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The Year's Best Science Fiction: Thirtieth Annual Collection
Edited by Gardner Dozois
Cover Artist: Michael Whelan
Review by Benjamin Wald
St. Martin's Griffin Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250029133
Date: 23 July 2013 List Price $22.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Editor's Wikipedia Entry / Show Official Info /

The Year's Best Science Fiction is an SF tradition, having chronicled the field for 30 years now, under the editorship of Gardner Dozois. This thirtieth volume continues the trend of collecting a wide range of excellent core SF stories from the previous year. In keeping with previous volumes, there are no fantasy stories, and very little that could be described as slipstream or interstitial. However, within the SF genre, these stories span the gamut from alternate history, steampunk stories, to hard SF, to far future space opera. The quality is uniformly high, and the sheer size of the anthology (around 650 pages) allows it to serve as an overview of the field as a whole.

One of the advantages of an anthology this size is that it can include a number of longer works. The novella is one of my favorite formats for SF, and Dozois includes a number of longer works in this volume. "Nightfall on the Peak of Eternal Light" has an old-school SF vibe, with tough, pragmatic moon dwellers solving problems. It combines this with some interesting characterization, and musings on second chances.

Robert Reed, who is consistently excellent at the novella length and probably under-appreciated for that very reason, presents a powerful account of stranded humans who are seen as monsters by the inhabitants, and forced to act as such by the harsh conditions in "Eater-of-Bone". There are many excellent stories at shorter lengths as well. Lavie Tidhar has a pair of excellent stories. "The Memcordist" follows the lonely wanderings of a man who is constantly watched by millions of fans, having been wired into a human reality show before birth, who allows his meticulously recorded past to consume his future. "Under the Eaves" deals with the issue of human/robot love, but elevates this rather timeworn subject through a rich, poetic writing style and some well chosen shifts in the point of view.

Indrapramit Das presents an atmospheric and affecting story about a human colony on a tidally locked planet and their conflict with the indigenous creatures that inhabit the nightside of the planet in "Weep for Day".

"The Finite Canvas" by Brit Mandelo is an excellent, if brutal, character study, revolving around a hired assassin and the disgraced doctor she comes to for a special favor.

There are too many excellent stories here to even mention them all. There are a few that didn't work for me, but the hits far outnumber the misses. There really is no better collection out there for getting an overview of the SF field as a whole. This anthology is one of the best values for your money, just as it has been for the last thirty years. Here's hoping that Dozois can keep it up for another thirty years.

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