The Best Science Fiction of the Year, Volume 4 (ed Neil Clarke, Nightshade Books 2019)

With 2019 being the first year for four decades without a Gardner Dozois take on the Year’s Best SF, this is the only pure SF annual best volume this year!

I’ll slowly work my way through the volume, reviewing stories and putting summaries of those reviews below, with links to the fuller reviews.

In a homage to the recently departed Dozois, Clarke opens his volume with a mini-summation of the type that Dozois so diligently supplied in his long-running series (and the final volumes of the earlier series initially edited by Lester Del Rey, which Dozois took on editing). Then Clarke gets on with his take on the best SF of the year.

Simone Heller. When We Were Starless.
Originally published online on Clarkesworld Magazine, and still online there.

Clarke opens the anthology with a strong story from his own publication. In my review of the story when it appeared in Clarkesworld Magazine I noted “Heller is an author new to me, but a name I would be looking out for now if I was still in the habit of reading a lot of short SF in it’s original appearance.” Read the Full Best SF Review here.


Kelly Robson. Intervention.
Originally in : Infinity’s End (ed Strahan, 2018)

I read this in it’s original appearance, and remember that I wasn’t really grabbed by the story of a spacer who turns her back on her team to become a creche leader. However, both Strahan and Clarke included it in their year’s best SF&F volumes, so clearly it ticked several of these three august editors.

Nick Wolven. Lab B-15
Originally in : Analog Science Fiction and Fact, March/April 2018.

Scientist fiction in which there is a mystery about Lab B-15 which the protagonist has to solve, not aided by his aloof, non-communicative personality. A bit slow for me and I baled out well before the end.[20th Oct 2019]


Alastair Reynolds. Different Seas.
Originally in : Twelve Tomorrows 5, MIT Press 2018.

Trying to re-engage my brain with reading SF, I checked the contents list and headed for this story, looking forward to a lengthy galactic-spanning yarn from an author who invariably delivers the SF goods. However this is much more tightly focussed story and is tethered to Earth. Lilith is onboard an otherwise unmanned oceangoing cargo ship when a major auroral storm damages her vessel. Such has been the global impact of this storm that rescue or repair is not going to happen quickly enough for her, and her vessel and it’s cargo, and Lilith herself are in grave danger. However, help is provided, through a maintenance ‘bot controlled through telepresence from a woman whose life, unlike Lilith’s, is up and out amongst the planets. In the short time her saviour is with her, Lilith’s life is not only saved, but energised for a starrier future by her unseen saviour, who is not to be rescued from her predicament but used here final hours and minutes to save Lilith. [20th Oct 2019]

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