Subtitled 20 Years of the Year’s Best Science Fiction, the volume gives you a feeling for just how long Dozois had been doing this. And then realize there’s also a later Very Best of the Best: 35 Years of the Year’s Best Science Fiction. Impressive.
I’ve read several of Dozois’ Year’s Best over the years, most recently this one. I’ve never really cared for them much, and I’ve generally put it down to an off year, though with the suspicion that perhaps Dozois and I didn’t agree. Having now read this volume – his best of the best – I can now definitively confirm the latter. While acknowledging that Dozois was a much-respected master anthologist in the field, I just don’t like his taste.
Very few of these stories appealed to me, despite including at least some authors (such as Ursula Le Guin and Brian Stableford) that I generally enjoy. If this was a summary of 20 years of SF, the field was in a dire state during those years. I found the stories, as a rule, on the dull side, and it’s not because I require fast-moving action and adventure. It’s just that these stories generally neither engaged nor moved me. The writing is technically sound – as it should be at this level – but I seldom found myself caring much about what happened.
The exceptions – the more interesting stories – were largely and happily packed toward the back of the book, when I was most tired of it and most wanting it to end. They weren’t enough to lift the anthology into the realms of books I enjoyed, but they gave me just enough hope to push through. They included:
- A Dry, Quiet War – Tony Daniels. I’d not heard of Daniels before, but this military SF story had the best kind of heartbreak and duty in it.
- Story of Your Life – Ted Chiang. Chiang’s has been one of those names floating around the periphery of my thoughts for years, but has never really come to the fore. This story is interesting, if (intentionally) somewhat unresolved.
- The Real World -Steven Utley. A story about Hollywood in which, for once, the scientist is not overawed or a fool.
- Have Not Have – Geoff Ryman. A somewhat convoluted (or maybe just tangential) piece about coming to terms with change.