Sunday, May 8, 2016

Review: The Mammoth Book of Best New SF 28

Title: The Mammoth Book of Best New SF 28
Editor: Gardner Dozois
Pages: 663
ISBN: 9781472119995
Publisher: Little Brown
Published: November 2015
Genre: Science Fiction / Short Stories
Source: Review copy from publisher

Buy it from:
The Book Depository

For decades now Gardner Dozois has been presenting his annual selection of the very best of recently published SF stories, both byoutstanding up-and-coming writers and undisputed masters of the genre. It has been voted Year's Best Anthology by the readers of Locus magazine an unparalleled eighteen times and remains the definitive anthology for both diehard sci-fi fans and newcomers to the genre.

Without fail, Dozois pinpoints the previous year's most exciting and ambitious science fiction, showcasing truly exceptional contemporary writing. Contributors include: Pavel Amnuel; Paolo Bachigalupi; Jessica Barber; Elizabeth Bear; Lauren Beukes; Chaz Brenchley; Karl Bunker; Jérôme Cigut; D. J. Cockburn; Aliette de Bodard; Cory Doctorow; Greg Egan; Timons Esaias; Paul Graham Raven; James Patrick Kelly; Ellen Klages; Nancy Kress; Jay Lake; Rich Larson; Ken Liu; Ian McDonald; Mary Anne Mohanraj; Susan Palwick; Gareth L. Powell; Robert Reed; Alastair Reynolds; Adam Roberts; Karl Schroeder; Vandana Singh; Allen M. Steele; Michael Swanwick; Rachel Swirsky; Lavie Tidhar; Peter Watts.

The Mammoth Book of Best New SF 28 includes, as ever, Dozois's extensive recommended reading guide and his illuminating and incisive summation of the year in science fiction.

True to its title The Mammoth Book of Best New SF 28 is a truly mammoth collection of some of the best science fiction short stories published during 2014. The 36 stories collected here offer a wide spectrum of tales from both the biggest names in science fiction as well as truly innovative works by new, up-and-coming talents in the genre.

Most anthologies are mixed bag, like a box of chocolates you never know what you’ll find and you often end up with a large percentage of stories that just don’t resonate with you as a reader. Dozois has done a stellar job in his selection process for this anthology. I can honestly say that I enjoyed every story included, which is surprising considering all the diverse voices and distinct themes of the stories collected here.

Trying to narrow my favourites down to a list of just 10 was a harrowing task, but here are the stories that stood out.
The Fifth Dragon by Ian Macdonald: This story still retains the impact it had on me when I first read it in Reach for Infinity. A story about love, and how dreams can be made concrete through determination and hard work.
The Days of the War, As Red as Blood, As Dark as Bile by Aliette de Bodard: A powerful story where peace comes at a terrible cost.
The Regular by Ken Lui: A futuristic crime thriller where a cyborg detective is on the hunt for a serial killer who prays on escorts. Well executed, with brilliant characters and a stunning ending.
The Man Who Sold the Moon by Cory Doctorow: A touching story about how a seemingly small invention can change the world.
Slipping by Lauren Beukes: Competitive athletics is used as a testbed for experimental human augmentations. For the athletes it is a chance of a lifetime provided they are willing to push themselves far enough.
In Babelsberg by Alastair Reynolds: A promotional tour by a sentient space probe takes a dark turn.
The Great Leap by Rachel Swirsky: A heartbreaking story exploring identity as a dying girl’s consciousness is copied into an artificial body by a father that is unwilling to lose his daughter.
Jubilee by Karl Schroeder: If I had to choose only one favourite this would be it. A brilliant and unusual love story where an entire society of couriers devote their lives to deliver the love letters of two teenagers locked in a cycle of synchronized hibernation to keep up with a universe where no FTL travel exists. An absolutely amazing premise, executed to perfection.
Prodigal Son by Allen M. Steele: A story filled with that unique sense of wonder and excitement only space exploration can provide as the Arkwright foundation sets out to provide humanity with a foothold in another star system.
Blood Wedding by Robert Reed: Two divergent evolutionary ideologies lead to a bloody clash during a wedding with far-reaching consequences and a very poignant ending.

While the stories were brilliant, I did experience a couple of issues with the particular edition I read. Lots of spelling errors seem to have slipped through the editing and proofing process. While it was not a huge problem, it was noticeable enough to distract me at times. The actual printed text also seemed rather faint; I'm not sure whether that is due to the font choice or the ink used in the printing process. Aside from that I can highly recommend this anthology.

As always the summation of the state of science fiction at the start of the anthology and the detailed author bios accompanying each story is an immensely useful resource, particularly if you find a new author whose work you would like to explore further.

The Verdict:
The Mammoth Book of Best New SF 28 is a truly mammoth collection of some of the best science fiction short stories of 2014. If you want to explore short fiction or want to discover some new authors this would be the place to start!

The Rating: 8 (Great)

Thanks to Charlene from Jonathan Ball Publishers for the review copy.

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