The Best of the Best: 20 Years of the Year’s Best Science Fiction • 2015 • SF anthology by Gardner Dozois

★★★★

Summary: Dozois published annual anthologies with the best published SF short works from several magazines ever since 1985. From 20 of these anthologies covering the years 1983-2002, he chose those 36 stories which impressed him as a reader the most. Obviously these are not absolutely the best stories of those years, because he didn’t grab everyone in his anthologies. This is the first volume of three, where the second publishes novellas which were excluded from this first volume, and the third covering the years from 2003 to 2017. Together, they summarize and conclude those 35 years of anthologies, as there won’t be no more from this master of his trade: Sadly, he passed away in 2018, may he rest in peace.

What is to be expected from this anthology? First of all, a huge amount of stories. Also not only Science Fiction stories despite of the title – many of the stories are not exactly SF but magical realism or borderline SF at the best. Dozois tended to select literary stories which might not be to everyone’s taste, but fit mine very well. As with every anthology, it is a mixed bag – some of the stories just didn’t fit my taste, and I could have easily selected a better story from the according annual anthology. But I liked most and found more than a handful new favourites. Also, it is a extremely good retrospective of those years. So, if you trust Mr Dozois more than the Hugo or other awards like me, I can really recommend this huge anthology which is well worth the price and the time invested.

My favourite ★★★★★ stories were

  • Kirinyaga • 1988 • SF novelette by Mike Resnick • review
  • Guest of Honor • 1993 • SF novelette by Robert Reed • review
  • Wang’s Carpets • 1995 • Posthuman first contact novelette by Greg Egan • review
  • The Undiscovered • 1997 • Alternate History novelette about Shakespeare writing Hamlet at the Cherokee by William Sanders • review
  • Story of Your Life • 1998 • first contact SF novella by Ted Chiang • review
  • Lobsters • 2001 • Near future novelette by Charles Stross • review
  • Breathmoss • 2002 • SF novella by Ian R. MacLeod • review

Weakest ☆ or ★ stories

  • None So Blind • 1994 • Near Future SF short story by Joe Haldeman • review
  • The Lincoln Train • 1995 • Alternate History short story by Maureen F. McHugh • I didn’t get this story at all; Lincoln didn’t die after his assassination, but that had no consequence for the story.
  • The Wedding Album • 1999 • novella by David Marusek • clones in holograms are freed by human rights movement – this started as an interesting story, but got longer and longer and the reused names confused me completely

Contents (stories are ordered from oldest to newest):

  • 1 • ★★★★ • Blood Music • 1983 • Near Future SF novelette about nano computers gone rogue by Greg Bear • review
  • 19 • ★★★+ “A Cabin on the Coast • 1981 • magical realism short story about the passage to the fairy world by Gene Wolfe • review
  • 28 • ★★★★ • Salvador • 1984 • Near Future SF short story about drug induced haluzinating soldiers by Lucius Shepard •  review
  • 42 • ★★★+ • Trinity • 1984 • SF novella about a way of scientific search for God by Nancy Kress • review
  • 78 • ★★ • Flying Saucer Rock and Roll • 1985 • Vintage novelette about exactly that title by Howard Waldrop • review
  • 93 • ★★★ • Dinner in Audoghast • 1985 • Historical fiction short story by Bruce Sterling • review
  • 103 • ★★ • Roadside Rescue • 1985 • SF short story by Pat Cadigan • review 
  • 109 • ★★★★ • Snow • 1985 • short story about recording lifes for the afterworld by John Crowley • review
  • 121 • ★★★★ • The Winter Market • 1985 • Cyberpunk novelette about uploading minds by William Gibson • review
  • 137 • ★★★ • The Pure Product • 1986 • Time Travel novelette about a murdering traveler in the 1980s by John Kessel • review
  • 152 • ★★ • Stable Strategies for Middle Management • 1988 • Absurdist fiction short story covering Kafka’s metamorphosis by Eileen Gunn
  • 162 • ★★★★★ • Kirinyaga • 1988 • SF novelette about a Kenyan tribe in space by Mike Resnick • review 
  • 177 • ★★★★ • Tales from the Venia Woods • 1989 • Alternative History of an eternal Roman Empire short story by Robert Silverberg • review 
  • 191 • ★★★+ • Bears Discover Fire • 1990 • magical realism short story by Terry Bisson • review
  • 199 • ★★★Even the Queen • 1992 • Near Future short story by Connie Willis • review
  • 213 • ★★★★★ • Guest of Honor • 1993 • SF novelette by Robert Reed • review
  • 238 • ★ • None So Blind • 1994 • Near Future SF short story by Joe Haldeman • review
  • 246 • ★★★★ • Mortimer Gray’s History of Death • 1995 • Posthuman SF novella by Brian Stableford • review
  • 293 • ★ • The Lincoln Train • 1995 • Alternate History short story by Maureen F. McHugh • I didn’t get this story at all; Lincoln didn’t die after his assassination, but that had no consequence for the story.
  • 303 • ★★★★★ • Wang’s Carpets • 1995 • Posthuman first contact novelette by Greg Egan • review
  • 328 • ★★★★ • Coming of Age in Karhide • 1995 • Hainish novelette by Ursula K. Le Guin • review
  • 342 • ★★★★ •  The Dead • 1996 • Zomedy short story by Michael Swanwick about Zombies as the new workforce • review
  • 352 • ★★★+Recording Angel • 1996 • First contact short story by Ian McDonald • review
  • 363 • ★★★★★ • A Dry, Quiet War • 1996 • Spaghetti Western in Space novelette by Tony Daniel • review
  • 380 • ★★★★★ • The Undiscovered • 1997 • Alternate History novelette about Shakespeare writing Hamlet at the Cherokee by William Sanders • review
  • 400 • ★★★ • Second Skin • 1997 • Quiet War short story by Paul J. McAuley • review
  • 418 • ★★★★★ • Story of Your Life • 1998 • first contact SF novella by Ted Chiang • review
  • 454 • ★★+ • People Came from Earth • 1999 • SF short story by Stephen Baxter • review
  • 464 • ☆ (DNFed) • The Wedding Album • 1999 • novella by David Marusek • clones in holograms are freed by human rights movement – this started as an interesting story, but got longer and longer and the reused names confused me completely
  • 502 • ★★★+ • 10 to 16 to 1 • 1999 • Time travel novelette by James Patrick Kelly • review
  • 520 • ★★★+ • Daddy’s World • 1999 • Posthuman novelette by Walter Jon Williams • review
  • 541 • ★★★+ • The Real World • 2000 • SF novelette by Steven Utley • review
  • 561 • ★★★+ • Have Not Have • 2001 • SF novelette by Geoff Ryman • review
  • 577 • ★★★★★ • Lobsters • 2001 • Near future novelette by Charles Stross • review
  • 597 • ★★★★+ • Breathmoss • 2002 • SF novella by Ian R. MacLeod • review
  • 647 • ★★+ • Lambing Season • 2002 • First contact short story by Molly Gloss • review

Meta: isfdb, published 2005 by St Martin’s Griffin.

 

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