This is the latest volume of David Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer's year's best science fiction stories. There are twenty-eight stories in this year's collection. The editors observe that 2012 was a good year for science fiction publishing. E-book says are still growing, but paper book sales remain strong as well. This collection appeared mid-year in paper format as usual, but not until the end of the year in Kindle format. Perhaps there is some strategy afoot to reduce the erosion of paperback sales to the electronic format.
I enjoyed all of this year's stories, but seven stood out from the rest:
Megan Lindholm's "Old Paint" is about a family's attachment to a robotic car. The car was programmed by their grandfather, who is no longer around to explain his work. Or figure out how it may have gone wrong.
Paul Cornell's "The Ghosts of Christmas" is about a woman's periodic trips to the future, always on the same day of the year. She intends to be a passive observer of her own future life. But it doesn't turn out that way.
Naomi Kritzer's "Liberty's Daughter" reads like a well edited Robert Heinlein juvenile story. Beck lives with her father on a seastead, an independent, manmade island with minimal government. She makes a living facilitating trade deals and seems smarter than most of the adults around her. So it's no surprise when she notices that she has been lied to.
Lewis Shiner's "Application" is another one of those stories that make us feel like our personal computers have their own agenda. This can be disturbing, even when it seems they are trying to help.
Andy Duncan's "Close Encounters" focuses on an old man who became well known for his stories about alien visitors. It is something of a surprise when a reporter tracks him down long after everyone else's interest has faded. There are a few more surprises around the corner.
Aliette de Bodard's "Two Sisters in Exile" is about the aftermath of a military training exercise in which a ship is killed. The commander of those who killed the ship takes the body home and offers condolences to the ship's family. She learns just how close this family is to their fallen relative.
Gregory Benford's "The Sigma Structure Symphony" is from the same setting as "The Hydrogen Wall" in Year's Best SF 9. A librarian works with a complex artificial intelligence downloaded from signals sent across space. She finds musical inspiration in the patterns she uncovers. And is deeply affected by them.
This is a better-than-average set of stories and is worth reading. And you can finally read the electronic version.
I just read the first story "Old Paint" and I'm buying the book on the strength of that. It was heartwarming. Goes to prove that good writing is in the telling, not in the subject matter. :-) Reminded me of Heinlein at his best.