This is the second volume of David Hartwell's annual anthology of science fiction stories. It contains twenty stories, each with an introduction to the story's author and the author's other works. The first volume in Hartwell's series was a good beginning; this one sets the pattern for a great series.
My five favorite stories are listed below.
Dave Wolverton's "After a Lean Winter" is very consciously H. G. Wells's content written in the style of Jack London. There's more to it than a mid-winter dog fight.
Sheila Finch's "Out of the Mouths" is about the language and culture that both human and alien children learn as part of growing up. Even when the adults who love them don't quite understand.
Gene Wolf's "Counting Cats in Zanzibar" is about a woman on the run from her past. When it catches up with her, she embraces it.
Bruce Sterling's "Bicycle Repairman" has become a cyberpunk classic. More than anything it is a portrait of a low-key, high-tech social outcast. Well, there is more than one, actually.
Connie Willis' "Nonstop to Portales" pays homage to a Grand Master of science fiction and his vision of the future. And it's a good story about an ordinary man deciding whether to spend time in a little town where nothing seems to happen.
The introductions in this volume, while adequate, are briefer than those found in later volumes. I am glad that this early form changed into the more extended treatment of each author and their other works that is characteristic of later books in this series. Hartwell's longer introductions add a great deal to the reader's enjoyment. This collection is recommended for its well-crafted stories and the editor's good taste in selecting them.