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4.0 out of 5 stars The Best of 2011's Smaller Harvest, 3 Jun 2012
This review is from: Year's Best SF 17 (Kindle Edition)
David Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer once again collect the best science fiction stories from the past year. This volume presents twenty-three stories published during 2011. The editors acknowledge that this was a tough year for science fiction. The Borders bankruptcy shut down a channel that supplied about twenty percent of the science fiction sold in previous years.

And the story pool has grown smaller, coming from a reduced set of anthologies, magazines, and SF web sites. This makes it a bit harder to find high quality short stories. Still, there are some good ones. Here are five from this collection that I liked:

Charlie Jane Anders' "Six Months, Three Days" examines the romantic relationship between two clairvoyants. Doug sees the future as a single predetermined timeline. He knows what will happen and cannot change it. Judy sees the future as branching decisions, each with different consequences. She chooses a path to follow, always knowing what will happen as a result. They argue endlessly about the true nature of reality. Well... not endlessly.

Neil Gaiman's "And Weep Like Alexander" is a science fiction bar story. We meet Obediah Polkinghorn, an uninventor by profession. He has saved the world from countless innovations that just weren't good for us. He thinks he is finished, but jobs must still be undone.

In Gwyneth Jones' "The Ki-anna" a fraternal twin investigates his sister's death on a war-torn planet. Is it an accident or a murder or the self-sacrifice of a seasoned anthropologist?

Genevieve Valentine's "The Nearest Thing" introduces Mason, who designs lifelike "memorial dolls" that ease the loss of a loved one. While working on the next generation he meets Paul from marketing and Nadia who is with Paul. Nobody likes being taken for granted.

Yoon Ha Lee's "A Vector Alphabet of Interstellar Travel" is a reference book from the far future. It classifies several alien civilizations by their methods for moving through space. Many of these methods are intimately related to their civilizations' core values.

I will just grumble about one decision I would have made differently. Hartwell and Cramer pride themselves on including "only science fiction" in their collections. Given this, I am not sure why Judith Moffett's "The Middle of Somewhere" is here. I would much rather they had included Hannu Rajaniemi's "The Server and the Dragon" from Engineering Infinity. It is clearly science fiction and a much better story. Your mileage may vary.

The collection as a whole is recommended. Most stories are quite good and some are excellent. You won't regret spending your time with it.
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