REVIEW: THE BEST SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY OF THE YEAR – VOLUME EIGHT / AUTHOR: JOE ABERCROMBIE, MADELINE ASHBY, NEIL GAIMAN, JAMES PATRICK KELLY, CAITLÍN R. KIERNAN, YOON HA LEE, IAN MCDONALD, IAN R. MACLEOD, RAMEZ NAAM / PUBLISHER: SOLARIS / RELEASE DATE: MAY 13TH
The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume Eight continues a very fine tradition of selecting high quality short stories that not only make for a cracking read but also happen to reflect the state of the industry so far. This latest volume proves that fantasy and science fiction writing is not just healthy but thriving; seemingly it is a golden age for good writing. It’s also a firm reflection of modern times; many of the stories here are gritty, dark and dystopian.
This is a big book - at over 600 pages and nearly thirty short stories, you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something that you’ll enjoy, and there isn’t a single poor or filler story here. Each tale deserves to be here and all of them are good.
There are, of course, some that stand a little bit higher than the others. Neil Gaiman’s Spindle and the Spider is the sort of clever fairy tale remix that we’ve come to expect from the world class author and will please even his most casual of fans. Lavie Tidhar’s contribution, The Book Seller, is a clever bit of sci-fi that benefits from its brevity. In a world where almost everyone has access to all knowledge, those who collect old-fashioned media can be heroes, if only they can find the courage. Ramez Naam’s deliciously creepy tale of advertising gone wrong is strongly reminiscent of his Hugo-nominated book Nexus and as such works as a great sampler for this highly promising author. Caitlin R. Kiernan’s The Road of Needles is also a nice blend of frontier sci-fi and fairy tale that draws the reader in and leaves you wanting more. Another highlight is The Sun and I by K. J. Parker. It’s essentially a heist/confidence trick adventure story, but with a unique twist that could only work with a high fantasy setting. Clever, wry and yet quite dark, it sums up this entirely collection perfectly.
Jonathan Strahan is a skillful and award-winning editor, and he has curated an impressive collection here. The overall tone and mood of the work not only reflects but also informs the science fiction and fantasy publishing world. This is a perfect anthology for those looking at the bewildering array of talented authors out there who are seeking to dive right into the world of modern sci-fi and fantasy literature.