You’d have to be very lucky to pick up a compilation, such as this, and find you liked every story. Conversely, you’d have to be incredibly unlucky to find that you disliked all of it.
This collection contains some excellent short stories. It also contains some that, whilst not terrible, undermine the claim to be ‘The best’ of the year.
Some of the stand-out stories include:
- The Future is Blue by Catheryne M Valente – This is a fantastic tale about a girl with the unlikely name of Tetley Abednego who lives on a floating continent of waste following an environmental disaster caused by the ‘Fuckwits’ i.e. us. Tetley is widely despised, obscenities are flung her way regularly. The descriptions of the floating world are vivid.
- Even the Crumbs Were Delicious by Daryl Gregory – Babes in the Wood meets Philip K Dick in a funny, warm tale.
- Things with Beards by Sam J Miller – Often dreamlike. Space creatures deal with issues of equality and social justice. A story to dwell on and read again.
- Laws of Night and Silk by Seth Dickinson – A high fantasy story concerning war, magic and unimaginable sacrifice in the pursuit of victory. Simply stunning, a standout in this collection.
- Touring with the Alien by Carolyn Ives Gilman – Concerns contact with aliens who are sentient but not conscious as “Being aware would just degrade their skill”. This is an interesting contemplation on how many strive to lose self-awareness.
- Elves of Antarctica by Paul McAuley – Eco sci-fi, similar in theme to Catheryne M Valente’s story. A massive remedial industry exists to prevent rising sea levels.
- The Visitor from Taured by Ian R MacLeod – A love story in which the multiple universe theory plays a part. Very well written and poignant.
There are many more stories, some good and some that are average. The one criticism of this collection is that it feels too long and would have made a tighter, more impressive book with some of the weaker stories omitted.
Fans of sci-fi and fantasy are unlikely to feel short-changed if they buy this book. There are enough great stories to make up for the ones that don’t quite hit the mark.