The Year's Best Science Fiction: Thirty-First Annual Collection (Anglais) Relié – 15 juillet 2014
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The stories are the main thing, though. Here are seven that stood out from the rest:
Paul McAuley's "Transitional Forms" introduces Ray Roberts, who guards the perimeter of a desert "hot zone" that contains mutated--and mutating--organisms. It is crucial that these organisms not be allowed to contaminate the surrounding ecosystem. Roy's job is complicated by organizations who want to obtain a sample and commercialize the mutant forms. One day Roy meets Janine and they end up having some beer.
In Allen Steele's "Martian Blood" a researcher arrives on Mars and arranges to meet some of the natives. He has some theories he has about Martian culture he wants to discuss with the Martians themselves. It makes sense to hire a local guide to help approach the proud and violent Martian tribesmen. Fortunately he finds a guide who grasps the unique nature of his mission.
In Aliette de Bodard's "The Waiting Stars" we join a deep space mission to recover a lost warship and, perhaps, its crew. Mission success is complicated by how embedded one of the warship's crew has become in the culture of her captors.
Nancy Kress's "One" is one of those "inner space" stories. Following his recovery from a serious accident, Zack discovers that he has an unusual mental ability. As the story unfolds, he strives to understand and control it. This makes him somewhat difficult to live with.
Melissa Scott's "Finders" is about a salvage operation in a remote region of our solar system. The Carabossa's crew speculates that a recently-located high-tech artifact has been undervalued by those who discovered it. They take a chance to recover enough advanced technology from it to get them out of debt and allow them to stake out a better future. The odds are good. In the beginning, that is.
Brendan DuBois's "Hard Stars" follows a squad of American security personnel as they seek a safe haven from swarms of lethal drones. Their customary tools are unavailable because of the drones' abilities to detect and destroy any kind of electronic activity. The human element becomes the key to success.
James Patrick Kelly's "The Promise of Space" is my favorite story in this year's collection. It is built from transcripts of an ongoing conversation between a hospital patient and his visitor. It becomes clear that they have a certain shared history.
This is one of those good-but-not-great collections. I doubt this is due to any lessening of the Dozois editorial talent, so I'll conclude that 2013 must have been a thinner-than-usual year for short SF. I'm looking forward to the possibility that 2014 will turn out a little better.
I write this review to say one thing: To enjoy the stories more, please read Mr. Dozois' short author intro AFTER you read the story. I love him and his choice, but in previous years my enjoyment of the stories was often lessened by his letting the cat out of the bag in those two or three sentences where he talks about the stories.
I will continue to buy these each year. Unconditionally.