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From quiet, elegiac, contemporary tales to far-future, deep-space sagas, the stories chosen by series editor John Joseph Adams and guest editor Karen Joy Fowler for The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016 demonstrate the vast spectrum of what science fiction and fantasy aims to illuminate, displaying the full gamut of the human experience, interrogating our hope From quiet, elegiac, contemporary tales to far-future, deep-space sagas, the stories chosen by series editor John Joseph Adams and guest editor Karen Joy Fowler for The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016 demonstrate the vast spectrum of what science fiction and fantasy aims to illuminate, displaying the full gamut of the human experience, interrogating our hopes and our fears—of not just what we can accomplish or destroy as a person, but what we can accomplish or destroy as a people—and throwing us into strange new worlds that can only be explored when we shed the shackles of reality. The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016 includes Rachel Swirsky, Sofia Samatar, Charlie Jane Anders, Ted Chiang, Kelly Link, Maria Dahvana Headley, Kij Johnson, Catherynne M. Valente, Dexter Palmer and others   KAREN JOY FOWLER, guest editor, is the author of six novels and four short story collections, including We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. She is the winner of the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award, a finalist for the Man Booker Prize, and has won numerous Nebula and World Fantasy awards.   JOHN JOSEPH ADAMS, series editor, is the best-selling editor of more than two dozen anthologies, including Brave New Worlds and Wastelands. He is the editor and publisher of the digital magazines Lightspeed and Nightmare and is the editor of John Joseph Adams Books, a new science fiction/fantasy novel imprint from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Table of Contents: "Meet Me in Iram" by Sofia Samatar "The Game of Smash and Recovery" by Kelly Link "Interesting Facts" by Adam Johnson "Planet Lion" by Catherynne M. Valente "The Apartment Dweller’s Bestiary" by Kij Johnson "By Degrees and Dilatory Time" by S.L. Huang "The Mushroom Queen" by Liz Ziemska "The Daydreamer by Proxy" by Dexter Palmer "Tea Time" by Rachel Swirsky "Headshot" by Julian Mortimer Smith "The Duniazát" by Salman Rushdie "No Placeholder for You, My Love" by Nick Wolven "The Thirteen Mercies" by Maria Dahvana Headley "Lightning Jack’s Last Ride" by Dale Bailey "Things You Can Buy for a Penny" by Will Kaufman "Rat Catcher’s Yellows" by Charlie Jane Anders "The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History" by Sam J. Miller "Three Bodies at Mitanni" by Seth Dickinson "Ambiguity Machines: an Examination" by Vandana Singh "The Great Silence" by Ted Chiang


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From quiet, elegiac, contemporary tales to far-future, deep-space sagas, the stories chosen by series editor John Joseph Adams and guest editor Karen Joy Fowler for The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016 demonstrate the vast spectrum of what science fiction and fantasy aims to illuminate, displaying the full gamut of the human experience, interrogating our hope From quiet, elegiac, contemporary tales to far-future, deep-space sagas, the stories chosen by series editor John Joseph Adams and guest editor Karen Joy Fowler for The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016 demonstrate the vast spectrum of what science fiction and fantasy aims to illuminate, displaying the full gamut of the human experience, interrogating our hopes and our fears—of not just what we can accomplish or destroy as a person, but what we can accomplish or destroy as a people—and throwing us into strange new worlds that can only be explored when we shed the shackles of reality. The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016 includes Rachel Swirsky, Sofia Samatar, Charlie Jane Anders, Ted Chiang, Kelly Link, Maria Dahvana Headley, Kij Johnson, Catherynne M. Valente, Dexter Palmer and others   KAREN JOY FOWLER, guest editor, is the author of six novels and four short story collections, including We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. She is the winner of the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award, a finalist for the Man Booker Prize, and has won numerous Nebula and World Fantasy awards.   JOHN JOSEPH ADAMS, series editor, is the best-selling editor of more than two dozen anthologies, including Brave New Worlds and Wastelands. He is the editor and publisher of the digital magazines Lightspeed and Nightmare and is the editor of John Joseph Adams Books, a new science fiction/fantasy novel imprint from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Table of Contents: "Meet Me in Iram" by Sofia Samatar "The Game of Smash and Recovery" by Kelly Link "Interesting Facts" by Adam Johnson "Planet Lion" by Catherynne M. Valente "The Apartment Dweller’s Bestiary" by Kij Johnson "By Degrees and Dilatory Time" by S.L. Huang "The Mushroom Queen" by Liz Ziemska "The Daydreamer by Proxy" by Dexter Palmer "Tea Time" by Rachel Swirsky "Headshot" by Julian Mortimer Smith "The Duniazát" by Salman Rushdie "No Placeholder for You, My Love" by Nick Wolven "The Thirteen Mercies" by Maria Dahvana Headley "Lightning Jack’s Last Ride" by Dale Bailey "Things You Can Buy for a Penny" by Will Kaufman "Rat Catcher’s Yellows" by Charlie Jane Anders "The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History" by Sam J. Miller "Three Bodies at Mitanni" by Seth Dickinson "Ambiguity Machines: an Examination" by Vandana Singh "The Great Silence" by Ted Chiang

30 review for The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2016

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Kelsey

    Posted at Heradas Review This is an equal mix of F and SF stories, and John Joseph Adams truly understands the difference between Fantasy and Science Fiction, which is refreshing. The stories started out a little rough but quickly got into some AAA level stuff about a quarter of the way in, including a few new personal all-time favorite short stories in any genre. Standout stories: Interesting Facts, No Placeholder for You My Love, The Duniazát, Things You Can Buy for a Penny, and Three Bodies at Posted at Heradas Review This is an equal mix of F and SF stories, and John Joseph Adams truly understands the difference between Fantasy and Science Fiction, which is refreshing. The stories started out a little rough but quickly got into some AAA level stuff about a quarter of the way in, including a few new personal all-time favorite short stories in any genre. Standout stories: Interesting Facts, No Placeholder for You My Love, The Duniazát, Things You Can Buy for a Penny, and Three Bodies at Mitanni. Individual story reviews: Meet Me in Iram, by Sofia Samatar: F, 2/5 Narratively unique but otherwise not particularly interesting. The Game of Smash and Recovery, By Kelly Link: SF, 3/5 Enjoyed this one. I like it when authors write outside of their usual genre like this. It's dedicated to Iain M. Banks at the end, which automatically made me rethink it as a Culture story, which it isn't. But it very easily could exist in that universe. Interesting Facts, by Adam Johnson: F, 5/5 A new all-time favorite. Heartbreaking and human, with mind-blowing prose that literally changes the way you read the story AS you're reading it. Fantastic fantasy. Planet Lion, by Catherynne M. Valente: SF, 2/5 Alien lion analogs act out some soap opera drama when they come in contact with advanced colonist tech. A real eye-roller, with a neat tech concept near the end that is its only redeeming quality. The Apartment Dweller's Bestiary, by Kij Johnson: F, 1/5 20 very short non-stories written in second person about imaginary creatures in apartments, often detailing whether or not "your" boyfriend or girlfriend likes or gets along with them. By Degrees of Dilatory Time, by S.L. Huang: SF, 4/5 I liked this one. Near future transhumanistic tale about adaptation and the process of healing being more than a physical one. The Mushroom Queen, by Liz Ziemska F, 4/5 Creepy little fantasy story. Reminded me a lot of Jeff VanderMeer, but that might just be the Mushrooms talking. Daydreamer by Proxy, by Dexter Palmer: SF, 3/5 Short little comedy about what seems like the worst place to work. Tea Time, by Rachel Swirsky: F, 2/5 Great writing for literally being a piece of fan fiction. Headshot, by Julian Mortimer Smith: SF, 4/5 Realistic near future democracy concepts. Very thought provoking. The Duniazát, by Salmon Rushdie: F, 5/5 Fantastical alternate mythical history. Beautiful prose. No Placeholder for You, My Love, by Nick Wolven: SF, 5/5 Fucking hell, that was brutally good. An SF romance/tragedy mixed in with Simulacron 3. Fantastic writing, and a compelling story. The Thirteen Mercies, by Maria Dahvana Headley: F, 4/5 Great writing. I want to know more about this world. Brutal grim-dark fantasy that's just one click off from our world. Lightning Jack's Last Ride, by Dave Bailey: SF, 4/5 Loved the way this one was written. Feels like a story straight out of the prohibition era, transported to the slight future. Things You Can Buy for a Penny, by Will Kaufman: F, 5/5 Such a perfect cautionary fairy-tale. I wanted to hate this one when I started it, but it very quickly won me over and became another high peak in this collection. Rat Catcher's Yellows, by Charlie Jane Anders: SF, 4/5 An almost perfect little SF story. The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History, by Sam J. Miller: F, 3/5 Solid oral history of a paranormal event that took place during a police raid on a gay bar during the late sixties. Three Bodies at Mitanni, by Seth Dickenson: SF, 6/5 This story exemplary embodies everything about what SF can accomplish as a literary form. An absolutely fantastic cerebral, philosophical, moral human story. Ambiguity Machines: An Examination, by Vandanna Singh: F, 2/5 It was okay. The stories within the story were fun. The Great Silence, by Ted Chiang: SF, 2/5 Really surprised that this wasn't better. Ted Chiang almost never disappoints, but this one kind of left me wanting.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    After loving last year's debut of this new Best American imprint, I was a little disappointed by this year's. That's the natural consequence of changing volume editors, though, and not a sign of a real drop in quality: Joe Hill's taste last year just happened to be remarkably similar to mine (which is why I used to buy every song he recommended on his now-mostly-defunct blog) and Fowler's isn't, even when she's pulling stories from authors I really admire (Samatar, Link, Valente, and Kij Johnson After loving last year's debut of this new Best American imprint, I was a little disappointed by this year's. That's the natural consequence of changing volume editors, though, and not a sign of a real drop in quality: Joe Hill's taste last year just happened to be remarkably similar to mine (which is why I used to buy every song he recommended on his now-mostly-defunct blog) and Fowler's isn't, even when she's pulling stories from authors I really admire (Samatar, Link, Valente, and Kij Johnson all have entries here that left me a little cold even though I usually love them--well, more accurately, I really liked the Kij Johnson story while feeling at the same time that it was pretty slight). The literary quality here is consistently high, but the overall tone is dreamy and surreal, and I find that works better as a spice than a main dish. There are, nonetheless, some great experiments here with form, and two of my favorites were Dexter Palmer's "The Daydreamer by Proxy" and Julian Mortimer Smith's "Headshot." The first is a series of FAQs about a new not-at-all-mandated-of-course-not-but-we-do-worry-about-your-commitment procedure corporate employees can undergo to have a "daydreamer" implanted in their spine so that their mind stays focused on their work, which is funny, chilling, and thought-provoking; the second is an online interview (formatted like Twitter, but with no obvious character limit) about future warfare techniques that require kill-shots to be approved by an ad-hoc online quorum, satirical but nuanced. And Rachel Swirsky's "Tea Time," a piece of souped-up and emotionally intense Alice in Wonderland fanfic, really worked for me: it takes the absurdity of the original seriously with feverish and moving results. I also really liked Dale Bailey's "Lightning Jack's Last Ride," a restrained bit of near-future SF about fast cars and bad men, which has a terrific voice even if the timeline feels a little wobbly; Will Kaufman's "Things You Can Buy for a Penny," an eerie and charming fairy tale about a "damp gentleman" in a well who grants wishes (even if his visitors sometimes wish he didn't); and Charlie Jane Anders's "Rat Catcher's Yellows," a quiet, subtle piece of domestic realism with a crucial science fiction context about a woman dealing with her wife's degenerative mental state and then with her immersion into the civilization-building game that seems to be helping her disorder at least a little. And I talked about this in my Best American Short Stories review already, but of course Ted Chiang's "The Great Silence" is terrific, with a tearjerker of a last line. Even if this year's collection had the audacity to not be designed me for me personally, it's still a good indication of the health of this new series: great authors and obvious bridge-building between the mainstream and SF literary communities. Still--tonal/atmospheric variety! You're not even hobbled by alphabetical-by-author order the way Best American Short Stories and Best American Mysteries are! At least go back and forth a little between the more straightforward and the more esoteric! But you ended with "The Great Silence," book, and that was a stellar choice.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Notkin

    I picked this up because I always want to read more good short SF, and because I have the highest possible opinion of Karen Fowler (who is a friend). I also really like the editors' process: John Joseph Adams, who reads more widely than you would think a human being could, picked 80 stories. Karen then read those stories author blind and picked 20 of the 80. So it's a testament to the taste of the field that many of our acknowledged finest short-story writers are represented here because they're I picked this up because I always want to read more good short SF, and because I have the highest possible opinion of Karen Fowler (who is a friend). I also really like the editors' process: John Joseph Adams, who reads more widely than you would think a human being could, picked 80 stories. Karen then read those stories author blind and picked 20 of the 80. So it's a testament to the taste of the field that many of our acknowledged finest short-story writers are represented here because they're good, not just because they're famous. And also that many writers we may never have heard of are also represented. I liked almost the whole book, with a few stories I found tedious and one I found so painful I had to skim it (not a criticism of the story at all, which is "The Thirteen Mercies" by Maria Dahvana Headley). I can read almost anything (though I'm a visual-violence wimp), but Headley's venture into the mind of the soldier/torturer pushed my limits. Highlights include Adam Johnson's "Interesting Facts," Kij Johnson's "The Apartment Dweller's Bestiary" (which is hilarious, and should be published with Karen Heuler's "The Apartments, reviewed a couple of weeks ago"), S. L. Huang's "By Degrees and Dilatory Time," Dale Bailey's "Lightning Jack's Last Ride"(which reads like 20-teens Theodore Sturgeon, and I have no higher compliment), Charlie Jane Anders' "Rat-Catcher's Yellows" and Sam J. Miller's "The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History." (That last one is a down-and-dirty retelling of the Stonewall uprising. I wish Miller had acknowledged the role of drag queens of color in this story, but the evocation of Stonewall, the insertion of fantasy elements, and the characters are all going to stay with me for a long time.) A really good way to find out what the best speculative short fiction is like right now.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Meg (fairy.bookmother)

    Not as wowed by this collection as I was last year's, but there are a handful of solid stories in this one. Not as wowed by this collection as I was last year's, but there are a handful of solid stories in this one.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    Looking back over this collection, of all twenty stories, the only ones that made me think “I am so glad I read this” are Lightning Jack’s Last Ride and Ambiguity Machines: An Examination. That is... not a good hit rate. From reading other reviews, it looks like a lot of other people share my opinion that this is a collection of a few great stories buried in a pile of some New-Yorker-ass nonsense. Listen, I have no beef with literary fiction, but most of the stories in here I didn’t find to be pa Looking back over this collection, of all twenty stories, the only ones that made me think “I am so glad I read this” are Lightning Jack’s Last Ride and Ambiguity Machines: An Examination. That is... not a good hit rate. From reading other reviews, it looks like a lot of other people share my opinion that this is a collection of a few great stories buried in a pile of some New-Yorker-ass nonsense. Listen, I have no beef with literary fiction, but most of the stories in here I didn’t find to be particularly good examples of literary fiction or particularly good examples of speculative fiction. Fully 25% of the stories in this anthology use their SF/fantasy concept as nothing but a metaphor for a hideously broken romantic relationship, a conceit which I could not possibly be more bored by. There are twenty stories in here. I really liked six of them and thought two others were flawed but interesting; I was utterly meh on eight of them; and four of them I really, really disliked. Usually I review the stories in anthologies in order, but in this case I’ll just start with the good ones. The good ones: “Meet Me in Iram” by Sofia Samatar A lot of the stories in this collection don’t really have a narrative – they’re either lists of various concepts on a theme, or they’re sort of floaty dreamy tone poems. This is one of the latter, and in this case it really worked for me. It’s from the perspective of a woman from Somalia thinking about all the people and places she’s lost because of war and unrest, and imagining meeting those things again in a mythical city. “The Daydreamer by Proxy” by Dexter Palmer The HR manual explaining the company’s process for inserting a symbiotic creature which will do all your daydreaming for you, allowing you to become the very best worker you can be! Darkly funny and not too serious. “Headshot” by Julian Mortimer Smith An interview with a near-future sniper who took out a notorious terrorist. The (slightly off-the-wall) concept here is that all soldiers’ actions are being constantly broadcast online and no soldier is authorized to take a shot until, essentially, he gets a certain number of upvotes. It does a great job of keeping it completely ambiguous as to whether this is a better or worse system than the one we have now. “Lightning Jack’s Last Ride” by Dale Bailey OK, I absolutely loved this one. After a long stretch of totally unengaging stories, this one was totally gripping all the way through. In the near future, just after the total collapse of the US following the peak oil crisis, a former hotshot NASCAR driver and his pit crew turn into essentially Old West train robbers, pulling incredibly risky heists of tanker trucks from heavily guarded military convoys. The ending was an ever-so-slight letdown, but damn, it was great. “Things You Can Buy for a Penny” by Will Kaufman A creepy fairy tale about a supernatural being who lives at the bottom of a well and grants wishes, which of course do not generally turn out well. “Ambiguity Machines: An Examination” by Vandana Singh Absolutely gorgeous. This is three interconnected stories about objects or places which blur boundaries – between the self and the universe, between periods of time, and between people. Each of the stories had a perfectly drawn protagonist and the working of the machines were beautifully described, and the stories were subtly woven together in a way that kinda gave me chills. These three stories are surrounded by a framing device which didn’t really do much for me, but it didn’t matter. These are the ones with good concepts but flawed execution: “Tea Time” by Rachel Swirsky Ok, listen. LISTEN. Of the “broken relationships” stories, this was definitely my favorite. The second two-thirds were a kind of lovely metaphorical story about the March Hare and the Mad Hatter eventually parting ways when the March Hare gets more and more discontent with being frozen in time. Good stuff. HOWEVER. The first third goes into FAR TOO MUCH FLOWERY DESCRIPTIVE DETAIL about THE SEX LIFE OF THE MARCH HARE AND THE MAD HATTER. I did not need to read the phrase “plush passage” to describe the March Hare’s asshole. “The Great Silence” by Ted Chiang A parrot thinks about the sad irony that humans are trying so desperately to find intelligent life in the universe when the parrots are right there and humans can’t even recognize that the parrots themselves are intelligent life, and are slowly wiping them out just because they aren’t playing attention. It’s a good idea but I thought it was pretty perfunctory… and then I read the author notes where he explained that the story was essentially adapted from some text he wrote for someone else’s video art installation, and suddenly the perfunctoryness made more sense. Here are the ones I pretty much hated. All four of them are the metaphor-for-a-broken-relationship type. “Interesting Facts” by Adam Johnson “Ugh, she’s a fucking ghost, isn’t she?” – me, three pages before the reveal that she is in fact a fucking ghost. A woman gets breast cancer, dies, and spends some ghost time hanging around her husband and children and being bitter and sad. Also this was a prime example of a woman being written totally crappily by a man, from the character being obsessed with other women’s breasts to her pissy jealously about the husband’s new girlfriend. “The Mushroom Queen” by Liz Ziemska A woman in a crappy relationship is sort of… abducted and replaced by a kind of mushroom demon, and has to re-form herself via the global network of mycelium in order to try and get her life back while the mushroom-woman seduces her husband by turning herself into the perfect imitation of what he wishes she would be. On paper this sounds kind of neat actually, but the execution just fell flat for me. “No Placeholder for You, My Love” by Nick Wolven The eventual reveal here is that a long time ago, people uploaded copies of themselves into a massive program in order to essentially online-date – their computer doubles date around and eventually meet people who they are compatible with, so as to skip the actual process of dating themselves. The program has been abandoned and the characters are essentially stuck in an immortal loop of socializing. Sadly the program was explicitly designed to prevent the doubles from actually falling in love for [basically no reason I could discern], and then a woman and a man fall semi almost in love for [basically no reason I could discern], and then they have this big plan to finally go and be happily together [somehow] and the woman hesitates for the briefest moment and loses her only chance at love forever. I just… sorry I just could not bring myself to care about any of these people. “Rat Catcher’s Yellows” by Charlie Jane Anders There’s some kind of super-toxoplasmosis which gives people dementia, and a woman is taking care of her girlfriend who caught the disease, and there’s a lot of detail about how hard it is for her to cope with caring for her now-incapacitated former lover. Then the SF twist comes in: there’s a handheld videogame which for some reason people with this semi-catatonic dementia are really really supernaturally good at playing. “And then what happens?” you ask. The answer is nothing, because that’s the end of the story. These people are just good at this game and that’s it. Bleh. And now the ones that I didn’t really like or hate: “The Game of Smash and Recovery” by Kelly Link A couple of kids have been stranded on a planet with a bunch of warehouses full of stuff, and they have to go through the warehouses looking for stuff in order to survive. Then it turns out that the little girl is some kind of hyperintelligent spaceship or something. It wasn’t bad but I didn’t find it to be particularly gripping or inventive. “Planet Lion” by Catherynne M. Valente Essentially, people accidentally infest the semi-intelligent lion-like beings of a newly discovered planet with some sort of psychic goo meant for linking up soldiers during wartime, and the formerly basically peaceful lions are plunged into perpetual war. I dunno, it just dragged on and didn’t make me care all that much. “The Apartment Dweller’s Beastiary” by Kij Johnson A list of fantastical creatures that live in peoples’ apartments. It was… fine. I often like the kind of stories that are just lists of cool concepts, but in this case I wish there had been an actual narrative. “By Degrees and Dilatory Time” by S.L. Huang A guy has to get a mechanical eye transplant and he takes a long time to adjust to it. If it wasn’t a mechanical eye, this would literally just be a non-SF story about it being hard to adjust to a prosthesis. “The Duniazát,” Salman Rushdie Parts of this, I liked quite a bit. A female djinn decides to marry a human man so that she can experience mortal life. But it just didn’t really go anywhere. “The Thirteen Mercies” by Maria Dahvana Headley Another tone-poem-y one like Meet Me In Iram, about a group of mystical soldiers (near future? alternate reality? alien world? unclear) who got caught on tape torturing people and are sent to some kind of rainforest to be guarded by an ancient crocodile woman. Kind of cool but ultimately not that satisfying. “The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History” by Sam J. Miller Mannn I wanted to like this one. It’s a fictional series of interviews from people involved in the Stonewall riots. Then it turns out that the collective anger and joy of the people at Stonewall makes them spontaneously develop pyrokenetic powers when the raid starts and so the riots also include a bunch of shit getting incinerated. I get what it was going for but it felt a little pointless somehow. “Three Bodies at Mitanni” by Seth Dickinson Earth has sent out expeditions of three people each to investigate the long-ago-seeded human colony worlds and decide whether they pose enough of a threat to be exterminated, and they come to a world where people have essentially removed their own consciousness to become perfect but inhuman creatures, who could probably outcompete normal humans but who have no culture or emotion whatsoever. Not a bad start. Sadly the people on the expedition are incredibly annoying. And the fact that the person who is always the swing vote and was chosen for their ability to see both sides of the issues is a non-binary person who shifts between genders - GET IT?? - is borderline offensive and is definitely not going to age well.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    I like The Geek's Guide to the Galaxy podcast, so when I heard the host--John Joseph Adams, the editor of this anthology--chatting with his co-editor about this book, I grabbed it on Amazon when it was on sale for $2. I am sorry that I did. I used to be a voracious reader of short stories, and as I read some of the stories in this anthology, I realized how much the short story form has changed in the decade or two that I've been away. Many of the stories in this anthology were, for all intents an I like The Geek's Guide to the Galaxy podcast, so when I heard the host--John Joseph Adams, the editor of this anthology--chatting with his co-editor about this book, I grabbed it on Amazon when it was on sale for $2. I am sorry that I did. I used to be a voracious reader of short stories, and as I read some of the stories in this anthology, I realized how much the short story form has changed in the decade or two that I've been away. Many of the stories in this anthology were, for all intents and purposes, plotless. Or, rather, the plot was secondary to the stream of consciousness narration. The very first story in the book, "Meet Me in Iram" was beautifully written, but if there was a point in there someplace I missed it. Same with "The Game of Smash and Recovery" and "Planet Lion." The authors were so busy writing weird, detailed descriptions of whatever that they forgot to have, you know, a story. A few of the stories worked better. I liked "Interesting Facts" very much, as well as "Things You Can Buy for a Penny." I skipped a few of the stories after a couple of pages because I knew I wasn't interested in reading them. So maybe this is all me. I love to read, and I love stories, so deviations from good old Freytag's Pyramid are jarring to me. Also, the editor makes all the difference in these story story collections. I wonder if the previous volume, edited by Joe Hill--whose work I like--would have a different feel to it. I may grab it, too...if it goes back on sale on Kindle.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Marie-Therese

    A strong and varied collection of short stories, much more to my taste than last year's rather medicore volume in this series. Highlights for me were Catherynne M. Valente's 'Planet Lion' (a wonderfully weird mash-up of military space opera and psychedelic planetary exotica), Liz Ziemska's 'The Mushroom Queen' (mycology and a mid-life crisis in one haunting package), Maia Dahvana Headley's 'The Thirteen Mercies' (perhaps more horror than science fiction or straight fantasy but beautifully and ef A strong and varied collection of short stories, much more to my taste than last year's rather medicore volume in this series. Highlights for me were Catherynne M. Valente's 'Planet Lion' (a wonderfully weird mash-up of military space opera and psychedelic planetary exotica), Liz Ziemska's 'The Mushroom Queen' (mycology and a mid-life crisis in one haunting package), Maia Dahvana Headley's 'The Thirteen Mercies' (perhaps more horror than science fiction or straight fantasy but beautifully and effectively written), and Ted Chiang's 'The Great Silence'. There are a few stories (Rushdie's 'The Duniazat', Dale Bailey's 'Lightening Jack's Last Ride', Will Kaufman's 'Things You Can Buy for a Penny') I would have passed over for some of the work listed in the Notable section at the back, but none are genuine duds. Recommended for those who like their science fiction and fantasy with a strongly literary bent.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    There were a few gems in here, but the fantasy--the minute I see a retelling of Alice, I'm out of there--felt more like genre trying its damndest to be literary and subsequently veering into the worst aspects of magical realism minus any of the historical context that might anchor it. Sure, the sentences are pyrotechnic, but ultimately what you end up with is a little kid with scalpel sharp crayons and an extremely precious sensibility going "Tralalalala---!" So the good stuff: The Great Silence There were a few gems in here, but the fantasy--the minute I see a retelling of Alice, I'm out of there--felt more like genre trying its damndest to be literary and subsequently veering into the worst aspects of magical realism minus any of the historical context that might anchor it. Sure, the sentences are pyrotechnic, but ultimately what you end up with is a little kid with scalpel sharp crayons and an extremely precious sensibility going "Tralalalala---!" So the good stuff: The Great Silence by Ted Chiang 5 Adam Johnson's Interesting Facts 5 Dexter Palmer's Daydreamer by Proxy 4 Julian Mortimer Smith's Headshot 4 Sofia Samatar's Meet Me in Iram 4 Charlie Jane Anders's Rat Catcher's Yellows 4 The Apartment Dweller's Bestiary by Kij Johnson 3.5 Three Bodies at Mitani by Seth Dickinson 3

  9. 4 out of 5

    Leah Polcar

    4.6 Anthologies are generally a mixed bag. Even the best collections tend to have enough poor stories that cancel out the best the collection has to offer. I think the highest rating I have ever given to an anthology is a 3.5 because of this unfortunate phenomenon. While not every in story Best American Sci-Fi and Fantasy 2016 is perfect, the best ones are perfect and the worst simply not to my taste. Maybe 2 stories of 20 get a B. That's a pretty good report card. I find this especially intere 4.6 Anthologies are generally a mixed bag. Even the best collections tend to have enough poor stories that cancel out the best the collection has to offer. I think the highest rating I have ever given to an anthology is a 3.5 because of this unfortunate phenomenon. While not every in story Best American Sci-Fi and Fantasy 2016 is perfect, the best ones are perfect and the worst simply not to my taste. Maybe 2 stories of 20 get a B. That's a pretty good report card. I find this especially interesting given that I would not call myself a Sci-Fi or Fantasy fan. Even if you think you don't like Sci-Fi or Fantasy, don't let that keep you from this collection. The price of admission is worth it for Ted Chiang's The Great Silence (also collected in The Best American Short Stories (2016)) and Adam Johnson's Interesting Facts alone.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tim Hicks

    Well, that's a lesson reminding me that despite my voracious appetite for SF & F, there is a whole swath if it that I don't care for, and this collection represetns that swath very well. The reviews here suggest that I am not alone in this. People used words like "literary" and "dreamy" and "surreal," and those are words that often make me put down a book. As I searched for this title, I saw that someone had just Liked a review I did of another short story collection, containing tributes to Jac Well, that's a lesson reminding me that despite my voracious appetite for SF & F, there is a whole swath if it that I don't care for, and this collection represetns that swath very well. The reviews here suggest that I am not alone in this. People used words like "literary" and "dreamy" and "surreal," and those are words that often make me put down a book. As I searched for this title, I saw that someone had just Liked a review I did of another short story collection, containing tributes to Jack Vance by varions authors. I really enjoyed that book. I wonder how many people liked both. Anyway, I'm sure these are fine stories (and I know some of the authors to be good), but they arent' for me.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Maurits van Rees

    A few stories that captured my attention: Catherynne M. Valente: Planet Lion The lions on a planet gain a collective sentience, fueled by memories from astronauts. Truly unique story, compelling. Kij Johnson: The Apartment Dweller's Bestiary A collection of tiny, funny stories about quite exotic pets like the lopi, the louet, the hooded quilliot. You tell the stories in the second person, and it tells more about your lonely life than about the pets that bring you a bit of joy mixed with sarcasm and A few stories that captured my attention: Catherynne M. Valente: Planet Lion The lions on a planet gain a collective sentience, fueled by memories from astronauts. Truly unique story, compelling. Kij Johnson: The Apartment Dweller's Bestiary A collection of tiny, funny stories about quite exotic pets like the lopi, the louet, the hooded quilliot. You tell the stories in the second person, and it tells more about your lonely life than about the pets that bring you a bit of joy mixed with sarcasm and in some cases a better sense of art or friendship than you have. The pets obviously deserve better than you. Nick Wolven: No placeholder for you, my love Time gets reset every day when the midnight chimes sound. When you are with another person and you both say 'I want to see you again,' you see each other the next morning. Seth Dickinson: Three bodies at Mitanni Three persons on a deep space mission get to decide whether the inhabitants of a colonized planet are still human enough, or that they have lost essential human traits by surviving as a collective consciousness, giving them in the future an insurmountable advantage over humans, in which case the three would be authorized to annihilate the planet.

  12. 5 out of 5

    KateK

    All in all, quite a satisfying short story collection. I didn't appreciate all of the stories equally but each of them had a very interesting premise which definitely gave some food for thought. This is what I like about the series – by reading the collection you can get the patchwork picture of the genre. I guess I would never read some of the authors outside of this compilation but going though the book I still enjoyed the variety of topics and narrative methods. There was not a single story t All in all, quite a satisfying short story collection. I didn't appreciate all of the stories equally but each of them had a very interesting premise which definitely gave some food for thought. This is what I like about the series – by reading the collection you can get the patchwork picture of the genre. I guess I would never read some of the authors outside of this compilation but going though the book I still enjoyed the variety of topics and narrative methods. There was not a single story that disappointed me. My personal top pick is "Interesting facts". It is a powerful story of a family loss which deeply moved me. I also greatly enjoyed: "The Thirteen Mercies", "No Place Holder for You, My Love", "The Mushroom Queen", "Things You Can Buy for a Penny ", "Three Bodies at Mitanni", "Things You Can Buy for a Penny " and "Rat Catcher's Yellow ".

  13. 5 out of 5

    Liza Rodimtseva

    This is my second consecutive collection of sci-fi writing, and after the Best of Crank! it rather lags. Drawn from more 'mainstream' sources, it generally lacks the wild originality of the work in Crank! While some of the stories are transporting in their imagination, there are also many that barely graze the boundaries of realist fiction. This is also the most recent sample of science-fiction I've read, and -though sci-fi has always been a conduit for the existential angst of the times - it se This is my second consecutive collection of sci-fi writing, and after the Best of Crank! it rather lags. Drawn from more 'mainstream' sources, it generally lacks the wild originality of the work in Crank! While some of the stories are transporting in their imagination, there are also many that barely graze the boundaries of realist fiction. This is also the most recent sample of science-fiction I've read, and -though sci-fi has always been a conduit for the existential angst of the times - it seems like many of the stories here are particularly mournful and fatalistic about the human condition. There's also a notable amount of LGBT content, an improvement in a genre that has always been weirdly heteronormative. Overall, the quality of the content is uneven, but there are more than a few redemptive gems.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    A DNF for me at 26%. Out of 4 stories, I could only enjoy/finish 1. Sci-fi/fantasy is not my usual genre. But it’s not so foreign to me that I should have such difficulty with a Best Of anthology. I was looking forward to expanding my base of sci-fi writers. I’m disappointed.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Trish

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. As usual, my taste leans toward the sci-fi rather than fantasy ... Sofia Samatar: Meet Me in Iram ... a bit too elusive (allusive?) for my palate. For me, admirable rather than enjoyable. Kelly Link: The Game of Smash and Recovery ... A brother and sister awaiting the return of their long-absent planets play a high-impact game of capture the flag until little sister unlocks the secret of her inhuman origin and purpose (as part of the AI of a crashed starship) * Adam Johnson: Interesting Facts ... As usual, my taste leans toward the sci-fi rather than fantasy ... Sofia Samatar: Meet Me in Iram ... a bit too elusive (allusive?) for my palate. For me, admirable rather than enjoyable. Kelly Link: The Game of Smash and Recovery ... A brother and sister awaiting the return of their long-absent planets play a high-impact game of capture the flag until little sister unlocks the secret of her inhuman origin and purpose (as part of the AI of a crashed starship) * Adam Johnson: Interesting Facts ... a standout. A wife and mother watches her husband and children cope with her death from cancer, unwilling to acknowledge that she has died. Catherynne M. Valente: Planet Lion ... I liked how this unfolded, as the green lions of a distant planet become increasingly infected by and disrupted artifacts of human expansion and war. Kij Johnson: The Apartment Dweller's Bestiary ... I'd rank this as minor Kij Johnson. The cute conceit of listing fanciful animals that inhabit modern apartments and interact with their human occupants didn't add up to much for me. S.L. Huang: By Degrees and Dilatory Time ... a man copes with cancer and artificial eyes that restore his sight Liz Ziemska: The Mushroom Queen ... I enjoyed this fantasy story of a woman who is displaced from her home, husband and dogs by an invading mushroom doppelganger. I felt sorriest for the dogs! * Dexter Palmer: The Daydreamer by Proxy ... Palmer uses the form of a corporate handbook to describe a creature that has been engineered to disrupt the brains of corporate drones, increasing their productivity by stealing their daydreams (and perhaps their identities?). Effectively horrific! Rachel Swirsky: Tea Time ... a retelling of the Mad Hatter's tea party (after Alice has come and gone) that I just didn't vibe with, in spite of the enthusiastic play with language and quotations. * Julian Mortimer Smith: Headshot ... a jolting look at near-future warfare, in which civilians monitor soldiers via social media feeds and a quorum must authorize a any lethal action. Disturbingly plausible Salman Rushdie: The Duniazat ... this story of a jinn and a philosopher didn't move me * Nick Wolven: No Placeholder for You, My Love ... Initially it seems that the female protagonist may be trapped in a decadent, debauched hell of endless dinner parties. But then it becomes clear that she is a software avatar, trapped in a neglected dating program. She is supposed to be seeking "true love," but what is she supposed to do if she finds it? With another avatar, she tries to reach the far shore of their digital land, where a glitch may enable them to live outside the program's mandatory nightly reset. Maria Dahvana Headley: The Thirteen Mercies ... another tale of war, this time describing the punishment meted out to a group of 13 soldiers who were trained to commit atrocities rebranded as "mercies" Dale Bailey: Lightning Jack's Last Ride ... a tale of hot-rod gas thieves who fall out over a woman. Clearly inspired by Dillinger and other swaggering gangsters. Will Kaufman: Things You Can Buy for a Penny ... I feel like every fantasy anthology has a story about a village where people can have their wishes granted for a steep, hidden, tricky price. * Charlie Jane Anders: Rat Catcher's Yellows ... When a new form of toxoplasmosis has sent your partner into a downward spiral of dementia, what do you do? You introduce her to a new cat-centric strategy game (like a feline Settlers of Cataan?) that you hope will pull her, at least partially, back into the world. When instead she's pulled more and more into the video game, silently foiling palace coups and negotiating complex trade agreements, what do you do? You take her to a strange convention to game with others like herself. Who created the game, how does it work, what is it learning from its players, and to what end? Sam J. Miller: The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History ... a retelling of the Stonewall rebellion in which the oppressed strike back with psychic fire, immolating the NYPD cops there to harass them. Seth Dickinson: Three Bodies at Mitanni ... An interesting conundrum. Three people have been sent from Earth to investigate the colonies formed from past seedships and to determine if what they have become is a threat to humanity. They find a world where the colonists walled off their consciousness in order to make themselves perfectly dedicated to the group and to productivity. Should they be destroyed before they overrun the galaxy? Vandana Singh: Ambiguity Machines: An Examination ... a consideration of three impossible machines (one that was intended to recall the face of a beloved instead seems to transform her into the metaphors used to describe her, another than sends a person 800 years back in time, and a third that breaks down the walls between individual consciousness) * Ted Chiang: The Great Silence ... From the perspective of a parrot, humans' quest for extraterrestrial life seems a bit puzzling, a bit hurtful -- why not talk to the other intelligent life right here on Earth?

  16. 4 out of 5

    Amber

    There are several stories in this collection that I very much look forward to re-reading.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Joshua

    There have been two Best American SF/F collections so far, and to me this collection slightly edges out 2015's, though both were chock-full of thought-provoking, astonishingly written works of modern science fiction and fantasy (though far less fantasy than SF). I should note that these stories tend to be more along 'literary' lines, meaning that they fantasy tends to be more of the folklore or magic realism variety, eschewing anything Tolkeinesque, to say nothing of something along the lines of There have been two Best American SF/F collections so far, and to me this collection slightly edges out 2015's, though both were chock-full of thought-provoking, astonishingly written works of modern science fiction and fantasy (though far less fantasy than SF). I should note that these stories tend to be more along 'literary' lines, meaning that they fantasy tends to be more of the folklore or magic realism variety, eschewing anything Tolkeinesque, to say nothing of something along the lines of Conan or Lovecraft. Science fiction, too, tends to be more quiet and cerebral rather than space opera or super-techie. As long as you can live with that, you'll find at least 9 or 10 stories that will knock your socks off. Along with the proviso above, these stories fall in two general types: (a) the deeply poetic, abstract works which only pay lip service to SF/F (literary authors who merely borrow the excuse to write in this fashion), and (b) the pieces that are truly born and raised in the genre. While some of the (a) stories are delightful, many of them seem needlessly dense and proud of themselves--"Ambiguity Machines" being a typical example. It's an interesting story, but seems far more academic for its own good. Some of them are very experimental in narration, too, which takes a read or two to get into, and this will either strike you as fascinating or tedious--"Planet Lion" being an example of this. Of the stories that really bowled me over, Seth Dickinson's "Three Bodies at Mitanni" is the highlight, a story about three humans (or what were once humans!), tasked with surveying the galaxy for colonies that have grown too large, too fast, and become too dangerous. They alone have the power to snuff them out of existence. But they have to have unanimous consent, which causes problems when they meet a civilization which poses a potential threat to all humanity--or so one of them thinks. Extinction is the theme of Ted Chiang's short piece, "The Great Silence," which poses the question, 'why haven't we discovered intelligent life among the stars'? It offers (among other answers), the beautifully chilling statement, "Some humans theorize that intelligent species go extinct before they can expand into outer space. If they're correct, then the hush of the night sky is the silence of a graveyard" (273). Another brilliant story is Charlie Jane Anders' "Rat Catcher's Yellows," about people who catch a strange paralytic disease (named in the title) who lose all ability to communicate save in a strange game called "Divine Right of Cats," which is a kind of Game of Thrones with cat kingdoms. Only people with the disease become the top players here, and the story concerns the partner of a Rat Catcher's Yellow victim who becomes the top player, and her struggle to reconcile the empty shell of a person she loves with her newfound fame. Two other stories explore this human/computer relationship in different ways: Dexter Palmer's "The Daydreamer by Proxy" is a satirical take on a company that wants you to merge with a creature (inserted into your spine) that will do all your daydreaming for you, freeing up your 'daydream' time to do more productive work. And S.L. Huang's "By Degrees and Dilatory Time" is a brilliant sketch about a man's gradual acceptance of his robotic eyes (to replace his cancer-ridden optic nerves) and how he learns to see the world as an "other", but not see himself as a disease. Some stories seem a bit out of place for all their brilliance: Rushdie's story, "The Duniazat" is fun and clever, but is folklore more than fantasy--and Rushdie hardly needs more exposure! One story that seems out of place is so good you hardly care: Adam Johnson's "Interesting Facts." It's technically a "fantasy" story but only by a very thin stretch of the imagination (it was published in Harper's, hardly a hotbed of fantasy and sci-fi writing). It concerns a 40-something mother, having survived cancer, worrying over his family and her spouse, whom she fears is straying thanks to the attentions of other women. Yet as the story progresses, you realize that she's already dead, and it's a story about her own letting go, and how she learns to see her own family from the vantage of death (and it's far more profound than this trite summary makes it out to be!). It probably shouldn't be in this book, and room made for a more suitable story, but hell, I loved it so much that I'm not complaining. This is an ideal book to skim through, reading a story here, a story there, and you'll easily come away with a few new authors, as well as a newfound respect for the possibilities of both genres. I do wish they would dip a bit deeper into the pool of genre, and allow some more mainstream sci-fi and fantasy works to enter the mix, rather than the more literary ones. But that said, I'm never disappointed with these anthologies, and look forward to teaching them in my classes next year.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    "Relax. This is normal." —Dexter Palmer, "The Daydreamer by Proxy," p.106 I'm not sure whether the effect was due to series editor John Joseph Adams or to this volume's specific editor, Karen Joy Fowler, but the flow from story to story in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016 was exceptionally smooth. As to the stories themselves: I have transcribed the entire Table of Contents below. I won't try to rate the stories relative to each other—this really is a "best-of" volume, and there w "Relax. This is normal." —Dexter Palmer, "The Daydreamer by Proxy," p.106 I'm not sure whether the effect was due to series editor John Joseph Adams or to this volume's specific editor, Karen Joy Fowler, but the flow from story to story in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016 was exceptionally smooth. As to the stories themselves: I have transcribed the entire Table of Contents below. I won't try to rate the stories relative to each other—this really is a "best-of" volume, and there were only a couple that I thought were even slightly subpar—but I will share a few brief impressions about each, in order of appearance: "Meet Me in Iram," by Sofia Samatar —Every time I run across a story about an abandoned, alien (or at least exotic) city in a desert, I flash back to A. E. van Vogt's 1950 classic "The Enchanted Village." Not that Samatar's story is anything like van Vogt's otherwise; this one is more of a vignette, or a series of vignettes, about a place that is only slightly more magical than other lands whose four-letter names start with "Ira—"... "The Game of Smash and Recovery," by Kelly Link —Read in Rich Horton's The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2016. At the time I called it "Hard-edged SF sent straight from a little girl's heart—and Link's dedication at the end is entirely appropriate." I see no reason to change this assessment now. "Interesting Facts," by Adam Johnson —This one is about cancer and its effects, and while there are some fantastic elements, Johnson's story is very close to not being sf at all. It came from Harper's Magazine, in fact, which is not an especially science-fictional venue. Nevertheless, it fits. "Planet Lion," by Catherynne M. Valente —A military expedition's plans fail to survive first contact with aliens who are more than they appear. More overtly science-fictional than other Valente I've run across, "Planet Lion" could have perhaps come from the pen of Ursula K. LeGuin. "The Apartment Dweller's Bestiary," by Kij Johnson —Read elsewhere, though I'm not sure exactly where I would have encountered it. This is the kind of thing we used to like to come up with for the Usenet newsgroup talk.bizarre, back in the 1990s... a list that, taken all together, comments more on the people who live with them than on the fanciful creatures themselves. "By Degrees and Dilatory Time," by S.L. Huang —Another story with cancer as a theme, or at least as a pretext. Huang's protagonist gets new eyes and has to adjust to being, if not less than, certainly other than purely organic. "The Mushroom Queen," by Liz Ziemska —We're finding out more about fungi all the time, and this sort-of suburban fantasy about a changeling housewife seems more plausible as a result. "The Daydreamer by Proxy," by Dexter Palmer —I will say that this was one of the high points of this anthology, for me. Palmer does not often work at shorter lengths, by his own admission, so this perky yet creepy corporate brochure is a rarity to be appreciated. "Tea Time," by Rachel Swirsky —A romp through Lewis Carroll's Wonderland that I found thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. Contains one of the better answers to the classic riddle ("Why is a raven like a writing-desk?") that I've seen. "Headshot," by Julian Mortimer Smith —Participatory warfare, and plausible extrapolation to boot... this one is classic science fiction ("if this goes on...") with a 21st-Century twist. "The Duniazát," by Salman Rushdie —While I don't think Rushdie's take on the Arabian Nights was the best story in this anthology, I was impressed both by the complex fable he wove and the fact that such a personage was brought in to grace these pages. "No Placeholder for You, My Love," by Nick Wolven —Like a Black Mirror episode told in prose... and yes, that's high praise from this media baby. "The Thirteen Mercies," by Maria Dahvana Headley —Read in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (F&SF). Although this grim and bloody story of a lost regiment is relentlessly dark, it's also one of the strongest and most compellingly written entries here. The Mercies (and their inversions) all make sense and hang together—for if they did not, they would all surely hang separately... "Lightning Jack's Last Ride," by Dale Bailey —Read in F&SF. A tale of post-peak oil and automotive outlawry that brought to my mind Jack Cady's brilliant novella "The Night We Buried Road Dog," from the collection with the same name. "Things You Can Buy for a Penny," by Will Kaufman —Yes, it's still possible to find original ways to say "be careful what you wish for"... and this is one of them. "Rat Catcher's Yellows," by Charlie Jane Anders —First read in Press Start to Play. This one resonates even more strongly with me these days, as my wife and I deal with a dear friend's memory loss... with no such palliative as Anders so well envisions. "The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History," by Sam J. Miller —I am not entirely certain that the history of the Stonewall Riots benefits from fantastical embellishment, but nevertheless I think it's important to give Miller the benefit of the doubt. "Three Bodies at Mitanni," by Seth Dickinson —Dickinson is another author I've liked from other anthologies, by the way, including Rich Horton's as well as Neil Clarke's Upgraded, and in this one the homage to Peter Watts is explicit. "Ambiguity Machines: An Examination," by Vandana Singh —Yes, no, and sometimes—those are my answers to the first three questions posed in Singh's Examination. You may make of that what you will. "The Great Silence," by Ted Chiang —This one makes its impact specifically through its brevity, and was a good (if elegaic) note to end on. Don't skip the Contributors' Notes at the end of the volume, either; most of the authors also contributed interesting personal statements, either about their stories or just in general, that are well worth a look. All in all, I really like where this relatively new annual anthology series (this is only the second year!) is going.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Zain

    I love science fiction and l really enjoyed reading these short stories. Some of the authors were not well known to me, but I’m glad I got a taste of their work.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    Even though this is in The Best American series I do wonder at its inclusion. The cover pattern is different than all the others, and just does not seem up to the same level. It could be that, as I know to be true, Science Fiction, is not a great interest to me, and a collection with diverse stories in that genre is going to have a low rate of interest to me. While I read all the stories I have to confess that some of them were just so far behind my style as to barely be comprehended. Therefore, Even though this is in The Best American series I do wonder at its inclusion. The cover pattern is different than all the others, and just does not seem up to the same level. It could be that, as I know to be true, Science Fiction, is not a great interest to me, and a collection with diverse stories in that genre is going to have a low rate of interest to me. While I read all the stories I have to confess that some of them were just so far behind my style as to barely be comprehended. Therefore, I will only comment of some stories. One absolute keeper, one of the best stories I read in any of these books all year was " Interesting Facts " by the Pulitzer winner Adam Johnson. First appearing in Harpers it is the story told in the voice of his wife, who is suffering from cancer. When I say his wife I mean the characters in the story are a Pulitzer winning author, his young children, and his extremely ill wife. How a family copes with this situation if rarely dealt with so realistically. But, however, this is a science fiction collection, which is made clear, with a sharp,reminder at the end of the story. Johnson is incredibly gifted, reminded me of his wonderful story, titled Nirvana, in his most recent collection. The " Mushroom Queen " is an odd, fantastical tale about what the fungus under the Earth, which we are told has an incredible weight and mass, thinks about. We see what happens when the Queen decides she would like to be above ground for awhile. Odd but interesting. " No Placeholder For You, My Love " is a better story. While it is not apparent immediately we learn that, in this world, your relationships reset each day at midnight, unless you utter the phrase that " you would like to see them again." When a couple decides they would like to do this but something goes wrong, they end up searching for each other constantly through years worth of resets. The story holds together pretty well Another apocalyptic world appears in " Lightning Jack's Last Ride ." In this world we follow a former world racing team. Driver, crew, and more as they travel the new gas less world. Oil is in short supply, rationed by the government , transported only in convoys well protected. Still our team have become gangsters, using their driving skills, guns, and fast vehicles to steal some of these tankers. Could actually see the premise of a movie here. Wow, I guess that's it. Not my type of subject matter. Still, I recommend the Johnson story highly, one can probably find it online.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    Overall, the collection gave me a mix of feelings comparable to the 2015 selection, with one standout great and, perhaps more educational, one story that I despised. First the purely indifferent ones was “Daydreamer by Proxy” in which a parody corporate HR announcement to get employees to attach parasites to their backs that steal their dreams. The description is funnier than the story—corps doing evil things, will wonders never cease. “Thirteen Mercies” starts with a fun premise—all of the “merc Overall, the collection gave me a mix of feelings comparable to the 2015 selection, with one standout great and, perhaps more educational, one story that I despised. First the purely indifferent ones was “Daydreamer by Proxy” in which a parody corporate HR announcement to get employees to attach parasites to their backs that steal their dreams. The description is funnier than the story—corps doing evil things, will wonders never cease. “Thirteen Mercies” starts with a fun premise—all of the “mercies” are Orwellian terms for their exact opposite, but succumbs to polemic. “No Placeholder” was an Inception-like story that was head-in-the-oven, because the author, conceived it as an SF homage to Edith Wharton. “Ambiguity Machines” ultimately had too much ambiguity and not enough machines. Gratuitous sex ruined a couple stories for me, as it often does. “Tea Time” simpers when it’s not rolling on the floor with The Mad Hatter and March Hare. And I couldn’t get over Salman Rushdie writing “The Duniazát” about an old man with a nubile manic jinni dreamgirl, even when she aged and starts controlling his life (ick, ick, and ick). Were my interest easier to kindle, many stories would have moved me more. “Rat Catcher Yellows” and “Things You Can Buy with a Penny,” didn’t quite make it. Dale Bailey’s “Lightning Jack’s Last Ride” channeled Heinlein hard, but that included a love triangle and revenge plot that felt a bit stale, and I begrudged him his dystopian conceit: the US has run out of oil (unlikely anytime soon in the shale oil years) and therefore descended immediately into Mad Max warrior fiefdoms instead of what people actually do, which is shift to alternatives dynamically based on cost considerations. Catherine Valente gets major points for the ambition of “Planet Lion,” (told mostly from the POV of lion-like alien predators who are being corrupted and given semi-consciousness by residuals of human nanoweapons), but it was too hard to understand for it to move me. Kelly Link wrote “The Game of Smash and Recovery,” which had Gene Wolfe-like crazy fantasmagoria, but also the kind of unsatisfying endings Gene Wolfe stories have for me. Sofia Samatar wrote a story that reminded me of Goss’s amazing “Cimmeria: From the Journal of Imaginary Anthropology” (my favorite from the previous year's anthology), but ended up too much like a guidebook to move me as a story. And Kij Johnson, who is one of my favorite authors of all time, wrote a catalog of wildly imaginative pets that never quite came together, like a great number of threads of rich hue laid out in parallel, rather than woven. On to the good and the awful. “The Great Silence” is good, but I’m incapable of objectivity about Ted Chiang, my favorite author. It has a parrot talking to us about humans attempting to interact with alien intelligence (it’s from a mixed-media art installation in which the setup seems less random and cheesy), with a couple interesting thoughts and earns points for brevity. Sam Miller’s “The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History” was deeper on my second read (he was in my Clarion class, so I’d read it already) than on my first. It was done with such breadth of perspective that even on a close and critical second read, I had to admit he did right by those involved in the historical riot and also a fiery political piece. Seth Dickinson’s “Three Bodies at Mitanni” is hard SF, almost Greg Bear hard, but with a sociological component that reminded me agreeably of Ursula Le Guin. Three digitized people in a lightship travel the universe analyzing human colonies to see if any society is so inimical to human consciousness that they should use their relativistic weapons to obliterate it. They’ve just let survive a colony that uses cybernetic brain stints to render most of the population near-zombie slaves, in a contentious 2-to-1 vote. They must then decide about a society that biologically disconnected cognition from consciousness, making them utterly logical and nearly inhuman, to enable them to survive an unlivable situation. It’s a moving dilemma, and if the ending felt a bit just-so, it was still a great story. S. L. Huang’s “By Degrees and Dilatory Time” is the story I was most conflicted about. It follows a young Japanese man who changes his eyes for cybernetic ones because he has eye cancer. The ending followed from the rest of the story, but the way the tail follows the kite, rather than with resolution, like a symphony. Usually a loose flapping ending is a dealbreaker for me, but I kept thinking about it and thinking about it. Huang said she wanted to write “a cancer story in which nobody dies, in which nothing is noble and enlightening… and in which, afterward, the world moves on. Because in the end, that’s all I’m striving for myself: moving on.”I had to admit she succeeded—I got that exact feeling, and it made me better understand the experience of cancer survivors. And she also writes commercial exciting SF! Have to give that a look. “The Mushroom Queen” by Liz Ziemska was the story I despised. The POV character is spirited away and trapped underground while a barely human mushroom woman takes her place and her husband is totally fine with that. I think the fury some women feel at girlfriends in the fridge and Delilah characters (such as in Bailey’s Heinleinesque story) and Hemingway-esque use of female characters like reflective panels to improve the lighting on his male characters probably resembles the fury I feel about chump-lump husbands and boyfriends meant as pure dead weight for heroines to heave off. Along the way, Ziemska says, “over time, they learned that there are only so many stories to tell, and only so many ways to tell them, and in the end, silence is better.” As a philosophy of life, this is appalling fatalism. If they’re alive, they’re making stories together. But I wish Ziemska had followed her own advice—silence would have been better. My favorite story was “Headshot,” by Julian Mortimer Smith. It is structured as a Twitter-tagged interview (thought I think it violates the Twitter character cap) with a US marine squad marksman about the assassination of a terrorist. The twist is that as a direct democracy effort, the marines needed an on-the-spot quorum of American voters to upvote the kill before he made it, which involved walking Luddite parents through a Twitter voting registration and convincing a pacifist sister and her boyfriend this is an exception, all while the terrorist nearly drove off. Smith said “I set out to write a hopeful story, to imagine a world in which we weren’t allowed to look away [from US assassinations abroad]. But I think it turned into something of a bitter satire. You be the judge.” What makes the story amazing is that it is in an uncanny valley between hopeful story and bitter satire. And it’s hilarious. And it’s just a few pages long. Fabulous.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Barb

    I was a little disappointed with this book. I was reading two other anthologies at the same time and this was my least favorite of the three. There are some great stories here, but more than a couple were not enjoyable for me at all. It seems like the collection was trying too hard to be edgy and different. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it just had me annoyed. I even skipped ahead a few times which I rarely do.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Erika Schoeps

    Was about halfway through when i quit. This anthology really isn't bad- I just don't want to waste my time reading something I feel so lukewarm about. I really struggle to review anthologies, so bear with me. This is very literary sci-fi. It's not about the strength of the world-building or the creativity of the ideas- it's more about exploring emotions and asking questions (to give a very basic overview of what I think the difference between sci-fi and literature is.... it's not a final definit Was about halfway through when i quit. This anthology really isn't bad- I just don't want to waste my time reading something I feel so lukewarm about. I really struggle to review anthologies, so bear with me. This is very literary sci-fi. It's not about the strength of the world-building or the creativity of the ideas- it's more about exploring emotions and asking questions (to give a very basic overview of what I think the difference between sci-fi and literature is.... it's not a final definition. Just my experiences summed up). The thing I don't like about sci-fi is being tossed into a crazy world with a bunch of new shit that you don't understand and slowly trying to learn it. Some of these stories do that. Do I like "in media res" normally? YES. Do I like it in science fiction where I'm trying to learn a new world's weird rules and customs in addition to figuring out the characters? nope. But as I said, most stories were more literary than science-fiction. One notable story was about a dying/dead mother who watches her children and husband from the world beyond. See? Barely fits in the traditional mold. But when I compare the tales in here to the other literary tales I normally read, I find they don't really stack up. I don't know if this really helps anyone figure out if they should read this or not. Comment if you wanna dispute any of my claims, I'm open to that. But I wouldn't recommend this to anyone else unless they had NOTHING else to read and had a very different taste in books.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Pearse Anderson

    It only makes sense to give this anthology around half of the possible stars, since around half of the possible stories in it are "The Best of 2016." And most of those were backloaded into this anthology, hung up by pieces like the science-fiction nonfiction-prose-poetry "Meet Me in Iram," the frustrating and unnecessary "Tea Time," and the instantly forgettable "By Degrees and Dilatory Time." This anthology was, in my opinion, poorly selected and arranged and I don't know what would explain thi It only makes sense to give this anthology around half of the possible stars, since around half of the possible stories in it are "The Best of 2016." And most of those were backloaded into this anthology, hung up by pieces like the science-fiction nonfiction-prose-poetry "Meet Me in Iram," the frustrating and unnecessary "Tea Time," and the instantly forgettable "By Degrees and Dilatory Time." This anthology was, in my opinion, poorly selected and arranged and I don't know what would explain this but Karen Joy Fowler. Were these the best? Really? Well, besides the light/literary SFF (Rushdie's New Yorker piece, Ziemska's Tin House piece, Johnson's Harper's piece, Anders' essentially modern Rat Catcher's Yellows bit), there is some strong, creative, hard SFF work: Three Bodies at Mitanni, Ambiguity Machines, and Planet Lion (the former two have made it onto my Best Prose I've Read in 2017 list). Now, Anders and Johnson did do good pieces too! And Headshot and Things You Can Buy for a Penny were good too, but the remaining, unsuperb, kind of filler "best" works weighed this anthology down for me. So I dunno what I'll give it: 6/10? 7/10? It made me groan at times.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    I always like to read what JUST came out, especially in science fiction/fantasy, what I like to pretend are my specialty genres. I can go through each short story and tell you what I thought of it! Meet Me in Iram by Sofia Samatar: goodness gracious this made me laugh so hard, due to how closely it semi-mirrored the actual history of Iran. Except it's not Iran, it's... Iram. With an M. And "it's always night in Iram" kind of like how it's always night in some parts of the world for like half of t I always like to read what JUST came out, especially in science fiction/fantasy, what I like to pretend are my specialty genres. I can go through each short story and tell you what I thought of it! Meet Me in Iram by Sofia Samatar: goodness gracious this made me laugh so hard, due to how closely it semi-mirrored the actual history of Iran. Except it's not Iran, it's... Iram. With an M. And "it's always night in Iram" kind of like how it's always night in some parts of the world for like half of the year... according to what I've studied in International Relations... The Game of Smash and Recovery by Kelly Link: I found this story hilarious from a gamer perspective. It works so well. Interesting Facts by Adam Johnson: I think this story reminds you to look at life from more of a childlike point of view. Planet Lion by Catherynne M. Valente: Hahaha. I just liked imagining planet lion. The Apartment Dweller's Bestiary by Kij Johnson: HOW DID THIS AUTHOR KNOW MY BOYFRIEND OBSESSES OVER COCONUT SO? Ahaha, I thought this story gets a little stressfully close to real c0ncerns, but it was still an entertaining tale. By Degrees and Dilatory Time by S. L. Huang: I dunno, this story settled a little uneasily for me. It's just one though! The Mushroom Queen by Liz Ziemska: Hahaha, the fool moon and compost bin immediately made my feeling rejuvenate! I've liked this tale the most of them all, due to my personal connection to compost. The Daydreamer by Proxy by Dexter Palmer (lolol what a handy name): Hmm, it only made me wonder what foie gras tasted like. Does that look like it is supposed to taste good? Tea Time by Rachel Switsky: The fun reminding of the Carrollian rhymes dissuades me from commenting negatively about her sentence structure! Which may have been done for the rhyme scheme anyway, keeping in mind she is writing in the mindset of that algebraic mastermind I studied on and off for about seven years altogether, Charles Dodgson. Headshot by Julian Mortimer Smith: Oh, I tried to dance away from this story ASAP since I didn't want to think about CNN or corporals. Duniazát by Salman Rushdie: Hmm, this story was not cloaked in obviously fake "middle eastern" language. It is leaving off with what Ibn Rushdi did on the Great North American continent... so like it's basically a mangled history? No Placeholder for You, My Love by Nick Wolven ♥ MY name is that of the first introduced character! Hmm, like that Claire, my preference is for older gentlemen, as long as they fit Mattsu's age category. And I suppose he is like Byron in being poetic~ So it was OK! Thirteen Mercies by Maria Dahvana Headley My first impulse when it seemed to me so based in Christianity was to hit the highway, but then I stopped myself. Lieutenant Granger is a little like Hermione, right? Lieutenant Kvingsman and General Hyk Steng have interestingly pronounced names as well! Lightning Jack's Last Ride by Dale Bailey I wonder if he means when he discusses the washed-out quality of CCTV, not CCTV 中文国际 4 or one of the others like was my immediate thought but like surveillance cameras. It would move the story better if it were the latter but it's more appropriate to my researches if it were the former. (When I watched the link it was talking about how Qianlong scrolls were moved for protection but that unfortunately didn't save them for long) Things You Can Buy for a Penny by Will Kaufman This sounds like it's using old-fashioned language to draw out a feeling of nostalgia. Rat Catcher's Yellows by Charlie Jane Anders I have a sense my father would like this story from how it immediately gets into the Wi-Fi, firmware and how the disease started to eat brain stems. Actually, probably Dr Grabb would like it, noting the line, "Already some of the other noble cats are plotting against the throne - especially those treacherous tuxedo cats!" (view spoiler)[Haha, in this story, Shary wanted to type "Why don't you go fuck yourself" but could only choose to send an emissary - which I suggest is potentially the same thing - sending someone to convey such a message. This story is something which appeals very much to me! And the end of it is in Orlando, FL, near Disney World. (hide spoiler)] The Heat of Us: Notes Towards an Oral History by Sam J. Miller I dunno, this one felt disjointed. Then again, it is described as just notes, not unlike Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground. Three Bodies at Mianni by Seth Dickinson I PARTICULARLY ADORE how astronomical this story made me feel! Its usage of cosmic vocabulary made me feel very much more in the proper genre. Ambiguity Machines: An Examination by Vandana Singh This short story immediately used words to put me in the proper mindset, so I am really happy. thinking the topography of Conceptual Machine-Space... and Abstract Engineering, oh boy. Why can't those machines exist? Too blurred and dissolved? AH I JUST NOTICED THIS LAST STORY IS FROM TOR DOT COM :D I might want to check it out extremely soon. The Great Silence by Ted Chiang I, too, wonder why people aren't satisfied with beings such as dolphins (not mentioned in this story), parrots and cats when they are imagining sentience in someone other than other people.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jonna Higgins-Freese

    I was a little nervous through the first through stories, which didn't impress me much (mostly because they were overly artful and difficult to get into/understand). But about a third of the way through, every single story started to shine. This is why I love science fiction better than any other genre. There's so much more you can say than with realistic fiction -- or at least it can be said differently, which helps keep things fresh. I was a little nervous through the first through stories, which didn't impress me much (mostly because they were overly artful and difficult to get into/understand). But about a third of the way through, every single story started to shine. This is why I love science fiction better than any other genre. There's so much more you can say than with realistic fiction -- or at least it can be said differently, which helps keep things fresh.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rodney

    I think I might've liked 2015 a little better, but this one had some really fresh and exciting stories as well. I think I might've liked 2015 a little better, but this one had some really fresh and exciting stories as well.

  28. 4 out of 5

    John Jr.

    Notes on a few striking stories in this collection: “The Duniazát,” by Salman Rushdie: One of the two top-class stories in this collection, this tale deals with a liaison between a jinnia or female jinn (what we used to call a genie) named Dunia and a philosopher named Ibn Rushd (also known, for instance to readers of Borges, as Averroës), who lived in 12th-century Spain. So it involves fiction crossed with fact, or, as Rushdie puts it in his contributor’s note, “a union of reason and fantasy, as Notes on a few striking stories in this collection: “The Duniazát,” by Salman Rushdie: One of the two top-class stories in this collection, this tale deals with a liaison between a jinnia or female jinn (what we used to call a genie) named Dunia and a philosopher named Ibn Rushd (also known, for instance to readers of Borges, as Averroës), who lived in 12th-century Spain. So it involves fiction crossed with fact, or, as Rushdie puts it in his contributor’s note, “a union of reason and fantasy, as Francisco Goya recommended.” But the story also involves a battle between faith and reason, which unfolds, often in long and sinuous sentences, across the life of Ibn Rushd and beyond. One may come away from this evanescent yet fascinating tale thinking that Rushdie (whose father renamed his family in honor of the philosopher) can write anything, which may be relatively true compared to the rest of us, but it’s more likely the case that Rushdie knows what he can’t do and never attempts it, whereas the rest of us don’t and therefore do. More to the point, he knows what he can do, and he does it very well here. “Tea Time,” by Rachel Swirsky: A clever, linguistically playful, and meditative retelling of parts of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, particularly some bits about tea, or time, or both. Taking a chance that the writing will undermine itself, Swirsky includes an argument over wit in which the hatter, hoping to put an end to it, insists, “No more wit! Not a witty whit more! Our witless twittering is done!” (In our so-called “real” world, I’d like to say “Let the witless twittering be done” at least once most days, but I’m afraid that struggle would not avail.) Swirsky includes as well a few recastings of verse, such as this, the first of three stanzas: “The time has come,” the Hatter said, “To talk of many things: Of white—and green—and flow’ring blends— Of spiced tisane that stings— And why the mad are hot to trot— And whether love has strings.” And there are four answers, or in a way five, to the question of how a raven is like a writing desk. “No Placeholder for You, My Love,” by Nick Wolven: The author reports in his contributor’s note that his idea, whose origin he can no longer recall precisely, must’ve been to combine a satire of dating with a tribute to Eudora Welty’s southern lyricism as displayed in her story “No Place for You, My Love.” That background is only indirectly apparent. Though this gives away something that the story doesn’t make clear for some time, what we have here involves a dark (literally so—it seems to take place entirely at night) and strangely disturbing simulation; the strangeness pulls you one way, the lyricism another. Readers who are acquainted with the Black Mirror series on TV will probably find that this story calls to mind a couple of episodes of that show. “The Great Silence,” by Ted Chiang: This short work (less than four full pages), which concludes the volume, is the second top-class piece in the collection, and it’s a wonder. In the traditional sense, it’s not a story at all—it has no plot and in a way no characters either; instead, it can be called a viewpoint, a comparison. Nor does it need to be classified as science fiction or fantasy, though it does have something to do with science. It’s nonetheless quite moving. As Chiang’s contributor’s note explains, it’s about the extinction of species and the possibility of communication between species. I’m increasingly aware that writing is often read by readers who are also, or who would like to be, writers; there can be no reading without writing, but the converse is true as well. Any writer looking for inspiration—or just a demonstration that good writing is anything that works, the rules be damned—could do worse than to consider this story.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Craig Childs

    I chose to read this anthology because it contains new stories by Kij Johnson, Charlie Jane Anders, and Ted Chiang. These authors are consistently excellent in the short form, and their contributions here are no exception. The annual Best American SF&F series seems to select for literary-leaning stories. A few are in fact pure literary stories with perhaps a single speculative convention—a mythological figure, narration from the beyond the grave, or a videogame slightly more advanced than today’ I chose to read this anthology because it contains new stories by Kij Johnson, Charlie Jane Anders, and Ted Chiang. These authors are consistently excellent in the short form, and their contributions here are no exception. The annual Best American SF&F series seems to select for literary-leaning stories. A few are in fact pure literary stories with perhaps a single speculative convention—a mythological figure, narration from the beyond the grave, or a videogame slightly more advanced than today’s technology allows. I found seven stories to be excellent, four I disliked, and the rest fell somewhere in the bell curve of average. Most are worth reading, but I am not sure they are reflective of the genre as a whole. It is strange that a best-of-the-year collection like this does not include a single short story nominated for either of the field’s most prestigious awards, the Hugo or the Nebula. THE FANTASY STORIES “Meet Me in Iram” by Sofia Samatar – A woman has visions of the lost city of Iram, mentioned in the Q’ran, and fills it with visions of her family. A disjointed and barely coherent dream-story. Interesting Facts by Adam Johnson—An unflinching story of a mother battling breast cancer from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Orphan Master’s Son. Sad and moving, but too melodramatic. I would not label this a fantasy story, even though there is a very small supernatural element. The Apartment Dweller’s Bestiary by Kij Johnson – Each fictional animal is juxtaposed to its human owner to highlight an array of broken relationships and fractured desires. A skilled and reflective piece of writing. The Mushroom Queen by Liz Ziemska¬—A woman’s life is taken over by the Mushroom Queen in this urban fantasy. The purpose of this story seems to be to show off how much the author knows about fungi, but I have trouble endorsing any story that is partially narrated by a pet dog. Tea Time by Rachel Swirsky—Continues the story of the Mad Hatter and White Rabbit after Alice leaves Wonderland. Written as an inventive, if overly bawdy, homage/pastiche of Lewis Carrol’s style. The Duniazát by Salman Rushdie – The medieval philosopher Ibn Rushd is banished from the Arab Spanish court for his teachings that logic, science, and reason rule the universe, not the mystical will of Allah. He is comforted (ironically enough) by a jiniri (female genie) who bears him many children. His descendants travel the world through successive centuries spreading a belief in secularism over religion. The story posits whether Ibn himself would be proud of this because despite his philosophy he remained a believing Muslim. Funny, insightful, and thought-provoking, this short story later became the basis of the novel Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights. The Thirteen Mercies by Maria Dahvana Headley—A platoon of special ops soldiers exiled to a jungle planet use dark magic to fight a mysterious enemy. Think the Predator meets Voldemort. The system of magic is based on reversals of the 13 Jewish attributes of mercy. Slowness to Anger is reversed to Swift and Killing Rage. Mercy Before the Sin is reversed to Punishment Before the Sin is Committed. It is a great concept, even if the murky ending falls flat. Things You Can Buy for a Penny by Will Kaufman—A horror fable about a group of characters who summon the Wet Gentlemen from the bottom of a well, who will grant wishes for a penny. Not really SF/F but a fun story nonetheless. The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History by Sam J. Miller—A superb tale that revisits the 1969 Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village with the premise that perhaps it was the result of pyrokinesis. A well-written examination of the start of the gay rights movement and the larger question of the behaviors and attitudes that trigger harassment and aggression. Ambiguity Machines: An Examination by Vandana Singh—A triptych of interconnected vignettes about machines that blur the lines of time and reality. THE SCIENCE FICTION STORIES The Game of Smash and Recovery by Kelly Link—A young girl is raised by an artificial lifeform above a strange planet filled with vampire-like creatures. When the girl reaches maturity, she realizes she is actually a passenger on a spaceship who was awakened because the ship malfunctioned and she carries a backup program to restart it. The author pulls off a neat literary trick—shifting the point of view from the confused girl to the consciousness of the ship’s AI. However, there are too many unanswered questions (What are the vampires?) and plot holes (Why wake a child passenger rather than a trained crew member? If the crew members are dead, why not at least wake an adult passenger better equipped to live a solitary life aboard the ship?) Planet Lion by Catherynne M. Valente—This story begins at the intersection of three ideas: 1) Alien animals become sentient when they come in contact with a technology they do not understand, 2) Humans develop the tech to mimic evolution, creating life from sludge and then imprinting that lifeform with the knowledge and memories of a human being, 3) An interstellar colonization war. The story is complex enough, and the author unwisely holds back key information to the end, making it more confusing than it needs to be. By Degrees and Dilatory Time by S.L. Huang—A man with eye cancer receives implants and struggles with the implications of voluntary and involuntary biotech enhancements. The Daydreamer by Proxy by Dexter Palmer—Greneertech offers its employees the promise of boosting productivity and furthering their careers if they will implant a genetically-engineered parasite into their nervous system which will rob them of their imaginations and their libidos. Alarming side effects will (and do!) occur. Headshot by Julian Mortimer Smith—A near-future satire where citizens track U.S. soldiers online and must approve all enemy engagement by democratic vote. According to the author’s endnote, it began as a hopeful story which imagined how war could be avoided if the average person could not turn away from its horrors. However, it morphed into a biting examination of social media and the dangers of impeding military operations with restrictive rules of engagement. No Placeholder for You, My Love by Nick Wolven—People drift through an ever-changing artificial environment trying to find a love match, aware that doing so means death. It is hard to discuss this story without giving away too many innovative plot twists, but this is a well-crafted tale about aging, online dating, artificial intelligence, and the impossibility of finding a true soulmate. Lightning Jack’s Last Ride by Dale Bailey—A former Nascar driver turns vigilante gasoline pirate in a post-apocalyptic America. Features a rogues gallery of characters and some magnetic action sequences. Well-written, even if it is strongly reminiscent of other works like Mad Max, “Pilots” by Joe R. Lansdale, and “The Night We Buried Road Dog” by Jack Cady. Rat Catcher’s Yellows by Charlie Jane Anders—A woman watches as her life partner becomes disabled by dementia (a fictional disease named Rat Catcher’s Yellow) and can only maintain contact with others through an advanced online role playing game. This is a very effective story with a thoughtful message about technology as an enabler for the seriously ill. Three Bodies at Mitanni by Seth Dickinson—A team of three scientists, one of them a gender-shifting androgyne, must sit in judgement over interplanetary civilizations that have evolved from human colonies to determine if any have become too alien and pose a threat to mankind’s existence. The character dynamics are nuanced, and the story features two strong philosophical-moral dilemmas—Is it ever justified to commit genocide in self-defense? How do you define, measure, and detect the essence of what it means to be human? The Great Silence by Ted Chiang--Chiang stuffs a 4-page short story with more thought-provoking ideas and worldview-bending concepts than any other author. Explores the biology of parrots, man’s quest to find intelligent alien life, and the role of sound and voice in religious mythology. One of the best short stories of 2016 in any genre.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Maggie Gordon

    I really enjoy the concept behind John Adam's "Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy" series. Every year he reads as many SFF short stories as possible and produces a list of the 80 he thinks are best. He then brings on a guest editor to select the top 20 stories of the year. Having a guest editor ensures that the collection never grows stagnant. Each guest editor will have a different taste for stories, and their personal quirks come through in what is selected. The only problem with this a I really enjoy the concept behind John Adam's "Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy" series. Every year he reads as many SFF short stories as possible and produces a list of the 80 he thinks are best. He then brings on a guest editor to select the top 20 stories of the year. Having a guest editor ensures that the collection never grows stagnant. Each guest editor will have a different taste for stories, and their personal quirks come through in what is selected. The only problem with this approach is that sometimes you and the guest editor will have different tastes as was the case with this year's. I am very interesting in reading Karen Fowler's work, but her choices in top stories were a bit too monotonous for me. The collection had more of a tonal sameness than last year, and many of the selections were ones that I just couldn't get myself to engage with. One of my problems was that she seems to be a fan of idea stories, or stories where there isn't much of a narrative, but one really neat concept. For example, The Apartment Dweller's Bestiary by Kij Johnson was an interesting exploration of strange creatures that symbolized people's relationships with others, but it didn't really go anywhere. The Daydreamer by Proxy was similar in that it introduced this horrifying corporate dystopia, but didn't do much with it. The absolute standout of the volume was Interesting Facts by Adam Johnson, a story about ghosts and breast cancer. It was emotional, connected to its characters, and unafraid of dealing with some truly dark human emotions. I also enjoyed Rat Catcher's Yellows by Charlie Jane Anders, but it felt more like a pitch for a book than a self-contained short story. Overall, the collection wasn't my particular cup of tea. The stories were technically good, but lacked the creative spark that wowed me in the last compilation. But this was more an issue of personal taste than bad selection. Other readers may find themselves enthralled with the 2016 volume.

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