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4.0 out of 5 stars Science Fiction in a Hard Place: 2009's Best, 8 Jun 2011
This review is from: Year's Best SF 15 (Kindle Edition)
I enjoyed most of the 24 stories in David Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer's collection of science fiction offerings from 2009. As usual, the introductions were a skillful blend of author bios, web sites, and references to relevant book-length fiction and story collections. My favorite six stories are described below. All six focus more on human beings in difficult circumstances than on traditional SF themes of technology and space exploration.

Robert Charles Wilson's "This Peaceable Land" accompanies a white man and his black employer on their journey through an American South where the Civil War never took place and slavery disappeared gradually as it became economically infeasible. They search for evidence of all those unwanted slaves who also disappeared. And nobody wants to talk about it.

Yoon Ha Lee's "The Unstrung Zither" is superficially about the interrogation of five captured terrorists. On a deeper level it is a different kind of story that progresses toward a harmonious conclusion rather than a logical one.

In Sarah Edwards' "Lady of the White-Spired City" we return with the emperor's emissary to the small village on a backward planet where she once lived with her husband and daughter. It is not possible for her to return home, but perhaps she can make a new one.

Charles Oberndorf's "Another Life" introduces a soldier who is awakened in a new body with memories backed up before he went into action. He can't bring himself to use his ticket home until he finds out how he died. And why he is alone.

Mary Robinette Kowal's "The Consciousness Problem" explores the relationship between a woman, her husband, and his clone. Why we love who we love seems less clear than ever.

Eric James Stone's "Attitude Adjustment" is appropriately described by the editors as "...good old-fashioned problem-solving space SF in the Astounding tradition, done well. It has a touch of the Heinleinesque in its characterization and resolution."

I recommend this collection to all appreciative readers of science fiction. It is a clear success for the contributing authors and for this experienced team of editors.
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