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A must-have collection of the best short science fiction and speculative fiction of 2019, showcasing brilliant talent and examining the cultural moment we live in, compiled by award-winning editor Jonathan Strahan. With short works from some of the most lauded science fiction authors, as well as rising stars, this collection displays the top talent and the cutting-edge cul A must-have collection of the best short science fiction and speculative fiction of 2019, showcasing brilliant talent and examining the cultural moment we live in, compiled by award-winning editor Jonathan Strahan. With short works from some of the most lauded science fiction authors, as well as rising stars, this collection displays the top talent and the cutting-edge cultural moments that affect our lives, dreams, and stories. An assemblage of future classics, this anthology is a must-read for anyone who enjoys the vast and exciting world of science fiction. Contents: * Introduction (The Year's Best Science Fiction Vol. 1) • essay by Jonathan Strahan 8 The Bookstore at the End of America (2019) / short story by Charlie Jane Anders * The Galactic Tourist Industrial Complex (2019) / short story by Tobias S. Buckell * Kali_Na (2019) / short fiction by Indrapramit Das * Song of the Birds (2019) / short fiction by Saleem Haddad * The Painter of Trees (2019) / short story by Suzanne Palmer * The Last Voyage of Skidbladnir (2019) / short story by Karin Tidbeck * Sturdy Lanterns and Ladders (2019) / short story by Malka Older * It's 2059, and the Rich Kids Are Still Winning (2019) / short story by Ted Chiang * Contagion's Eve at the House Noctambulous (2019) / novelette by Rich Larson * Submarines (2019) / short story by Han Song (trans. of 潜艇 2014) * As the Last I May Know (2019) / short story by S. L. Huang * A Catalog of Storms (2019) / short story by Fran Wilde * The Robots of Eden (2019) / short story by Anil Menon * Now Wait for This Week (2019) / novelette by Alice Sola Kim * Cyclopterus (2019) / short story by Peter Watts * Dune Song (2019) / short story by Suyi Davies Okungbowa * The Work of Wolves (2019) / novella by Tegan Moore * Soft Edges (2019) / short story by Elizabeth Bear * Emergency Skin (2019) / novelette by N. K. Jemisin * Thoughts and Prayers (2019) / short story by Ken Liu * At the Fall (2019) / novelette by Alec Nevala-Lee * Reunion (2019) / short fiction by Vandana Singh * Green Glass: A Love Story (2019) / short story by E. Lily Yu * Secret Stories of Doors (2016) / short story by Sofía Rhei * This is Not the Way Home (2019) / novelette by Greg Egan * What the Dead Man Said (2019) / short story by Chinelo Onwualu * I (28M) Created a Deepfake Girlfriend and Now My Parents Think We're Getting Married (2019) / short story by Fonda Lee * The Archronology of Love (2019) / short story by Caroline M. Yoachim * Recommended Reading: 2019 • essay by Jonathan Strahan .


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A must-have collection of the best short science fiction and speculative fiction of 2019, showcasing brilliant talent and examining the cultural moment we live in, compiled by award-winning editor Jonathan Strahan. With short works from some of the most lauded science fiction authors, as well as rising stars, this collection displays the top talent and the cutting-edge cul A must-have collection of the best short science fiction and speculative fiction of 2019, showcasing brilliant talent and examining the cultural moment we live in, compiled by award-winning editor Jonathan Strahan. With short works from some of the most lauded science fiction authors, as well as rising stars, this collection displays the top talent and the cutting-edge cultural moments that affect our lives, dreams, and stories. An assemblage of future classics, this anthology is a must-read for anyone who enjoys the vast and exciting world of science fiction. Contents: * Introduction (The Year's Best Science Fiction Vol. 1) • essay by Jonathan Strahan 8 The Bookstore at the End of America (2019) / short story by Charlie Jane Anders * The Galactic Tourist Industrial Complex (2019) / short story by Tobias S. Buckell * Kali_Na (2019) / short fiction by Indrapramit Das * Song of the Birds (2019) / short fiction by Saleem Haddad * The Painter of Trees (2019) / short story by Suzanne Palmer * The Last Voyage of Skidbladnir (2019) / short story by Karin Tidbeck * Sturdy Lanterns and Ladders (2019) / short story by Malka Older * It's 2059, and the Rich Kids Are Still Winning (2019) / short story by Ted Chiang * Contagion's Eve at the House Noctambulous (2019) / novelette by Rich Larson * Submarines (2019) / short story by Han Song (trans. of 潜艇 2014) * As the Last I May Know (2019) / short story by S. L. Huang * A Catalog of Storms (2019) / short story by Fran Wilde * The Robots of Eden (2019) / short story by Anil Menon * Now Wait for This Week (2019) / novelette by Alice Sola Kim * Cyclopterus (2019) / short story by Peter Watts * Dune Song (2019) / short story by Suyi Davies Okungbowa * The Work of Wolves (2019) / novella by Tegan Moore * Soft Edges (2019) / short story by Elizabeth Bear * Emergency Skin (2019) / novelette by N. K. Jemisin * Thoughts and Prayers (2019) / short story by Ken Liu * At the Fall (2019) / novelette by Alec Nevala-Lee * Reunion (2019) / short fiction by Vandana Singh * Green Glass: A Love Story (2019) / short story by E. Lily Yu * Secret Stories of Doors (2016) / short story by Sofía Rhei * This is Not the Way Home (2019) / novelette by Greg Egan * What the Dead Man Said (2019) / short story by Chinelo Onwualu * I (28M) Created a Deepfake Girlfriend and Now My Parents Think We're Getting Married (2019) / short story by Fonda Lee * The Archronology of Love (2019) / short story by Caroline M. Yoachim * Recommended Reading: 2019 • essay by Jonathan Strahan .

30 review for The Year's Best Science Fiction Vol. 1: The Saga Anthology of Science Fiction 2020

  1. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Quann

    Thanks for popping by this review! I’ve got a brief review of each story in this collection—written as I went along—and a bit at the top about my overall impression (SPOILER: it’s a great anthology). Feel free to compare and contrast if you pick this one up. Happy reading! Overall A terrific anthology of diverse stories that span the entire spectrum of science fiction. There’s incredible writing, mind-bending concepts, absurd humour, and real heart in these stories. It’s also palpably cool: this f Thanks for popping by this review! I’ve got a brief review of each story in this collection—written as I went along—and a bit at the top about my overall impression (SPOILER: it’s a great anthology). Feel free to compare and contrast if you pick this one up. Happy reading! Overall A terrific anthology of diverse stories that span the entire spectrum of science fiction. There’s incredible writing, mind-bending concepts, absurd humour, and real heart in these stories. It’s also palpably cool: this feels like the most complete survey of the state of modern SF. Do read! Individual Story Reviews 1. The Bookstore at the End of America by Charlie Jane Anders Rating: ***** I read this one a week out from the 2020 US presidential election where, from a comfortable Canadian distance, the split country doesn’t seem as science fictional as you might expect. I loved Anders’ extrapolation of current societal trends to the near future and the surprisingly optimistic and bookish ending. 2. The Galactic Tourist Industrial Complex by Tobias S. Buckell Rating: **** A story that seems like a cute one-and-done but packs in a spicy commentary about exploitation of indigenous populations by tourism. In a few short pages, some great world-building. 3. Kali_Na by Indrapramit Das Rating: ***** Neuromancer or Snow Crash mixed with Indian mythology and the modern internet age. I thought this one was especially well written. 4. Song of the Birds by Saleem Haddad Rating: **** Again, another winner with a much, much darker tone that the rest of the stories so far. It makes for an uncomfortable and compelling look at sci-fi colonialism in Palestine. 5. The Painter of Trees by Suzanne Palmer Rating: ***** This one knocks it out of the park. We’ve got a cool alien civilization, an analysis of colonialism, and futuristic board meetings. The fact that I wanted to spend more time in this universe speaks to how bang-on it was. 6. The Last Voyage of Skidbladnir by Karin Tidbeck Rating: **** So far, probably the weakest story of the bunch and it’s still a goodie. I like a good sentient spaceship story and Tidbeck did a fine job of putting her own spin on it. 7. Sturdy Lanterns and Ladders by Malka Older Rating: ***** Wow! I didn’t love Infomocracy, but this is a sure a sign as any that Malka Older is an insanely gifted writer. The emotional range on this story about octopi and coral reef is some cool hopepunk. 8. It’s 2059, and the Rich Kids are Still Winning by Ted Chiang Rating: **** I read this one out loud to my wife since it’s so short and styled liked a piece of journalism. We both thought it was neat. This is my second go-around with this story. Check out my 2019 review of Ted Chiang’s Exhalation for what I thought of Chiang’s most recent story collection. 9. Contagion’s Eve at the House Noctambulous by Rich Larson Rating: **** I liked some of the world-building here and the way in which Larson peels back the skin of this futuristic society to show off it’s twisted underbelly. 10. Submarines by Han Song Rating: *** As it turns out, I read this earlier this year in Broken Stars: Contemporary Sci-Fi in Translation . I gave it more of a skim this time through, but it stands out a bit more in this collection for being stylistically different than all that’s come before. 11. As the Last I May Know by S. L. Huang Rating: ***** A really strong concept with high-stakes emotional writing. Huang does a great job of building up the tension in this story and the way in which she resolves it was pitch perfect. 12. A Catalog of Storms by Fran Wilde Rating: *** A return to this collection after the holidays! A coastal town beset by terrible sentient storms is defended by children who become “weathermen” and literary combat the storm. This one seems more like fantasy than strict SF and wasn’t really my cup of tea. 13. The Robots of Eden by Anil Menon Rating: ***** Man, what a story this was. The interpersonal dynamics were super interesting, the sci-fi hook of implanted emotion regulators executed perfectly, and the philosophical aspects were immensely compelling. Very meta, one of my favourites so far. 14. Now Wait for This Week by Alice Sola Kim Rating: ***** A spin on Groundhog Day, but never-ending, and focused on the #MeToo movement. Some really sharp writing and a strong voice made this a real treat to read. I could see this slotting itself in a literary fiction collection too. 15. Cyclopterus by Peter Watts Rating: *** A submarine carries a strange passenger to the ocean’s bottom in a world ravaged by climate change. I enjoyed this story for the reminder that there’s more to SF than space opera and strange slice of life. Very cool! 16. Dune Song by Suyi Davies Okungbowa Rating: ** Just an okay story of a city trapped on all sides by a seemingly endless dune in the wake of climate catastrophe. Big ol’ meh. 17. The Work of Wolves by Tegan Moore Rating: ****.5 This is what it’s all about: a really cool concept that broadens your thinking about the future. We follow Sera, an enhanced intelligence dog, who works in tandem with a trainer for search-and-rescue missions. It’s the longest story in the collection so far, but well worth the read. 18. Soft Edges by Elizabeth Bear Rating: **** A short meditation on the inhumanity and inequity of the prison system. I like Bear’s writing quite a bit and her dialogue through this tangly debate works well. 19. Emergency Skin by N. K. Jemisin Rating: ***** I had previously enjoyed this as a brief audiobook , and though I didn’t go for a re-read I put my wife on to it and she thoroughly enjoyed it. Seek out the audio version if possible! 20. Thoughts and Prayers by Ken Liu Rating: **** I’m a big Ken Liu fan and he doesn’t disappoint with this harrowing story about mass shootings and a slightly futuristic world of internet trolls. Not easy to read, but well-articulated and disturbing. 21. At the Fall by Alec Nevala-Lee Rating: *** The non-human stories in this collection have been really neat little adventures. So too, here. We follow hexapods, AI ocean scavengers, as they troll the ocean floor for the fertile corpses of whales. Very cool! 22. Reunion by Vandana Singh Rating: **** I really dug Singh’s writing in this one: distinctive and evocative. It’s a bit of romantic story by way of intertwined futuristic city builders in India. I thought the ending to this was especially strong. 23. Green Glass: A Love Story by E. Lily Yu Rating: **** A fable about the wealthiest of the wealthy in the end times. One of the cool things about an anthology is the variety of voices that bounce off the page, and this story’s style was a nice change of pace. 24. Secret Stories of Doors by Sofia Rhei Rating: *** This one is a surreal dystopia that focuses on a man who writes information for the world’s encyclopedia. This one was very smart and went over my head. 25. This Is Not the Way Home by Greg Egan Rating: ** Probably my least favourites of the stories in the whole book, but still not entirely bad! It had elements that reminded me of The Martian, but set on the moon. 26. What the Dead Man Said by Chinelo Onwualu Rating: *** I definitely wasn’t expecting a story in this collection to address sexual assault, but the futuristic world in which this story takes place is a vehicle to discuss trauma and grief. It’s also a bit of a ghost story. 27. I (28M) created a deepfake girlfriend and now my parents think we’re getting married by Fonda Lee Rating: **** I was made a Fonda Lee fan with Jade City, but this was a nice demo of her range. The story is framed as a reddit post about a dude whose girlfriend happens to be a corporate fabrication. A little funny, definitely entertaining. 28. The Archronology of Love by Caroline M. Yoachim Rating: **** This was a neat concept: archronologists are archeologists who are able to reproduce a projection of the past. A strong finish to a superb collection. If you got this far, thanks for sticking around! See you with next year’s collection, but expect a much shorter review!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Peter Tillman

    A solid anthology, though not quite as good as I had hoped. Some excellent stories, many good ones, only one or two clunkers. Many stories are on the gloomy side, which I don't find appealing. Another reviewer here describes these as “Social-Realist SF,” an apt coinage. TOC and story details: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?7... Highlight stories for me, in (roughly) descending order: ● Kali_Na by Indrapramit Das. A powerful AI in the form of a Hindu goddess is released by a major corporation. A solid anthology, though not quite as good as I had hoped. Some excellent stories, many good ones, only one or two clunkers. Many stories are on the gloomy side, which I don't find appealing. Another reviewer here describes these as “Social-Realist SF,” an apt coinage. TOC and story details: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?7... Highlight stories for me, in (roughly) descending order: ● Kali_Na by Indrapramit Das. A powerful AI in the form of a Hindu goddess is released by a major corporation. Then the trolls arrive…. Highly recommended, one of the two best stories in the book, I thought. Won the Shirley Jackson award. 4.5 stars. ● The Work of Wolves by Tegan Moore. An enhanced-intelligence rescue dog is pressed into service to thwart a major sabotage attempt at a fusion power plant. Cool story, well thought-out. 4.5 stars. Online: https://www.asimovs.com/assets/1/6/Th... ● At the Fall by Alec Nevala-Lee. Undersea robots! Black smokers! Whale-falls! Good old-fashioned SF, though the ending felt off to me. 4 stars. ● Soft Edges by Elizabeth Bear. A murder-mystery, a stubborn engineer and a stylish detective. One of Bear’s better shorts: 4+ stars. Online at https://go.xprize.org/oceanstories/so... ● The Galactic Tourist Industrial Complex, by Tobias S. Buckell. What if the Galactics come, and really like to be tourists? Amusing story with a serious core. 4 stars. Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast... ● "I (28M) created a deepfake girlfriend and now my parents think we’re getting married," by Fonda Lee. Entertaining series of future Reddit posts about just that. Weak 4 stars. https://www.technologyreview.com/2019... Matthew Quann's detailed review is the one to read first: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... Especially if you happen to like “Social-Realist SF.” Around a third of the stories are available online. Here are the links, courtesy of Andreas: https://reiszwolf.wordpress.com/2020/...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Doreen

    9/8/2020 3.5 stars rounded up. Full review tk at TheFrumiousConsortium.net. 9/9/2020 With Gardner Dozois' passing, science fiction lost not only a brilliant writer but also one of the most prominent editors in the genre. Since 1984, he'd presided over the premiere collection of sci-fi's shorter works via his Year's Best collections, which numbered thirty-five at the time of his demise. Two years on, Jonathan Strahan and Saga Press have stepped into the void to present 2019's best for eager fans w 9/8/2020 3.5 stars rounded up. Full review tk at TheFrumiousConsortium.net. 9/9/2020 With Gardner Dozois' passing, science fiction lost not only a brilliant writer but also one of the most prominent editors in the genre. Since 1984, he'd presided over the premiere collection of sci-fi's shorter works via his Year's Best collections, which numbered thirty-five at the time of his demise. Two years on, Jonathan Strahan and Saga Press have stepped into the void to present 2019's best for eager fans who've missed these definitive anthologies. Mr Strahan's inaugural volume starts off strong, from an introduction that champions diversity to several shorts that absolutely kick ass in delivering on that promise. My belief in Charlie Jane Anders' talent was finally vindicated with her story here, The Bookstore At The End Of America. The volume opener isn't exactly a subtle tale but it is both entertaining and thoughtful, and I felt it much more deeply than I have her other, more celebrated works. The next story, Tobias S Buckell's The Galactic Tourist Industrial Complex is a must for fans of Nnedi Okorafor's Hugo-winning LaGuardia, treading in the same far-future of extraterrestrial immigration. The Hugos are actually quite well represented here, with 4 of the 28 stories being nominees for either Best Short Story or Best Novelette. Tbh, I didn't really care for any of those selected for this volume besides N. K. Jemisin's terrific Emergency Skin, which has also been my favorite work of hers so far. Continuing the theme of short stories that improved my opinion of the author compared to their prior works was Kali_Na by Indrapramit Das, whose debut novel The Devourers was firmly meh for me. In contrast, I was blown away by Kali_Na's ideas of godhood and virtual avatars, a wonderful application of real-world sociology to the ways technology can transcend the mundane. I was also impressed by another Indian-set story that melded technology with psychology, Anil Menon's The Robots Of Eden. While Saleem Haddad's Song Of The Birds was set hundreds of miles away in Palestine, it was another excellent, and moving, examination of behavior modification technology. Crossing Asia in the other direction, we get to Han Song's Submarines -- translated for us here by Ken Liu, who also contributes an original story -- about migrants on the Yangtze River. All four of these stories manage to evoke a sense of place that's as vital to the narrative as their speculative natures are. There's a very similar feel to Sofia Rhei's Barcelona-set Secret Stories Of Doors, as well as to the scathing critique of New York City's upper class in E. Lily Yu's Green Glass: A Love Story. Ted Chiang's It's 2059, And The Rich Kids Are Still Winning reads less like a story and exactly like a sociological treatise, only from the future. I almost forgot I wasn't reading an article while enjoying it. Fonda Lee's near-future comedy I (28M) Created A Deepfake Girlfriend And Now My Parents Think We're Getting Married is also the kind of thing I could imagine reading on Reddit in ten years or less. Well, from the Twitter account AITA_reddit anyway; I've so far managed to avoid getting a Reddit account and am quite happy to keep it that way. Of the other far future stories, Rich Larson's Contagion's Eve At The House Noctambulus was my absolute favorite for sheer goriness (plus it reminded me of one of my all-time favorite books, Gideon The Ninth.) Honorable mention goes to Alec Nivala-Lee's At The Fall, which was like Homeward Bound meets Finding Dory, only with AI. Despite the vast majority of these books dealing with planet Earth and humanity's secrets, there were several stories that traveled off into space. Of these, my favorite was Karin Tidbeck's The Last Voyage of Skidbladnir, which deals with a very unusual form of interstellar travel. Overall tho, there was less of a focus on outer space and more on the planet we're living in and what we're doing to it, an understandable change of emphasis given the ways we're beginning to reap what we've sown on this planet. Which isn't to say that this is a depressing book: on the contrary, many of the stories here speak of resilience, resistance and optimism, in the finest tradition of the genre. The Year's Best Science Fiction Vol. 1: The Saga Anthology of Science Fiction 2020 edited by Jonathan Strahan was published yesterday by Saga Press, and is available from all good booksellers.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Charlie

    Obviously there were no terrible stories here, and I enjoyed them all to varyingly intense degrees, but I did find myself disconcerted by the proliferation of tales that all seemed to follow the same basic narrative structure. For want of a better phrase, I'll describe it as a 'Social-Realist Sci-Fi'. As far as I can discern the formula is as follows: 1 - Begin with a dramatic and mysterious opening sentence or paragraph. Bonus points if it concerns climate-change induced weather. E.g. "The wind' Obviously there were no terrible stories here, and I enjoyed them all to varyingly intense degrees, but I did find myself disconcerted by the proliferation of tales that all seemed to follow the same basic narrative structure. For want of a better phrase, I'll describe it as a 'Social-Realist Sci-Fi'. As far as I can discern the formula is as follows: 1 - Begin with a dramatic and mysterious opening sentence or paragraph. Bonus points if it concerns climate-change induced weather. E.g. "The wind's moving fast again. The weathermen lean into it, letting it wear away at them until they turn to rain and cloud" (pg 180) or, "I suppose you could say that it started with the storm" (pg 508) or, "The storm surge retreated over the course of Thursday afternoon." (pg 332) 2 - Follow this up with an introduction to the protagonist and their social circle. Your protagonist should probably be nerdy, shy, and gifted with some ability or fierce desire for independence, though this is not essential. The key thing is that time is spent developing them and their friends, even though the short story format doesn't really give them time to develop unless you are a very avid student of Anton Chekov. 3 - The technological gimmick of the story shall slowly emerge, usually through oblique references, though an infodump can be employed so long as it is the narrator doing it rather than a clumsy 'As you know, Bob'. (Don't say the genre hasn't progressed over the last 40 years!) This technology shall have some profound impact on the social relationships of these protagonists, usually illustrating a moral or political allegory in which these bland slates are basically puppets. 4 - The story should then end on either a hopeless note as this technology ruins their lives, or else there should be some kind of rising climax symbolic of dangerous/uplifting revolutionary potential and transformation, depending on the radicalism of the author. The thing is, I don't particularly have a problem with this formula. It is an effective skeleton around which to explore some particular social issue close to the writer's heart, and as the crème de la crème of the year's output, the ideas explored in this collection are obviously sophisticated and sensitively handled. My main problem is that I'm not sure the format makes the best use out of the written form as a medium. A story written in this structure could just as easily have been penned as 'Black Mirror' script, and I am disheartened to see that the unique potential of the written word is often sidelined in favour of this easier, more conventional formula. Perhaps this is just my bias, but I cannot help feeling that written conventions, if regurgitated uncritically, easily become breeding grounds for conventional stories, conventional thoughts, and conventional ideas. Surely sci-fi should aspire higher than that? For that reason the best stories in this collection were often the ones that eschewed this formula; such as Ken Liu's piecemeal investigation of online trolls, 'Thoughts and Prayers', N.K. Jemisin's grimly chucklesome second-person satire of white-supremacist utopianism, 'Emergency Skin', and Sofia Rhei's beautifully Borgesian 'Secret Stories of Doors'. Their unconventionality stood out from the rest of the collection and have made their ideas stick with me a little more fiercely than the rest. To reiterate, this is not to say the 'Social-Realist Sci-Fi' is inherently bad. Saleem Haddad's 'Song of the Birds' is a chillingly ambiguous exploration of post-Colonial trauma that is not made any less brilliant by other stories using its formula less effectively. 'Green Glass: A Love Story' didn't make my stomach churn any less because its satire had been echoed by what came before. 'Contagion's Eve at the House Noctambulous' was not made boring by having to decipher yet another bleak image of the future from the details casually scattered across the pages. What must be acknowledged, however, is that the formula does contain an Achilles heel that becomes more apparent through the cumulative effect of an anthology format. Namely, the limited page count means that these characters seldom have a chance to develop into something really unique and relatable. Again, this might be my bias, but I cannot help feeling that characters with unique particularities and strange oddities always feel more real, and hence more recognisable, than a blank slate on which I am supposed to project my own thoughts and desires. Yet these are not novels, and so making characterisation such a prominent feature of the short-story form strikes me as an odd choice - especially since every new story requires that you yet again commit to learning a new bunch of characters that you know probably won't be particularly life-like anyway. Orwell once mocked readers who shied away from short stories as being lazy, since they didn't want to put in the mental effort of learning a new environment and its characters every few pages. I've always thought he had a point there, but I think the missing element is the recognition of how short stories are capable of sophisticated characterisation if the brevity of the form is embraced as a strength. Consider the unhinged narrative voice of Poe's 'Tell-Tale Heart' or the suggestive silences and unspoken words in Chekov's output. Whilst there is obvious potential in the 'Social-Realist Sci-Fi' form (as many of these tales prove), I cannot help feeling that the form is frequently adopted merely to support an idea the author didn't consider big enough to fill a novel or be produced as a screenplay. So the short story, like a mangy old dishcloth at the back of the cupboard, was taken up as a last resort tool to do the job. This isn't meant to disparage this collection. In fact, it may just be a nostalgic harking back to the often pretentious experimentalism of the New Wave that I still find so delightful. All the same, I hope that the assembled talent, intelligence, and creativity of these writers is given a greater scope in future anthologies to push the boundaries of the form a little further, and see what thoughts those experiments might create.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Johan Haneveld

    I had made it a habit to read the 'Best science fiction of the year' collections edited by Gardner Dozois. I'm a massive SF-fan, but I'm also an author in this genre, so I like to keep up to date of the field. Sadly Dozois is no longer with us, but Jonathan Strahan has had the courage to follow in his footsteps. Not an enviable task, as the pressure to create a truly comprehensive 'best of ...' anthology is huge and knowing SF-fans can be quite opinionated must make it harder. Luckily Strahan ha I had made it a habit to read the 'Best science fiction of the year' collections edited by Gardner Dozois. I'm a massive SF-fan, but I'm also an author in this genre, so I like to keep up to date of the field. Sadly Dozois is no longer with us, but Jonathan Strahan has had the courage to follow in his footsteps. Not an enviable task, as the pressure to create a truly comprehensive 'best of ...' anthology is huge and knowing SF-fans can be quite opinionated must make it harder. Luckily Strahan has been editing short story collections for a while now, and his quite a broad overview of the genre. I am happy to report this 'best of'-collection is of high quality. There are some stories by big names, but also lots of stories from outside the Englishspeaking world: China, India, African countries. Enough to really give the impression that the whole field of Science Fiction was included. I must say I enjoyed this anthology even more than several of the ones by Dozois. In Dozois' collections there were always some experimental tales, examples of 'literary SF' with sometimes nary a SF-nal element or with inconclusive plots and illusive endings. Those are not my favorites. Here I was able to enjoy or at least appreciate all stories. They all told a story at least. Does this mean that Strahan did not take the whole reach of the genre in account? Maybe. But every editor has personal tastes, and I think Strahans tastes align more with my own than Dozois' did. Which is a plus for me. There were some stories I had read before. A couple from the anthology 'A people's future of the United States' and some from the collection 'Mission Critical'. I was happy to read them again, even if they were already familiar to me. A lot of these stories dealt with climate change and the life people will have on a changed planet. Some were quite pessimistic about our chances (Peter Watts), others had more positive scenario's. Another recurrent theme was diversity and the way people from minorities have to deal with the upcoming 'Far Right' ideology and harassment on the internet (internet trolls featured in two stories). Often these idea's were combined, as in 'Emergency Skin' by N.K. Jemisin. It's great to see how SF reflects the topics of our day and time. I don't think I can review every story here, but I liked the under water stories (by Watts, and 'At the Fall' by Alec Nevala-Lee). I had a big grin on my face reading the alt-history story 'Secret Stories of Doors' by Sofia Rhei. Elizabeth Bears story was a little too preachy for my taste. Tegan Moore's long story 'The Work of Wolves' was a very interesting story from the perspective of an upgraded Search and rescue dog. I liked it. 'As the Last I May Know' by S.L. Huang was touching. Rich Larson's 'Contagion's Eve at the House Noctambulous' was scary and disturbing in a good way. One of the best of the collection. 'The painter of trees' by Suzanne Palmer was also chilling, in a very different way. I like stories about stories, so 'The Bookstore at the End of America' by Charlie Jane Anders was right up my alley. Lots to love in this collection and I already look forward to volume two, with the best SF from 2020.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Anneke

    Book Review - The Year’s Best Science Fiction Vol. 1: The Saga Anthology of Science Fiction 2020 Edited by: Jonathan Strahan Publisher: Gallery Press/Saga Books Publication Date: November 5, 2020 Review Date: August 6, 2020 I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. From the blurb: “A must-have collection of the best short science fiction and speculative fiction of 2019, showcasing brilliant talent and examining the cultural moment we live in, compiled by awar Book Review - The Year’s Best Science Fiction Vol. 1: The Saga Anthology of Science Fiction 2020 Edited by: Jonathan Strahan Publisher: Gallery Press/Saga Books Publication Date: November 5, 2020 Review Date: August 6, 2020 I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. From the blurb: “A must-have collection of the best short science fiction and speculative fiction of 2019, showcasing brilliant talent and examining the cultural moment we live in, compiled by award-winning editor Jonathan Strahan. With short works from some of the most lauded science fiction authors, as well as rising stars, this collection displays the top talent and the cutting-edge cultural moments that affect our lives, dreams, and stories. Authors include past award-winners Rebecca Roanhorse, Ken Liu, Carmen Maria Machado, Aliette de Boddard, Kim Stanley Robinson, Yoon Ha Lee, and Ted Chiang. An assemblage of future classics, this anthology is a must-read for anyone who enjoys the vast and exciting world of science fiction.” The blurb says it all. This anthology contains many of my favorite science fiction authors, like Ken Liu and Ted Chiang. And there were many other authors that I was not familiar with that I was grateful to be introduced to. Most of the stories were first class, and described worlds that were way outside the box and so fascinating. This was a long anthology, filled with a ton of fantastic stories. If you love science fiction, this is truly a must-read. 5 Stars! I highly, highly recommend this book for those who love science fiction. You don’t want to miss this book. Thank you to Gallery/Saga for granting me approval to read this book. This review will be posted on NetGalley, Goodreads and Amazon. #netgalley #gallerysaga #sciencefiction #jonathanstrahan

  7. 5 out of 5

    ~Geektastic~

    I suppose it is expected that I begin with the traditional anthology disclaimer that "some stories in this were more appealing than others..." But it would be a lie. Every story in this collection deserves its place in the best of the year slot it has received. There are many different kinds of stories, and I'm sure other readers may find some that don't suit as well as others. I can't count myself among them, though; I loved them all. I suppose it is expected that I begin with the traditional anthology disclaimer that "some stories in this were more appealing than others..." But it would be a lie. Every story in this collection deserves its place in the best of the year slot it has received. There are many different kinds of stories, and I'm sure other readers may find some that don't suit as well as others. I can't count myself among them, though; I loved them all.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ken

    I was going to read just a few stories that appealtomy taste but ended up reading the entire 645 pg . The standout are, imho of course, -archronology of love. (though the attempts to explain the time travel technology are incoherent, can anyone explain it?even half ass-edly). 5* - song of the birds, the first good story is the fourth entry into the collection, methinks. the story is about virtual reality. 4* - “STURDY LANTERN AND LADDERS”. 4* Finally on page 152, a true science-fiction story that s I was going to read just a few stories that appealtomy taste but ended up reading the entire 645 pg . The standout are, imho of course, -archronology of love. (though the attempts to explain the time travel technology are incoherent, can anyone explain it?even half ass-edly). 5* - song of the birds, the first good story is the fourth entry into the collection, methinks. the story is about virtual reality. 4* - “STURDY LANTERN AND LADDERS”. 4* Finally on page 152, a true science-fiction story that shows wonder/curiosity. Just got to Love the cephalopod

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jenni

    A fantastic collection. Worthy of the name, I'm glad that these best of anthologies continue to exist. Strahan has done a good job with the flow and selection of the stories here. It was a good mix of well-known genre authors that I'm familiar with and folks I've never heard of who are surely up-and-coming. “The Bookstore at the End of America” by Charlie Jane Anders was definitely a standout for me, Ladders and Lanterns by Malka Older made me pick up her latest novel, and “I (28M) created a deep A fantastic collection. Worthy of the name, I'm glad that these best of anthologies continue to exist. Strahan has done a good job with the flow and selection of the stories here. It was a good mix of well-known genre authors that I'm familiar with and folks I've never heard of who are surely up-and-coming. “The Bookstore at the End of America” by Charlie Jane Anders was definitely a standout for me, Ladders and Lanterns by Malka Older made me pick up her latest novel, and “I (28M) created a deepfake girlfriend and now my parents think we’re getting married” by Fonda Lee was I think the funniest of the collection. If you're a fan of anthologies or just want to dive into a collection that features some of the most interesting voices in SF right now, this is the book for you.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Volume 1 of I hope many. The introduction was nicely reminiscent of Gardner Dozois's introductions, which I miss. Strahan didn't attempt Dozois's level of detail, which made the intro shorter but still substantial. (Where Dozois put in the age for people who died, Strahan didn't; I do kind of miss that. But don't know if I'd be willing to put in the extra work for that.) After the first two stories, I thought it might be a five-star anthology. But after that, for me it was hit or miss. My three s Volume 1 of I hope many. The introduction was nicely reminiscent of Gardner Dozois's introductions, which I miss. Strahan didn't attempt Dozois's level of detail, which made the intro shorter but still substantial. (Where Dozois put in the age for people who died, Strahan didn't; I do kind of miss that. But don't know if I'd be willing to put in the extra work for that.) After the first two stories, I thought it might be a five-star anthology. But after that, for me it was hit or miss. My three stars reflect my own taste, which is not as eclectic as some other people's, so the overall quality may be better than that. Well worth reading, and a lot of new-ish voices.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie S

    The stories in this anthology represent a refreshingly diverse range of authors. In any anthology, there will always be a few that are less enjoyable; of the 28 stories, I felt that 20 were exceptionally good. In particular, I’m looking forward to reading more work from Charlie Jane Anders, Indrapramit Das, Malka Older, S. L. Huang (whose story “As the Last I May Know” - which is included in this collection - won a 2020 Hugo), Alec Nevala-Lee, and Vandana Singh. Reading a story from this a day w The stories in this anthology represent a refreshingly diverse range of authors. In any anthology, there will always be a few that are less enjoyable; of the 28 stories, I felt that 20 were exceptionally good. In particular, I’m looking forward to reading more work from Charlie Jane Anders, Indrapramit Das, Malka Older, S. L. Huang (whose story “As the Last I May Know” - which is included in this collection - won a 2020 Hugo), Alec Nevala-Lee, and Vandana Singh. Reading a story from this a day was a great way to stay a bit grounded in r outine despite the chaos that is 2020, and I’m super thankful for that. 1. The Bookstore at the End of America by Charlie Jane Anders. Like much speculative fiction I’ve read lately, this story seems eerily prescient. A bookstore sits on the border of America and California and tries to survive a world sundered by divisive beliefs, propaganda, and power struggles - while around it, the threat of war over the remaining scarcity of water is an ever-looming presence. This feels like a reminder of the old warning: united we stand, divided we fall. 2. The Galactic Tourist Industrial Complex by Tobias S Buckell. In the future, the only way to make money on earth is to work in the tourist industry - which caters to advanced & wealthy alien civilizations, where they come for primitive thrills and to experience “authentic” human food and shopping. This, I believe, is a satirical take on our own current tourism industry. I’ve never been drawn to satire, and this story was no exception. But it’s definitely a case of “it’s not you, it’s me.” Sorry, story. 3. Kali_Na by Indrapramit Das. It’s hard to describe this one. In the India of the future, a major tech company releases an AI goddess which you can visit using VR. They didn’t expect droves of (internet) trolls to descend on her - and they certainly didn’t expect how that would shape her. After reading this, I felt compelled to learn a bit more about the Hindu goddesses Devi and Kali - and that was a super interesting rabbit hole. The writing in this story is top-notch, if a bit hard sci-fi-ish for my usual taste. Loved it though. 4. Song of the Birds by Saleem Haddad. TW: suicide. Teenage Aya & her family is devastated by the loss of her older brother, Ziad, to suicide. When Ziad begins coming to Aya in her dreams and the world begins to ... shift (or perhaps she’s becoming unraveled), she learns that things may not be as they seem. I love a good ‘is she an unreliable narrator?’ story & this one is exceptional. 5. The Painter of Trees by Suzanne Palmer. A group of human terraformers encounter an intelligent species on their mission to colonize a planet, but the humans can’t let that get in the way of forward progress. A sad retelling of so many histories. 6. The Last Voyage of Skidbladnir by Karin Tidbeck. Saga works as a maintenance-woman on a living, transdimensional space ship. As the creature/ship begins to age, the captain wants to sell “it” as scrap. This one is super short, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking of this one since I read it last night. I’d love to read more of this author. It’s free to read on tor.com 7. Sturdy Lantern and Ladders by Malka Older. It’s hard to describe this one without spoilers, but it begins with marine behavioral researcher and an octopus. What if we could see the world through the eyes of another intelligent creature? I had a client cancel yesterday, so I read this one between sessions on the sofa used by my clients & I cried so much just halfway through this 12 page story. It was a pretty therapeutic moment for myself. Beautiful, haunting, and memorable. 8. It’s 2059, and the Rich Kids are Still Winning by Ted Chiang. I really want to like Chiang’s stories; he’s one of the most revered sci-fi short fiction authors. But - just like this story - his writing keeps an emotional distance. This one is written like a persuasive essay, like something I would have submitted in my social work courses. It makes an important point (it’s not lack of intelligence that keep poor people down; it’s the way our society functions), but with 0 emotional engagement. There are no actual characters in this story. I’m glad he’s found his audience; it’s just not me. 9. Contagion’s Eve at the House of Noctambulous by Rich Larson. The 1st story in this collection that I’d classify as horror. Very Shirley Jackson (as in “The Lottery,” this story takes place during a disturbing annual tradition) meets modern sci-fi. A few rich families survive the apocalypse with the help of bioengineering and a dangerous shared narrative. Atmospheric, super creepy. Loved it - but was a little confused by the ending. 10. Submarines by Han Song. A curious adolescent observes a submarine community of migrant workers as they congregate on the Yangtze River, and he wonders at the difference between his community and theirs - and why their fates don’t seem to be intertwined. This was an eerie but emotionally distant story - which perhaps made it that much more eerie. 11. As the Last I May Know by S. L. Huang. The Order follows long-held laws of placing the code to detonate weapons of mass destruction into the body of a living child - a “carrier” who will live alongside the nation’s president & attempt to humanize herself; the only way the president can detonate these weapons is by killing her himself to retrieve the code. In a war-torn country, 10 yr old Nyma (a poetess) awaits her fate bravely & the president struggles with an impossible choice. “No one should be able to push a button from the sanctuary of an office and kill so many faceless children far away if they could not see the justification to execute the one in front of them.” This is an important, well-executed, & gripping story. 12. A Catalog of Storms, by Fran Wilde. In a world where weather patterns/storms are actively malicious, some people begin to fight back - but become very changed themselves in the process. If read literally, this story makes no sense. I read it, took a few minutes to consider what it might be a metaphor, and read it again - and while my theory seems plausible, I still have no idea what the author intended. Some read this as a metaphor for emotional storms; some think climate change; myself - it only made some sense to me as a metaphor for social justice activism - but I’m definitely reading through that lens a lot these days. There were some interesting visuals in this story, but I’m not sure this story pulled it (whatever ‘it’ is) off. 13. The Robots of Eden by Anil Menon. This story follows a group of “post-humans” as they navigate what should be an emotionally complex life event (divorce), but their Enhanced brains regulate neurotransmitters to avoid emotional pain; their daughter (age 8), however, isn’t fully Enhanced - and they struggle to have empathy with her emotional world. I wasn’t sure about this story for the first couple of pages (the narrator being Enhanced leaves the story with an emotionally-distant voice), but I soon got drawn in to the exploration of what’s lost when you remove the emotional pain of life. 14. Now Wait for This Week, by Alice Sola Kim. A woman is stuck in a time loop - repeating the same week (with a #metoo news cycle) again & again; the story is told through the perspective of her roommate (who is unaware of the time loop) week after week. Interesting read - especially watching the slow change of a woman brought about by (essentially) repeated trauma and efforts to reclaim her power. 15. Cyclopterus, by Peter Watts. “Alistor’s company hires a sub to explore the deep ocean floor for resources, but the world is falling apart, and the pilot resents him.” (Description from rocketstackrank.com). I had a hard time caring about this one. Chalk it up to election anxiety, or that it was more “hard sci-fi” than I usually read, or that the author comes across as very narcissistic on his website author profile & blog which triggers insta-rage in me. (It’s been a hard 4 years ya’ll). 16. Dune Song by Suyi Davies Okungbowa. “A young girl [Nata] must negotiate her own path out of a strict community in a post-disaster desertland.” Description by Levar Burton since I actually listened to him read this one. This one has an ending that could be read as heartbreaking or hopeful or both. Either way, you can’t not root for Nata. 17. The Work of Wolves by Tegan Moore. An Enhanced Intelligence (EI) search-and-rescue dog tries to navigate improving his relationship with his handler (who prefers non-enhanced dogs & recently lost one) while also managing a deadly mission. Told from the dog’s perspective, this long-ish (~50 pgs) short story has fantastic character development. It was also creepy and unsettling, almost verging into horror towards the end. 18. Soft Edges by Elizabeth Bear. A conservationist gets dragged into helping with a murder investigation when she finds a body washed ashore in a preservation area. She has her own history of being unjustly accused of a crime and spent several months in jail - so she’s understandably reluctant to help. This story suffered a bit from the author having a clear message to convey (our justice system is broken) without strong characterization or plotting to back it up; at least it was only 10 pages. 19. Emergency Skin by N. K. Jemisin. An agent is sent back to Earth to gather a resource needed to support the small colony of posthuman descendants of the “Founders” - a group of wealthy humans who left Earth behind as her resources became unsustainably depleted and human life could no longer be supported. The agent is expecting a wasteland but begins to question everything they’ve been told once they arrive. This is the “novelette” I purchased this anthology to read, and Jemisin won a Hugo award and more recently an Ignyte award for this piece - deservedly so. It’s a bit more heavy-handed than my favorite pieces of hers, though. 20. Thoughts and Prayers by Ken Liu. In a world where technology is omnipresent and trolls are worse than ever, a family navigates the loss of their daughter/sister in a mass shooting. Told through shifting perspectives of the family members, we see how grief can divide and also how damaging a public spotlight can be to a grieving family. Ken Liu’s stories never fail to be well-written, thought provoking, and heartbreaking. 21. At the Fall by Alec Nevala-Lee. An AI robot cephalopod (Eunice) and her robot companion (Wagner) travel thousands of miles along the ocean floor on an epic journey home. The conceit of this story was super interesting, and though I saw the gist of the ending coming fairly early in the story, the last line still gutted me. This explores climate change and the interconnectedness of all life (and robots?) on Earth. One of my favorites of the collection. 22. Reunion by Vandana Singh. (TW for suicide in this story) Set in post-climate disaster India, a woman who has been a leader in the movement to return to living in harmony with the Earth reminisces about her life and about an old friend that disappeared decades ago- as a journalist travels to bring her news of her friend. There’s no way to summarize this story in a few words and do it any justice. My description sounds dull - and yet, I found myself wanting to underline so many sentences. This story has fantastic character development and explores the interconnectedness of all of life on Earth - and why it’s imperative that we begin to remember that. I’ll be buying a collection to read more from this author 23. Green Glass: a Love Story by E. Lily Yu. Another grim future extrapolated from current climate change and political discourse; in this one, a wealthy couple (of the 1%), who pride themselves on their “humanitarian efforts,” show their ignorance and lack of empathy as they plan the perfect wedding, not noticing the suffering happening just around them. This was originally published in the anthology “If This Goes On,” which aims to highlight the awful future we may face if nothing changes. Not one of my favorites in terms of writing style or storytelling, but the author succeeded in reinforcing my anger that 2020 has already brought into the open. 24. Secret Stories of Doors by Sofia Rhei. Perucho works for the World Encyclopedia under the rule of a global totalitarian regime; his job, along with millions of others, is to gather and classify verifiable data. Given that fiction is now prohibited in this world, what will happen to Perucho if it is discovered that he has been creating false records of 15th century literature? This is a story about the terrifying power of a shared narrative. Not a favorite from this collection, but still an enjoyable read. 25. This is Not the Way Home by Greg Egan. A woman and her new husband win a 5-day trip to a base on the moon, but they (and the researchers at the base) suddenly lose contact with Earth. This is the story of one woman’s last desperate chance to get her (and her infant daughter) back home to Earth. If you can handle a somewhat ambiguous ending, it’s well worth the read. Still, it leaves a lot of questions unanswered and I can see it leaving a lot of readers dissatisfied. 26. What the Dead Man Said by Chinelo Onwuala. (CW: childhood sexual abuse, incest; no graphic depictions) Set in a future world trying to recover from the climate Catastrophe of the 2020s-2060s, a woman returns to the community of her childhood to attend the funeral of her father; here, she must face the remnants of a trauma that forever changed the course of her life. A well-written and engaging story that explores the long-lasting emotional pain caused by repeated childhood trauma - and of being abandoned when you need to be embraced. It can be a hard read, but it ends on a hopeful note. 27. I (28M) Created a Deepfake Girlfriend and Now My Parents Think We’re Getting Married by Fonda Lee. MC (along w/ many others) uses an online dating prep AI to create a fake gf to get his parents off his back. I’m usually not a fan of satire but this was an exception. Reading much like a reddit post (complete with TL;DR and UPDATE:), this story felt very much like something I could stumble across on reddit. An entertaining look at the challenges with trying to get human emotional needs met via technology. 28. The Archronology of Love by Caroline M. Youchim. “Dr. Saki Jones arrives at the colony planet New Mars to find that a mysterious plague has destroyed everyone who lived there—including her lifelove, M.J. To find out what happened, Saki must dig through layers of time, slowly revealing the past.” A Hugo nominee, this is a 1st contact story both terrible and hopeful. It was a strong ending to a fantastic anthology.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Fisk

    Originally posted on Tales to Tide You Over Anthologies can be hit or miss depending on the editor’s vision. I picked this one up on NetGalley hoping to see a glimpse of the current short fiction world. What I didn’t expect was how many of the twenty-eight stories would win me over. These stories provide a diversity of voices and narrative styles, along with authors from many nations and/or ethnicities. The stories overall have more of a literary and sociological feel than the pulpy roots of the Originally posted on Tales to Tide You Over Anthologies can be hit or miss depending on the editor’s vision. I picked this one up on NetGalley hoping to see a glimpse of the current short fiction world. What I didn’t expect was how many of the twenty-eight stories would win me over. These stories provide a diversity of voices and narrative styles, along with authors from many nations and/or ethnicities. The stories overall have more of a literary and sociological feel than the pulpy roots of the genre, but for every surreal tale, there is one more plot driven. Jonathan Strahan begins the anthology with an essay on the state of the genre not only in short stories but across all mediums including non-fiction. This essay has enough examples you could easily use it as a reading list for the year. He also names the short fiction venues that he considers top markets. The purpose of this volume, according to Strahan, is to honor works by stellar authors whether established or still becoming known. The theme celebrates diversity and the impact of culture. Rather than attempting to constrain speculative fiction into a narrow definition, Strahan aims to reveal how the genre can be both timely and interesting. He succeeded on behalf of this reader. I am posting my review in two parts so I can call out all the stories that spoke to me, whether my favorites or those that came close. So, with no further ado, on to the stories: These two were my favorites in the first half, a purely personal reaction. However, there is no question they are strong, well-written tales. Kali_Na by Indrapramit Das While I appreciated other stories, in Kali_Na I found my first favorite. It’s hard to articulate why without spoilers, so I’ll say only this: When Internet trolls come out in force to greet a newborn AI version of the Goddess Durga, the caste system might not be the only tradition to survive to modern day. It’s a cyberpunk-like vision of future India seen from the bottom looking up. Sturdy Lantern and Ladders by Malka Older I usually tidy my notes for the review, but here’s a direct quote: “Okay, wow. This is just wow.” I love this story for how it begins, because I’m sympathetic, then it takes us somewhere fascinating and new. Besides, it stars an octopus. I’d say more, but better you experience it on your own. The below stories all had something about them I enjoyed, and/or which made them stand out. Appreciation is personal. While the missing stories did not catch my attention, they might still earn yours. The Bookstore at the End of America by Charlie Jane Anders The Bookstore at the End of America begins this volume with a glimpse down the path America is currently walking. The story has an almost magical realism tone. It looks at bias and the consequences of same, but more in raising questions than forcing answers on the reader. I like how it makes me think about these questions while reminding me of reading about a real-world library that exists on the U.S./Canadian border. I hope that library never faces what Charlie Jane Anders’ one does. The Galactic Tourist Industrial Complex by Tobias S. Buckell As you might have guessed from the title, this short story offers a quick glimpse of a future where alien tourism wins. It’s something we’ve seen in smaller scales on our planet, but this is planetwide. But how our world has changed because of this commerce is only part of the story. Seen through the eyes of a taxi driver, the struggle to anticipate alien demands is both compelling and thought provoking. Song of the Birds by Saleem Haddad This story didn’t speak to me in part because of the focus on suicide. However, the strong imagery was compelling enough to warrant a mention. Nor is it the only story to include suicide as an aspect. The Painter of Trees by Suzanne Palmer This is an odd story, but a powerful one about ambition, arrogance, and claiming what is not your own. The author plays on the anonymity of first person, shared with a third person point of view (POV), to create a sense of mystery. There were enough clues to give me the answer before the reveal, but I still needed confirmation. It’s not only the mixed POV that makes this story stand out, however. I found the first-person narrator unsympathetic to the point of arguing with the page. In terms of engagement, this story earns a place, and I appreciate the questions it raises for all the method leaves me frustrated. The Last Voyage of Skidbladnir by Karin Tidbeck This story doesn’t have a firm plot, which is bizarre in a lot of ways since it’s a spaceship passenger vessel and has many of the older tropes mentioned. Instead, it’s beautiful for what it says and shows for both the speaking characters and those without a voice. The story didn’t go quite where I expected, but living ships and mechanically inclined, fix-it characters are some of my favorites. Contagion’s Eve at the House Noctambulous by Rich Larson The story sucked me into the moment with its sensory detail, so I accepted the strange happenings around me without question. And what’s happening is strange beyond question. This is the first one I’d classify as horror, and I don’t read horror because of the ability to be sucked in rather than despite it. I can safely say this is a strong horror offering, in part because it had the possibility of being something different had it made another choice. Submarines by Han Song Translated by Ken Liu As an example of the diversity within these pages, this story has two names attached, the author and the translator. It’s another odd story of unknowns and unknowables told through the perspective of an ignorant narrator. There are no answers to the many questions raised, and as a reader, I’m left trying to find meaning where none is offered. I don’t know whether this makes it more powerful a story or less. The imagery lingers, as does the tantalizing possibility of answers far beyond the life of our narrator. As the Last I May Know by S. L. Huang This is a powerful story of understanding war. It asks the same question covered in the movie War Games but puts it into more personal terms. The practice that serves as the story’s backbone is horrific, but that very quality makes it the best and possibly only way. The story offers a deep dive into another culture and the conflict between old and new ways. It plays with the reader’s emotions and pushes us to ask what we would do in the same situation. A Catalog of Storms by Fran Wilde This is a neat, surreal concept. It turns a story of lists into something emotional that plays with the reader’s sympathies tangibly. I enjoyed the imagery, the concept, and ultimately the question between desire and cost. Dune Song by Suyi Davies Okungbowa The narrative voice in this story is powerful and the description strong. I found the story to turn on belief and choice. Nata is trying to find her mother and find other civilizations. She rejects the ways of her village, choosing to reach for freedom rather than huddle in the dark and let fear swallow their voices whole. This makes it powerful. (The next bit posted as Part 2.) As I read through the second half of this book, I found the editor’s focus on current concerns led to several stories with themes and elements in common. I’d expect something like this in a themed anthology, but it surprised me here where the publication date is what brings these stories together. While this repetition could have disadvantaged the later stories, their approaches had enough originality to counter the downsides. The included stories explore a variety of differences whether or not sharing a theme. Narrative style, plotting, and even perception of time proved flexible in these tellings, something intriguing while it asks a lot of the reader at times. As with the first section, I’m only mentioning the stories I connected with, which doesn’t mean there’s nothing interesting about the others. My choices result from personal taste, whether in content, characters, style, or theme. The other stories could be someone else’s favorite, despite not speaking to me. Once again, two stories stood out from the rest of the second half. Soft Edges by Elizabeth Bear This is a beautiful story about philosophy and human nature running alongside a police procedural. It shows how to respect people’s choices and contrary positions without compromising the bigger picture. It also demonstrates how personal pronouns can become part of a normal introduction without awkwardness or stopping the narrative. Nicely done. The Archronology of Love by Caroline M. Yoachim This story is right in my sweet spot. It mixes alien contact with neat technology while still making the characters approachable. It’s both personal and immense with real learning and change. While not my absolute favorites, as you can see from the blurbs below, these stories were strong contenders. Emergency Skin by N. K. Jemisin This is a strange story with an odd but perfect narrator. It’s mostly told sideways from the collective voice embedded in the main character’s head as it tries to explain away everything the character encounters as a false narrative. The meaning and plot are obvious from the start but that doesn’t matter. A fun read with deeper implications. Thoughts and Prayers by Ken Liu This story focuses more on the timely and less on the speculative element, though when it appears, the element is critical. The tale explores the problematic nature of media consumption on the internet through the window of gun violence. Thought provoking, the story is painful in its circumstances. The narration cleverly mirrors the characters’ progress through the story. At the Fall by Alec Nevala-Lee This story grew on me as I read it. I found the narration through an advanced research vehicle (?) creature (?) fascinating. The plot itself was predictable first in the cause and then by design as the narrator undergoes a long, dangerous journey. Her method of experiencing space and memory informs her discovery path, but the reader knows little and not much happens actively. It’s a gentle story, an odd adjective considering the circumstances she faces, but one I learned to appreciate. Reunion by Vandana Singh This is a story of becoming rather than doing. While the main character accomplished a lot in her attempt to restore the planet, it is her growth in connection and understanding that form the foundation. This is a fresh approach to the theme of climate repair and one that speaks to me. I enjoyed the vision she has of humans as part of the world, not controlling it. But the small glimpses of her interactions with people and the frailty of her own body made this story work for me. Secret Stories of Doors by Sofia Rhei The beginning of this story didn’t grab me, but I’m glad I kept going. In a surreal narrative, this tale takes the premise of “history is written by the victors” a step further. It offers a warped future with more twists to discover. And there you have it. I clearly found many stories to enjoy. This anthology tackles questions we face in modern times through the lens of speculative fiction. Most fell into the science fiction category, though often near future, and didn’t shy away from the more painful topics of suicide, rape, and gun violence either. Climate reconstruction seems the most common element taken on. The differing proposals spoke not just to the science but also to the underlying cultural and social elements, much to my delight. I’m happy I plucked this anthology from the list and plan to track down more by authors I “met” or was reminded of here. P.S. I received this Advanced Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    An excellent book of science fiction and speculative fiction to read. The beginning of the volume is the standard industrial discussion given in most science fiction anthologies of the year. There are introductions of the authors at the beginning of each short story. At the end of this volume there is a recommended list of reading of science fiction. I enjoyed reading it. The stories are excellent with some authors that I knew and those I didn’t know. I definitely have some authors to add to my a An excellent book of science fiction and speculative fiction to read. The beginning of the volume is the standard industrial discussion given in most science fiction anthologies of the year. There are introductions of the authors at the beginning of each short story. At the end of this volume there is a recommended list of reading of science fiction. I enjoyed reading it. The stories are excellent with some authors that I knew and those I didn’t know. I definitely have some authors to add to my authors to watch for list (for my reading pleasure). I know I will be looking for volume 2 next year! This is a must read for all science fiction lovers! Disclaimer: I received an arc of this book from the author/publisher from Netgalley. I wasn’t obligated to write a favorable review or any review at all. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jessie Allen

    There are 28 stories in this collection and I enjoyed all but 3, so I think that's a pretty good review overall. I could make a list of every one I really liked, but the list would be too long. Stand-outs for me were "Contagion's Eve at the House Noctambulous" and "Emergency Skin". There are 28 stories in this collection and I enjoyed all but 3, so I think that's a pretty good review overall. I could make a list of every one I really liked, but the list would be too long. Stand-outs for me were "Contagion's Eve at the House Noctambulous" and "Emergency Skin".

  15. 4 out of 5

    Joe Karpierz

    Gallery/Saga Press and renowned short fiction editor Jonathan Strahan begin a new Best SF of the Year series with this new anthology which presents Strahan's view of the best science fiction of 2019. His task is daunting. There is more short science fiction published every year in an increasing number of venues world wide that I find it difficult to comprehend how one person can keep up with it all. And yet, Strahan finds 28 diverse stories written by diverse authors from around the world that n Gallery/Saga Press and renowned short fiction editor Jonathan Strahan begin a new Best SF of the Year series with this new anthology which presents Strahan's view of the best science fiction of 2019. His task is daunting. There is more short science fiction published every year in an increasing number of venues world wide that I find it difficult to comprehend how one person can keep up with it all. And yet, Strahan finds 28 diverse stories written by diverse authors from around the world that not only prove that science fiction in the short form is alive and well, but it is alive and well in places that traditional readers would not even think to look. Some of his selections not only show up as finalists for various awards in 2020, a few of them were winners and were outstanding tales. Charlie Jane Anders' "The Bookstore at the End of America", Locus Award winner for Best Short Story, gives us a tale of what may be the not too distant future in which California is a separate country from the rest of the United States. The division is based on liberal versus conservative values. The titular bookstore resides on both sides of the border, as the owner hopes to bring people of warring nations together to find common ground and get along. The other short story winner here is S.L. Huang's "As the Last I May Know", one of my favorites in the book. It is a gut wrenching tale of what lengths a society will to go to prevent using a devastating weapon during wartime. It's a brilliant story. There are a bunch of short story award finalists here too. Fran Wilde's Hugo and Nebula finalist "A Catalog of Storms" straddles the boundary of science fiction and fantasy (in my opinion, anyway) in relating the story of how a town beset by storms uses the names of the storms to gain control over them. Those who name the storms, however, become "weathermen" and are lost forever to the town. Locus Award finalist "I (28M) Created a Deepfake Girlfriend and Now My Parents Think We're Getting Married" by Fonda Lee is a charming tale that I suspect many of us can relate to. Our protagonist, trying to get his parents off his back, does exactly what the title says and the result is what the title says. What happens in between is the fun part. Another Locus Award finalist, "The Galactic Tourist Industrial Complex" by Tobias S. Buckell, is an amusing tale of aliens that come to Manhattan looking for the American experience and end up doing very American-like things. In one more Locus Award finalist, the incomparable Ted Chiang gives us "It's 2059, and the Rich Kids are Still Winning", a look at how things, meant to help the greater good, only help those who aready have the help they need. It's a classic have versus have not piece, and I loved it. The novelette category is well represented in the book as well in terms of award recognition. Hugo winner and Locus finalist "Emergency Skin", by N.K. Jemison, relates the story of a mission from an earth colony back to the home world in order to acquire a key element to their survival. The expect to find no survivors, no civilization. What they find instead is something that they can't believe. A truly terrific story well-deserving of its Hugo win. "The Archronology of Love" from Carolyn M. Yoachim, both a Hugo and Nebula finalist, is a poignant tale of a group of archronologists looking for the reason a research colony disappeared, and what the leader of that team finds. It's a gut wrenching tale. But that's just a fraction of the stories in this book. As with every "best of" collection, the reader's mileage may vary. Among those that didn't make any finalist list (and in some cases I find it a severe oversight by those picking the awards, and then again it's my opinion anyway), one of the best is Saleem Haddad's "Song of the Birds", a difficult to describe but thought provoking tale of a girl who mourns the loss of her brother, only to discover that the world she is living in isn't what she really thinks it is. This is a terrific tale. Rich Larson's "Contagion's Eve at the House Noctambulous" seems to be a traditional tale of "remembering how we got here so we don't get here again", but it ends with a twist I should have seen coming but didn't. Indrapramit Das gives us "Kali_Na", an AI "goddess" brought into the world who learns all the wrong things from the future equivalent of trolls. Some things never change. Other interesting stories include "Now Wait for This Week", by Alice Sola Kim. It's a kind of a groundhog day story, with Bonnie experiencing the same week over and over again. Her exasperated friends are not caught in the same loop, so interesting things occur as the reader returns to the point where each week starts. Bonnie's roommate tries to help her get out of the loop, but things just don't turn out as planned. Peter Watts - I'll read anything by Peter Watts - gives us "Cycloperus" - named after the Cyclopterus lumpus (a lumpfish), go figure - where the world is falling apart and Alistor's management hires a deep sea sub to go to the bottom of the ocean floor in search of resources. Alistor is obviously not who he appears to be, and I do feel sorry for Koa, the pilot of the vessel. Standard Watts stuff, which makes it very good. Tegan Moore's "The Work of Wolves" is an engaging story of operatives whose job it is to rescue stranded people, and the dogs that work with them. Carol resents her new AI dog - her previous dog was not enhanced - but comes to love and respect the dog - Sera - when they are assigned to a non-typical mission. A nice little twist was unexpected, thus making it a twist, I suppose. "Soft Edges", by Elizabeth Bear, is not so much a police procedural as it is a story about a scientist who can help with a murder investigation but doesn't want to due to philosophical beliefs. E. Lily Yu's "Green Glass: A Love Story" is a tale of excess to the n-th degree. Very bizarre, but strangely engaging. The list goes on. There are stories by Greg Egan, Suzanne Palmer, Karin Tidbeck, Malka Older, Han Song, Anil Menon, Suyi Davies Okungbowa, Ken Liu, Alec Nevala-Lee, Vandana Singh, Sofia Rhei, and Chinelo Onwualu to go along with the others that I mentioned. Every one of these stories is good, and although not all of them are to my tastes, all of them speak to the international scope of the short science fiction field today. Strahan has once again knocked it out of the park, and has shown that the field is secure for years to come.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rob McMinn

    Saw an interesting tweet the other day, of a double page spread from the Galaxy science fiction magazine, circa 1968. On the left hand side, a list of authors supporting America’s presence in Vietnam; on the right, an equally long list of authors opposed to the war. You can predict that the likes of Heinlein, Niven, and Pournelle were on the war-supporting page; while Le Guin, Bradbury, Harrison and Wilhelm were opposed. I’m not going to pretend to be so right-on that I only liked anti-war writer Saw an interesting tweet the other day, of a double page spread from the Galaxy science fiction magazine, circa 1968. On the left hand side, a list of authors supporting America’s presence in Vietnam; on the right, an equally long list of authors opposed to the war. You can predict that the likes of Heinlein, Niven, and Pournelle were on the war-supporting page; while Le Guin, Bradbury, Harrison and Wilhelm were opposed. I’m not going to pretend to be so right-on that I only liked anti-war writers, but it was interesting to see this fissure in the genre and consider how this ideological split has endured, manifesting itself in the Hugo and Nebula awards controversies in recent times. People have strong opinions about what science fiction should be, and politics, politeness, inclusivity, and identity politics all play their part. Far be it from me to suggest that there are more recognisable names on the right side of history. A History of Science Fiction Anthologies Obviously, you can’t move for science fiction (and fantasy) anthologies these days, and in many ways the anthology is the central text for the genre of science fiction. While the fantasy genre lends itself to epically long novels, the ur-form of science fiction is the short story. The best way of spinning out a fresh idea without worrying too much about plot or character development, and science fiction is above all a literature of ideas. So it seems to me that an annual collection, edited by someone with impeccable taste, is an essential primer, allowing readers to discover new writers and follow the trends in the genre as it continues to reflect the times we live in. Central to my own early experience of science fiction is the Brian Aldiss edited Penguin Science Fiction Omnibus, which was last updated in 2006. My edition dates from 1974, however. The Aldiss anthology belongs to a different age: very few women or people of colour were included in that 1974 paperback, and the names mostly came from the “golden age” of the genre. Alongside that, I was gifted early on the very first World’s Best Science Fiction collection edited by Terry Carr — and it was the Carr collections that caught the “new wave” of science fiction from the 1960s onwards. I read the Carr annuals avidly until the 1980s, when the late Gardner Dozois began publishing his enormous annual collections. Thirty-five years of those St. Martin’s Press anthologies until Dozois died, aged 70, in 2018, leaving a huge hole in the market. Other science fiction anthologies are available, many of them published in parallel with the Dozois editions, but none of them were quite up to the mark. Lots of them also included fantasy, which is not what I’m looking for in my annual purchase. Enter Saga I had high hopes for the new Saga anthology, which is clearly meant to step into the breach. Jonathan Strahan has experience as an editor and I had every reason to trust that this collection would hit the spot. Eight months. That’s how long it took me to get through this, from January when I first downloaded it, to yesterday, when I skim read my way through the last couple of stories. It just did not grab me. There were a few stories that I enjoyed, but far too many that I found to be a bore. It’s not you, it’s me I’m prepared to believe that I’ve drifted away from the genre in recent times. Still love it, but the ‘right stuff’ is increasingly hard to find. I’d also say that even the Gardner Dozois collections were disappointing in his last few editions. Perhaps I’m just too old and too invested in those earlier decades. The genre is about different things now, and while I’d never align myself with the left hand side of that Galaxy page, maybe I’m just not the target audience. I’m a middle aged white male, a tiny demographic group with too much visibility. When I got to the end of the Saga collection, I took a look through the sources from which Strahan had drawn the collection, and here’s the thing. It’s obvious that Strahan cast his net wide, trying to be as inclusive as possible, and he has successfully drawn in stories from around the globe, from Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe, from presses large and small, and publications both electronic and print. I absolutely applaud this and have no problem with it. And it occurred to me that at the peak of the Dozois years, upwards of 50% of the content of his collections might have come from two sources: Asimov’s Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Obviously, these collections were less diverse and less inclusive and it’s way past time for the genre to reflect society more fairly. But it’s also clear to me that – probably – I like that Asimov’s stuff, and I’m a lot less enamoured of the other sources. In other words, I need to try harder to enjoy the diversity of the field. I didn’t this time, but maybe I’ll try again. Or maybe I’ll just subscribe to Asimov’s. At least he, Isaac Asimov, was against the war.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Angel

    I am the type person that usually stays away from short story collections. I am not completely sure why. Perhaps it is that I prefer stories that have longer story arcs, with multiple plot twists and a larger cast of characters. Maybe I feared that some short stories are not going to be “as good” as the author’s longer stories, almost like these were brief concepts or ideas. I think it’s the former and not the latter. The author’s in this collection got my attention and I’m glad it did. Jonathan I am the type person that usually stays away from short story collections. I am not completely sure why. Perhaps it is that I prefer stories that have longer story arcs, with multiple plot twists and a larger cast of characters. Maybe I feared that some short stories are not going to be “as good” as the author’s longer stories, almost like these were brief concepts or ideas. I think it’s the former and not the latter. The author’s in this collection got my attention and I’m glad it did. Jonathan Strahan did a phenomenal job pulling together fantastic short stories from some fantastic authors. Some of which I already knew, and others which I didn’t. The best part being that I got to discover new authors in the process of reading this collection and maybe that is one of the reasons collections such as this are awesome. There are too many stories to cover here but I will cover some of my favorites of this book. This collection starts off with a bang and really sets the tone for the entire collection. Charlie Jane Anders’ story is thought provoking and intense. I don’t think there is a better story to start off with. There are similarities from our real world cultural/political divides in this story. This story might be an exaggeration of our social divide but 2020 has been an extreme year with social distancing due to a virus and social injustices. There has been enough craziness in our reality that makes Anders' story feel like a possible reality due to the conflicts we are seeing as a nation. After reading this story I was left feeling like we just need to stop, take a moment and think…like really think. What are we doing to each other? Equally as thought provoking is N. K. Jemisin’s Emergency Skin. This first came out as part of the Forward collection from Amazon Original Stories and it was my favorite from that collection. It really feels at home in this book and fits right in with this collection of stories. The pacing of this story is just perfect slowly revealing layers of truth to a space traveler returning to Tellus (our planet) after a group of humans leave a dying Earth to start a new society. They return with caution to explore the old Earth they left behind. I don’t want to spoil this one, I love it and if don’t have time to read all of these stories, you should definitely read this one. I enjoyed the lighter tone of I (28M) Created a Deepfake Girlfriend and Now My Parents Think We’re Getting Married by Fonda Lee. There is a bit of craziness in this story too and a sense of exaggeration but with a feel of “I can see this happening”. People in society would take hold of something like this and turn it into an obsession. This story shines a light on the chain of events that lead one person to obsess over this “tool” but sadly, I there are people in the real world that cling to social media and do the very same thing with current social apps. Other stories that you might want to jump to first (you don’t have to read these in order!) The Galactic Tourist Industrial Complex by Tobias S. Buckell, Now Wait for This Week by Alice Sola Kim and Song of the Birds by Saleem Haddad. There is something here for any fan of science fiction and you may find yourself adding to your TBR list after discovering a new author from this book. I highly recommend this collection. I want to thank Jonathan Strahan, all the authors who are in this book, Simon & Schuster, Saga Press and NetGalley for providing an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lauren loves llamas

    Gardner Dozois’ Year’s Best collections were a staple of my childhood, mostly because it was some of the only science fiction my local library could be relied on to buy every year. If this inaugural volume is anything to go by, Jonathan Strahan is a worthy successor. This is an anthology of 28 stories from 2019, delightfully diverse and spanning a wide range of themes. “Everybody needs books, Molly figured. No matter where they live, how they love, what they believe, whom they want to kill. We al Gardner Dozois’ Year’s Best collections were a staple of my childhood, mostly because it was some of the only science fiction my local library could be relied on to buy every year. If this inaugural volume is anything to go by, Jonathan Strahan is a worthy successor. This is an anthology of 28 stories from 2019, delightfully diverse and spanning a wide range of themes. “Everybody needs books, Molly figured. No matter where they live, how they love, what they believe, whom they want to kill. We all want books.” Charlie Jane Ander’s “The Bookstore at the End of America” serves as a not particularly subtle introduction to a group of stories about how the stories we tell divide us, unite us, and bring us hope. Almost all of the stories were new to me even if the authors weren’t. The only exception was S.L. Huang’s bombshell “As the Last I May Know,” about one child and a nation’s “ethical” solution to nuclear warfare, which won the Hugo for short story this year. Also as unsurprisingly exceptional – even though I hadn’t read it before – was N.K. Jemisin’s “Emergency Skin,” which handles a topic (climate change and apocalypse) others cover in this anthology with unbelievable skill and a frankly unparalleled storytelling ability. Despite the subject matter, it’s surprisingly hopeful, as is Malka Older’s “Sturdy Lantern and Ladders” about a behavioral researcher who job is to provide stress relief for a research octopus. For new-to-me authors, I was particularly taken by Indrapramit Das’ “Kali_Na,” about an AI goddess and a poor, lower-caste Indian girl. On the less than hopeful and more rage-filled side (this is 2020, we all need a little bit of screaming into the void at this point), Alice Sola Kim’s “Now Wait For This Week” is a not-particularly-subtle Groundhog-Day-like take on sexual harassment. Karin Tidbeck’s “The Last Voyage of Skidbladnir” is one of the few outright adventure-type stories, following a human grease monkey on a strange interstellar cruise ship. I’d also add Tegan Moore’s “The Work of Wolves,” from the point of view of an Enhanced search and rescue dog who’s puzzled by her cold relationship with her handler, to that pile. I was especially touched by Caroline M. Yoachim’s “The Archronology of Love.” One of my favorite styles of science fiction is plopping down relatable characters in different-but-not-so-different places and times, using that lens to reinterpret our lives. This story is a heart wrenching tale of a woman who’s lost her husband and the future they were planning to share and now has to unravel the mystery of the failed colony, all the while dealing with her nearly grown up son. Overall, even if some of the stories weren’t to my taste, they were for the most part high quality. I also appreciated the long introduction listing the editor’s favorites from the year, regardless of length or format. While I’d already read or added most of them to my TBR, I found a few new gems. This is definitely a worthy successor to one of my childhood favorites and I will definitely be picking up next year’s edition! I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tonstant Weader

    The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Volume 1 is a huge anthology of science fiction short (and not-s-short stories) that was refreshing in its breadth and speaks to a bright future for science fiction. With twenty-eight stories, it’s about twice the size of most anthologies. That is a mixed blessing in that I sometimes felt it was taking me too long to read. There’s Mount TBR piled so high and I am spending days and days on one book. However, I can’t think of a story that I wish I had not read. Ther The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Volume 1 is a huge anthology of science fiction short (and not-s-short stories) that was refreshing in its breadth and speaks to a bright future for science fiction. With twenty-eight stories, it’s about twice the size of most anthologies. That is a mixed blessing in that I sometimes felt it was taking me too long to read. There’s Mount TBR piled so high and I am spending days and days on one book. However, I can’t think of a story that I wish I had not read. There are a few stories that will haunt me, though. “Song of the Birds” by Saleem Haddad had me sobbing as I began to realize what the song revealed. It was one of the more heartbreaking stories I have read in years, in part because it projects a future where we don’t even try to solve our hard problems. Of course, it’s not the only story that predicts an entirely predictable grim future where today’s metropolises are underwater and scarcity is everywhere. There are stories that seem like they are just the day after tomorrow. “Thoughts and Prayer” by Ken Liu was heartbreaking, but seemed very much of today, a family tragedy made worse by social media trolls and deep fakes. Others are farther afield, a couple going to the moon for their honeymoon and a woman leading an investigation of what went wrong at a failed interplanetary colony. One of the most affecting was the story of sentient machines taking measurements deep at sea and suddenly realizing they have been cut off…and one of them’s desperate and bold effort to find her way home. “Painter of Trees” by Suzanne Palmer is a simple story, but probably will stick with me the longest, about how colonization can lead to extinction even when you wish it would not. I loved most of the stories in The Year’s Best Science Fiction and didn’t dislike any of them. It really is an outstanding collection of short stories and from a widely diverse group of authors. The only thing I disliked was the Introduction which seemed more like a State of the Union of Science Fiction address, with far too much detail on the ins and outs of publishing, books published, speeches given, writers passed, and awards given than an introduction to an anthology. I would much rather just get to the excellent stories. I received an e-galley of The Year’s Best Science Fiction from the publisher through NetGalley The Year’s Best Science Fiction at Gallery | Saga Books Jonathan Strahan https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpre...

  20. 4 out of 5

    Brandon

    The Year’s Best Science Fiction Vol. 1 is a diverse collection of science fiction stories from 2019, picked as the year’s best by editor Jonathan Strahan. This collection showcases the wide variety of authors, writing styles, views, and stories that come out of the science fiction community. Many of the stories capture the culture and mood coming out of the year 2019. There were some great stories, some middling, and a few duds, but overall it was a fine collection. My favorites from the collecti The Year’s Best Science Fiction Vol. 1 is a diverse collection of science fiction stories from 2019, picked as the year’s best by editor Jonathan Strahan. This collection showcases the wide variety of authors, writing styles, views, and stories that come out of the science fiction community. Many of the stories capture the culture and mood coming out of the year 2019. There were some great stories, some middling, and a few duds, but overall it was a fine collection. My favorites from the collection were The Bookstore at the End of America by Charlie Jane Anders, As the Last I May Know by S.L. Huang, Emergency Skin by N.K. Jemisin, and At the Fall by Alec Nevala-Lee. There were many others that I enjoyed as well. Listed below is my rating for each story. The Bookstore at the End of America by Charlie Jane Anders - 5/5 The Galactic Tourist Industrial Complex by Tobias S. Buckell - 4/5 Kali_Na by Indrapramit Das - 4/5 Song of the Birds by Saleem Haddad - 3/5 The Painter of Trees by Suzanne Palmer - 3/5 The Last Voyage of Skidbladnir by Karin Tidbeck - 3/5 Study Lanterns and Ladders by Malka Older - 2/5 It’s 2059, and the Rich Kids Are Still Winning by Ted Chiang - 3/5 Contagion’s Eve at the House Noctamblous by Rich Larson - 1/5 DNF Submarines by Han Song - 3/5 As the Last I May Know by S.L. Huang - 5/5 A Catalog of Storms by Fran Wilde - 2/5 The Robots of Eden by Anil Menon - 1/5 DNF Now Wait for This Week by Alice Sola Kim - 3/5 Cyclopterus by Peter Watts - 4/5 Dune Song by Suyi Davies Okungbowa - 2/5 The Work of Wolves by Tegan Moore - 4/5 Soft Edges by Elizabeth Bear - 4/5 Emergency Skin by N.K. Jemisin - 5/5 Thoughts and Prayers by Ken Liu - 3/5 At the Fall by Alec Nevala-Lee - 5/5 Reunion by Vandana Singh - 1/5 DNF Green Glass: A Love Story by E. Lily Yu - 3/5 Secret Stories of Doors by Sofia Rhei - 4/5 This Is Not the Way Home by Greg Egan - 4/5 What the Dead Man Said by Chinela Onwualu - 2/5 I (28M) created a deepfake girlfriend and now my parents think we’re getting married by Fonda Lee - 4/5 The Archronology of Love by Caroline M. Yoachim - 3/5

  21. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    Thanks to NetGalley for an advance copy of this collection in exchange for an honest review. This first volume in a new series of "The Year's Best Science Fiction, edited by Jonathan Strahan, is a great collection of current visions and important overarching themes in the genre. Many of the stories carry a message of economic and societal inequity amid vast climate and ecological changes and technological advances that affect, to varying degrees, rich and poor alike. A few pure fantasy stories a Thanks to NetGalley for an advance copy of this collection in exchange for an honest review. This first volume in a new series of "The Year's Best Science Fiction, edited by Jonathan Strahan, is a great collection of current visions and important overarching themes in the genre. Many of the stories carry a message of economic and societal inequity amid vast climate and ecological changes and technological advances that affect, to varying degrees, rich and poor alike. A few pure fantasy stories are mixed in with an otherwise strong showing of global authors in hard, soft, and speculative fiction. The nearly-pure fantasy ranges into space, while a few stories descend to the seabed, and several bring us to witness shifting sea-level as it reclaims megacities such as Mumbai and New York. In my own opinion, three of the stories stand out for their different focus amid the sci-fi and fantasy of the others. In one, "The Work of Wolves" by Tegan Moore, the inner life of an enhanced-intelligence search-and-rescue dog is told from the dog's perspective, an innovative approach to a narrative that might otherwise have remained a mundane story about augmented biology. In "Now Wait for This Week" by Alice Sola Kim, a young woman relives the week of her birthday over and over, sort of like "Groundhog Day" but with a strong #MeToo element to the story. And in "Secret Stories of Doors," Sofia Rhei turns the Ministry of Truth from George Orwell's "1984" fully inside out, with some help from HG Wells and Orson Welles, in a global dystopia where fiction is banned. Finally, one story by Ken Liu entitled "Thoughts and Prayers" strikes a particularly resounding note in our present time, when the mother of a teenager killed in a mass shooting allows the anti-gun lobby to tell her child's story. The public grieving brings out a particularly virulent troll response, leading to psychological terrors that tear the surviving family apart and send the mother into an emotional spiral from which she never recovers. With such events going on in the real world and online, it's no wonder that every day feels like another foray into the increasingly uncanny valley between memory and great science fiction.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    Thanks to NetGalley and Gallery Books/Saga Press for letting me read and review this array of different, unique, and great Science Fiction stories. This is a well rounded and interesting collection of stories that cover quite a broad range in Science Fiction and has familiar, well-known authors as well as offering work of new more unknown authors also. There's so much in anthologies, it's sometimes hard to know how or what exactly to review about all the stories and authors in them because there' Thanks to NetGalley and Gallery Books/Saga Press for letting me read and review this array of different, unique, and great Science Fiction stories. This is a well rounded and interesting collection of stories that cover quite a broad range in Science Fiction and has familiar, well-known authors as well as offering work of new more unknown authors also. There's so much in anthologies, it's sometimes hard to know how or what exactly to review about all the stories and authors in them because there's so much in them. This has quite a few authors I'm familiar with and enjoy, some unknown and new to me authors that I'm more interested in checking out more of their work now and a large range of stories covering various topics. The stories range anywhere from Outer Limits to Twilight Zone types of Science Fiction. I enjoyed a lot of the stories, but there were some that I didn't like as much and there were a few that got me emotional and a few that kind of scared me, or maybe better wording would be greatly disturbed and creeped me out. Some of the stories were very far out there with Sci-Fi, others were more mainstream type and others were uncanny with how close to our reality they are. This is a pretty great collection of stories put together that can show you more of the authors you already love and introduce you to more new and awesome Science Fiction authors. I also enjoyed a wide range of topics and stories with the various types of Science Fiction. If you like anthologies and Science Fiction, make sure to have this one on your list to check it out as soon as it comes out. The only CW/TW I would put here is that there's some profanity and such in some of the stories, but other than that not much.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Shawn

    A collection of new science fiction short stories from authors around the world. I love well done science fiction short stories. When an author can truly make a story less than 50 pages and yet make you feel like you live in the world they have created, they have truly mastered the craft. Most of these authors showe that mastery. Because the stories come from such a variety of sources, the besides the normal piecing together of the new worlds presented, occasionally you had to also understand th A collection of new science fiction short stories from authors around the world. I love well done science fiction short stories. When an author can truly make a story less than 50 pages and yet make you feel like you live in the world they have created, they have truly mastered the craft. Most of these authors showe that mastery. Because the stories come from such a variety of sources, the besides the normal piecing together of the new worlds presented, occasionally you had to also understand the culture where these stories originated. One example of this is "Kali_Na" by Indrapramit Das. This story presented not only a fascinating future where worship has gone high tech, but also brings those not as familiar with prejudices and worship in this future India to a level of understanding that makes the story enjoyable without being an encyclopedia entry. My favourite two stories were "The Work of Wolves" by Tegan Moore and "At the Fall" by Alec Nevala-Lee. "The Work of Wolves" is the story partners learning to work together. The twist? One is human while the other is an improved dog. "At the Fall" is the story of a nearly impossible trip home for the robot Eunice across the bottom of the sea. The time perspective on this one made it even more fascinating. With both of these, I loved the well thought-out internal perspectives and the way both stories built to the climax with slow steps that made the end that much more rewarding. I would recommend this book to those who enjoy science fiction or multicultural fiction. Both with find lots to enjoy. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the opportunity to read a pre-release copy of this book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Harrison Schweiloch

    As I have said before, I am wary of anthologies - I worry about changes in quality and tonal whiplash between stories in themed multi-author collections. However, when I saw that Saga Press was launching a new series of the year’s best science fiction anthologies called The Year’s Best Science Fiction vol 1 edited by Jonathan Strahan with the best of 2019’s short fiction, I figured it would be a good bet and requested an eARC from NetGalley. I wasn’t wrong! This collection is full of excellent s As I have said before, I am wary of anthologies - I worry about changes in quality and tonal whiplash between stories in themed multi-author collections. However, when I saw that Saga Press was launching a new series of the year’s best science fiction anthologies called The Year’s Best Science Fiction vol 1 edited by Jonathan Strahan with the best of 2019’s short fiction, I figured it would be a good bet and requested an eARC from NetGalley. I wasn’t wrong! This collection is full of excellent stories. Are they necessarily what I would have picked personally? No, but I can’t argue that there is a dud in the bunch. It contains many of this year’s Hugo nominees, like “As the Last I May Know” by S. L. Huang and “A Catalog of Storms” by Fran Wilde. (Fun fact - I met Fran Wilde at NYCC a few years ago and she made my day by complimenting me on the Wonder Twins tshirt I was wearing.) Among my favorites are Hugo nominee “Emergency Skin” by N. K. Jemisin. This story was a fascinating, surprising take on a post-Apocalyptic earth with a very unreliable second person narrator. So much fun! I also loved “The Bookstore at the End of America” by Charlie Jane Anders, which was full of warmth and heart and really made me miss going to bookstores during this pandemic. Probably my favorite story from the entire collection is “I (28M) created a deepfake girlfriend and now 000 my parents think we’re getting married” by Fonda Lee. Written in an incredibly realistic style of a series of internet posts, it is a cheeky yet introspective look at technology and relationships in the digital age. A great anthology all round.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    As primarily a reader of novels, short story collections are not always on my reading list. However, I do find them to be an interesting way to find some possible new authors to read further. So, I do find value in collections like this one. There is much food for thought in most entries, whether they were favorites or not. Many authors of diverse cultures are included, so this anthology also serves as an introduction to many. Although I have read several author's works previously, there were ma As primarily a reader of novels, short story collections are not always on my reading list. However, I do find them to be an interesting way to find some possible new authors to read further. So, I do find value in collections like this one. There is much food for thought in most entries, whether they were favorites or not. Many authors of diverse cultures are included, so this anthology also serves as an introduction to many. Although I have read several author's works previously, there were many that were new to me. The length of the book may have been too long, but this may be because several of the stories seemed to drag for me. I believe my favorite selection is "Emergency Skin," by N.K. Jemisin. I am an optimist at heart and this story not only was one of the most optimist (in my opinion), but has a fun little quick that appeals to my sense of humor. And, has something to say about how we treat our world. Overall, I believe the second half of the book is the strongest, but others may feel otherwise. Which is a great segue into this discussion; most of these stories do deal with issues that need to be taken seriously in our world. Climate change is a major topic in many stories. Sexual politics and consequences are included, as well others. There is much to think about in these stories, even if the story itself doesn't appeal. If readers enjoy dystopian fiction they will find the majority show a disturbing view of our future as a world (species?) A worthy contribution to an examination of international short science fiction. I read an ARC provided by NetGalley, in order to provide an unbiased review.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Caitlyn

    Such an interesting anthology! I will definitely be looking for the next volume when it comes out, there were so many super though-provoking stories as well as ones that were a little more fun. I'm looking forward to reading more of many of these author's works Some stand-outs: Kali_Na by Indrapramit Das - one of my absolute favourites in the anthology, I was thinking about it for days afterwards The Painter of Trees by Suzanne Palmer - haunting and saddening in its proximity to how things are now Such an interesting anthology! I will definitely be looking for the next volume when it comes out, there were so many super though-provoking stories as well as ones that were a little more fun. I'm looking forward to reading more of many of these author's works Some stand-outs: Kali_Na by Indrapramit Das - one of my absolute favourites in the anthology, I was thinking about it for days afterwards The Painter of Trees by Suzanne Palmer - haunting and saddening in its proximity to how things are now Sturdy Lanterns and Ladders by Malka Older - maybe my favourite story of the whole anthology, I cried Contagion’s Eve at the House of Noctambulous by Rich Larson - some horror sci-fi which was fun! (well, not really) haven't really read much like this before, I really enjoyed it As The Last I May Know by S.L. Huang - an interesting concept, there was a lot of thinking to be done A Catalog of Storms by Fran Wilde - I particularly enjoyed the writing style of this one Soft Edges by Elizabeth Bear - interesting discussion to have, both sides have good points and this was an effective way to speak about that Emergency Skin by N.K. Jemisin - this, along with Kali_Na and Sturdy Lanterns and Ladders makes up my top three of the anthology. an interesting and not at all far-fetched concept, I loved it Secret Stories of Doors by Sofia Rhei - super interesting and very close to present capabilities which made it all the more interesting What the Dead Man Said by Chinelo Onwualu - I wasn't expecting something like this to come up, but I'm extremely glad that it did, as harsh as a lot of it was

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jeppe Larsen

    This is not easy to rate properly. I give it four because all stories are written by authors who know how to write. Strahans selection is very wide and shows the genre is much larger what is being written by western authors. I think every continent on the planet is represented at least twice. However, even though it is wide in terms of authors background, the actual stories felt kind of similar with thematics and messages. Most are set on a near-future Earth and while maybe not outright dystopia This is not easy to rate properly. I give it four because all stories are written by authors who know how to write. Strahans selection is very wide and shows the genre is much larger what is being written by western authors. I think every continent on the planet is represented at least twice. However, even though it is wide in terms of authors background, the actual stories felt kind of similar with thematics and messages. Most are set on a near-future Earth and while maybe not outright dystopian, there aren't that many cheerful stories. And only a few I would call actually entertaining. Instead there is a lot of stories with clear messages against injustice, unfairness and cruelty in the world. This highlights that science fiction is very useful to get readers thinking about the world we live in and especially what is wrong. But as a whole, Strahans collection doesn't really capture the whole science fiction field. There are many types of stories that are still being written that are not represented here. All this sounds more negative than is my intent. This IS a very good collection of great stories that are well worth the read for every avid science fiction reader. Especially if you like me, mostly get your short stories from the regular magazines, this collects tons of stories from other sources and anthologies that I would otherwise miss. But - to get an idea of the good science fiction is being written today, I don't think this collection can stand alone. I would recommend complementing it with another "years best" anthology.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dan Trefethen

    Many 'best of' anthologies in this genre combine science fiction and fantasy, since the lines seem to blur these days. However, Strahan's new annual anthology is explicitly science fiction, unlike his previous one that combined the two. In this, he seems to be paying homage to his late friend and mentor Gardner Dozois, who published fantasy in the pages of 'Asimov's Science Fiction magazine' but whose personal preference was decidedly towards science fiction. That is to say, speculative stuff wi Many 'best of' anthologies in this genre combine science fiction and fantasy, since the lines seem to blur these days. However, Strahan's new annual anthology is explicitly science fiction, unlike his previous one that combined the two. In this, he seems to be paying homage to his late friend and mentor Gardner Dozois, who published fantasy in the pages of 'Asimov's Science Fiction magazine' but whose personal preference was decidedly towards science fiction. That is to say, speculative stuff without overt magic or supernatural creatures. Still, science fiction is not just rayguns, robots and spaceships. Few of these stories actually have any of these elements, but have strong speculative elements nonetheless. The 'hardest' SF story might be Peter Watts' undersea adventure, 'Cyclopterus'. The most searing and timely might be Ken Liu's 'Thoughts and Prayers'. The most gonzo might be Fonda Lee's 'I (28M) created a deepfake girlfriend and now my parents think we're getting married'. The most indicting is E. Lily Yu's 'Green Glass: A Love Story'. And the most likely to happen (sigh) is Ted Chiang's 'It's 2059 and the Rich Kids Are Still Winning'. Strahan picks a few stories from anthologies he edited, but Dozois did that as well when he issued his annual 'best of' anthologies, and nobody begrudged him the excellent examples from 'Asimov's'. A good story is a good story, no matter where it's published. There are plenty of them here.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lexxi Kitty

    Johnathan Strahan - Introdution Charlie Jane Anders - Bookstore at the End of America Tobias S. Buckell - Galactic Tourist Industrial Complex Indrapramit Das Kali Na Saleem Haddad Song of the Birds Suzanne Palmer The Painter of Trees Karin Tidbeck The Last Voyage of Skidbladnir Malka Older Sturdy Lanterns and Ladders Ted Chiang It's 2059 and the Rich Kids are Still Winning Rich Larson Contagion's Eve at the House Noctambulous Han Song Submarines S.L. Huang As the Last I May Know Fran Wilde A Catalog of St Johnathan Strahan - Introdution Charlie Jane Anders - Bookstore at the End of America Tobias S. Buckell - Galactic Tourist Industrial Complex Indrapramit Das Kali Na Saleem Haddad Song of the Birds Suzanne Palmer The Painter of Trees Karin Tidbeck The Last Voyage of Skidbladnir Malka Older Sturdy Lanterns and Ladders Ted Chiang It's 2059 and the Rich Kids are Still Winning Rich Larson Contagion's Eve at the House Noctambulous Han Song Submarines S.L. Huang As the Last I May Know Fran Wilde A Catalog of Storms Anil Menon The Robots of Eden Alice Sola Kim Now Wait for this Week Peter Watts Cyclopterus Suyi Davis Okungbowa Dune Song Tegan Moore The Work of Wolves Elizabeth Bear Soft Edges N.K. Jemisin Emergency Skin Ken Liu Thoughts and Prayers Alec Nevala-Lee At the Fall Vandana Singh Reunion E. Lily Yu Green Glass: A Love Story Sofia Rhei Secret Stories of Doors Greg Egan This is not the Way Home Chinelo Onwualu What the Dead Man Said Fonda Lee I (28M) created a deep fake girlfriend and now my parents think we're getting married Caroline M. Yoachim The Archronology of Love

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Waddell

    Hartwell, Dozois and Strahan are household names around here, here being my brain. Sadly Hartwell and Dozois have passed on, but Strahan still carries the torch for the science fiction short story, my favourite literary form. This volume, like all others like it (this book says Volume 1 but I include all Year's Best anthologies in this statement), is filled with excellent stories. Some that I love and speak to me so well and some that weren't to my taste- but that doesn't make them not excellent Hartwell, Dozois and Strahan are household names around here, here being my brain. Sadly Hartwell and Dozois have passed on, but Strahan still carries the torch for the science fiction short story, my favourite literary form. This volume, like all others like it (this book says Volume 1 but I include all Year's Best anthologies in this statement), is filled with excellent stories. Some that I love and speak to me so well and some that weren't to my taste- but that doesn't make them not excellent. At The Fall was the standout story for me, just lovely. And I always love to see Charlie Jane Anders and Ted Chiang in these collections. Chiang's story this year was (I really hate to say this about such a hero of mine) not his strongest, but I think it helps to know that these really short stories of his that have appeared the last few odd years here and there were first printed in Nature, and probably work best in the context of whatever issue of that Journal it appears in, alongside its editorial and any theme for the issue. On its own, maybe doesn't work as well. Ugh I feel bad even saying that. I will read Exhalation as penance. I am pretty sure that story won the Superbowl it's that good.

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