of some Martians about sailing around in something out of Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles. Semi-interesting but kinda meh. I liked some of the descriptive writing. It’s not easy to write about Mars and come up with something I haven’t seen before, so maybe I’m picky but I didn’t feel like the plot was at all unique. C A Fine Show on the Abyssal Plain by Karin Tidbeck – This might be the most unique story in this collection along with Jedediah Berry’s story. It’s not The Little Mermaid, that’s for sure. It has a series of characters that fit plays within plays, and I don’t want to spoil it. It’s odd, impossible, definitely a “weird fiction” story. But it’s one that totally works for its oddball nature. It’s like “Schenectady, New York” meets “The Life Aquatic” meets “The Twilight Zone” by way of Finding Nemo. A Out in the Dark by Linda Nagata – Thoroughly satisfying detective noir science fiction. I happen to love this genre and this was a theme I’d seen before but it was done so well. The unraveling mystery of identity was handled well. B+ On the Origin of Song by Naim Kabir – This story had elements I normally love. Epistolary (story told in letters) is a favorite subgenre of mine. But the worldbuilding didn’t match the plot. It was very ambitious worldbuilding but in the end it’s much ado about nothing regarding a character who just captivates various people, but doesn’t manage to do a whole lot. Perplexing. D+ Call Girl by Tang Fei – Magical realist tale from China about a girl who can induce addictive virtual worlds via some kind of telepathy. I appreciated all the slice of life details here. The writing is spare and effective. It has a very Twilight Zone feel to it and if anything, I wanted it to be fleshed out more and would like to have gotten more about the main character’s motives. A- Paranormal Romance by Christopher Barzak – Okay, I don’t normally like supernatural romance. But the character writing and dialogue in this story was top notch. A witch who is just a regular gal gets set up on a blind date by her mother. One of the stronger entries in this book. Unexpected romance is always a plus when it’s done correctly. B+ Town’s End by Yukimi Ogawa – Dynamite mythic urban fiction story taking place in Japan. A woman in a dating agency sets up various spirits. I found this story to be surprising, charming and visually wonderful. A

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lynnet

    Upon further thought, I am upgrading this to five stars, as I believe I liked more than 80% of the stories in this collection. This is the first year I have really focused on short fiction, and this collection has convinced me I need to continue to do so in the future. Favorites: Soulcatcher by James Patrick Kelly: God, this was a disturbing story. It's an excellent introduction to the collection, signalling that many of the later stories will not be ones that necessarily sit comfortably. Blanchef Upon further thought, I am upgrading this to five stars, as I believe I liked more than 80% of the stories in this collection. This is the first year I have really focused on short fiction, and this collection has convinced me I need to continue to do so in the future. Favorites: Soulcatcher by James Patrick Kelly: God, this was a disturbing story. It's an excellent introduction to the collection, signalling that many of the later stories will not be ones that necessarily sit comfortably. Blanchefleur by Theodora Goss: A sweet fairytale, which sweetness doesn't prevent it from provoking thought. The Bees Her Heart, the Hive Her Belly by Benjanun Sriduangkaew: I found this story emotionally compelling, even as I was confused by the worldbuilding. Loss, with Chalk Diagrams by E. Lily Yu: I didn't think much of this story when I read it initially, but as I've thought about it since then I've come to appreciate its layers. It's a perfectly contained story, which is very rare and an accomplishment in and of itself. In many ways, it echoes the themes of the Turtledove story, later in the collection but, in my opinion, much more elegantly. Martyr's Gem by C.S.E. Cooney: What can I say, I loved this story wholeheartedly. The characters. The world. The plot. All are perfectly balanced into a beautiful whole. Found by Alex Dally MacFarlane: I can see how this story wouldn't be for everyone, but I was swept away by the language and the world. A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel by Ken Liu: I had seen this story mentioned highly in several places, but was skeptical. The story started quietly, and slowly built itself and its world and its themes bit by bit. By the end, I completely understood the acclaim, and wondered why it hadn't won all the awards. Call Girl by Tang Fei: To be honest, I bought the collection partly because I wanted to see what a science fiction story with this title would look like. I wasn't disappointed, and I look forward to finding more work by Tang Fei.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Craig Caustic

    DNF; just sort of lost motivation to keep reading it. Will return once my TBR shelves dwindles enough to allow me to do so.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ron

    The fun of reading anthologies , especially those claiming to be the year's best, is the diversity of stories the reader get to peruse. The reader gets an introduction to new authors, new situations, and maybe stretch their reading tastes. The problem with this volume is the sheer number of tales included. Almost three dozen stories strains the reader's credulity that these are all "year's best" tales. Some are good. Some are memorable. And some are just worth dipping into to see if you should j The fun of reading anthologies , especially those claiming to be the year's best, is the diversity of stories the reader get to peruse. The reader gets an introduction to new authors, new situations, and maybe stretch their reading tastes. The problem with this volume is the sheer number of tales included. Almost three dozen stories strains the reader's credulity that these are all "year's best" tales. Some are good. Some are memorable. And some are just worth dipping into to see if you should just skip to the next one. So, when you read this volume, just remember that your enjoyment will vary.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    My diverse reading (which extends well beyond SF/F) makes it unfeasible for me to catch everything of interest or of merit. I, thus, appreciate the multiple anthologies each year that offer their unique selections of noteworthy short stories. This marks the sixth year of Horton’s relatively young Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy series, but it happens to be the first one that I’ve read. It will be hard to fit in past years to catch up, but I’m going to strive to make it part of the future My diverse reading (which extends well beyond SF/F) makes it unfeasible for me to catch everything of interest or of merit. I, thus, appreciate the multiple anthologies each year that offer their unique selections of noteworthy short stories. This marks the sixth year of Horton’s relatively young Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy series, but it happens to be the first one that I’ve read. It will be hard to fit in past years to catch up, but I’m going to strive to make it part of the future annual reading queue. The extensive breadth and diversity of this collection strikes me foremost. The sources for the stories include a balance of major print and online magazines to smaller outlets and stand-alone publications, and the stories themselves extend through the many forms and combinations of science fiction and fantasy. A part of me wishes that literary outlets were also included in this mix, as genre elements are increasingly found within their pages. Yet another part of me recognizes that the literary world often ignores the genre, so the reverse is just as appropriate. In terms of authors, both familiar, well-established names and newly discovered stars compose the ranks, and slightly over half are female. The equal inclusion of material from both print and electronic outlets is a strong positive for Horton’s collection, contributing to this diversity of authors and reflecting the celebration of new talent that shines online. In his introduction, Horton stresses — and perhaps exaggerates — the international line-up of this year’s offering and the prevalence of non-Anglophone writing. Aside from authors from Canada and Britain (international but still Anglophone), the non-US authors featured technically hail from Argentina, Hungary, Thailand, Israel, China, Sweden, and Japan. However, several of these live in the US, having lived abroad when younger. Only two of the stories are actual translations from a non-Anglophone source. Yet, regardless of the writers’ or texts’ origins, a modern, global, and non-Anglophone influence is increasingly visible in the SF/F field at large — and within this collection. So Horton’s conscious stress on this quality is not completely misplaced. Even among the US-born writers (the newer ones in particular), they tend to come from a non-Anglophone heritage and are first-generation US natives. I can only hope this trend continues, for SF/F is not just about speculating or inventing worlds, but also gaining a broader appreciation of this planet and experiences different from our own. I had read seventeen of the thirty-five stories upon their original publication. I don’t view this as a negative or waste of time at all. Many of these were just as enjoyable the second time around, and in some cases, a story I had previously failed to appreciate gained something or struck a new chord upon a second reading. With such profound variety of source, theme, and sub-genre, it isn’t surprising that some stories included in the collection failed to resonate. Yet, even for the kinds of stories that I don’t typically enjoy, it was worthwhile to read examples considered noteworthy by another genre fan, both to note qualities that I appreciated and to reinforce aspects that I don’t. I only disliked one story (both when it was published and reading anew) — the selection by Turtledove from Analog. For those who did really like “It’s The End of the World as We Know It, and We Feel Fine”, I’d love to hear that point of view. My personal favorites from this collection are: “Soulcatcher” by James Patrick Kelly, “Blanchefleur” by Theodora Goss, “Grizzled Veterans of Many and Much” by Robert Reed, “The Bees Her Heart, the Hive Her Belly” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew, “Loss, with Chalk Diagrams” by E. Lily Yu, “The Dragons of Merebarton” by K.J. Parker, “They Shall Salt the Earth With Seeds of Glass” by Alaya Dawn Johnson, “Social Services” by Madeline Ashby, “A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel” by Ken Liu, “The Wildfires of Antarctica” by Alan De Niro, and “Kormak the Lucky” by Eleanor Arnason. I can’t speak about each of these, but I do want to briefly mention two below vis a vis the issue of reader expectation. “Blanchefleur” by Theodora Goss was probably my favorite story in the collection. It was certainly the one that surprised me the greatest by how hard it hit me while also simply being an entertaining fantasy story. Goss isn’t new to me; though I recognize her as a good writer, the fairy tale or mythic style stories that she typically writes aren’t my genre of choice. “Blanchefleur” reminded me that superb reading experiences can come from unexpected avenues. “A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel” represents for me high (perhaps unfairly too-high) expectations. When I see something written by Ken Liu, I immediately have high hopes to love the hell out of the thing from the word go. It took a while for me to appreciate its slow build from familiar character study within alternate history to unleashing the profound commentary running beneath the plot — both when reading this story originally and now a second time. This is probably not the best story written by Liu in 2013, but that one is already in other collections, so I was really pleased to see this one selected here as an alternative showcase of Liu’s power and great ideas. Disclaimer: I received a free electronic advanced reading copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Review originally posted at skiffyandfanty.com.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Bryce

    Another good collection of SF&F short stories. My favorites: Effigy Nights (Yoon Ha Lee): In a dire time, effigies cut out of stories are unleashed to defend the city. But then, the stories take on a life of their own. What could go wrong? Grizzled Veterans of Many and Much (Robert Reed): A new technology is developed that allows you to "transcend" and generate a burst of productivity, creativity, and thought, but at the cost of life itself. How does that change what it means to live? Loss, with Ch Another good collection of SF&F short stories. My favorites: Effigy Nights (Yoon Ha Lee): In a dire time, effigies cut out of stories are unleashed to defend the city. But then, the stories take on a life of their own. What could go wrong? Grizzled Veterans of Many and Much (Robert Reed): A new technology is developed that allows you to "transcend" and generate a burst of productivity, creativity, and thought, but at the cost of life itself. How does that change what it means to live? Loss, with Chalk Diagrams (E. Lily Yu): Now, you can have your neural pathways rewired to eliminate feelings of grief and loss. But, what do you lose?

  11. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    This review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.0 of 5 I've come to realize just how vital is the role of editor in a 'best of' series such as this.  Not too long I reviewed The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume 8 (2014).  What is the difference between that collection and this one?  The stories, as selected by the editor. You might think that there would be a lot of over-lap between the books -- both claim to be presenting the best of the year -- but in fac This review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.0 of 5 I've come to realize just how vital is the role of editor in a 'best of' series such as this.  Not too long I reviewed The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume 8 (2014).  What is the difference between that collection and this one?  The stories, as selected by the editor. You might think that there would be a lot of over-lap between the books -- both claim to be presenting the best of the year -- but in fact, there is very little over-lap.  And the difference between the two books boils down to editorial choice.  Having read both of these collections, I would have to say that my own tastes tend to be more closely aligned with Rich Horton's, as I enjoyed more of the stories in this particular collection. Although Joe Abercrombie's "Some Desperado" may be my favorite of the two collections (it was in Jonathan Strahan's collection and not in this one) I enjoyed more, overall, from this. My favorite story here was also in Strahan's collection, "Rosary and Goldenstar" by Geoff Ryman.  My having a strong, professional theatre background (having worked with a Shakespeare festival and on an original play featuring John Dee) likely has influenced my appreciation for this story. It's been a long since I read anything by Eleanor Arnason, but her "Kormak the Lucky" is a great way to finish this book.  it was like reading one of Snorri Sturluson's Eddas! "Grizzled Veterans of Many and Much" by Robert Reed was a tremendously interesting story. E. Lily Yu is deservedly featured twice in this book, once with "Loss, With Chalk Diagrams" and with "Ilse, Who Saw Clearly."  Both are marvelous stories.  Yu is quite masterful at hitting the reader with some subtle emotions that take root and grow in the reader. I've become familiar with Peter Watts through the book Echopraxia, and his story here, "Firebrand," is a really fun look at spontaneous combustion (if such a thing can be 'fun'). Linda Nagata's "Out in the Dark" is almost a classic sci-fi story in the sense that it explores some theoretical ethics issues.  This was very interesting! "Call Girl" by Tang Fei and translated by Ken Liu was really interesting and had me wondering what was happening and where the story was heading. All in all...if you like sci-fi, you really can't go wrong with this collection. This collection includes: "Soulcatcher" -- James Patrick Kelly "Trafalgar and Josefina" -- Angélica Gorodischer "A Stranger from a Foreign Ship" -- Tom Purdom "Blanchefleur" -- Theodora Goss "Effigy Nights" -- Yoon Ha Lee "Such & Such Said So & So" -- Maria Dahvana Headly "Grizzled Veterans of Many and Much" -- Robert Reed "Rosary and Goldenstar" -- Geoff Ryman "The Bees Her Heart, The Hive Her Belly" -- Benjanun Sriduangkaew "The Dragonslayer of Merebarton" -- K.J. Parker "The Oracle" -- Lavie Tidhar "Loss, with Chalk Diagrams" -- E. Lily Yu "Martyr's Gem" -- C.S.E. Cooney "They Shall Salt the Earth with Seeds of Glass" -- Alaya Dawn Johnson "A Window or a Small Box" -- Jedediah Berry "Game of Chance" -- Carrie Vaughn "Live Arcade" -- Erik Amundsen "Social Services" -- Madeline Ashby "Found" -- Alex Dally MacFarlane "A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel" -- Ken Liu "Ilse, Who Saw Clearly" -- E. Lily Yu "The End of the World as We know It, and We Feel Fine" -- Harry Turtledove "Killing Curses: A Caught-Heart Quest" -- Krista Hoeppner Leahy "Firebrand" -- Peter Watts "The Memory Book" -- Maureen McHugh "The Dead Sea-Bottom Scrolls" -- Howard Waldrop "A Fine Show on the Abyssmal Plain" -- Karin Tidbeck "Out in the Dark" -- Linda Nagata "On the Origin of Song" -- Naim Kabir "Call Girl" -- Tang Fei "Paranormal Romance" -- Yukimi Ogawa "The Dicovered Country" -- Ian R. MacLeod "The Wilderness of Antarctica" -- Alan DeNiro "Kormak the Lucky" -- Eleanor Arnason Looking for a good book?  I believe that this is, as the title suggests, The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2014.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mark Catalfano

    I liked "A Brief History of the Trans-Atlantic Tunnel" by Ken Liu, "A Stranger from a Foreign Ship" by Tom Purdom, "Social Services" by Madeline Ashby, and "Out in the Dark" by Linda Nagata. I liked "A Brief History of the Trans-Atlantic Tunnel" by Ken Liu, "A Stranger from a Foreign Ship" by Tom Purdom, "Social Services" by Madeline Ashby, and "Out in the Dark" by Linda Nagata.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Chico

    Disclaimer: This review is based on the reading of the advanced reader's edition of this novel provided by the publisher via NetGalley. The review, in its entirety, is of my own opinion of the novel. The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014 Edition is a book of short stories in the genres of science fiction and fantasy from various authors. There are stories that range from dragonslayers to a man that can switch consciousness with others. Hell, as a science fiction fan, how could you not li Disclaimer: This review is based on the reading of the advanced reader's edition of this novel provided by the publisher via NetGalley. The review, in its entirety, is of my own opinion of the novel. The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014 Edition is a book of short stories in the genres of science fiction and fantasy from various authors. There are stories that range from dragonslayers to a man that can switch consciousness with others. Hell, as a science fiction fan, how could you not like this book that has such an awesome binary joke: "What's the difference between 00110110 and 00100110? 11001011!"? There are stories in this compilation from people from all over the world, in fact, some of the stories were translated for this collection. Although one could read this book all at once, my recommendation is to read a little bit at a time because it is a bit long and you could enjoy the random stories at your leisure. I give this book a solid 3 out of 5 because although I enjoyed many of the stories, there were some that I just didn't like. I recommend this book to readers that are fans of science fiction and/or fantasy, or for those that want to begin reading stories from either genre.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kel Munger

    The science fiction and fantasy anthology offers some equally big names—Geoff Ryman’s “Rosary and Goldenstar,” which gives us an alternative history of the Renaissance, and the source for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern; Ken Liu (again), in “A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel,” with a techno-turn for 20th century history; Maureen McHugh’s weird and scary “The Memory Book” (which is actually moving into the realm of dark fantasy); and Harry Turtledove’s kinda funny dystopian future, “It’s t The science fiction and fantasy anthology offers some equally big names—Geoff Ryman’s “Rosary and Goldenstar,” which gives us an alternative history of the Renaissance, and the source for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern; Ken Liu (again), in “A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel,” with a techno-turn for 20th century history; Maureen McHugh’s weird and scary “The Memory Book” (which is actually moving into the realm of dark fantasy); and Harry Turtledove’s kinda funny dystopian future, “It’s the End of the World as We Know It, and We Feel Fine.” High points for this reader came from some of the many—and this is very nice—international stories: Israeli writer Lavie Tidhar’s “The Oracle,” in which a woman ponders whether to “ascend” to join computer consciousness; “The Bees Her Heart, The Hive Her Belly,” Thai writer Benjamin Sriduangkaew’s take on the development of new forms of life in an off-world future; and Chinese writer Tang Fei’s “Call Girl,” in which an outcast schoolgirl finds a way to make money by making older, wealthy mens’ dreams come true. ... (Full review on Lit/Rant: http://litrant.tumblr.com/post/105605...)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Yossarianxxi

    I finally, finally finished this book. I nearly gave up on it in the middle, because of some stories I hated, but I'm glad I stuck with it, because some of my favorite stories were towards the end. Overall these stories were totally hit or miss. Here's my recommendations: Recommend: • Trafalgar and Josephina by Angélica Gorodischer (4.5*'s) • Blanchefleur by Theodora Goss (4*) • Such & Such Said to So & so by Maria Dahnana Headly(4*) • Grizzled Veterans of Many and Much (5*) • The Dragonslayer of Mere I finally, finally finished this book. I nearly gave up on it in the middle, because of some stories I hated, but I'm glad I stuck with it, because some of my favorite stories were towards the end. Overall these stories were totally hit or miss. Here's my recommendations: Recommend: • Trafalgar and Josephina by Angélica Gorodischer (4.5*'s) • Blanchefleur by Theodora Goss (4*) • Such & Such Said to So & so by Maria Dahnana Headly(4*) • Grizzled Veterans of Many and Much (5*) • The Dragonslayer of Merebarton by KJ Parker • Martyr's Gem by C.S.E Cooney (5*) • A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel by Ken Liu (4.5*) • Isle, who saw Clearly by E. Lily Yu (5*) • The Memory Book (4*) by Maureen McHugh • Out in the Dark by Linda Nagata (5*) • Town's End by Yukimi Ogawa (4.5*) • The Discovered Country by Ian R MacLeod (4.5*s) • The Wildfires of Antarctica by Alan DeNiro (4*s) • Kormak the Lucky by Eleanor Arnason (4.5*) The rest of the book can probably be skipped.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I received a copy from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. I found this collection to be astonishingly good. Each story is well put together and deserved to be high-lighted in this year's edition. The introduction emphasized the global scope of the works. I would have loved a separate introduction to each story. Nothing huge, but some background on the author. Was the story translated and from which language? Are there any common challenges with translation? I appreciate this is informati I received a copy from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. I found this collection to be astonishingly good. Each story is well put together and deserved to be high-lighted in this year's edition. The introduction emphasized the global scope of the works. I would have loved a separate introduction to each story. Nothing huge, but some background on the author. Was the story translated and from which language? Are there any common challenges with translation? I appreciate this is information I could probably find but with some thirty stories I selfishly want it done for me. Such introductions would be easy to skip over for those who are not interested. Otherwise, very well put together. I will definitely catch up on the earlier editions.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Blake

    Featuring thirty-four short stories selected as the best from 2014, this anthology showcases the best and brightest of the past twelve months. The stories selected show a real range in perspectives- it is wonderful to see an anthology with plenty of stories from international talents. Some of my personal favourites are: "Effigy Nights" Yoon Ha Lee "Loss with Chalk Diagrams" by E. Lily Yu "The Memory Book" by Maureen McHugh "Call Girl" by Tang Fei "Town's End" by Yukimi Agawa This anthology gives a rea Featuring thirty-four short stories selected as the best from 2014, this anthology showcases the best and brightest of the past twelve months. The stories selected show a real range in perspectives- it is wonderful to see an anthology with plenty of stories from international talents. Some of my personal favourites are: "Effigy Nights" Yoon Ha Lee "Loss with Chalk Diagrams" by E. Lily Yu "The Memory Book" by Maureen McHugh "Call Girl" by Tang Fei "Town's End" by Yukimi Agawa This anthology gives a real overview and insight into the speculative fiction trends and stars of 2015

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Bridgeman

    A highlight of the short story year for me is this anthpology of new stories from established and up and coming authors. It is not an exaggeration to say this is a book with as wide a variety of authors as possible within the genre and it is a hefty, and worthwhile read.I woudl genuinely struggle to find a favourite and it is always good to find new authors you haven't come across yet. Many thanks Netgalley for letting me read it! A highlight of the short story year for me is this anthpology of new stories from established and up and coming authors. It is not an exaggeration to say this is a book with as wide a variety of authors as possible within the genre and it is a hefty, and worthwhile read.I woudl genuinely struggle to find a favourite and it is always good to find new authors you haven't come across yet. Many thanks Netgalley for letting me read it!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ted Roberts

    something here for everyone this anthology reflects the range available, the dross as well as the brilliant. I really five star rated four stories and hated about the same number but only gave up on one. that's well and truly par so the overall volume gets e worth buying rating from this seventh decade genre reader. this something here for everyone this anthology reflects the range available, the dross as well as the brilliant. I really five star rated four stories and hated about the same number but only gave up on one. that's well and truly par so the overall volume gets e worth buying rating from this seventh decade genre reader. this

  20. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I ordered this without reading for my Fall 2015 Science fiction class-- but almost all of the stories were dark and depressing and long-- not appropriate for class. Plus, I am irritated that Rich Horton does not give even brief bios of the authors, which would be very helpful for a class. Unfortunate waste of $-- mine and my students' :-( I ordered this without reading for my Fall 2015 Science fiction class-- but almost all of the stories were dark and depressing and long-- not appropriate for class. Plus, I am irritated that Rich Horton does not give even brief bios of the authors, which would be very helpful for a class. Unfortunate waste of $-- mine and my students' :-(

  21. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

    Uneven. Highest point was "They Shall Salt the Earth With Seeds of Glass" by Alaya Dawn Johnson. Other strong stories by Ken Liu, K. J. Parker, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Karin Tidbeck, Lavie Tidhar, Howard Waldrop, and Peter Watts. Uneven. Highest point was "They Shall Salt the Earth With Seeds of Glass" by Alaya Dawn Johnson. Other strong stories by Ken Liu, K. J. Parker, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Karin Tidbeck, Lavie Tidhar, Howard Waldrop, and Peter Watts.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Falbs

    Some great stories, some crazy fantasy shit, really a mixed bag. "But you do your best. You struggle, just as a man crushed under a giant stone still draws in the last two one or two desperate whistling breaths; pointless, but you just can't give up." - K. J. Parker Some great stories, some crazy fantasy shit, really a mixed bag. "But you do your best. You struggle, just as a man crushed under a giant stone still draws in the last two one or two desperate whistling breaths; pointless, but you just can't give up." - K. J. Parker

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ken

    Just read a few favourite stories of several reviewers here on Goodread, thanks for the short comments on individual stories.

  24. 5 out of 5

    scarlettraces

    (3.5)

  25. 4 out of 5

    Richard Wood

    Hit or miss, overall worth the read.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tanya Procknow

    Good stories however I liked the fantasy better than the si-fi which is unusually.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Pushpak Karnick

    Please find my review here: http://echoes-empty-mind.blogspot.com... Please find my review here: http://echoes-empty-mind.blogspot.com...

  28. 4 out of 5

    Earl Biringer

  29. 4 out of 5

    Scott Weston

  30. 5 out of 5

    Keith

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