Best of the Rest 4
by Brian Youmans (Ed.)
Review by Cathy Green
Suddenly Press Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 0967005620
Date: July 2006 List Price $12.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Best of the Rest 4, edited by Brian Youmans bills itself as the "the best unknown science fiction and fantasy of 2005". That's not puffery. The anthology collects stories from a variety of sources that may not have been easily or readily accessible or even known to a significant part of the reading public, such as Lone Star Stories, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, Abyss, Apex, and Tales of the Unanticipated. While some of the included authors, such as Gene Wolfe, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Jay Lake and Holly Phillips are either well-known or have recently had a decent amount of buzz, at least in publications familiar to SF readers, other authors in the collection, such as Sandra McDonald, Ken Scholes, Deborah Fitchett and Constance Cooper are considerably less well known but deserve the sort of attention anthologies such as Best of the Rest will hopefully give them.
Many of the stories in the anthology take familiar themes for their subject but unfold in slightly unexpected and/or stylistically interesting ways. For instance, "Green" by Jay Lake is a story of a nameless girl, sold to be a courtesan, used by others for their own ends, who eventually reclaims her own name and makes her own destiny. In "A Good Hair Day in Anarchy" Ken Scholes takes the old Western movie trope of the aged gunfighter trying to retire and sets it in a colony in outer space. And John Brown closes out the anthology with "Bright Waters", a lovely romance set in colonial America in which a trapper finds true love with the help of a magical tattoo provided by a Mohawk medicine woman.
Other stories in the collection worth highlighting include Deborah Fitchett's "Coming Home", about a new family's arrival on a multicultural space station and their efforts to make friends with the longtime residents. "Three Urban Folk Tales" by Eric Schaller is a delightful set of three short tales of love in the big city involving a postman and a rat, and Nina Kiriki Hoffman contributes a short, funny tale of lust and chocolate called "Treats". In a slightly different vein, but also involving food and pleasure, Lawrence Schoen delivers a paean to the Happy Meal with "Stations of the Cheeseburger". Not all the stories in the collection are light and happy. Holly Phillips' excellent "By the Light of Tomorrow's Sun" is a dark tale of death and family secrets and seafaring men, and Constance Cooper's "Trouble Leaves a Scent Trail" is a detective story involving crustaceans, murder and political conspiracies.
While this review specifically mentions only half the stories in the anthology, the reader should not infer that the rest of the anthology was of lesser quality; rather, it should merely be taken as an indication that there were length considerations. The collection is uniformly quite good. When Brian Youmans named his anthology Best of the Rest, he wasn't exaggerating. Clearly much care went into picking all the stories. Youmans also provides a short, informative introduction for each story that helpfully provides information about the author's other works and where to find the publications in which the stories first appeared. If you're like me and make a point of trying to track down everything ever written by authors you especially like, the introductions will prove especially helpful. In sum, Best of the Rest lives up to its name; go buy it.