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Best of British Science Fiction 2019

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Twenty-two stories, selected by editor Donna Scott from disparate places, that represent some of the best science fiction published anywhere in 2019: stories of heroism, stories of loss, stories of wonder. In this volume you will encounter tales in which creatures are cut off from their loved ones; someone is trapped with an abuser; a bird sings; weeds grow where we hope fo Twenty-two stories, selected by editor Donna Scott from disparate places, that represent some of the best science fiction published anywhere in 2019: stories of heroism, stories of loss, stories of wonder. In this volume you will encounter tales in which creatures are cut off from their loved ones; someone is trapped with an abuser; a bird sings; weeds grow where we hope for a garden; we consider what our alternative selves might be doing; we can't sleep; we wish we could keep things just the way they were; we drink too much... and we look to rockets blasting off into the sky and think that there lies the future; that's hope. Contents 2019: An Introduction - Donna Scott The Anxiety Gene - Rhiannon Grist The Land of Grunts and Squeaks - Chris Beckett For Your Own Good - Ian Whates Neom - Lavie Tidhar Once You Start - Mike Morgan For the Wicked, Only Weeds Will Grow - G. V. Anderson Fat Man in the Bardo - Ken MacLeod Cyberstar - Val Nolan The Little People - Una McCormack The Loimaa Protocol - Robert Bagnall The Adaptation Point - Kate Macdonald The Final Ascent - Ian Creasey A Lady of Ganymede, a Sparrow of Io - Dafydd McKimm Snapshots - Leo X. Robertson Witch of the Weave - Henry Szabranski Parasite Art - David Tallerman Galena - Liam Hogan Ab Initio - Susan Boulton Ghosts - Emma Levin Concerning the Deprivation of Sleep - Tim Major Every Little Star - Fiona Moore The Minus-Four Sequence - Andrew Wallace About the Authors


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Twenty-two stories, selected by editor Donna Scott from disparate places, that represent some of the best science fiction published anywhere in 2019: stories of heroism, stories of loss, stories of wonder. In this volume you will encounter tales in which creatures are cut off from their loved ones; someone is trapped with an abuser; a bird sings; weeds grow where we hope fo Twenty-two stories, selected by editor Donna Scott from disparate places, that represent some of the best science fiction published anywhere in 2019: stories of heroism, stories of loss, stories of wonder. In this volume you will encounter tales in which creatures are cut off from their loved ones; someone is trapped with an abuser; a bird sings; weeds grow where we hope for a garden; we consider what our alternative selves might be doing; we can't sleep; we wish we could keep things just the way they were; we drink too much... and we look to rockets blasting off into the sky and think that there lies the future; that's hope. Contents 2019: An Introduction - Donna Scott The Anxiety Gene - Rhiannon Grist The Land of Grunts and Squeaks - Chris Beckett For Your Own Good - Ian Whates Neom - Lavie Tidhar Once You Start - Mike Morgan For the Wicked, Only Weeds Will Grow - G. V. Anderson Fat Man in the Bardo - Ken MacLeod Cyberstar - Val Nolan The Little People - Una McCormack The Loimaa Protocol - Robert Bagnall The Adaptation Point - Kate Macdonald The Final Ascent - Ian Creasey A Lady of Ganymede, a Sparrow of Io - Dafydd McKimm Snapshots - Leo X. Robertson Witch of the Weave - Henry Szabranski Parasite Art - David Tallerman Galena - Liam Hogan Ab Initio - Susan Boulton Ghosts - Emma Levin Concerning the Deprivation of Sleep - Tim Major Every Little Star - Fiona Moore The Minus-Four Sequence - Andrew Wallace About the Authors

33 review for Best of British Science Fiction 2019

  1. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Review copy provided by contributor and GR friend, Leo X. Robertson. The stories in this collection are sometimes mysterious, at other times humorous or frightening, and occasionally slightly confusing, but always exciting. What intrigues me here is that in spite of various characters, settings and narration styles, there are a number of themes which recur. One of the most interesting is alternate reality. In “The Anxiety Gene,” an office worker has (almost!) learned to take in her stride a conti Review copy provided by contributor and GR friend, Leo X. Robertson. The stories in this collection are sometimes mysterious, at other times humorous or frightening, and occasionally slightly confusing, but always exciting. What intrigues me here is that in spite of various characters, settings and narration styles, there are a number of themes which recur. One of the most interesting is alternate reality. In “The Anxiety Gene,” an office worker has (almost!) learned to take in her stride a continuous awareness of the many gruesome ways in which her alternate selves meet various demises. In “Fat Man in the Bardo”--no doubt a sardonic riff off the title of the George Saunders novel--a portly gentlemen is guided Dante-like by a disembodied brain through an abstract sort of library (usually a creepy setting in so many SF and fantasy stories!) and made to consider various possible outcomes for certain individuals and scenarios. In "Snapshots", a man is able to preserve versions of his son at different stages of development, but memory lane is not all lined with roses. When one thinks of the term “hive-mind” it conjures up images of the Borg Collective with its ferocious pale-faced minions, yet there are two original yet widely different tales where this theme appears. One (“The Land of Grunts and Squeaks”) features a world inhabited by sentient insects, while another (“Cyberstar”) involves a group of humans whose minds connect and thus enable them to circumvent the original intent of their masters. And in fact, survival against tough odds, which we have incidentally noticed in some of the pieces already mentioned, is a motif so common in SF that one is tempted to take it for granted. Yet it is treated in surprising ways. In “Neom” and “A Lady of Ganymede, A Sparrow of Io”, the environment has been subjugated enough that some inhabitants can live seemingly luxurious and carefree lives, yet the downside of this existence is all too apparent. In “The Little People” a group of space travellers have managed to establish a foothold on a new planet, yet without taking into sufficient consideration the indigenous inhabitants. Global warming, plague, primitive living conditions and the animosity of others are only some of the things that make life difficult here on Earth or on other planets, in spite of technological advances or paranormal abilities (“Once You Start”, “The Adaptation Point”, “Witch of the Weave”, “Parasite Art”, “Ab Initio”). Contact with non-human races is risky, as we have already seen. Sometimes aliens are benevolent, at least in the beginning. The flora of “For the Wicked, Only Weeds Will Grow” offer medical assistance, the Zobe in “Parasite Art” offer aesthetic excellence, and the Ardissans of “The Final Ascent” even offer existence on a higher plane. But in all cases there is a price to pay for any privileges gained. And the same is true of technology. It can offer the chance to repair the damage caused by global warming (“Once You Start”), it can facilitate space exploration (“Cyber Star”, “The Little People”, “The Loimaa Protocol”, “The Adaptation Point”, “Galena”, “Every Little Star”) and it can protect people from danger and give them a certain amount of guidance (“Neom”, “The Minus-Four Sequence”). But there are usually limitations to what technology can do, and it is perfectly capable of turning treacherous as well ("For Your Own Good", "Ghosts"). Thus the authors of these stories have explored certain themes common to much of SF, and yet they have done so in original and impressive ways.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    Collection of the best SF from the UK. Over all pretty good. YMMV, but I thought the lead story, "The Anxiety Gene," by Rhiannon Grist, was superb.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Eamonn Murphy

    The best of British is an old-fashioned sort of concept now, especially in the days of coronavirus as the four nations of the not so United Kingdom deal with it in distinctive ways. I grew up British but we have separated over the years which saddens me so I’m glad to see the notion preserved in this anthology series featuring the best SF produced by British writers, be they resident here or somewhere else. After an introduction by editor Donna Scott, which ponders these strange pandemic days, we The best of British is an old-fashioned sort of concept now, especially in the days of coronavirus as the four nations of the not so United Kingdom deal with it in distinctive ways. I grew up British but we have separated over the years which saddens me so I’m glad to see the notion preserved in this anthology series featuring the best SF produced by British writers, be they resident here or somewhere else. After an introduction by editor Donna Scott, which ponders these strange pandemic days, we begin the fiction with ‘The Anxiety Gene’ by Rhiannon Grist. The narrator has the gene and so can perceive her other selves in the multiverse as they die in many different ways. It enables her to dodge most mishaps but then there’s a bad day at the office. Slow start but it turned out well. ‘The Land Of Grunts And Squeaks’ by Chris Beckett is a fable about ant-like creatures who lose the power of communication so nobody knows what to do. This is a clever parable on the inadequacy of words that used them very effectively. A man wakes up with no memory in ‘For Your Own Good’ by Ian Whates and is in for a big surprise. I can’t say more without giving it away but it was certainly thought-provoking. Best not to read it if you have that anxiety gene thing. Lavie Tidhar is trending at the moment is appearing in ‘The Guardian’ means anything and he writes very nicely. ‘Neom’ is a slice of life in an ultra-modern Arabian city seen from the point of view of one of the lower orders. An interesting look at a very possible future. Global warming is also trending and Mike Morgan explores a possible solution in ‘Once You Start’. Surely the United States would not be so selfish as to form a reflective screen in the atmosphere by spraying stuff in the airspace over China! Well, yes, they might. Pilot Podolinsky finds things going wrong when he’s teamed up with alcoholic Jocasta Jane Mallory on a three-month mission. Neat twists and a realistically ruthless assessment of geopolitics. ‘For The Wicked, Only Weeds Will Grow’ by G.V. Anderson features many alien species being cared for by the Druggles of Requis but Arnold Burke, a Terran, is entrusted to the care of our narrator Mouh. He’s a damn difficult patient but Mouh does her best for him. A nice, quiet story about coping with the end of life, not an easy business, that effectively portrays a strange alien viewpoint. The fat man, Alice and the Brain find themselves hunting a ticking bomb in ‘Fat Man In The Bardo’ by Ken MacLeod which is too mad to summarise but an enjoyable slice of lunacy. When the union advises you not to sign a get-out clause the boss presents you with then you should listen to the union. Ventnor finds this out when he signs ‘The Loimaa Protocol’ to get ahead with his career. Author Robert Bagnall delivers a solid old-fashioned SF story of men working in space. It might have been published in ‘The Saturday Evening Post’ by Robert Heinlein before he turned right. I do like this sort of thing. Stories in which an afterlife is real seem to be popular in the USA and you can get just that in ‘The Final Ascent’ by Ian Creasey. The Aridissans are primitive aliens with a special ‘ghost gland’ that lets them live on in spirit form after the body bites the dust. They don’t all want this and the ghost gland can be surgically implanted into humans so dying Lucian takes up the offer. Creasey rides this premise all the way. One of my favourites. In ‘Snapshots’ by Leo X. Robertson, you can save past versions of yourself and interact with them in the SnapRoom. They are holographic representations that seem real, called by their age: Five, Nineteen, Twenty-One and Twenty-Five, who is the current model. This reminded me of the Ray Bradbury classic ‘The Veldt’ and may become a classic in its own right. Only time will tell. ‘Witch Of The Weave’ by Henry Szabranski starts with Skink and Percher making their way through a tunnel of weave having abandoned the Motherman. It plunges you straight into a strange world and doesn’t make any particular effort to explain it later. One just goes along for the ride. Somehow it works and very well, too, perhaps because of the close relationship between the two characters. This was another one of my favourites. ‘Ab Initio’ by Susan Boulton has people living in the aftermath of an apocalypse after a new virus attacked the world in 2020! Younger people grew up in the world after the Bloat but Trent remembers the times before and is somewhat bitter. The Bloat attacks the lymph system and killed most of the population but by dint of the right genes, some survive. Survival isn’t the theme, though. It’s art, which is also an issue in ‘Concerning The Deprivation Of Sleep’ by Tim Major. Here there’s a plague of insomnia, possibly caused by modern life, screen time, busy minds. Sleep time becomes a commodity but what about dreams? Fiona Moore presents an alternate reality in which, by 1967, several nations already have moonbases in ‘Every Little Star’. Both the space race and computer development happened much faster than in our boring world. The heroine is Space Commander Evangeline Artemisia Quelch, in charge of the Commonwealth moonbase and trying hard to prove that women are just as good as men and maybe better. She’s a likeable character and her spoof magazine description of a male admiral as if he were a woman is hilarious. This was another favourite. Fiona Moore co-wrote the two-volume ‘The Unofficial And Unauthorised Guide To Battlestar Galactica: Original Series and Galactica: 7’ and solo wrote ‘The Little Car Dreams Of Gasoline’ for On Spec # 103, another wonderful short story. ‘The Best Of British Science Fiction 2019’ is obviously editor Donna Scott’s selection and not definitively ‘the best’ but no matter. If this book is anything to go by then British Science Fiction is in good shape. I think there is a particularly British strain and it inclines to more thoughtful, literate, intellectual stories rather than gung-ho action-adventure. It can also be downbeat. If you’re in the mood, as we all are at times, for heroes and villains or blasters and energy shields then this will not satisfy your needs. If you want quality Science Fiction to make you think and ponder and dream then seek it out.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ronald

    Why did they save the best for last? The stories in this book seemed to get better as I got to the middle. Perhaps, I was getting used to the short story or maybe, they had they indeed saved the best for last? This is the second Best of British Science Fiction that I’ve read with Best of British Science Fiction 2018 being my first. In my opinion, British writers are more subtle than their American counterparts. Several times in reading the Best of British Science Fiction 2019 anthology, I found Why did they save the best for last? The stories in this book seemed to get better as I got to the middle. Perhaps, I was getting used to the short story or maybe, they had they indeed saved the best for last? This is the second Best of British Science Fiction that I’ve read with Best of British Science Fiction 2018 being my first. In my opinion, British writers are more subtle than their American counterparts. Several times in reading the Best of British Science Fiction 2019 anthology, I found myself contemplating the I had just read. Only after reflection, did I appreciate the true cleverness of the ending. The benefit of reading an anthology of short science fiction stories is that the stories are the perfect length for reading during a daily commute or just before retiring for the night. With the former, you only have a limited amount of time to read and, with the later, you avoid going without sleep because you’ve gotten hooked on the story of a long book that you can’t put down. The copy I read was in Kindle eBook format and I think that format is the best for reading anthologies when your reading time is limited to finite chunks. eBooks have the benefit of always being at hand, either on a reader or on a cell phone, when reading opportunities present themselves. Take a break from your Sci-Fi genre comfort zone and give British writers a go. You may find their writing style is refreshing.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mark Moxley-Knapp

    An excellent collection. Yes, best of, but you never know just how good they will be. These were uniformly astonishing. Funny, unexpected, touching... I got a free copy, but would gladly have paid for it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl Montgomery-Nolan

    While I received an ARC of this book, I have made an independent decision to post this review. This is a book of highly inventive and very diverse stories set in alternative realities. There should be something for everyone to read!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Dr. Malcolm C. Ostermeyer

  8. 5 out of 5

    Karl

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mr Francis V J Hyde

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lee Anne

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mark

  12. 4 out of 5

    Terry Talks Fiction

  13. 4 out of 5

    Stacey Foley

  14. 5 out of 5

    Istvan Csanyi

  15. 5 out of 5

    Yenni

  16. 4 out of 5

    David Penland

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kerry Pickens

  18. 5 out of 5

    Todd

  19. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Barr

  20. 4 out of 5

    House of Perrin

  21. 5 out of 5

    Zoe

  22. 5 out of 5

    Chawin Narkraksa

  23. 4 out of 5

    David William Thomas

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kaushani

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sydney Scothon

  26. 4 out of 5

    Hima Padmaja

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kirthika

  28. 4 out of 5

    Brandon

  29. 5 out of 5

    Aleksandra Gardecka

  30. 5 out of 5

    William Wilson

  31. 4 out of 5

    Davorin Horak

  32. 4 out of 5

    Michael J Nixon

  33. 4 out of 5

    Phil Durnford

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