Book Review: The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016
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The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016
Paperback | Kindle
Edited by Karen Joy Fowler
Series Edited by John Joseph Adams
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing
Release Date: October 4, 2016

Short story compilations are by and large a collection of genre-focused tales that are meant to sell books. In may cases there are a handful of well known authors that are there to create enthusiasm for the book and increase sales. In the case of The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016, it’s a bit different. Chances are that you have not heard of many of these writers. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. Many of these voices are fresh and they are what we might call the up and coming writers of tomorrow, though some are obviously known, such as Salman Rushdie and Ted Chiang. But any time you get a chance to see someone rise through the ranks to success, it’s a beautiful thing.

These short stories have been pulled from a variety of sources including Analog, The New Yorker, and even some online sources, to name a few. This particular installment was edited by Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club, who, I was surprised to find out, is a huge fan of all things sci-fi/fantasy. Apparently she grew up reading fantasy like many of us did, exploring the other side of the coin that is science fiction later in life. It’s important to recognize series editor John Joseph Adams, as he initially started this series last year and was pivotal in both its conception as well as determining what stories made the cut.

Whether it’s the supernatural twist to history like The Heat of Us: Notes Toward An Oral History that has a different spin about the night that sparked the gay liberation movement or a future where citizens can use social media to enable soldiers to eliminate terrorists with impunity, this collection has something for everyone. I won’t go into all twenty tales, but I must comment that my favorite, by far, is one of the shortest. The succinct story entitled The Great Silence is a masterpiece in that it conveys its message in a way that is both entertaining and enlightening. This in no way implies that the other stories are not as good. Just that I found that one particularly enchanting. I will add that I am more inclined towards fantasy than science fiction, but I feel I can appreciate both equally in most cases. Not once did I dislike any of the tales compiled here, but why would I when they were culled from the rest to be presented as the best of 2016.

I can only marvel at the way the editors were able to narrow their choices down to a score of short stories. I would never be able to pick and choose from what is, in theory, an almost endless list of great science fiction and fantasy works. I discovered several new authors that I will be pursuing and I expect that should you choose to read this book, you will do the same. So grab this at your earliest convenience if the genres appeal to you. There’s really not much to lose and so much more to be gained.

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