A Look at Jonathan Strahan’s Year’s Best Collection

strahan years best 10The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Vol. 10
Jonathan Strahan, ed.
trade paper $19.99
ebook $7.99

So back at the beginning of the summer, I decided to try to read through all of the year’s best anthologies, or at least as many as I could. That project hasn’t gone very well for the same reason I’ve not gotten much blogging done in general. Life has been happening, in other words, and I’ve had to devote my time to other things.

But I’m going to try to get as many of these volumes finished as I can before the end of the year. Jonathan Strahan’s series is probably the second longest running after Gardner Dozois’s, a series which had its 33rd installment released earlier this year. I’ve gotten a couple of review copies of previous volumes of Strahan’s series in the past, but this is the first one I’ve finished. Solaris only made the review copies available in PDF format, which my ereader didn’t deal with very well. I would need to resize the font, and doing so messed up the formatting. This year I spent my own money and sprung for the print edition.

Unlike Neil Clarke’s volume (reviewed here), which was exclusively science fiction, Strahan mixes the sf with fantasy.  Here are my thoughts.

First, there are some stories that overlap both the Clarke volume and the Datlow Year’s Best Horror (reviewed here).  I didn’t reread those.  That skewed my perspective, I think.  The stories I liked best tended to fall into that category, although there are one or two exceptions.  There’s at least one story I couldn’t stand that shows up in multiple volumes.  (And, no, I’m not going to tell you which one it is.)

The result of not rereading the stories I’d already read (due to time constraints), was that the remaining stories didn’t do that much for me.  There were some that I really liked, such as Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Oral Argument”, Usman T. Malik’s “The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus JInn”, and “The Machine Starts” by Greg Bear.

There were also one or two I hated.  No, I’m not naming names.

I was a little surprised at this because usually Strahan’s taste and mine align more closely.  And maybe they do here as well.  It’s hard to tell not only because I limited my reading to stories that weren’t in the previous anthologies I’d read but also because I got interrupted and didn’t get back to the book for a while.  Memory does have a half-life, you know.

Or maybe my lack of enthusiasm for this anthology is due to what was published in 2015 simply not being my cup of tea.  I dunno.  I’ve not read as much short fiction in the last few years to be sure, but it seems like much of what’s being published in the major venues isn’t my cup of tea these days.  At least that’s the impression I’ve gotten from random reading.

I realize that this is starting to sound like a negative review, and it’s not really intended to be that way.  Like i said, I think my perspective may be a bit skewed.  Strahan is one of the field’s most accomplished editors, and I usually pick up his anthologies because I know as a worst case scenario I’ll get my money’s worth at the very least.  (I’ve got his latest in the queue.)  The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year Volume 10 is a solid retrospective of some of what was published in 2015.  It reflects one editor’s tastes.  The science fiction and fantasy fields have gotten so large, to the point I think an argument can be made that it’s fragmenting, there’s no way a single year end retrospective anthology can reflect everything that’s published.

And while this year’s volume didn’t match my tastes as much as I’d hoped, well, there’s always next year.  I’ve already got Volume 11 on the slate.  Volume 10 was worth the read for finding stories that not only I’d missed but that I’d not heard of.

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