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Year’s Best SF 18, edited by David Hartwell

Review copy provided by Tor.

This was a really solid Year’s Best collection. Of course there were stories in it I didn’t finish, or didn’t bother to reread, because that happens in pretty much every anthology ever: part of the point of anthologies is that not everything has to be to everybody’s taste for it to be worth the time and paper. But there were far fewer of that type of story than average, and more stories that I felt were worth mentioning in the good way.

I sometimes find Gene Wolfe’s characters frustratingly vague and distant. “Dormanna” is an exception, and it manages to have a child protagonist without being a teddy bear killing story. I like imaginary friends, that may be part of it. I also like complex friends, part real and part imaginary, and I think the titular Dormanna qualifies.

I am a sucker for alien stories, and Eleanor Arnason’s “Holmes Sherlock: A Hwarhath Mystery” is no exception, even though I am generally not a sucker for Holmesiana. But this isn’t Holmesiana, or at least not as I have encountered its worst excesses. Holmes is not a character in this story, but rather a character in stories read by the protagonist of this story. I love alien-perspective stories, and every time I encounter the Hwarhath, I think, “Oh yes, I like them, I should go find more of these.”

I can see where Naomi Kritzer’s “Liberty’s Daughter” would appeal to a very broad spectrum of SF readers, because it’s very like a lot of the SF people who are writing now read as teenagers, but with…how do I say this politely…it’s not with 75% less assholery. It’s with instances of assholery recognized and tagged as such, within the spectrum of human behavior. The seasteads are exactly the kind of varied extrapolative near future cultures I want to see more of in fiction.

In “Waves,” Ken Liu took a conflict that could easily have filled another SF short story and portrayed its outcome (I won’t say resolution) in a few pages, moving on to more and greater extrapolations across time, space, species, and family. One of my favorite of Liu’s so far, he portrays different gigantic life choices, and how they can separate–and reunite–family members.

Finally, “The North Revena Ladies Literary Society” by Catherine H. Shaffer is probably the least overtly SF of my favorite stories of this volume. It’s a spy action story that does SFnal things, but the SF aspects of them come in later. I just wrote out what it could be a crossover of and then realized that my analogy would be a spoiler for the story, so instead: SF spy ladies, hurrah!

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