April 30, 2014

A New Home for the Best Short Fiction: a review of "The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume 8"

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume 8
edited by Jonathan Strahan
Solaris Books (2014)
618 pages
ISBN13: 9781781082157

While there may be eight volumes in Jonathan Strahan's anthology series, this was my first time reading one, and apparently Solaris Books' first time publishing one. So with that in mind, I can't really offer any opinions on how having a new publisher may have changed the creative direction of the series. I'm guessing not much.

The anthology kicks off with a story that wound up being one of my favorites. "Some Desperado" by Joe Abercrombie offered that weird western vibe I've come to enjoy so much, as well it offered my first chance to read Abercrombie's work. I've certainly heard praise for his novels, so the short fiction may very well be indicative of what I can expect from his novels once I get around to reading them.

Kicking things off with something like a gritty, violent western tale also helped in setting the stage for what wound up being a diverse, even eclectic collection of stories from around the world. Well, the English-speaking world, anyway.

It's hard not to enjoy to a Neil Gaiman story, and "The Sleeper and the Spindle" offered a bit of an homage to fairytales, which I just gobbled up like four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie. Lavie Tidhar, whose novels I haven't fawned over like most readers, gave a very cool story of blackmarket books with "The Bookseller." And io9's Charlie Jane Anders' "The Master Conjurer" had a very fun take on magic in a modern setting. Previously, I'd only read her articles on io9. I guess she has a novel out, and I guess I must go find it now.

Like the best anthologies, it offers familiar names alongside new ones. And with the blend of sci-fi and fantasy, the book--and the series, I suppose--works great as a bridge for readers that devote themselves to one over the other. Did I really read the very best of the year? Pfft. Who cares? All I know is that I read some damned good stories, and when it comes to a weighty anthology like this (twenty-eight stories in all), to have the majority of them turn out so good, how could I ask for anything more?

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