Seven Birthdays • 2016 • SF short story by Ken Liu

★★★★

The story covers Mia’s birthdays in seven snapshots, each a power of 7.  At first it felt like a CliFi, as her mother attempted to cool down the atmosphere with chemical loads. But it didn’t stop there: Uploading human minds when she is 343 years old, leading to mega-engineering of Matrioshka brains in Dyson spheres at the next power, and even to Shkadov thrusters in the far future. Huge scale sensawonda! The central theme of improving life with the right technology was nicely maintained between the birthday transitions and led to a satisfying conclusion. Science and emotion interleaved, that is how I want to read my SF.

Highly recommended!

 

Meta: isfdb. Appeared 2016 in Bridging Infinity. Read in Best SFF 11. Available online.

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The Witch of Orion Waste and the Boy Knight • 2016 • Fairy tale short story by E. Lily Yu

★★★

A young woman just stumbled into becoming a witch when a cowardly knight crossed her way. She fought dragons for him, rescued the damsel in mistress and flew away to learn dancing.

The witch clearly didn’t meet her fate, never knew what should be her destiny although she was good at everything she did. Meeting the knight who never grew up didn’t help either.

I liked the somewhat cynical prose and some tongue-in-the cheek sentences like „Grasping the basket and her stick, the crone sneezed twice and strode off into other stories without a backwards glance.“

Meta: isfdb. Appeared September 2016 in Uncanny. Read in Best SFF 11. Available online.

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Elves of Antarctica • 2016 • CliFi short story by Paul McAuley

★★+

The Antarctica is slowly getting green, a huge industrial project tries to safe the remaining western ice sheet from melting away because that would mean the next disaster for the drowning shore cities. Some mysterious stones with Elvish runes and funny inscripts appear all over the places. Helicopter pilot Mike visits them all.

A Kim Stanley Robinsonish scientific infodumping shouldn’t scare you away if you want to like the story. Zero action combined with beautiful landscape.

 

Meta: isfdb. Appeared in 2016 in Drowned Worlds. Read in Best SFF 11.

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Foxfire, Foxfire • 2016 • SF&F novelette by Yoon Ha Lee

★★★★★

Baekdo is a shapeshifting fox dealing with smaller gods. He set out to turn permanently into a human which requires to eat the livers of 100 humans. As his last victim, he chooses to consume a battlemech elite pilot. Of course, not everything goes as planned, and he has to swear upon the blood of the tiger-sages to help the pilot fulfill his mission.

Great Korean setting with mixed Fantasy and SF elements, with loads of clever little details, fast paced action elements, and wonderful dynamics between characters. I loved the fox’s thiefery, ever-lying, witty style, evolving as a character not by shapeshifting but by winning the heart of the pilot. Enter tiger-sage. It stays strong and ever-changing until the satisfying ending.

Meta: isfdb. Appeared March 2016 in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Read in Best SFF 11. Read it online.

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Terminal • 2016 • SF short story by Lavie Tidhar

★★★

In a constant flow of cheap, one-way, single person vehicles, settlers are shot to Mars. They are called Terminals, because they will end there. Lonely as they are on their dangerous journey, they chat over radio, play chess, fall in love. We learn about three characters Mei, Haziq, and Eliza, but ultimately don’t know their reasons why they left Earth. It is a lyrical tapestry of chatters, a psychological story, no action involved at all.

A small downside: I don’t know how often I read the term „jalopy“ in this story. And it lacked a compelling ending.

Meta: isfdb. Appeared April 2016 in Tor.com. Read in Best SFF 11. Read it online.

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Red as Blood and White as Bone • 2016 • Fairy tale novelette by Theodora Goss

★★

29437887

Three stories in one: First one is a predictable fairy tale of the sort „grant my wish, old lady of the woods“ set in some Eastern country (somewhere around Hungary or Bulgaria, but not entirely clear) just before WWII. Second one is a rushed biography of nazi resistance. Last one is overcoming totalitaristic communism after WWII where the main protagonist Karla understands the true value of stories. Moral punchline is about courage and belief.

Overall far too long, unevenly distributed tension arc, the epilogue went on and on. On the other hand, the story was told as beautifully and calm as the illustration. The story just lost me after the boring first part.

Meta: isfdb. Appeared 2016 in Tor.com. Read in Best SFF 11. Read it online.

Veröffentlicht unter Fantasy, Story | Kommentar hinterlassen

Red Dirt Witch • 2016 • Urban Fantasy short story by N.K. Jemisin

★★★★+

Dreams, midwives, herbalists: It is the 1960s in Alabama when black herbalist Emmaline is confronted in dreams as well in our reality by a fae, the White Lady. She wants to deal one of her three children in return for prosperity and safety.

This political story is drawing a line from the start of the civil rights movement to contemporary times. It integrates slave voodoo traditions, Appalachian folk magic with the expected turmoils in a wonderful setting of a black neighborhood. Not in a horrific, flashy way but with quiet, calm moments and authentic characters.

Meta: isfdb. Appeared December 2016 in the Fantasy Magazine. Read in Best SFF 11.

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The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume Eleven • 2017 • SF&F anthology by Jonathan Strahan

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume Eleven

Summary: 28 stories spread over some 600 pages. I’m going to review a couple of those stories (leaving out the horror settings as usual) in the next weeks. Already the first one from Valente is terrifically great.

Contents:

  • 17 • ★★★★ • The Future is Blue • dystopic SF novelette by Catherynne M. Valente • review
  • 39 • ★★ • Mika Model • SF short story by Paolo Bacigalupi • review
  • 53 • ★★★ •  Spinning Silver • Fairy tale Rumpelstilchen retold by Naomi Novik • review
  • 81 • ★★★ •  Two’s Company • First Law fantasy short story by Joe Abercrombie •  review
  • 101 • ★★★★ • You Make Pattaya • Near Future con-man short story by Rich Larson •  review
  • 117 • ★★★★ • You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay • Weird novelette by Alyssa Wong • review
  • 143 • ★★★+ • A Salvaging of Ghosts • SF short story in Xuyan universe by Aliette de Bodard • review
  • 155 • ★★★ • Even the Crumbs Were Delicious • Hänsel und Gretel turned to SF short story by Daryl Gregory • review
  • 173 • ★★★ • Number Nine Moon • Hard SF short story by Alex Irvine • review
  • 195 • ★ • Things with Beards • Weird short story by Sam J. Miller • I didn’t get at all what this story was about, couldn’t get into it
  • 209 • ☆ • Successor, Usurper, Replacement, Alice Sola Kim • Horror – didn’t read
  • 227 • ★★★★+ • Laws of Night and Silk • High Fantasy short story by Seth Dickinson • review
  • 247 • ★★★ • Touring with the Alien • First contact SF novelette by Carolyn Ives Gilman • review
  • 281 • ★★+ • The Great Detective • Steampunk novelette by Delia Sherman • review
  • 317 • ★★★★+ • Everyone from Themis Sends Letters Home • SF short story by Genevieve Valentine • review
  • 343 • ★★+ • Those Shadows Laugh • Geoff Ryman • review
  • 369 • ★★★ • Seasons of Glass and Iron • fairy tale short story by Amal El-Mohtar • review
  • 385 • ★★★ •  The Art of Space Travel • SF novelette by Nina Allan • review
  • 417 •  • Whisper Road (Murder Ballad No. 9) • Caitlín R. Kiernan • I despise horror. For those that like that genre, this story might also be pointless. Especially within an anthology called „Best SF and Fantasy of the Year“ – this story doesn’t contain SF, nor fantasy at all. Just (one? or) two girls on a road trip after having shot an elderly couple.
  • 429 • ★★★★+ • Red Dirt Witch • Urban Fantasy short story by N.K. Jemisin • review
  • 449 • ★★ • Red as Blood and White as Bone • Fairy tale novelette by Theodora Goss • review
  • 471 • ★★★ •  Terminal • SF short story by Lavie Tidhar • review
  • 487 • ★★★★★ •  Foxfire, Foxfire • SF&F crossover novelette by Yoon Ha Lee • review
  • 509 • ★★+ • Elves of Antarctica • CliFi short story by Paul McAuley • review
  • 527 • ★★★ • The Witch of Orion Waste and the Boy Knight • fairy tale shor story by E. Lily Yu • review
  • 543 • ★★★★ • Seven Birthdays • SF short story by Ken Liu • review
  • 561 The Visitor from Taured, Ian R. MacLeod
  • 585 Fable, Charles Yu
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The Art of Space Travel • 2016 • SF novelette by Nina Allan

★★★

What did I expect from the story – a juicy space opera? I guess so. What did I get? A daughter – Emily – working as a housekeeper at the Edison Star hotel having astronauts for a one-way Mars trip as guests in 2070 and expecting a media frenzy. Her Alzheimer mother „Moolie“ who can’t or doesn’t want to disclose her father’s name. A professional working relationship (no love story!) with her boss Benny. Emily is on a quest to identify her father.

Three relationships, it is, that I got. Beautifully written, somewhat lengthy, quiet, only a homeopathic dosis of SF, slowly fading out with a satisfying ending (I’m probably one of the few persons who really didn’t expect it and had to backtrack). The promising title appears as an art book which is central to the relationships. I recommend reading it because it has got more layers in it than just the SFish one.

 

Meta: isfdb. Appeared July 2016 in Tor.com. Read in Best SFF 11. Available online.

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Seasons of Glass and Iron • 2016 • Fairy tale short story by Amal El-Mohtar

★★★

The ever-moving meets the immobile: One woman needs to walk through seven shoes of iron to win back her husband, the over woman sits on a hill of glass to be protected from pursuers. They stay together for a season and a while, become friends, tell their stories.

Heavy handed allegorical bit of work with two likeable characters. As it is a modern fairy tale, it has to be about female self-liberation and empowerment with lots of predictable conclusions. I liked the set up far more than the ending.

 

Meta: isfdb. Appeared November 2016 in Uncanny. Read in Best SFF 11. Available online.

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