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Year's Best Science Fiction 16 cover The Year's Best Science Fiction, Sixteenth Annual Collection by Gardner Dozois (ed).

Published by St. Martin's Books

Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel

Each year, multiple-Hugo winning editor Gardner Dozois, best known for his work at Asimov's Science Fiction, compiles a collection of what he regards to be the best science fiction short stories published during that year. This volume covers the stories of 1998, and as always includes a discussion of the state of the publishing industry and a list of stories that couldn't be included in the volume but were worthy of note.

From the Bob Eggleton cover that's strongly reminiscent of the work of English landscape artist J.M.W. Turner, this is a compilation of excellent work. One of the most memorable is "The Island of the Immortals," Ursula K. Le Guin's retelling of Jonathan Swift's cautionary tale about the strudlebrugs (people who were immortal, but in a horrible way that left them broken husks of humanity -- it's in the Laputa sequence, the third of Gulliver's voyages). In it she retains the notion that living forever is a curse rather than a blessing, but adds a poignant element of transcendance through pain and a comment on what risks are worth the trouble of preventing.

Tony Daniel's "Grist" is in some ways reminiscent of cyberpunk, with its gritty future of human transformation through technology amidst grim struggles for power. "Saddlepoint: Roughneck," one of Stephen Baxter's long-running Saddlepoint sequence, recalls the long tradition of hard science fiction in which the accuracy and believability of the technology is as important as the plot and characterization (no Star-Trek-style handwaving here).

There are also some very quirky takes on time. In Robert Charles Wilson's "Divided by Infinity," a man who finds a collection of science fiction from another timeline ends up as a sort of alien museum exhibit after the Earth is destroyed. And Ted Chiang's haunting "Story of Your Life" deals with a human woman whose perception of time and choice vs. inevitability is forever changed by contact with an alien language.

In all, this is an excellent compendium, a particularly good resource for the writer who wants to see what a top editor in the field considers to be the best of the best.

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This review posted October 5, 2000

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