Year's Best SF 11

I’ve just finished reading David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer’s Year’s Best SF 11. A nice, eclectic collection of stories, featuring a healthy mix of classic hard SF and more gentle, character-driven stories. Particular favourites for me were Ken MacLeod’s Hugo nominated story ‘A Case of Consilience’, a smart, thought-provoking tale that toys with James Blish’s A Case of Conscience; Stephen Baxter’s ‘Xeelee’ story ‘Lakes of Light’, a contact story set on the surface of a star – quintessential hard SF; Alastair Reynolds’s ‘Beyond the Aquila Rift’, a typically thoughtful Reynolds tale which reminded me of Frederik Pohl’s ‘Heechee’ stories; Neal Asher’s ‘Mason’s Rats’, a story I’ve been meaning to read for some time, ever since it was first published in the small press; and Cory Doctorow’s Hugo nominated story ‘I, Robot’, a smart, poignant tale that neatly borrows the classic Asimovian title.

My only quibble with the book – there are a fair number (nine, I believe) very short stories taken from Nature magazine. Not that there is anything wrong with these stories in themselves – at two or three pages each they mostly do an excellent job of getting a complete tale across, but my questions are this – do these truly represent the very best SF published in 2005? What makes a story qualify to be a ‘best of the year.’ I realise that it’s important for the genre to have features like this in high profile magazines, but the cynic in me can’t help thinking that the space used in reprinting all these individual stories could have been used better by getting another of the Hugo nominated stories in. That said, if listing the names of people like Peter F. Hamilton, Ted Chiang, Justina Robson and Greg Bear on the cover help sell books, I’m all for it. After all, we all need to sell books to keep the genre alive.

- George

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