The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume Eleven (2017) by Jonathan Strahan (Editor)

As the unreality readings spike, the ghost by her side becomes sharper and sharper,
– “A Salvaging of Ghosts” by Aliette de Bodard, (Loc 2088)

 

Jonathan Strahan’s latest collection of the best science fiction and fantasy stories of the year features 28 short stories from 2016. His selected stories include works of hard sci-fi, space opera, dystopia, alternate history, future noir, cyberpunk, steampunk, fantasy, grimdark, and reimagined fairy tales. Such a wide range of short stories makes this an ideal collection for readers who are looking for variety in their speculative fiction. And the talent on display is quite staggering.

Volume Eleven includes two Nebula Award-nominated short stories: “Things with Beards” by Sam J. Miller, and “Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar. It also contains the Nebula Award-nominated novelette: “You’ll Surely Drown Here if You Stay” by Alyssa Wong. The remaining 25 stories are by Catherynne M. Valente, Naomi Novik, Paolo Bacigalupi, Joe Abercrombie, Rich Larson, Aliette de Bodard, Daryl Gregory, Alex Irvine, Alice Sola Kim, Seth Dickinson, Carolyn Ives Gilman, Delia Sherman, Genevieve Valentine, Geoff Ryman, Nina Allan, Caitlin R. Kiernan, N.K. Jemisin, Theodora Goss, Lavie Tidhar, Yoon Ha Lee, Paul McAuley, E. Lily Yu, Ken Liu, Ian R. MacLeod, and Charles Yu.

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In his introduction, Strahan writes about some of 2016’s SF&F short story trends including the “reaction to climate change,” “the novella boom,” as well as more exposure for “writers from Asian and African nations”. It was nice to see the editor including stories by some of these writers whose names and works I am now familiar with. This has led to a more diverse and entertaining reading experience for me, and gives us some idea of just how much quality there is out there. Continue reading

Europe at Midnight (2015) by Dave Hutchinson

“I still wasn’t sure whether England was in Europe or not; I had the impression that the English would have quite liked to be in Europe so long as they were running it, but weren’t particularly bothered otherwise.” (Loc 4053)

 

51lf7hhe8gl-_sx321_bo1204203200_This is the second book in the Fractured Europe series. The first book, Europe in Autumn, is a terrific read. I was led to it by blogger friends; one of the great things about the book blogosphere. It reads like a cold war spy thriller set in a near-future Europe filled with weapons that could’ve dropped out of a William Gibson Sprawl story. It’s also a very smart book that is peppered with moments of dry humor as well as containing some wonderful descriptions of food.

Europe at Midnight is not a direct sequel to Autumn; it can be read as a standalone story. But if you have read the first Europe book, Midnight will expand your understanding of it. It will also provide background to some of the events and places mentioned in Autumn. This was a bold move by Hutchinson, as he could easily have written a second book that picked up where the first one left off, continuing the adventures of Rudi the chef. Instead, he has opted for originality by broadening his fragmented Europe universe and bringing in new characters. Continue reading

The Snow (2004) by Adam Roberts

“The snow started falling on September 6th, […] And at the beginning people were happy.” (p.1)

 

691923Imagine if it started snowing in September and didn’t stop. As the snow piled up deeper and deeper, how would the World governments react? How long would it take before society collapsed? Adam Roberts explores this scenario in his 2004 novel The Snow, a book which starts well but seems to lose its way around halfway through.

Roberts sets his story in present-day London. The main character is Tira, a Londoner who initially reacts the same way as everybody else. She stays at home waiting for it to stop. But when it doesn’t, she decides to go looking for help rather than waiting for help to find her. From here we follow her journey as she attempts to survive the snow. Continue reading

Neuromancer (1984) by William Gibson – A 3rd Reading

“In the nonspace of the matrix, the interior of a given data construct possessed unlimited subjective dimension; a child’s toy calculator, accessed through Case’s Sendai, would have presented limitless gulfs of nothingness hung with a few basic commands.” (p.63)

 

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Harper Voyager 2015 edition

 

As part of my 2017 William Gibson Read-Along, I reread Neuromancer in February. This was my third time to read it. (I posted a review on this blog in November 2015 after reading it for the second time.) So, this is more of an update than a new review.

Am I crazy to read the same book 3 times? Maybe, maybe not. What I will say is that after my third reading I’ve upped my rating of the novel from 4 to 5 stars. In my opinion, Neuromancer is a staggering piece of fiction that deserves all the praise and plaudits it has picked up since its publication all those years ago. But instead of waffling on with my own thoughts on this seminal work, I will post some quotes about the book by critics and authors made over the last 30+ years. Continue reading

The Wolf in the Attic (2016) by Paul Kearney

“Above the silent rooms on the third floor there is an attic. I know this because I have stood outside and studied the house, the way you study a person’s face to tell if they are telling the truth or a lie.” (Loc 696)

 

the-wolf-in-the-attic-9781781083628_hrNorthern Irish writer Paul Kearney has written a number of novels beginning with A Different Kingdom in 1993. He went on to write The Monarchies of God series (1995-2002), and The Macht trilogy (2008-2012), which are both rated highly on book review sites and blogs. The Wolf in the Attic was released in May, 2016.

England, 1929. Anna Francis, a 12-year-old refugee from Greece, lives with her father in a big, old house in Oxford. She is taught by a home tutor and confides in her doll Penelope. After witnessing a shocking event in the fields near her house, she becomes mixed up in a strange adventure involving her father, a couple of well-meaning Oxford professors, the Romany, and a mysterious group known only as “the Roadmen”. Continue reading

Burning Chrome (1986) by William Gibson

“It was one of those nights, I quickly decided, when you slip into an alternate continuum, a city that looks exactly like the one you live, except for the peculiar difference that it contains not one person you love or know or have spoken to before.” – The Winter Market (p.161)

22323Released two years after Gibson’s Hugo Award winning debut novel Neuromancer (1984), Burning Chrome is a collection of ten short stories penned by the author between 1977 and 1985. Three of the stories are collaborations: The Belonging Kind (1981) with John Shirley, Red Star, Winter Orbit (1983) with Bruce Sterling, and Dogfight (1985) with Michael Swanwick. This collection also includes Gibson’s first published story Fragments of a Hologram Rose (1977). I will limit my review to the stories which impressed me the most.

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The Beauty (2014) by Aliya Whiteley

“Humanity […] reflects the very strangeness of the land that grows, spores, seeds, and then dies around us. […] Whether reading crime, fantasy, horror, literary or science fiction, the realisation that anything is possible belongs within the land, and therefore within ourselves.” –Aliya Whiteley, ‘The Lay of The Land: Weird Possibility in the English Countryside’

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The Beauty
is Aliya Whiteley’s second novella. It was published in 2014 by Unsung Stories, a small UK publishing house that has since published her 2016 novella, The Arrival of Missives. It is a story I had been meaning to read for over a year, ever since fromcouchtomoon raved about it on her blog. Living in Japan meant it was difficult for me to get hold of a copy, so I was delighted to finally buy one during a recent trip to England over the New Year.

The story is set in a post-apocalyptic England where something unspecified and deadly has happened to the women. A small group of male survivors are hanging on to existence as they attempt to come to terms with a world without women, and all that this entails. Nathan, the narrator, is a young storyteller whose nightly tales seem to be keeping “the Group” going. Until a walk in the forest leads to a shocking discovery for Nathan … Continue reading