The Very Best of the Best: 35 Years of The Year’s Best Science Fiction • 2019 • SF anthology by Gardner Dozois

★★★★★

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Dozois published 35 annual anthologies with his selection of the best SF stories of the previous year. He concentrated those 35 books even further down to three volumes by selecting the best of those:

The first anthology covering 1983-2002, another one publishing only novellas (which I haven’t read yet), and now this anthology covering SF stories and novellas from 2003-2017. Insofar is the title misleading, as this volume is only one of three collecting the best SF short works; and also, they “only” publish works which have been published in his annual anthologies.

Sadly, Dozois passed away shortly after that, so this really concludes his life’s work as an editor.

The annual anthologies are really monstrous doorstoppers. Everyone who reads anthologies knows that they take far longer to digest than any novel of the same size. And it isn’t healthy to read through them like a novel. My mode is mostly one or two stories per day, and writing a review for each one – you’ll find the reviews linked below with every story.

What is to be expected from this anthology? First of all, a huge amount of stories: 38 stories spread over 686 pages. In comparison to the first anthology, nearly all of the stories are actually core SF in several typical subgenres. Dozois tended to select literary stories which might not be to everyone’s taste, but fit mine very well.

The anthology is exceptionally good, the first five stories already outstanding. There are a couple of five star stories in it, many four star stories, and only one bummer. While the average grade is around four stars, I’ve rounded up to five stars – because anthologies can’t be assessed on an average value only: Most anthologies have a lot of stories in them which don’t fit one’s taste at all.

I can fully recommend this anthology for readers of SF created in this millenium.

Contents (stories are ordered from oldest to newest):

  1. 1 • ★★★★+☆ • The Potter of Bones • 2002 • Planetary SF novella by Eleanor Arnason • retelling of the scientific discovery of evolution theory by an alien Darwin • review
  2. 39 • ★★★★★  Rogue Farm • 2003 • Transhuman SF short story by Charles Stross • a posthuman collective wants to reach Jupiter • review
  3. 51 • ★★★★★ • The Little Goddess • 2005 • Near future SF novella by Ian McDonald • India 2047 child-goddess’s coming-of-age • review
  4. 84 • ★★★★☆ • Dead Men Walking • 2006 • Quiet War novelette by Paul McAuley • a dying clone dictates his story on an Uranus moon • review
  5. 99 • ★★★★☆ • Tin Marsh • 2006 • SF novelette by Michael Swanwick • prospectors on Venus really hate each other • review
  6. 114 • ★★★☆☆ • Good Mountain • 2005 • SF novella by Robert Reed • fleeing from a catastrophic fire across a strange world • review
  7. 160 • ★★★☆☆ • Where the Golden Apples Grow • 2006 • Mars novella by Kage Baker • Two settler boys have an adventure steering a truck on Mars • review
  8. 204 • ★★★★☆ • The Sledge-Maker’s Daughter • 2007 • Post-Post-apocalyptic short story by Alastair Reynolds • a hag passes on gifts to a teenage girl • review
  9. 222 • ★★★★☆ • Glory • 2007 • Planetary SF novelette by Greg Egan • two xenomathematicians extracted new proofs from remainders of an extinguished race • review
  10. 243 • ★★★☆☆ • Finisterra • 2007 • Planetary SF novelette by David Moles • an aeroengineer gets a job to help harvest huuuuuuge floating animals on a foreign planet • review
  11. 269 • ★★★☆☆The Illustrated Biography of Lord Grimm • 2008 • Superhero novelette by Daryl Gregory • A welder survives in a war between steampunkish robots and superheroes/villains • review
  12. 286 • ★★★★☆ • Utriusque Cosmi • 2009 • Posthuman SF novelette by Robert Charles Wilson • an alien cloudified fleet rescues humans from an apocalyptic catastrophe • review
  13. 304 • ★★★+☆☆ • Events Preceding the Helvetican Renaissance • 2009 • Space Opera novelette by John Kessel • a monk steals the last instance of a creation myth • review
  14. 328 • ★★★+☆☆Useless Things • 2012 • Near Future SF short story by Maureen F. McHugh • a doll maker makes her way in New Mexico after economic collapse and climate change • review
  15. 342 • ★★★★☆ • Boojum • 2009 • Horror Space Opera novelette by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette • pirates on a living space ship make a Lovecraftian bounty • review
  16. 358 • ★★★☆☆ • Hair • 2009 • Near Future SF novelette by Adam Roberts • genemodded hair feeds the poor • review
  17. 377 • ★★★★★ • The Things • 2010 • First Contact short story by Peter Watts • Carpenter‘s „The Thing“ from the alien‘s perspective • review
  18. 391 • ★★★+☆☆ • The Emperor of Mars • 2010 • Near Future SF novelette by Allen Steele • a grunt worker on Mars goes mad • review
  19. 407 • ★★★★☆ • Flower, Mercy, Needle, Chain • 2010 • Time Travel short story by Yoon Ha Lee • four weapons with different fantastical effects • review
  20. 413 • ★★★+☆☆Martian Heart • 2011 • YA Near Future SF short story by John Barnes • a pair of young Martian settlers start as prospectors • review
  21. 425 • ★★★☆☆ The Invasion of Venus • 2010 • First contact short story by Stephen Baxter • aliens arrive in the Solar system; they don’t head for Earth but for Venus • review
  22. 435 • ★★★+☆☆Weep for Day • 2012 • SF novelette by Indrapramit Das • review
  23. 450 • ★★★★★ The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi • 2012 • SF novelette by Pat Cadigan • review
  24. 467 • ★★★★☆ • The Memcordist • 2012 • SF short story by Lavie Tidhar • review
  25. 478 • ★★★☆☆ The Best We Can • 2013 • First Contact short story by Carrie Vaughn • a quiet alien spacecraft stays in a sub-Saturn orbit • review
  26. 487 • ★★★+☆☆ The Discovered Country • 2013 • Posthuman novelette by Ian R. MacLeod • a man finds himself among the uploaded superrich, renewing old acquaintances • review
  27. 510 • ★★★★+Pathways • 2013 • Near SF novelette by Nancy Kress • medical research •  review
  28. 531 • ★★★☆☆ The Hand is Quicker • Near SF novelette by Elizabeth Bear • perception control • review
  29. 547 • ★★★☆☆ • Someday • SF short story by James Patrick Kelly • human reproduction on a colonial planet • review
  30. 558 • ★★★★☆ • “THE LONG HAUL from the Annals of Transportation, The Pacific Monthly, May 2009” • alternative history short story by Ken Liu • review
  31. 573 • ★★★☆☆ • Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight • 2015 • Xuya Space Opera short story by Aliette de Bodard • a family doesn’t get back the memories of a famous scientist, because the government needs it more urgently • review
  32. 587 • ★★★★☆ • Calved • CliFi short story by Sam J. Miller • review
  33. 598 • ★★★☆☆ • Emergence • SF short story by Gwyneth Jones • review
  34. 613 • ★★+☆☆☆ • Rates of Change • SF short story by James S. A. Corey • transplanting brains into designer bodies •  review
  35. 624 • ★★★☆☆ • Jonas and the Fox • 2016 • YA SF novelette by Rich Larson • a poet embodied in a child wants to flee the planet after a revolution • review
  36. 641 • ☆☆☆☆☆ (DNF at 50%) • KIT: Some Assembly Required • 2016 • short story by Kathe Koja and Carter Scholz • only for fans of Marlowe with lots of references. I was totally confused and started skimming – the story led nowhere
  37. 652 • ★★★+☆☆ • Winter Timeshare • 2017 • Far future short story by Ray Nayler • Two women meet each year in Istanbul in rented bodies • review
  38. 666 • ★★★★☆ • My English Name • 2017 • Weird fiction novelette by R. S. Benedict • a shape shifter works as English teacher in China • review

Meta: isfdb, published 2019 by St Martin’s Griffin.

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10 Responses to The Very Best of the Best: 35 Years of The Year’s Best Science Fiction • 2019 • SF anthology by Gardner Dozois

  1. piotrek says:

    Interesting, there are some big names here. I have a few unread collections Dozois edited together with Martin, so when I finally get to reading short stories, I’ll start there…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. pdtillman says:

    Well, you did it! Congratulations! Those big Dozois anthols can be a bit of a slog. Likely not for the Best of the Best?
    Our library system has a copy, but in another county, so I can’t get it now. Marked TBR-later, for when service resumes….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andreas says:

      The last three stories or so were a slog, the anthology didn’t seem to end (especially since I wanted to finish it in 2020)😁
      But then again, the next one is already started…

      Like

  3. Ola G says:

    All right, you have me convinced! It looks like a lethal dose, both physically and mentally, but after all your glowing reviews I’m willing to give it a try 😁

    Liked by 1 person

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