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The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Novellas 2016

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The second volume of Prime Books’ annual anthology series collecting some of the year’s best novella-length science fiction and fantasy. Novellas, longer than short stories but shorter than novels, are a rich rewarding literary form that can fully explore tomorrow’s technology, the far reaches of the future, thought-provoking imaginings, fantastic worlds, and entertaining The second volume of Prime Books’ annual anthology series collecting some of the year’s best novella-length science fiction and fantasy. Novellas, longer than short stories but shorter than novels, are a rich rewarding literary form that can fully explore tomorrow’s technology, the far reaches of the future, thought-provoking imaginings, fantastic worlds, and entertaining concepts with all the impact of a short story as well as the detailed depth of a novel. Gathering a wide variety of excellent science fiction and fantasy, this anthology of “short novels” showcases the talents of both established masters and new writers. Contents: “The Citadel of Weeping Pearls” by Aliette de Bodard (Asimov’s, Oct/Nov 2015) “The Bone Swans of Amandale” by C.S.E. Cooney (Bone Swans, Mythic Delirium Books) “Binti” by Nnedi Okorafor (Binti, Tor.com) “The Last Witness” by K. J. Parker (The Last Witness, Tor.com) “Johnny Rev” by Rachel Pollack (F&SF, Jul/Aug 2015) “Inhuman Garbage,” Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Asimov’s March 2015) “Gypsy,” Carter Scholz (F&SF, Nov/Dec 2015) “The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn,” Usman Malik (The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn, Tor.com) “What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear” by Bao Shu, translated by Ken Liu (F&SF, Mar/Apr 2015)


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The second volume of Prime Books’ annual anthology series collecting some of the year’s best novella-length science fiction and fantasy. Novellas, longer than short stories but shorter than novels, are a rich rewarding literary form that can fully explore tomorrow’s technology, the far reaches of the future, thought-provoking imaginings, fantastic worlds, and entertaining The second volume of Prime Books’ annual anthology series collecting some of the year’s best novella-length science fiction and fantasy. Novellas, longer than short stories but shorter than novels, are a rich rewarding literary form that can fully explore tomorrow’s technology, the far reaches of the future, thought-provoking imaginings, fantastic worlds, and entertaining concepts with all the impact of a short story as well as the detailed depth of a novel. Gathering a wide variety of excellent science fiction and fantasy, this anthology of “short novels” showcases the talents of both established masters and new writers. Contents: “The Citadel of Weeping Pearls” by Aliette de Bodard (Asimov’s, Oct/Nov 2015) “The Bone Swans of Amandale” by C.S.E. Cooney (Bone Swans, Mythic Delirium Books) “Binti” by Nnedi Okorafor (Binti, Tor.com) “The Last Witness” by K. J. Parker (The Last Witness, Tor.com) “Johnny Rev” by Rachel Pollack (F&SF, Jul/Aug 2015) “Inhuman Garbage,” Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Asimov’s March 2015) “Gypsy,” Carter Scholz (F&SF, Nov/Dec 2015) “The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn,” Usman Malik (The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn, Tor.com) “What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear” by Bao Shu, translated by Ken Liu (F&SF, Mar/Apr 2015)

30 review for The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Novellas 2016

  1. 4 out of 5

    Althea Ann

    *** “Binti” by Nnedi Okorafor (Binti, Tor.com) Previously read, as part of the Hugo Voters' Packet. "Enjoyable YA space adventure with an engaging protagonist. In this future, the Himba tribe of Namibia are an insular minority, looked down upon by the majority Khoush although the Himba have become specialized experts in math and 'harmonizing,' producing "astrolabes" (which seem to be the future's smartphones). Teenage Binti's skills have won her a coveted scholarship to an intergalactic university *** “Binti” by Nnedi Okorafor (Binti, Tor.com) Previously read, as part of the Hugo Voters' Packet. "Enjoyable YA space adventure with an engaging protagonist. In this future, the Himba tribe of Namibia are an insular minority, looked down upon by the majority Khoush although the Himba have become specialized experts in math and 'harmonizing,' producing "astrolabes" (which seem to be the future's smartphones). Teenage Binti's skills have won her a coveted scholarship to an intergalactic university, but to her family, it is unthinkable that she would be permitted to leave her tribe and go. Unwilling to let her dreams die, Binti runs away and soon finds herself on a ship en route to Oomza Uni. Unfortunately, that ship is hijacked by alien terrorists. Although the setup is both fun and fascinating, there were a few plot holes and the way things eventually worked out was too easy and simplistic, I thought. My issues with the story: (view spoiler)[ 1. Most significantly, I'm not saying that it is impossible to become best buddies with the terrorist who murdered your crush, all your new friends and classmates, and well, EVERYONE on the ship you're traveling on. But if that's going to happen, it needs to be a lot more carefully done. The psychological complexity and ambiguity of the situation needs to be acknowledged, at the very least, and it isn't here, at all. 2. On a related note, although yes, the professors at the Uni did both the right and the sensible thing by acceding to the terrorists' demands, it seems inconceivable that none of them would mention the slaughter of a boatload of their colleagues, some of whom would undoubtedly have been close friends, lovers, family... No grief or anger at their loss is shown - only a bit of anger at demands being made. Overall, the mass murder is treated like a quickly-forgotten no-big-deal. 3. Binti's skin treatment is revealed to be a cure-all to the alien Meduse race. Luckily, it turns out that the formula is not unique to Namibia; it can be produced elsewhere. However, no mention at all is made of the immediately obvious situation: if something you have is valuable to a warlike species, you and ALL OF YOUR PEOPLE are in deep danger. It never seems to occur to Binti that if she can't provide more of it, the Meduse would undoubtedly invade Namibia for it. 4. In a story this short, there's room for a limited number of unexplained and logically unlikely thingummies. We start out with one, the mysterious 'edan' that Binti found in the desert and uses as a good luck charm. It sure is convenient, when she's attacked, that her good luck charm turns out to be a mentally-powered force shield AND translation device! But, seeing as there wouldn't be much of a story if it wasn't, I can accept that. All the Meduse are appropriately shocked that she can suddenly communicate with them. However, that's kind of negated when later, it turns out that communication can ALSO be facilitated by a quick 'sting' that's actually some kind of DNA/blood transfusion... I think that having either the 'sting' or the 'edan' as a plot device, but not both, would've made the story stronger. 5. As one last minor point, I would've liked more on what 'harmonizing' is and how a math/engineering-related skill translates into negotiation skills. But that's mostly just because Binti's professional thought processes are interesting. I wanted to find out more about the 'astrolabes' she makes, too! (hide spoiler)] **** “The Citadel of Weeping Pearls” by Aliette de Bodard (Asimov’s, Oct/Nov 2015) My favorite piece by de Bodard that I've encountered so far. Court intrigue meets space opera meets family drama. The setting reminded me of Vernor Vinge's 'Fire Upon the Deep,' with it's sentient ships and bizarre zones of space where physics works differently. It also reminded me of Somtow Sucharitkul's Inquestor series, with a glittering panoply of an Asian-inspired society with aristocrats, soldiers and scientists. Thirty years ago, threatened by her mother the Empress, the Bright Princess disappeared along with her space Citadel. Now, upon the brink of war, the Empress seeks her missing daughter - and the cutting-edge weaponry secrets she undoubtedly had, in order to achieve her feat. Her head research scientist is working on the mystery. But when the scientist disappears without a trace, the situation become even more critical. Her top general (and former lover), and her remaining daughter are ordered to investigate. But some situations have no easy solution. **** “Gypsy,” Carter Scholz (F&SF, Nov/Dec 2015) Earth has passed the tipping point. The environment is in ruins, states are collapsing, greedy oligarchs and businessmen are grabbing what resources they can for themselves and letting the planet's billions go to hell. One brilliant scientist forms a desperate, long-shot plan - to secretly divert resources into sending a ship to Alpha Centauri, in the hopes that there will be a planet there where humanity can start again. That ship is the 'Gypsy' and this is its story. The opening of the piece is too "tell-y not show-y" as the author bluntly lays out this near-future scenario, but as it went on, it wholly won me over. It intercuts between letting the reader know how this plan slowly came to fruition, and 'current events' aboard the ship. The story includes a plethora of scientific details and problem-solving which I believe would appeal to fans of Andy Weir's 'The Martian' - but this story is ever so much better, on so many different levels. It has real dramatic tension (and excellent writing.) The 'Gypsy' was designed for a crew of twenty, who are all in drug-induced hibernation. Only in emergency situations is an expert specializing in the system that the emergency is in, awakened. So the story features a string of emergencies, each dealt with by a different character, whose personality and motivations we learn in their section. As readers, even as we see the remarkable extremes of human ingenuity and hope, from the beginning, we have to say, "This is more than just a long shot. This might be truly impossible." I wondered how the author was going to deal with that. And at the end, I thought he pulled it off wonderfully. *****“The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn,” Usman Malik (The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn, Tor.com) Previously read. "I'd heard good things about this story before reading it, and it lived up to all of them. Our narrator grew up hearing stories from his grandfather about the dethroned Mughal princess he knew, living in poverty, running a tea shop in Pakistan which has protected by a jinn. Those tales didn't seem significant to him until his grandfather dies, and he goes back to Florida for the funeral, from his job as a professor in the Northeast. Among his grandfather's effects he finds a journal which will lead him to Lahore, in search of a mysterious and secret treasure. The story seamlessly melds Indiana Jones-style adventure with philosophical speculation on the nature of the universe, and with a sharply-drawn, contemporary depiction of the relationships between lovers, communication between generations, and the difficulties of the immigrant experience. Yes, it's a lot to take on in one short story, but it all works perfectly. My one quibble? I've always had a fundamental objection to stories where (view spoiler)[the magical quest object or secret knowledge must be destroyed because it's just too much for humanity to take, too dangerous for the world. I prefer the burden of curatorship or guardianship to the finality of destruction. (hide spoiler)] This story does that with acknowledgement of this problem - but it does it anyway. And I still didn't love that aspect. But I still loved the story. It's amazing. Read it!" *** “What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear” by Bao Shu, translated by Ken Liu (F&SF, Mar/Apr 2015) An alternate history - with a twist. Rather than simply introducing a different possible incident in our history which could lead to variant outcomes, the reader gradually realizes that time here is running backwards. It's well-done - the idea is introduced smoothly, and the flow of events, one to the other, actually seems to make almost as much sense as the way things really happened. Of course that sense - or rather, the lack thereof, is a main theme of the piece, as Bao Shu brings in Sartre's existentialism into the narrative. The ideas are interesting, but the story structure itself feels a bit bare-bones, as the narrator tells the story of his life, starting with his earliest memories at four years old, through student years and being a rebellious youth at Tiananmen Square, up into a distinguished career... Through it all, the one constant is his love for his childhood friend, QiQi, even when she is separated from him - or lost to him. I suspected that the narrative might turn out to be some kind of 'confession,' due to its unembellished, matter-of-fact tone. But no, it's just the style. The conclusion was a bit sappy in an annoying way, too. (view spoiler)[You know a female character is just there for the main character to have feelings about when she turns up dead and it literally doesn't make a difference. (hide spoiler)] I still found the story overall to be original and thought-provoking. **** “The Last Witness” by K. J. Parker (The Last Witness, Tor.com) (Previously read) What if someone had the ability to erase your unwanted memories? The collateral would be that that person would take on your memories as his own, absorbing them in such a way as to make them indistinguishable from his own past. What kind of person would you have to be in order to agree to do such a thing? What kind of person would the agglomeration of these memories make you? If you answered, "not a very nice person," you would most likely be correct, says K.J. Parker. The marketing of this novella makes it look like a traditional fantasy story, but it's actually a much more ambitious, philosophical work - part thought experiment, part character study. I thought it was quite successful - if not necessarily very pleasant. I think it would be enjoyed by people who liked Patrick Rothfuss' 'The Slow Regard of Silent Things,' but I thought that this novella was actually more interesting. *** “Inhuman Garbage,” Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Asimov’s March 2015) Murder mystery aboard a space station! A dead body has been discovered, secreted in a recycling bin. Upstanding detective Noelle DeRicci is motivated and determined to solve the case. Unfortunately, from her perspective, no one else seems to be. Her partner is fine with slip-shod work. She certainly doesn't trust the coroner who's assigned to the case. The deceased woman's employer is a suspect - after all, he's reputed to be involved in organized crime, and he had just fired her, non-amicably. The recycling magnate who reported the body may be hiding something. And her boss seems to want to just drop the case. Detectives struggling against obstacles and opposition is nothing new in crime fiction - but what makes this story really fun is that we get to see each of these characters' individual perspectives on the situation. As it turns out, there are more facets to this crime than DeRicci guesses. This is apparently part of the 'Retrieval Artist' series; after reading this I'm definitely interested in exploring more in this universe. eBook PDF available for free, here: http://www.asimovs.com/assets/1/6/Inh... *** “The Bone Swans of Amandale” by C.S.E. Cooney (Bone Swans, Mythic Delirium Books) A fractured fairy tale - a sequel to the Pied Piper of Hamelin, mixed with elements of Hans Christian Andersen's 'The Wild Swans.' Our narrator is a shape-shifting rat-man, a earthy, garbage-loving member of the 'Fair Folk.' He treasures his hopeless obsession with Dora Rose, a swan maiden whose lofty beauty puts her far above his league. But now, a troll-ish/ogre-ish woman masquerading as the human mayor of the town of Amandale is working hard on a grotesque project - she's using children to hunt down swans and warping an ancient magic to turn their bones into musical instruments. Dora Rose's family has all been killed, and she'll be next, unless her hapless suitor can find a way to help her. *** “Johnny Rev” by Rachel Pollack (F&SF, Jul/Aug 2015) I'd previously read a companion piece to this one, "Jack Shade in the Forest of Souls." Then, I'd commented that it was written to feel like a short entry in an ongoing series, although it wasn't. Well, I guess, since then, a couple of more entries have appeared. This one still is chock-full of references to events that seem like they should already be in other books. Our protagonist, Jack Shade, is an occultist who's bound by a geas to assist anyone who shows up asking for his help and bearing his business card. But what's the right thing to do when the holder of the business card is... himself? And the goal of this magically-created duplicate is to defeat none other than - Jack Shade. It's a fun urban fantasy tale, but I didn't really care for the writing style, overall. (I really don't need to know the color and style of every character's outfit...) Many thanks to NetGalley and Prime Books for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinions are solely my own.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Maxine Marsh

    This was a wonderful anthology of novellas. The stand out stories are Binti, The Citadel of Weeping Pearls, Johnny Rev and The Bones Swans of Amandale. -Binti 5*: heartfelt novella about an outsider who can feel the harmony of the universe - The Citadel of Weeping Pearls 5*: An entire world of people disappears of its own will. A story that balances past and future with elegance--imagine digitized ancestors in a galactic empire where teleportation and time travel are possible - Gypsy 4*: while the This was a wonderful anthology of novellas. The stand out stories are Binti, The Citadel of Weeping Pearls, Johnny Rev and The Bones Swans of Amandale. -Binti 5*: heartfelt novella about an outsider who can feel the harmony of the universe - The Citadel of Weeping Pearls 5*: An entire world of people disappears of its own will. A story that balances past and future with elegance--imagine digitized ancestors in a galactic empire where teleportation and time travel are possible - Gypsy 4*: while the world is on the brink of self-destruction, several people set sail for a possible earth-like world in Alpha Centauri, straight forward and sad from multiple povs - The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn 4*: another tale where past and present intersect and come to a head and mythology is interwoven throughout

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bogi Takács

    I won this book on a Goodreads giveaway, and I've struggled with reviewing it because it is just massively thick. So I'll try to post about the novellas individually, and make my way through it that way. I've read quite a bit of it but I still have more to go. Watch this space :) I'll also add proper formatting once I'm done. General remarks: This is a surprisingly diverse collection, year's bests often aren't. It also has some standout novellas that would be hard to obtain otherwise, especially I won this book on a Goodreads giveaway, and I've struggled with reviewing it because it is just massively thick. So I'll try to post about the novellas individually, and make my way through it that way. I've read quite a bit of it but I still have more to go. Watch this space :) I'll also add proper formatting once I'm done. General remarks: This is a surprisingly diverse collection, year's bests often aren't. It also has some standout novellas that would be hard to obtain otherwise, especially the ones originally published in print magazine issues. I previously tried and did not succeed in buying the back issue of Asimov's that had Aliette de Bodard's novella. So I think this is overall a very good buy, even if I end up hating the novellas I still have to read from it. :) (I am concerned about a particular one based on its title, but I'll see when I get there.) What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear by Bao Shu, trans. Ken Liu - This was possibly my underrated favorite novella of 2015. Very few people read it because it appeared in F&SF and I think to this date has no online reprint. I had a twitter thread squeeing about it here: https://twitter.com/bogiperson/status... (I have read more, I just need to write it up - as I've said, watch this space for updates)

  4. 5 out of 5

    Karina

    Excellent collection of novellas - I'd read some of the tor.com published ones previously, was pleasantly surprised to find the rest of the novellas collected here were of similarly high quality. Bao Shu's "What has passed shall in kinder light appear" is going to linger in my head for a while (and, by translator association, keep me very excited for the upcoming Invisible Planets: An Anthology of Contemporary Chinese SF in Translation) Excellent collection of novellas - I'd read some of the tor.com published ones previously, was pleasantly surprised to find the rest of the novellas collected here were of similarly high quality. Bao Shu's "What has passed shall in kinder light appear" is going to linger in my head for a while (and, by translator association, keep me very excited for the upcoming Invisible Planets: An Anthology of Contemporary Chinese SF in Translation)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Armel Dagorn

    After having read a couple of the short story version of this series, I'm glad I had the opportunity to read the novella selection. I found it just as eclectic, with with going from fantasy and folk/myth-inspired tales to quite hard SF. I didn't liked all of the novellas equally, and a couple of them I found dragged on a bit, but it was overall a very good collection. It gives one a good idea, or reminder, of where to find good longer fiction: 3 stories were originally published in Tor.com, 3 in After having read a couple of the short story version of this series, I'm glad I had the opportunity to read the novella selection. I found it just as eclectic, with with going from fantasy and folk/myth-inspired tales to quite hard SF. I didn't liked all of the novellas equally, and a couple of them I found dragged on a bit, but it was overall a very good collection. It gives one a good idea, or reminder, of where to find good longer fiction: 3 stories were originally published in Tor.com, 3 in F&SF, and 2 in Asimov's. My favourites were probably Usman Malik's “The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn”, a beautiful, fairy tale-like that manages to get the right balance in the mixing of modern and mythical elements, and “Gypsy,” by Carter Scholz, a great tale of interstellar exploration told through different passengers of the ship as they are woken individually, to fix the problems that keep popping up with the ship. It managed to get maintain my interest even through passages on the physics and mechanics of space travel (I'm not mad about hard SF), and best of all, contained some awesome descriptions of the ship cruising space.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Antonio Diaz

    Compilación de novellas realizada por Paula Guran. Incluye alguna joya pero la calidad media es discutible. Más aún, se ha dejado fuera algunas de las grandes novellas del año. Reseña próximamente en Sense of Wonder

  7. 4 out of 5

    Katharine (Ventureadlaxre)

    Novellas are currently my favourite thing. Longer than a short story so you get some meaty character development and/or world building, but only need half an hour to a few hours to lose yourself in before it sets you free to go flail about it to a friend. This is a collection of the best of the best, and it shows. Highly recommended. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor This piece I'd already read previously, when reading for voting for the Hugo Awards. This novella packs such a powerful punch in around 100 pag Novellas are currently my favourite thing. Longer than a short story so you get some meaty character development and/or world building, but only need half an hour to a few hours to lose yourself in before it sets you free to go flail about it to a friend. This is a collection of the best of the best, and it shows. Highly recommended. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor This piece I'd already read previously, when reading for voting for the Hugo Awards. This novella packs such a powerful punch in around 100 pages. Binti is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University – an amazing place of study that has a human population of 5%. To say that leaving her family and her people behind is hard is an understatement, it simply isn’t done and there’s little chance of going back thanks to the shame she’s now brought her family for leaving, and utterly ruining her marriage prospects. This is soon the least of her worries though, as the journey to the uni takes a turn for the worst no one could have expected… This is a powerful piece of work as one can expect from the author. Binti is such a strong and amazing character, who somehow manages to defy everything yet remain humble and as though it is possible to do something for yourself without being an awful person, despite what her people may think. The Citadel of Weeping Pearls by Aliette de Bodard Suu Nuoc travels on a ship called The Turtle's Golden Claw, which has an artificial intelligence on it who was once the empress' youngest daughter. She wakes him in a panic in the middle of the night, worried that she can't contact grandmother who disappeared in the middle of a call, a fact so worrying Suu Nuoc dresses and leaves immediately. As a military man, he has a mind for strategy whilst being utterly careful; experience that seems like it will serve him well in this case. Upon a quick check of the last whereabouts of Grant Master Back Cuc (grandmother), who should be in the laboratories, Suu Nuoc is forced to use his privileges earned through spectacular battles to dismiss the protective seals that have been left, to see if there's any trace or clue as to what happened, even if it means looking into her private notes... I’m not sure of how much of De Bodard’s work I’ve read up until now – though I’ve certainly meant to. This is nothing but encouragement, the novella being both engaging and intriguing to read. Both the relationships between the characters is simply explained and easy to follow, and the history flows effortlessly from the little titbits we’re given or casual references made by the characters. When this one was over I was suddenly reminded I was reading a novella rather than a novel - I felt so immersed that I'll probably keep remembering to reach for that novel I was enjoying. Gypsy by Carter Scholz What an epic opening. 'The launch of Earth’s first starship went unremarked. The crew gave no interviews. No camera broadcast the hard light pulsing from its tail. To the plain eye, it might have been a common airplane.' And then this line is able to perfectly sum up the current status of the world: 'The U.S. was no longer the global hyperpower, but it went on behaving as if.' We meet Sophie of the year 2043 who has seen the best of life as one of the privileged before the world fell down around her, so she knows how far she's fallen, and how lucky that these few slivers of remaining privilege mean the separation that saves her from having to fight a war in some country far from home. Instead, she works for a defence system in IT and it's here that she receives a special invitation... This piece has some very creepy parts 'say it's not, Roger' and some very beautiful, and it's incredibly interesting to see Scholz' take on what happens physically after a long journey of a certain nature. These people are brave and it's a scary and hyper-realistic option of what could happen in the very, very near future. I'd love a novel of this, really. The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn by Usman T. Malik A boy is told stories of a pauper princess by his Gramps. The Mughal princess Zeenat Begum, lost her kingdom to British rule and her great-great-great Grandfather King Bahadur Shah Zafar exiled. This all seems a world away to the boy in humid Florida, but they move him to tears and he takes it all in regardless and begs for more even when others laugh at the stories and call them only that - stories. Gramps demands that they are true, and that he bought tea from the princess herself. Drank it under the Eucalyptus tree and knew of the jinn that protected the princess and her sisters, and didn't always react too well if other children nearby didn't respect him enough. I've read and enjoyed Malik's work before, so I went into this piece with high expectations and they were met with flying colours. Especially with the idea of the eucalyptus, which I'm very familiar with being from Australia. The characters felt utterly their own and lifted off the page in a way where I don't want to leave them. I'm really loving what Malik does! What Has Passes Shall in Kinder Light Appear by Bao Shu (translated by Ken Liu) Xie Baosheng was born on the day the world was supposed to end. He's four when the Olympics come to China, a story he one day tells his son, who finds it almost impossible to believe China could have been so prosperous. The story follows Baosheng through his childhood with a close friend, Qiqi, until she moves away, and then the other friends and classmates he meets throughout his school life. We get comments about what he notices about the world as things deteriorate around him, the wars, the loss of technology, the adults around him becoming poor or divorced and angry and frightened. It’s an interesting and captivating view of culture and boundaries as we see the terrible things that happen to characters we really grow quite fond of, despite some of the decisions that are made. We hear about the awful things that happened at Tiananmen Square and how the world inflicts certain results within China, and it all over shows how rough life is, and how little we’re taught in school sometimes… A huge eye-opener, and very, very well translated. The Last Witness by K. J. Parker This novella is about a particular man blessed and/or cursed with both a photographic memory and the ability to take thoughts out of the minds of others. He can’t read your mind – that’s not possible, he says. He takes the memory, as in, the original owner loses all trace of it. This means the man has seen literally everything – the darkest and cruellest thing man has ever thought of or committed. It also means he’s quite handy in eliminating someone, as then all traces of the crime can be wiped out. Other than himself, of course, but he assures his clients that it’s not a problem. He’s an engaging main character to follow. He has power and he knows it, unflinchingly happy to haggle hard without remorse. After all, they’re pretty nasty people he’s dealing with half the time. He also has a good voice that's wry and both road-weary but still amused at the hell of life. I've been meaning to read Parker's work before, and I really need to follow up on that now! Inhuman Garbage by Kristine Kathryn Rusch This one certainly had the title that made me the most intrigued, and it certainly delivered. We have a detective and a mention of Armstrong, the largest city on Earth's moon. Awesome. Detective DeRicci is investigating a body that's turned up in some waste disposal, and interviews the owner himself who's strangely compliant and helpful. It turns out its not the first body to appear in the disposal, though they haven't had one for more than a year... both human and alien, he says. The company has been in his family for a while, and bodies appeared when his grandmother was in charge - that's why they brought in certain technology to scan for such irregularities. This was an engaging piece, because both DeRicci and Ansel (the boss) are highly capable and interesting characters, and I especially liked how DeRicci was quick to admit certain things - like how squeamish she is with organic stuff. I haven't heard of the author before, I have to admit, but I've put The Disappeared (Retrieval Artist #1) onto my to read list now! (Miles Flint has been called one of “the top ten greatest science fiction detectives of all time” by io9 and one of “14 great sci-fi and fantasy detectives who out-Sherlock’d Holmes!) The Bone Swans of Amandale by C. S. E. Cooney Dora Rose, Elinore and Maurice are shape shifters that go through 'fleshing' and 'downing', where it's possible to catch them in between and kill them with an arrow. Dora and Elinore are swans, and Maurice, our narrator, is a rat. They have a history among them, and no love lost there, though they still come together in part when the hunters arrive. We have a mayor full of trickery, who won the position through deceitful ways, and a world where animals have one last song before they die. Overall this felt like the most magical piece, as it certainly takes you somewhere else entirely. Johnny Rev by Rachel Pollack Jack goes by many names. Jack Shade, Rebel Jack, Jack Crazy... and he's a Traveler. He studied with Anatolie, who once scared him so badly that it set him straight and he learned a valuable lesson of knowing who to be reckless with, and who to respect. In the 'now', he's now called Jack Shade and we're dropped into an adventure almost immediately, complete with the always epic line, 'Oh fuck,' 'You're dead! I killed you, goddamnit. I killed you!' Now, who can resist a line like this? This is another epic and excellent novella, with a sparkling lead and subtle little hints of the magic and power of their world and the abilities they have. I would certainly love to read a novel set in this world also.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lanko

    Great anthology of novellas. I've always thought as people multitask and have shorter spans of attention that shorter works of Fantasy (known for its many doorsteppers) like novelletes and novellas would be the next thing, at least for the more casual/mainstream readers. There are 9 novellas here (I think half is Sci-Fi) with very different stories. As always, preferences will vary, but I was pretty happy with what I read. Also, if you have it on paper, it only occupies the space of one book inst Great anthology of novellas. I've always thought as people multitask and have shorter spans of attention that shorter works of Fantasy (known for its many doorsteppers) like novelletes and novellas would be the next thing, at least for the more casual/mainstream readers. There are 9 novellas here (I think half is Sci-Fi) with very different stories. As always, preferences will vary, but I was pretty happy with what I read. Also, if you have it on paper, it only occupies the space of one book instead of 10 or one e-reader file as well, which is pretty nice. My favorite from Fantasy was The Last Witness, from K.J. Parker and from Sci-Fi Gypsy from Carter Scholz. Johnny Rev, by Rachael Pollack was also pretty good as a mix of Gaiman's American Gods with China Miélville in New York. I wrote my thoughts on each novella: Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor The Citadel of Weeping Pearls, by Aliette de Bodard Gypsy, by Carter Scholz The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn, by Usman T. Malik The Last Witness, by K.J. Parker What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear, by Bao Shu Inhuman Garbage, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch The Bone Swans of Amandale, by C.S.E. Cooney Johnny Rev, by Rachel Pollack I got this anthology from Netgalley, so thanks to them too.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jaffa Kintigh

    This is a high caliber annual anthology without a weak story in the bunch. The diversity of the stories ranging from sci-fi to urban fantasy to fantasy is matched by the narrative depth achieved within the novella form. As promised, these are the best of the best. My favorite, meriting 5 stars, was Usman T. Malik's novella, The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn , which blends urban fantasy with a supernatural folktale to explore the generational effects of immigration as a Pakistani-Americ This is a high caliber annual anthology without a weak story in the bunch. The diversity of the stories ranging from sci-fi to urban fantasy to fantasy is matched by the narrative depth achieved within the novella form. As promised, these are the best of the best. My favorite, meriting 5 stars, was Usman T. Malik's novella, The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn , which blends urban fantasy with a supernatural folktale to explore the generational effects of immigration as a Pakistani-American goes in search of the Old World family history that's eluded him. I've reviewed and rated all of the included stories: Cooney, C. S. E.-- The Bone Swans of Amandale --3 stars de Bodard, Aliette-- The Citadel of Weeping Pearls --4 stars Okorafor, Nnedi-- Binti [Binti, #1]--4 stars Parker, K. J.-- The Last Witness --4 stars Pollack, Rachel-- Johnny Rev --4 stars Rusch, Kristine Kathryn-- Inhuman Garbage [Retrieval Artist universe]--3 stars Scholz, Carter-- Gypsy --4 stars Shu, Bao [w/ Ken Liu, trans.]-- What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear --3 stars This anthology is highly recommended.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Brett

    An enjoyable, fairly diverse collection of novellas. I especially liked Binti, about an African going off to study on another plant, Gypsy, about human's last chance at redemption, The Pauper Prince about magic carpet with a twist, What has Passed Shall Appear in a Kinder Light, about a China (and a world) regressing in time, The last witness, about a guy who can make memories disappear and a futuristic detective story called, Inhuman Garbage. I skipped several stories that I just couldn't get i An enjoyable, fairly diverse collection of novellas. I especially liked Binti, about an African going off to study on another plant, Gypsy, about human's last chance at redemption, The Pauper Prince about magic carpet with a twist, What has Passed Shall Appear in a Kinder Light, about a China (and a world) regressing in time, The last witness, about a guy who can make memories disappear and a futuristic detective story called, Inhuman Garbage. I skipped several stories that I just couldn't get into, mostly because they were just too far from SF into Fantasy. Recommended for the picky reader.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lucy Honan

    A couple of the novellas were fantastic, some of them a bit ordinary

  12. 5 out of 5

    Anthony Buck

    Inevitably a mixed bag, but more good than bad and there are two exceptional stories in the collection - 'what has passed in kinder light sppear' and 'last witness' Inevitably a mixed bag, but more good than bad and there are two exceptional stories in the collection - 'what has passed in kinder light sppear' and 'last witness'

  13. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Originally reviewed at West Coast Book Reviews. If you think novellas are snack sized pieces of full-meal novels, be prepared with an empty stomach for this awesome collection. The 2016 volume of Year's Best Science Fiction and Novellas will leave you unhitching your belt a notch (or three) and you might want to pace yourself for this assortment of dark themes and tight and thorough world building. Each novella is so well done and dense with well formed plots they have as much action and personalit Originally reviewed at West Coast Book Reviews. If you think novellas are snack sized pieces of full-meal novels, be prepared with an empty stomach for this awesome collection. The 2016 volume of Year's Best Science Fiction and Novellas will leave you unhitching your belt a notch (or three) and you might want to pace yourself for this assortment of dark themes and tight and thorough world building. Each novella is so well done and dense with well formed plots they have as much action and personality as I'd expect to find in a novel. This gives each of these stories a sense of urgency and completeness we don't always see in this size of works. My absolute favourite character is Maurice in The Bone Swans of Amandale. He's a loyal and sarcastic rat-shifter and in his own way, an adorable and (as you'd expect from a rat) kinda gross anti-hero. This wide selection of dark novellas is well worth exploring and feels more like a bundle of complete novels than shorter works. I'll be diving in to the 2015 edition and keeping my eye out for the next one. Highly recommended. I received my copy from Netgalley.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Eli

    In keeping with the convention here... "Binti" - 3/10 This is lazy science-fantasy. Moreover, it's full of plot holes and shoddy writing. Other reviewers have said that it's a YA story, which would explain some of the problems, but why would a YA story be in a collection for adults? At any rate, this one isn't particularly good. "Citadel..." - 6/10 More science-fantasy, only this time with somewhat clearer themes and better-developed characters. There's still too much needless verbosity and opaque, In keeping with the convention here... "Binti" - 3/10 This is lazy science-fantasy. Moreover, it's full of plot holes and shoddy writing. Other reviewers have said that it's a YA story, which would explain some of the problems, but why would a YA story be in a collection for adults? At any rate, this one isn't particularly good. "Citadel..." - 6/10 More science-fantasy, only this time with somewhat clearer themes and better-developed characters. There's still too much needless verbosity and opaque, look-at-me-I'm-writing-an-alternate-world jargon, but at least it's somewhat interesting and readable. "Gypsy" - 8/10 As sort of a more concise version of Kim Stanley Robinson's "Aurora," this story is quite good. The writing is solid for the most part, even if some of the passages are superfluous. The plot makes sense and its themes are relevant and interesting. Overall it's a very solid story. "Pauper Prince..." - 6/10 This is a fairly normal modern fairy tale, albeit with a tiresome attempt at the end to reconcile theology with science. (If you're gonna write a fairy tale, just write a fairy tale and leave science out of it, please.) Unfortunately, the characters are clearly beholden to the plot, which makes the whole thing feel somewhat artificial. It would've been better, in my opinion, as a straightforward human drama. "What Has Passed..." - 8/10 Neither fantasy nor science fiction, this is an alternate history. It takes a while for the story to get to its point (and, oddly, the story sorta meanders around for a while even after the point is made), but it's a good point to make. Here again there's a tiny bit of subordination to the plot, but it's not as egregious as in "Prince." "Last Witness" - 7/10 The premise in this fantasy story is excellent, but it's handled sorta randomly. At times this seems to be a puzzle story, but it isn't really that; at times it seems to be a horror story, but it isn't that either; and so on. Basically, the author had a really good idea, but that seems to be it. "Inhuman Garbage" - 6/10 This one is utterly standard cops-and-robbers sci-fi. I really can't think of much more to say about it, in all honesty - if you've ever read a sci-fi detective story, you can pretty much guess what it's like to read this one. "Bone Swans..." - 7/10 This is a fun and entertaining take on some classic fairy tales. Most of the entertainment comes from the narrator, whose voice is clear and engaging. In terms of plot and theme and even character development, there's nothing extraordinary, although it's competent throughout. "Johnny Rev" - 4/10 This is, in essence, fanfiction - that is, something whose primary audience is the author. It's an urban fantasy with rather overt Celtic influences, but it's missing all of the humor and self-deprecating self-awareness of, say, the Harry Dresden series. As a result, the whole thing comes off as painfully awkward, as there are far too many times when something silly or hokey is played off as being extremely cool or exciting. Average: ~6/10, hence the 3/5 score. I doubt that I'd recommend purchasing this book, although I would look out for some of the authors in the future. (I received this book through this site's giveaway program.)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Novellas are a great way to read a story longer than a short story but shorter than a novel. In this book, I found new authors that I look forward to reading and enjoyed reading some of my favorite authors. This is a wonderful way to see what is being written by authors you know and ones that you haven't before. I found myself wondering why I had not read some of these authors before but I plan to now! Disclaimer: I received an arc of this book free from the author/publisher from Netgalley. I was Novellas are a great way to read a story longer than a short story but shorter than a novel. In this book, I found new authors that I look forward to reading and enjoyed reading some of my favorite authors. This is a wonderful way to see what is being written by authors you know and ones that you haven't before. I found myself wondering why I had not read some of these authors before but I plan to now! Disclaimer: I received an arc of this book free from the author/publisher from Netgalley. I was not obliged to write a favorable review, or even any review at all. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.

  16. 4 out of 5

    VeronicaMarie1986

    I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This is an excellent collection of fantastic science fiction and fantasy novellas. Fantasy fans and fans of science fiction, this is one collection you do not want to miss! I am a fan of both genres and this did not disappoint at all. This book has it all, from excellent adventure to a wonderful creepy factor! The stories in this collection were very well written and did a wonderful job of drawing the reader in. I did not I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This is an excellent collection of fantastic science fiction and fantasy novellas. Fantasy fans and fans of science fiction, this is one collection you do not want to miss! I am a fan of both genres and this did not disappoint at all. This book has it all, from excellent adventure to a wonderful creepy factor! The stories in this collection were very well written and did a wonderful job of drawing the reader in. I did not want to put this book down! After each story, I was super excited for the next, and I will definitely be checking out more of Paula Guran's collections!!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Cooper

    Not a one sitting read. A heavy slog. That no means detract s from the quality of the stories. They were good and a couple were excellent. No I just suggest that the reader leaves a little after each story before starting the next. Overall a good read just not one to read quickly as the reader needs to become comfortable with of the writers' voices. Not a one sitting read. A heavy slog. That no means detract s from the quality of the stories. They were good and a couple were excellent. No I just suggest that the reader leaves a little after each story before starting the next. Overall a good read just not one to read quickly as the reader needs to become comfortable with of the writers' voices.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ken

    Read two of this collection: - gypsy - the pauper prince Both are 5*. Highly recommended. Big thanks to previous reviewers for the synopsis.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Marcia

    This is an exceptional collection. Every story was thoughtful and well-written. Loved it!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Darren Vass

  22. 5 out of 5

    Samfish9999

  23. 4 out of 5

    Oliver

  24. 4 out of 5

    Olaf Funke

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kari Kilgore

  26. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin

  27. 4 out of 5

    Galen

  28. 5 out of 5

    David Danko

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  30. 4 out of 5

    Perry Middlemiss

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