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The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume 2

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The depth and breadth of what science fiction and fantasy fiction is changes with every passing year. The two dozen stories chosen for this book by award-winning anthologist Jonathan Strahan carefully maps this evolution, giving readers a captivating and always-entertaining look at the very best the genre has to offer. A Baghdad merchant encounters an alchemist who may have The depth and breadth of what science fiction and fantasy fiction is changes with every passing year. The two dozen stories chosen for this book by award-winning anthologist Jonathan Strahan carefully maps this evolution, giving readers a captivating and always-entertaining look at the very best the genre has to offer. A Baghdad merchant encounters an alchemist who may have conquered time; a socialite, a miniature elephant, and a butler attempt to survive a coup masquerading as a wild soiree; a pair of scientists, their species altered in order that they may perform research on an alien world, find themselves embroiled in an interplanetary conflict; a young man begins to question his faith in God when he encounters the remains of a race of tool-using hominids; a warrior treads a grisly path as he strives to stop a rogue wizard's influence; a woman born with her heart outside her body finds solace in the arms of a heartless man; the messiah returns to earth, with disappointing news about the afterlife; figures out of myth and legend do battle with an enemy armed with a frightening weapon...the ability to steal away language itself; a girl and her fortune-teller mother travel the countryside, collecting ghosts.


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The depth and breadth of what science fiction and fantasy fiction is changes with every passing year. The two dozen stories chosen for this book by award-winning anthologist Jonathan Strahan carefully maps this evolution, giving readers a captivating and always-entertaining look at the very best the genre has to offer. A Baghdad merchant encounters an alchemist who may have The depth and breadth of what science fiction and fantasy fiction is changes with every passing year. The two dozen stories chosen for this book by award-winning anthologist Jonathan Strahan carefully maps this evolution, giving readers a captivating and always-entertaining look at the very best the genre has to offer. A Baghdad merchant encounters an alchemist who may have conquered time; a socialite, a miniature elephant, and a butler attempt to survive a coup masquerading as a wild soiree; a pair of scientists, their species altered in order that they may perform research on an alien world, find themselves embroiled in an interplanetary conflict; a young man begins to question his faith in God when he encounters the remains of a race of tool-using hominids; a warrior treads a grisly path as he strives to stop a rogue wizard's influence; a woman born with her heart outside her body finds solace in the arms of a heartless man; the messiah returns to earth, with disappointing news about the afterlife; figures out of myth and legend do battle with an enemy armed with a frightening weapon...the ability to steal away language itself; a girl and her fortune-teller mother travel the countryside, collecting ghosts.

30 review for The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume 2

  1. 5 out of 5

    Roger

    Any anthology will include stories you won't like. However, Jonathan Strahan assembled a 500 page collection of science fiction and fantasy stories that was near perfect for me. Any anthology will include stories you won't like. However, Jonathan Strahan assembled a 500 page collection of science fiction and fantasy stories that was near perfect for me.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

    A decent collection of stories, a few of them are outstanding, but most are mediocre, and a few are down right bad. Still worth the $2 I paid for it on Amazon. Spoilers below. Ted Chiang "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate" -- This is yet another great story by Ted Chiang. The man is incredible. It seems impossible that he has written so many great stories, each with its own setting, characters, and themes. This one addresses the high value of repentance, atonement, and forgiveness, even when A decent collection of stories, a few of them are outstanding, but most are mediocre, and a few are down right bad. Still worth the $2 I paid for it on Amazon. Spoilers below. Ted Chiang "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate" -- This is yet another great story by Ted Chiang. The man is incredible. It seems impossible that he has written so many great stories, each with its own setting, characters, and themes. This one addresses the high value of repentance, atonement, and forgiveness, even when the past is permanent and the future is certain, told by a fabric merchant who lives in ancient Baghdad and travels by caravan to ancient Cairo. I really liked this story a lot. The best quote in the story (and there are several good ones) comes at the very end: “Nothing erases the past. There is repentance, there is atonement, and there is forgiveness. That is all, but that is enough.” Five stars out of five. Peter S. Beagle "The Last and Only, or Mr. Moskowitz Becomes French" -- The second story in this anthology is not nearly as good as the first. An American man slowly becomes French, and as people around him, including his wife, react to his condition, we are supposed to learn lessons about how we as a society treat people who are different from us. Eventually the man travels to France, where is he feted initially but eventually becomes more French than the French themselves. The story was clever at first but quickly became tiresome. Three stars out of five. Charles Stross "Trunk and Disorderly" -- I really do not like Stross's style. I've read a couple of his short stories over the years, and I tried to get into Accelerando, but I just don't really like him as an author. I know he appeals to some people, but I am not one of them. I just don't like "silly" science fiction stories. In this one, a man in the far future is saving his robot girlfriend from an attempted coup that involved assassinating a man and all of his friends. The man is also taking care of his sister's dwarf mammoth. All in the far future, where the man belongs to a leisurely class of ultra-wealthy individuals, most of whom are at least partly robot. In fact, I'm not even sure the main character was fully human, or even a man. Meh. Two stars out of five. Greg Egan "Glory" -- A fun story full of hard sci-fi ideas. Two members of the "Amalgam" -- a galaxy spanning advanced civilization -- beam into the star system of a bug-like race who are not as advanced as the Amalgam to investigate mathematic theorems let by a predecessor race to the bugs in carved slabs of hard ceramic. The appearance of the two citizens of the Amalgam, despite their best efforts at appearing like the bugs and blending in, creates havoc, and the story contemplates the difference between societies that spread across territory and societies that seek for further knowledge. I liked this one. Four out of five stars. Daryl Gregory "Dead Horse Point" -- A woman who is suddenly stricken with long bouts of intense focus on a particular topic (usually mathematics and a theory of the universe) calls a former long-time care-giver to come see her and her brother, who is her current care-giver. They walk out to Dead Horse Point at a national park in southern Utah, while the woman explains why time is an illusion and the future of everyone and everything in the universe is set. It turns out that the woman has somehow known what her brother is going to do on Dead Horse Point and that is why she has called her sister. A decent story. Three out of five stars. Jeffrey Ford "The Dreaming Wind" -- A small town endures a bizarre phenomenon every fall -- a wind that blows in and temporarily changes people in strange ways. And then one year it doesn't come. And the children of the town put on a play that explains why the wind stopped. The story involves a wizard protecting his daughter and keeping her in a cage that traps her dreams, which have to be let out every so often. Meh. Two out of five stars. Holly Black "The Coat of Stars" -- When the introduction to this story said that it was going to be about fairies, I literally rolled my eyes. But I was wrong to dismiss this tale so quickly. It was surprisingly good. A man who makes stage costumes for a living returns to his family home to celebrate the Fourth of July. He does not like to go home because of the many memories there, including the suicide of his best friend and first love. He finds that his sister and her son have fled the sister's abusive husband, and during the day's festivities, the boy disappears. The remainder of the story is a touching tale of the man bartering for his dead friend's life from fairies that live in a forest by making flamboyant clothes for them and of the man rescuing his nephew from his boy's abusive father. I liked this one. Four out of five stars. Ted Kosmatka "The Prophet of Flores" -- An overly-long but well-written story about an alternate world in which the theory of evolution has been "proven" false by scientists, and a troubled geneticist/anthropologists involvement in an archaeological dig that strongly indicates the world-view that has developed to explain speciation is wrong. The story opens when the man was a boy and built a large cage for mice on which he performed genetic experiments. His father, who is an abusive jerk, discovers the cage and beats the boy. None of this really adds to the story and felt unnecessary. But I still enjoyed the writing and the ultimate plot. Also, I experienced major deja vu while reading this story. I'm pretty sure I've read it before, but I don't remember when or where. Three out of five stars. Alex Irvine "Wizard's Six" -- This was a dense fantasy story about a man with a complicated and troubling past involving magic, family tragedy, and obsession with the king and queen (for very different reasons). The man has been hired to kill a runaway wizard, and if necessary, the six children he has enthralled (?--this is never clearly explained). The story involves a unique magic system in which commoners are each born with a single magical event in their lives that they can use but that they can also sell to others. There are brokers who purchase these magical events from people and sell them to those in need. Unfortunately, the only developed character in the book is the main character, and the climax of the book is a bit of a let-down, once the main character's full background was revealed. Three out of five stars. Daniel Abraham "The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics" -- A great story, but not a single element of sci-fi or fantasy was even hinted at. A timid and simple "cambist" (someone who is an expert at and facilitates the exchange of currency) and a wealthy and immoral lord have three encounters in which the lord asks the cambist to value increasingly difficult things (foreign currency from a very small country for which there is no published exchange rate, the value of a day in the king's life in terms of days in a prisoner's life, and the value of a soul). The well-told story is brimming with philosophical and economic ideas, but I can't figure out why it appears in this volume of the "Best Science Fiction and Fantasy." Is it simply because that is what Daniel Abraham otherwise writes? Four out of five stars. Nancy Kress "By Fools Like Me" -- In a post-apocalyptic world where society has collapsed as a result of global warming, an old woman's granddaughter finds a cache of books, which are forbidden because they are made of trees, which are zealously preserved and almost worshiped. The old woman's daughter-in-law finds out, and trouble ensues. This story had some interesting things to say about religion and the necessity of literature. Three out of five stars. Bruce Stirling "Kiosk" -- In a near-future, post-capitalism world, a man in Eastern Europe runs a kiosk that sells knic-knacks and also has a fabricator. He sells it all to an official from the EU, and soon realizes that he was a very important part of the local economy. He purchases another fabricator, this one using carbon nano-tubes to make essentially indestructible items, and finds himself on the forefront of yet another economic revolution, caused by fabricators. Overly long with stereotypical characters, although it did have some interesting thoughts on economics and history. Three out of five stars. Theodora Goss "Singing of Mount Abora" -- A doctoral candidate in literature tells the story of a woman in the court of the widow empress of Kubla Khan who knows every song that has ever been song. She wants to marry a dragon who lives in the mountains, and she has to convince the Kubla Khan's widow to let her go, even though she is the only consistent source of amusement that the empress has. The doctoral candidate is contemplating marriage to another student at the university, but she fears what her mother, who is incredibly beautiful, will say and do when she meets the man. The stories merge in a unique way. Three out of five stars. Neil Gaiman "The Witch's Headstone" -- Neil Gaiman can write a good story, although I've found I get tired of his style after 100 pages or so. American Gods and Neverwhere grew tiresome, after a while. But I enjoyed Coraline quite a bit. This "story" is apparently a chapter from Gaiman's "The Graveyard Book" and it is nearly self-contained. The only thing I did not fully understand was why the protagonist, an eight-year-old living boy, inhabited a graveyard with a bunch of ghosts and a vampire. I just read a couple reviews for the book, and now I understand a little better. In any event, the story was good enough to convince me that I should read this book at some point. I bet my kids would like it quite a bit. Four out of five stars. Stephen Baxter "Last Contact" -- A depressing story about the end of the world. An astrophysicist and her mother meet several times at the mom's house, while the end of the world comes closer and closer, the date of which the astrophysicist has predicted. The story is set in England, and people slowly stop working as the end grows closer, making it more and more difficult to get food, water, and then even electricity. The world blinks out as the atomic forces and gravity stop working. Three out of five stars. Ken Macleod "Jesus Christ, Reanimator" -- Kind of a silly story without a real resolution. A man floats down to earth over the Levant, saying that he is Jesus Christ, come again. A reporter follows him around, and interviews him, trying to determine whether he is legitimate. Lot's of different theories are given to explain his existence, but he is ultimately shot and killed by a zealot Christian, who believes he is killing an anti-Christ (perhaps THE anti-Christ). Two out of five stars. Susan Palwick "Sorrel's Heart" -- A disturbing story about a future society in which normal people hunt down and kill "freaks," usually people who have some physical deformity. A young man who feeds off of the suffering of living things (that's his "freak"-ish trait, which, unlike most other freaks, is not a physical deformity) finds a girl whose heart is outside of her chest. The guy and girl fall in love, she gets pregnant, and they try to escape a society in which the girl will forever be persecuted (but not the man, because his deformity is mental, not physical). Tragedy strikes when the baby is born. The mother dies, and the man must care for the child, carrying his heart outside of his body. Three out of five stars. Michael Swanwick "Urdumheim" -- a surprisingly dense and complicated story based on Biblical and other early Mesopotamian stories about the creation of the world, involving Nimrod, Ararat, and other people and places from "early" man. Early people were kept in subjugation by monsters who could keep them from speaking and otherwise communicating with words. This was an interesting story. Four out of five stars. M. Rickert "Holiday" -- A yucky story about a man whose father was a convicted pedophile, trying to write a book about it, when the ghosts of little girls who had been abused and killed begin appearing to him, the most common one being a girl whom the author clearly intended to be Jonbenet Ramsey. I did not like this one. One out of five stars. Tony Daniel "The Valley of the Gardens" -- A super far future story set on planet where the final battle between humans and a dimension hopping being, which has existed since shortly after the Big Bang. A fun story, with some cool ideas, but ultimately not strange enough to be convincing in its "far future" setting. Three out of five stars. Elizabeth Hand "Winter's Wife" -- Told from the point of view of a young teenage boy growing up in a small town on the coast of Maine. His neighbor is a man named Winter, who marries a woman from Iceland. She turns out to be some kind of rock goddess that can turn things into stone. A wealthy neighbor who cuts down one of the ancient trees on his property makes her mad, and she turns him to stone. Well written, but the plot was a little too meandering for my taste. Three out of five stars. Chris Roberson "The Sky is Large and the Earth is Small" -- A cleric writing a memo advising the Emperor about the Chinese Empire's planned invasion of the Mayan Empire finds one last source, an old man who visited the Mayans long ago, and has to deal with his demands and eccentricities to get information out of him. Not a lot of plot in this alternate history tale, but some cool ideas. Three out of five stars. Elizabeth Bear "Orm the Beautiful" -- The last of the dragons guards his treasure, made up of jewels and the bones of prior dragons, and then makes a deal with a Smithsonian curator to preserve the dragon bones. Pretty language, but the story was a little too weird for my tastes. Two out of five stars. Kelly Link "The Constable of Abal" -- A teenage girl and her mother collect ghosts and scam people. They travel to a new city, and the mother suddenly seems to go straight, doing good deeds and properly worshiping the gods. They are living with an ancient woman who has traveled the world and has a secret room full of "souvenirs" that turn out to be powerful objects. There was a lot going on in this story, some of it cool, some of it bland, and some of it confusing. Three out of five stars.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Peter Tillman

    Pretty heavy on fantasy, but does have some good SF stories, all read before. Anthology rating: 2.7 stars. If I had bought this book, I'd have been unhappy. I didn't really care for any of the fantasy, and I'd already read the SF stories I liked, and some that I didn't. Strahan's taste and mine overlap, but he's more interested in fantasy and (what he sees as) literary quality. IMO, of course, but I am most interested in classic SF with good storytelling. Highlights: *Jesus Christ, Reanimator • sho Pretty heavy on fantasy, but does have some good SF stories, all read before. Anthology rating: 2.7 stars. If I had bought this book, I'd have been unhappy. I didn't really care for any of the fantasy, and I'd already read the SF stories I liked, and some that I didn't. Strahan's taste and mine overlap, but he's more interested in fantasy and (what he sees as) literary quality. IMO, of course, but I am most interested in classic SF with good storytelling. Highlights: *Jesus Christ, Reanimator • short story by Ken MacLeod. SF, sort-of. Shaggy-God story, vintage MacLeod. 4.5 stars. Reprint online, https://www.apex-magazine.com/jesus-c... Go read it! * The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate • novelette by Ted Chiang . 4 stars. Won both the Hugo & Nebula. Reprinted in Dozois #25, 2008. Many other reprints. *The Valley of the Gardens • novelette by Tony Daniel. SF. Set in his "Dry, Quiet War" universe. Also reprinted in "The New Space Opera" anthology, which is way more to my taste than this one. 4+ stars. *Dead Horse Point • shorts story by Daryl Gregory. SF. Julia is rewriting the Many-Worlds proofs, but getting lost in her own head. And her family is prone to suicide. 3.5 stars Story comments: *By Fools Like Me • short story by Nancy Kress. Post-apocalypse SF. Finding a lost cache of books. Downer story, not really for me, but well-written. 3 stars *Urdumheim • novelette by Michael Swanwick. Mesopotamian prehistoric fantasy. King Nimrod & the Igigi. Nimrod invents language. Eh. Beautifully written, not really my sort of thing. 2.7 stars

  4. 4 out of 5

    Deborah Replogle

    More in a wonderful series.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lynnet

    A large number of five star, 3 star, and 1 star stories. Very few stories I felt ambiguous about.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    More fantasy than science fiction.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kieran McAndrew

    A bumper anthology, with some wonderful stories which will live long in the memory after the pages are closed.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lucardus

    Ich spare mir ein näheres Eingehen auf alle noch fehlenden Stories. Aber ich kann nicht umhin Michael Swanwicks "Urdumheim" zu loben, auch wenn ich mir sicher bin, dass ich nur wenige Verweise auf dem Gilgamesch-Epos verstanden habe. Daneben sind auch Elisabeth Hand ("Winter's Wife") und Chris Roberson (The Sky is large and the Earth is small) sehr, sehr lesenswert. Nachdem ich in Band I Peter S. Beagle so doll fand, war seine Story diesmal nicht so mein Ding. Dafür war Gaimans (The Witch's Head Ich spare mir ein näheres Eingehen auf alle noch fehlenden Stories. Aber ich kann nicht umhin Michael Swanwicks "Urdumheim" zu loben, auch wenn ich mir sicher bin, dass ich nur wenige Verweise auf dem Gilgamesch-Epos verstanden habe. Daneben sind auch Elisabeth Hand ("Winter's Wife") und Chris Roberson (The Sky is large and the Earth is small) sehr, sehr lesenswert. Nachdem ich in Band I Peter S. Beagle so doll fand, war seine Story diesmal nicht so mein Ding. Dafür war Gaimans (The Witch's Headstone) besser als im Vorgänger, allerdings kannte ich das Buch bereits, aus dem diese Geschichte stammt. Ich erkenne einen Trend, dass mir die phantastischeren Geschichten mehr zusagen als die Core-SF Stories.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Betsy Dion

    An interesting and enjoyable collection of stories. I loved "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate" and "The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics". So amazing!! An interesting and enjoyable collection of stories. I loved "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate" and "The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics". So amazing!!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Michele Lee

    My review of this is too long for Good Reads. Please find it at micheleleesbooklove.wordpress.com

  11. 5 out of 5

    Eva

    this may take me longer than expected; then again, i'm only reading the short stories that interest me so maybe not this may take me longer than expected; then again, i'm only reading the short stories that interest me so maybe not

  12. 5 out of 5

    Raving Redcoat

    A mixed bag. Some stories are merely readable, while others are enthralling. Still, a good resource for those interested in the scope of science fiction and fantasy.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dennis Fahey

    Ok mix of tales Nothing earth shattering, but an acceptable collection. Worth 1.99 at least, although not much more. I'd say all readers should find a couple they'll enjoy. Ok mix of tales Nothing earth shattering, but an acceptable collection. Worth 1.99 at least, although not much more. I'd say all readers should find a couple they'll enjoy.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Philip Hollenback

    This was an absolutely outstanding collection of sci-fi and fantasy short stories. Most of the fantasy was more of the speculative fiction type.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    There were a couple of stories I didn't really care for, but overall this was a very enjoyable collection with some high quality bits of work. There were a couple of stories I didn't really care for, but overall this was a very enjoyable collection with some high quality bits of work.

  16. 4 out of 5

    bluetyson

    The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Vol. 2 by Jonathan Strahan (2008)

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    Some of the best writing these days is in the realm of speculative fiction and fantasy. These annual collections are gems!

  18. 4 out of 5

    NekoNoir

  19. 5 out of 5

    Steven A Baumgartner

  20. 5 out of 5

    Chimene Mcelwain

  21. 5 out of 5

    Michael Armstrong

  22. 4 out of 5

    Juan

  23. 4 out of 5

    Emily Kvalheim

  24. 4 out of 5

    Valorie

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mike Elliott

  26. 5 out of 5

    David Harcourt

  27. 5 out of 5

    Joi

  28. 5 out of 5

    Cassandra Bridgeforth

  29. 4 out of 5

    Joel Townsend

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mikhail Kiryazov

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