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Dozois Duos: The Best of 2011,
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 "...as 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.