Any anthology that starts with Jack Finney can’t be all bad, even if it is one of Finney’s weaker stories. There’s a slew of other good authors in here as well (though again not always with their best work). This is the second Best of selection from F&SF’s history, and there’s a lot here – 27 stories, in just over 450 pages.
I’d hope for a ‘Best of’ to be pretty darned good, especially when drawing from such a well-known magazine. And the stories are good; there are few real clunkers here. I was disappointed, though, to find that relatively few stories that really stood out. Mostly, it was the standard anthology story reaction of “That was pretty good.”
One exception was the Harlan Ellison story, “Jeffty is Five“. I know of Ellison more from his anthologies than his original fiction, though I’ve read some of that as well. If you don’t, this story will change that for you. It’s simple urban SFF that’s not in my usual line, but the story is so well put together that I got excited anyway. Part predictable but smooth, part shocker, it’s a terrific example of a very well crafted story. I got this book as a free ARC, but if the list price isn’t too high, it will be worth it for this story alone.
Other good stories:
- “-All You Zombies-“, by Robert Heinlein, from the days when he was clever and fun.
- “Green Magic”, by Jack Vance.
- “The Country of the Kind”, by Damon Knight. A new one for me, both interesting and effective.
- “The Anything Box”, by Zenna Henderson. A good, moving story I had forgotten about.
- “Narrow Valley“, by R. A. Lafferty. Light-hearted fun.
- “The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything”, by George Alec Effinger. I’d only read his Marid Audran novels before. This was a clever and funny surprise.
- “The Paper Menagerie”, by Ken Liu. Won lots of awards, and deservedly so.
Overall, a good collection of stories, but not as good as I’d anticipated from the title.