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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not quite as good as last year, but still essential reading, 14 Sep 2012
John Tierney (Wirral, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Ninth Annual Collection (Paperback)
Firstly a warning: this book has exactly the same contents as The Mammoth Book of Best New SF 25 (Mammoth Books). These series run in parallel each year and it's always confusing. The "Year's Best" series comes out slightly earlier and has better artwork on the cover, but suffers from being wider (and therefore less easy to hold) and more expensive. You pay your money, you takes your choice.

Anway, onto the content, which is - after all - what really matters. Gardner Dozois's SF annual collections are a must-read for fans of SF short fiction, a real annual treat. This year is no exception and contains some excellent stories. Ranking each story between 1 (poor) and 5 (outstanding), I rated this year's stories as follows: 4 2-star stories, 10 3-star, 16 4- star and 5 5-star stories. The 5-star stories this year (in my opinion, and of course everyone will have a different set of favourites) were:
"The Beancounter's Cat" by Damien Broderick, the story of a young woman's journey on a space habitat, dressed up partially as a fairy tale.
"The Dala Horse" by Michael Swanwick, again this starts off reading like a fairy tale, but tells the story of a young girl's adventures in a future post-war Scandinavia: very visual
"The Ice Owl" by Carolyn Ives Gilman, the story of a young woman's political awakening on a far-flung planet
"What we found" by Geoff Ryman, a lesson in story telling, you almost don't notice the SF element (or care that it's a small part of the tale)
"A Militant Peace" by David Klecha and Tobias S Buckell - I am always wary of collaborations, but this is a really inventive tale of how North Korea might be invaded peacefully in the future.

Dozois always puts a novella at the end and this year the selection is "The Man Who Bridged The Mist", a 50-page tale by Kij Johnson. It's extremely well written and just fell short of a 5-star rating because it seems to fall into a semi-fantasy alternative earth rather than hard SF. I don't like fantasy or horror and this collection almost always avoids strong elements of either. Johnson's tale is almost but not quite SF, but that aside is a wonderful work and worth the wait.

The book is a long read (650 pages including the useful summary at the start), but I did notice a slight degradation in quality from last year, when I rated only 3 3-star and 23 4-star stories, so (again, only in my opinion) around 7 less stories made 4 stars and fell into the 3-star ("ok") category.

A cold division of total points divided by number of stories (35) gives 3.62 which I am more than happy to round up to 4, because this collection remains essential reading on an annual basis. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dozois Duos: The Best of 2011, 13 Aug 2012
John M. Ford "johnDC" (near DC, MD USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Ninth Annual Collection (Paperback)
In this collection of thirty-five science fiction stories from 2011, Gardner Dozois once again identifies the best stories of the year. As is customary, he begins with a summation of the significant events and influences of the year. The big story of 2011 was the continuing growth of the e-book market, estimated to account for 40 percent of all book sales by 2012. This was accompanied by a decline of print SF magazines and corresponding growth in online magazines. Gardner is encyclopedic in his descriptions of both print and online sources.

And then there are the stories. For some reason all of my favorites in this collection featured a strong relationship between two main characters. In some cases it is based on love; in some it is clearly something else. Here are my five favorites.

Carolyn Ives Gilman's "The Ice Owl" passes on what the student Maya learns from her aging tutor, Magister Soren Pregaldin. Some is from his thoughtfully prepared lessons. More is revealed by her clandestine explorations of his rooms while he is away.

Alastair Reynold's "Ascension Day" reminds us of departure's mixed joy and sadness. Captain Lauterecken departs from the planet Rhapsody in his freighter after a ninety-six-year stay. Someone important will not be making the next leg of the journey.

Michael Swanwick's "For I have Lain Me Down on the Stone of Loneliness and I'll Not Be Back Again" is also about a departure. A man visits Ireland a few weeks before leaving Earth forever. He meets Mary with eyes " green as water in the well, and as full of dangerous magic."

Yoon Ha Lee's "Ghostweight" is driven by the bond between a living girl and the ghost that accompanies her. Lisse steals a war-kite and flees into the voidways of space, seeking revenge on those who nearly destroyed Earth. She learns about her ghost, and about the war-kite, and about what drives it. Yoon Ha Lee's origami imagery in this story is a treat in itself.

Chris Lawson's "Canterbury Hollow" is a love story of time spent together and choices made that might be unmade. Arlyana and Moko have both been "balloted" to help conserve their small society's limited resources. They spend their allotted time together exploring a few places they have always meant to visit. And then their times end.

Stories in this year's collection seem particularly good as well as varied. None is too similar to another in the collection. And while many stories fit neatly within an SF subgenre, each had its own voice. My cliché alarm didn't go off once as I read through them.

There was minimal story overlap with David Hartman and Kathryn Cramer's [Year's Best SF 17]. Both are worth reading, although I prefer the Dozois collection for the context provided by his Summation and the excellent story introductions. Each year I come away from this material with a list of more must-read books. This year's treat was the new 1,000-page science fiction textbook, Sense of Wonder: A Century of Science Fiction by Leigh Ronald Grossman. I recommend reading it right after you finish this collection. But not before.
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5.0 out of 5 stars FANTASTIC - EXCUSE THE PUN....., 8 Mar 2013
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This review is from: The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Ninth Annual Collection (Paperback)
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The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Ninth Annual Collection
The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Ninth Annual Collection by Gardner Dozois (Paperback - 13 Aug 2012)
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