- Mass Market Paperback: 512 pages
- Publisher: Harper Voyager; Reissue edition (May 29 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0061020559
- ISBN-13: 978-0061020551
- Product Dimensions: 10.6 x 3.3 x 17.1 cm
- Shipping Weight: 200 g
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,086,936 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Year's Best SF 6 Mass Market Paperback – May 29 2001
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David Hartwell's guiding principle for his annual science fiction anthologies is that the stories be clearly science fiction--not fantasy, horror, or postmodern. As always, for the 2001 edition he has chosen stories representing the best of the SF field, along with several short pieces published in Nature magazine as part of a millennium celebration.
Don't miss Tananarive Due's "Patient Zero," which assumes Greg Egan's frequent spotlight on medical SF (this year Egan covers philosophy vs. science in his alternate history "Oracle"); Stephen Dedman's detective story about amputation, "The Devotee"; Stephen Baxter's hard SF "Sheena 5," which is about an enhanced squid and her mission; Ursula K. LeGuin's anthropological tale "The Birthday of the World"; or Nancy Kress's succinct, pithy "To Cuddle Amy."
2001 Hugo Award nominees include "Seventy-Two Letters" by Ted Chiang, "Oracle" by Greg Egan, and short story winner "Different Kinds of Darkness" by David Langford. --Bonnie Bouman
"Impressive." -- -- Locus
"The finest modern science fiction writing." -- -- Pittsburgh Tribune
Top customer reviews
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This year was a different story. I enjoyed nearly every offering in the book. I was particularly impressed with the stories that Mr. Hartwell culled from unusual sources. Robert Silverberg's 'The Millennial Express' from Playboy magazine was particularly impressive. Robert Reed's story 'Grandma's Jumpman' from Century magazine was above average. I enjoyed the 5 or 6 1-2 page stories from Nature magazine. The stories from David Brin and Dan Simmons stood out from the rest.
The anthology also included excellent stories from Howard Waldrop (an amusement-park attraction attains sentience and rebels against its masters) and Ted Chiang (an alternate reality story where Jewish kabbalistic tradition is real and powerful). Brian Stableford's fascinating 'The Last Supper' continues the author's recent exploration of the future of genetics.
Not to be overlooked are two award-winning stories, Ursula Le Guin's excellent 'The Birthday of the World' and David Langford's 'Different Kinds of Darkness'. I thoroughly enjoyed this anthology. Highly recommended.
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The novella Hot Times in Magma City by Robert Silverberg is one of the memorable ones. While the premise is unlikely - people in a recovery program acting as emergency responders, as part of their community service in a Los Angeles wracked with volcanic activity - it's a powerful story. Told from the viewpoint of the group's leader, it shows the addicts trying to pull themselves together as they meet the challenges of their task, and more or less succeeding.
"Downloading Midnight", by William Browning Spencer, an author I haven't encountered before as far as I remember, is a cyberpunk novelette with a noir feel. It suffers from one of the usual issues with cyberpunk - the difficulty of explaining why people in cyberspace are in any actual danger - but manages to handwave it adequately and tell a good human story.
"Coming of Age in Karhide", by Ursula K. Le Guin, is the only one in the volume I remember reading before (in the author's collected short fiction, I think). It's one of her mind-stretching ones, set in the same world as The Left Hand of Darkness (where people periodically change gender), and very much a "this is what it's like to grow up in this setting" piece rather than a strongly plotted, linear story. Such is Le Guin's mastery of style and ability to convey feeling that it works anyway.
The remaining story in the volume that I can remember without looking at the book is the novella The Ziggurat, by Gene Wolfe. I'm on record as saying that I seldom understand or like Wolfe's stories, but maybe I'm getting used to them; I didn't hate this, and I followed it pretty well. The problem I have with Wolfe, though, is that his characters always seem alienated from their emotions, and while they will act from emotional reasons, they never seem to express emotions clearly or have emotional self-insight. Also, their actions sometimes seem alien and creepy, partly because of this emotional disconnect; violence comes as if out of nowhere, or, as here, a man decides, seemingly unilaterally, that he and a woman who has been his enemy are going to have a relationship, despite the earlier death-dealing violence between her group and his. It's as if all his characters are somewhere on the autism spectrum, or as if I am (which I'm not) whenever I read a Wolfe story.
Since I picked this up for 99c, I wasn't disappointed, but later volumes had a higher proportion of memorable stories.
My four favorite stories are:
James Patrick Kelly's "Think Like a Dinosaur" has become a classic. Comparisons to Tom Goodwin's "The Cold Equations" are appropriate. I find Kelly's story more chilling. Being able to think--and act--like an alien is a matter of empathy.
Stephen Baxter's "Gossamer" combines two science fiction problem-solving stories into one. Lvov and Cobh are stranded on Pluto. One tries to figure out whether regularly-shaped splotches in the ice may be a new form of life. The other tries to get them home. They don't seem to be working against each other.
Joe Haldeman's "For White Hill" seems like just another love story on the home planet Earth. Two lovers are attracted by their different approaches to life.
Nancy Kress' "Evolution" is a post-apocalyptic story in which medical treatment and personal relationships both play important roles. Why do we always hurt the ones we love?
The introductions in this book and in Year's Best SF 2 are briefer than those found in later volumes. I am glad that this early form changed into the more extended treatment as the series progressed. Hartwell's longer introductions add a great deal to the reader's enjoyment.
This collection is recommended for its several very good stories. They are worth reading through some so-so stories that also appear. Ursula Le Guin's "Coming of Age in Karhide" was not as enjoyable as I find most of her stories. And while there were interesting things happening in Gene Wolfe's "The Ziggurat," the main character's actions in the last half of the story didn't make sense to me. I'm not sure why this story has received so much critical acclaim. Maybe I'm just missing something.
Each story was selected partly because it was in the "Problem to be Solved by Hard SF Techniques" mold - ie there would be no mental powers, super powers, unobtanium or bendy physics at work apart from whatever SF concept we were being asked to accept as written. FTL breaks the unobtanium stricture, but is an acceptable hard SF trope as long as it works consistently (something Larry Niven forgot in one of the later Ringworld books IMO but I digress). This logic is used throughout.
There was no story in here I had not read before, but I have been a voracious SF short story-vore for more years than some of you have been on the planet so that wasn't surprising.
I enjoyed reading them again and the price meant I didn't begrudge the fact that I had bought each story twice (at least). I was able to enjoy them on my Kindle Fire now.
There are no clunkers in this book. Every story is thought-provoking, even if some of the central ideas may have occurred to you in the past. I've always wondered how an obvious downside to "beaming" and consciousness uploading would be handled "in real life" (star trek and its ilk always ignore this issue) and between these covers that conundrum is explored and worked to conclusion from an interesting viewpoint.
I recommend this volume to everyone, especially Kindle users at the price I got it for.