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The Year's Best Science Fiction: Second Annual Collection by [Dozois, Gardner]
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The Year's Best Science Fiction: Second Annual Collection Kindle Edition

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  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1676 KB
  • Print Length: 577 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press (15 May 1985)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006ZMR68Q
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Format: Paperback
In this book Gardner Dozois gathered what he considered as twenty six best SF works published in 1984. He used to publish earlier much smaller yearly anthologies of "Best SF stories of the year", continuing the work of Lester Del Rey, but he had to interrupt those series after five years, finishing with the best works of 1980. He started in 1983 a new collection, published according to the new formula - this book is the second in the series.

This book was the last of Gardner Dozois thirty one yearly collections I read. I began with the third collection (from 1985) and went all the way to the thirty-first (2013) - only then I was able to purchase the first two collections (1983 and 1984). With this book I completed a reading project which took me three years (of course I was also reading other stuff between those collections).

Sadly, this collection is weaker than the previous one and also, summa summarum, amongst the weakest in the whole series from 1983 to 2013. Out of twenty six stories only two ("Bloodchild" and "Press Enter []") can be considered as VERY GOOD. On another hand there are also eight total STINKERS: "Salvador", "New Rose Hotel", "Trojan horse", "Rock on", "Sunken gardens", "Trinity", "Twilight time" and "Black coral". Amongst the remaining stories there are six GOOD ones and eleven are READABLE (albeit one of them, "Lucky strike", is amongst the most stupid things I ever read).

This collection includes also two very precious things. In the introduction we have an overview of what happened in SF (largely understood) in 1984 - in all Gardner Dozois yearly collections that thing is invariably always very precious.
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By John M. Ford TOP 500 REVIEWER on 15 Oct. 2012
Format: Paperback
This is the second in Gardner Dozois's Year's Best Science Fiction series. When readers saw this one, they began to suspect that there really would be such a collection every year. It was the beginning of hope for connoisseurs of high quality science fiction. It opens with an excellent summation of significant developments in SF during 1984. And each of the 26 stories is introduced with a thoughtful description of how it fits with the author's other works.

Five of the stories that I particularly enjoyed:

In Jack McDevitt's "Promises to Keep" a member of an historic expedition to Callisto shares his personal recollections of the voyage and the voyagers. His story is a little different than the official version. The deconstruction of history theme is similar to McDevitt's A Talent For War.

John Varley's "Press Enter" foresees many of the privacy issues we face today on the web. A man kills himself, leaving behind a great deal of troubling information. And some of the software he has written is still running. It's right behind you.

Elizabeth Lynn's "At the Embassy Club" is a bar story about an undersecretary in an embassy on another planet and the sixteen-year-old girl from a prominent local family he has secretly been seeing. We know from the start that this story has been retold many times.

Ursula Le Guin's "The Trouble with the Cotton People" is another of her stories that might have been told by an anthropologist. A young man travels to a far land to learn why his county's trading partner has begun shipping them inferior goods. The joy of reading it is inthe carefully crafted and credible details.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A rather disappointing, 2,5 stars level collection, with only two stories (out of twenty six) which really MUST be read. 15 April 2015
By Darth Maciek - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In this book Gardner Dozois gathered what he considered as twenty six best SF works published in 1984. He used to publish earlier much smaller yearly anthologies of "Best SF stories of the year", continuing the work of Lester Del Rey, but he had to interrupt those series after five years, finishing with the best works of 1980. He started in 1983 a new collection, published according to the new formula - this book is the second in the series.

This book was the last of Gardner Dozois thirty one yearly collections I read. I began with the third collection (from 1985) and went all the way to the thirty-first (2013) - only then I was able to purchase the first two collections (1983 and 1984). With this book I completed a reading project which took me three years (of course I was also reading other stuff between those collections).

Sadly, this collection is weaker than the previous one and also, summa summarum, amongst the weakest in the whole series from 1983 to 2013. Out of twenty six stories only two ("Bloodchild" and "Press Enter []") can be considered as VERY GOOD. On another hand there are also eight total STINKERS: "Salvador", "New Rose Hotel", "Trojan horse", "Rock on", "Sunken gardens", "Trinity", "Twilight time" and "Black coral". Amongst the remaining stories there are six GOOD ones and eleven are READABLE (albeit one of them, "Lucky strike", is amongst the most stupid things I ever read).

This collection includes also two very precious things. In the introduction we have an overview of what happened in SF (largely understood) in 1984 - in all Gardner Dozois yearly collections that thing is invariably always very precious. At the end there is also the very useful section of "honourable mentions" - stories which couldn't be selected for this collection because of lack of space (and this is already a HUGE book!), but which were also of good quality.

Below, more of my impressions about the stories, with some limited SPOILERS.
-------------------------
"Salvador" by Lucius Shepard (1943-2014) - in deep disagreement with this talented writer's far left politics, I was nevertheless always in awe of his writing skills and read most of his stories with fascination. Sadly, this is one of the exceptions. "Salvador", about a squad of US Special Forces fighting leftist guerrillas in Central America somewhere in the future, is the SECOND WEAKEST Shepard's story of all those I read. It is in fact an enraged pamphlet against Reagan's policy in Central America mixed with some of the most absurd far left fantasies about Vietnam War, like soldiers "lured" into service in Special Forces (in reality 9 out of every 10 voluntary applicants are rejected), elite American troops being made of former criminals (in reality it is not possible to join US Army with a criminal record) and even more, the "Green Berets" encouraged to use drugs (in reality, one negative drug test and you are out of the Army). Also, incidentally, in real history, pro-American Salvadorians won their war against communists - and later won also in first free elections organised after the end of the conflict... This poorly written thing shows once against that even talented people fail to produce good stories, when they write bitterly hateful political pamphlets. AVOID!

"Promises to Keep" by Jack McDevitt - in a not so distant future a vulnerable spaceship manned by a crew of nine is dispatched to study Jupiter and its moons - then something bad happens (as always). This "nuts and bolts" tale may seem a little bit dull in the beginning and even in the middle, but when in the second part the pin is pulled, the whole story-device detonates with just the right amount of bang in all its parts... A GOOD, solid thing.

"Bloodchild" by Octavia E. Butler (1947-2006) - there are many women and African-Americans amongst SF writers, but not so many African-American women - but on another hand, with her talent, Octavia Butler was certainly worth a dozen lesser writers... "Bloodchild" describes a terribly complex relation between a race of alien insect like masters and human slaves and the ethnic background of the writer certainly helped her seize many less explored aspects of such a situation... This extremely shocking and highly controversial short story is one of the best and deepest SF tales I ever read - it actually gives us matter for thought for many, many hours. It also definitely stays with you... A VERY GOOD story, THE BEST in this collection and in fact A CLASSIC. TO READ ABSOLUTELY!

"Blued Moon" by Connie Willis - this great lady is one of my favourite modern SF writers, but it is also my impression that in the early 80s she was still honing her skills and it was only after 1990 that she really started to shine. This story about a great corporation which just began operating a revolutionary environment protection device was an attempt to imitate the style of Hollywood 40s romantic comedy - but even if somehow entertaining, it is not entirely successful. A very READABLE thing, but nothing more.

"A Message to the King of Brobdingnag" by Richard Cowper (1926-2002) - a group of scientists try to create new varieties of plants to solve the problem of world hunger and to do that they accepted to work for a great corporation, based on the real life Monsanto group. Of course at one moment something goes very wrong... (sigh). This is a well written but ultimately very, very banal albeit READABLE story combining the usual mix of fear-mongering (here it is the GMO's scare) and misanthropy... To be fair, I don't really blame the author here, because this horse has been beaten to death so many times in SF history that writing something original on the "progress is dangerous, let's not play God" topic is all but impossible...

"The Affair" by Robert Silverberg - a man, on the surface a very average guy, hides a deep secret - he is a kind of telepath, able to communicate, in a very comprehensive way, with other people like him - the problem is that few of those are respectable... Then one day he establishes contact with a woman, who seem to be THE one for him - the only problem is that he is already married and has two children... Robert Silverberg is of course a great master of SF so this story is GOOD and certainly well written - but is also depressing, because an affair is before anything else a betrayal and treason is always not only dirty but also especially a sad, sad, sad, sad thing...

"Press Enter []" by John Varley - two very, very different people, a Korea War veteran and a much younger Chinese-Japanese-Vietnamese female informatics genius, face the consequences of an extremely strange incident involving a uniquely gifted hacker... I was quite impressed with this novella, as it includes many characteristics which became rare in modern SF: originality (even if as you will see the topic is finally well known and very much described), good character development and total lack of political correctness (but REALLY total lack). The story also gets quite scary at the end. There are some weaknesses, like the amazingly silly description of police investigation - also the main police officer is simply impossibly clueless and hapless. Still, even with all of that, this is a VERY GOOD story, the SECOND BEST in the collection.

"New Rose Hotel" by William Gibson - if I understood correctly this is a story about a plot made by a head hunter to recruit for his client a talented scientist working for a different major corporation. I cannot however be certain that I understood it correctly, because this thing is written in such a weird and pretentious way, that it tired and bored me. This is a short story, but still I gave up couple of pages before the end. TOTAL GARBAGE - AVOID!

"The Map" by Gene Wolfe - this is fantasy, not SF and I don't really see why it figures in this collection. This is a short story situated in the universe from "The book of the New Sun", about a trip to forbidden ruins - as you can guess from the title, a treasure map is also involved. READABLE, but nothing more.

"Interlocking Pieces" by Molly Gloss - a woman awaits a transplantation which will save her life - she is however curious about the identity of organ donor and decides to investigate... The topic seemed promising, but ultimately it is just a READABLE but rather banal short story.

"Trojan Horse" by Michael Swanwick - an experience in biology/informatics destined to transform its human subject in God turns badly - people who started this project try to repair the damage caused... This is an absolutely ridiculous thing, pretentious and also immensely stupid. AVOID!

"Bad Medicine" by Jack M. Dann - modern fantastic rather than SF; in our times in USA a white guy, whose best friend is an American Indian medicine man, volunteers to be part of an important religious ritual; the problem is, another medicine man, who has a horrible reputation, also participates in this ceremony... It is really nothing special but still a READABLE story, approaching American Indians traditions with the kind of respect no modern SF writer would ever show for Christian rites...

"At the Embassy Club" by Elizabeth A. Lynn - a story about star-crossed lovers on a planet where an isolated human society developed some strict social rules. Silly and banal, with the ending we can see coming almost from the beginning - but still, a READABLE thing.

"Pursuit of Excellence" by Rena Yount - with the progress of genetics humanity split into two categories: en elite of enhanced, beautiful, very tall, strong and very clever super humans and the great mass of "norms". This is the story of the struggle of a mother who will do anything and everything to gather funds necessary to give birth to an enhanced child... Although the economics of this story don't make much sense (with time a new technology ALWAYS costs less - instead of being more expensive...), this is a solid, honest GOOD thing, packing some serious punch on relatively few pages. A recommended reading.

"The Kindly Isle" by Frederik Pohl (1919-2013) - an expert in evaluation of hotels and other touristic attractions, working for an investment fund, arrives on a tropical island which seems to be populated by very kind, friendly people. The man still grieves his wife who died years ago - and on the island he meets the woman who may be just his second chance for happiness... But what exactly is the secret of this "kindly isle"? Written by one of the Great Masters of the genre, this is a solid, honest GOOD story. The very ending is (for my taste) a little bit weaker - but still, this is a recommended reading.

"Rock On" by Pat Cadigan - a woman (or maybe a robot?) who once played rock and roll is on the run, chased by some kind of bounty hunters. Why? Mystery... Absolutely nothing in this terminally weird and very boring thing makes the slightest sense - the SECOND WORST story in the collection. AVOID!

"Sunken Gardens" by Bruce Sterling - a competition in terraforming on Mars; it seemed almost impossible to me that anybody can mess completely a story on such an interesting topic - and yet the renowned and talented author Bruce Sterling (of all people!) managed to do just that. Boring, disappointing and ludicrous - AVOID!

"Trinity" by Nancy Kress - scientists look for contact with God; according to this otherwise mightily gifted author, it seems that the only way to achieve contact with God is to fill two anorexic siblings with strong psychotropic drugs and make them copulate - because as everyone knows, God, conditioned as one of Pavlov's dogs, immediately appears in presence of anorexia, drug habit and incestuous intercourse...))) As a believing Christian I should be in principle offended, but this thing was soooo incredibly ludicrous that I went all the way beyond anger, towards the amusement - and pity. An absolutely grotesque stinker - AVOID!

"The Trouble with the Cotton People" by Ursula K. LeGuin - a short fantasy story about a future low tech society and a commercial agreement in jeopardy, in which author seems to believe that after spending a grand total of a week on the sea most men are obsessed with the idea of raping women (not dating or going to see working girls - raping)...))) A slightly boring story, READABLE but barely.

"Twilight Time" by Lewis Shiner - a space traveller from a nightmarish future America visits the USA in the 50s - which according to this author were a hell on earth... A banal and rather boring time travelling story in which virtually nothing makes sense. AVOID!

"Black Coral" by Lucius Shepard (1943-2014) - a white American lives on a Caribbean island (if I understood this thing correctly) populated by black and mixed-race people; the guy seems to hate everybody and everything around him and because he is so unpleasant and evil (in fact this character seems to be insane) he will suffer punishment from some kind of dark mystic powers... at least if I understood this thing correctly. Because almost everybody in this story speaks in a kind of broken Creole dialect it is very difficult to read and understand. This is a study in hateful anti-white racism and unimaginable anti-American bigotry written, quite naturally, by one of those white American writers who hate simultaneously their own country and their own race... Absolutely the WORST story by Lucius Shepard and the WORST story in the collection. AVOID!

"Friend" by James Patrick Kelly & John Kessel - Friends are specialised crew members who take care of the passengers on board of star ships. This is a difficult job as the long interstellar travels in confined environments tend to stress people a lot and create all kind of complications, especially when the passengers are famous, influent, powerful or rich - or all the above... This story narrates the adventures of an experienced Friend during just one interstellar travel. Albeit not particularly brilliant, this is nevertheless a very READABLE thing. It must be however said, that authors of the "Friend" stole some of its elements from the much older "Dumarest of Terra" cycle by E.C. Tubb...

"Foreign Skins" by Tanith Lee - this is definitely not SF, but dark fantasy, with slightly erotic elements (but NO actual sex); in India, in times of Raj, a strange young woman is hired as a nanny for a young English boy - mostly because the father of the boy really wants to get in her pants... As usual with this author some rather disturbing elements are included, but still, this is a honest, solid, GOOD story by the Queen of the Dark Fantasy. A recommended reading.

"Company in the Wings" by R. A. Lafferty (1914-2002) - this is rather mainstream letters than SF; a philosopher makes lectures about fictional characters - he claims that they are all in fact real... A GOOD, albeit very, very strange story - also the writing style of late R.A. Lafferty is rather an acquired taste...

"A Cabin on the Coast" by Gene Wolfe - once again, this is not SF but rather modern fantastic; two young lovers spend time on a cabin on the coast - until the moment when something unexpected happens... Parts of this thing are really solid, but the ending is so weird and nonsensical, that I cannot rate this story higher than READABLE.

"The Lucky Strike" by Kim Stanley Robinson - this alternate history tale is linked to the first nuclear attack against Japan. It is honestly written, no argument there, but it is also - in my modest opinion - the MOST BIASED AND THE MOST ABJECTLY STUPID THING I read in ages! Author looks at the situation in July 1945 in Pacific with the eyes of a far left peacenik from the 70s and as result the whole story horribly and (in my opinion) unfairly insults a great American soldier, general Paul Warfield Tibbets Jr. (1915-2007) and an even greater American president, Truman. The last two pages are so incredibly ludicrous and naive that I laughed out loud. I will not reveal more, but if after reading this short story you feel like agreeing with the author, I propose you to watch a great Japanese movie "Japan's longest day" (1967) and/or read the books "The battle of Okinawa - the blood and the bomb" by George Feifer and "Hell to pay: Operation Downfall and the invasion of Japan 1945-47" by D.M. Giangreco. They are I think a good rebuttal to Mr Robinson's views. READABLE but as stupid and wrong as it is humanly possible.
---------------------------------
CONCLUSION: a 2,5 stars collection, rather disappointing, with many poor quality stories. If you can find "Bloodchild" and "Press Enter []" (and possibly also "Foreign Skins") somewhere else, there is no real need to buy this anthology.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dozois's Number Two 15 Oct. 2012
By John M. Ford - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is the second in Gardner Dozois's Year's Best Science Fiction series. When readers saw this one, they began to suspect that there really would be such a collection every year. It was the beginning of hope for connoisseurs of high quality science fiction. It opens with an excellent summation of significant developments in SF during 1984. And each of the 26 stories is introduced with a thoughtful description of how it fits with the author's other works.

Five of the stories that I particularly enjoyed:

In Jack McDevitt's "Promises to Keep" a member of an historic expedition to Callisto shares his personal recollections of the voyage and the voyagers. His story is a little different than the official version. The deconstruction of history theme is similar to McDevitt's A Talent For War.

John Varley's "Press Enter" foresees many of the privacy issues we face today on the web. A man kills himself, leaving behind a great deal of troubling information. And some of the software he has written is still running. It's right behind you.

Elizabeth Lynn's "At the Embassy Club" is a bar story about an undersecretary in an embassy on another planet and the sixteen-year-old girl from a prominent local family he has secretly been seeing. We know from the start that this story has been retold many times.

Ursula Le Guin's "The Trouble with the Cotton People" is another of her stories that might have been told by an anthropologist. A young man travels to a far land to learn why his county's trading partner has begun shipping them inferior goods. The joy of reading it is inthe carefully crafted and credible details.

Gene Wolfe's "A Cabin on the Coast" is in some ways a `deal with the devil' story. We know the deal will turn out badly for the protagonist. But how? This one messed with my head a little. I didn't necessarily enjoy that, but I respect the author for pulling it off.

This is a very good collection and is highly recommended. It is as good as, or even a little better than the first volume in the series. Go ahead and spend some time with it.
3.0 out of 5 stars Depressing collection of stories 12 Aug. 2015
By JC - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I really enjoy Dozois' compilations, particularly the more recent ones. Unfortunately I think my tastes don't align well with that of the SciFi stories that were written in the early 80's. Too much allusion to Vietnam and the Central American proxy wars for my taste. Good writing though.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 24 Jan. 2017
By Mike E. Walsh Jr. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Awesome
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 2 Jun. 2016
By Kenneth Conley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Good read
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