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The Best Science Fiction of the Year Volume 5

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From Hugo Award-Winning Editor Neil Clarke, the Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year Collected in a Single Paperback Volume Keeping up-to-date with the most buzzworthy and cutting-edge science fiction requires sifting through countless magazines, e-zines, websites, blogs, original anthologies, single-author collections, and more—a task that can be accomplished by only t From Hugo Award-Winning Editor Neil Clarke, the Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year Collected in a Single Paperback Volume Keeping up-to-date with the most buzzworthy and cutting-edge science fiction requires sifting through countless magazines, e-zines, websites, blogs, original anthologies, single-author collections, and more—a task that can be accomplished by only the most determined and voracious readers. For everyone else, Night Shade Books is proud to present the latest volume of The Best Science Fiction of the Year, a yearly anthology compiled by Hugo and World Fantasy Award–winning editor Neil Clarke, collecting the finest that the genre has to offer, from the biggest names in the field to the most exciting new writers. The best science fiction scrutinizes our culture and politics, examines the limits of the human condition, and zooms across galaxies at faster-than-light speeds, moving from the very near future to the far-flung worlds of tomorrow in the space of a single sentence. Clarke, publisher and editor-in-chief of the acclaimed and award-winning magazine Clarkesworld, has selected the short science fiction (and only science fiction) best representing the previous year’s writing, showcasing the talent, variety, and awesome “sensawunda” that the genre has to offer.


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From Hugo Award-Winning Editor Neil Clarke, the Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year Collected in a Single Paperback Volume Keeping up-to-date with the most buzzworthy and cutting-edge science fiction requires sifting through countless magazines, e-zines, websites, blogs, original anthologies, single-author collections, and more—a task that can be accomplished by only t From Hugo Award-Winning Editor Neil Clarke, the Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year Collected in a Single Paperback Volume Keeping up-to-date with the most buzzworthy and cutting-edge science fiction requires sifting through countless magazines, e-zines, websites, blogs, original anthologies, single-author collections, and more—a task that can be accomplished by only the most determined and voracious readers. For everyone else, Night Shade Books is proud to present the latest volume of The Best Science Fiction of the Year, a yearly anthology compiled by Hugo and World Fantasy Award–winning editor Neil Clarke, collecting the finest that the genre has to offer, from the biggest names in the field to the most exciting new writers. The best science fiction scrutinizes our culture and politics, examines the limits of the human condition, and zooms across galaxies at faster-than-light speeds, moving from the very near future to the far-flung worlds of tomorrow in the space of a single sentence. Clarke, publisher and editor-in-chief of the acclaimed and award-winning magazine Clarkesworld, has selected the short science fiction (and only science fiction) best representing the previous year’s writing, showcasing the talent, variety, and awesome “sensawunda” that the genre has to offer.

30 review for The Best Science Fiction of the Year Volume 5

  1. 5 out of 5

    Justine

    An excellent collection of SF short fiction, with more hits than misses. Short ratings and comments for each story follow, but overall, this is a collection I definitely recommend. The Painter of Trees by Suzanne Palmer (3/5) A sad story about colonization; is there any other kind? Emergency Skin by N.K. Jemisin (4/5) A traveler from another world finds out he's been lied to.  Sometimes that's all it takes to save a world. A new vision. A new way of thinking, appearing at just the right time. In An excellent collection of SF short fiction, with more hits than misses. Short ratings and comments for each story follow, but overall, this is a collection I definitely recommend. The Painter of Trees by Suzanne Palmer (3/5) A sad story about colonization; is there any other kind? Emergency Skin by N.K. Jemisin (4/5) A traveler from another world finds out he's been lied to.  Sometimes that's all it takes to save a world. A new vision. A new way of thinking, appearing at just the right time. In the Stillness Between the Stars by Mercurio D. Rivera (4.5/5) Creepy! Alien space tech opens the door to long distance space travel, but has something else been invited in at the same time? Sympathizer by Karin Lowachee (3/5) First contact divides the group of humans who come upon an alien scientists. A commander decides to take her soldiers and break with command because of her conscience. An interesting set up, but I didn't feel I knew enough about the players to understand why everyone acted as they did. Knit Three, Save Four by Marie Vincent (4/5) Well, it's knitting, in space. I don't know that the story makes all that much sense, but I liked it and the funny, irreverent tone. Moonlight by Cixin Liu (4/5) A clever story about trying to avert the devastating consequences of climate change. How convenient it would be to talk to your future self about the problem. But there's always a catch. By the Warmth of Their Calculus by Tobias S. Bucknell (3/5) I usually love Bucknell's short stories, but this one wasn't my favourite. That said, it packs an incredible amount of worldbuilding and is tightly written. It's easy to make a "hard" choice when the price is paid by someone else. Deriving Life by Elizabeth Bear ( 3.5/5) An interesting story about how identity is inextricably linked to the people we love, and dealing the devastating effect of inevitable loss. Hope may be the thing with feathers. It is also the cruelest pain of all. The Little Shepherdess by Gwyneth Jones (3.5/5) A cute little story about making deep sea cobalt mining practices eco-friendly. I like the story, but as usual I get depressed by the true to life fact that only things having utilitarian value to human interests get preserved. Such Thoughts are Unproductive by Rebecca Campbell (3.5/5) A woman living in a surveillance state where her family has slowly been sent for "re-education" spirals down. Nicely structured and written, but very depressing. I did like all the references to my home province of British Columbia, but that made it even more dark for me because I don't think of Canada in that way. The River of Blood and Wine by Kali Wallace (4/5) An interesting story about decolonization in the truest sense, and a man coming to terms with the scars of his childhood. I've read two of Wallace's novels, Salvation Day and Dead Space before; her writing in this story was so engaging. One Thousand Beetles in a Jumpsuit by Dominica Phetteplace (5/5) I really loved this story about a drone minder who goes with the flow when she meets some drones in an experimental wilderness area who appear to have their own agenda. The near future setting is sketched out nicely from Isla's thoughts and observations. I liked that she wasn't really an angry character, but that didn’t mean she wasn't thinking about the realities of inequality in her world and willing to pretty happily "change sides" without much angst. A better outcome would be to find a better life, instead of trying to squeeze herself into the too-small existence of her previous incarnation. Permafrost by Alastair Reynolds (5/5) I read this novella when it first came out in 2019, and here again exactly two years to the day later. It is still an absolutely fantastic read for me. It neatly lays out complex ideas and provides a tightly woven story with engaging characters. This remains one of my favourite time travel stories. [I]n that moment I knew she was a good and decent person, that the past was full of people like her, that it was just as valid to think of history being stitched together out of numerous tiny acts of selflessness and consideration, as it was to view it as a grand, sweeping spectacle of vast impersonal triumphs and tragedies. The Work of Wolves by Tegan Moore (5/5) I loved this one about a bioengineered "Enhanced Intelligence" search and rescue dog chafing at her perceived role and slowly making plans to change her own parameters. Sera reminded me a bit of Honey in Dogs of War or maybe she's more like Bees. There's so much you don't know, wolf. So much they keep from you. You don't realize the slave you are until you have a bit of freedom. But therein lies our quandary. Song Xiuyun by A Que, translated by Emily Jin (4/5) This story provides an interesting mix of the subtle and the obvious as it ponders changing relationships between people and technology. I loved the mother's cheerful perspective as she unflinchingly compares her own traditional village life to the cosmopolitan and technology-enhanced life her son has built in the city. There is a definite sense of loss of doing things the old way, but also an almost automatic assumption by the mother that progress is necessarily better, so it's she who simply needs to adjust. The city folks were a different kind. They built skyscrapers that blocked the sun and hid in cocoons of iron and glass. When you could do everything by wearing a helmet and commanding robots, why bother even speaking to other people? Mother Ocean by Vandana Singh (3.5/5) The effortful and continuous project of recovering lost cultural identity is reflected as a woman engages in the long process of learning to communicate with a whale and the surrounding ocean environment. The thoughts you think on land, the old man said, are different from what you think with the sea. In the sea you learn to think with the water, the fish. That's why people who make decisions on land, separated from the world by glass and concrete, air-conditioning and software, have such terrible ideas for the world. Cratered by Karen Osborne (3/5) This started off strong, with members of a Lunar mineral survey team seeing familiar objects that could not possibly be present, second half kind of fizzled for me by comparison. The Justified by Ann Leckie (4/5) A story about questioning power structures told with a typical Leckie feel. Old Media by Annalee Newitz (3.5/5) A nifty postscript story about characters from Newitz's novel, Autonomous, examines the idea of asexuality by individual choice of programming. That said, if you haven't read Autonomous, you wouldn't at all be lost. The story stands nicely on it's own. At the Fall by Alec Nevala-Lee  (4/5) This story is about a deep sea research robot who loses contact with her human counterpart, and so undertakes a long and perilous journey home. I loved the slow unfolding of the journey, the elevated and developing consciousness and feelings of Eunice, and the pictures painted of the quieted space she travels. The Ocean Between the Leaves by Ray Nayler (3/5) A medical dystopian set in Turkey, I liked the ideas and the writing had a poetic and almost dreamlike flow. At the same time, that looseness made the story a bit elusive for me at times. Good, for me not the strongest in the collection. Rescue Party by Aliette de Bodard (3/5) A story set in de Bodard's Xuya Universe, of which I've only read a few. I generally like the ideas and writing in these stories, but I always feel a bit lost in them, and I don't have enough understanding of the full "Story of Xuya" to appreciate the pieces I get. Close Enough for Jazz by John Chu (3/5) A story about body image and gender politics in the tech and investment sector. An OK read but one that slightly missed the mark for me. On the Shores of Ligeia by Carolyn Ives Gilman (4/5) A great story about how to make space exploration truly accessible. Pretty timely considering the number of useless billionaire space "tourists" we've had recently. The Empty Gun by Yoon Ha Lee  (4.5/5) According to Confucius, "Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves." That wisdom is played out in volumes in this Twilight Zone-esque tale of revenge. Kali_Na by Indrapramit Das (3.5/5) An AI embodies Kali in VR space and the seeds of class revolution in the infowar are sown and set free. Lots of amazing imagery and some great writing in this one. Painless by Rich Larson (3.5/5) Interesting and twisted tale about a boy with a rare genetic anomaly that makes him the perfect candidate for surgically enhancement to become a special ops assassin. Essentially a near future version of Jason Bourne, or actually (as Lindsay pointed out to me), Wolverine. Give the Family My Love by A.T. Greenblatt (3.5/5) A nice and hopeful end to the collection. A lone anthropologist journeys to an alien library in the hopes of recovering knowledge that will help reverse Earth's devastated environment.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Peter Tillman

    TOC: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?8... A first-rate “Best of the Year” anthology, which I preferred to Jonathan Strahan’s. There’s considerable overlap between them, but Clarke picked more 5 and 4.5 star stories, and fewer of the currently-fashionable doom-&-gloom ones. Here’s my take on the Strahan book for comparison: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... If you read just one, go for the Clarke, is my advice. Fortunately, our library systems has both. Standout stories, in (roughly) des TOC: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?8... A first-rate “Best of the Year” anthology, which I preferred to Jonathan Strahan’s. There’s considerable overlap between them, but Clarke picked more 5 and 4.5 star stories, and fewer of the currently-fashionable doom-&-gloom ones. Here’s my take on the Strahan book for comparison: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... If you read just one, go for the Clarke, is my advice. Fortunately, our library systems has both. Standout stories, in (roughly) descending order: • Painless by Rich Larson, https://www.tor.com/2019/04/10/painle... Superb novelette set in a near-future West Africa. A foreigner has created a near-invulnerable supersoldier from a local boy, and uses him as an assassin. The assassin is getting sick of the killing, and thinking of suicide. The ending is unexpected, and hopeful. Near-perfect SF thriller, with a caution for disturbing scenes of violent killing. 5 stars. • By the Warmth of Their Calculus, novelette by Tobias S. Buckell. First-rate far-future hard-SF tale of a tense emergency on a dustship, pitiless Hunter-Killers in pursuit, and the cold math of survival. A strong-willed Mother Superior fights to save her crew. 4.5 stars • The Little Shepherdess, short story by Gwyneth Jones, https://go.xprize.org/oceanstories/th... Wonderful feel-good story about a marine biologist, studying critters who live on the abyssal plains near deep-sea polymetallic nodules being evaluated for mining, comes up with a Zero Disturbance Harvesting method that just might work. 4.5 stars for me, clever & fun. • Close Enough for Jazz, short fiction by John Chu. A retelling of Idoru, the Norse goddess who kept the Golden Apples, as the leader of a tech startup that pitches buff bodies to the bros. And other, more significant stuff. Really good SF, 4.5 stars. • The Work of Wolves by Tegan Moore. An enhanced-intelligence rescue dog is pressed into service to thwart a major sabotage attempt at a fusion power plant. Cool story, well thought-out. 4+ stars. Online: https://www.asimovs.com/assets/1/6/Th... • Kali_Na, short fiction by Indrapramit Das. “The moment the AI goddess was born into her world, she was set upon by trolls.” Shiva Industries designed her to learn from users on the fly. The trolls are about to get a nasty surprise. A hopeful SF story based on the Hindu pantheon. Strong 4 stars. • On the Shores of Ligeia, short story by Carolyn Ives Gilman, https://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fi... First-rate story about an ESA mission exploring Titan, from the POV of one of the operators of the robot rover. He sees all sorts of tantalizing stuff, but the rover ends up stuck in loose ground. The mission is saved by schoolkids and a flock of Chinese drones! Classic planetary-exploration story: 4 stars • At the Fall by Alec Nevala-Lee. Undersea robots! Black smokers! Whale-falls! Good old-fashioned SF, though the ending didn’t quite work for me. 4 stars.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jeppe Larsen

    I generally liked this anthology better than Strahans, which I gave four stars, so this has to get five. However, I think the two complement each other very well. Clarkes selection shows a pretty varied and broad perspective on the different kinds of science fiction stories that are being written today. There are stories set in the near future, far future, on Earth, on other planets and in space, funny stories, sad stories, entertaining stories and stories with a message that makes you stop and t I generally liked this anthology better than Strahans, which I gave four stars, so this has to get five. However, I think the two complement each other very well. Clarkes selection shows a pretty varied and broad perspective on the different kinds of science fiction stories that are being written today. There are stories set in the near future, far future, on Earth, on other planets and in space, funny stories, sad stories, entertaining stories and stories with a message that makes you stop and think. Compared to Strahans, which I found maybe a tad too depressive. Most stories are taken from well known print or online magazines as well as popular original anthologies. I wont go into details about the stories, because frankly they are all good stories and I understand why Clarke has selected them, even though I didn't like them all - and I don't suspect many people will like absolutely everything, there should be plenty of different types of stories to satisfy most science fiction fans. As well as introduce them to stories they otherwise might not have picked up. In general, Clarkes selection reminds me of Hartwells Year's Best series, which also featured a broad selection on what could be called "core" science fiction stories.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra

    How is it even possible for me not to finish a book in my favorite format, a sci-fi anthology. Well, everything happens for the first time. I was bored and annoyed while reading this one. Every piece sounded to me like propaganda, from mild to radical left. Anti-corporation, anti-racism, anti-colonialism, you name it. Very little "pro" anything. I read about ten stories and in almost every one I could tell where an author was going and how a story would end after the first page. It didn't help th How is it even possible for me not to finish a book in my favorite format, a sci-fi anthology. Well, everything happens for the first time. I was bored and annoyed while reading this one. Every piece sounded to me like propaganda, from mild to radical left. Anti-corporation, anti-racism, anti-colonialism, you name it. Very little "pro" anything. I read about ten stories and in almost every one I could tell where an author was going and how a story would end after the first page. It didn't help that I was reading The New Voices of Science Fiction anthology in parallel and just loved that one. That book is provocative, with original ideas and really unique writing styles. So I thought that New Voices might be screwing my attitude to this book. I made a break for several weeks and returned to this anthology. Nope, same deal - predictable preaching.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Eric Smith

    A few decent stories, but mostly forgettable. If this is really the best of SF of an entire year, the genre is in serious trouble.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lexxi Kitty

    Suzanne Palmer The Painter of Trees In other Book N.K. Jemisin Emergency Skin In other book Mercurio D. Rivera In the Stillness Between the Stars Karin Lowachee Sympathizer Marie Vibbert Knit Three, Save Four Cixin Liu Moonlight Tobias S. Buckell By the Warmth of their Calculus Elizabeth Bear Deriving Life Gwyneth Jones The Little Shepherdess Rebecca Campbell Such Thoughts are Unproductive Kali Wallace The River of Blood and Wine Dominica Phetteplace One Thousand Beetles in a Jumpsuit Alastair Reynolds Permaf Suzanne Palmer The Painter of Trees In other Book N.K. Jemisin Emergency Skin In other book Mercurio D. Rivera In the Stillness Between the Stars Karin Lowachee Sympathizer Marie Vibbert Knit Three, Save Four Cixin Liu Moonlight Tobias S. Buckell By the Warmth of their Calculus Elizabeth Bear Deriving Life Gwyneth Jones The Little Shepherdess Rebecca Campbell Such Thoughts are Unproductive Kali Wallace The River of Blood and Wine Dominica Phetteplace One Thousand Beetles in a Jumpsuit Alastair Reynolds Permafrost Tegan Moore The Work of Wolves in other book A Que Song Xiuyun Vandana Singh Mother Ocean Karen Osborne Cratered Ann Leckie The Justified Annalee Newitz Old Media Alec Nevala-Lee At the Fall Ray Nayler The Ocean between the leaves Aliette de Bodard Rescue Party John Chu Close Enough for Jazz Carolyn Ives Gilman On the Shores of Ligeia Yoon Ha Lee The Empty Gun Indrapramit Das Kali_Na in other book Rich Larson Painless A.T. Greenblatt Give the Family My Love In other book

  7. 5 out of 5

    Phillip

    Been reading all of the Best of SF/F 2020 I can find, so far the Jonathan Strahan and this one from editor Neil Clarke are my favourites. As with all of the anthologies, it depends of the editor and the style of fiction they like (if it matches the readers). Favourite stories from this collection include Alastair Reynolds Permafrost, Knit Three, Save Four by Marie Vibbert and Emergency Skin from N K Jemisin

  8. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    This was the best collection of short SF that I have ever read. Every one was a gem. They are collected from the standard pulp magazines as well as online publications. Also picked from some of the best foreign language publications. I will be reading the rest of the series as they come out.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Geoff

    some of my favourites: NK Jemisin - Emergency Skin Alastair Reynolds - Permafrost Dominica Phetteplace - One Thousand Beetles in a Jumpsuit Cixin Liu - Moonlight Carolyn Ives Gilman - On the Shores of Ligeia Yoon Ha Lee - The Empty Gun

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mark Catalfano

    I liked "The River of Blood and Wine" by Kali Wallace, "Permafrost" by Alastair Reynolds, "The Work of Wolves" by Tegan Moore, "On the Shores of Ligeria" by Carolyn Ives Gilman, "The Empty Gun" by Yoon Ha Lee, and "Painless" by Rich Larson I liked "The River of Blood and Wine" by Kali Wallace, "Permafrost" by Alastair Reynolds, "The Work of Wolves" by Tegan Moore, "On the Shores of Ligeria" by Carolyn Ives Gilman, "The Empty Gun" by Yoon Ha Lee, and "Painless" by Rich Larson

  11. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    A fantastic collection of stories, I enjoyed every single one of them. Highly recommended.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    A lot of these stories are great.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Brooke Livesay

    I don’t think I like science fiction that much

  14. 4 out of 5

    James

    This is what passes for new Science Fiction nowadays? Ugh, I so miss Harlan Ellison...

  15. 5 out of 5

    Navin

    "knit three, save four" by marie vibbert "knit three, save four" by marie vibbert

  16. 4 out of 5

    Paul Morisset

    Ratings: 'Rescue Party' by Aliette de Bodard - 4 stars. 'Emergency Skin' by N. K. Jemisin - 3 stars. 'Give the Family My Love' by A. T. Greenblatt - 3 stars. 'In the Stilness Between the Stars' by Mercurio D. Rivera - 3 stars. 'The Painter of Trees' by Suzanne Palmer - 2 stars. Ratings: 'Rescue Party' by Aliette de Bodard - 4 stars. 'Emergency Skin' by N. K. Jemisin - 3 stars. 'Give the Family My Love' by A. T. Greenblatt - 3 stars. 'In the Stilness Between the Stars' by Mercurio D. Rivera - 3 stars. 'The Painter of Trees' by Suzanne Palmer - 2 stars.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Gerald Marino

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ron Heymann

  19. 5 out of 5

    Stacey Foley

  20. 5 out of 5

    Garret Fernandez

  21. 5 out of 5

    Georgianna

  22. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

  23. 5 out of 5

    Arvind Vijh

  24. 5 out of 5

    G Davidsson

  25. 5 out of 5

    netjeff

  26. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Campbell

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rajesh Chatani

  28. 4 out of 5

    Michael Latimer

  29. 5 out of 5

    Arnab

  30. 5 out of 5

    Zeth

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