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Year's Best Science Fiction: 4th Annual Collection [Hardcover]

Gardner R. Dozois
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: St Martins Pr (May 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312007094
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312007096
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 16.3 x 4.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,401,693 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4.0 out of 5 stars Dozois Rounds the Bases 19 Oct 2012
By John M. Ford TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
This book is the fourth volume in Gardner Dozois's Year's Best Science Fiction series. Readers now anxiously wait for it each year; there is no doubt that it will appear. It begins with a summation of significant developments in SF during 1986. Each of the 27 stories is introduced with an informative summary of the author's background and other works. It conforms to and confirms the pattern the editor has chosen.

Five stories I really enjoyed:

Damon Knight's "Strangers on Paradise" follows a writer as he visits the Eden-like home world of a recently-deceased poet to learn more of her life for a book he plans to write. He learns a few things about the planet's history he did not expect.

John Kessel's "The Pure Product" is about two tourists with too much time on their hands. They count on the locals to provide them with entertainment. They are bored but not disappointed.

Connie Willis's "Chance" is about a woman who returns to her college when her husband accepts a job there. She has her regrets and begins to see past events play out again in familiar corners of campus. Reader, if you have regrets because you let someone go when you were young that you really shouldn't have--this will be hard, tearful reading. Don't skip it though; there may not be another chance.

Walter Jon Williams' "Video Star" is about a carefully planned and executed crime. The mastermind has thought through every step. Even the steps he will take afterward to distance himself from his partners.

William Gibson's "The Winter Market" is about the complicated relationship between an actress and her agent. She takes her career further than he recommends. He tries to find out where her limits are and suspects he can no longer walk away from her.

This is yet another very good collection and is highly recommended. It maintains the high quality of the first three volumes in the series. Get it, read it, enjoy it!
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By Maciej TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This fourth annual anthology of best SF stories covers works published in 1986. Sadly, after the extraordinary 1985 collection, this book is less successful, although still well worth reading. After a very complete analysis of what happened in the SF field in 1986, we can enjoy many excellent short stories, but this time there is also quite a lot of average ones - and some are simply bad. At the end as usual there is a long list of "Honorable mentions" - short stories considered by the editor as good, but which for lack of place (and it is already a huge book) couldn't be included.

Other than the lesser quality as compared with 1985 collection, the surprising thing is the presence of many stories which can hardly be considered science-fiction. Some of them I would rather consider as fantasy or fantastic tales and some would be probably more appropriately considered as mainstream literature, with some elements of "magic realism".

Below you will find my personal impressions about all the stories, with LIMITED SPOILERS.
---
"R&R" by Lucius Shepard - a long, very brutal and powerful story describing a hypothetic future war in Central America, in which Americans and local corrupt governments face Cubans and local guerillas; this is a very left-wing oriented thing, inspired clearly by author's deep detestation of Reagan's administration support for Salvador government and Nicaragua's Contra guerillas; American soldiers are here described with all the worst stereotypes from Vietnam War. It made me laugh out loud at one moment when author described "American defeat in Miskitia" - when in the real world Miskito Indians from Nicaragua were the toughest element of pro-American Contras!
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Humdinger 7 Mar 2003
By Brad Shorr - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This volume is rare but can be found. Well worth the effort.
1. "R & R" by Lucius Shepard. Can a story be too well written? Formidable story but florid prose: weary American soldiers fighting a war of attrition in future Central America get serious battle fatigue. I got serious metaphor fatigue. B
2. "Hatrack River" by Orson Scott Card. Does a seemingly innocent pioneer girl merely see the future...or shape it? Thought-provoking, sometimes violent story laced with mysticism set in 1805 Pennsylvania. B
3. "Strangers in Paradise" by Damon Knight. Man visits enchanting Earth-colonized planet only to discover its dirty little secret. A
4. "Pretty Boy Crossover" by Pat Cadigan. Confused and rebellious future teenagers literally go digital instead of getting pierced or tattooed. Cadigan's portrait of virtual reality is ahead of its time, well framed in a compelling story. A
5. "Against Babylon" by Robert Silverberg. Intrepid, exhausted pilot fights raging brush fires in Los Angeles as alien space ships land with intentions unknown. A real page turner! A
6. "Fiddling for Waterbuffloes" by Somtow Sucharitkul. Too high on the ambiguity scale for me. C-
7. "Into Gold" by Tanith Lee. Roman warlord falls for sultry witch in a remote corner of the crumbling Empire. Haunting prose creates an aura of impending doom. B+
8. "Sea Change" by Scott Baker. Loveable boy in future Venice is drawn to mysterious sea creatures. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? C
9. "Covenant of Souls" by Michael Swanick. Despite the religious motif, this one, set in nuclear war-torn America, doesn't have a prayer. C-
10. "The Pure Product" by John Kessel. Alien tourists blend in with humans on a visit to the Midwest and do a whole lot more than take pictures. Absolutely chilling. A+
11. "Grave Angels" by Richard Kearns. Simultaneously lyrical and gruesome tale about life, death, and the sometimes grim consequences of getting what you wish for. A-
12. "Tangents" by Greg Bear. Boy with unique mathematical insight makes very hard contact with life in the Fourth Dimension. B
13. "The Beautiful and the Sublime" by Bruce Sterling. My favorite story in the book. The author's own description is perfect: "(A) Wodehousian romantic comedy about the death of the scientific method..." Lots of unforgettable characters and dialog; fantastic, ironical plot totally counter to my expectations. A+
14. "Tattoos" by Jack Dann. On the other hand, this one is kind of predictable. C-
15. "Night Moves" by Tim Powers. Dreams, reality, madness and memory converge on a sad and lonely soul in New York. Complex, well plotted, thought-provoking. B
16. "The Prisoner of Chillon" by James Patrick Kelly. Zzzz
17. "Chance" by Connie Willis. Depressed New England woman married to brutish professor gets a chance to clean up her past when she returns to her undergraduate campus. C
18. "And So to Bed" by Harry Turtledove. This story, written in Elizabethan English, is so hard to read I didn't read it. NR
19. "Fair Game" by Howard Waldrop. Why do so many sci-fi writers write about Ernest Hemingway? C-
20. "Video Star" by Walter Jon Williams. America is in disarray, dissolving into a network of drug-dealing and otherwise criminal gangs...A daring con man bursts on the scene with a foolproof scheme to rip off two of them. Like I said, foolproof. This would make a great movie. A
21. "Sallie C" by Neal Barrett, Jr. Incongruous historical figures meet up in an Old West Saloon. Too incongruous, I figure. C
22. "Jeff Beck" by Lewis Shiner. What would it be like to play like Jeff Beck? Promising premise promptly peters out. C
23. "Surviving" by Judith Moffett. Female writer and woman raised by chimps become friends, then spend lots of time probing each other's psyche while swinging naked from trees. I'm not kidding. B
24. "Down and Out in the Year 2000" by Kim Stanley Robinson. My second favorite, set in a crumbling Washington, D.C. even worse than it's actually turned out. A poverty-stricken street hustler has his world closing in on him as he slowly and steadily runs out of money. Exceedingly well-written: the noose tightens with every sentence! A+
25. "Snake Eyes" by Tom Maddox. The author gets it right on artificial intelligence: very cool. A military pilot is hard-wired for combat, but the war gets cancelled like a TV show. Unfortunately, he can't pull his altered head out of its nosedive. B+
26. "The Gate of Ghosts" by Karen Joy Fowler. Extremely sad story about a devoted mother whose sweet four year-old daughter is gradually being pulled away by strange, unseen forces. A
27. "The Winter Market" by William Gibson. Zzzz
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good collection of stories published in 1986 - but less excellent than the one from 1985 9 Feb 2012
By Maciej - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This fourth annual anthology of best SF stories covers works published in 1986. Sadly, after the extraordinary 1985 collection, this book is less successful, although still well worth reading. After a very complete analysis of what happened in the SF field in 1985, we can enjoy many excellent short stories, but this time there is also quite a lot of average ones - and some are simply bad. At the end as usual there is a long list of "Honorable mentions" - short stories considered by the editor as good, but which for lack of place (and it is already a huge book) couldn't be included.

Other than the lesser quality as compared with 1985 collection, the surprising thing is the presence of many stories which can hardly be considered science-fiction. Some of them I would rather consider as fantasy or fantastic tales and some would be probably more appropriately considered as mainstream literature, with some elements of "magic realism".

Below you will find my personal impressions about all the stories, with LIMITED SPOILERS.
---
"R&R" by Lucius Shepard - a long, very brutal and powerful story describing a hypothetic future war in Central America, in which Americans and local corrupt governments face Cubans and local guerillas; this is a very left-wing oriented thing, inspired clearly by author's deep detestation of Reagan's administration support for Salvador government and Nicaragua's Contra guerillas; American soldiers are here described with all the worst stereotypes from Vietnam War. It made me laugh out loud at one moment when author described "American defeat in Miskitia" - when in the real world Miskito Indians from Nicaragua were the toughest element of pro-American Contras! As in the 8Os I personally was very firmly for the Contras and the Salvador government I really didn't like the politics of "R&R" - but I must admit that it is written with great talent and it is a really good SF story.

"Hatrack River" by Orson Scott Card - the renowned author of "Ender's Game" gives here an absolutely splendid fantasy story taking place amongst a group of American border pioneers living somewhere in the wilderness of Ohio, in an alternate history in which there never was American revolution or Louisiana Purchase, as it is mentioned that England still dominates the colonies and there are still French "up Detroit" - and they are ennemies, no allies. The story is about magic and it is one of the absolutely best such things I ever read! This story so much charmed the readers in 1986 that Orson Scott Card gave it a suit, then another and finally wrote a series of novels occurring in this alternate history (Alvin Maker series). It is in my opinion the THIRD BEST story in this collection. No more will be said - discover the mystery of Hatrack River by yourself!

"Strangers on paradise" by Damon Knight - this very famous writer never disappoints and his story about a paradisiac Earth colony in the outer space harboring an extremely dark secret for which clues are hidden in half forgotten poetry is excellent. The story includes some pretty scary rabbits. Enjoy!

"Pretty Boy Crossover" by Pat Cadigan - contrary to the previous three stories, this tale of two heavily partying homosexual lovers who at one moment make very different life choices in a future society is rather weak; it is however mercifully short

"Against Babylon" by Robert Silverberg - this is one of the very few stories by this giant of SF that I ever found weak; the story is about an aging pilot who makes his living fighting forest fires on the Western Coast of USA; one day, a series of particularly violent fires begin simultaneously all around California and before the end of day his life will completely change forever. The story begins well but lacks a clear conclusion and as a whole is really disappointing.

"Fiddling for waterbuffaloes" by Somtow Sucharitkul - the well known Thai-American writer offers here an extremely funny and interesting story about an alien stranded on Earth, in a little provincial town in Thailand; this absolutely hilarious tale is for my personal taste the SECOND BEST in the whole anthology; I was however somehow surprised by the incredible racially based cotempt with which the heroes (who are Thai) talk about the whites; I wonder if Gardner Dozois would dare publish a story in which white characters were saying the same kind of things about Asians...

"Into gold" by Tanith Lee - the great mistress of dark fantasy wrote this tale clearly inspired by one of the Greek myths about goddess Demeter and her protégé Demophon (but if you want to really enjoy the story, my advice is to NOT research the details further before reading); an excellent story occurring in Britain just after the departure of Roman legions, very well written and with a very nice twist at the end

"Sea change" by Scott Baker - this is a rather good story about the very surprising fate of city of Venice after the arrival of aliens on Earth; please be aware however that it is very depressing; the ending can be interpreted in two opposite ways: one of them is only unbearably sad - the second one is absolutely heartbreaking...

"Covenant of souls" by Michael Swanwick - it is quite amazing how pessimistic were American SF writers in the 80s about the future of USA; in this story United States are populated by a pauperized population living in fear of thugish policemen, under the menace of the Third World War; the main character is a very special fugitive hiding in the basement of a slowly decaying church...; the first half of the story is really good, but then author clearly painted himself into a corner - and nothing short of a nuclear weapon couldn't deliver him from this trap...

"The pure product" by John Kessel - this is a story about very special and very anthipatic tourists from the future; I must say that I did not like it at all as I found the main character morally repulsive and the conclusion of the story didn't make any sense for me

"Grave angels" by Richard Kearns - this is a good fantastic story about the necessity to accept death as part of life - and of dire consequences if we refuse it; this is absolutely no science-fiction, but I liked it anyway

"Tangents" by Greg Bear - for me it was one of the weakest stories in this anthology; a young neglected boy becomes friends with an old homosexual British scientist living illegally in USA; together they look for a gate into another universe...

"The beautiful and the sublime" by Bruce Sterling - in my opinion it was another weak story; in a future society scientists and engineers became redundant as artificial intelligences now care for all the needs of humanity; quite naturally citizens of this new brave world became decadent and rather unpleasant. Author wanted to imitate in this story the style of Wodehouse and the idea was not bad, but I found the final result boring.

"Tattoos" by Jack Dann - this is again not really a science-fiction story but rather a fantastic tale about magic; not bad, but not particularly good either

"Night moves" by Tim Powers - once again this is a fantastic tale; a great wrong was done once and this night something has to be done about it... Quite a good fantastic story with a very surprising and really not politically correct ending.

"The prisoner of Chillon" by James Patrick Kelly - inspired by a poem of Byron this is a really good "cyberpunk" story about two future outlaws forced to hide in an old half ruined castle in Switzerland owned by a strange handicapped man... A good read.

"Chance" by Connie Willis - and once again, not science-fiction, but rather a fantastic tale, about the role of little events in our lifes; a woman made once a mistake (nothing criminal though) and lifes of at least two people were ruined; can it be somehow fixed? Not a bad story, but I was surprised by the unfair Christian bashing: at one moment a fervently Christian lady tells the main character that God can forgive any sin; she gets an angry answer that little mistakes are not sins; but just a couple of pages further we learn that the (finally not so little) mistake was caused by pride - which is actually (maybe the author didn't know it) considered by Christians as the deadliest of all sins and also Satan's most favourite one...

"And so to bed" by Harry Turtledove - for me it is THE BEST STORY in the anthology! The great master of alternate history imagined here a XVII century considerably different than the real one, with Europe being mostly as we remember it but with America being still inhabited by Pleistocene mega-fauna and also populated (instead of Indians) by a kind of early Homo erectus prehistoric people (called "sims" by Europeans). The story takes the form of personal journal kept by an alternate Samuel Pepys and it is full of humor and wit. The quality of writing is purely incredible - I really had the impression that I moved to XVII century London for a moment! AN IMPRESSIVE ACHIEVEMENT!

"Fair game" by Howard Waldrop - a good story, but once again it is rather a fanstastic tale or a kind of "magic realism" main stream letters about the last days in life of Ernest Hemingway; I liked it, but it is really not science-fiction as we know it...

"Video star" by Walter Jon Williams - a good, honest "cyberpunk" story about a young, very talented and very dangerous future gangster mounting an extremely daring robbery, hoping it will bring him enough to retire; as usually in such cases, things get complicated...

"Sallie C." by Neal Barrett, Jr.- a funny although a little weird story about an alternate reality Far West, describing how in 1903, in a little town called Sallie C. brothers Wright made their first flight, watched by an aging Pat Garrett and a very young Erwin Rommel, who already "took to the desert like a fox"...)))

"Jeff Beck" by Lewis Shiner - possibly the worst story in the collection; again, it is not science-fiction but rather a fantastic tale about a kind of artefact bestowing wishes - but I found it really boring

"Surviving" by Judith Moffett - well, this is not science-fiction but pornography - there is no other word; this story includes so graphic descriptions of bestiality and pedophilia, that it shocked me quite a lot; when in the second half things moved towards a very explicit description of saphic loves of main characters, it was actually quite a relief... For the life of me I can not understand how this story got included in this collection...

"Down and out in the year 2000" by Kim Stanley Robinson - as usual with this author of renowned "Mars trilogy", the writing is top level and this story is an excellent read; however I was somehow surprised (again) how incredibly pessimistic were American left-winged authors about the future of their country in the middle of Reagan years; in this story USA in year 2000 are a country in which poor people are very literally starving to death (clearly there is no more food stamps), private security guards of rich people have the right to kill juvenile thieves and leave their bodies rotting on the streets, there is no more public transportation of any sort, there is not even the possibility to call 911 or to bring a sick person to the ER, without first paying a fee, etc., etc; In this crazy universe a middle aged African American living in Washington DC tries to simply survive, with the starvation being a very real threat... It is more an anti-Reagan political pamphlet than science-fiction, but I must give it to the author, that it is really well written

"Snake eyes" by Tom Maddox - this story is somewhere between "cyberpunk" and more classic science-fiction and it deals with the possible sequels (both physiological and psychological) of brain enhancing implants in a future society; not particularly good, but not bad either

"The gate of ghosts" by Karen Joy Fowler - a fantastic tale about Chinese ghosts and children dreams; not bad, but with a somehow vague conclustion - and it is definitely not science-fiction

"The winter market" by William Gibson - the Founding Father of "cyberpunk" offers here a story about a handicapped artist and her life and career choices in a very cybernetic future; a rather disappointing story from such a renowned author
--------------
CONCLUSION: It is a very honest collection, certainly worth reading and owning - but sadly not as excellent as the 1985 vintage anthology; therefore I can give it only four stars. But still I do not regret buying and reading it and I will keep it preciously.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dozois gives sf readers a lot for their money & time. 7 Feb 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Dozois's fourth massive 80s anthology of current sf culled 27 genre stories out of the hundreds published in 1986 to reprint here. Dozois always locates stories that represent the current trends of the field. Cyberpunk was at its greatest influence then, and those writers (e.g., William Gibson, Walter Jon Williams) are well represented. Two award winners he reprinted are Greg Bear's "Tangents" and Lucius Shepard's long, intense "R & R." The three I liked best are these: Tanith Lee's "Into Gold," a clever take on the Arthur legend set at the end of Rome's influence; Kim Stanley Robinson's "Down and Out in the Year 2000," an ironic study of street life in a decaying Washington, DC; and Connie Willis's "Chance," about a married woman's romance with a man who has died. All three stories were first published in ASIMOV'S, which has dominated much of the American sf short story scene in the last 20 years.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great 10 Feb 2014
By Golden San - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a great coollection. somehow, the earlier ones contain better stories than the later ones IMHO. They are a who's who of Sci Fi award winners. If you are interested in the genre, this is for you.
5.0 out of 5 stars super 2 Sep 2013
By Jock Deboer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is my favorite book to buy each year. Mr. Dozois puts together a great collection. I've been reading it for the last 10 years and am now purchasing the ones I don't have.
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