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Customer Review

on 8 November 2011
...because most people who would consider buying the book will already know how good it is.

For anyone else who's just tuning in, it's a collection of some of the best stories from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (F&SF), drawn from the first 60 years of its publication. F&SF is one of the most venerable magazines of its kind, with a long-standing reputation for publishing stories which are not just imaginatively rich and inventive but also stylishly and elegantly written. This quality has been managed with remarkable consistency through a series of editors, who have all clearly been very sensitive to the magazine's defining tone, and have done all they can to maintain it while acknowledging the changes in the genres over the years. In a way, it was '60s "New Wave" and '70s "lifestyle" SF from the outset, which has probably helped the consistent quality.

And consistency is what you get here, from early stories by veterans like Bester and Bradbury to more recent entries from the likes of Neil Gaiman and Ted Chiang. The reliable quality throughout is laudable and highly impressive. It leans a bit more to "F" rather than "SF" (though some stories, like Ellison's "The Deathbird", are almost impossible to place in just one of those categories), but more importantly, it leans impressively to stories that are as much about the human heart as they are about snappy ideas. I found many of them very moving, with a wisdom and truth that the more respectable literary world should, but sadly won't, envy.

Picking favourites is a subjective exercise at best, but I particularly cared for the Bradbury story, "The Deathbird" (which takes what in lesser hands could have been a risible idea and makes it into something profound and sublime), Zelazny's "This Moment Of The Storm" (which is as much a doomed love story as it is a tale of adventure on another planet) and, of course, Daniel Keyes' "Flowers For Algernon", which I hadn't read for about 35 years but which was as beautiful, sad and shattering as its reputation suggests. On the other hand, I didn't much care for an Ursula Le Guin story which I found a bit too worthy, and a Stephen King one which lacked heart. So the two I didn't like, I disliked for almost totally opposing reasons.

Oh, and if you're wondering why I'm giving titles for some of them and not others, I can't remember them all because I lent the book to my other half, so it's not to hand. I mention that only to emphasise that she has almost no grounding in fantasy or SF, while I've been indulging off and on for decades, and she's enjoying this almost as much as I did, and for largely similar reasons.

This is a huge doorstep of a book. I finished it wishing it was at least twice the size. Here's to the next 60 years.
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